Search This Site

Winter Mood and Behavior Problems: Help for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Does your child's mood deteriorate as the days grow shorter through the winter months? If so, he or she may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Many young people with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism suffer from this condition. Here's how you can determine whether or not your child has SAD, and what you can do about it:



Light Therapy for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum


More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Light Therapy for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

"Has anyone heard of phototherapy for helping a depressed autistic child get through the winter months and improve his/her mood in general?"

Phototherapy (also called “light therapy”), which involves exposure to artificial light, is quickly becoming a popular way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in children on the autism spectrum. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter. During phototherapy, your child sits near a device called a light box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light.

Phototherapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing SAD symptoms. Using a light box may also help with other types of depression, sleep disorders and other conditions. You may want to try phototherapy on your child for a number of reasons:
  • If the child is on medication for depression, it may allow him or her to take a lower dose of antidepressant
  • It's a proven treatment for SAD
  • If the child has another condition (e.g., OCD, anxiety, insomnia)
  • If you want to try a treatment method that is safe and has few side effects



Phototherapy is generally safe. If side effects occur, they're usually mild and short lasting, and may include eyestrain, headache, agitation and nausea. When side effects do occur, they may go away on their own within a few days of starting phototherapy. Parents also may be able to manage side effects by reducing treatment time, moving the child farther from the light box, allowing the child to take breaks during long sessions, or changing the time of day he or she uses phototherapy.

It's always a good idea to talk to your physician before starting phototherapy, but it's especially important if your child:
  • takes medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight (e.g., certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, St. John's Wort)
  • has an eye condition that makes his or her eyes vulnerable to light damage
  • has a history of skin cancer
  • has a condition that makes the skin especially sensitive to light (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus)

Light boxes should be designed to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, but some may not filter it all out. This type of light can cause skin and eye damage. Thus, look for a light box that emits as little UV light as possible. If you have concerns about phototherapy and your child’s skin, talk to a dermatologist.

Internet retailers, drugstores, and even some hardware stores offer a variety of light boxes. Also, your physician may recommend a particular model. Health insurance companies rarely cover the cost. Talk with your physician about the best light box for your family, and familiarize yourself with the variety of features and options to help ensure that you buy a high-quality product that's safe and effective.

Generally, most children with SAD begin treatment with phototherapy in the early fall when it typically becomes cloudy in many regions of the country. Treatment usually continues until spring when outdoor light alone is sufficient to sustain a good mood and higher levels of energy.

If your child typically has fall and winter mood problems, behavioral issues or depression, you may notice symptoms during prolonged periods of cloudy or rainy weather during other seasons. You and your physician can adjust the light treatment based on the timing and duration of your child’s symptoms.

During phototherapy sessions, your child will sit near the light box. Many children use this time to complete homework. To be effective, light from the box must enter the eyes indirectly. Your child can't get the same effect merely by exposing his or her skin to the light. While the eyes must be open, your child should not look directly at the light, because the bright light can damage the eyes. Be sure to follow your physician’s recommendations as well as the manufacturer's directions.

Phototherapy is most effective when your child has the proper combination of (a) timing, (b) light intensity, and (c) duration:
  • Timing: For most children, phototherapy is most effective when it's done early in the morning after they first wake up. Your physician can help you find a therapeutic schedule that works best for your child.
  • Intensity: The intensity of the light box is recorded in lux, which is a measure of the amount of light received at a specific distance from the light source. Light boxes usually produce between 2,500 lux and 10,000 lux. The intensity of the light box affects how far the child sits from it and the length of time he or she needs to use it. A 10,000-lux light box usually requires 30-minute sessions, while a 2,500-lux light box may require 2-hour sessions.
  • Duration: When the child first starts phototherapy, your physician may recommend treatment for shorter periods of time (e.g., 15 minutes). Your child gradually works up to longer periods. Eventually, therapy typically involves daily sessions ranging from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the light box's intensity.

Since phototherapy requires time and consistency, you should set the light box on a table or desk. In this way, your child can read, use a computer, study, watch TV, or eat while having phototherapy. But parents should stick to a therapeutic schedule – and never overdo it.

Phototherapy doesn’t cure SAD, depression or other conditions, but it often eases symptoms, increases energy levels, and helps the child feel better about himself/herself – and life. Phototherapy can start to improve symptoms within just a few days. In some cases, though, it can take two or more weeks.

Phototherapy isn't effective for every child on the autism spectrum, but parents can take steps to get the most out of it and help make it a success by using the following guidelines:

1. Stick to a daily routine of therapy sessions to help ensure that your child maintains improvements over time. If your child simply can't do it every day, let him or her take a day or two off, but monitor mood and other symptoms, because you may have to find a way to fit in phototherapy every day.

2. Do some research and talk to your physician before buying a light box. You want to be sure that the light box is safe, the right brightness, and that the style and features make it convenient to use.

3. Stay the course. If you interrupt phototherapy during the winter months, or stop too soon in the spring when you think your child’s symptoms are improving, the symptoms could return.

4. If your child’s symptoms don't improve enough with phototherapy, he or she may need additional treatment. Talk to your physician about other treatment options (e.g., psychotherapy, antidepressants, supplementation, etc.).


More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Mother "Hates" Her Autistic Daughter

Have you, as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, ever felt this way at some level? We would love your thoughts...

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... All I hear from this mother is " ME ME ME its all about ME " NEVER EVER does a parent have a right to do what this woman is doing. I am beyond disgusted with her, it takes just a few seconds to google autism, to reach out to people to learn about it and to understand it. She hasn't that much is obvious. "she doesn't act normal" that is because SHE'S NOT !!! I have an autistic 90% non verbal little girl, she is almost 7 years old. NEVER EVER in a million years would I ever think to treat her this way EVER !!! Yes is hard work, yes they can be challenging but as the adult in this relationship I believe in finding out as much information as I can so I can help my child. It is NEVER okay to belittle a child, to threaten a child regardless of the circumstances. This woman (and I am very reluctant to call her a mother) is a poor excuse for a human being I am beyond disgust!
•    Anonymous said... As adults, regardless of our past history, it is our job as parents to step up to the plate and find the tools that we need to have as parents. If we don't have the asnwers, how can we expect or children to? It wasn't a child's choice to be here, parents made that choice when they had their child. Being a "victim", & playing the victim role doesn't justify abuse. I understand that parenting an autistic child is difficult and very draining. But as a parent, and an adult, we can not use our lack of support, lack of skills, lack of understanding, & past history as excuses towards abuse. Its not except able, nor is it ever ok. It makes me sad that things like this happen, but I can understand why they do (I still find it unexceptable). I wish more people would reach out sooner before things get so out of hand.
•    Anonymous said... Hate ....no. Feel like I've been stretched and snapped like an elastic band mentally ....yes! It's HARD....and there is NO support emotionally for families. The only people that get it are the families that go through it!
•    Anonymous said... Having been abused as a child, I can relate to the story. Some of the things said were just the same. It was quite painful to hear those things from my mother. I'd say the best thing this woman can do for her daughter is to have her placed in foster care. Did this woman understand that the reason her daughter is acting out is that she's sowing what she's reaped?
•    Anonymous said... I am sorry, but hating your child is way out there as opposed to being stressed by their actions. I love my son. Yes, his ways due to Asperger's can drive me crazy. Especially as a single mom and also having his younger brother I feel that tension of say, him having a meltdown and arguing a thousand ways why he is right/shouldn't have to go to bed/whatever. I can get very angry when he doesn't listen, choosing to keep at whatever he is fixated upon. However, hate *him?* Never!
•    Anonymous said... I don't hate my daughter, but being a single mum, who doesn't get a break ever, and yeh I sometimes hate the autism But I don't blame my daughter But frustration can sometimes comes out especially when my daughter keeps repeating something a hundred times lol But I don't understand how someone can disgusted by there own daughter/son Especially when your child didn't ask to be in this world
•    Anonymous said... I feel bad for her and her daughter. I don't think anyone has the right to judge her. She clearly does not have the tools to know how to deal with a child like this. We all know how hard it can be. I think reaching out to Dr Phil was her way of asking for help. Good for her. I hope they get the help they need
•    Anonymous said... I know how she feels... I felt like that until my son was put onto correct medication... He is now so much easier to cope with. I feel sorry for her.
•    Anonymous said... I love and adore my son. I cannot understand hating a child for a diagnosis they didnt ask for.
•    Anonymous said... I love Megan, no way do I feel like that. Burnt out, tired maybe.
•    Anonymous said... I think we hate the behaviors and not the actual child. It's so very frustrating at times!!
•    Anonymous said... I would say from my own experience I have felt a sense of loss and frustration. I have felt angry at times... but not at my daughter but with the disorder itself. For all the bruises and marks I have gotten and all the insults and things thrown and broken.... I could never say I hate my daughter. I can see what a beautiful soul she has and am angry that she struggles so much and that I can't help her more. I can't imagine a mother saying she hates her daughter as this mom did. She needs to get help before it is too late for both her and her daughter.
•    Anonymous said... If her child had no legs, would she scream at her to walk? Disgusting.
•    Anonymous said... I'm sorry but at no time is violence towards a child acceptable. This is utterly depressing!!!
•    Anonymous said... It is very easy to see the failings of others and 'prescribe' the solution: while missing our own shortcomings.This woman is obviously broken.She hasn't dealt with her own childhood traumas and is projecting them onto her daughter. I do fear for them both, and if she is unwilling or unable to acknowledge and accept responsibility for her own behaviors , then her daughter should not be entrusted into her care. If left as is,Her daughter will continue this legacy, if she doesn't end up taking even more drastic/ tragic actions such as suicide. I am a mother of a 14 year old who was diagnosed with Aspergers this year.I know I don't always get it right: I get frustrated with the daily grind , the loss of my expectations for my boy: But I am so grateful to of been blessed with such a gorgeous,unique, smart and quirky child.This is what I tell him and myself during 'those' moments when you want to weep with frustration!  I hope this mother can heal herself and her relationship with her daughter- it takes only a moment to tear someone down, but it takes years of perseverance and hard work to build someone up- they need intervention and support- I pray that they will get the help they need and create a new legacy for the next generation.
•    Anonymous said... My 9 year old child has ASD and has physically hurt me on a daily basis since he was 3 years old... that is no excuse to repeat the behaviour towards your child. I understand as a parent of a child in the same situation that we do get burned out and we have hardly any support, but to say that YOU hate your child because YOU DONT DESERVE IT....well its disgusting. Since when has her daughter or any other child with ASD deserved to have the condition!!!!!It isn't something that is forced on someone because they are a bad person or done bad things. That poor young girl has a right to be brought up without being judged by the very person who is supposed to love her unconditionally.....it isn't her fault that the world is different from her perspective, that she finds it hard to communicate what she wants, that she is unable to understand what is happening or what she has to do, that the smallest of sensory stimuli could be impacting on her etc etc etc That WOMAN cause she doesn't deserve to be called MUM should seriously speak to other parents to realise that every single parent with a child who have ASD goes through the same thing day in, day out she isn't the only one and instead of physically and emotionally abusing her daughter (which is highly likely impacting on the issues ) she should get help, advice and find ways of turning the situation round before its too late!!! To be honest the way that women is and without a major overhaul of change on her part, her daughter will only become worse.....her daughter doesn't deserve a parent like that and would be better off without her.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter not being diagnosed until age 11 made it difficult on all of us. Years of not understanding her led to some very frustrating and confusing feelings, which were hard to not direct toward her as we thought she was just being difficult. Now, knowing her diagnosis, and being a clinical social worker, I'm ashamed at how I felt and treated her at times. It shaped her view of the world, herself and others. Early diagnosis, education and support for family members is so important.
•    Anonymous said... no wonder her child is acting out. Look at the exapmle she had in her mother. the poor child is living in an unstable and unsafe enviroment. no wonder the child is acting out.
•    Anonymous said... OMG! I am horrified. She can always place her child up for adoption if she doesn't want her! I am daily frustrated by my Autistic child, however I accept her for who she is and I accept her limitations and try to understand her challenges. She is trying to make her child normal instead of accepting her child for who she is!
•    Anonymous said... She clearly doesn't WANT to hate her child, else she would have left and wouldn't be seeking help.... I'm so sad for her and her child...where is the father?? This is a mother hitting rock bottom and I hope she and her daughter received the help they deserved.
•    Anonymous said... She needs help. And I don't mean that in a mean way. I mean she needs counseling as well as help in the home. I honestly don't think she's a bad person, she clearly sees she has a problem. I also think she has not bothered to accept that her daughter has developmental handicaps - she needs someone to help her learn what that means, and how to handle it. All parents get frustrated - whether their child is developmentally "normal" or not. We all get tired, and angry and feel like we're being put upon by unappreciative people. However a lot of us also know, and accept, that it will either pass or that we have the means and knowledge to handle the situation. She does not seem to know or accept that. And truthfully, not all women are meant to be mothers, in the end. Not all men are meant to be fathers, either. So there's that.
•    Anonymous said... She needs love and support. My heart goes out to her and her daughter.
•    Anonymous said... She needs some serious therapy! As does her daughter. She says she doesn't deserve a child like that - well her daughter deserves a better mother!! I sure hope Dr. Phil hooked them up with someone who can help them both.
•    Anonymous said... Thats a mom way past rock bottom.... frankly there is just not enough support at all for parents and kids ( any support can get its a battle to get) and its going to get less with cuts......
•    Anonymous said... Thats how i feel with my 19year old son i get so frustrated even more when i get no help ..i find it hard to cope with work and home life too x
•    Anonymous said... The best thing she could do for her daughter is to put in her foster care. At least the girl would have a few good years without being screamed at, insulted, and abused. Having been at the receiving end of that type of behavior, I honestly wish my mom would have given me up..
•    Anonymous said... This Is really sad.....this woman needs help and she obviously does care abt her daughter Bcos she I'd reaching out for help. She hasn't accepted that her daughter is autistic and for me that was a hard thing to do....I have a 14 year old aspie and was diagnosed at 10 . He is amazing and fascinates me bt it took along to.accept that he had s condition. And would I.have it different ,do I wish he wasn't an aspie.....sometimes yes ....Bcos of what he has been faced with and is going to be faced with.... Teenage years are challenging for kids.....and for parents .....teenagers with Aspergers.....even harder. But with support and understanding ......we will all get through it .
•    Anonymous said... This is why parents with children on the spectrum MUST take care of their mental and physical health. If we don't, we burn out like this!
•    Anonymous said... Um. I'm not pleased with the trend to dehumanize autistic kiddos. If she really feels that way then she should seek help privately and ensure her daughter is entrusted to the care of someone capable of loving her. Media hype has been bananas lately with demonizing autistic people and validating irrational fears. I am concerned that this trend is causing our children and our community great harm by setting the standard for a stereotype of autistic people that is entirely unfounded. We're this woman a good mother struggling with tragic emotions she could have found thousands of other ways to get help for herself and her daughter. The woman is cleArly a media whore, unconcerned with the impact of her tv interview on the autistic community, our image in society, and the self esteem of autistic kiddos growing up and seeing this garbage on TV. I am certainly not represented by this woman and I find her lack of judgement despicable. I believe she deserves the same lack of compassion afforded to her child and her child deserves a parent capable of love.
•    Anonymous said... We all make mistakes as parents. It does get frustrating at times, but that in no way makes violence acceptable. I ask has she gotten therapy? Educated herself? When we were first diagnosed, I read everything I could and we found a good therapist to help us. I know I am judging by a small snippet here, but it doesn't seem like she has taken the time to learn.
•    Anonymous said... We dont get ANY support!! We are majorly burned out. Our family wont even help to give us a break:(
•    Anonymous said... We have always advocates therapy for the family as well as the ASD family member. It is very hard and you burn out. His siblings have tough times too. You don't hate your child/ family member but sometimes you hate what autism does to your life at times or to the persons life. Support groups are also necessary.
•    Anonymous said... What a horrible excuse for a mother. A mother doesn't hate her child....but this one does. My son is aspergers. He has hit me, he has bit me, he cries, etc. But I have never ever hated him for it. He is who he is and a real parent would understand that. We don't sign on to be parents of autistic kids. They are who they are. For this mom to say she hates her child is disgusting.
•    Anonymous said... While I think it's terrible that this woman feels this way I can also see that she needs help. It's easy for someone to say foster care or adoption is a good solution but they are not always options. In many states a child cannot go into foster care unless cps has gotten involved (my friend is a social worker and a foster mother) and the likelihood of a 14 year old special needs child getting adopted is very slim and group homes are not good places to be and the workers aren't usually trained in ABA or the like. I wonder if Dr. Phil did anything to help this poor family besides point out her shortcomings and leave her feeling worse?
•    Anonymous said... Wow she hates her child, how disgusting. Coming from a mommy of 6 and my oldest has autism I WOULD NEVER say I hate my child...shame on her
•    Anonymous said... Wow! They both need help. The autism isn't the only issue going on there. I get the frustration and anger, and I totally get hating the impact that autism has on my daughter and out whole family at times the child,
•    Anonymous said... wow.. dont even know how to feel about this
•    Anonymous said... Yes at times i think to myself I hate autism but never my son but I do understand that everyone is different and we shouldn't judge and support is what people need.
•    Anonymous said... Yes we all do need support and that's what keeps us from burning out but this woman from what I've seen here takes no responsibility for herself. She admits she doesn't understand Autism. Her daughter is 14. When was she diagnosed? Did she take any steps to learn? Has she gotten any help for her daughter? Did she get therapy to address her own childhood abuse issues? No. She seeks out Dr Phil. She blames her child and passes on the same abuse she suffered. Everything is wrapped in her disappointed, embarrassment and resentment. I can't imagine what damage this has done to her girl. No one is a perfect parent. We've all made mistakes and disappointed ourselves. No one's life is easy but this woman's issues aren't that her daughter has Autism. She hasn't addressed her own issues and wasn't ready to be a parent. Once you have a child, THEY come first. It's not your child's responsibility to fill in the emotional deficits you have.

Please post your comment below…

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content