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Overwhelming Emotional States in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Unlike temper tantrums, meltdowns are triggered by anxiety – not anger. The child with Asperger’s, or High-Functioning Autism, is in an overwhelming emotional state due to environmental stressors around him or her. This, in turn, can produce the fight-or-flight response, where removing the child from the situation (i.e., flight) is often the best option.

Noisy and crowded places, florescent lighting in stores, other people’s cologne or perfume, etc., all cause neurological responses in the child where his or her brain is over-stimulated and needs to “reset.” Usually, the best way to reset an over-stimulated brain is to have the child go to a quiet place – alone! In this way, his or her emotional alarm system will have the time and space to wind down.

The following videos will provide additional information regarding meltdowns in Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: 

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

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

Is it High-Functioning Autism, ADHD -- or Both?

“My high functioning autistic son has difficulty paying attention in school (3rd grade). He is also somewhat hyper most of the time. My husband and I are beginning to wonder if he has ADHD instead of – or in addition to – high functioning autism. Are these two disorders similar? And do some high functioning autistics also get the ADHD diagnosis?”

Hyperactivity and inattention are common in kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), particularly in early childhood. Differential diagnostic considerations are paramount, particularly in the context of HFA.

Hyperactivity and inattention are seen in a variety of other disorders (e.g., developmental receptive language disorders, anxiety, and depression). Therefore, the appearance of inattention or hyperactivity does not point exclusively to ADHD.

The compatibility of the child and his school curriculum is particularly important when evaluating symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. There is a risk that a school program that is poorly matched to the child’s needs (by overestimating or underestimating his abilities) may be frustrating, boring, or unrewarding. If the verbal or social demands exceed what he can manage, they may produce anxiety or other problems that mimic inattention or induce hyperactivity.

Some experts believe that HFA and ADHD are themselves both spectrum disorders, with bleary margins wrapped around core characteristics that can’t be quantified. There is a large overlap in symptomology between the two. Approximately 65 % of kids with HFA have symptoms which are compatible with an ADHD diagnosis.

The problem with the ADHD and HFA overlap is that at the more severe margins of the ADHD spectrum and the less extreme margins of the autism spectrum, professionals can legitimately argue for one over the other diagnosis.

Many kids with severe ADHD can be obsessed with Nintendo, can be bullied and teased, have meltdowns at the drop of a hat, have no friends, have severe sensory integration problems, lack perspective-taking skills, can be socially aberrant, and talk constantly and too loudly (just like HFA children).

Young people with ADHD can have as bad - or worse - executive functioning skills as HFA kids. Kids with ADHD often have verbal IQ which are much better than their performance IQs (just like HFA kids). The child with ADHD shares a great many neurocognitive features with the HFA child, and that is one reason why neuropsychological testing by itself is not the best way to make a diagnosis of HFA.

In general, HFA kids “have more” than most kids with ADHD (i.e., more neuro-integrative problems, more perseveration, more splinter skills, more stereotypies, and more trouble telling a coherent story). If you suspect that your HFA child may also be experiencing the symptoms of ADHD, consult a child and adolescent psychiatrist for an evaluation (preferably one who specializes in autism spectrum disorders).

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


•    Anonymous said... My boy has both as well. Once we got his ADD under control, we had an easier time with the other.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter was borderline ADHD w/ Anxiety first before the Aspergers diagnosis. I definitely see some crossover symptoms between the two.
•    Anonymous said... My son has also been diagnosed with both.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD first and then Aspergers about 2 years later.
•    Anonymous said... These two are co-morbid! There is some cross over but definitely worth looking into
•    Anonymous said... Very common with ADD or ADHD together with aspergers. My daugther has ADHD+aspergers, and my son got ADD+Aspergers. She needs to address these issues with the child's doctor to get the added diagnosis, there are good medications that might help, my son had much help from it, my daughter was too little when we first tried, it didn't fair to well, so I wanted to wait til she got older (which would be now) and try again at age 10.

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How Therapists Teach Social Skills to Children on the Autism Spectrum

“The importance of teaching social skills is mentioned a lot on this site. I was wondering what a therapist actually does when he or she is training a child with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism. Can parents accomplish the same results at home?”

The therapist who teaches social skills to children on the autism spectrum usually begins by breaking down complex social behaviors into smaller pieces. Then he arranges these smaller parts in order of difficulty, and gradually introduces them to the child.

For instance, a therapist who is helping a child learn to feel more comfortable in group activities could make a list of specific behaviors that belong to the complex behavior called behaving appropriately in groups, which would include specific actions that will make in more likely the child will “fit-in” with his/her peer-group (e.g., introducing oneself to others, making conversation with several peers in the group rather than just one “favored” peer, keeping one's conversation interesting, sharing, etc.). The child can then work on one specific behavior at a time rather than trying to learn them all at once.

Some specific strategies in social skills training include: feedback, shaping, instruction, modeling, reinforcement of positive interactions, and role-playing. For instance, “instruction” may be used to convey the differences among assertive, passive, and aggressive styles of communication. The strategy of “monitoring” may be used to ask the child to increase his/her eye contact during a conversation.

In “role-playing” exercises, group members have the opportunity to offer feedback to one another about their performances in simulated situations (e.g., Michael and Sara may role-play a situation in which Michael asks Sara if he can join in a particular activity with Sara …then the other group members give feedback about Michael’s assertiveness or Sara’s response).

Parents can indeed do a lot to help their child gain social skills. Many children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism are unable to see social clues, understand age appropriate behaviors, and read body language. The first step in teaching a youngster who struggles with social skills is to educate yourself on the possible reasons behind his/her lack of skills (e.g., behavior management problem, communication problem, problem with sensory integration, etc.). There are many possible reasons behind your youngster’s behaviors, and knowing the root cause will give you clues as to what he/she needs to work on in the way of social skills.

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

If your youngster struggles with learning social skills, you may find that you have to repeat yourself a lot, or your youngster may learn a new skill – but then regress. This is typical, so don’t allow yourself to get frustrated.

Some examples of social skills training techniques include the following:
  • Picture cards, social stories, and visual reminders are great for kids who need to learn organizational skills.
  • You can use a script to help your child role play through a difficult social situation at school. For example, if your child is having trouble with bullying, write a script for him and encourage him to role-play possible responses and actions. Scripts can even help your child through very basic scenarios (e.g., asking for help in the classroom).
  • Relationship role-play can be used to practice conflict resolution, learn how to share, and develop effective communication skills. This particular brand of role-play allows the child to practice skills for any imaginable scenario so that she can use it to her advantage when feeling anxious about a situation.
  • Using games and puzzles can be extremely helpful in developing “cooperative play.” 
  • Visual cue cards can provide the youngster with suggestions to (a) prompt him/her in appropriate behavior and choices when interacting with peers, (b) help the youngster remember how to open and eat his/her snack, (c) learn how to get ready for school in the morning, (d) know how to pack up his/her backpack at the end of the school day, and so on.
  • You can create a script to outline procedures and events – and to help your youngster feel less anxious. Scripts can help the youngster to understand why things are happening. For example, for your daughter's first visit to a dentist, prepare a simple script that outlines the process, go over the script with her ahead of time, and show her the script during the appointment so she will remember what to expect.

Other examples of social skills training techniques include social games, combining cue cards and scripts with social games, and video modeling.

Social skills activities give mom and dads the opportunity to interact with their “special needs” youngster in a fun and structured environment. Social skills training can help the youngster feel more confident, boost his sense of self-esteem, alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and help him feel less isolated and more confident in life.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

Developing Language Skills: Help for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Instead of delaying language development, AS and HFA impairs the subtleties of social communication. These boys and girls have difficulty understanding nuances (e.g., irony, sarcasm, fanciful or metaphoric language, etc.), and many of them take language literally (e.g., expressions like “watching paint dry” or “smart as a tack” leave these kids very confused).

These kids also have difficulty interpreting and displaying non-verbal communication. Body language, facial expressions, the use of personal space, gestures and postures are often mysteries to boys and girls on the autism spectrum. This inability to instinctively comprehend unspoken communication has led some experts to suggest Asperger’s is actually a non-verbal communication disorder.

In this post, we will discuss the following:
  • Characteristic Checklist for Asperger’s and HFA 
  • Language Disorder 
  • Parenting Tips for Helping with Language-skills Acquisition 

Click here for the full article...

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."

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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.

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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