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You May Have Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism

Do you think you may have Aspergers? Let's see... For you, are the following statements TRUE or FALSE?



Social Characteristics of Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

High-Functioning Autism (HFA), formerly “Asperger Syndrome,” is first and foremost a social disorder. Children with HFA are not only socially isolated, but also demonstrate an abnormal type of social interaction that can’t be explained by other factors (e.g., shyness, short attention span, aggressive behavior, lack of experience in a given area, etc.).

Children with HFA are notable for their lack of motivation to interact with others. However, their social difficulties frequently stem from an incompetence and lack of knowledge and skill in initiating and responding in various situations and under variable conditions. For example, an adolescent with HFA may appear odd because of his continuous insistence on sharing with peers an obsessive interest in space craft, despite their displays of apathy for this topic.



The fact that social difficulties of young people with HFA range from social withdrawal and detachment to unskilled social activeness is well documented. Nonetheless, even within this broad range, these kids are thought to be socially stiff, socially awkward, emotionally blunted, self-centered, inflexible, and have difficulty in understanding nonverbal social cues.

Preliminary evidence suggests that children with HFA may be able to infer the meaning of facial expressions as well as match events with facial expression. But, the difficulty arises when dealing with the simultaneous presentation of facial, voice, body, and situational cues. Thus, even when HFA kids and adolescents actively try to seek out others, they encounter social isolation because of their lack of understanding of the rules of social behavior (e.g., eye contact, proximity to others, gestures, posture, etc.).

Children with HFA often are able to engage in routine social interactions (e.g., basic greetings) without being able to engage in extended interactions or reciprocal conversations. Parents often describe their HFA children as lacking an awareness of social standards and protocol, lacking common sense, tending to misinterpret subtle social prompts, cues, and unspoken messages, and displaying a variety of socially unaccepted habits and behaviors.

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

Children with HFA also typically display emotional vulnerability and stress. For example, they may become upset if they think others are invading their space or when they are in unpredictable and novel social situations. However, in contrast to “typical” children, many HFA children do not reveal stress through voice tone, overt agitation, and so on. As a result, they may escalate to a point of crisis because of others' unawareness of their excitement or discomfort along with their own inability to predict, control, and manage uncomfortable situations. Also, it is very clear that kids and teens with HFA are relatively easy targets for those who are prone to teasing and bullying others.

While they are known by others for their lack of social awareness, many HFA children are very aware that they are different from their friends and classmates. As a result, problems with self-esteem and self-concept are common. These problems often are particularly significant during the teenage years and young adulthood.

Variable social situations make it difficult for children with HFA to apply social rules in a rigid and consistent way. Social rules vary with circumstances (i.e., there are no inflexible and universal social conventions and rules). This lack of social consistency is especially confusing for kids with HFA. They often painfully discover that interactions that may be tolerated - or even reinforced - in one setting are rejected or punished in others. For instance, one 5th grader with Asperger’s could not understand why his calling Mr. Potts (his teacher) "Mr. Potty" in the restroom was the source of great delight to his classmates, while saying this in the classroom in the presence of Mr. Potts drew a much different response.





Kids and teens with HFA do not acquire greater social awareness and skill merely as a function of age. All young people are required to use increasingly sophisticated social skills and to interpret ever more subtle social nuances as they progress through school. For that reason, children diagnosed with HFA may find themselves more and more in conflict with prevailing social norms as they move through the teenage years and young adulthood. As a result of these requirements and the experiences that follow, these individuals are vulnerable to developing a variety of problems. For example, studies of adolescents diagnosed with HFA indicated that they often experience increased discomfort and anxiety in social situations, along with a continuing inability to effectively interact with friends and classmates.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook
 
Depression and anxiety may also appear during adolescence. Clinical reports have revealed that adolescents and young adults with HFA seem to be at higher risk for depression than their “typical” peers.

Since one of the most significant problems for children and teens with HFA is difficulty in social interaction, the most important thing parents can do is involve their child in social skills training. As HFA has become more and more common, a sort of industry has grown up around teaching social skills to these “special needs” kids.

Social skills therapists come from a wide range of backgrounds and training (e.g., social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, etc.) and specialize in working with children on the autism spectrum. In recent years, "do it yourself" social skills training strategies (in the form of videos, books, and eBooks) for moms and dads of HFA kids have become available. Social skills training will provide HFA children with the ability to converse, share, play, and work with “typical” peers. In an ideal world, such training will allow these kids to become almost indistinguishable from their non-autistic peers.

The best social skills practitioners are not so much trained as born. They happen to be very talented in their own field, with an innate understanding of how to help children and teens with HFA "get" how others think, feel, and act. Thus, the fact that someone has been trained in a particular social skills method does not necessarily make him or her the perfect therapist. The best way to decide if a therapist is right for you and your youngster is to attend a few sessions.

More resources for parents of children and teens 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

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

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.



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

Problems with Proper Diagnosis: Is it Adjustment Disorder or High-Functioning Autism?

"We have a 2½ year old son with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and some other undiagnosed problems. When we did the routine screening at his Pedi’s office, the Pedi said he showed possible Autism and wanted us to see a behavioral specialist. When we went to see her, my sister and I showed her a couple of videos of him “blacking out” during one of his meltdowns and hurting himself.   We explained to her his sensory and tactile issues and other things we had noticed.  This was the winter of 2015 when he was just 1½.  She said “I don’t think he has Autism because he makes eye contact occasionally and has good interaction with us.  I think he is pretending and acting this way because he does not feel good and he knows if he does this he can be left alone.”  With that we left and drove the 1 hour 45 min back home.  Now he still have the same behavior and he is not only hurting himself (he just punched himself in the lip) but he is becoming aggressive towards others.  The babysitter and I say he gets an “I’m going to kill you look.”  My mom says his eyes go glassy. He is gluten and casein free because a biopsy revealed those enzymes are there but don’t work fully/properly. 

Becoming concerned I emailed the behaviorist and she emailed me back saying my son needed to see a psychologist, in which a immediately made an appointment.   Again the psychologist could not put a true diagnosis on him because he said he could not find anything about Alpha-1 and behavior problems so he didn’t know if it was related to that.  I asked him if my son could possibly have Asperger's, and he said that he could not diagnose him with that because that diagnosis has been taken out of the medical books. He ended up diagnosing him with Adjustment Disorder- nonspecific, and said he was developmentally and environmentally delayed.   I don’t know what to do and no one (even the sitter) understands him and just want to spank him and punish him all day long.  I know there are times he needs to be put in time out but my husband and I are getting frustrated."





Answer:

Re: We have a 2½ year old son with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and some other undiagnosed problems.

This condition definitely has an impact on both behavior and mood (i.e., there is a correlation between A1AD and acting-out, but not necessarily a causal relationship).

Re: When we did the routine screening at his Pedi’s office, the Pedi said he showed possible Autism and wanted us to see a behavioral specialist. When we went to see her, my sister and I showed her a couple of videos of him “Blacking out” during one of his meltdowns and hurting himself.   We explained to her his sensory and tactile issues and other things we had noticed.  This was the summer of 2011 when he was just 1½.


It’s hard to diagnose any child with a developmental disorder at 2½. Based solely on what I’ve read throughout your email, it does sound like High-Functioning Autism (HFA).

Re: She said “I don’t think he has Autism because he makes eye contact occasionally and has good interaction with us.  I think he is pretending and acting this way because he does not feel good and he knows if he does this he can be left alone.”

This wouldn’t be inconsistent with HFA.

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

Re: With that we left and drove the 1hour 45 min back home.  Now he still have the same behavior and he is not only hurting himself (he just punched himself in the lip 4/13/12) but he is becoming aggressive towards others.  The babysitter and I say he gets an “I’m going to kill you look.”  My mom says his eyes go glassy.

He acts this way because he is stressed, and he is attempting to relieve this stress through physically acting-out because he hasn’t learned to express feelings using words yet.

Re: He is gluten and casein free because a biopsy revealed those enzymes are there but don’t work fully/properly.  

Good!

Re: Becoming concerned I emailed the behaviorist and she emailed me back saying my son needed to see a psychologist, in which an immediately made an appointment.   Again the psychologist could not put a true diagnosis on him because he said he could not find anything about Alpha-1 and behavior problems so he didn’t know if it was related to that.

It’s true that there hasn’t been much research on the relationship between A1AD and behavior.

Re: I asked him if my son could possibly have Asperger’s and he said that he could diagnose him with that because that diagnosis is being taken out of the medical books.

It has not been taken out of medical books, it simply has a new name (i.e., “High-Functioning Autism,” which is the same thing as Aspergers).

Re: He ended up diagnosing him with Adjustment Disorder- nonspecific and said he was developmentally and environmentally delayed. 

Again, this wouldn’t be inconsistent with HFA. Unfortunately, you may have to wait until he is a bit older to get an accurate diagnosis. In the meantime, you can do your own detective work.

1. To start with, you'll want to narrow your focus to one particular behavior to analyze and change. Although it's tempting, don't just choose the thing that most annoys you. A better choice will be something that particularly puzzles you. For example:
  • Why can your son eat his lunch just fine some days, and balks on other days?
  • Why does he insist on punishment even when it upsets him?
  • Why does he get so wound up and wild?
  • Why is your son sweet and compliant sometimes, then resists to the point of tantrum over something inconsequential?

As long as you're going to be a detective, you might as well give yourself a good mystery. While you're stalking one behavior, you may need to let others slide, unless it's a matter of safety. Don't try to change everything all at once.

2. Next, keep a journal (or if it is a frequently occurring behavior, keep a chart) for noting every incidence of the targeted behavior. Include the time of day the behavior occurred, and what happened before, during, and after. Think of what might have happened directly before the behavior, and also earlier in the day. Think, too, of what happened directly after the behavior, and whether it offered your son any reward (even negative attention can be rewarding if the alternative is no attention at all). Ask yourself the following questions. Does the behavior tend to:

·  be more frequent during a certain time of day?
·  occur after a certain event?
·  occur during transitions?
·  occur in anticipation of something happening?
·  occur when routine is disrupted?
·  occur when something happens - or doesn't happen?
·  occur when things are very noisy or very busy?

Keep track over the course of a few weeks and look for patterns.

3. It may seem as though your son saves his worst behavior for public places, where it causes you the most embarrassment. But there may be a reason for that. Ask yourself the following question:
  • Does he have a hard time resisting touching and banging things like buttons or doors?
  • Does he have trouble in places where he needs to stay still and quiet (e.g., church)?
  • Does he resist places where children may be cruel (e.g., playground)?
  • Does he panic in places that are busy and noisy (e.g., the store)?
  • Does he shy away from places with strong smells or bright lights?
  • Is there something about any particular place that might be distressing?

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

Notice reactions to different environments and add these insights to your journal or chart.

4. You can stubbornly insist that your son is responsible for his own behavior, but you're liable to be waiting a long time for the behavior changes you want to see. While you may find some behaviors annoying, disruptive, or inappropriate, it may be filling a need for your son. And even if your son is genuinely unhappy about the negative consequences of his behavior, he may not understand it enough to control it.

In the end, it is far easier for YOU to change (e.g., your expectations, actions, reactions, responses, etc.) than for your son to change. You will need to do some detective work to determine the support your son needs to improve his behavior, and provide it. Ultimately, you can teach your son to do this for himself. But you have to lead the way.

5. Take the data from your journal or chart (e.g., patterns you've discovered, observations on environments, etc.) and see if you can figure out what's behind the behavior. For example:
  • Maybe he balks at lunchtime when he sees too many food items on the plate.
  • Maybe he begs for punishment because going to “time-out” feels safer than dealing with a challenging situation.
  • Maybe he explodes over something inconsequential because he's used up all his patience weathering frustrations earlier in the day.
  • Maybe he gets wound up because “being good” gets him no attention.

Once you have a working theory, make some changes in your son's environment to make it easier for him to behave. For example:
  • Give your son lots of attention when he's being good - and none at all for bad behavior (other than just a quick and emotionless timeout).
  • Instead of being happy that your son seems to be handling frustrating situations, provide support earlier in the day so that his patience will hold out longer.
  • Recognize situations your son feels challenged by - and offer an alternative between compliance and disobedience.

You may not always guess right the first time, and not every change you try will work. Effective parents will have a big bag of tricks they can keep digging into until they find the one that works that day, that hour, that minute. But analyzing behavior and strategizing solutions will help you feel more in control of your family, and your son will feel safer and more secure. This alone often cuts down on a lot of behavioral problems.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… A person with higher functioning autism can make eye contact and interest to some extent. That does not rule it out. My 13 year just got his diagnosis last year because of people saying stuff like that. Yes, he made eye contact with certain people under certain circumstances. Yes, he could answer questions about himself. Yes, he wanted friends, thought he had friends. Did he actually have friends? Nope. Can he have an actual back and forth conversation about something that is not video games? Nope. Would it ever occur to him to ask about what happens in someone's life while apart from him? Nope. It is a spectrum and no one can say that just because your son made eye contact or answered questions that he isn't on it.
•    Anonymous said… Absolutely Nicky Logan. My son's Aspergers (ASD his psychiatrist has relabelled) a late diagnosis. A lot of people including the medical practitioners misunderstand autism especially about eyecontact. People with Aspergers/ASD like my son gives eye con...
•    Anonymous said… Asperger has been consumed within the Autism Spectrum Disorder in the newest edition of the DSM. Asperger has not gone anywhere- they have simply reorganized that section. I think sometimes we spend too much time trying to settle on a particular diagnosis. Keep in mind, these diagnoses are really just a definition. Most kids don't fit neatly into any diagnostic box. I wonder if we should just treat what is in front of us and not worry so much about the label?
•    Anonymous said… Don't worry so much about the diagnosis as about getting the appropriate early interventions. He needs OT to address any sensory or regulation issues-muscle tone-motor skills, psychologist to work on identifying and expressing emotions-coping skills-social skills, and speech/language therapist to work with pragmatic/reciprocal communication. Structure his days to reduce anxiety. Read what you can on meltdowns and how to de-escalate. Engage in self care and find a solid treatment team. As a psychologist, I work with children that are on the spectrum frequently and it is so difficult to watch developmental Windows close because of lack of access to services. Don't give up!!!
•    Anonymous said… Hmmmm my son has aspergers diagnosed and we have alpha 1 in our family.....very interesting. They also believe there is a link between gut health and autism....that aside, i would keep persisting if you know there is something as a parent, there is something
•    Anonymous said… I had a similar issue, my son was not diagnosed until he was 11, because he made eye contact and was very advanced verbally. And a diagnosis WAS really important for us, we got him medication and the right therapy. He's a whole new kid. Many of his behaviors have almost disappeared. See if you can get Autism services without a diagnosis. ABA therapy is a wonderful tool for kids with Autism. Don't give up, if you know something is wrong. As his parent you know more about your child. Maybe get a second opinion from an Autism specialist.
•    Anonymous said… I would add to the advice given to find a daycare or sitter that has experience with children on the autism spectrum. Do not allow the sitter to spank him and punish him all day long. He needs people who are willing to learn what he needs and try to work with him rather than pigheadedly beating a round peg into a square hole.
•    Anonymous said… Make sure u have some1 very patient & understanding caring for him when ur not there! Im shocked they won't diagnosis aspergers as my son was diagnosed with this 4 years ago! Don't give up! There's lots of people u can turn to for help & advice x
•    Anonymous said… My grandson is still waiting to be properly diagnosed ,here in NEWZEALAND they are so slow he was first seen at 2 but still waiting for the correct diagnoses and he is 8 .I fully understand the glassy eye bit almost to the point of evil its very scary ,but theses type of children prefer to be alone and god help you if you interupt sounds like asperges to me with the high function autism but he will be great when hes older its just that I believe that these children live in a totally different worrl to us that cll ourselves normal .At times I wonder if its the child that is normal and we the adult dont function right .Hang in there.
•    Anonymous said… My son is asd and makes eye contact with people and was still diagnosed
•    Anonymous said… Please consider trying a salicylate- and amine-free diet, also colours, flavours and glutamate-free. My ASD kid had behavioural issues similar to this as a toddler. I spotted an article in the paper about this diet, asked my gp and she said don't bother. But I figured it can't hurt to try for a couple of weeks. The day after starting my son calmed down significantly and life for everyone improved dramatically. If your child is already lacking enzymes in his gut this could be worth trying. The following website has all the information you need.
•    Anonymous said… Please take him to a child neurologist. They can also diagnose ASD and High Functioning Autism (Aspergers). Write down and record things you think are off to take with you. I barely had to fight for a diagnosis. My son has eye contact most of the time but still has HFA. The diagnosis is SO important to get your son the services he needs. Early intervention is key!
•    Anonymous said… Second opinion third opinion whatever it takes. Find psychologist that specializes in autism spectrum disorders. ..just don't give up. Took 4 years to get the diagnosis that I knew was correct.
•    Anonymous said… Sometimes it takes a long time to get a diagnosis, my son was diagnosed aged 10 even though I knew there were differences/frustrations from around 6 months. He was referred by everyone he came into contact with health visitors, two nursery schools, school and his doctor. But for the longest time the specialists just said challenging behaviour and not to give into him. The diagnosis when it came was high functioning autism but it was mentioned to me about PDA but some practitioners don't recognise this, but it certainly fits my son well. Hope you find someone who will help you getting to the truth. Remember parents know their children better than anyone else. Keep going xx
•    Anonymous said… Would get another opinion, insome children with autism aspergers etc. (Think there lumping it all under Autism Spectrum Disorder ,but its a spectrum so can be any were on it from low to middle to high and a whole lot more inbetween them).....They can actually have some eye contact and interaction with others deepending on the situation and the person just like they can show some empathy also etc..... sometimes some of these doctors have there preconsept ideas of just what autism should look like when infact its alot broader .......
•    Anonymous said… Thanks for a very interesting article. My main, and possibly sole, point of contention is the adult assumption that our children should comply with our instructions, simply on the basis that we're their parents (or teachers). Since different adults have different concepts of right and wrong, it stands to reason that there's no absolute definition of correct behaviour. Without any absolute to be guided by, it behoves us to allow children space to explore their own parameters rather than having everything laid out for them. This then opens up the possibility of empowering children through spoken observations and questions to develop a deeper understanding of their relationship with and their impact on other people they come into contact with, including other children. Manipulating their behaviour through punishment, reward, or sanctions and bribes of one kind or another, serves to undermine their personal and social development. What gets left behind is a compliant person - or a rebel - who is lost when confronted with new situations which can't be matched with stereotypes learnt in childhood. This person, constantly checking for approval, experiences loss of creativity and imagination in close relationships and in work situations. He or she is likely to be as flexible or inflexible as the upbringing s/he experienced, without being able to account for inconsistencies noticed by observers, defending poor decisions and resisting self-realisation and personal development throughout life. It's almost too easy - although not easy at all in the long-term - to opt for behaviour modification to suit the moment, the mood or the currently held philosophy of child-rearing. Empowerment produces deep long-term rewards and satisfaction for all concerned, but the rewards are the intangible outcome of generous trust, both in the child and in oneself as a parent. Having made these observations, I recognise that the number of physical, mental and emotional syndromes and their unprecedented proliferation in recent times, can complicate the process of raising children into adults responsible for their own attitudes and behaviour. But they can also lead us into reaching out for an expert, when the only problem is that were presented with a child-rearing experience we don't know how to handle, and we've lost the support of a community with ready access to people with natural understanding and wisdom.
•    Unknown said... hi thanks for your post. I am alpha 1 diagnosed PIZZ. I am also dyslexic and dyspraxic. My Father was, in hindsight, aspergers. He was a mechanical engineer My brother was dyslexic and unable to read or write when he left school at 16, my other brother was PIZZ and dyspraxic and my nephew is PIMZ, slightly less severe form of alpha 1, and is dyslexic, dyspraxic, OCD and has High Function Autism. So i definetley think there is a link between neuro diversity and Alpha 1. There is a little bit of research i have found that you might find useful. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22414631
•    Unknown said... Europe and the US are well behind countries such as Israel (ref Eli Lewis) in their research on the impact of A1ATD in a number of other auto-immune conditions. It is now known that it can lead to T1 diabetes, and there is evidence that it can play a role in Crohn’s, Rhematoid Arthritis and other conditions. There is also some little known research which shows that it plays a role in so called psychiatric conditions such as bi-polar and OCD. As Autism has now been mooted as a auto-immune condition, it seems to me fairly obvious that there is a relationship between A1ATD and Autism. The gene expression is due to the legacy of communities where there has been inter marriage or lack of gene diversity and/or may be a Neanderthal inheritance. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever, based on extensive reading, conversations with Eli Lewis in Israel (at the forefront of A1ATD research) and empirical evidence, that Autism and A1ATD are linked. One day the U.K. will wake up to this, but the defensive medicine practised by most doctors, and the lack of funding for advances in this area are hugely obstructive. There will come a time when the gene links are well known, when augmentation therapy is available for anyone with the deficiency, as a preventative measure, and the cost is not prohibitive. At this point there will be a breakthrough in the treatment of autoimmune conditions and Autism. Sadly, we are many years away from this I fear.
•    Unknown said... Cycling instructor is right - my daughter was A1ATD (PiZZ), T1 diabetic, possible Lupus and had Asperger’s. Doctors need to join up the dots.

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Classroom and Homeschooling Strategies for Students with High-Functioning Autism

There's been an explosive growth in the number of children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) in recent years. Following is a list of some of the common issues that these individuals experience in the classroom and beyond. These characteristics are usually not isolated ones; rather, they appear in varying degrees and amounts:
  • coordination problems with both large and small muscle groups
  • difficulty in following complicated directions or remembering directions for extended periods of time
  • difficulty in working with others in small or large group settings
  • difficulty staying on task for extended periods of time
  • easily confused
  • easily distractible
  • inflexibility of thought; is difficult to persuade otherwise
  • low tolerance level and a high frustration level
  • poor auditory memory—both short term and long term
  • poor concept of time
  • poor handwriting skills
  • spontaneous in expression; often cannot control emotions
  • weak or poor self-esteem



Whether you have a special education class, or just a few students on the autism spectrum, the chances are you could use some help. Below are some crucial points to consider when teaching these “special needs” students:

1. An increase in unusual or difficult behaviors probably indicates an increase in anxiety for the student with HFA. Sometimes anxiety is caused by feeling a loss of control. Many times the anxiety will only be alleviated when the student physically removes herself from the stressful event or situation. If this occurs, a program should be set up to assist the student in re-entering and/or staying in the stressful situation. When this occurs, a "safe-place" or "safe-person" may come in handy.

2. Assume nothing when assessing skills. For example, the child with HFA may be a "math whiz" in Algebra, but not able to make simple change at a cash register. Or, she may have an incredible memory about books she has read, speeches she has heard or sports statistics, but still may not be able to remember to bring a pencil to class. Uneven skills development is a hallmark of HFA.

3. Avoid verbal overload. Use shorter sentences if you perceive that the “special needs” student does not fully understanding you. Although she probably has no hearing problem and may be paying attention, she may have difficulty understanding your main point and identifying important information.

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

4. Be aware that normal levels of auditory and visual input can be perceived by the HFA student as too much or too little. For example, the hum of florescent lighting is extremely distracting for some children on the autism spectrum. Consider environmental changes (e.g., removing "visual clutter" from the room, seating changes, etc.) if the student seems distracted or upset by her classroom environment.

5. Being an effective teacher of “special needs” students requires many tools, most of which are chosen through trial and error. Many resources are available to help you plan lessons, manage classroom environments, and develop high-quality instruction for HFA students, for example:
  • develop and maintain a pool of mentors
  • develop a system that allows for easy and comprehensive data collection to help monitor and adapt lessons
  • evaluate and adapt lessons as necessary
  • gather some “tricks of the trade” from fellow teachers, including those who teach special education
  • keep a list of resources for teaching, lesson plans and professional development
  • monitor and verify student responses to lessons
  • set a professional development plan for yourself and track your goals
  • use a multiple-scenario approach to developing lesson plans
  • use peers to review lesson plans and to develop ideas that might be applicable

6. Behavior management works, but if incorrectly used, it can (a) encourage robot-like behavior, (b) provide only a short term behavior change, or (c) result in some form of aggression. Use positive and chronologically age-appropriate behavior procedures.

7. Do not take misbehavior personally. The HFA student is not a manipulative, scheming child who is trying to make life difficult for you. He is seldom, if ever, capable of being manipulative. Usually misbehavior is the result of efforts to survive experiences which may be confusing, disorienting or frightening. Young people on the spectrum are, by virtue of their disorder, egocentric. Most have extreme difficulty reading the reactions of others.

8. If the HFA student has a short attention span, consider the following:
  • break assignments into smaller pieces to work on in short time periods
  • carry out everyday routines consistently
  • develop a reward system for good behavior, completing work on time and participating in class
  • set clear expectations 
  • share ideas with moms and dads so they can help with homework
  • space breaks between assignments so the child can refocus on tasks
  • use visual and auditory reminders to change from one activity to the next

9. If the HFA student does not seem to be learning a task, break it down into smaller steps or present the task in several different ways (e.g., visually, verbally, and physically).

10. If your class involves pairing off or choosing partners, either draw numbers or use some other arbitrary means of pairing. Alternatively, ask an especially kind student if he or she would agree to choose the child with AS or HFA as a partner before the pairing takes place. The student with HFA is most often the kid left with no partner. This is unfortunate since this youngster could benefit most from having a partner.



11. If your student with HFA uses repetitive verbal arguments and/or repetitive verbal questions, you will need to interrupt what can become a continuing, repetitive litany. Continually responding in a logical manner or arguing back seldom stops this behavior. The subject of the argument or question is not always the subject which has upset the student. More often, she is communicating a feeling of loss of control or uncertainty about someone or something in the environment.

Try requesting that the student write down the question or argumentative statement. Then write down your reply. This usually begins to calm her down and stops the repetitive activity. If that doesn't work, write down her repetitive question or argument and ask her to write down a logical reply (perhaps one she thinks you would make). This distracts from the escalating verbal aspect of the situation and may give the student a more socially acceptable way of expressing frustration or anxiety. Another alternative is role-playing the repetitive argument or question with you taking her part and having her answer you as she thinks you might.

12. Kids with HFA have problems with abstract and conceptual thinking. Some may eventually acquire abstract skills, but others never will. When abstract concepts must be used, use visual cues (e.g., drawings or written words) to augment the abstract idea. Avoid asking vague questions like, "Why did you do that?" Instead, say, "I did not like it when you slammed your book down when I said it was time for gym. Next time, put the book down gently and tell me you are angry. Were you showing me that you did not want to go to gym, or that you did not want to stop reading?" Avoid asking essay-type questions. Be as concrete as possible in all your interactions with this “special needs” student.

13. Students on the autism spectrum have trouble with organizational skills, regardless of their intelligence and/or age. Even a "straight A" student with HFA who has a photographic memory can be incapable of remembering to bring a pencil to class or of remembering a deadline for an assignment. In such cases, assistance should be provided in the least restrictive way possible. Strategies could include having the student put a picture of a pencil on the cover of her notebook or maintaining a list of assignments to be completed at home.

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

Always praise the student when she remembers something she has previously forgotten. Never denigrate or "harp" at her when she fails. A lecture on the subject will not only NOT help, it will often make the problem worse. The student may begin to believe she can’t remember to do or bring these things. Students on the spectrum seem to have either the neatest or the messiest desks or lockers in the school. The one with the messiest desk will need your help in frequent cleanups of the desk or locker so that she can find things. Remember that she is probably not making a conscious choice to be messy. She is most likely incapable of this organizational task without specific training. Attempt to train her in organizational skills using small, specific steps.

14. Prepare the HFA student for all environmental and/or changes in routine (e.g., assembly, substitute teacher, rescheduling, etc.) Use a written or visual schedule to prepare her for change.

15. Remember that facial expressions and other social cues may not work. Most children with AS and HFA have difficulty reading facial expressions and interpreting “body language.”

16. Since these “special needs” students experience various communication difficulties, do not rely on them to relay important messages to their mother or father about school events, assignments, school rules, etc. (unless you try it on an experimental basis with follow-up, or unless you are already certain that the student has mastered this skill). Even sending home a note for the child’s parent may not work. The student may not remember to deliver the note or may lose it before reaching home. Phone calls to moms and dads work best until the skill can be developed. Frequent and accurate communication between the teacher and parent is very important.

17. Use and interpret speech literally. Until you know the capabilities of the HFA student, you should avoid:
  • sarcasm (e.g., saying, "Great!" after the student has just spilled a bottle of ketchup on the table)
  • nicknames
  • idioms (e.g., save your breath, jump the gun, second thoughts)
  • double meanings (most jokes have double meanings)
  • "cute" names (e.g., Pal, Buddy, Wise Guy)

While each student with HFA is different, there are standard methods that can serve both the “special needs” child and the educator. A movement is emerging in education called "neurodiversity," which suggests that teachers view their “special needs” students in terms of "diversity" rather than "disability." By embracing this more positive viewpoint and implementing techniques that build on strengths, teachers can help ensure that their HFA students achieve success both in the classroom and out in the real world.

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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.

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