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Do We Really Want to “Cure” Asperger’s/High-Functioning Autism?

Is it possible that everyone has a touch of Asperger’s (AS), also called High-Functioning Autism (HFA)? Think about it: all the features that characterize AS and HFA can be found in varying degrees in the “normal” population. For example:
  • A lot of people can engage in tasks (sometimes mundane ones) for hours and hours.
  • A number of “normal” people have outstandingly good rote memories and even retain eidetic imagery into adult life. 
  • Collecting objects (e.g., stamps, old glass bottles, railway engine numbers, etc.) are socially accepted hobbies.
  • Everyone differs in their levels of skill in social interaction and in their ability to read nonverbal social cues. 
  • Many individuals are visual, three-dimensional thinkers.
  • Many people can pay attention to detail – sometimes with painstaking perfection.
  • Many who are capable and independent as grown-ups have special interests that they pursue with marked enthusiasm.
  • Most men - and many women - prefer logic over emotion.
  • Pedantic speech and a tendency to take things literally can also be found in “normal” individuals.
  • The capacity to withdraw into an inner world of one's own special interests is available in a greater or lesser measure to all human beings.
  • There is an equally wide distribution in motor skills.

Other “autistic” traits that many “typical” people experience include:
  • Clumsiness
  • Don't always recognize faces right away 
  • Have a speech impediment early in life
  • Eccentric personality 
  • Flat, or blank expression 
  • Highly gifted in one or more areas 
  • Intense focus on one or two subjects 
  • Likes and dislikes can be very rigid 
  • Limited interests
  • May have difficulty staying in college despite a high level of intelligence
  • Preoccupied with their own agenda 
  • Repetitive routines or rituals 
  • Sensitivity to the texture of foods 
  • Single-mindedness 
  • Unusual preoccupations 
  • Difficulty understanding others’ feelings 
  • Great difficulty with small-talk and chatter
  • Has an urge to inform that can result in being blunt or insulting 
  • Lack of empathy at times
  • Lack of interest in other people 
  • May avoid social gatherings 
  • Preoccupied with their own agenda 
  • Social withdrawal
  • Can often be distant physically and/or emotionally

The list above is by no means exhaustive.

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

It is possible that some people are classified as having AS or HFA because they are at the extreme end of the normal continuum on ALL these features – or one particular aspect may be so marked that it affects the whole of their functioning?

The argument could be made that the difference between someone with AS/HFA and the “typical” individual who has a complex inner world is that the latter DOES take part appropriately in two-way social interaction, while the former does NOT. Also, the typical person, however elaborate his inner world, is influenced by his social experiences, whereas the person with AS/HFA seems cut off from the effects of outside contacts.

So, now a new question arises: Is it possible that AS and HFA are simply reflections of object-oriented individuals (i.e., those who have a preference for ideas, tasks and objects) versus people-oriented individuals (i.e., those who prefer social interaction over all else)? If so, does this preference make for a “disorder”?

Also, if we should view AS/HFA as a disorder, whose problem is it? Is it a problem for the person with the disorder, or for the people who have dealings with the affected person? If “normal” people have difficulty with AS/HFA individuals, but AS/HFA individuals are O.K. with themselves, then it would seem that the “typicals” own the disorder.

What if we stopped viewing AS and HFA as abnormal? Many individuals on the autism spectrum embrace their condition. Rather than seeking a “cure,” they seek respect for “neurodiversity.” They want to show that autism does NOT mean “limited,” rather it is simply a different way of thinking and viewing the world. Individuals with differently wired brains have always existed – some of them geniuses because of their autistic traits, not despite them.

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

Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences (e.g., AS, HFA, ADHD) are the result of natural variation in the human genome (i.e., an organism’s complete set of DNA). This represents a new way of looking at disorders that were traditionally characterized as medically or psychologically abnormal.

Neurodiversity is a viewpoint that is not universally accepted, although it is increasingly supported by science.  This science proposes that disorders like AS and HFA have a stable prevalence in human society as far back as we can measure.  We are realizing that developmental disorders emerge through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental interaction – not the result of injury or disease. 

Talk of “cure” feels like an attack on the very being of many AS and HFA individuals. Some hate that word for the same reason other groups dislike talk of “curing gayness.” Thus, shouldn’t the accommodation of neurological differences be a similarly charged civil rights issue? If their diversity is part of their true nature, shouldn’t they have the right to be accepted and supported “as is?” 

Neurodiverse individuals have contributed many great things to human society.  If those contributions were truly influenced by neurological differences, then an attempt to “cure” such differences would seem to be extremely damaging to humanity.

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==> 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

  • Anonymous said… This is an excellent article! In my experience the window of 'neurotypical' is getting narrower and narrower. I have to chuckle when I hear all the labeling and categorizing of people these days - aren't 'labeling' and 'categorizing' hallmarks of Aspergers and HFA? What does that say about our society? People with Aspergers and HFA don't need to be cured. Neurotypicals need to be less rigid in their thinking regarding the wonderful range and diversity of the human brain:)
  • Anonymous said…I know I may be biased, partly due to the fact that I am Autistic. Yet I see many things on that list that apply to me and I don't see some of them as being entirely positive. Autism is generally identified as a multitude of these factors acting as either deficits or the brain's attempt at compensating for these deficits. If one is low functioning the factors contributing towards their Autism may almost be crippling. I am high functioning and I was torn to pieces before even attempting this post, yet I ferl strongly enough to attempt to advocate for those of us who tend to live with society's expectation that we should be the second coming of "Rain Man". Yet even as I undertake a course at Uni for Disability Studies, and don't see the academic value of this article, I do see where it is coming from. I do however, have to ask a question, can't these factors existing in almost everyone, be simply accredited to Human Diversity? Why must we glorify Autism and state (dangerously), that everyone has a degree of Autism in them? Because that in my perspective, sensationalises the stereotype that we all possess superhuman abilities. Sorry for the spiel, I do respect the article, but it is an important idea to raise.

Sexual Deviation in ASD Teens and Young Adults

"Do some teens with ASD make awkward advances to the opposite sex, which are viewed as harassment? Our 17 y.o. was recently called down to the Dean's office for 'making inappropriate advances' to a girl he has a crush on!"

Perhaps the most obvious trait of Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) is impairment of two-way social interaction. This is not due primarily to a desire to withdraw from social contact. Rather, the problem arises from a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior.

These rules are complex, unwritten and unstated, constantly changing, and affect choice of clothing, eye contact, gesture, movement, posture, proximity to others, speech, and many other aspects of behavior.

The degree of skill in this area varies among “typical” people, but those with AS and HFA are outside the normal range, for example:
  • Many are over-sensitive to criticism and suspicious of others.
  • Some have a history of rather bizarre antisocial acts (perhaps because of their lack of empathy). 
  • Their social behavior is peculiar and naive.
  • They do not have the intuitive knowledge of how to adapt their approaches and responses to “fit in” with the needs and personalities of others. 
  • They may be aware of their difficulties – and even strive to overcome them – but in inappropriate ways.

Relations with the opposite sex provide a good example of the more general social ineptitude in AS and HFA. One 26-year-old male with AS observed that most of his peers had girlfriends and eventually married and had kids. He wished to be “normal” in this respect, but had no idea how to indicate his interest and attract a partner in a socially acceptable way. He asked some of his friends for a list of rules for talking to females, and tried to find “the secret” in various books. He had a strong sex drive, and on one occasion approached and kissed a female he had a crush on. As a consequence, he found himself in trouble with the police, and later tried to solve the problem by becoming solitary and withdrawn.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Possibly because of the absence of a reference group, sexual interests among individuals with AS and HFA may be unusual, for example:
  • AS and HFA males may become addicted to adult internet sites, and a few have attracted police attention by downloading pictures of kids.
  • Fetishes are not uncommon and may occasionally lead to forensic problems, as with the person with AS who liked to impersonate doctors and ask women intimate questions about reproduction. 
  • Many young people with AS and HFA manage to suppress their sexuality. 
  • Teens with AS and HFA may relate better to younger kids than they do to their peer group, and may occasionally make inappropriate sexual approaches to them. Older teens – and even some grown-ups – may idealize childhood, and may be sexually attracted to kids for that reason. 
  • Young people with AS and HFA may rarely get into trouble indecently exposing themselves, but this may turn out to be something that someone else (often a girl) put them up to.

Stalking is the area in which the sex life of young people on the autism spectrum gives most cause for concern. “Crushes” are common in the teenage years, and young men with AS and HFA often develop them. Although “typical” teens are aware that their feelings are not going to be reciprocated by the opposite sex, this may not be obvious to the teenager with AS or HFA who may become inappropriately attached.

There is usually an initial phase during which the object of the attraction (the female) feels a bit flattered, a bit alarmed, or very caring toward the AS or HFA male who has become fixated on her. However, there may be phone calls, inappropriate notes, or statements made to others that lead the female who is the object of adoration to decide that “enough is enough.”

There is usually a confrontation that is often clumsily handled because the object of adoration is frequently someone like a teacher or nurse who has a duty of care for the AS or HFA male. The problems begin if this rejection is not accepted. The object of adoration may become an object of hatred and may be targeted with abusive calls or letters by the AS or HFA male. The female’s friends may be the victims of jealous attacks, or the female may be followed.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

How can parents and teachers help? Start by providing a few straightforward relationship tips. For example:
  1. Ask the girl how she's doing or what she's reading instead of commenting on her body parts.
  2. Be aware of the girl’s personal space.
  3. If she ignores you, drops eye contact, or walks away, back off. 
  4. It’s not rude of you to approach a girl, but understand that she is not being rude if she doesn't want to keep talking to you, especially if you initiated conversation while she was running an errand, waiting for the bus, or on her computer at a coffee shop.
  5. Look at her face instead of her chest. 
  6. Males are socialized to think that females don't really say what they mean. Wrong! Take her words at face value.
  7. Not all greetings are out of bounds. There is the matter of context. For example, early-morning dog-walkers may offer courteous "good mornings" as they pass each other on the sidewalk. However, commenting on a woman's form as she walks past is not acceptable. 
  8. Talk “to” the girl, not “at” her. 
  9. Know that there can be a fine line between flirtation and harassment.
  10. Above all, treat her with respect.

Most AS and HFA males will want a girlfriend, but may feel shy or intimidated when approaching the opposite sex. They may feel "different" from others. Although most “typical” teens place emphasis on being and looking "cool," teens with AS and HFA may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to “fit in.”

They may be immature for their age and be naive and too trusting, which can lead to social skills deficits (especially in the world of dating), teasing and bullying. All of these difficulties can cause these young people to become withdrawn, socially isolated, depressed and anxious.

Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism is an audio book designed to help parents understand every aspect of these related disorders. The simple yet highly effective strategies discussed in the audio book will help parents cope with - and manage - their child’s behavioral and emotional needs.

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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.

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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...