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High-Functioning Autistic Students and Problems in Physical Education Classes

"My child (with HFA) struggles in PE class... he's clumsy... gets teased as a result... and the teacher doesn't intervene to try to stop the teasing. SO then my son takes matters in his own hands and starts acting out towards the kids who are teasing. Then he's the one that gets in trouble. It's a bad cycle.  Any suggestions? Would there be any helpful advice I could give his teacher so he'll understand my child's challenges?"

Including kids with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s in gym classes is not an uncommon occurrence. More and more, kids with “special needs” have gym alongside typically developing kids. Most physical education (PE) instructors teach young people on the autism spectrum although they have little knowledge about the disorder and how PE classes affect those who have it.

Successfully educating kids with HFA involves a deeper understanding of the disorder and how it directly affects the students’ ability to participate fully. When developing instructional programs for kids on the autism spectrum in gym class, educators should examine (a) emotional and behavioral characteristics, (b) academic and cognitive functioning, (c) physical and gross motor development, and (d) social deficits in relation to peer interactions. Rooted within these areas may be such issues as language and speech delays, social skills deficits, and teasing/bullying issues.

Children with HFA demonstrate a wide variety of behavioral characteristics. In educational settings, they often experience anxiety, depression, aggression, and hyperactivity because of frustration during the learning process. They also display a limited number of interests, which can lead to a strong preoccupation with “sameness.” This sameness can cause a predisposition to obsessive routines, repetitive rituals, and difficulty when transitioning.

Parents and teachers often notice the predisposition to sameness in behavior rigidity, since this rigidity affects both the thoughts and behavior of HFA children. Novel situations often produce anxiety for these kids. They may be uncomfortable with change in general, which can result in behavior that may be viewed as defiant and can lead to “meltdowns.”

One main area of concern for kids with HFA is socially inappropriate behavior stemming from lack of social understanding, which can range from simply annoying to highly disruptive behaviors. Unfortunately, most young people on the autism spectrum have difficulty communicating their emotional state or understanding the emotional states of others. This inability further exacerbates socially inappropriate behaviors.

On an emotional level, students with HFA have difficulty accepting that they make mistakes and become easily stressed because of their inflexibility. They also tend to have lower self-esteem than their same-aged peers. Such vulnerabilities may lead them to become targets for bullying and teasing.

PE teachers should actively participate in programs for preventing bullying and should employ various strategies within the gym setting. However, to be effective, ALL educators should employ the same strategies across all academic settings. Also, the PE teacher should work closely with other members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to achieve this goal. Through effective collaboration, all educators can be consistent with the goals related to preventing bullying and the strategies necessary to achieve those goals.

Strategies that PE teachers can use to prevent bullying during gym class include:
  • being consistent in handling situations in which bullying takes place
  • being proactive
  • focusing on the needs of students with “special needs”
  • modeling appropriate behavior
  • talking with students about bullying
  • telling students to report situations

Another identified area of concern is called a “meltdown.” Meltdowns are most frequently related to frustration, being thwarted, sensory sensitivities, and difficulties in compliance when a particularly rigid response pattern has been challenged or interrupted. Educators frequently overlook the underlying antecedent when they address the meltdown. When the youngster does engage in a specific behavior problem, he may be experiencing feelings of stress and a lack of control. In addition, the youngster may exhibit a high incidence of attention problems. Many children on the spectrum have difficulty determining those elements in their environments to which they should attend, so they attend to the wrong things. In some cases, they may even receive a diagnosis of ADHD as a coexisting condition.

Physical and Gross Motor Development—

Many kids with HFA do not possess highly athletic motor skills. Researchers are more and more recognizing that motor functioning is a deficit area for kids on the autism spectrum. These young people typically have low fitness and low activity levels as compared to their “typical” peers. This problem occurs because of the high incidence of children with developmental disorders who have a sedentary lifestyle.

HFA teens are significantly less active than typically developing teens, and few engage in extracurricular activities. Clearly, promoting physical activity in this population is of high importance; however, because of the challenges that these children face, encouraging them to be physically active at acceptable levels may be difficult. Specifically, motor skill deficits may hinder successful participation in gym classes if educators do not address these deficits through effective intervention plans.

Kids with HFA generally have difficulty with tasks requiring balance and coordination, and they often display a generalized muscular weakness (called “hypertonia”), which affects posture, movement, strength, and coordination. They may have difficulty judging distance, height, and depth, or may engage in self-stimulatory behaviors. They may also have problems with manual dexterity, and have impaired dynamic balance, or an inability to perform rapid, alternating movements. An inability to alternate hand and limb movements can directly affect an HFA student's ability to fully participate in physical activities that involve such skills.

Another common impairment for children with HFA is developmental coordination disorder (DCC). DCC often coexists with autism. It appears to be a problem involving the process of motor planning. Common deficits that kids with this disorder experience include clumsiness, abnormal gait, and fine-motor skill deficits. Behaviors attributable to these deficits include difficulty riding a bike, playing ball games, throwing, catching, and kicking. Not only do these physical challenges lead to problems participating in gym class, but they can also lead to social integration problems in teenagers with HFA.

Yet another issue for children on the autism spectrum is the coexistence of sensory integration disorder. These young people often have heightened sensitivity to touch, tastes, smells, sounds, and sights. Avoidance of touch, pressure, warmth, and other contributing factors can foster avoidance in participating in specific games or activities. Oversensitivity to sound can also affect routines and procedures, especially in situations in which a coach or PE teacher uses a whistle or bell. PE teachers should be sensitive to the HFA student's sensory needs, and should modify or adapt group-designed activities (e.g., by using verbal signals instead of using a whistle).

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

PE teachers can use the following strategies in the gym setting to reduce high levels of frustration in students with HFA:

1. Use simplistic and literal rules for HFA kids to understand and follow.

2. Reinforce appropriate social interactions and skill performance with a consistent behavior management system, which can include internal and external reinforcers. PE teachers should reinforce appropriate social interactions, as well as reinforcing the HFA student for meeting classroom expectations.

3. The PE teacher should keep his/her interactions with the youngster predictable (e.g., plan the same warm-up procedures every day, and give the youngster advance notice about activities planned for that day). "Insistence on sameness” can be helped through providing a predictable environment, avoiding surprises, and telling the “special needs” student about changes as soon as possible.

4. Provide exercise and activities on the basis of individual interests. Building on the interests of the HFA student can serve as a motivator and bring meaning to the activity.

5. Provide a visual schedule. Kids on the spectrum benefit from using a visual schedule, because it serves as a cue to them about upcoming activities.

6. One way to deescalate frustration is to allow the HFA youngster to use a quiet or “private area” so that she can compose herself or think through an activity. In the gym, PE teachers have limited spaces that provide reduced noise levels or are less stimulating. However, the perimeter of the gym is more desirable than the center. If a youngster needs to regain control of her behavior, and the distractions within the gymnasium are hindering her ability to do so, the teacher can consider placing a beanbag chair just inside the office. Regardless of the designated area, the student should always be within the view of the teacher.

7. The most difficult time during gym class is unstructured time. If unstructured time exists, provide more structure by directing the HFA student to work in his own areas of interest. Simply instructing him in activities that reinforce his areas of interest encourages and motivates him to be more active.

8. Establish clear rules and consequences. The use of clear rules and consequences helps provide a more predictable environment.

9. The PE teacher can use effective data collection to monitor the behavioral progress of the youngster. The information obtained through effective data collection is a valuable tool in developing IEP objectives and determining specific skill deficits.

10. Collaborate with the HFA youngster's other teachers. Collaboration allows the PE teacher to be consistent in the way that he/she interacts with and instructs the youngster. The PE teacher can then adopt the same type of behavior management system for the youngster that other teachers are using throughout the youngster's day.

11. Provide opportunities for the HFA student to acquire skills through multiple means (e.g., when working with the youngster to promote better awareness of vestibular input and balancing skills, ask her to use a variety of equipment that incorporates movement such as swings, slides, balance beams, and rockers).

12. Use sensory stimulation to decrease self-stimulation and to help the HFA student remain attentive to the task presented.

13. Use repetition and re-teaching. Kids with HFA are frequently unaware that their skill levels are not equal to those of their peers, or that they perform a task incorrectly. In this case, the student may continue using the same movements, thus not reaching the appropriate level of the skill. Teaching a new skill may require many attempts and considerable practice. The youngster may also need a considerable amount of re-teaching of skills.

14. When teaching skills that include several component parts, break the parts up and have the HFA student practice them separately. The PE teacher should demonstrate skills in this manner (e.g., a backward chain of “part practice” when teaching a youngster the skills involved in bowling would be to first teach him how to swing his arm with the bowling ball in hand before asking the youngster to attempt the approach used in performing the overall skill). Once the youngster masters the first skill (e.g., the swing), then he can begin to practice the approach without using the bowling ball. After the youngster has addressed both skills, he can combine the skills and execute bowling in its entirety.

15. To have a successful gross motor plan, the HFA youngster needs to have (a) a mental picture of what needs to occur, (b) clear vestibular and proprioceptive feedback regarding movement, and (c) the ability to make automatic, reflexive adjustments to moving in time and space. In addressing gross motor planning, the PE teacher may need to help the youngster set specific personal goals. Although the child’s goals may differ from those of her peers, the goals should be clear, realistic, and attainable.

16. Try to provide alternative activities (as indicated on the IEP). The physical demands of many activities taught in gym classes involve physical interactions among classmates (e.g., hand holding, spotting for gymnastics, leaning against one another, etc.). Kids with HFA may exhibit hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity during this time. Accommodations may be necessary, and the youngster may need an alternative activity if the degree of sensitivity is greatly affecting his ability to participate.

17. When possible, limit competitive and team sports. Team sports demand an ability to quickly understand, process and respond to social cues under the pressure of competition. Expecting an HFA student to function - or be accepted by peers - in this setting is unrealistic.

18. Utilize individual fitness activities. The tendency for kids on the spectrum to do well with repetitive activities can be an opportunity to teach individual fitness activities (e.g., bicycling). Researchers have found that these young people prefer such activities as running, cycling, and rowing.

19. Most PE teachers select activities geared toward team sports. They should use caution when determining placement on a team. The teacher himself/herself should assign teams instead of using peer-selection.

20. Assess developmental readiness in the student with HFA. When determining the sequence for introducing skills, the PE teacher should examine previously mastered developmental skills and determine new skills by using a sequential manner and rate that is predictable.

21. Break skills into smaller component parts, thus helping the student with HFA to focus his motor planning in relation to the part rather than to the whole. Sequentially linking (or chaining) the component parts can then help the youngster acquire proficiency in performing the required skill.

The gym setting often includes a greater number of kids than the typical number in the general academic setting. This increased number of kids may result in higher than average noise levels. Modifying the physical environment can reduce the onset of a behavioral outburst in a youngster with HFA.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism
The following are examples of ways to modify the environment:

1. Use nonverbal visual cues to accompany auditory messages. These cues can help the HFA student to refocus attention to the task.

2. Simplify the task. If the “special needs” student is misbehaving while attempting a task, he may be frustrated. Simplifying the task may help the student to succeed – and simultaneously reduce inappropriate behaviors. Performing a task analysis on the specific skill can enable the PE teacher to break the larger task into smaller components that he/she can teach independently, yet in sequence.

3. Reduce excessive noise when possible. Use “nonverbal signals" (e.g., colored light systems, hand signals, pictorial cues) to reinforce appropriate noise levels, including the intensity and pitch of vocalizations. In addition, minimize background noises and fluorescent lighting, because many students on the spectrum have heightened sensitivities to these elements.

4. PE teachers can organize the physical structure of the classroom to decrease anxiety levels (e.g., clearly label materials and the location of the activities, which helps ensure that the structures within this environment are consistent).

5. Maintain routines as much as possible. Routines should include "sameness" in activities, including using the same equipment and the same class organization.

6. Try to limit visual distractions. Reducing the number of visual distractions helps the student to maintain focus on the delivery of instruction.

7. Lastly, always encourage and reward progress and achievement by using verbal praise.

There's a lot for kids on the autism spectrum to worry about while at school, and gym class is usually at the top of the list. Gym class can be very different in middle and high school than it is in elementary school, and because autistic kids are often so self-conscious, gym class is often the most feared part of the day. If a youngster is dreading gym, there's plenty teachers and parents can do to help. The ideas listed above will help prepare him or her for all the challenges that gym class can bring.

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

Cognitive and Behavioral Inflexibility in Kids on the Spectrum

“Why are transitions so difficult for my autistic child (high functioning)? It’s impossible to get him to stop what he’s doing at the time without a huge row. What are some strategies which can help when moving from one thing to the next?”

One frequently observed feature of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s is inflexibility in thought and behavior. Inflexibility seems to pervade so many areas of the lives of children on the autism spectrum. Novel situations often produce anxiety.

These kids may be uncomfortable with change in general, which can result in behavior that may be viewed as oppositional and can lead to emotional meltdowns. This general inflexibility is what parents and teachers often label as “rebellion.”

There are two types of inflexibility:
  1. Cognitive inflexibility occurs when the child is unable to consider alternatives to the current situation, alternative viewpoints, or innovative solutions to a problem. The child with inflexible thinking tends to view things in “either-or” terms (e.g., things are either right or wrong, good or bad). He or she wants concrete, black and white answers. The “gray areas” of life are very uncomfortable (e.g., the child often has an exact way of doing things with no variations). 
  2. Behavioral inflexibility refers to a child’s difficulty maintaining appropriate behavior in new and unfamiliar situations. Flexibility enables children to shift effortlessly from task to task in the classroom, from topic to topic in conversation, from one role to another in games, etc.

Children with HFA may have many fears in addition to those related to unexpected changes in schedules. Large groups of people and busy/noisy environments (e.g., school hallways, cafeterias, playgrounds, bus stations, etc.) tend to overwhelm children with HFA. They may also be overwhelmed by unexpected academic challenge or by having too many things to remember or too many tasks to perform.

They often have limited frustration-tolerance and may display tantrums when thwarted. Routines and rules are very important to kids with HFA in providing a sense of needed order and structure, and thus, predictability about the world.

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

Another form or inflexibility is moralism, a kind of self-righteous and strict adherence to nonnegotiable moral principles that is often out of context with practical reality. An example may be a youngster who criticizes a parent who has run a yellow traffic light when the parent is on the way to the emergency room for treatment of a severe injury.

Inflexibility is also found in the rigidity over matters that are of little consequence, such as arguing about whether the route to the emergency room was the quickest when it might be the difference between a few hundred yards by choosing to take one turn over another. In the classroom, this may be found when an HFA student fixates on a perception that a teacher has not enforced a rule consistently. Such fixations on moral correctness can escalate and interfere with availability for instruction.

Reasons for Inflexibility—
  1. Transitioning from one activity to another. This is usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before the HFA child is finished with it.
  2. The need to engage in - or continue - a preferred activity (usually an obsessive action or fantasy). 
  3. The need to control a situation. 
  4. The need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity (often something difficult or undesirable). Often, if the child can’t be perfect, she does not want to engage in the activity.
  5. Other internal issues (e.g., sensory, inattention (ADHD), oppositional tendency (ODD), or other psychiatric issues may also be causes of behavior. 
  6. Lack of knowledge about how something is done. By not knowing how the world works with regard to specific situations and events, the child will act inappropriately instead. 
  7. Immediate gratification of a need. 
  8. Anxiety about a current or upcoming event (no matter how trivial it may appear to the parent or teacher). 
  9. A violation of a rule or ritual (i.e., changing something from the way it is “supposed” to be). When someone violates a rule, this may be unacceptable to the HFA youngster. 
  10. A misunderstanding or misinterpretation of another's action.

Inflexibility is often the result of anxiety. The cause of anxiety in the HFA child has a lot to do with the fact that she does not have the ability to understand the world like “typical” kids do.

Because of the neuro-cognitive disorder, the child:
  • will have difficulty understanding rules of society
  • needs explicit instructions
  • does not understand social cues
  • does not understand implied directions
  • does not know how to “read between the lines”
  • does not “take in” what is going on around her

“Facts” are what kids with HFA learn and feel less anxious about. Since these “special needs” kids have a hard time with all the normal rules of society, having “rules” has a calming effect on them. They think, “This is the rule. I can handle it o.k.”

Facts also have to be from someone they think is an “expert” in their eyes. Teachers and doctors may have this leverage with them, but moms and dads are, for the most part, not considered “experts.”

Understanding what causes so much anxiety, tantrums, meltdowns, shutdowns, and out-of-control behavior helps parents to know where their HFA child is coming from, and with that, parents will be able to help their kids less stressed-out.

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

Parenting Strategies—

Here are some strategies for dealing with an inflexible-thinking youngster:

1. While helping your HFA child to deal with change, be prepared to weather the storm. There will be sadness, tears and tantrums – followed by parental guilt. It’s all part of the process. Remain calm, and accept your youngster for who and what she is.

2. Turn the “change” into an adventure. For example, turn “Are you ready to start a new school year” into “Wow, just think. You’ll get to see all your classmates again.” Since any change can seem frightening to children on the spectrum, the language you use can turn the change into a fun adventure. Changing the tone to one of excitement can make a world of difference in your child’s attitude.

3. Read articles and books about the change in question. Almost any change that your child is going through has been written about (e.g., new siblings, moving to a new neighborhood, starting a new school year, etc.). Go to the library and get as many books as you can on the topic and read together. Reading helps open the lines of communication to talk about the difficulties of the change that is coming.

4. Prepare your HFA youngster for what may happen – and be honest. Voice your plans in a reassuring tone. Explain to him in concrete terms where you will be going, or what may happen along the way, so that he is prepared well before and ready for the change. Also, answer your child’s questions, and tell him the truth (i.e., don’t sugar-coat the situation) so that trust develops. Many tantrums and meltdowns can be avoided, because you keep reminding him throughout the day of what’s going to happen. In this way, there are no unwanted surprises.

5. Many kids on the spectrum have difficulty with the concept of time. But, you can provide your child with simple strategies to measure time (e.g., use an alarm clock or kitchen timer for task transitions, clean up times, or evening rituals). Let your child place a calendar centrally, and help her keep track of important dates (e.g., birthdays, holidays, vacations, the first day of school, etc.). Signal your child verbally or set countdowns for when she must leave an activity that she is enjoying (e.g., “I’m going to turn off the computer in 10 minutes because we are getting close to lunch time”).

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

6. Let your HFA youngster know of some changes in life YOU have undergone – and how you managed them. Your examples are a way of helping your child cope with change in the future. Relate to his situation. Tell stories about when you have had to weather the storms of change. Also, you can talk about what you might have done differently – something that could have facilitated a better outcome. Alternatively, you can talk about the changes within the other family members and how they changed with circumstances.

7. Kids on the autism spectrum love to follow a routine. Anything away from that worries them. They feel best when they are able to predict things. They feel safe when they know what is on the agenda for the day or what they have to do next. They want to know how other people are likely to behave or react, and what will happen from day to day. So, if you and your youngster are undergoing a significant period of change, try to keep most of his routine the same.

8. Help create sameness by repeating a similar “comfort phrase” (e.g., “Sometimes we have to change our plans, and we will be O.K. when that happens”). Use this exact phrase (or something similar) every time flexibility is needed. This helps to bring a sense of control and predictability during chaos. Your youngster will remember that you said that the last time a change was needed – and everything eventually turned out just fine.

9. Focus on just a few areas where flexibility is needed most. For example, if your youngster is constantly distressed when you’re out running errands, this is the place to start. If he is upset over having a babysitter, start there. If he won’t leave the grandparents’ house without a tantrum, focus on that issue.

10. Encourage your HFA youngster to explore and engage in new activities and interests. In this way, you help her cope with change that will come later in life. When she goes through various new experiences, it provides a fundamental base that strengthens her emotional muscles. It helps her feel good about herself and develops self-confidence.

11. Don’t unintentionally reward your youngster for acting-out due to an unwanted routine change. Uncontrolled anger warrants a predictable, swift consequence. Losing a particular privilege may be the best consequence for HFA children. Be firm. Don’t underestimate your youngster’s ability to manipulate you. Even severely autistic kids can be master manipulators.

12. Create behavior incentives using something that is the same each time (e.g., tokens, tickets, stickers, etc.). Let the sameness of the identical token be the familiar thing during the unfamiliar situation. You can also use marbles dropped into a jar (the smooth texture and “clicks” when they drop is satisfying to most autistic kids). For example, explain to your youngster, “When we leave the park today, if you don’t cry, you’ll get a marble to put in the jar when we get home.” Let her cash in the marbles for a reward at the end of the day.

13. Change itself can come quickly or slowly, but adjusting to the new state of affairs takes time. Make sure you give your youngster – and yourself – the luxury of having time to adjust. Try not to expect too much too soon. Some changes are easy to adjust to, others aren’t. Some HFA children adapt quickly to change, some don’t. As the parent, simply keep doing what you are doing, and know that most changes eventually leave everyone in better places than where they began.

14. Attempt to see things from your child’s point of view. Ask her how she perceives a particular change. A child who airs her misgivings about unwanted changes is more likely to cope better. Talk about the details of what will happen, where she will be, and what she will have to do. Doing so repeatedly helps your child feel prepared.

15. Lastly, always demonstrate love and appreciation when your child “tries” to accept a new situation with courage – even if he is unsuccessful. In other words, be sure to reward “effort” with acknowledgment and praise, regardless of whether or not the desired outcome occurred.


An effective treatment program for inflexibility and “insistence on sameness” actively engages the HFA youngster’s attention in highly structured activities, builds on his interests, offers a predictable schedule, provides regular reinforcement of behavior, and teaches tasks as a series of simple steps. This type of program generally includes the following:
  • specialized speech/language therapy to help kids who have trouble with the pragmatics of speech (i.e., the give-and-take of normal conversation)
  • social skills training, a form of group therapy that teaches HFA kids the skills they need to interact more successfully with their peers
  • parent-training and support to teach moms and dads behavioral techniques to use at home
  • occupational or physical therapy for kids with sensory integration problems or poor motor coordination
  • medication for co-existing conditions (e.g., depression and anxiety)
  • cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of “talk” therapy that can help the more explosive or anxious kids on the spectrum to manage their emotions better and cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines

In summary, due to the fact that change causes anxiety in young people with HFA, they will want to live by inflexible rules that they construct for themselves. One of their main rules goes something like this:  “My routine must NOT be disrupted, and involves X, Y and Z. Each time I can do X, Y and Z – in that order – my life has some predictability. When I don’t have this predictability, I feel anxious, which is a very painful emotion that needs to be avoided at all costs!”

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

==> 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

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Click here for the full article...

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Click here to read the full article…

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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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