HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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High-Functioning Autistic Kids Who Hate To Be Hugged

“I have two sons. The older son (age 9) is very loving and always has been. Lots of hugs and snuggles. Very verbal and social. Well here comes son #2 (age 4) who has high functioning autism. Not a word. He doesn't like hugs or kisses. Anytime I ask for one, he runs away. Anytime I give him a hug, he struggles to get loose. His main method of communication is an irritating SCREAM. He does have his moments of being affectionate, but they are few and far between (usually when he is not feeling well). Of course I love both of my kids, but it saddens me that son #2 just doesn't seem to reciprocate most of the time. Anyone else have a fiercely independent child that you just have to learn to love.... differently?”

First of all, you’re not alone. This is a common issue. Most youngsters with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s have a lot of difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Even in the first few months of life, many do not interact or make eye contact. They seem indifferent to others, and often prefer being alone. They may even resist parental attention, hugs and cuddling – and seldom seek comfort or respond to a parent’s displays of affection.



Even though a youngster with HFA is attached to his mom and dad, his expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to “read.” To caretakers, it may seem as if their youngster is not attached at all. A mother or father who has looked forward to the joys of cuddling and playing with their youngster may feel disappointed by this lack of the expected and typical attachment behavior.

Youngsters with HFA also are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues (e.g., a smile, wink, or grimace) may have little meaning. For example, to the youngster who misses these cues, “come here” always means the same thing, whether the parent is smiling and extending her arms for a hug, or frowning and planting her fists on her hips.

Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world is confusing. To make a bad problem worse, the HFA child has difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective. “Typical” kids understand that other people have different thoughts, feelings, and goals than they have. However, the HFA child lacks such understanding. This inability leaves him unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.

Although not universal, it is common for children on the autism spectrum to have difficulty regulating their feelings. This can take the form of “immature” behavior (e.g., verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them). These kids may also be disorderly and physically aggressive at times, making social relationships even more problematic. They have a tendency to “lose control,” particularly when they're in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when angry and frustrated. They may at times break things, attack others, or hurt themselves (e.g., bang their heads, pull their hair, bite their arms, etc.).

Consistency and repetition are crucial to kids on the autism spectrum, and this applies to the “lack of displayed affection” issue as well. Trying to figure out a puzzling disorder like autism can be a lifelong challenge. For many moms and dads, the affection issue may be the biggest obstacle to overcome. But, with patience and learning to go by your youngster’s cues and not your own, you will be able to connect with your son in a deep and meaningful way.




More information on the puzzling behavior associated with High-Functioning Autism can be found here:

Disciplinary & Intervention Guidelines for Parents of High-Functioning Autistic Kids

“My 8 y.o. son has autism (high-functioning) and is constantly disrespectful, talks back, is stubborn. He thinks that we (parents) are 'being mean' to him. We have tried reward charts, try to be encouraging and positive, have taken away computer and TV, removing the thing he is playing with, setting him in a corner, doing extra chores, and NOTHING works. We are just so discouraged because nothing seems to be getting through. We have read dozens of books and seemingly tried everything. Please help. I am going insane!”

Traditional disciplinary techniques often fail to produce the desired results for kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS), mainly because these “special needs” children are unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures are apt to exacerbate the type of behavior the punishment is intended to reduce.

Disciplining young people displaying autism-related behaviors will require an approach that is somewhat unique to that of “typical” children. Finding the balance between understanding the needs of the HFA or AS youngster, and the disciplinary strategy that is age-appropriate and situationally-necessary will be achievable when applying some of the strategies listed below. These strategies can be implemented at home, school, and in other public settings.

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


Crucial disciplinary guidelines for parents [and teachers]:


1. A short list of rules – along with a visual depiction of each rule – should become your youngster's property, and depending upon the situation, should be kept in his pocket for ready reference.

2. Active ignoring is a good consequence for misbehavior meant to get your attention. This means not rewarding “bad behavior” with your attention – even if it's negative attention (e.g., scolding or yelling).



3. After disciplining your youngster for doing something wrong, always offer a “substitute behavior” (e.g., if she is hitting you to get your attention, work on replacing that with getting your attention by tapping your shoulder).

4. Before you transition from one activity to another, or approach a situation where behavior may deteriorate, discuss with your youngster what will happen, review the family rules, and remind him of the consequences (both good and bad) of any misbehavior. This information may need to be broken down into a few simple instructions and repeated often.

5. Change (not “lower”) your standards. With an HFA or AS youngster, parents need to learn to live in the present moment. The milestones of your youngster’s life are less defined, and the future less predictable (though your youngster may surprise you). In the meantime, set the standards for your youngster at an appropriate level.

6. Children with HFA and AS tend to enjoy being isolated, because it is less stressful for them and they do not have to socialize with others. Therefore, time-outs can actually be a positive experience unless modified slightly. Removing kids from something fun is a better alternative. For example, if the youngster loves to play games on his iPad, the iPad can go in a time-out area – for a period of 15 minutes at most, otherwise the child will feel as though he has lost the privilege for an eternity and will act-out accordingly.

7. Create a list of behaviors your youngster CAN’T control due to his disorder. The list may include items such as repetitive behaviors, poor peer relations or lack of social skills, being easily distracted, sensory sensitivities, obsessive/compulsive tendencies, meltdowns, etc. These are the behaviors that your child should NEVER be punished for. Your youngster will require help and guidance to overcome these issues.

8. Don’t assume your youngster will automatically transfer and apply information previously learned in one environment to a new situation that, in your mind, is remarkably similar. For kids on the autism spectrum, a new situation is a new situation.

9. Enlist the help of your child in creating a “consequence plan.” For each negative behavior you have identified as inappropriate, the two of you decide on a consequence. Discipline needs to be clear, concise, consistent and calm. When your youngster misbehaves, tell her in a few words what she did wrong, and tell her the consequence (which she agreed to in the planning stage).

10. For kids on the spectrum, it is important that the consequence or reward immediately follow the behavior in order to have the greatest effect and opportunity to teach.

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


11. Kids with HFA and AS require more exposure to discipline before they begin to understand expectations. Parents must follow through and apply discipline EVERY time there is an incident in order to effectively send a message. Kids who have trouble learning respond very well to consistent structure and limits. But for this to work, moms and dads must be consistent.

12. Kids on the spectrum thrive on clear rules. Thus, post a list of unacceptable behaviors and their consequences in a prominent location. For younger kids who can’t read yet, the rules can be reviewed periodically, and the list should have visual illustrations to demonstrate the unacceptable behaviors and consequences associated with them.

13. Look for small opportunities to deliberately allow your youngster to make mistakes for which you can set aside “discipline-teaching” time. It will be a learning process for you and your youngster.

14. Never assume that your HFA or AS child will understand appropriate social behavior under a wide variety of specific circumstances, and when that doesn't occur, discipline in the moment.

15. Prioritize problematic behaviors rather than trying to fight multiple battles at one time. List the top 3 behaviors that you feel are most deserving of attention. This is an important step, because (a) many of the smaller problems will take care of themselves once the bigger issues have been resolved, and (b) some behaviors need an intervention or therapy in order to be eliminated rather than simple disciplinary techniques.

16. Reset your anger buttons. Your autistic youngster will inevitably do some things that will frustrate the hell out of you, but getting angry with him will only worsen things. So, when you catch yourself starting to get angry – YOU take a time-out. If you’re still angry after the time-out – don’t show it! Put on a “poker face.”

17. Social stories, developed to help HFA and AS kids understand difficult situations, are particularly helpful for teaching appropriate behaviors.

18. Through role play, you can provide your youngster with alternatives to problematic behaviors (e.g., hitting, yelling, throwing, etc.).

19. View all problematic behaviors as “signals of needs.” Everything an autistic youngster does tells you something about what she needs.

20. While it is true you have to change your expectations of your HFA or AS youngster, you don’t have to lower your standards of discipline. It’s tempting to get lax and let a “special needs” child get by with behaviors you wouldn’t tolerate in your other kids. Your youngster needs to know, early on, what behaviors you expect. Many moms and dads wait too long to start “behavior training.” It’s much harder to redirect a 170 pound teenager than a 45 pound 3rd grader.

21. Your HFA or AS youngster likely has triggers that can cause her to become distressed, which may result in a meltdown. Watch carefully for these triggers and distract her when you sense an outburst coming on. For instance, if she thrives on a schedule and you need to change it for some reason, let her know carefully and watch for signs of a meltdown during the change.




22. If parenting strategies fall short and do not yield the desired outcomes, then seeking outside assistance from a therapist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders is highly recommended. There are various standard courses of treatment, with each treatment modality addressing a different set of issues. Some of the most common treatment options include:
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis is a form of therapy used to teach basic skills in many different areas.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used to treat the emotional side of HFA and AS (e.g., anxiety, depression, obsessions, etc.). 
  • Occupational therapy is basically used to teach independence. Grasp, handwriting, social skills, and play skills are often included. 
  • Sensory integration therapy may be included by the occupational therapist. This therapy helps get your youngster’s sensory systems in synch.
  • Physical therapy addresses the physical awkwardness that sometimes comes with HFA and AS. 
  • Social skills training is a therapy that teaches kids on the spectrum how to relate to others, making and keeping friends, how to recognize social cues and gestures, and other details such as personal space and understanding slang.
  • Speech/language therapy covers speech articulation as well as pragmatics, or fluency. Language therapy covers social communication, and in some cases, social skills. Speech/language therapy will help your youngster learn to communicate verbally or nonverbally, if necessary, with the use of picture exchange and/or sign language. When a child can use words to express his anger and frustration, problematic behaviors are greatly reduced.

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


23. In worst case scenarios, behavior problems may need to be addressed (in part) through the use of medication. Some medications that may be prescribed include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants.

24. There are many alternative approaches to treating symptoms associated with HFA and AS. One such approach is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), which is defined as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.” CAM therapies used to treat HFA and AS have been categorized as biological and nonbiological:
  • Examples of biological therapies include: (a) immunoregulatory interventions (e.g., dietary restriction of food allergens or administration of immunoglobulin or antiviral agents), (b) gastrointestinal treatments (e.g., digestive enzymes, antifungal agents, probiotics, yeast-free diet, gluten/casein-free diet, vancomycin), (c) dietary supplement regimens that are supposed to act by modulating neurotransmission or through immune factors (e.g., vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and magnesium, folic acid, folinic acid, vitamin B12, dimethylglycine and trimethylglycine, carnosine, omega-3 fatty acids, inositol, various minerals, etc.), and (d) detoxification therapies (e.g., chelation).
  • Examples of nonbiological interventions include treatments such as auditory integration training, behavioral optometry, craniosacral manipulation, dolphin-assisted therapy, equine-assisted therapy, facilitated communication, and music therapy.

HFA and AS children need limits and structure much more than “typical” kids do. When they can predict what will happen next in their day, they feel confident and safe. Of course, they will test the boundaries. But, it's up to parents to affirm that these standards are important – and to let their youngster know that they believe he or she can meet them.


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


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… A couple of things to try. We did this with my son, who had an awful time getting up in the morning. It became a battle every day, just to get him out of bed. 1. Video him and show him what his behavior looks like. He won't like it, and prepare yourself for a meltdown over that in itself. 2. Talk about the video once he's calmed down and talk about the 'other' ways he could have handled the situations. For example, better responses instead of backtalk, a reaction that is different that a tantrum. 3. Take those situations and turn them into role-playing - a way to actually practice what should happen, rather than what is happening. 4. Once you've role-played it, video it again and play it back for him. He will see a positive way that he's changed his behavior. The theory behind this is that you are replacing the negative images and reactions that he 'sees' in his head with the positive ones. It may take a few times to replace the action when the time comes, but if he re-views the positive video, it can help him literally see his behavior in a new way.
•    Anonymous said… Give choices focus on positive ignore negative.
•    Anonymous said… I say, I will. Or speak with you as long as you're talking to me like that. (After over explaining why it's not okay.)
•    Anonymous said… My 5 year old  😞 I'm going to try some of these techniques
•    Anonymous said… My 9 year old is the same way. He needs to become a professional negotiator for a big business someday. He is so good at it, no matter how small they requests from me or his dad. Always an argument, refusal, avoidance or negotiation behaviors happening at our house. It drains my energy.
•    Anonymous said… My son is still young and about to turn six so thank God I have not run into this – yet – I'm coming into this with my eyes wide open now based on all of the other parents experience with their teenagers . However I have been reading and reading for at least a year on every possible autism site I can get my hands on. Although I do not know your son and I do not know what you have tried – I would default to diet and get cannabis with THC. Although there are some kids that the parents have trouble finding the right Balance or strain of cannabis with – I have heard many times more successes been failures with diet, supplements and also cannabis with THC
•    Anonymous said… Positive reinforcement, confidence building, talk therapy (not always in the moment if he's angry). Talk and give some one on one time half an hour a day. Do something they like with them for 30 minutes a day, relationship building / trust building. Let them know what they are doing right. Role play / role model / script conversations that are polite. Make your goal for the month Kindness and reward everytime he is kind. Make a goal (item) he wants to work towards and everytime he's kind, genuinely, give him a reward. I used to also give $10 (big money) whenever I got an unsolicited compliment on my son. I would always share with him what the other person said so he took pride and made sure to "shine that part on" and know "this is where I shine". Good luck, give positive feedback and know that you are supposed to ignore a lot of bad behavior (it's weird to do at first). Pick and chose your battles always and it sounds more like an ADHD problem. My child with Autism also has this Dx. You have to encourage, especially if it "hormonal" time because think of our Hormonal stages and then times that by 10. They feel things more intensely. Physical outlets/sports always. Also, "Downtime" 15 minutes break. 15 minutes work on this. 15 minutes break. 15 minutes get this organized. They frrustrate themselves. Mood boosters help.
•    Anonymous said… Video. Try video. It lets him see another perspective and sometimes is an excellent teaching tool.
•    Anonymous said… We had exactly the same problem with my now 15 year old son, tried literally everything we could think of. Its only now that he is on anxiety meds (Resperidone) that he is almost a different child. I'm not condoning drug use for behaviour but for us it was the best decision we could have made. Perhaps look at the symptoms of ODD as well.

Post your comment below…

Parents with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism -- Part 2


In part 2 of this series, we will look at poor cognitive shifting in parents on the autism spectrum:

Research in the area of cognition reports that adults with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have problems with updating the scope and focus of their attention. This attentional deficit may be due to an inability to reorient attention rapidly, which can be problematic when the mother or father has care and control of younger kids.  Moms and dads need to be able to reorient their attention frequently, and often need to be able to do so under pressure. 



Research also suggests that many people on the autism spectrum have a deficit in the shifting of attention (e.g., paying attention to what someone is saying while being distracted by sensory stimuli). This trait affects parenting as well. These deficits blend with other neurological differences of AS and HFA (e.g., sensory hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity), and together they affect the core tasks of parenting (e.g., the appearance of a sudden strong smell may prevent the parent from noticing what her youngster is doing). 

Related to attention problems are the deficits in the use of visual attention, problems in attending to both auditory and visual information, and problems in attending to many visual stimulus  simultaneously. For example, an autistic parent with three or more kids may struggle with information and sensory input at playgrounds and parks.  In this case, the parent may claim that she is over-stimulated and overwhelmed neurologically, or she may blame others around her for her misery. In this way, the parent is a lot like an autistic child who becomes frequently overwhelmed due to sensory sensitivities. 

In addition to sensory issues, moms and dads on the spectrum often state that they find it difficult to tolerate the normal mess, noise and chaos of their playful, inquisitive children  for any length of time. These parents cope with what are basically neurological insults in a variety of ways (e.g., shutting down, melting down, withdrawing from the unwanted stimuli, etc.). As a result, this may leave the kids to fend for themselves.

The Aspergers Handbook

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

Click here
to read the full article...

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

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

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content