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Understanding the Mind of a Child on the Autism Spectrum

"My 7-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with high functioning autism. This is all so new to me. How can I understand the way she thinks? We are definitely not on the same page much of the time!"

Kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's may have underdeveloped areas in the brain that cause problems in the following areas:
  • understanding the thoughts and feelings of others
  • learning appropriate social skills and responses
  • focusing on “the real world” as opposed to becoming absorbed in their own thoughts and obsessions
  • communication

Children and teens on the autism spectrum are often extremely literal in their interpretation of others’ conversations (e.g., they may wonder if cats and dogs are really raining down or think there are two suns when someone talks about two sons). They are unable to recognize differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of what others’ say. Your daughter may not understand a joke or take a sarcastic comment literally.

For HFA children, learning social skills is like learning a foreign language. They are unable to recognize non-verbal communication that “typical” kids learn without formal instruction. For example:
  • how to interpret facial expressions
  • how to tell when someone does not want to listen any longer
  • not understanding the appropriate distance to stand from another person when talking

Many kids on the spectrum will be highly aware of right and wrong and will bluntly announce what is wrong. They will recognize others’ shortcomings, but not their own. Consequently, the behavior of young people with the disorder is likely to be inappropriate through no fault of their own.

Kids with HFA and Asperger's need routine and predictability, which gives them a sense of safety. Change can cause stress, and too much change can lead to meltdowns (or shutdowns). Changes that are stressful for them include:
  • changing a bedroom curtain or the color of the walls
  • doing things in a different order (e.g., putting pants on before a shirt)
  • going to the bathroom at someone else’s home
  • having a different teacher at school
  • starting a new routine

Routines and predictability help them remain calm. Your daughter’s thinking may be totally focused on only one or two interests, about which she is very knowledgeable. Many kids on the spectrum are interested in parts of a whole. For example:
  • astronomy
  • designing houses
  • drawing highly detailed scenes
  • insects
  • intricate jigsaw puzzles
  • Pokemon
  • the computer
  • trains

Because her brain is obsessed by her interest, your daughter may talk only about it, even when others are carrying on a conversation on a different topic.

These kids notice details, rather than the “whole” picture. The importance of the detail prevents the HFA youngster from understanding the bigger picture, so instructions may get lost in her focus on a single detail. A lesson at school may be totally ignored in favor of a fly on the wall. Multiple instructions are extremely difficult for these kids to retain and follow.

Kids on the spectrum are not able to access their frontal cortex or prefrontal lobe efficiently, so they must call on social skills from their memories. If a social skill has not been taught, they won’t have it. Consequently, turn taking, imagination, conversation, and other people’s points of view cause them great difficulty. The youngster may be unable to realize consequences outside her way of thinking. In addition, she can’t recognize when someone is lying to her or trying to take advantage of her.

Anger in HFA and Asperger's kids often occurs due to over-stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response the youngster knows. Anger-management presents problems. They see things in black and white, which results in tantrums when they don’t get their own way, or when they feel threatened or overwhelmed. Some kids with the disorder bottle-up anger and turn it inward and hit or bite themselves, never revealing where the trouble is. Many young people on the autism spectrum are perfectionists, reacting with anger when things don’t go as they wish.

One of the most difficult thinking patterns is mind-blindness. Mind-blindness is the lack of ability to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations, and logic of others – and not care that they don’t understand! Consequently, they behave without regard to the welfare of others. The only way they will ever change their thinking or behavior is if it is in their own interest to do so. Even then, convincing a youngster with HFA to change her mind is an uphill battle.


Teaching Social Skills to Teens on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents

"How should I deal with my 13-year-old son now? Should I simply accept him as he is now, or should I actively try to teach him ways to socialize in order to ‘fit in’ better (e.g., look in a person’s eyes when talking, how to be a friend, conversations should be two way instead of him delivering a monologue, etc.). Are these skills even teachable?"

These skills are very teachable, and you should definitely work on them with your child. This type of teaching should begin even earlier than age 13. But, at age 13, your child is likely to learn them more easily than he would have at a younger age.

Teens with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's often have a difficult time during adolescence. They become isolated socially and face rejection and bullying due to the fact that they act differently from others. They long for friends, but have very weak social skills.

There are some teens that do well during these years (if they are indifferent to peer-pressure and focused on a special interest of their own). Encouraging your child to develop a special interest may help him form friendships with other teenagers that have the same interest.

One of the biggest issues for most teenagers on the autism spectrum is that they don’t care about the usual fads, adolescent activities, and peer expectations. Sometimes their interests are more appropriate for younger kids. Males may be rejected if they are not interested in sports. Some of these issues can be resolved by helping your child learn about fads, adolescent life, and sports.
 
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Even if your child isn’t very interested or doesn’t want to participate in them, it will help him understand his friends. Teach him how to talk about celebrities, teen rituals, and sports using social stories and role-playing. Focus on teaching him how to speak briefly, and then wait for the other person to respond before he speaks again.

Encourage your child to initiate contact with friends, leave phone messages, and arrange social activities. Encourage him to join clubs, especially those that focus on a special interest of his. Some teenagers enjoy talking with other teens on the spectrum in internet chat rooms, forums, and on message boards.

It helps "special needs" teenagers if moms and dads are involved in arranging social interactions with friends. Parents should help organize and supervise appropriate activities. Teaching your son how to join a group, become a part of it, how to converse on common topics, make eye contact, etc., will definitely be a big boost to his emotional development.

Behavioral therapy with a counselor also helps these young people learn how to function. Any kind of therapy takes effort on the part of the teen and his mother or father. The success of therapy depends on the teen’s own desire to fit in.

Social stories can be used to teach appropriate behavior in a variety of settings. Social stories may be used by parents, therapists, or educators. Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills and provide accurate information about situations that your child may find difficult or confusing. A situation is described in detail, and focus is placed on a few key points:
  • the actions and reactions that might be expected of the child
  • why certain actions and reactions are expected
  • important social cues
  • events and reactions the child might expect to occur

The goal is to (a) increase the child’s understanding of a particular situation, (b) make him more comfortable in social interactions, and (c) teach some responses that are appropriate for the context of the social exchange. 
 
 
More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:
 


Here's what parents of teens with HFA and Asperger's have had to say about this issue:

Anonymous said... I started teaching my kid ways to socialize since she was 2, because in the park she always wanted to play by herself, and I always tried her to play with others. Today she is 9, and she still have problems to make friends, but she has improved a lot. Yes, you can teach your kid how to socialize. Just remember that it will take a lot of effort and you will not see the results right away.

Anonymous said... Why would you want to change who he is? Society perhaps should adapt to him. Pressure to be like others and to fit in with others is stressful and unnecessary.

Anonymous said... i do accept my son the way he is but i also teach him what is acceptable socially.

Anonymous said... My daughter is 8, and it is hard for ME to see her watch other kids, look like she wants to play with them, but doesnt know how. She is a high functioning Aspie, but with social things she doesnt do well with. Now if there are younger kids she sometimes attempts to play with them, mentally she is only 5, but the lil kids are intimidtaed by her size and dont understand she just wants to play.

Anonymous said... I could have written that myself !!! LOL Mine comes home from school crying that she's not allowed to play with the kids she understands, and doesn't understand the kids she's allowed to play with

Anonymous said... My son is 14 and he is different but he dose his best to fit in and it works he is very popular with many of his friends he go, s to under age disco, s and dances, and he is very lucky , but iv just let him be who he is and yes he has been bullied when he was younger but lucky he has gone forward in being a teenager and has gone leaps and bounds, my other aspie child is very different and she is nearly a teenager not sure how she will go but iv bought her up to be confident , in her normal self and with her differences made them special and all her friend love her , so all I cam say is love who they are and appreciate there differences and they will be fine ......:)

Anonymous said... Re: Why would you want to change who he is? Society prehaps should adapt to him. Pressure to be like others and to fit in with others is stressful and unnecessary... ...Unfortunately society is not likely to adapt to the Aspergers child. In fact, if the Aspergers child does not learn how to "fit-in", he/she may very well find himself/herself on the receiving end of some form of abuse. Sad fact for sure.

Anonymous said... In order to succeed socializing is a key component help him to learn skills that will help him navigate a social setting when necessary. There is a difference between choosing not to socialize and not knowing how to. You want him to know how to. We don't change our children that is impossible we equip, empower and build their skills. Socializing is a skill.

Anonymous said... They definitely are teachable. Some of it will depend on how much he wants to fit in. I was desperate to fit in, so I learned to look at people's mouths instead of eyes. I often don't say much to people to begin with, I tell them straight-up that I would love to get to know them but I struggle sometimes because I have Aspergers. Try to teach your son the important stuff... Good listening skills, the ability to try and see things from another's point of view, and most importantly that there are other people with Aspergers who he can vent to when the world frustrates him. He needs to feel comfortable being himself, even if he doesn't always fit in (no one ever fits in everywhere, Aspie or not). It took me til I was 29 to be told by my ASD son and daughter's psych that I have Aspergers. My own psych confirmed it. All I knew was that I never felt right. It used to make me really depressed. Now I know why I always felt like a freak, I love being Aspie. I accept myself, and I'm much much happier.

Anonymous said...This article could have been written about my 14 year old son. It is a constant effort to coach him through his social interactions. Luckily he is not defiant, and he is making progress, but it is slow . I wish society could be more forgiving, but it's tough out there, so I won't give up. Thank you for a great article.

Anonymous said... Your never going to be able to teach him anything.....All you can do is hope he grows out of his ways.trust me I've tried everything. And also me and my wife don't believe in meds.....That's just another addicting drug to add to an already bad situation.

Anonymous said...  My son is now 15 we/ he will never stop learning and growing! I think if I just left things as is , even though there are struggles my son Liam goes through, he would be disappointed in me if I didn't stay growing in this life with him and help him, yes help him not push him for all the negative commenters, to be his best him. Think about it, is it really any different if he didn't have Asperger? I also have a younger son, 14, its my responsibility and privileged to help him in any way to figure out his life, get him any help he needs as he grows. There are sooo many things you can do to still challenge him and yet make his life fun at the same time. Just get some help, lots and lits of help lol cuz us Asperger/autism moms need it! Don't give up just because it may seem hopeless at times or frustrating, it will be worth it in the end! God bless, Good luck, were here for you!

Anonymous said... All kids are different...me and my wife are not being discouraging. Even his doctor said all I can do is hope he grows out of some of his ways and over the last two years he has started to actually grow up some.

Anonymous said... as soon as I adopted my son, I asked a doc to take him off his meds. He's fine now. He's 15 and as he gets older, I see less awkwardness and more maturity. It's just a process but mostly you just have to keep pointing them in the right direction.

Anonymous said... Aspergers is just ONE part of your child! It is not the definition of your child ... Of course You should "accept" him - what else are you going to do, shun him!? Oh yes, please - lets do what everyone else in society is doing so he has no sense of safety!!! Grrr. This is 2015, people! Of course you should teach your child manners and expect him to behave accordingly (tho no one is perfect.) It's an on-going thing - social skills, learning to read social cues from peers - it's an every-day practiced task .... It takes patience & training. and for what it's worth - I feel like there is nothing wrong w/ using meds if that's what works for you ... I used to say "I never ..." Well guess what - life has taught me to never say "never" and never say "always." Can we please stop judging one another & try to be supportive?! If you're a parent of a child who is on the spectrum, you should at least know this much: you've met one kid on the spectrum, you've met one kid on the spectrum .... No one is alike in their diagnosis. So please - when everyone else in the world is shunning our amazing kids, can we please try to show them a little love & understanding?

Anonymous said... Be thankful your child didn't need meds. Mine could not have attended school if we didn't use them for anxiety and he is now a pleasant 17 year old. His behaviors have constantly changed and improved over the years. Maturity and experience help. We still limit too much exposure to crowds, smells, stress, but he is so much more willing to try different situations now.

Anonymous said... I don't give my Apsie 13 yr old daughter meds. I have never treated her like she is different, she gets enough of that at school. Aspie kids are NOT dumb, stupid, or idiots. They learn. Right now my aspie kid is helping my sister in law out with organizing stuff. She is the laziest child, part of this may be the apsie in her, part I know is the 13 yr old. I make my kid go places sometimes, not all the time, just sometimes. Take him swimming at the public pool. If that's too much, go early when it first opens. Take them to the mall, even if it's a 15-30 min trip. Never give up, and never think anything is impossible! My kids teach me this everyday!

Anonymous said... I thinks dads in general are negative. My son's father told him he was sick of his aspergers. Just stop it. HELLO!!!! It isn't going away. You have to deal with it. Two young men in Seattle that have aspergers started a self help and coaching. Aspergers experts.they are awesome.

Anonymous said... I work with children and aspergers children, its in my family and I'm told I am. Teach your children love, kindness and acceptance. I am always real with children I have had some lovely experiences of aspergers children, I love their honesty. We all have to fit into this world, thus sometimes cruel world, but they'll be fine if they have guidance.

Anonymous said... Where there is a will there is a way. I will never give up on my son and if one way does t work we will find another. My son is 8 and we take each day as it comes. We have looked foe things he is good at and it turns out he is a great springboard diver. We are looking to get him a service dog (they have great success with aspergers kids) we see a therapist every other week because he like going and talking to him. His meds doctor has been great and monitors him closely. We still have bad days and we still have our struggles but really what kid doesnt. Things sink in you just can't give up

Anonymous said... Meds are more then likely not for Aspies, but for anxiety. My son has major anxiety and could not even leave his room without them. Being an Aspie is not a problem at all! Unless you blame the anxiety from having Aspergers. Learning daily and trying to get through.

Anonymous said... My aspie is beautiful xx and from a young age has been a blessing .. he events teaches me stuff and in return he wants to learn to socialise we reach each other . And I wouldn't have him any other way .. the anxiety comes in stages and at his age it's up to me to recognise when and what to do quickly.

Anonymous said... Are you a parent? Then it is your job to teach your child how to function and act in their world. I'm confused why if a child is an Aspie, you aren't supposed to parent? I'm an Aspie, my son's an Aspie. Most people think he is neurotypical in brief meetings, and that I am outgoing. Why? Because we work to learn how to convey behaviours that are socially acceptable. That doesn't mean we are completely without our quirks. My son is 11 and feels more comfortable in his skin knowing he can respond appropriately in certain situations, and minimize awkwardness. Once he gets to know someone, they've already achieved some comfort in his presence and are accepting of his quirks. He'll never be a cookie cutter person, but he also will have the know how to convey compassion and empathy to the people he cares about, even if he doesn't fully understand the problem they are having.

Anonymous said... We help our son as much as we can.he has special help at school,special docs etc we haven't given up its just that the more things change the more they stay the same it just gets discouraging to us at times.....that's all...prayer is the thing that works the best.without God we couldn't deal with it as we do.but it is hard but with Gods help he will grow up into a fine young boy and we do love him.

Anonymous said... We tried to connect with other families with kids that are simular and we joined a social group. We go out to other kids houses and special outings by our group. We found that the more confortable our son is with something the more like he is to be more social. An example is finding friends for our son, he is now confortable going out in public with his friends or with groups where he has already meet people. He has taught some of his friends the things he like (yu gi oh) and they have taught him some of their's. That way they are not always talking about their one thing. Also if you can find a group for things your son likes then he can talk with them about stuff. The more you get out the more confortable he will be. Not sure where you are but there is a group called TAG teens w/ aspergers group in our area and we do a lot of fun things together. It's a nice time for parents to talk too.

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Helping Your Other Kids Cope with Their "Special Needs" Sibling

"My autistic son (high functioning) is 11 and my youngest son is 4. My 11-year-old verbally attacks my 4-year-old and my 4-year-old just stands there looking dazed and confused. How can I get my 11-year-old to stop doing this and how can I protect my 4-year-old from it? It is really starting to take a toll on my relationship with my husband. (The 11-year-old is his stepson and the 4-year-old is ours together.) Not to mention the toll it is taking on my 4-year-old. He loves his brother so much and wants nothing more than to spend time with him. His feelings get so hurt when his brother yells, screams, calls names, and tells him he hates him. I have tried sending 11-year-old to his room, talking to him, taking things away, watching the situation and trying to stop it before it happens, but it happens so quickly, it’s hard to see it coming. What can I do?"

First of all, find a time when you and your husband can sit down and have a talk with your 11-year-old, without the 4-year-old being present. Calmly, each of you should tell him how sad and upset you feel when he yells and screams at his little brother.

The goal is to make him feel guilty about this behavior and to understand that it is unacceptable. Point out to him how awful it would be if you and your husband acted that way toward him. Ask him how he would feel if you yelled, screamed, and called him names. Be specific describing such a situation to help him understand how bad he would feel. Then make the point that his little brother feels the same way.

Tell him that he cannot continue yelling, screaming, and calling names and that if he does, he will be punished. The punishment should be “time out” in a room (other than his bedroom) alone for 15 minutes with no fun activities available to him, following by apologizing to his brother.

Do this every time he acts inappropriately. Each time after his time out, sit him down and explain again why he must not act this way and that it is unacceptable. Find out why he had “a meltdown.” Help him find an alternate way that he could have handled the situation. Have him practice it. You may have to do this many, many times.

To stop verbal abuse, you may need to use other forms of behavior modification as well. You must determine the need that your son’s behavior fulfills and teach him a replacement behavior. For example, if he yells when his brother uses his things, teach him to come to you with a single code word, and when he does, help him handle the situation. This takes time. If the youngster is severely out of control, then removing the youngster from the situation is required. As you know, this may be easier said than done.

Behavior modification should be started early. You may need the help of a counselor or psychiatrist to help you deal with this now before it escalates into physical abuse. Hopefully your 11-year-old will learn to communicate the cause of his anger and get his needs met by doing so. Unfortunately, kids who get what they want because of misbehavior are likely to continue and escalate such behavior.

Your son may have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or another disorder in tandem with high-functioning autism. Some theorists claim that ODD is a result of incomplete development; the ODD youngster has never completed the developmental tasks of normal kids. The youngster is stuck at the 3-year-old level of development and never grows out of it. In this case, medical intervention may be necessary.

Another theory about ODD is that it is a result of negative interactions, possibly interactions that occur away from home. This theory states that having successfully used anger and abuse as a way to get needs met, the youngster continues to use it.

ODD does not usually occur alone. About 35% of ODD kids have an affective disorder and 20% may have a mood disorder, such as Bipolar Disorder. Other ODD kids have personality or learning disorders. It is imperative that your son is evaluated for other disorders.


==> 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

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


Here's what other parents have had to say:

*   Anonymous said... Social stories on sharing, correct behavior, controlling outbursts, etc.. are a good start. it seems the communication level is way off between the brothers. the age difference is the most obvious, but also, how they approach one another. It's hard for the 4 yr old to understand AS, so he'll approach his brother when the mood strikes, not knowing if his older brother is even approachable at that time. I see this with our 15 yr old son & our 6 yr old son w/AS. I would suggest that you ask your son's doctor/therapist about Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). We did this for 6 months & it made a world of difference. It teaches you & family how to communicate with an AS child, how to set rules/boundaries & discipline efforts that really work!! I was amazed at the positive changes in our lives!! It takes a month before you see changes, but stick with it... positive changes will come!! Praying for your family!!
 

•    Anonymous said... I have given my daughter a trashcan and told her to say her words in it.That way everybody knows that it is not intended to hurt them,just an Aspie out of control.So when she needed to say things she could grab the trashcan.Incidentally I don't think we have need of the trashcan much anymore.Same thing when I taught Kindergarten many years ago and the potty mouth years emerged.I just told they kids they could only say those words in the bathroom and to feel free to go to the bathroom and say them to their hearts content.When they figured out it wasted their playtime they quit.Of course,there were not Aspie kids but the daughter and the trashcan are.
 

•    Anonymous said... Recommend reading and applying 'The Explosive Child' by Dr Greene - explains why rigid, chronically inflexible, easily frustrated children have meltdowns & how to handle situations
 

•    Anonymous said... This is one of my biggest struggles with my 13 yr old and 8 yr old. This has always been very difficult to deal with, and hard to figure out where to even start. For me it is not his choice in words, but seeming apathy and dislike for her. She asks often why he hates her, and has begun to take every word he says personally.

•    Anonymous said... About protecting your 4-year old- watch for the pre-signs that your son is having a hard time, or escalating- sometimes they go from 0-10 with no warning, but try to find out what his triggers are and remove them. For example, the trigger may be video games, so remove all electronics preemptively. If he becomes escalated- remove your 4-year old immediately to another room, and back away from your son- do not give him any verbal, as he most likely cannot process verbal information when he is escalated coming at him. Give him space most importantly, and remove your other children from the room to protect them. We have been fortunate to have home ABA services and it has changed our home environment completely, we have 2 other young children which their lives have also improved since the therapy in the home. This is long-winded, but I really hope your son gets the services he needs smile emoticon
 

•    Anonymous said... My 12 year old aspie will verbally attack his 11 year old sister. She has learned over time to (with our direction) that he doesn't mean it, and doesn't have control. When he triggers, she's trained herself to walk away. When she was younger we used hand signals. So when her brother would start to escalate we'd give her the signal and she would walk away. It took some time for her to understand the signal, but once she was old enough to understand her brothers behaviors she walks away before he escalates. They play together extremely well now! There are still times when she has to walk away, but she knows what will trigger his behaviors and is in more control.
 

•    Anonymous said... Thank you so very much for all of the invaluable information! I am on the site and I am also going to post more here on the page.
 

•    Anonymous said... We use many strategies from Michelle Garcia Winner on socialthinking.com to help our son know what is expected, what is unexpected and that other people form their opinion of you based on your actions within social situations. Writing it down in a chart helps our son "see" it. Hope the information is helpful for you.
 

•    Anonymous said... You need to get a home ABA therapist to help your son, this is not done intentionally and is not in your son's control- he needs to be taught these things explicitly and in a supportive, understanding, therapeutic manner. Your school system is required under IDEA to provide these services to you as part of his IEP- they will typically give you a bank of hours, such as 25 hours at a time. But, the important thing is- not all BCBA's are the same- you need to have someone who knows what they are doing, i.e. experienced, Master's degree prepared at a minimum and with the BCBA certification. Hope this helps, but just remember that your son is not doing this on purpose.

Please post your comment below...


Kids on the Autism Spectrum Who Refuse to Cooperate with Parental Requests

"Any tricks for getting a very stubborn 4 year old high functioning autistic child to do what he is told. He truly has a mind of his own. For example, if our requests don't make sense to him, he refuses to do what we ask, which usually results in a mother-son tug of war."

One quick suggestion would be to use a  "token economy." This technique seems to work best for kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's. It's a system where the child earns tokens as a reward for desired behaviors.

A predetermined number of tokens are then "cashed-in" for a privilege the child desires (e.g., a favorite snack, time for playing video games, etc.). A token economy is flexible and can be easily tailored to suit the individual needs - and desires - of the youngster.

Token economies that use money tokens seem to be the most successful with kids on the autism spectrum in increasing their ability to delay gratification, and lessening the risk of satiation (i.e., overuse of a reward that results in the child no longer viewing it as a reward). Using money in a token economy negates the need for the child to decode an abstract concept, because in the "real world," people are paid money for completing tasks in their place of employment.
 

These "special needs" children take a long time establishing trust, and for this reason, a token economy should initially focus on rewarding desired behaviors and actions. Once the program has been established for a number of years, you may then be able to introduce "response costs" where the child is fined for inappropriate behavior.

This correlates the token economy with real world experiences (e.g., if I drive too fast, I get a speeding ticket; if I park where I shouldn’t, I get a parking ticket). However, the focus of the program in the early stages must be on the positives, because HFA kids are prone to quickly losing their motivation and trust.

Be creative with the reinforcers offered as motivation. Offering a "menu of rewards" to choose from seems most successful. Initially, "cashed-in" rewards need to be fairly instant (e.g., at the end of each day). Over time, this can be stretched to the end of each week. As the child matures, this delayed gratification may be able to be stretched to a month; however, small rewards and motivators should be offered consistently along the way.
 

As with all strategies used with children on the spectrum, patience and perseverance are the keys to success when using a token economy, but the rewards for both the parent and child are awesome!

Here are more suggestions from parents who have "been there and done that":

•    After many meltdowns over laundry, he screamed "why do I have to do all of the laundry?!?." Later I explained that there are 2 of us and we each must contribute to keeping this house running, and this is something he is good at. Just like I am better at driving him around and keeping the bills paid.
 

•    Anonymous said... 4 can be a hard age w/out the spectrum issues. A visual chart of your expectations (show pictures of cleaning up, brushing teeth, eating dinner, and any other chores you want him to help with), you might include an area where he can make a check mark after the does it. Also, I find the more explaining you do, the worse it gets.
 

•    Anonymous said... Find a way for what you say, to make sense to him. They have exact balance of rationale, a type of logic not easily defeated by simple requests.
 

•    Anonymous said... Google Pathological Demand Avoidance - traditional ASD parenting doesn't work for it, you have to let go of EVERYTHING! The difference between being a doormat and creating a non-threatening environment full of aspirations not expectations and most importantly NOT taking it personally.
 

•    Anonymous said... I always try to visually "paint" the picture of the outcome or reward vs consequences of doing what is told regardless of if it is what the child wants to do. In other words... once the homework is done we can have play time. Knowing they are working toward a goal tends to help.
 

•    Anonymous said... I picked up a little trick recently that worked quite well with getting my 7 to wash his hair "show me how you wash your hair" works for cleaning, teeth brushing eating etc my 3 year old works under "big girls can do that" but my boy never cared about any of those statements, good luck
 

•    Anonymous said... Keep it simple and stick with it. Practice what you preach, you want your child to be patient, you must also show patience (point out the times where your practicing patience). You want your child to tidy his room, tidy your room too, make it a house rule, do it at the same time, see who can finish first, make it fun. If your son is arguing at times when it's important to follow the rules, be like a teacher and say it's not up for debate, it's a rule everyone must follow etc. Keeping consistent is key so don't switch up the rules, keep them simple, make a list, put some pictures by them, make it fun.
 

•    Anonymous said... My guy is much more compliant if he knows the logical reason behind the request. Though I'm not as good at recognizing the need.
 

•    Anonymous said... My son is now 11, so I'm trying to think back to when he was 4. We didn't know then that he had ADHD & Aspergers... we just knew things were very different with him. Anyway... he's been seeing a behavior therapist over the last year. We learned that our behavior also had to change if we wanted his to improve. For example, we must be consistent with our "demands" and with his schedule. Routine is important to teach expectations of everyday life -- and to teach compliance without a huge struggle. Also we learned that if we want him to do something, it works best if we plan it so the less rewarding or unfavorable things are done first; use the rewarding/more favorable activities as a motivator. The token system might work okay... but if you try to get them to give up their favorite activity in order to do something they don't want to do... a token at that point probably won't motivate them enough to try and earn it. Routines, limits, set expectations, motivators... I've learned they are all important if you want to lessen daily struggles.
 

•    Anonymous said... Part of it is because he's 4. Mix a new independent 4 year old and Aspergers and we have quite a mix! One thing I learned was that I needed to stop trying to explain everything (that goes against what "new" parenting advice says, doesn't it? Ha! But I won't get into that or my opinion of it). With Aspergers, they really have to learn "good habits" whether they understand them or not. They think alot differently than us. I fell back on "Who asked you to do that? (mom), So, you need to do it." End of topic. A visual of "because mom said so" made a BIG difference. (Just a picture of yourself and the repeated phrase until he knows when you hand him that picture you are NOT backing down and you don't have to say a word. If you need to remove him from the room because of a meltdown, etc...AS SOON as he is able to join you again give him the same instruction and don't back down with your requirement. They WILL learn it over it time. Teaching of the "why" we do certain things needs to be done through social stories and etc outside of the situation...not during the situation.
 

•    Anonymous said... Sounds just like my youngest. Unless he is given instant reward for something he isn't interested. Even then it doesn't always work. Very difficult to find rewards he likes as this changes frequently. As for explaining consequences (eg no playtime if task not done) he simply doesn't care. Hard to get them to do what you want when neither reward or consequence seem to bother Them!
 

*   Anonymous said... Try changing the subject so you divert him from that emotion, then as the motion subsides you may be able to come back to it from another angle where he will see your logic of the situation. At least when not emotional they see logic very well. Doesn't always work with my boy and I often forget to try it when I should as I also get a little emotional, but it often does work well.
 

•    Anonymous said... we went through PCIT (parent child interactive therapy), it is the ONLY thing that worked for us!! Now, my son listens, has follow-through, and he knows that discipline is time-out & Mommy is not afraid to use it!! ask your son's therapist about PCIT & if it's available through their facility. if not, get a referral to a facility that offers it.
 

•    Anonymous said...I say , don't you dare go and do x, y or z ...and my 4 year old goes and does it ! Reverse psychology. I say it in a cheerful way an it works 80% of the time
 

•    Anonymous said… First make sure he understands the direction. Next. Lots of notice and reminders of what your going to do.... And don't use TV shows as a reminder. The after this show gets.... Hairy. I used taped shows with no commercials (don't want something else getting in the Way). Mine just hated having something changed last minute (I mean like 60 minutes). He will grow up to adjust. Now you need to learn about him and his triggers.
 

•    Anonymous said… Give him time. Be patient and calm. Do not punish, but use natural consequences. Explain why you need something done. Make sure he understands what you are asking him to do. Check if he needs help with it. Be prepared to help him until he learns to do things on his own. Look past him being autistic because this part? Yeah, that's parenthood. It's not always easy. And those of us who are autistic are usually super logical but struggle to learn to do things like tie our shoes, understand the vague concept of what you call "time", and remember what you asked us to do after the first thing.
 

•    Anonymous said… I have found that my little guy is very logical in his own way, so if I can sit with him and explain why I need him to do it, and answer his many questions, he gets it and does the task. It doesn't work every time, and I can't do it every time, but the difference has been remarkable. I have to make it make sense to him first.
 

•    Anonymous said… I have to give random directives throughout the day just to get him in the compliance mode. Like.. Tyler could you hand me that pen? Please take this to your room. (Even if these things are not necessary at the time) it's a way to start a habit of compliance. Once the child does it you then praise the behavior. Visual reward charts working for something preferred work really well too. Like 25 reward checks in a week result in .... Whatever your child really likes" Hope this helps
 

•    Anonymous said… Oh my goodness, this could be *any* 4 yo boy! 4yos are notoriously difficult and boy get a "fun" little surge of testosterone at that age too. 4 has been my least favorite age with all of my kids, NT or not. wink emoticon remembering to "connect before I correct" was especially crucial at that age. Framing things as "let's work together to solve this problem" helped so much, instead of "do it my way not your way".

*   Anonymous said... I bought a simple chart at $ store for name, activity or non/action, and stars or stickers. It's labeled m-f. Good behavior gets a star or if teacher gives a sticker too(I got 1 out of 3 teachers to do this, ugh). If 5 earned they pick out of prize bag, (just dollar items or clearance, really cool stuff);or save 10 n go to Walmart,target,or Kmart for bigger prizes. It works on 3 out of 4 of my kids so its worth it and all 4 if the prize is right for that one other child.
 

•    Anonymous said… Rewards chart 
 
*   Anonymous said... Behaviour precedes articulation. Essentially we act out behaviours before we understand and can articulate them. Law for example is an articulation of what we already know is right or wrong. The problem we can experience is that when we ask for a certain type of behavior we instinctively know is right, when asked 'why' we can struggle to explain it. So the lesson here is anticipate the question and have a clear answer ready! 
 

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

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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.

Click here for the full article...

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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…

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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…

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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...

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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...
 
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A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...


 

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

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...