Search This Site

Parenting Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum: Double Trouble?

Most experts do a great job of presenting the problems children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autistic (HFA) face during their adolescent years, yet they offer few solutions. The years from twelve to seventeen may be the saddest and most difficult time for these young people. 

This is not true of every adolescent on the autism spectrum, though. Some do extremely well. Their indifference to what others think makes them indifferent to the intense peer pressure of adolescence. They can flourish within their specialty, and become accomplished musicians, historians, mathematicians, etc.

"Special needs" adolescents typically become more isolated socially during a period when they crave friendships and inclusion more than ever. In the cruel world of middle and high school, AS and HFA teens often face rejection, isolation and bullying. Meanwhile, school becomes more demanding in a period when they have to compete for college placements. Issues of sexuality and a desire for independence from moms and dads create even more problems.




Common issues to consider include:

Criminal Activity— Pain, loneliness and despair can lead to problems with drugs, sex and alcohol. In their overwhelming need to fit in and make friends, some AS and HFA teens fall into the wrong high school crowds. Adolescents who abuse substances will use the AS or HFA teen’s naivety to get him to buy or carry drugs and liquor for their group. If cornered by a police officer, a teenager on the autism spectrum usually does not have the skill to answer the officer’s questions appropriately. For example, if the officer says, “Do you know how fast you were driving?” a teenager on the spectrum may reply bluntly, “Yes,” and thus appears to be a smart-aleck.

Depression and Acting Out— The teenage years are more emotional for everyone. Yet the hormonal changes of adolescence coupled with the problems outlined above might mean that an AS or HFA adolescent becomes emotionally overwhelmed. Childish tantrums reappear. Boys often act up by physically attacking a teacher or peer. They may experience “melt down” at home after another day filled with harassment, bullying, pressure to conform, and rejection. Suicide and drug addiction become real concerns, as the adolescent now has access to cars, drugs and alcohol. The “saddest and most difficult time” can overwhelm not only the AS or HFA adolescent, but also his family.

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

Inability to “Be an Adolescent”— An AS or HFA teen typically does not care about adolescent fads and clothing styles - concerns that obsess everyone else in their peer group. These teens may neglect their hygiene and wear the same haircut for years. Boys forget to shave; girls don't comb their hair or follow fashion. Some remain stuck in a grammar school clothes and hobbies such as unicorns and Legos, instead of moving into adolescent concerns like Facebook and dating. Boys on the autism spectrum often have no motor coordination. This leaves them out of high school sports, typically an essential area of male bonding and friendship.

School Failures— Many AS and HFA teens with their average to above average IQs can sail through grammar school, and yet hit academic problems in middle and high school. They now have to deal with four to six teachers, instead of just one. The likelihood that at least one teacher will be indifferent or even hostile toward making special accommodations is certain. The AS or HFA student now has to face a series of classroom environments with different classmates, odors, distractions and noise levels, and sets of expectations. AS and HFA teens with their distractibility and difficulty organizing materials face similar academic problems as students with Attention Deficit Disorder. A high school term paper or a science fair project becomes impossible to manage because no one has taught the AS or HFA teen how to break it up into a series of small steps. Even though the academic stress on the adolescent can be overwhelming, school administrators may be reluctant to enroll him in special education at this late point in his educational career.

Sexual Issues— Adolescents on the spectrum are not privy to street knowledge of sex and dating behaviors that other adolescents pick up naturally. This leaves them naive and clueless about sex. Boys can become obsessed with Internet pornography and masturbation. They can be overly forward with a girl who is merely being kind, and then later face charges of stalking her. An AS or HFA adolescent may have a fully developed female body and no understanding of flirtation and non-verbal sexual cues, making her susceptible to harassment and even date rape.

Social Isolation— In the teenage world where everyone feels insecure, adolescents that appear different are voted off the island. AS and HFA teens often have odd mannerisms. One adolescent talks in a loud un-modulated voice, avoids eye contact, interrupts others, violates their physical space, and steers the conversation to her favorite odd topic. Another appears willful, selfish and aloof, mostly because he is unable to share his thoughts and feelings with others. Isolated and alone, many are too anxious to initiate social contact. Many \ adolescents on the spectrum are stiff and rule-oriented and act like little adults, which is a deadly trait in any teenage popularity contest. Friendship and all its nuances of reciprocity can be exhausting for an AS or HFA teenager, even though she wants it more than anything else. One girl ended a close friendship with this note: “Your expectations exhaust me. The phone calls, the girl talks, all your feelings...it's just too much for me. I can't take it anymore.”




How Moms and Dads Can Help Adolescents with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism—

Moms and dads of adolescents on the autism spectrum face many problems that others moms and dads do not. Time is running out for teaching their “special needs” teenager how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, “There's so little time, and so much left to do.” They face issues such as vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary.

Meanwhile, their immature teen is often indifferent or even hostile to these concerns. Once an AS or HFA child enters the teen years, his mom and dad have to use reasoning and negotiation, instead of providing direction. Like all teenagers, he is harder to control and less likely to listen to his moms and dads. He may be tired of parents nagging him to look people in their eyes, brush his teeth, and wake up in time for school. He may hate school because he is dealing with social ostracism or academic failure there.

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

Here are some ways that moms and dads of adolescents with AS and HFA deal with common issues:

Appearance— Because of their sensitivity to textures, AS and HFA teens often wear the same clothes day in and day out. This is unacceptable in middle or high school. One idea that has worked for some moms and dads is to find an adolescent of the same age and sex as yours, and then enlist that person help you choose clothes that will enable your child to blend in with other adolescents. Insist that your adolescent practices good hygiene every day.

Driving— Most AS and HFA teens can learn to drive, but their process may take longer because of their poor motor coordination. Once they learn a set of rules, they are likely to follow them to the letter - a trait that helps in driving. However, they may have trouble dealing with unexpected situations on the road. Have your child carry a cell phone and give him a printed card that explains AS and HFA. Teach him to give the card to a police officer and phone you in a crisis.

Drugs and Alcohol— Alcoholic drinks or drugs often react adversely with your child’s prescriptions, so you have to teach your child about these dangers. Since most AS and HFA teens are very rule-oriented, try emphasizing that drugs and alcohol are illegal.

Life after High School— If your adolescent is college-bound, you have to prepare her for the experience. You can plan a trip to the campus, and show her where to buy books, where the health services are, and so forth. Teach her how to handle everyday problems such as “Where do you buy deodorant?” “What if you oversleep and miss a class?” As you prepare your adolescent for the workforce, keep in mind that people with AS and HFA often do not understand office politics. They have problems with the basics, such as handling criticism, controlling emotions, showing up on time, and working with the public. This does not mean they cannot hold down a job. Once they master certain aspects of employment, these young people are often able to work at high levels as accountants, research scientists, computer programmers, and so forth.

School— If the pressure on your child to conform is too great, if she faces constant harassment and rejection, if your principal and teaching staff do not cooperate with you, it may be time to find another school. The adolescent years are often when many moms and dads decide it is in their child’s best interest to enter special education or a therapeutic boarding school. In a boarding school, professionals guide your child academically and socially on a twenty-four-hour basis. They do not allow boys to isolate themselves with video games - everyone has to participate in social activities. A counseling staff helps with college placements. If you decide to work within a public-school system, you may have to hire a lawyer to get needed services. Your child should have an Individual Education Plan and accommodations for the learning disabled. This may mean placement in small classes, tutors, and special arrangements for gym and lunchtime. He should receive extra time for college board examinations. Teach your child to find a “safe place” at school where he can share emotions with a trusted professional. The safe place may be the offices of school nurse, guidance counselor, or psychologist.

Sex— You absolutely have to teach your “special needs” adolescent about sex. You will not be able to “talk around” the issue: you will have to be specific and detailed about safe sex, and teach your child to tell you about inappropriate touching by others. Your child may need remedial “sex education.” For example, a girl needs to understand she is too old to sit on laps or give hugs to strangers. A boy might have to learn to close toilet stall doors and masturbate only in private.

Social Life— When she was little, you could arrange play dates for her. Now you have to teach her how to initiate contact with others. Teach her how to leave phone messages and arrange details of social contacts such as transportation. Encourage her to join high school clubs like chess or drama. It is not necessary to tell her peers that she has a disorder - let her do that herself. Many adolescents on the autism spectrum are enjoying each other's company through Internet chat rooms, forums and message boards.

Summer and Part-Time Jobs— Most of these jobs - movie usher, fast food worker, store clerk, etc. - involve interaction with the public. This means they are not always a good fit for an adolescent with the disorder. Some AS and HFA teens can find work in their field of special interest, or in jobs that have little interpersonal interaction. Other adolescents have spent joyful summers at camps designed for adolescents like them.

Best Tips for Parents of Newly-Diagnosed Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Our 9 y.o. child was diagnosed with autism (high functioning) just last week. We’ve had our suspicions all along and I must say it’s a relief to know exactly what we’re dealing with. Now we can develop a course of action to help. On that note, would you have a list of the most important things we should begin to work on in helping our child be the best he can be given his newly-discovered condition. Thanks in advance!”

Below are 22 crucial suggestions on how to help your child with high-functioning autism (HFA). Some of the ideas will be very helpful, and some may not work at all. So, be prepared for some trial-and-error as you dial in the most effective strategies.

Flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to continue to learn will help you as you raise your "special needs" youngster.

1.    Ask your youngster's teacher to seat him or her next to classmates who are sensitive to your youngster's special needs. These classmates might also serve as "buddies" during recess, at lunch, and at other times.

2.    Be aware of - and try to protect - your youngster from bullying and teasing. Talk to your youngster's teacher or school counselor about educating classmates about HFA.

3.    Be aware that background noises, such as a clock ticking or the hum of fluorescent lighting, may be distracting to your youngster.

4.    Encourage your youngster to learn how to interact with people and what to do when spoken to, and explain why it is important. Give lots of praise, especially when he or she uses a social skill without prompting.

5.    Encourage your youngster's teacher to include him or her in classroom activities that emphasize his or her best academic skills, such as reading, vocabulary, and art.

6.    Foster involvement with others, especially if your youngster tends to be a loner.

7.    Help your youngster understand others' feelings by role-playing and watching and discussing human behaviors seen in movies or on television. Provide a model for your youngster by telling him or her about your own feelings and reactions to those feelings.

8.    Kids with HFA benefit from daily routines for meals, homework, and bedtime. They also like specific rules, and consistent expectations mean less stress and confusion for them.

9.    Kids with HFA often mature more slowly. Don't always expect your child to "act their age."

10.    Many kids with HFA do best with verbal (rather than nonverbal) teaching and assignments. A direct, concise, and straightforward manner is also helpful.

11.    Use pictures to make your youngster familiar with the new settings he will encounter (school, church, scouts, trips, etc.)

12.    Kids with HFA often have trouble understanding the "big picture" and tend to see part of a situation rather than the whole. That's why they often benefit from a parts-to-whole teaching approach, starting with part of a concept and adding to it to demonstrate encompassing ideas.

13.    Practice activities, such as games or question-and-answer sessions, that call for taking turns or putting yourself in the other person's place.

14.    Set up homework routines for your youngster by doing homework at a specific time and place every day. This will help him or her to learn about time-management.

15.    Some kids with HFA have poor handwriting. Typing schoolwork on a computer may be one way to make homework easier. Using computers can also help these “special needs” kids improve fine motor skills and organize information. Occupational therapy may also be helpful.

16.    Teach your youngster about public and private places, so that he or she learns what is appropriate in both circumstances. For example, hugging may not be appropriate at school but is usually fine at home.

17.    Teach your youngster how to read and respond appropriately to social cues. Give him or her "stock" phrases to use in various social situations, such as when being introduced. You can also teach him or her how to interact by role-playing.

18.    Try to identify stress triggers and avoid them if possible. Prepare your youngster in advance for difficult situations, and teach him or her ways to cope. For example, teach coping skills for dealing with change or new situations.

19.    Use rewards to motivate your youngster. Allow him or her to watch TV or play a favorite video game or give points toward a "special interest" gift when he or she performs well.

20.    Use visual systems, such as calendars, checklists, and notes, to help define and organize schoolwork.

21.    Visual supports, including schedules and other written materials that serve as organizational aids, can be helpful.

22.    Your youngster may not understand the social norms and rules that come more naturally to other kids. Provide clear explanations of why certain behaviors are expected, and teach rules for those behaviors.

Best of luck, and enjoy the journey!


Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> 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

____________________

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

School Phobia in Students on the Autism Spectrum

At some point in their school career, High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) children are significantly challenged by anxiety. School phobia (known to professionals as school refusal), a complex and extreme form of anxiety about going to school (but not of the school itself as the name suggests), can have many causes and can include related anxiety disorders (e.g., agoraphobia and selective mutism).

Symptoms include:
  • a racing heart
  • fatigue
  • frequent trips to the toilet
  • nausea
  • shaking
  • stomachaches

Young children on the autism spectrum (up to age 7 or 8) with school phobia experience separation anxiety and cannot easily contemplate being parted from their parents, whereas older kids (8 plus) are more likely to have it take the form of social phobia where they are anxious about their performance in school (such as in games or in having to read aloud or answer questions in class).

HFA children with anxieties about going to school may suffer a panic attack if forced which then makes them fear having another panic attack and there is an increasing spiral of worry with which parents often do not know how to deal.
 

Going to school for the first time is a period of great anxiety for very young kids. Many will be separated from their parents for the first time, or will be separated all day for the first time. This sudden change can make them anxious and they may suffer from separation anxiety. They are also probably unused to having the entire day organized for them and may be very tired by the end of the day – causing further stress and making them feel very vulnerable.

For older children on the spectrum who are not new to the school, who have had a long summer break or have had time off because of illness, returning to school can be quite traumatic. They may no longer feel at home there. Their friendships might have changed. Their teacher and classroom might have changed. They may have got used to being at home and closely looked after by a parent, suddenly feeling insecure when all this attention is removed; and suddenly they are under the scrutiny of their teachers again.

Other children with HFA may have felt unwell on the school bus or in school and associate these places with further illness and symptoms of panic, and so want to avoid them in order to avoid panicky symptoms and panic attacks fearing, for example, vomiting, fainting or having diarrhea. Other kids may have experienced stressful events.




Possible triggers for school phobia include:
  1. Being bullied
  2. Being off school for a long time through illness or because of a holiday
  3. Being unpopular, being chosen last for teams and feeling a physical failure (in games and gymnastics)
  4. Bereavement (of a person or pet)
  5. Fearing panic attacks when traveling to school or while in school
  6. Feeling an academic failure
  7. Feeling threatened by the arrival of a new baby
  8. Having a traumatic experience such as being abused, being raped, having witnessed a tragic event
  9. Moving to a new area and having to start at a new school and make new friends or just changing schools
  10. Not having good friends (or any friends at all)
  11. Problems at home such as a member of the family being very ill
  12. Problems at home such as marital rows, separation and divorce
  13. Starting school for the first time
  14. Violence in the home or any kind of abuse; of the youngster or of another parent

Children with an autism spectrum disorder need to be dealt with differently as compared to kids without the disorder (e.g., teaching them relaxation techniques can actually make them more anxious).

The longer school phobia goes on, the harder it is to treat, so referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are usually quite quick to ‘nip it in the bud’. However, if your youngster is severely affected, it is better to ask for a referral (from your youngster’s doctor or head teacher) to the service before you are desperate as it is often overstretched: in reality it can take some time to get an appointment. 
 

Things you can do yourself as a parent include getting help from your youngster’s school. Teachers need to be aware there is a problem. Sometimes being taught in a special unit in school (if the school has one) may help your youngster feel more secure as it is a more comfortable place and acts as a half-way point between home and school. Some HFA children are so severely affected that they stop going to school. It should be made quite clear to your youngster’s teachers that she is not ‘playing up’ but that her anxiety is very real and she is suffering from it.

At home, life should continue and your youngster should be encouraged to carry on as normal. But she might want to stop going out, especially without you, even to parties that she was quite happy being left at before. Although you need to deal sensitively with her, if she doesn’t absolutely have to miss something, it is best to help her go by going with her for part (or all) of the time so that her world does not shrink altogether. 
 
It is also helpful to:
  • Encourage your youngster to find things she can enjoy in the school day.
  • Explain that her fears are brought on by thoughts that are not true thoughts; she is reacting to normal things in an extreme way.
  • Find things that your youngster can look forward to each day.
  • Keep to the same routine. 
  • Make her go to bed and get up at the same time every day (even on weekends) so that she has some secure framework to live around.
  • Reassure your youngster. Tell her that she will be fine once she has got over the part she dreads.
  • Tell her she is brave for going to school. Although her friends find it easy, she has a private battle she has to fight every school day.
  • Tell her you are proud of her for being so brave.

 
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Homeschool was the best thing I did for my daughter.
•    Anonymous said... Homeschool!!! Made a world of difference for our son. There is no need to force children into painful, emotionally damaging situations every day.
•    Anonymous said... I am homeschooling my son this year after a horrendous attempt at mainstreaming at a new school last year that just left him feeling horrible about himself and behind academically.
•    Anonymous said... I did homeschool .. Did wonders for his self esteem
•    Anonymous said... I would agree homeschooling sounds like it would just be so so much better for him....
•    Anonymous said... My son was compressing his anxiety all day and then melting down the second he was off the bus. It would happen every single night. Several times a week the school would call be because he was vomiting. After we finally figured out what was going on, we made the decision to homeschool him. It has been the best decision we've made and a huge blessing for our family. He is doing great, light years ahead academically and happy. I wish we'd have started when he was younger and never put him through that at all. 99% of the time, his Aspergers symptoms are gone or under control now.
•    Anonymous said... My sons kindergarten teacher told me he should snap out of it. She immediately learned the extent of my vocabulary.
•    Anonymous said... Same for my son....I homeschooled my son (12) last year. This year he is going to attend a small private school that is very similar to homeschooling with multi age classrooms.
•    Anonymous said... School is a constant struggle for my 16 year old aspie son. He's currently in a special ed autistic class at his high school but he still struggles with not wanting to be there. Last year we dealt with him having thoughts of injuring/killing one of his teachers. He too would hold things in until finally blowing up. I have been told by his IEP team and school counselors that home school would be a horrible idea for him and that because he has an IEP the school would not approve it. I considered online schooling for him but was basically told no. How did you all get around that? We live in Washington state.
•    Anonymous said... they likely say that because they don't want the school to lose funding they get for kids on IEPs, and plus the school has no right to tell you how you educate your child. Since when do schools have to approve homeschooling? Sounds like bullying tactics to me. It is your choice.
•    Anonymous said... This was perfect timing for me..school starts on Tuesday and last year was a constant battle with the school and getting the kids to go. Meltdowns, nightmares, and physical illnesses all year. I have been strongly considering homeschool iand its great to know how well it has worked for others.
•    Anonymous said... We had the experience. We cyber school now and it has changed everything for the better. So grateful for options such as this to help these precious children succeed.
•    Anonymous said... Yup true, I sent my son to homeschool. Better environment for them. No bullying from teacher and friends. when there is no bully, they feel comfortable with the lesson they are in. Now he even able to skip 2 levels....

Post your comment below…
 
 
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…

---------------------------------------------------------------

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...

--------------------------------------------------------------

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…

------------------------------------------------------------

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…

------------------------------------------------------------

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...

------------------------------------------------------------

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...
 
------------------------------------------------------------
 
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...

Communication Barriers and How to Overcome Them: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

As parents, we want our "special needs" kids to respect our rules and expectations. One of the best ways to do this is to listen first - and talk later. Your undivided attention to what your child is saying tells him that he is important to you. It shows that you value him as an individual. 
 
You care about him and every part of his life. As a result, your child will be more likely to want to please you (by following your rules and expectations). Also, you will be teaching him to be a good listener by modeling good listening skills. 

Listening-

Be prepared to drop what you are doing when your child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS) wants to talk, even when it is not the most convenient time for you. She may finally get up the courage to discuss a tough problem, and you don't want to miss the opportunity to connect with her through active listening.
 

Here are the steps to active listening:
  • Ask open-ended questions. Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
  • Be interested and attentive. Look into your child's eyes while she is speaking. Forget about the telephone, the television, and whatever else you were doing—just listen!
  • Don't interrupt. Sometimes, as moms and dads, we want to jump into the conversation with an opinion or a solution before letting our child finish talking. By being an active listener, we can help him work through an issue on his own instead of solving the problem for him.
  • Don't talk down to your child no matter what his age. You probably know more than he does from experience alone, but don't use this knowledge to discount his opinions. Don't say, for example, "You're only 14. What do you know about…?"
  • Follow-up. Try to remember and ask about issues or events your child talked about a day or two earlier. This shows her that you were listening and are concerned about the outcomes.
  • Give your child active feedback while she is speaking—nodding, giving verbal responses such as "I see," etc. When she has finished speaking, ask clarifying questions or restate what she's said. If she is telling you something she is enthusiastic about, for example, try to respond with similar enthusiasm.
  • Name the feeling You can help your child clarify his feelings through your active feedback by restating his thoughts or asking questions. This can help him deal with a problem or tackle a difficult task. He can clarify, for example, that he's avoiding his homework because he's afraid he can't do the math. Facing this fear will help him overcome it.
  • Watch for nonverbal messages. Posture, eye contact, and energy level—these can all be clues to your child's true feelings. She may tell you school is going okay but her nonverbal messages may tell a different story.

Talking-

Talking to your child on the autism spectrum sometimes can be a bit difficult. Maybe you start to chat with your child and you get a "look" that immediately stops conversation. Or, maybe she wants to talk to you, but you're focusing on paying the bills and are not giving her your full attention.
 

Studies show, however, that talking to "special needs" kids does have an impact, so it's important to make the effort to really communicate. Below are some common communication barriers and how to overcome them. Remember, not all of these will work in all situations, and sometimes you'll need to keep trying:
  • Blaming or preaching: Instead of saying things that make your child feel bad ("You're so stupid for doing that," or "I said so, that's why"), try using constructive "I" messages like "So, what I hear you saying is…" Offer advice and suggestions: "Let's consider what your options are and figure out the best solution…"
  • Criticizing: Let your child know that you respect her feelings and that what she has to say and how she feels are important. Even if you think a problem is minor, for example, if your child is upset because his friend wouldn't sit next to him, it's a big deal to him. It's hard to open up sometimes and if you make your child feel uncomfortable, chances are he will simply avoid having honest conversations with you.
  • Interrupting: Let your child talk without interrupting her—you will have your turn to speak. This lets your child know that you are interested in what she is saying.
  • Not creating a comfortable environment in which your child can talk: Select a good time to talk to your child—right after school or basketball practice might not be the best time to start a dialog. Let your child have a snack or take a few minutes to rest, and then start the conversation.
  • Not paying full attention to your child: Turn off the TV or radio. Make eye contact with your child—sit next to him if you need to.

Remember to praise your HFA or AS child when he demonstrates good listening skills. It's just as important to develop these skills in your child as it is in you!

Effective communication (i.e., the sharing of ideas, opinions, and information) helps you to build bonds with your child. Doing this right with your child will encourage positive behaviors in her, help to build trust, and create a more peaceful atmosphere in the home. Not getting this right, however, could cause frustration in your child and stress in the family. Does what you say to your child encourage her to behave in ways that please you? If you don’t like your answer to this question, check your day-to-day dealings with your child.
 

You may not be getting the response you expect from your child if:
  • You act like a bully toward your child.
  • You allow your child to break rules without consequences.
  • You always answer her question “why do I have to?” with “because I said so.”
  • You ask your child to do more than he is able to for his age.
  • You complain about what your child is doing wrong, but never praise her when she does something well.
  • You give too little instructions.
  • You give too many instructions at a time.
  • You let your child call the shots every time and never take charge.
  • You never admit to being wrong.
  • You never take the time to explain “why.”
  • You use silence to show your disapproval.
  • Your child sees you doing the actions that you tell her not to do.

Sending mixed or unclear messages when you talk with your HFA or AS child could hurt his self-esteem and open the door to problem behavior. Here are some ways to talk with your child more effectively and build a stronger bond: 
  • “Because I say so” is not the best answer—explain the reasons why.
  • Be careful about asking too much—because of age or ability a child may not be able to do some tasks well. Especially for new tasks, give detailed instructions for the chores you want your child to do.
  • Be specific—don’t leave things open to interpretation.
  • Do not ask something of your child you are not willing to do yourself—don’t yell at your child for lying and then ask her to lie to someone for you.
  • Do things together—use these opportunities to talk with and learn about your child.
  • Expect set-backs—but deal with them as soon as they happen. Talk about things that you don’t like about your child’s actions. Find a solution together, even when discipline is involved.
  • Give a little—your child is still learning, and your responsibility is to teach with understanding.
  • It’s o.k. to negotiate sometimes—it teaches your child the benefits of “give and take” which he may find useful later in life.
  • Reward your child for doing well—praise for a job well done will make your child feel good about herself and eager to please you in other things.
  • Some decisions need time—your child will see that you care about what he cares about by giving serious thought to issues that are important to him, before just saying “no.”
  • Talk with your child and not to or through him—this means listening as well as responding.
  • Treat your child with respect—don’t yell at your child and call her names. She will only learn from your example. Speak to your child in the same manner you would like her to speak to you.
  • You’re the grown-up—have the final say about important decisions, but explain to your child the reasons why you have made the decision.

Having adults in the “take charge” role makes kids on the autism spectrum feel secure and adds to their mental well-being. However, children who think they are not being treated fairly by adults could become angry and mistrustful of authority. Such children are more likely to be influenced by peers to be involved in unhealthy behaviors. Good adult-child communication can go a long way in deterring unsafe behaviors and influencing the choices HFA and AS kids make for a lifetime. 
 
I Statements-

Healthy communication is critical to relationships, but is especially important between parent and child. Is your child listening? Does she understand you? Is your message really getting through? Showing your child how to communicate is part of parenting, but it becomes especially difficult in times of conflict.

One way to communicate with your child is by using feeling language or "I" statements—a way of expressing how you feel about a situation without placing blame or drawing a defensive or argumentative response from your child.1 Saying "you did this wrong" or "you did that bad thing" often makes people feel angry and hostile. "I" statements can help you communicate your feelings to your child in a way that makes him likely to respond with respect. "I" statements also provide HFA and AS kids with clear, direct messages and help them understand that their actions have effects on other people. Here are a few examples:
  • When you scream loudly, I feel upset because it hurts my ears.
  • When you try to talk to me when I am on the phone, I feel annoyed because then I have to try to listen to more than one person.

"I" statements also can be used to express positive feelings:
  • When you do your homework, I feel proud because I think that school is important.
  • To begin using "I" statements, follow a basic format of three parts: When…(provide nonjudgmental description of behavior), I feel…(name your feeling), and Because…(give the effect the behavior has on you or others).

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…

---------------------------------------------------------------

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...

--------------------------------------------------------------

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…

------------------------------------------------------------

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…

------------------------------------------------------------

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...

------------------------------------------------------------

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 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