Dr. Marcia Eckerd has been in practice as a licensed psychologist since 1985. I am on the CT ASD Advisory Council and the Clinical Advisory Committee of the Aspergers/Autism Association of New England, as well the professional advisory board of Smart Kids with LD. Aspergers101 is honored to offered the knowledge and experience of Dr. Eckerd through her informative blogs!
As students with AS and NLD of all ages return to school, there’s two challenges: making the transition from summer to the school routine, and setting up the year to maximize success. Transitions and novelty often are the source of anxiety, so many AS and NLD students are increasingly anxious as that first day back to school approaches.
Anticipatory anxiety can be expressed as headaches, stomach aches, and specific fears of the year ahead: who’s in the classes, will there be bullying, what’s expected by teachers, having to take gym.
How can a parent help (or an older student prepare)?
Deal with anxiety:
Recognize anxiety is a real feeling, but not an accurate prediction of what’s going to happen. Too often parents get caught up in the anxiety themselves.
Meditation has been proven to turn off the “fight flight” response, and the breathing techniques are useful to use when there’s challenges or frustration. It’s a good time to start practicing daily. There’s apps for all ages.
Exercise is another good way of dealing with anxiety. It doesn’t have to be a sport. Walking outside can be calming.
AS and NLD students usually have ideas of what helps with anxiety but sometimes don’t initiate doing those things: reading, music, playing with pets.
Use self talk – realistic self encouragement can be thought through ahead of time: “I can handle this,” “I know I can get help if I need it” are examples.
Adults with Asperger’s find that the accommodations and supports available for kids aren’t there for them. It’s increasingly recognized that children have sensory issues and supports are often made in schools to support social issues and social anxiety. Some accommodations are made for emotional reactivity and problems with becoming overwhelmed. Adults don’t grow out of these problems; in fact, some make the transition to college or try to find jobs and find little understanding and no support.
Social challenges may be confounding and complicate relationships with friends, work colleagues and partners. Accommodations in school may have helped with inflexibility, concrete thinking and difficulty with changes in routine, but these considerations aren’t typically made in work situations. Many parents of young adults with AS fear that their over-reactivity and poor social judgment may get them into serious trouble in the community.
Puberty is a difficult and oftentimes scary process in any adolescent’s life. The changes that the body goes through can be frightening and confusing. For young girls with ASD, these changes come with an entirely new set of obstacles and challenges. At Aspergers101, we focus on providing resources that are free to the community. The following webinar by the Asperger/Autism Network contains invaluable information, but at a cost of $20. We hope that this can be of use to some families, as this is a very important topic that often gets overlooked.
This webinar takes parents of girls through the common difficulties faced by girls with AS/ASD as they begin and move through puberty. These girls may be confused or upset by the changes taking places in their bodies. New hygiene routines can be made more difficult by sensory sensitivities. In addition, pre-teen and teen girls with AS/ASD often desire increased independence, but need to learn safety skills. Parents will learn to address these sensitive issues in a calm and informed manner. We will also look at different resources to use when talking to our daughters. Following the presentation there will be time for questions.
About the presenter: Erika Drezner, LCSW, is a social worker and has been on staff at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) since 2009. She has trained as a Parent Consultant through the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Erika has a special interest in girls on the spectrum and has run support groups for parents of girls at AANE. In addition, she has presented workshops on Females with ASD, Anxiety, Friendship, and Adolescence. Erika will be a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital for 2016-17. She has two children with autism spectrum diagnoses and in her free time she enjoys running and reading.
Please register for ‘ Puberty Basics for Parents of Girls with AS/ASD: Health, Hygiene, Self-Esteem and Safety’