The complexities of High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome may present themselves in behaviors that may be either excessive for specific situations or lacking.
Strategies developed to target such behaviors are often included in packages known as behavior intervention plans (BIP), behavior support plans (BSP), behavior management plans (BMP), positive behavior support plans (PBSP), and several others.
The primary purpose of a behavior plan is to outline and describe strategies that prevent problem behaviors, teach new behaviors that replace problematic behaviors and attempt to remove consequences that maintain or strengthen undesirable behaviors. The plans are usually developed for use in school settings, home and community settings, and sometimes employment settings.
The primary components of a plan are:
1. Identifying Information
The basics behind the behavior intervention plan, including the individual’s information, the stakeholders, time introduced and the settings in which the plan is to be implemented.
2. Description of Behaviors
This operational definition should be a specific description of the behaviors targeted for reduction or increase. They should be both observable and measurable.
Over the years one question is always asked at the end of every autism workshop Sam and I have been privileged to present. To paraphrase, it goes like this:
“Sam this question is for you. We just found out our teenage son has (this part she whispers) Autism. I am unsure whether to tell him, his siblings or anyone else for that matter. What are your thoughts…should we tell?”
Since the question is directed at Sam…all eyes are on him waiting his response. For this reference, the woman asking the question is a composite of all the mothers who’ve asked this of Sam more times than I can count. She stands with tears in her eyes and is truly grappling with the recent diagnosis of Autism yet has hope after hearing Sam talk about growing up on the spectrum. She relates, she hurts and she hopes. So answering this common question takes thought. Samuels response is why I am writing this post. It comes straight from the heart of a young man who understands what autism ‘feels’ like. He is able to offer an insight, perhaps, into her own sons inner workings, workings that the parent has yet to grasp.
So when Sam, on his own, offered up his opinion it seemed appropriate to share with you now as it always seems to sooth the inquiring Moms fears.
“Why would you not tell your son of his diagnosis? Believe me, he knows he is wired differently. He already knows he is not like his peers and probably feels like an outcast. It might even be a relief to know he has autism as there will finally be an explanation for most everything he is experiencing such as frustration, social loss and even physical pain. At the very least, he (and you) can begin to face the challenges through treatment(s). The diagnosis of autism isn’t a death sentence. It’s a road map of the brain. Understand the brain and map out a direction. Don’t think of Autism as a weight…think of it as a pair of wings in which to fly. ”
Inevitably, the Mom appears relieved and hugs Sam as if to thank him for permission to let the word, Autism, come into their lives. I know because we started from the same place.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently misunderstood, and that’s especially true in the case of women. The stereotypical person many people think of on the autism spectrum may be a Rain Man character who is male, anti-social, and gifted with numbers, but the population is actually very diverse. Many women with autism go their whole lives believing something is wrong with them because people have misunderstood their traits.
In addition, autism is less likely to be identified in women because they don’t always match the stereotype and often work hard to conceal their traits. “‘She can’t have ASD because she makes eye contact, she has a friend, she is caring’… there are many gender stereotypes that lead women with ASD to not be diagnosed or misdiagnosed,” Tasha Oswald, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, tells Bustle.
“Girls often present with milder forms of social troubles than their male peers, due to teachers’ biases and assessments that the girls are more socially adept than boys,” Christine Scott-Hudson, MA MFT ATR, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. “Girls in general are also socialized not to disappoint or offend their teachers or peers, and so girls on the autism spectrum may intentionally keep behaviors, responses, and feelings to themselves in order to remain pleasing.”
Here are some signs of autism that may be particularly applicable to women, but can be missed, according to experts.
Note: The signs below refer to just one form of autism — what was previously called “Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s”. Transition to adulthood specialist Cady Stanton, M.S. says that even though the term “Asperger’s” no longer exists, it’s a term many people are familiar with. According to Autism Speaks, it now falls under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), as of 2013. Typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability differentiate it from other forms of autism.
1. Difficulty With Social Situations
“Just like males with ASD, women with ASD struggle socially, but like a double-edged sword, that struggle is both worsened and helped by the higher societal expectations placed on women to be socially aware and adhere to etiquette,” says Oswald. In other words, it’s not that women have different social symptoms than men; they just may be more likely to mask them.
“Difficulty catching on to others’ intentions, reading social cues, and understanding the unwritten rules of our society are core social challenges present in those with ASD,” Oswald says.
2. Being a Target of Bullies
Many girls are the target of bullies in school, but this may be particularly harsh for those on the autism spectrum.
So, how is Autism diagnosed? Until recently, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), including Aspergers Syndrome, have been understood as a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders—characterized by social impairments, difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Changes in definition have been proposed and accepted by different organizations and groups in the United States and other parts of the world. The changes have been discussed in other posts; meanwhile, I will address how autism is diagnosed.
At the present time, a single test to diagnose autism does not exist. We do know that a biological or single genetic marker has not been identified, thus, autism cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or imaging studies. It is rather a diagnosis that is primarily identified by behavioral and developmental differences.
As parents know their children better than anyone else, they are usually the first to suspect their child is following a different developmental trajectory.
Autism has its roots in very early development—many parents would report that they saw differences shortly after birth—however, signs of Autism are usually apparent between the first and second birthdays.
Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.
One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.
The following is an example of such a narrative:
Passing Period at High School
My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.
In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.
When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.
Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.
That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.
I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.
Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.
I can do this!
Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.
The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.
Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.
The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.
However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!-Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) can make participation in life activities—what occupational therapists refer to as occupations—very difficult. Luckily, there are options and strategies to help improve sensory processing and make life much smoother and more enjoyable.
Sensory-based occupational therapy (OT), may look like play to adults, but to the child it is their work and necessary for improving overall abilities to process sensory information more appropriately. Jumping, swinging, climbing and playing in multisensory mediums—such as shaving cream, beans, rice, or play dough—all have a place in their growth and the development of sensory processing abilities.
As the child plays and learns more about their body and how to use it through treatment for sensory processing disorder, their brain improves its ability to process sensory information more efficiently. These children are then able to handle situations more appropriately and participate in everyday activities including self-care, fine motor and social skills.
This process can take months for long lasting effects, but parents often see a difference after the first few visits.
Occupational therapists that specialize in SPD and autism are especially adept at helping individuals on the spectrum succeed. These therapists are skilled in testing and providing treatment, compiling strategies to modify the environment, developing home programs, and giving suggestions to schools and vocational programs to improve participation in life’s activities.
When looking for an occupational therapist, it is important they have advanced training in sensory integration or SPD and, if possible, are SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test) certified.
Though occupational therapy services may be provided in a variety of settings—including home and school—the clinical setting is much more conducive to treating SPD and the underlying causes of the child’s difficulties. This is because a clinic will have specific equipment designed to promote engagement in therapy and develop skills necessary to overcome sensory difficulties.
You also want to make sure they have an OT gym that is well equipped to treat SPD. A phone call and an interview with the therapist may be beneficial.
The estimation of changes in the patterns and numbers of the cases of autism in the US has recently become fairly complicated with the main debate being about the documented cases of the autism spectrum disorder. In the previous years, it was much easier to pin down the exact rates of autism as the cases also did not appear as much as they do now. For example, in the 1970s, and 1980s, the reports on ASD concluded that every 1 out of the 2000 children suffered from autism.
The results of the survey conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2012 and 2013, show that the number of cases went up significantly to every 1 in every 80 children having ASD.
In the following year, the CDC conducted a National Health Interview Survey to note any progressions in the patterns of autism across the US. The survey showed that ASD was more prevalent than it had ever been, with every 1 in 45 children having the symptoms of autism.
What caused such a big rise in the number of autism cases?
The new questionnaire used in the 2014 survey by the CDC may hold an important role in it. The questionnaire used in the most recent survey also asked about Asperger’s syndrome unlike the ones conducted previously.
Asperger’s syndrome used to have its own, separate diagnosis until 2013 when it was enlisted with the autism spectrum disorders and no longer considered a different health condition.
With the new addition to the autism diagnosis, the 11000 families which were requested to complete the survey were questioned about the diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger’s, and autism spectrum disorder. Read more on the CDC’s report here.
The question regarding Asperger’s syndrome held a significant role in the sudden rise in the rates of autism cases in the most recent survey.
But it is argued that there are also a number of other reasons which have played an equally important role.
Are Asperger’s syndrome and Autism similar?
Autism and Asperger’s syndrome have similar symptoms in children and cause about same issues. Children who have either of the conditions have similar troubles like the inability to make eye contact and expressing their feelings and problems in picking up body language.
Yes, we've answered 101 of your questions about Asperger Syndrome!
Whether you are beginning to suspect your child (or yourself) might have a form of Autism or Asperger Syndrome, or you are already on your journey, this resource was compiled for you!
We polled the 101 top requested questions on Asperger Syndrome and put them in one place for those seeking information on High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome! These questions range from the origins of Asperger Syndrome, the early signs all the way through adulthood. Some questions merited a one word response while others provide you with a detailed bullet-point answer. We would like to thank our underwriting sponsor: The Starfish Social Club for supporting and providing you this on-going free resource! To access Aspergers101 FAQ page either click on the ad below or find it permanently located at the top of our menu bar on our website under the “Asperger Syndrome” tab.
The interior designer who caters to sensory issues
When our youngest son was no more than 6 years old, we would enter a restaurant or someone’s home and he would throw up. He told us it was a picture or something on the wall that made him so ill.
I thought it had to be due to the content of the picture but after years of testing we found out it was the color! Yes, oftentimes those with sensory issues are not just sensitive to sound and noise, but also have a severe sensitivity to loud splashes of color.
The following article discusses an interior designer who takes that sensitivity in mind when decorating. If she can do it, we can too!
Designer Focuses On Interiors For Those With Autism
With her son Devin’s needs in mind, A.J. Paton-Wildes chose neutral colors for the walls and new flooring in the living room of their Oak Park Heights, Minn., home. As an interior designer, Paton-Wildes incorporates her personal experience with Devin, who has autism, to help create calming spaces for those on the spectrum. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
MINNEAPOLIS — A.J. Paron-Wildes’ home, a walk-out rambler in suburban Oak Park Heights, Minn., is a study in calm — all clean, uncluttered spaces and earthy, neutral hues that echo the autumn leaves framing the view of the St. Croix River. On an autumn afternoon, daughter Eva, 6, is having an after-school snack, while son Devin, 19, sketches intently, seated at the studio desk in his orderly bedroom.
This peaceful environment is entirely by design. When you have a child child with autism, calm is a precious commodity — and Paron-Wildes has become an expert at creating it, starting in her own home.
That journey started 16 years ago when Devin was diagnosed with autism at age 3. “It was very traumatic,” Paron-Wildes recalled.
At that time, Devin didn’t speak but was prone to explosive tantrums when he was upset or confused. “He’d drop to the floor and start screaming.” She and her husband stopped bringing Devin to the grocery store or on other errands because they never knew what might trigger an eruption. “We’d have to drop everything and leave.”
At the time of Devin’s diagnosis, Paron-Wildes was a very young interior designer, only recently graduated from the University of Minnesota. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be some great research’” about designing spaces for children with autism, but she was wrong. “There was nothing,” she recalled. “Everything was done in the ’70s, when kids were institutionalized.”
Determined to keep Devin at home, Paron-Wildes committed herself to creating an environment where he could learn and thrive. So she started educating herself — by working backwards.
She read books about autism, and pored over studies about the neurological workings of the brain, becoming fascinated by the different ways people with autism perceive colors, patterns and lighting. She tried to determine what design elements would likely trigger difficult behavior — and then did the opposite, learning through trial and error.
“You can’t really get the information by asking, ‘Is this too bright for you?’ ‘Does this make you dizzy?’ You have to watch for cues,” she said.
Devin, too, was watching for cues. That’s a necessary strategy for children with autism, who usually develop language skills much later than their peers. Those who have difficulty communicating verbally often look to their environment for cues about what’s happening and how they should respond, Paron-Wildes said. They crave order and are easily distracted by its absence. They read meaning into seemingly random visual signals, and tend to be hypersensitive to harsh artificial light and to environmental toxins.
Paron-Wildes learned that the Crayola-bright, busy spaces most people consider kid-friendly — “like Ronald McDonald threw up” — are so stimulating that they can easily confuse and overwhelm a child with autism.
She remembers taking a young Devin to speech therapy — “in a room with a jungle gym and kids running around screaming.” The lesson was going nowhere, until she suggested moving it to a closet, the only quiet place available. There, Devin started to respond.
Information about autism and design may have been scarce when Paron-Wildes began searching for it, but that’s changing as autism rates have soared. The incidence may now be as high as 1 in 50 children, a 72 percent increase since 2007, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That means Paron-Wildes’ expertise is increasingly in demand. “People think, ‘Oh, I have to redesign my whole house?’” she said. “No. Pay attention to the areas where the child needs to learn.” Those areas, as well as rooms where children rest and sleep, should be well-organized and orderly, with minimal distraction and muted, warm colors. “I’ve painted many little boys’ rooms pink — it tends to be a calming color,” she said.
She has worked with the University of Minnesota to develop research and design principles, co-chaired the Minnesota Autism Task Force, has written a trilogy of e-books on “Design for Autism” and spoke on “Design Empathy” for architects at a recent AIA Minnesota convention.
The bouncy, enthusiastic designer managed to work an autism joke — with a message — into her presentation. Pointing out a mustard-yellow circle at the corner of each page of her PowerPoint, she asked: “How many of you are wondering what that is there for? I did that to confuse you!” she added with a girlish laugh. “That’s what it’s like for kids (with autism).”
A designer for the AllSteel workplace furniture firm, Paron-Wildes also consults with schools, medical facilities and other organizations that serve children with autism and their families. (Most of her consulting work is done pro bono.) At this point, she could probably do autism-related design full-time, but she enjoys working on a wide range of projects. “If my whole life was autism, I would lose perspective.”
One recent consulting project involved working with designers from Perkins + Will on a new space for Fraser, a program Devin attended from age 3 to 6. The designers transformed a former Life Time Fitness office into a speech and occupational therapy site for children with autism and others.
Paron-Wildes pointed out design features on a recent visit. Treatment rooms and “meltdown areas,” where children often struggle with transitions from one activity to another, are quiet and neutral. “It’s easier to add color than to take it away,” she said. In other areas, brighter hues are used as way-finding cues, guiding children down hallways and to color-coded cubbies. Most flooring is kept simple. “If you make a pattern, the kids will follow it.”
There’s a lot more color and pattern in the reception area, however, where parents wait for their children and sometimes meet with therapists.
“One of the biggest complaints in centers is that parents feel like they’re in an institution,” Paron-Wildes said. She vividly remembers the stark waiting room she sat in when she first heard Devin’s diagnosis 16 years ago. “It felt very institutional. There was nothing to look at. It added to the aloneness and trauma.”
Parents feel calmer and more comfortable in a vibrant, upbeat environment. “It’s all psychological,” she said. “These parents want to feel like their child is going to a school — a fun school — not to treatment.”
Today, Devin is a verbal and affectionate teen who graduated from high school, went to prom and has developed into a gifted artist. He hopes to study art further; his work has won numerous awards and is proudly displayed throughout the family’s house.
That house, too, was chosen and designed with Devin’s needs in mind. Up until last year, Paron-Wildes and her family lived in a historic house in Stillwater, Minn. It was not calm, at least not after Devin’s sister joined the family. “We didn’t think we’d have a second kid,” Paron-Wildes said. “Then we had Ava. She’s a screamer. It was hard on Devin. We were having a lot of behavioral issues.”
So they found another house, one with plenty of separation between the kids’ rooms. Devin has a large bedroom with a lofted ceiling and a big window overlooking the river. “It’s really quiet up here; the 6-year-old doesn’t bother him,” his mother said. His room has lots of natural light and views of nature, which he loves studying through his telescope. There’s even an adjacent “Lego room” where he can retreat to build elaborate structures. Devin didn’t want to move at first — transitions are still difficult — and threatened to run away. But he soon adjusted. “He is so comfortable here — he loves his space,” Paron-Wildes said. “We have zero issues now.”