Introduction to Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Autism is described as occurring on a spectrum because the symptoms can vary from a complete lack of communication with others to difficulty understanding others’ feelings. This range of symptoms is why the  diagnostic term is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Spectrum, Autism, Aspergers

Aspergers Syndrome, sometimes also called High-Functioning Autism, falls under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (And yes, this remains the case, no matter what you may have heard about the newly-published DSM-V. But, the DSM-V is the subject of another blog). Aspergers Syndrome is viewed as being on the “mild” end of the spectrum because its symptoms differ in degree and severity from other forms of autism.

Sensory Processing Disorder Explained

Our bodies take in information from the world around us through our sensory systems. As this information comes in, our brain filters and processes it for use. This process, called “sensory processing”, all happens automatically and simultaneously without us realizing that it.Depositphotos_37852017_sWhen all of these systems work correctly, we are able to perform our daily activities smoothly and without a problem. When these systems don’t work as well as they should a person may be disorganized, clumsy, have attention difficulties, and become over responsive or under responsive. Individuals with this issue might just have trouble functioning day to day as well as they should. This is called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Emotional Regulation for Aspergers and HFA

We are all vulnerable to black and white thinking during times of emotional distress: “He NEVER appreciates the sacrifices I make!” or “She ALWAYS chooses work over time with me!”

Children and young adults with Aspergers are no different—except they may be more vulnerable to polarized thinking. These emotional regulation difficulties stem from differences deep within their brains, along with other extraordinary gifts such as strong attention skills or heightened visual and auditory detail.

Ultimate Guide: Understanding High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

 The following is an excerpt taken from the documentary: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-age Children Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers SyndromeMedical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain.

Neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function. It has become clear that individuals who are diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic or Aspergers receive their gifts and struggles from a physical medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe. Once we understand exactly how the challenges occur, we can begin to lead our loved ones with Aspergers on the path from coping to excelling.

How Is Autism Diagnosed? (Part One)

So, how is Autism diagnosed?

Psychological therapy

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.

The Pathways to Diagnosis

Interdisciplinary Autism Assessments

For individuals on the autism spectrum, a diagnosis from a medical professional is necessary in order to qualify for medical services. One main difference in the assessment is in how the child is evaluated and whether the evaluation is done by an individual or a team.

Interdisciplinary Autism Assessments at ACN

At ACN, we conduct interdisciplinary autism assessments where a number of specialists participate in the evaluation and all of them are present at the same time from start to end.

The team consists of a developmental pediatrician or psychologist, a behavior analyst, a speech-language pathologist, and an occupational therapist. We believe that a comprehensive evaluation gives parents a clearer sense of the skills and deficits in their child and a clearer direction for seeking therapies.

The following is an illustration of the pathway to a diagnosis at ACN:

5 Focuses For Creating the Learning Environment in the Home

Continued learning experiences after school

When it comes to setting the stage for learning, individuals on the autism spectrum need to continue their learning experiences even after school. This requires therapists, caregivers and parents to be responsible for creating a learning environment in the home that continues to provide opportunity to expand the vital skills a child is working on. This includes setting up a home environment, understanding your child’s classroom setup, or making suggestions at their after school program.

Child playing at home

Here are five goals to focus on when evaluating a school-related learning environment in the home for children with Aspergers or HFA.

Reinforcement for Individuals with Aspergers or HFA

Reinforcement in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on the outcome of the behavior and increasing the likelihood of certain behaviors occurring in the future. There are two types of reinforcement: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

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Positive reinforcement is when a response is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus and, as a result, similar responses occur more frequently in the future. In other words, positive reinforcement means when a behavior has an increased likelihood of occurring again if something is given after it occurs.

Overcoming Denial to Participate in Joy with Your Child

Denial Never Wins by Jessica Nieminski

It’s not easy to hear that your child is going to struggle in certain ways. The fear of the future can be downright paralyzing and while all children are perfect in their own way, it’s not what you dream up when you first think about having a child.

Denial

Nobody fanaticizes about therapists and sensory breaks. Instead you think about nursery bedding and buying cute tiny little shoes that your baby will truly never leave on. Having gone through a diagnosis process twice with my amazing and extraordinary loves, this is my best advice: “Denial Never Wins!”

Okay so let me explain, but first I need do a little storytelling. Stay with me, because I promise that this is going somewhere. The other day I was in the kitchen, all in my mom zone doing mom things, when my little cutie ran over to get me to do what he was doing. Not only did he run over, but he also invited me to join!

Tips for Asking Questions During Interviews

ASTEP - Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership

Dr. Temple Grandin once told my son Sam, “when you’re looking for employment, you must show your work”. Indeed! For someone diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome, you must rely on the merit of your work as, oftentimes, the challenging social cues tend to override a large portion of the interviewing process. The Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership organization has provided a very good checklist to review prior to going through the oftentimes painful interview process. The Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership organization has provided a very good checklist to review prior to going through the oftentimes painful interview process.

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An interview is a two-way street. (A polite street, with traffic rules.)

Ask questions. The employer should, and will typically, provide an opportunity for you to ask questions at or near the end of the interview.

Always prepare questions to ask.

Having no questions prepared sends the message that you have no independent thought process, are ill-prepared, or some combination of the two.

Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask.

Have you done your research on the organization? (If yes, good.)
Are you asking dull questions that you can have answered from an internet search? (Not good.) Are your questions intelligent, thoughtful and cordial? (Very good.)

How many questions to ask?