Excerpt: Understanding the Behavioral Problems Associated with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

Parents need to understand what their HFA or Asperger's child is thinking, how he interprets what is going on, and how his deficits cause problems before you can begin any intervention strategy. Do not rush into action until you have collected enough information and analyzed what is going on. If you do not know the reasons behind the behavior, you may very likely do the wrong thing. If you know what is going on, you can make a big difference.

To help you determine the reasons why your child acts the way he does, you should ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is he stuck on an idea and can't let it go? (He does not know how to let go and move on when there is a problem.)
  2. Is he misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true? (Misinterpretation)
  3. Is he expecting perfection in himself? (Black-and-white thinking)
  4. Is he exaggerating the importance of an event? There are no small events, everything that goes wrong is a catastrophe. (Black-and-white thinking)
  5. Is he blaming you for something that is beyond your control? (He feels that you must solve the problem for him even when it involves issues you have no control over.)
  6. Has he made a rule that can't be followed? (He sees only one way to solve a problem; he cannot see alternatives.)
  7. Does he see only two choices to a situation rather than many options? (Black-and-white thinking)
  8. Does he need to be taught a better way to deal with a problem? (He does not understand the way the world works.)
  9. Because a situation was one way the first time, does he feel it has to be that way always? (Being rule bound.)

Realizing that your child will not be a good observer of his behavior is your first step. The HFA or Asperger's  youngster often does not know what to do in a situation. He does not know the appropriate behavior because he doesn't understand how the world works. Or, if he knows a better solution, he can’t use it because he becomes "stuck."

Not knowing what to do - or being unable to do what is appropriate - results in anxiety that leads to additional ineffective and inappropriate actions. High-functioning autistic behavior is usually a result of this anxiety, which leads to difficulty moving on and letting go of an issue and "getting stuck" on something. This is rigidity, and it is the most common reason for behavioral problems. You must deal with rigidity and replace it with flexibility early on in your plan to help your child. Flexibility is a skill that can be taught, and you will need to make this a major part of your efforts to help him.

Understanding your child involves knowing the autistic characteristics and how they manifest themselves in everyday behaviors. How does your child see the world, think about matters, and react to what is going on around him? The following reasons will help you understand why he acts the way he does:

Reasons for Rigidity—
  • Transitioning from one activity to another. This is usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he is finished with it.
  • The need to engage in or continue a preferred activity, usually an obsessive action or fantasy.
  • The need to control a situation.
  • The need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity, often something difficult or undesirable. Often, if your child cannot be perfect, he does not want to engage in an activity.
  • Other internal issues, such as sensory, inattention (ADHD), oppositional tendency (ODD), or other psychiatric issues may also be causes of behavior.
  • Lack of knowledge about how something is done. By not knowing how the world works with regard to specific situations and events, the autistic youngster will act inappropriately instead.
  • Immediate gratification of a need.
  • Anxiety about a current or upcoming event, no matter how trivial it might appear to you.
  • A violation of a rule or ritual – changing something from the way it is supposed to be. Someone is violating a rule and this is unacceptable to the youngster.
  • A misunderstanding or misinterpretation of another's action.....

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