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High-Functioning Autism
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Old 12-03-2019, 09:32 PM
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Default High-Functioning Autism

I would like advice from anyone who is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, or who has a family member or friend who is. My son (10) has always been a quirky kid. I saw things that made me wonder if he was on the spectrum, but when I brought it up to his doctors they brushed it off. "He's affectionate, he makes eye contact! Some kids are just quirky!" (I am kicking myself now for not pushing harder, believe me).

In the past few months his 'quirks' reached a level where it was beginning to impair his ability to function in school. So I took him to a counselor and at the end of the first session she said she believed he is a very high-functioning autistic. I was thrilled, really. Finally someone else saw what I did and could tell us how to help. We are not having him formally diagnosed right now because 1) he's super-smart and would figure out in a minute what they were trying to diagnose, and (knowing this kid) he would then try to use his diagnosis as an excuse and 2) she thinks he is so high-functioning that he doesn't need any school accommodations or would need them. We have told him his brain works a little differently than most people's, there is nothing wrong with that, and many people with similar brains have become very successful, often because of their ability to think differently. If he wants to pursue a diagnosis when he is older then he can.

We have altered our reactions and how we deal with some of his behaviors, based on suggestions from his counselor, and it seems to be working well. He really likes her and has made some suggestions of his own that seem to be helping. Right now is the time when we need to build him up and give him the tools to handle the rest of his life. Anyone with the same kind of brain, are there any other suggestions for us, his parents? How can we help him learn to deal with his differences and become a successful adult? How did people help you (or how do you wish they had)? My son is extremely intelligent, and most of his issues involve dealing with frustration, processing certain things (he often asks you to reframe questions, for example), connecting to his own emotions and making decisions.

He is going to do great things in his life, we just want to make it easier for him. Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

  #2  
Old 12-04-2019, 02:04 AM
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As I am autistic myself, my advice would be to wait. See what develops. His condition could be an extremely mild case, or it could be a different disorder.

What you'll want to watch for is obsessive, narrow interests to the exclusion of everything else, a withdrawal into fantasy beyond the normative, ritualistic behavior, a strong preference for logic and dislike for emotions - until they surface explosively. And strange movements with the hands.

But autism isn't the only possible diagnosis. There are others that are akin to it but not exactly it. I'll have to look them up.

Again, I suggest a wait and see approach.
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Old 12-04-2019, 08:06 AM
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Agreed. My sister is high-functioning autistic (officially diagnosed, on her medical records) and I've found the following things help with her.

If you make a plan, you need to stick to it. She really struggles with last-minute changes as she has a strong need for routine, so you can't change plans on a whim, and if you do need to change them, you have to give her as much notice as possible so that she has time to process.

Set up expectations. If you are going into a situation where you really can't set times or plans in stone, then you need to let her know in advance. This way her expectation is that things are up in the air, so she is better able to handle unexpected situations without panicking.

It may be worth looking into CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in the future, as there are techniques that can be learned to help the autistic person deal with unexpected situations. The very basics are asking a series of questions; as an example, my sister gets very uptight if we have to throw a bath towel into the wash outside of the normal routine wash (break of routine). To settle her down, I remind her that we have plenty of other towels in the cupboard and can use one of them until the usual towel has been washed and replaced. When we buy towels now, I tend to buy at least one extra of each type so that they can be swapped out as needed without her getting twitchy over the mismatched set.

The keys are consistency and logic; autistic people tend to become fixated on things that don't seem important in the overall scheme of things, and you need to nudge him out of the fixation. For instance, when we were having boiler problems my sister started heading for a melt-down, worrying about being able to have her shower, washing up, etc. I calmed her down by saying 1) there is an en-suite in your room with an electric shower (which she normally hates using). You can shower in there until the boiler is fixed. 2) You can boil kettles or pots full of water to fill the sink and wash up. We will just make sure we avoid meals that leave massive amounts to wash up until the boiler is fixed. 3) If it starts getting too cold, we can shut ourselves in one room and run the portable electric heater. In the meantime, a duvet shared on the settee will do. 4) We don't have to worry about washing clothes etc. as the washing machine is a cold-draw that heats the water itself. Once she had a plan in place for how to deal with the things she normally handles, she calmed down a lot.

The trick is to come up with a solution to every "but what if" raised. This can take practice, and you need to avoid shrugging off your son's fears as he'll just keep fixating. If you don't know, be honest about it; set up expectations by saying that you will have to make a plan depending on the situation at the time.

If anyone has any tips on dealing with a full-blown screaming melt-down other than walking away and putting a door between you, though, I'd love to hear.
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Last edited by greek_jester; 12-06-2019 at 08:02 AM. Reason: Grammar is not my friend today.

  #4  
Old 12-04-2019, 01:19 PM
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My brother is high functioning autistic (47 yrs old) and was very hyper as a child. Karate lessons gave him a lot of discipline and self control. Find a school that also teaches the meditation and philosophy.
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Old 12-04-2019, 02:44 PM
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Thank you all! My son fits some of these criteria but not all. He doesn't really have problems with changes in routine (that is more my issue!) but he does do the odd hand movements/tics, he has stuff that really interests him but not to the exclusion of other things, he has slowly learned how to be polite. He does have trouble starting conversations with kids (does better with adults), has trouble with some decisions (he can pick something to wear, but sometimes he is paralyzed when he has to choose a color of paper for school work). He's not Sheldon Cooper with 'his' couch cushion and a roommate contract or anything, he just has trouble with a few things. He does have anxiety and at the counselor's suggestion we did stop telling him 'this bad thing won't happen, don't worry about it' but instead ask him what the worst-case scenario is in his mind and walk him through solving it, like with greek jester's sister, and that seems to help. He says he isn't interested in martial arts but I may push it and see if there's a summer camp he could try, to get him more interested.

I don't want to change him, I just want to give him tools that will make his life easier while preserving his unique personality.

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Old 12-05-2019, 12:09 PM
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Mu son also has the "whooshing and spinning" hand movements. It's called Stimming. We let him do it at home, and bring it to his attention while we're out. He's 17 and it's calmed down a lot. Shoes up more under stress. At school he's allowed to have a stress toy (he's had a brain, and currently it's Kirby, as long as it isn't a ball and he doesn't toss it around)
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Quoth AnaKhouri View Post
I would like advice from anyone who is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, or who has a family member or friend who is.
Hit me up in PMs. I might be able to offer some advice (or at least a resource or two).
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Old 12-06-2019, 12:46 AM
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Thanks! With the hand movements I also nudge him in public, but home is the safe space where he can do whatever he needs to. My husband used to get annoyed and tell him to stop until I chewed him out and told him the above and now he's fine.

We saw his counselor today and she was really pleased with his progress in only the five weeks since she started seeing him. 🙂

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Old 12-06-2019, 12:01 PM
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Wonderful. Despite what pill pusher think, behavior modification is the best and longest lasting method for the child's self control
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Old 12-07-2019, 02:04 AM
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Agreed. When I was in college back in 2005, I was taught that medicating kids used to be heavily shunned because we don't know how those chemicals will impact developing child brains. Such precautions have been abandoned in the last ten to fifteen years because giving someone a pill is easier than actually treating someone.
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