8 Tips for Parents of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome

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Feature website of the week - Durham Region Autism Services

8 Tips for Parents of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
People with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty with the social aspects of life and often have inappropriate responses to social situations. One of the major problems for children with Asperger’s Syndrome is understanding social cues in a given situation. Parents often struggle trying to find the best ways to help their Asperger’s child; it takes time, patience, practice and compassion.

While many parents notice something unusual in their child quite early, most try to explain “unorthodox” behavior of their child by all possible reasons except for the most likely one. When the fact that something is wrong becomes obvious, parents bring their child for psychological assessment. Accepting the diagnosis is a very difficult step. Denial that your child has Asperger’s will not help, the sooner you  accept the reality, the better for  you or your child.

The following tips can be useful for parents of Asperger’s children:

  1. Do not coddle or shelter your child from any situation that might set him/her off. Exposing your child to social situations will allow opportunities for both of you to work through them. With your guidance and over time, your child will be able to learn what the appropriate behaviors are in various situations. In addition, learn what your child’s triggers are to better prepare yourself to diffuse or alter a possible meltdown or display of undesired behavior(s).

  2. Be clear in your explanations of expected and/or desired behaviors when the situations arise. Do not expect that your child should know how to behave in different social situations and settings. Walk them through (thoroughly, but with the use of age-appropriate language) appropriate behaviors as well as emotional responses in accordance with the given social situations. You will have to repeat your explanations, but with time, your child should have a better understanding of the social skills necessary to achieve positive social interactions in diverse situations.

  3. Embrace your child’s passion, creativity, humor and energy when he/she exhibits it. With so much attention on changing your child’s behavior, you have to remember to celebrate the amazing traits of his/her personality. Children will notice the negative attention they are receiving as well as how much work they need to do to be able to enjoy a social life. Use every opportunity to admire your child for the qualities that make them special, talented and loveable. You may forget how important positive reinforcement is when you’re preoccupied with anxiety over the next Asperger’s instance.

  4. Your goal should always be to diffuse the situation. Going head to head with your child will never yield constructive results. If your child has an outburst in any social setting, do not yell at them because that will only make it worse. For example, if you are in a restaurant and the waitress gives your child the wrong meal, don’t yell at your child to stop screaming, crying, banging on the table or for whatever reaction he/she has in response. Ask your child to come with you and take a walk. After you’ve been successful in helping your child regain composure, have a discussion to convey to one another your child’s thoughts and emotions throughout that particular experience. Use this teachable moment to work through your child’s emotions together while coming up with different ways that they can handle a similar situation (or even the same one) in the future.

  5. Since you can’t be with your child all the time, give him/her helpful hints (even if you have to repeat them) by voicing them or leaving little notes in his/her lunchbox, pockets or notebook. For example, when your child goes to lunch and goes to pay the individual at the register, wrap a note around the money to remind him/her to say “thank you”. The types of notes you leave will obviously vary, but the idea is to help remind your child what to do when he/she struggles in a certain social situation.

  6. Provide your child with positive feedback whenever possible. If you see that your child has displayed a desirable behavior whether on his/her own or as an effort to improve on a social skill, praise your child. For example, your child gives his/her last cookie to his/her sibling; make sure you compliment your child with something along the lines of “It was so nice of you to give your last cookie to your sister. I know you really wanted it, but look how happy you made her by giving it to her”. Behaviors that are rewarding for a child will increase the likelihood that those same behaviors will be repeated in the future.

  7. Create a “safe word” or special phrase between you and your child to use to communicate that he/she is having trouble with or is confused by a situation. This “safe word” or special phrase will allow only the parent and child to know what’s going on, which protects a child’s feelings and avoids any possible humiliation that may occur. In addition, it will enable the parent and child to work together to successfully deal with the social situation/setting in the moment.

  8. Try to work with your child to improve both verbal and nonverbal communication. For example, while speaking with your child, continuously remind them to maintain eye contact. Explain to your child that maintaining eye contact will not only show that he/she is interested in the social interaction with the other person, but help them to detect facial expressions and possible hints about how that person feels in the moment. Since children with Asperger’s have an incredibly difficult time picking up social cues, this will take a lot of time and the ability to do this will vary between children. However, do not give up on this tip, no matter how challenging it may be.

Always remember that children don’t wish this upon themselves; Asperger’s is not their fault. As stressful, frustrating and draining as times can be, you have to remain calm without ever blaming your child. With guidance, patience, compassion and love, parents and their children can successfully live with Asperger’s… together.


Durham Region Autism Services is a non-profit organization dedicated to community education on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and supporting individuals and families affected by ASD in Durham Region, Ontario. They organize school and community events, provide training for educational staff, and setup special programs and support groups for children and youth with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Our goal is to ensure that people with autism have the opportunity to reach their full potential and live with dignity. Durham Region Autism Services is run by volunteers only.

Important House hearing on preventing violence this Wednesday

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Preventing Violence: Evidence-Based Programs and Policies to Promote Positive Youth Development
July 22, 2015
1-3:30pm, Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2237

 Though always present, the topic of violence has been particularly salient of late given several uprisings in major cities that are indicative of serious underlying problems.  What it not as often discussed are evidence-based practices and policies to prevent these problems (see op-ed and op-ed). The National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC; see first attachment) will host a briefing with nationally recognized experts on violence prevention and positive youth development. The meeting will focus on individual-level and environmental factors that influence development and increase propensity for youth violence.  Strategies will then be discussed for short-term and longer range reduction in violence.  These strategies can save taxpayer dollars while strengthening individuals, families, and communities. There will be discussion about Youth PROMISE Act (YPA) legislation for helping youth to develop into healthy and successful adults. Co-Sponsor Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott will present on this bipartisan prevention-related legislation.

We have conducted five previous prevention-related briefings (Interventions across Policy AreasScaling-up ImplementationJuvenile Justice Reform; Science to Policy; and Economics of Prevention). This session should be of value to legislators, staffers, administrators, researchers, evaluators, educators, practitioners, advocates, and funders. 


Brief Opening Remarks: Representative Tony Cardenas  (CA-29): Co-Chair of the Crime Prevention and Youth Development Caucus

Welcome by Moderator: Dr. Diana Fishbein, C. Eugene Bennett Chair of Prevention Research at The Penn State University and Director of NPSC.

Framing the Briefing: Dr. Rebecca Vivrette (University of Maryland School of Medicine)

Panel One: Violence: Its origins, prevalence, and effects
Dr. Kristin Anderson Moore
(Senior Scholar, Child Trends): Preventing Violence:  Understanding and Addressing the Determinants of Violence in the United States.

Dr. Peter Scharf (Professor LSU School of Public Health and the Institute for Public Health and Justice): The Social Ecology of Youth Violence: Implications for evidence-based community crime prevention. 

Panel Two: Violence: Prevention via evidence-based programs
Dr. Michael Greene
 (Senior Fellow, Rutgers School of Criminal Justice): Evidence-Based prevention strategies, positive youth development and community youth organizing.

Dr. Thomas Simon  (Deputy Associate Director for Science, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC): Longer-term solutions & prevention: A public health approach. 

Youth PROMISE Act: Legislation to prevent violence and promote productive youth development: Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott  (VA-03) Co-Sponsor

For more information, contact Dr. Neil Wollman, Co-Director of NPSC and Senior Fellow, Bentley UniversityNWollman@Bentley.edu 260-568-0116 

Building an evidence base for effective psychiatric inpatient care and alternative services for suicide prevention

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NIMH, NIDA, SAMHSA, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are seeking information on approaches to better understand: 1) what components of inpatient care are safe and effective in reducing suicide risk for various populations; 2) what are effective alternatives to inpatient care (e.g., telephone counseling, home visits, intensive day/residential treatment, types of respite care) and how they can be broadly implemented; and 3) what type of research designs could compare inpatient interventions with alternative approaches in a safe, acceptable, and fair manner. While a number of interventions for suicide attempters have been effective and even replicated, the effectiveness of inpatient care interventions or alternative approaches in reducing later morbidity (e.g., suicide attempts) and mortality (e.g., suicide deaths) remains a question for many U.S. healthcare systems. Testing the effectiveness of inpatient or alternative approaches is critical for suicidal patients as few empirically-based practices exist for acute care interventions and their follow-up care.

This RFI is intended to seek information about current practices and solicit perspectives on the need for empirical research from stakeholders who are associated with relevant systems of care (e.g., state commissioners, healthcare administrators, insurers, providers, patients, suicide attempt survivors, and family members), and who play a role in the provision of interventions for individuals at acute risk for suicide, as well as researchers focused on such interventions and services research.

Coping with stigma & discrimination: How I became a stronger mental health advocate

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The International Bipolar Foundation is out with another great webinar. Be sure to put it on your calendar!

Emily Wu Truong will share her personal experiences facing stigma & discrimination after coming out with her story of mental health issues. Most recently, in recognition of March as Women's History Month, Emily was selected for the 2015 Woman of the Year Award for Senator Ed Hernandez's 22nd Senate District. Emily has become a role model, demonstrating self-initiative and an indomitable will, delivering her message that with help, there is hope.

About the Speaker
emilyEmily Wu Truong is an emerging leader for mental health awareness, known as the "Lady in Green." She is a Motivational Speaker & Mental Health Advocate, holding a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology & Social Behavior from UC Irvine. As an outspoken advocate, Emily was elected as Chair of the Asian Coalition and serves on the Client & Family Leadership Committee for the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) in Sacramento. As a motivational speaker, Emily has been invited to speak at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, & Raytheon. She is best known for her speeches "Believing in Me: My Journey to Finding My Self-Worth" and "Breaking Down the Walls of Perfectionism." 

Mental Health: Yours, Mine and Ours

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Check out this new video from the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) at the University of Minnesota. In a clear and concise way, Cari Michaels, MPH, helps us understand the importance of addressing the challenge of improving children's mental health through a public health framework.

  • "The term 'mental health' is often misunderstood in our society. Many people think it means the same as 'mental illness,' or they think it’s the exact opposite of mental illness. But the meaning of 'mental health' is more complex than these popular views indicate."

If you are meeting with your congressional representatives any time soon to discuss mental health reform, share this video in advance of your meeting and encourage them to watch it.

Imagine - looking at mental health through a public health lens. Who woulda thunk it?

Treating Youth as Youth in New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System: A Community Call to Action

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The New Jersey Parents Caucus and Drew University will be holding a full day conference for parents, caregivers, professionals, providers, legislators and other interested stakeholders in ensuring New Jersey youth who come in contact with the juvenile justice system are treated as youth. 


  • Treating Youth as Youth in New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System: A Community Call to Action
    DATE:  Saturday, August 8, 2015
    TIME:   9AM – 5PM
    COST:  Free
    For more information, contact Delaney at 908-994-7471 / email: info@njparentcaucus.org / www.newjerseyparentscaucus.org

The conference agenda will include: 

9AM – Welcome & Introductions
Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte, Drew University, Linda McConneyhead, New Jersey Parents Caucus

9:15AM – Keynote Speaker
Theodore Shaw, Community Advocate, Southern Poverty Law Center

10:30AM – NJPC Youth Coalition Panel/Q&A
David Crosby, Brett Sansing, Devante Maloney, Karlee Frazier, Jose Rosario, Dallas Crosby

11:30PM - NJ Strategy on Reforming the Juvenile Justice System
Alyson Clements, State Strategist, National Juvenile Justice Network

12:30PM – Lunch

1:30PM - Children & Youth Treated Unfairly in New Jersey’s Adult  Prison System

The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey’s Adult Prison System Data Brief
Kathy Wright, New Jersey Parents Caucus

Afternoon roundtables

  • Solitary Confinement & Isolation
  • Youth with Mental Health Challenges & the Juvenile Justice System
  • Education of Incarcerated Youth
  • Immigration Issues & the Juvenile Justice System
  • Racial & Ethnic Disparities
  • Federal & State Legislative Policy
  • Faith-based Community & Juvenile Justice Reform
  • Youth Incarcerated in the Adult Prison System
  • Family & Youth Engagement

4:45PM - Next Steps & Closing

HHS awards Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants

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HHS Press Release ~
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) Director Evelyn Kappeler announced today more than $86 million in teen pregnancy prevention grants to non-profit organizations, school districts, universities, and others. The 81 new grants are expected to serve more than 291,000 youth each year in communities where teen birth rates remain high.

The OAH grants support replication of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs in communities with the greatest need; increase capacity in communities to serve vulnerable youth, including homeless youth, parenting youth and those in juvenile detention and foster care; fill gaps in the knowledge of what works to prevent teen pregnancy; and test new, innovative approaches to combating teen pregnancy. These awards provide the first year of funding for a five-year grant period.

“The HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program provides an opportunity for a broad range of programs to have a lasting impact on reducing teen pregnancy,” said Kappeler. “The grants are focused on reaching young people in communities where high teen pregnancy rates persist.”

Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program grants were awarded in four categories:

  • Community Capacity Building to Support Replication of Evidence-Based TPP Programs (Tier 1A): OAH awarded a total of $5,774,252 to eight grantees to help communities build capacity to implement and evaluate programs for populations with teen birth rates well above the national average and with organizations serving youth in juvenile detention and foster care or who are homeless or young parents.
  • Replicating Evidence-Based TPP Programs to Scale in Communities with the Greatest Need (Tier 1B): OAH awarded a total of $59,563,930 to 50 grantees in 31 states and the Marshall Islands to replicate evidence-based TPP programs in multiple settings in communities where teen birth rates are significantly higher than the national average. The grants focus on implementing programs in schools, clinics, and community-based settings to allow youth to receive multiple medically accurate, age appropriate, evidence-based programs during their adolescence. The programs also focus on reaching especially vulnerable youth including youth in foster care, youth in juvenile detention, expectant and parenting teens, and older youth, and those living in rural areas.
  • Supporting and Enabling Early Innovation to Advance Adolescent Health and Prevent Teen Pregnancy (Tier 2A): OAH awarded a total of $2,999,988 to fund two grantees, one focused on technology-based innovations and one focused on program innovations. Each grantee will hold a national competition to select between 5-15 innovators who will receive funding to develop, test, and refine innovative products, programs, and/or processes to advance adolescent health and prevent teen pregnancy.
  • Rigorous Evaluation of New or Innovative Approaches to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (Tier 2B): OAH awarded total of $18,158,473 to 21 grantees working to increase the number of evidence-based TPP interventions available by rigorously evaluating new or innovative approaches for preventing teen pregnancy and related risk behaviors. Grantees will evaluate new interventions for Latino and American Indian youth, those in foster care, incarcerated youth, LGBTQ youth, several clinic-based interventions, and several technology-based interventions.

To see a list of award recipients, visit:

To learn more about OAH’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, visit: www.hhs.gov/ash/oah

"Adult Ally" What does it mean to parents?

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As a parent when you hear the term “Adult Ally” in the context of role in the life of your young adult how do you feel?

As parents raising our youth who are transitioning to adulthood how are we handling the change in roles? Lisa Lambert the Executive Director of PPAL posted on her blog January 4, 2015, The imminent demise of parent voice, sort of…

  • “Parents are unique in their son’s or daughter’s life. Their relationship has many layers and textures and nuances that no one else can come close to.”

Join the TA Center in a public conversation where family and youth leaders openly discuss how they distinguish the role of their parents from other supportive adults in their lives.

  •  Webinar: "Adult Ally" What Does it Mean to Parents?
  • July 16, 2015, 1:00-2:30 PM E.T.
  • Register here


  • Teresa King, Family Content Specialist, National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (NFFCMH) and National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, Georgetown University
  • Lisa Lambert, Executive Director, Parent Professional Advocacy League (PPAL)
  • Johanna Bergan, Executive Director, Youth M.O.V.E. National (YMN)

SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative launches new campaign

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SAMHSA Press Release: Monday, June 15, 2015

Raising awareness about the impact of child traumatic stress and what parents and caregivers can do to help children recover and thrive is the focus of a new public education campaign launched today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and its National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI). The campaign, titled “Helping Kids Recover and Thrive” includes new public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish, as well as a website.

“Too many children and youth experience traumatic events, from serious injuries and illnesses to interpersonal violence, abuse, and neglect to natural or human-caused disasters.  With support, children can recover from traumatic stress through a supportive caregiving system, access to effective treatments, and service systems that are trauma-informed,” says Paolo del Vecchio, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. “Our job is to improve the quality of community-based trauma treatment and services and increase access to effective trauma-focused interventions so that children and their families can get the help they need.”

Forty-one percent of children and youth experienced a physical assault in the last year, and 1 in 10 experienced an assault-related injury. More than 1 in 10 experienced maltreatment by a caregiver. According to the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study adverse childhood experiences increases the likelihood of adult strokes, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, early death – and lowered job performance and employment levels. Over half of the more than 17,000 participants in the study had been exposed to at least one adverse childhood experience such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.  Adults who had six or more adverse experiences were likely to die 20 years sooner than those with none.

Since the enactment of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, NCTSI has been actively helping children and their families recover and thrive through the funding and support of a network of intervention developers and centers called the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (link is external) (NCTSN). In fact, since its inception, NCTSN has trained more than one million health professionals including mental health professionals, primary care providers, and other professionals in child-serving systems, consumers, and members of the public. Additionally, more than 200 grants have been awarded to 180 member centers providing trauma treatment to thousands, and these centers have been able to provide evidence-based treatment to hundreds of thousands of children, adolescents, and their families.

  • To view NCTSI’s PSAs and learn more about NCTSI, visit www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma.
  • For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.
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