If you or your child have received an Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, you may be wondering what the next steps are.
Your doctor may prescribe medication or therapies, depending on your needs and situation, but that may not be enough.
It is recommended that you work with your doctor or an autism specialist to develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your needs, but this is not always possible and many are left to try to cope and find treatments themselves.
Is there a Cure?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a curable condition – it is something that is lasts for the entirety of life – but this does not mean that those on the spectrum are incapable of adapting or leading a happy and successful life.
Many people on the spectrum argue that it doesn’t need to be cured and consider such talk to be insulting.
Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a personality disorder and affects the way a person thinks, speaks, and acts – in essence, it is a part of their identity. There is nothing wrong with being different or unique, and everyone on the spectrum has talents and gifts that they can share with the world.
Those who choose to seek treatment, do so to address the particular issues and challenges that interfere with them leading a happy life.
Teens and adults have an advantage over children with the disorder, in that they can better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and work to overcome their challenges. Children on the other hand, have greater access to therapies and other resources to help them adjust and cope with their impaired abilities, as well we develop skills they need to succeed.
There are many people on the spectrum who learn to form lasting relationships, get married, raise a family, build successful careers around their interests, and live happy and successful lives. This is where we explore the options available so that you or your child can do just that.
If you look online, you can generally find various treatments, diets, supplements, therapies, and more that may claim to reduce symptoms or even cure it. Due to the lack of testing of these treatments or these claims, it is best to pursue more reliable treatment options that address the specific issues you or your child are struggling with.
Many on the spectrum suffer from depression, anxiety, and sensory disorders which can greatly impact their ability to function in society or live on their own.
The particular issues you target for treatment may vary, as the severity, coping mechanisms, needs, and difficulties are generally going to be different from many others on the spectrum.
Finding the right treatments that help may take time, but with persistence and the right support, anyone on the spectrum can improve.
When researching treatments and exploring the options available to you, look for what best suits you or your child’s particular needs and challenges.
If you are experiencing family issues (arguing, not talking to each other, etc.), you may want to consider seeking outside help from an experienced autism therapist or counselor.
Often autism can put a heavy strain on relationships and create adversity between family members. This is generally due to a lack of understanding of the disorder and a lack of accommodations or lifestyle changes to address the needs of the autistic individual.
If you or your child is overreacting or under-reacting to sensory input, you may want to explore sensory integration therapy, a form of occupational therapy. This treatment is usually only available to children, but adults may also benefit from it.
Sensory integration therapy involves doing specific sensory activities to help respond appropriately to sound, light, touch, smells, or taste. The activities are targeted to the individual’s particular sensory challenges.
Often these activities provide sensory stimulation that are enjoyable, calming, and fun.
If you would like to try this therapy, you can easily do some of these therapy sessions at home by purchasing sensory stimulating widgets, toys, and equipment.
These sensory stimulating tools can greatly reduce stress and help cope with school or other social situations and stressful environments.
Social Interaction and Relationships
Those with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, often feel that they were born without the social skills and ability to adequately interact and form relationships with others.
You or your child may feel lonely, awkward, and even unwanted. This often leads to low self confidence, which makes socializing even more difficult.
Much of in-person communication is unspoken. Typically people communicate through body language, tone, and indirect speech. Those on the spectrum have an impaired ability to detect and comprehend these signals, resulting in a lot of misunderstandings and mistakes. This takes a toll on their confidence, often leaving them to feel embarrassed, humiliated, or extremely uncomfortable and even frightened.
The good news is that social and communication skills can be developed and improved upon in time with persistence, research, practice, and lots of emotional support.
This generally involves reading (or listening) to audio books on communication and body language, lots of exposure to safe social situations, and frequent encouragement and positive enforcement from friends and family.
One of the best books that talks about how to communicate and read body language is called The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, written by Jack Schafer Ph.D. and Marvin Karlins Ph.D. This book is best for teens and adults on the spectrum as it can greatly help provide a lot of insight and understanding into the unspoken cues they so often miss.
When being exposed to social situations, it is important to ensure the environment is “safe” – meaning that it is likely to result in a positive interaction that will increase confidence and comfort. The amount of stress and anxiety should be kept to a minimum, this can be done by choosing quiet, comfortable settings that are not overly crowded and that does not draw too much attention to the autistic individual.
Because most people on the spectrum have low self confidence, they generally need a lot of honest and positive encouragement. Without adequate support from close friends and family, they will not have sufficient confidence or the desire to seek out new interactions or relationships.
Anxiety and Depression
Having a social impairment often leads to a lack of relationships or weak ones that do not fulfill the emotional needs of the person on the spectrum. Overtime this can result in depression and as interactions go poorly (in their eyes), they can develop social anxiety.
Depression and anxiety are common for people on the spectrum, but thankfully it is treatable.
One of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This treatment may be used in conjunction with other treatments, but it involves changing negative automatic thought patterns into positive ones.
Others seek to treat these disorders with antidepressants and other prescription medications. While some see improvement, others do not. Many antidepressants have been shown to increase the risk of suicide, so use caution, do your research, and talk to your doctor before beginning this kind of treatment.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, we recommend that you read this free online book written by a professional and who has helped thousands of suicidal individuals.
There are suicide hotlines, online chats, and email services that are free and connect you with someone who can help you. You can also receive counseling in-person or online that can help you overcome this difficult chapter in your life. Some counseling options have income-based programs.
Even if you’ve felt this way for many years, there is help and it isn’t hopeless. There are many others on the spectrum hurting like you are. Feelings can short out our logical reasoning, and lead us to make very poor decisions. Get help, there is hope – we know because we’ve been there.
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, do not react negatively – do not say things like “…you better not be thinking about killing yourself…” or anything that condemns their feelings or makes them feel worse. This can result in your child not talking to you about it and becoming secretive, and potentially increasing the likelihood of them taking their own life.
Consult with a suicide prevention specialist on how to proceed and work on getting your child some help before it’s too late.
Here is a list of suicide prevention hotlines, services, and programs:
International Suicide Prevention Hotlines
Find suicide hotlines by country.
Lifeline Crisis Chat
Need to talk to someone? Do so online with the crisis chat.
Getting Help in School
When it comes to education, schools can offer some support, and some even offer physical, occupational, or speech therapy sessions at the the school. For many on the spectrum, going to school is stressful.
Bullying is not uncommon, even poor treatment by teachers and other staff at the school has been reported in support groups by many parents.
A lot of parents have chosen to homeschool their autistic child, either using their own curriculum or enrolling them in an online public school.
Federal and State Assistance
Depending on the severity of the disorder, when you or your child receive an official diagnosis, it may be possible to quality for state and federal assistance. This may include medicaid, physical therapy, vocational training, job placement, and sometimes even housing.
In the US, there are some on the spectrum that receive disability payments through Social Security, but getting approved is a long and difficult process. Before being approved, they are often rejected one or more times, and required legal assistance to challenge the decision. The cost for the legal representation may be taken from the amount awarded if the case is won.
The requirements and availability of government programs and assistance varies greatly.
If you qualify for assistance, you may experience long waits, need to travel long distances for testing or therapy, and be required to complete or meet different requirements.
What assistance you can receive will generally depend on your location, diagnosis, severity of the disorder, and income.
If you experience difficulty receiving assistance for Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, you may want to look into assistance for the particular issues you have and see if there are additional options for you.
Online Support Groups
There are many support groups online that provide a means to contact and interact with others on the spectrum. Facebook has several groups for Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder to help individuals and parents of children with the condition. Here are some of our favorites…
Adults with Aspergers
This group is for Autists of all walks of life to get together and express themselves freely, without pressure to mould ourselves to our cultural norms. We aren’t like other people and this is a place for us to revel in that. The group is “unmoderated” in regards to freedom of expression, but solicitous posts get removed. The page owner (me) watches out for things like Ads and Scams.
This is a safe place where Autistics of all sorts can come and be a family. It’s a closed group with an open door policy for any autist. Invite whomever you like, just please remember that this is an Autistic Friendly Zone.
Adults with Aspergers Syndrome 2
This group is designed for aspies to socialize or vent, however it can also be useful to NTs to learn a thing or two about autism spectrum disorders, or to just socialize with a community themselves.
Relationships With Asperger’s Spouses/Partners
This is a public support group for spouses/partners who are married to – or in a relationship with – someone on the autism spectrum (e.g., Asperger’s, High-Functioning Autism). Joining is not necessary to view posts.
Parents of Children with Asperger’s Support Group
This is a judgement free zone. A good place to vent or ask if anyone knows of resources. Being an Asperger’s parent can be hard and difficult at times and people who don’t know our kids may think they are “spoiled brats” or we are looked upon as not parenting our kids properly. We have members in 100 countries so remember that the resources at school or in the community maybe different, but we all want to improve our support of our children and each other.
Parents of Children with Asperger’s (High Functioning Autism)
This support group was created for Parents of children with High Functioning Autism. This is a closed group where parents can have a safe place to communicate with each other, find support, share ideas, exchange information and just vent if need be. If you are a teacher, psychologist or student this is not the place for you.
Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness and Support Group
This is a public group that shares positive encouragement, information, resources and more. You do not have to join to view the posts.