Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What to Do if your Child with Autism / Asperger's is Not Focusing in School by Jack Ori

On Wednesday, November 14th at 1 p.m. PST, Autism Empowerment Radio welcomes back Autism & Asperger's Life Coach, Jack Ori to talk about What to Do if your Child with ASD is not focusing in school.
We wanted to share the blog which inspired this particular show. This is a guest blog at Autism Empowerment written by Jack Ori of SJA Advocacy. This comes directly from his blog, The SJA Advocate and his reprinted with his permission.
** Please note that Jack's blog refers to "Children with Aspergers" because this is his area of specialty, however his strategies below will also work with many children on the autism spectrum. As each child with autism is different, realize that not every accommodation will work with every child. We will be discussing additional accommodations and broaden the show so that it is focused more broadly across the entire autism spectrum. **

The choice to medicate should be made only by you and your doctor
Many people with Aspergers have difficulty with focusing and concentration for a variety of reasons. Children with Aspergers may experience sensory overstimulation, become overwhelmed or frustrated with schoolwork or not be engaged enough with the material to want to focus on it. Often, parents of such children wonder whether medication would help their children focus.

The decision whether to medicate or not is a personal decision that should be made by parents with the help of their pediatrician and any specialists they see who have expertise in autistic spectrum differences. Here are some of the accommodations that may help children with Aspergers focus, with or without medication:

  • Moving the child to a quieter area of the classroom. If the child has sensory issues that are distracting him or her, a quiet corner that has less distractions can often aid in focus. Children with Aspergers may also benefit from wearing earplugs or headphones while working to block out other sounds.
  • Giving the child modified worksheets and assignments that have fewer problems or questions per page and larger type to get his or her attention.
  • Playing into the child’s obsessive interests whenever possible. For example, if a child with Aspergers is obsessed with baseball, parents or teachers can use baseball scores to teach math, read books about baseball to practice reading and look on the map to see where favorite teams are playing to practice U.S. geography. This keeps the child interested, making it more likely that he or she will focus.
  • Using a rewards chart and rewarding the child for remaining in his or her seat, focusing on work for a certain period of time or completing assignments.
  • Using a timer with large numbers to help the child know how much longer her or she is expected to focus for.
  • Working with the child one-on-one.

This is only a partial list of accommodations. Not all accommodations work with every child, but with some creativity and resourcefulness, you can figure out methods that work well with your child.

What to Do If A Teacher Recommends Medication
Unfortunately, many mainstream classrooms are overcrowded, making it difficult for teachers to give your child the one-on-one help or other accommodations he or she needs. As a result, teachers may sometimes recommend you take your child to the doctor and look into medication without considering other accommodations.

Keep in mind that most teachers are not doctors–only your pediatrician and/or autism specialist can decide whether medication is a viable option for your child. In addition, your child has the right to accommodations if he or she needs them in order to learn successfully.

If a teacher is concerned about your child’s ability to focus and suggests medication, the best thing to do is ask to observe the classroom. That way, you can see exactly what your child is doing that concerns the teacher and what the teacher is doing to try to help.

Remember that the purpose of observation is not to “catch” the teacher doing something you don’t like. Teachers and parents can and should be on the same side: helping your child succeed academically and socially. So when you observe, your goals should be to see what your child’s behaviors of concern are and to work with the teacher to improve the situation.

Be as unobtrusive as possible when you observe. Sit in the back of the room or another location that is not near your child. You want to do your best not to influence your child’s behavior. Take notes but don’t interact directly with your child or the teacher during instructional time.

After you have observed, make an appointment to talk with the teacher about what you noticed. Solicit the teacher’s opinions about what was going on in the classroom and then share your thoughts. Try to brainstorm solutions together.

It may also be a good idea to ask for an IEP meeting after you finish your observations. That way, you can discuss your thoughts with the teacher, administrators and other professionals that work with your child. You can get the accommodations you think are best put directly into the IEP and can also create a behavioral intervention plan–a part of the IEP that explains how to address problematic behaviors and what behavioral goals you hope to help your child reach.

After doing all this work, you should be in a better position to decide whether you need to pursue medication for your child to help him or her succeed. Regardless of what you decide, you’ll know exactly what your child is doing and what you want to help him or her do so that you can discuss medication more realistically with your doctor.

copyright 2012 Jack Ori - used with permission of author. Original article at:

Friday, November 2, 2012

What to Do if your Child with Asperger Syndrome is Being Bullied

On Wednesday, November 7th at Noon PST, Autism Empowerment Radio welcomes back Autism & Asperger's Life Coach, Jack Ori to talk about What to Do if your Child with Asperger Syndrome is being bullied.

You can call into the show at (602) 753-1530, listen to it live at or
We wanted to share the blog which inspired this particular show. This is a guest blog at Autism Empowerment written by Jack Ori of SJA Advocacy. This comes directly from his blog, The SJA Advocate and his reprinted with his permission.

Bullying is a widespread problem among all children. Children who are perceived as “different” such as those with Aspergers syndrome are particularly vulnerable to bullying because their differences are noticeable and they might not know the correct way to handle it. As a parent, you want to encourage as much independence as your child is capable of, but you also may need to advocate for him or her in order to put a stop to bullying.
Teach Your Child What Bullying Looks Like
One of the challenges that children with Aspergers sometimes face is that they may not know the difference between someone who is really their friend and someone who is pretending to be their friend in order to bully them. Last season an episode of Parenthood demonstrated this via a storyline where Max, who has Aspergers, was unaware that some of his classmates asked him the answers to math problems in order to laugh at him and not because they liked him. Children with Aspergers may also do things like trade dollars for coins that are worth less because they think the people asking them to do so are their friends. They may also break rules and get themselves in trouble because a bully told them to and they think that person is their friend.
The best way to handle this problem is to teach your child what bullying looks like so that he or she can more easily avoid bullies. You want to protect your child from being taken advantage of or influenced negatively. Depending on your child, you might want to role play different scenarios, read stories together or watch scenarios on television. Discuss each scenario you play, read or watch with your child. Ask your child if the bully in the scenario was the other child’s friend so that you can discuss what makes someone your friend or not.
You should also give your child some general rules to follow so that they can tell the difference between bullying behavior and friendly behavior. Many children with Aspergers have a finely tuned sense of right and wrong. Teach your child that if another child tells them to do something that they think is wrong, they shouldn’t listen. Explain that  friends don’t expect them to do things that they think are wrong or that make them feel bad.
Meet With Your Child’s Teacher
If you believe another child is bullying your child, the next line of defense after talking to your child about what to do is to meet with the child’s teacher to explain your concerns. Children with Aspergers sometimes have a hard time communicating if they are being bullied. In addition, teachers may sometimes think your child just needs to stop reacting to bullies or stop behaving in ways that attract bullying.
For all these reasons, it’s important to talk with the teacher if you have any concerns regarding bullying. Approach the conversation from the perspective that you’re concerned about the issue and want the teacher’s help rather than wanting the teacher to do something specific to resolve the problem. This leaves space for you and the teacher to come up with solutions together to help your child. If you enlist the teacher as an ally, you may be able to find a way to resolve the problem that doesn’t require a lot of parental involvement. This is important for fostering independence and avoiding the appearance that your child is a “baby” who always runs to their parent, which can lead to more bullying.
Put Things In Perspective
All bullying is wrong. There are too many stories of children who commit suicide or who lash out violently at classmates because they have been bullied. So you certainly don’t want to ignore it if your child is being bullied. At the same time, you don’t want to react to every incident the same way. Save your energy for the bigger battles–if a child is continually bullying your child after you’ve taught your child to recognize bullies and walk away, if your child is unhappy or angry because of being bullied or if another child physically attacks your child.
It’s hard to find a balance between protecting your child and letting him or her solve problems themselves. This is challenging for all parents, but it’s especially challenging for parents of children with Aspergers because sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your child fully understands what’s going on.
The best thing to do is keep lines of communication open with both your child and the school. Talk to your child about what he or she experiences in school. Encourage your child to talk about what’s happening socially as well as what’s happening in class–some children with Aspergers don’t consider social interactions important enough to tell you about. You should also check in regularly with your child’s teacher to see how things are going in general and to create a relationship with that person so that you can find out about and handle problems.
Parenting a child with Aspergers is challenging in many respects, and dealing with bullies is one of the harder ones because you want to protect your child from harm. If you practice communication with both your child and the school, it will help you resolve problems before they get out of control.
Thank you so much to our guest blogger, Jack Ori!  
Jack Ori has earned a living as a freelance author since 2009 and has written over 5,000 articles on financial, legal and self-help topics. He has a Bachelor's in Psychology from Pitzer College and a Masters in Creative Writing from USC. He draws upon personal experience as a person with autism to inspire others who are facing significant obstacles to a fulfilling life to find ways to succeed. He now also works as a Communications Coach for teenagers and families with Asperger's.
Jack is available for consultation at: