May 23, 2012

Coping with Obsessions and Rituals in Aspergers Kids

One of the hallmarks of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism is the development of obsessive thinking and the performing of ritual behaviors done to reduce stress and anxiety. This type of behavior can later meet the criteria in adulthood for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Aspergers children often have an obsessive interest in a particular subject -- and very little interest in much else. They may obsessively seek information about maps or clocks or some other topic. They may also be very inflexible in their habits and may rigidly adhere to certain routines or rituals. These obsessions and compulsions are believed to be biological in origin. This means that it is very difficult to go to therapy or just talk the individual out of the rituals.
Even so, there is some evidence to suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy may help control some of the behaviors and makes the child aware of ways to recognize when the behavior is occurring so as to stop it before it occurs. This kind of therapy, in general, can be helpful for children, teens and adults with Aspergers because it focuses on concrete behavioral and “thought” changes necessary to function on a day-to-day basis.
Parents may need to simply be supportive of the child who so rigidly hangs onto rituals she doesn’t understand. Unless the child has done a lot of therapy, it takes a great deal of effort to fight the rituals, nor does it help to punish the child for them.
There are medications, often used in obsessive compulsive disorder, that can take the edge off of the ritual behavior and obsessions, especially when used along with cognitive behavioral therapy. No medication is without side effects, and the improvement may not be complete.

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