“My 10 year-old child with high-functioning autism is very smart, but he is very, very poorly coordinated. He has difficulty riding his bike, bowling, catching, hitting a tennis ball, kicking, shooting a basketball, diving in a pool, swinging a bat, and throwing. He can’t run fast without tripping, and he has terrible posture. As an infant, he was a later walker (almost 17 months). He was a very sloppy eater, and still has trouble cutting with a knife or the edge of his fork. Also, he had some speech articulation issues. We were hoping he would grow out of all this, but he hasn’t. I wonder if there is anything we could do to help him be less awkward. Does what I’ve described sound “normal” for some children with autism? Or does it sound concerning? How physically uncoordinated should he be before we try to get professional help for him?”
Many children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) have a comorbid condition called Hypotonia, which is sometimes referred to as “floppiness.” This is because the muscles are meant to help support the skeletal system and are designed to prevent certain kinds of motion. Because the muscles are not especially tight, children with Hypotonia frequently experience “hypermobility” (i.e., the ability to move limbs into awkward positions). They often find that they’re able to very easily carry out feats that require flexibility, but not strength or balance (e.g., splits, back-bending, shoulder rotation, etc.). Also, they may display uncommon flexibility in other joints (e.g., fingers).
A diagnosis of Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning (HFA) not only changes the life of the youngster diagnosed, but also that of parents and siblings. Many moms and dads of an AS or HFA youngster must deal with a significant amount of stress related to expensive therapies and treatments, therapy schedules, home treatments, managing job responsibilities, and juggling family commitments.
While some children on the spectrum and their families cope well with the additional challenges that autism brings, for many others, the impact can be overwhelming. Children with AS and HFA face many issues (e.g., the persistent challenge of trying to “fit-in” with their peer group, frustration at not being able to express how they feel, daily anxiety because they can’t make sense of what is happening around them, etc.). As a result, these kids often develop stress-reducing behaviors that can make them appear odd and/or defiant. Some moms and dads even avoid taking their “special needs” youngster out to public places rather than face the reactions from those who don’t understand the disorder. This may cause not only the autistic youngster, but the entire family to become housebound.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) present, it’s no surprise that kids and teens diagnosed with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA)
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