Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Parenting Aspergers Children: Helpful Strategies

Aspergers is a developmental disorder falling within the autistic spectrum affecting two-way social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and a reluctance to accept change, inflexibility of thought and to have all absorbing narrow areas of interest.

Individuals are usually extremely good on rote memory skills (facts, figures, dates, times etc.) many excel in math and science. There is a range of severity of symptoms within the syndrome, the very mildly affected youngster often goes undiagnosed and may just appear odd or eccentric.

While Aspergers is much more common than Autism it is still a rare condition and few individuals, including professionals, will know about it much less have experience of it. It seems to affect more boys than girls. In general terms they find making friends difficult, not understanding the subtle clues needed to do so. They often use language in a slightly odd way and take literal meanings from what is read or heard. They are happiest with routines and a structured environment, finding it difficult to decide what to do they fall back on to their preferred activities. They love praise, winning and being first, but find loosing, imperfection and criticism very difficult to take. Bad behavior often stems from an inability to communicate their frustrations and anxieties. They need love and tenderness, care, patience and understanding. Within this framework they seem to flourish.

Kids with Aspergers are for the most part bright, happy and loving kids. If we can help break through to their 'own little world' we can help them to cope a little better in society. They have a need to finish tasks they have started. Strategies can be developed to reduce the stress they experience at such times. Warnings that an activity is to finish in x minutes can help with older kids. With younger kids attempts to 'save' the task help - videoing a program, mark in a book etc.

As the kids mature some problems will get easier, but like all other kids new problems will emerge. Some teenagers can feel the lack of friendships difficult to cope with as they try hard to make friends in their own way but find it hard to keep them. This is not always the case; many have friends who act as 'buddies' for long periods of time. Social skills will have to be taught in an effort for them to find a place in the world ... so take all opportunities to explain situations time and time again ..... and one may work!

Please bear in mind that booklets such as this do tend to detail all the problems which can be found within a syndrome but that does not mean every youngster will have all of them. Each youngster will also have different levels of achievements and difficulties. They are after all just as the others ... individuals!

Is Aspergers The Same As Autism?

The debate on this question still continues, some experts say that Aspergers should be classified separately; others argue that the core difficulties are the same, only the degree to which they are seen in the kids actually makes the difference. One expert - Uta Frith - has referred to Aspergers kids as 'Having a dash of Autism'.

Autism is often interpreted as a withdrawal from normal life - to live in the persons own fantasy world. This is no longer the real meaning of Autism. The severity of the impairments is much greater than in Aspergers, and often the youngster will have little or no language. Learning problems are more common in classic Autism. In Aspergers speech is usual and intelligence (cognitive ability) is usually average or even above average.

For the moment it is taken that the similarities are enough for both Autism and Aspergers to be considered within the same 'spectrum' of developmental disorders. While a clear diagnosis is essential, it can change through life. The autistic traits seen in young kids can often seem less severe as the youngster matures and learns strategies to cope with his/her difficulties.

Key Features—

The main areas affected by Aspergers are:

• Communication
• Narrow Interests / Preoccupation's
• Repetitive routines / rituals, inflexibility
• Social interaction

Social Interaction—

Kids with Aspergers have poor social skills. They cannot read the social cues and, therefore, they don't give the right social and emotional responses. They can lack the desire to share information and experiences with others. These problems are less noticeable with moms and dads and adults, but it leads to an inability to make age appropriate friends. This in turn can lead to frustration and subsequent behavior problems. They find the world a confusing place. They are often alone, some are happy like this, others are not. They are more noticeably different among peer groups in unstructured settings i.e. playgrounds. Their naiveté can cause them to be bullied and teased unless care is taken by assistants or buddies to integrate and help protect them. They can often focus on small details and fail to see the overall picture of what is happening in any situation.


Both verbal and nonverbal communications pose problems. Spoken language is often not entirely understood, so it should be kept simple, to a level they can understand. Take care to be precise. Metaphor s (non-literal expressions - 'food for thought') and similes (figures of speech - 'as fit as a fiddle') have to be explained as kids with Aspergers tend to make literal and concrete interpretations. Language acquisition - learning to speak - in some cases can be delayed. They make much use of phrases they have memorized, although they may not be used in the right context. A certain amount of translation may be needed in order to understand what they are trying to say.

Spoken language can sometimes be odd, perhaps they don't have the local accent or they are too loud for a situation or overly formal or speak in a monotonous tone. If the youngster with Aspergers has a good level of spoken language you must not assume their understanding is at the same level. Some talk incessantly (hyper verbal) often on a topic of interest only to themselves without knowing the boredom of the listener.

Difficulties in using the right words or forming conversations are part of semantic-pragmatic difficulties. They appear often to talk 'at' rather than 'to' you, giving information rather that holding proper conversations. Body language and facial expressions of a youngster with Aspergers can appear odd (stiff eye gaze rather than eye contact) and find 'reading' these things in others gives rise to further difficulties. Early age is known as Hyperlexia. Some kids have remarkable reading abilities although you should check if they also understand the text. The ability to read fluently without understanding the meaning is known as Hyperlexia.

Narrow Interests / Preoccupations—

One of the hallmarks of Aspergers is the youngster's preoccupation (or obsession) with certain topics, often on themes of transport - trains in particular-or computers, dinosaurs, maps etc. These pre-occupations, usually in intellectual areas change over time but not in intensity, and maybe pursued to the exclusion of other activities.

Repetitive Routines / Inflexibility—

Kids often impose rigid routine on themselves and those around them, from how they want things done, to what they will eat etc. It can be very frustrating for all concerned. Routines will change from time to time, as they mature they are perhaps a little easier to reason with. This inflexibility shows itself in other ways too, giving rise to difficulties with imaginative and creative thinking. The youngster tends to like the same old thing done in the same old way over and over again! They often can't see the point of a story or the connection between starting a task and what will be the result. They usually excel at rote memory - learning information without understanding, but it can still be an asset. Attempts should always be made to explain everything in a way they can understand. Don't assume because they parrot information back that they know what they are talking about.


If the youngster with Aspergers is to be educated in a mainstream school it is important that the correct amount of support is made available. In order to get the correct support a Statement of Special Educational Needs should be drawn up from the various advice supplied by you and the specialists. This procedure, when it begins, can take 6 months and be a very stressful and confusing time - don't be afraid to contact individuals who can help, this need not be a professional it may just be someone who has done it all before.

It is beneficial if the school of your choice is willing to learn about the difficulties that they and the youngster will face, some schools are better than other on this score. Looking at several schools will give a better picture of exactly what is available. The support currently offered in mainstream school is by Special Support Assistants (SSA) for a certain number of hours each week based on the youngster's needs in order to help the youngster access the curriculum and develop in a social setting. A support teacher with specialist knowledge of Autism should support the youngster, SSA, teacher and school in understanding and teaching the youngster. Other professional input may also be required such as speech and language therapy to help develop skills.

The home/school link is vital; a diary can prove invaluable giving two way communication on achievements and problems on a regular basis.

Helpful Strategies—

There are many things you can do to help your youngster better understand the world and in doing so make everyone's lives a little easier.

The ideas below are only suggestions which you may or may not find helpful:

• Begin early to teach the difference between private and public places and actions, so that they can develop ways of coping with more complex social rules later in life.
• Don't always expect them to 'act their age' they are usually immature and you should make some allowances for this.
• Explain why they should look at you when you speak to them.... encourage them; give lots of praise for any achievement - especially when they use a social skill without prompting.
• Find a way of coping with behavior problems - perhaps trying to ignore it if it's not too bad or hugging sometimes can help.
• In some young kids who appear not to listen - the act of 'singing' your words can have a beneficial effect.
• Keep all your speech simple - to a level they understand.
• Keep instructions simple ... for complicated jobs use lists or pictures.
• Let them know that you love them - wart's an' all' - and that you are proud of them. It can be very easy with a youngster who rarely speaks not to tell them all the things you feel inside.
• Limit any choices to two or three items.
• Limit their 'special interest' time to set amounts of time each day if you can.
• Pre-warn them of any changes, and give warning prompts if you want them to finish a task... “When you have colored that in we are going shopping.”
• Promises and threats you make will have to be kept - so try not to make them too lightly.
• Teach them some strategies for coping - telling individuals who are teasing perhaps to 'go away' or to breathe deeply and count to 20 if they feel the urge to cry in public.
• Try to build in some flexibility in their routine, if they learn early that things do change and often without warning - it can help.
• Try to get confirmation that they understand what you are talking about/or asking - don't rely on a stock yes or no - that they like to answer with.
• Try to identify stress triggers - avoid them if possible -be ready to distract with some alternative 'come and see this...' etc.
• Use turn taking activities as much as possible, not only in games but at home too.

Remember, they are kids just like the rest, they have their own personalities, abilities, likes and dislikes - they just need extra support, patience and understanding from everyone around them.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

Dr. Hutten,

Thank you for the email. It is useful information.

I’ve attached 2 documents that you might interesting. I found that everything discussed in them is exactly what my child is like or are the problems he has. I would have never guessed that even the other Special Needs children essentially bully him by ostracizing him.

He’s now in 8th grade and so far behind. The school, up to know, did nothing to advance him socially and with comprehension. We are considering sending him to a private school next year, and even possibly holding him back a year. What sort of things should we look for in a private school?

Thanks for the email and your advice.


Mark Hutten, M.A. said...

Mark Hutten
to G.

11:58 AM (30 minutes ago)

Don't rely on hearsay and rumor when it comes to deciding between private and public. Visit the schools and ask the teachers lots of questions. Read school profiles. At the end of the day, the best school for your child is a highly personal decision based on your family, your values, and most importantly, the special needs, idiosyncrasies, and interests of your child. Let the debate rage on, but don't forget about the one person for whom this decision is far more than sandbox banter.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for the newsletters. Our little guy is 3 and we are having him evaluated on the 14th of October for possible Aspergers. Most of what I see can be classified as anxiety and OCD behaviors. It is interesting though my sons father and grandfather have serious anxiety issues as well. They do not share the OCD but the certainly suffer from anxiety issues. Which as a wife can be very difficult to deal with. I certainly hope to gain some skills to help our son be successful and not have the same difficulties as my husband. Your website is a gem thank you for taking the time to create it.

All the best,


Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for these articles and weekly messages. It means a lot to have someone with such positive and helpful knowledge plugging in to our lives as parents. Thank you for what you do.


A happy & grateful mom.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Hutten,

I am Student and I am writing an essay on aspergers. I was wondering in which year was your book entitled: The Aspergers Comprehensive Hand Book written?

Kind Regards,

Futue Teacher

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

Click here to read the full article...

Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

Click here to read the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content