Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


40 Tips for Parenting Defiant Teens with Asperger Syndrome

Parenting teenagers is hard enough ...right? But throw "Asperger Syndrome" (high functioning autism) into the equation - and now you really got a mountain to climb. Do not despair! Here you will find 40 ways to effectively parent, nurture, and discipline your defiant Aspergers teen:

1. Writing Assignments - Education sometimes alters unwanted “Aspergers-related” behavior. Examples include:
  • learning about a particular culture, religion or disability in order to develop understanding or tolerance
  • researching the long-term effects of smoking or drug usage
  • talking with teen parents to learn what sacrifices they have made

Such an assignment should include considerable thinking, learning, and dialogue with moms and dads, rather than simply writing a certain number of words without much independent thought.

2. Tolerating Behavior - When establishing a relationship or dealing with multiple behaviors, it may be necessary to tolerate some behaviors temporarily. This is a purposeful, thought-out choice on the part of the mother/father based on:
  • age and developmental level of teen involved
  • current situation
  • priorities
  • relationship
  • specific treatment issues
  • values

This is not to be confused with passivity, avoiding conflict, letting the Aspergers youngster "do whatever they want," inconsistently enforcing expectations or other methods that don't work.

3. Temporarily Removing One or More Privileges - It is not meaningful or realistic to "remove all privileges." This generally leads to resentment towards the parent and a lack of understanding or personal responsibility. When this technique is chosen:
  • it must be made clear to the adolescent exactly which privilege(s) will be removed
  • why it is being removed
  • exactly how it will be handled
  • for what time period

If there is something they can do to get the privilege(s) reinstated sooner, that should also be clearly explained. Note: this requires more thought and explanation than simply saying, "You’re grounded."

4. Teaching Interactions - Effective parenting of Aspergers teens requires frequent interactions. Situations, both dramatic and mundane, present themselves continually. Moms and dads, who recognize the golden opportunities in routine living tasks, capitalize upon them by turning them into teaching interactions, build solid relationships, have fewer behavior problems, and receive daily rewards. Problems = teachable moments. Teaching interactions can take several forms such as:
  • teaching a concept (e.g., negotiation)
  • processing dynamics (e.g., "Have you noticed that when someone doesn't fulfill their responsibility, others become resentful?")
  • demonstrating a skill

The point is that on-duty moms and dads should always be interacting with their teens, and the nature of those interactions is teaching; rather than:
  • becoming friends with the teen
  • criticizing
  • doing things for the teen
  • judging
  • lecturing
  • punishing

5. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever, if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kinds—familiar foods, rituals, vacations—are reassuring when the adolescent’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

6. Teaching Alternatives - A good way to teach the Aspergers teen personal responsibility is to spend time brainstorming together about all the possible responses, and predicting the reactions to each response. Instead of telling them what to do and what not to do (which can elicit dependency or oppositional responses), it is useful to spend time exploring different options. For example, instead of saying, "Don't say that to your father" …it is better to say something like, "That's one way you could handle it. How do you think he would respond to that?" … "Is that the response you want from him?" … "How else might you phrase that idea?" …etc. If they have trouble coming up with alternatives, you can help out by saying, "Do you want to know what some other people have tried?"

7. Establish verbal codes or gestures to convey that one or both parties need a time out: a chance to cool down before continuing a difficult discussion at a later time.

8. Substitution - It is never enough to tell teens what they can't do or what behaviors they must stop doing. We must always add what they CAN do instead. Some examples might be ideas such as, "You cannot hit your classmate when you are angry, but you can go for a brisk walk, write in your journal, talk about how you feel, etc." The goal is to replace or substitute an unacceptable behavior with one that is acceptable and still meets the same need. The message should always be, "Your needs and feelings are normal and okay and we are here to help you express them in ways that will allow you to be successful and responsible."

9. Go with the flow of your Aspergers youngster’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If your adolescent only likes plain T shirts without collars or buttons, buy plain T shirts. If your kid likes familiar foods, or has a favorite restaurant, indulge her.

10. Shaping - Shaping behaviors is an approach that breaks skills down into steps and rewards small movements in the right direction. For example, if you are trying to teach the skill of greeting a visitor, you would ultimately want the Aspergers teen to go through the following series of behaviors:
  • stop what they are doing
  • stand up
  • look at the visitor
  • walk over to them
  • make eye contact
  • smile
  • say "hello"
  • extend your right hand to shake
  • say “my name is ___”

To ask for all of that from someone who has never done it before, or who is shy, is asking too much. So at first they would be rewarded if they momentarily stopped what they were doing when someone new cam in. After a few times they would need to stop what they were doing, stand up and look in the direction of the visitor in order to be praised, and so on. In other words new skills are not all or nothing but are a series of steps to be learned.

11. Sequencing - Desirable behaviors can be used as motivating for less desirable ones. For example, "You may watch one hour of approved TV as soon as your book report is satisfactorily completed" –or- "You may make that phone call as soon as you have finished cleaning up the kitchen." This type of statement helps the mother/father avoid power struggles because they did not say, "no." It puts the struggle and control back with the Aspergers youngster, where it belongs. They can then choose whether or not they will watch TV today and when (within limits). A version of this can be re-stated calmly and compassionately as often as necessary while the Aspie struggles with their choice.

12. Have realistic, modest goals for what the adolescent or the family can accomplish in a give time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

13. Some Aspergers adolescents adjust o.k. to middle/high school with appropriate supports and accommodations, Others, however, just cannot handle a large, impersonal high school. You may need to hire an advocate or lawyer to negotiate with your school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

14. Role Playing/Rehearsing - This technique can be used to practice for an upcoming situation that may be difficult, foreign or anxiety producing or to re-create a situation that already occurred to experience alternative responses. Examples should include role-playing a situation in which the Aspergers teen was angry and became physically or emotionally abusive, or one in which they demanded or sulked instead of negotiating. The purpose of the role-play is to practice more acceptable styles of self-expression while still making their intended point. Practicing of this sort will make the desired responses more likely in future similar situations. Role playing can also be used to practice saying something that is difficult or anticipating a variety of responses in order to reduce anxiety.

15. If you can afford it, you may prefer to pay private school tuition rather than paying a lawyer to negotiate with a financially strapped or resistant school system. However, a private school may not be the best choice. Some families move to a community with a better high school. Residential schools may be worth considering for some. The right fit can build tremendous confidence for the adolescent, give the parents a break, and prepare everyone for the independence of the post high school years.

16. Role Modeling - Most of what kids learn from grown-ups comes from simply observing. All moms and dads are role models to their kids and need to be very conscious of their own behavior. Kids are astute observers of how we treat them, how we relate to each other and how we take care of ourselves.

17. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the adolescent to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, or calendars). E-mail may become a new option.

18. Your Teen's Rights - Food, clothing, therapy, medical attention, education, spiritual activities are NEVER withheld as a consequence. Privileges (e.g., television, telephone, radio, some activities, free time, visiting with friends, hobbies, walking around the grounds, etc.) may be temporarily withheld as logical consequences and can be powerful incentives for some adolescents.

19. Aspergers teens need structure, down time, soothing activities, and preparation for transitions.

20. Rewarding/Reinforcing - Rewarding positive behavior is the best way to ensure its continuation. A common error in parenting is to spend so much time and energy dealing with crises and negative behaviors that kids who are being responsible can either get "lost" or are tempted to act less responsible to become part of the action. Rewards can take many forms from simple a comment: "I noticed that you..." or "I really appreciated it when you..." to special time and attention or more concrete things such as a special treat or privilege. For every negative interaction the Aspergers teen experiences, it takes four positive interaction to overcome the effects. Moms and dads need to be very deliberate about maintaining at least a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions every day with every teenager.

21. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for intellectually challenged adolescents, but may not realize our teens need that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet our teens’ needs.

22. Requesting - When there is a good relationship between the mother/father and youngster, a simple request to do, or stop doing, something or a re-stating of the expectations is often enough. If over-used, however, it may become less effective, may be experienced by the Aspergers youngster as overly controlling, or can slow the process of responsible growth and decision-making skills. Example: "We don't use that type of language here, could you please find a different word?"

23. Make sure thorough neuropsychiatric re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, transition plans, choosing an appropriate college or other post secondary program, and proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.

24. Refocus - A defiant teen may be asked to spend time thinking about something (e.g., a recent run-away or self mutilation) and express their feelings and thoughts in some way. This could be writing, poetry, drawing, etc. Whatever format is used, it then needs to be processed with the adolescent. They can then be assisted in identifying early clues and practicing alternative responses. The purpose of this type of activity is to encourage thinking, self-awareness, communication, and planning for different choices in the future.

25. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to (a) monitor your adolescent’s progress and (b) ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out (and to modify it if necessary). Because adolescents can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in four short years of high school, these meetings are critical.

26. Side by side conversations (e.g., walking, in the car) may be more comfortable for the adolescent than talking face to face.

27. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the adolescent.

28. Redirecting - Commonly used with younger defiant kids or those with short attention spans, this technique simply stops one behavior by substituting another or diverting the attention of the Aspergers teen or group to a different subject or activity.

29. Teach laundry and other self-care/home care skills by small steps over time. Try to get the adolescent to take an elective such as cooking or personal finance at the high school.

30. Pre-Teaching - It is easier to prevent negative behaviors than to deal with them after they occur. A very effective tool is to pre-teach behavior prior to an event or potentially vulnerable situation. This involves talking with the person or group in detail about what will be happening, why, and what their role and expected behaviors will be. Pre-teaching reduces anxiety, clarifies expectations, builds confidence, sets up success, and can add to the fun of anticipating an event.

31. Physical Proximity - Sometimes a defiant Aspie who is beginning to become anxious, irritable or overly active will be calmed down by eye contact, a special "look" or signal, moving next to them or a reassuring hand on the arm or shoulder. Along with physical proximity it is important to be calm and reassuring.

32. Observing and Commenting - A mother/father may choose to comment on a behavior in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way to bring it to the attention of the Aspergers youngster. This may be new information for the Aspergers teen to think about. What they choose to do with that feedback will provide further opportunities for discussion and teaching. For example, "I notice you tend to be critical of others when they are taking about a success" –or- "You seem to only break the rules when you are in a group" etc.

33. Tell your adolescent just what s/he needs to know – one message at a time – concisely.

34. Natural Consequences - Sometimes consequences occur through the natural course of events (e.g., a teen coming home late from school and missing a phone call from a friend). If the natural course of events makes an impact by teaching a lesson, moms and dads need not intervene further. They can be sympathetic to the Aspergers teen's plight (this must be genuine however, and never patronizing or sarcastic).

35. Logical Consequences - Logical consequences may be necessary when no natural one occurs, or when the natural one is insufficient to make a change in future behavior. An example would be a defiant teen causing a disturbance at an event, not being allowed to attend the next one.

36. Ignoring Behavior - Moms and dads may consciously decide to ignore certain behaviors of their defiant adolescent at times in an effort to extinguish the behavior by not reacting to it. The behavior may be inconsequential, may be designed just to "get a reaction," or may be masking another, more important, issue which is what really needs attention. Ignoring a behavior should not stop communication or relationship building. It is a specific behavior that is being ignored, not the person. Examples might include using certain words, attempts to provoke or annoy moms and dads, making personal comment to or about moms and dads, saying "I won't" or "you can't make me," etc.

37. Encouraging/Coaching - Encouragement, praise, and coaching are all effective ways to make pro-social behaviors more likely and more frequent. The stronger the relationship between mother/father and a given youngster, the more powerful this method becomes.

38. Consequences - Consequences may be used to discourage unacceptable behavior of defiant adolescents. Usually this will occur after other techniques have been tried unsuccessfully. Discipline should not be confused with punishment; nor should they ever be given in anger. They should be applied consistently. That means that the behavior disciplined today, will again be disciplined next week. Also, behavior disciplined for one teen will not be allowed for others. This consistency lowers anxiety by making the environment predictable. Remember:
  • A mother/father who is angry with an Aspergers teen should calm down before deciding a consequence, and if applicable, should consult with the other parent before doing so.
  • Consequences are given to help teenagers establish boundaries.
  • Consequences are more effective when discussed matter-of-factly from a caring and controlled point of view.
  • Consequences should be clearly explained, related to the behavior, and completed as soon as possible.
  • Moms and dads should regularly discuss the effectiveness of consequences for the specific teen and should always support each other in the positive discipline process.

39. Active Listening - Some “Aspergers-related” behaviors are bids for attention or expressions of frustration at not feeling understood. Moms and dads can reduce problem behaviors when each defiant youngster feels genuinely cared about, understood, and paid attention to. Active listening is hard work and takes energy and practice. It cannot be done when thinking about or attending to other things, or when distractions occur. Active listening need not last a long time, but attention must be focused completely on the Aspergers teen and the message must be communicated back to them in the listeners own words in a way that lets them know they really were heard. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, respect for personal space, and choices of words are all important in communicating the desired message. It may take two or three attempts to really understand the message, and that is okay, as long as it is finally understood accurately and that is clearly demonstrated. A few brief exchanges of this sort for each youngster every day are necessary.

40. Patience – Your Aspergers teen has this thing called “mindblindness.” In other words, he may not understand some of the social norms that other children and teens learn automatically. Thus, be able to distinguish between “misbehavior” (which is intentional) and “Aspergers-related” behavior (which is never intentional).

Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

Thank you we have a 14 & 1/2 yr old aspie son and he is giving us a dogs life at the moment he's changed so much and is so aggressive, I will try and download ur tips thanks...

Anonymous said...

Omg excellent timing just what I need ... Frequently reduced to tears my 15yr old aspie these days ... Very welcome link thank you :)
15 hours ago

Anonymous said...

My Asperger stepson just turned 13 last month. For the past 6 months he has became very disrespectful ( always with father) to me. I used to be the one he confided in and the only one he would practice his coping skills with. I worked with him on social skills for three years. Now he gets angry when given a direction, he speaks through gritted teeth and clenched fist. He also lies with a very actor like quality ( he gives a good performance even changes his voice to upbeat) and feels as though we (parents) are beneath him. He is very grandiose in his manner at times.
When he has addressed me in anger it scares me so much but I do not let him see it. In one of these episodes he came to my face in a threatening manner. I stood my ground and told him that if he was to strike me or his sister (step sister, my daughter) I would call the police and he would suffer the consequences. He is taller then me and stronger then me. In your years researching Aspergers, when a child challenges with anger and threatening manner what is the percentage that he or she will follow through? Do other parents actually call the police on their children? Would this be the best thing for him? I have no tolerance for violence. He is in therapy but no progress and it has been since last year. It seems he is just going backwards and defiance issues are exploding (no not just puberty) I never wanted to medicate him. I always thought this was a parents and teachers cop out for the hard work to raise and help a child with Aspergers. However, I never thought of possible abuse from him.

His dad also has aspergers (self diagnosed) and is not really a help with discipline because he gets just as angry as he is. Then I have to teach him how to parent. But I love them and want to do what I can to ensure we move forward as a family. I don't know if it's onset of bipolar (he has extreme highs and lows past 6 months) or ODD or all is Aspergers.

Anonymous said...

Yes the teen years are very challenging especially with an Aspie. Our Aspie son is soon 17 and a couple of years ago he became very defiant and destructive. Since this was a rather dramatic change for him I finally called his therapist to ask her for help in getting me through. She said it sounded as though he was actually depressed. Teen boys can manifest depression through defiant behavior. After being assessed by his specialist, my son was put on a very small dose of Prozac which made a huge difference. I think the combination of knowing he was depressed rather than defiant helped as well in how I was interacting with my son. His doctor has taken him off Prozac recently and so far all is well.

Anonymous said...

My son is 18 and was just diagnosed with Aspergers. Over the last several years he had become very defiant, angry, and abusive. We did call the police. It was very difficult, but eventually it lead him to a path of healing. For more than a year, he went to live with some family away from us. We needed to regroup and we realized that we could not let his behavior affect our younger child. It is a difficult thing when you feel like despite your best attempts, you cannot handle your own child. Realizing that you are not alone, helps.

Concerned parent said...

My wife & I are struggling with discipline with our 14 year old aspie son. He is disrespectful to my wife by calling her inappropriate names, kIcking in walls when frustrated, & much more. We don't have access to our kitchen and to some of the other rooms in our house. He'll have an outbreak when anything is touched or cleaned in the kitchen or bathroom the he uses. It's as if he thinks he owns the house at least wants to control everything that goes on in the house. Plus just about everything I do that my son doesn't like my son takes his anger and frustration out on my wife...blames her for my behavior. Is there any parent that has struggled with this issue and has found a solution(s)/technique that worked? My wife feels like a prisoner in her own home and I'm not sure what disciplinary strategy that my wife and I could use to make a difference in reducing his volitility. When we try to correct him, he feels like we don't care and are being mean to him. We tried two different meds a year ago and that didn't work. Police have been called and came out twice but this only works as a temporary fix to calm out of control behavior.

What are good long term strategies? How much is part of being a defiant teen and under his own control vs. due to asbergers is sometimes difficult to tell.

April Stewart said...

I have a 17 year old step son that came ro live with us after his Mother died. No one told us he had this ... we had him in two mental hospital s. For a diagnosis, first time when he broke through the school fire wall and started researchung stories out kidnapping, torture, dismembered teen girls body parts. Was told he had RAD (reactive at attachment disorder. I studied on it applied the teqhniques it was working. Then he started hitting himself threatened his little brother terrorized his sisters. I put alarms on the bedroom doors that made him angry, he started looking at was to dismantle them. Then he ran away after he beat up his brother because he didn't like his brothers comment on chores. (His brother told him he was lazy and needed to do his chores) the police brought him back. He said he is going to hang himself. So back off to a hospital. This time in Idaho, he was fine nice boy. He has rights. I was accused of physical abuse. Blew me away! Accused and before a meeting with CPS they sent him home
He ran away again. This time refused to come home so he was put in protective custody. At which point I threw in the towel. His sister came and took him. The day he went to her. She mentioned that he had this type of Autism. Every time he went to a mental health or hospital I asked them to check for Autism, mental retardation. Nope!!! Now he is at his sister's playing his video games and watching cartoons. Not having any directors like I applied. Is this boy going to be a menace without help.

April Stewart said...

It's so hard I read and research, both parents involved. But when that other parent isn't there bit is. Not having that support. And loving both. It's so hard.

April Stewart said...

I too just sent my 17 year old away. It has affected my 3 other children. They were terrorized

Unknown said...

My son was doing everything yours was. I ended up asking for a treatment center and 2 years later he's a different boy. He's 16. Had so many anger problems and under what your wife is feeling. Best to you and yours

Neddy Neal said...

Call the police, behavior will not get better if child is given "empty threats". A real world consequence for unacceptable behavior..

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.

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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.

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