Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Helping Asperger's & HFA Teens To Cope With Life

Parenting adolescents brings many challenges – hormonal changes, self-identity, and the pressure of being socially acceptable, just to name a few. When you add Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism (HFA) to the equation, the element of difficulty increases significantly. Parents can help their “special needs” adolescents, but this begins with becoming knowledgeable about what they face. Parents should learn as much about the disorder as possible and how they can support and help these young people face their challenges.

The “typical” teenager is really into his or her friends. The tools for developing social skills as an adolescent are shared experiences and conversation with peers. But, for the teenager who has poor social skills or struggles to communicate, the idea of conversation and interaction with peers is not appealing. For many teens with Asperger’s and HFA, they literally can’t think of anything they would enjoy less than “having” to be social. And who blames them? Nobody enjoys doing things they are not naturally good at.

Teens with Asperger’s and HFA are easily misunderstood. For example, one teenager might be unfiltered, blurting out the first thought that pops into his head, while another may struggle to form and express complete sentences. Both scenarios create tension for the teen with Asperger’s or HFA – as well as his peers, who may be attempting to interact. Typically developing teens sometimes react harshly in these awkward moments.

In general, adolescents don’t exactly have the market cornered on emotional maturity. They’re still developing. So, odds are high that a young person on the autism spectrum has already had a number of uncomfortable peer-encounters by the time he reaches adolescence (e.g., teasing, bullying, peer-rejection, etc.). You can see why the critically important skill (i.e., the ability to engage in age-appropriate social interaction) needed in adolescence may be the one thing that a teen with Asperger’s or HFA associates with failure.

15 crucial strategies that parents and teachers can employ in an effort to assist teens with Asperger's and HFA:

1. Adolescents with Asperger’s and HFA are challenged with self-esteem issues. Thus, it is important to help them feel important in matters that involve them. Get them to participate by giving them the choices available, as well as understanding of the consequences behind those choices.

2. Alternate preferred activities (e.g., computer games, TV viewing) and less-preferred activities (e.g., homework, chores). Teens on the spectrum are likely to put more intense – and more sustained – effort into challenging/non-preferred tasks when they know that they can take part in a fun or interesting activity at the end of it.

3. As the mother or father facing the often overwhelming task of parenting and disciplining an adolescent with Asperger’s or HFA, it may seem that you don’t have the time or patience for allowing her to have input into decisions that concern her. And it may even seem downright scary to consider allowing her to make her own decisions. Doing so would take more time and would definitely involve some risk. But, it becomes a significant issue when adolescents feel they are disregarded in matters that directly affect them. Adolescents with Asperger’s and HFA are no different in this regard. It’s a big deal when they are made to feel important despite their disorder. An important proactive step is letting the “special needs” adolescent know that, although her needs may be a challenge, there is nothing that can’t be overcome or managed more effectively.

4. Challenged by a particular developmental disorder or not, teens want to know they are loved, supported and have encouragement when needed. This is even more important for young people on the autism spectrum. When the disorder is allowed to overshadow the significance of a teenager, it hinders him or her greatly.

5. Check to be sure that you have your teen’s attention before giving directions. However, understand that young people on the spectrum may not always make eye contact, even when they are paying attention to you. Be on the lookout for other signs of attending (e.g., alert posture, orientation toward you, stopping other activities, verbalizations, etc.). Also, include essential information in your directions that will answer these four questions for your teen: When do I do the work? What is my payoff for doing the work? What exactly am I supposed to do? How much work is there to do in this task?

6. Create a plan to help your teen to generalize his learned social skills across settings and situations. Teens on the autism spectrum are likely to need explicit programming to generalize skills that they have learned in a particular setting to other settings or situations. Teach only a small number of “key” skills (e.g., how to start a conversation, how to ask for help) at one time so that you will have enough time to work with your child on generalizing each mastered skill. After he has mastered a skill in one setting, list other settings or situations in which you would like him to show the skill. Then create a training plan to help your teen to use the skill in these novel settings. If he has mastered the task of delivering appropriate social greetings at school, for example, you might take him to a church youth group, prompt him to greet his peers, and provide praise or rewards for his successful performance. This is an example of “hands-on” social skills training, which is greatly needed with these young people. Parents and teachers should “go the extra mile” like this.

7. Create structured opportunities for your teen to participate in social interactions (e.g., allow him to invite a friend or two over for a movie or pizza party). Asperger’s and HFA teens are often excluded from social interactions with their typical peers at school, so parents can make up for this by providing social opportunities at home.

8. Help build your “special needs” teen’s self-esteem. List-making can be an effective method for accomplishing this goal. To begin, your adolescent can make a list of at least 5 things he admires or appreciates about himself. This list can include simple things (e.g., has a nice smile), or more significant things (e.g., earning good grades in school). Each day thereafter, he continues to make a new list. These lists can include his 5 greatest strengths, 5 greatest life achievements, 5 people who love and care about him, and his 5 favorite memories. Your adolescent can keep these lists in a special place and refer to them any time negative thoughts enter his mind.

9. Helping your Asperger’s of HFA adolescent will be challenging at times, because with mood swings, meltdowns and hyperactivity, it seems you have no control – but neither does she! However, take a moment to realize that you can help her by controlling yourself. You really do your teen a great service by maintaining control, and by not allowing difficult situations to overwhelm you. Stress is contagious, so don’t spread it to your teenager.

10. Minimizing the disorder is NOT the point. Helping your adolescent to understand that he can accomplish things in spite of his disorder IS the point. Not only does this encourage self-esteem, it also provides motivation and hope.

11. Offer meaningful choices that give your teen some autonomy and control. For example, you may encourage her to select a few chores, and then allow her to decide what chore she will work on first. Also, you could allow her to choose when and where she will do her homework. Make an effort to build choices into home activities whenever possible.

12. Post a clear and predictable daily schedule. Children and teens with Asperger’s and HFA crave structure and predictability. But know that young people on the spectrum can sometimes react more strongly than their “typical” peers when faced with any unexpected change in their daily schedule. Thus, be as consistent as possible with the schedule.

13. Provide your teenager with simple strategies to engage others in social interactions. Demonstrate and model these strategies. Then give her an opportunity to try them out, and give her feedback and encouragement (e.g., role play how to approach a group and ask to join a game or other activity).

14. Use verbal prompts (i.e., pre-correction) before your teen engages in a task to promote success. Phrase your prompt to reflect what you would like to see your teen do (e.g., “Michael, please do your homework before dinner”), rather than what you would like him to stop doing (“Michael, you need to stop playing video games and get busy with your homework, because we are going to eat dinner soon”).

15. When a problem arises and you must confront your teen, keep your tone of voice calm and relaxed in spite of how you may be feeling. This “gentle” approach can diffuse a lot of situations that may otherwise be lost to conflict and anger. While every situation may not be diffused, disciplining in a gentle fashion is something that should be practice diligently with children and teens who are prone to meltdowns and feelings of frustration or anxiety.

Your adolescent with Asperger's or HFA will want friends, but may feel shy or intimidated when approaching his peers. He probably feels "different" from others. Although most “typical” adolescents place emphasis on being and looking "cool," young people on the autism spectrum may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to “fit in.” They may be immature for their age, and they may be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying. All of these difficulties can cause these adolescents to become withdrawn and socially isolated – and to have depression or anxiety. However, with a little assistance from parents and other caring adults, even an Asperger’s or HFA teen can thrive and live a productive, happy life.

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

Effective Behavior-Management Techniques for Children on the Autism Spectrum

From the moment you heard about your child’s diagnosis of Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you knew life would be more challenging for him or her than for “typical” children. So when you ask your “special needs” child to do something and it's not done, you let it go. Maybe you fear that what you would like your child to do, or not do, is impossible for him or her to achieve? But the truth is this: If you feel that your child doesn't deserve discipline, it's like telling him or her, "I don't believe you can learn." And if YOU don't believe it, how will your youngster come to believe it?

What professionals call "behavior management" is not about punishing or demoralizing an AS or HFA youngster. Rather, it's a way to set boundaries and communicate expectations in a nurturing, loving way. Correcting your child’s actions, showing him or her what's right and wrong, what's acceptable and what's not, are the most important ways you can show your “special needs” child that you love and care.

Here are some special techniques to help moms and dads discipline a “special needs” youngster with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism:

1. Active ignoring is a good consequence for misbehavior meant to get your attention. This means not rewarding “bad behavior” with your attention – even if it's negative attention (e.g., scolding or yelling).

2. Due to developmental delays, kids with AS and HFA may require more exposure to discipline before they begin to understand expectations. You must follow through and apply discipline each time there is an incident in order to effectively send your message. The benefits of discipline are the same whether children have a developmental disorder like AS and HFA or not. In fact, children who have trouble learning respond very well to discipline and structure. But for this to work, moms and dads have to make discipline a priority and be consistent. Disciplining children is about establishing standards — whether that's setting a morning routine or dinnertime manners — and then teaching them how to meet those expectations.

3. Have faith in your youngster. If, after taking her first few steps, your toddler kept falling down, would you get her some crutches or a wheelchair? Of course not. So don't do the same with an AS or HFA youngster. Maybe your youngster can't put on his shoes the first time, or 20th time, but keeps trying. Encourage that! When you believe your youngster can do something, you empower him to reach that goal. The same is true for behavior.

4. Beware of the “over-protective parenting-style.” It’s easy for your whole life to revolve around parenting your “special needs” child. This is a lose-lose situation. You lose the joy of parenting, and your overly-protected child loses the ability to grow and learn.

5. Change (not “lower”) your standards. With an AS or HFA youngster, parents need to learn to live in the present. The milestones of your youngster’s life are less defined, and the future less predictable (though your youngster may surprise you). In the meantime, set the standards for your youngster at an appropriate level.

6. Choose a method of discipline appropriate to the level of the tantrum. Planned ignoring, giving a time-out, and removing privileges or activities important to the youngster are all potential options. AS and HFA kids often require a shorter time-out period and consequences given in smaller doses, especially where their attention spans are affected by their disorder.

7. Before you enter a store, transition from one activity to another, or approach a situation where behavior may deteriorate, discuss with your AS or HFA youngster what will happen, review the family rules, and remind your youngster of the consequences (both good and bad) of misbehavior. For young people on the autism spectrum, this information may need to be broken down into a few very simple instructions and repeated often.

8. Keep your behavior plan simple, and work on one challenge at a time. As your youngster meets one behavioral goal, she can strive for the next one.

9. Develop a plan of action before a behavioral incident occurs. Consider possible settings where you may face a tantrum or meltdown, your reaction, your youngster's needs and response, and the consequences you may use to stop or alter the behavior. AS and HFA kids may have unusual behavioral triggers, so it is important to really know your youngster when developing a plan.

10. Different doesn’t mean delicate. While it is true you have to change your expectations of your AS or HFA youngster, you don’t have to lower your standards of discipline. It’s tempting to get lax and let a “special needs” boy or girl get by with behaviors you wouldn’t tolerate in your other kids. He or she needs to know, early on, what behavior you expect. Many moms and dads wait too long to start behavior training. It’s much harder to redirect a 120 pound youngster than a 45 pounder. Like all kids, your AS or HFA youngster must be taught to adjust to family routines, to obey, and to manage himself or herself.

11. Different doesn’t mean substandard. In a “typical” kid’s logic, being different equates with being second-rate. This feeling may be more of a problem for siblings than for their developmentally-delayed brother or sister. Most kids measure their self-worth by how they believe others perceive them. Be sure your AS or HFA youngster’s siblings don’t fall into this “different equals bad” trap.

12. Don’t compare. Your AS or HFA youngster is special. Comparing him to “typical” children of the same age is not fair.

13. Stick to the same routine every day. For instance, if your youngster tends to have a meltdown in the afternoon after school, set a schedule for free time. Maybe he needs a snack first, and then do homework before playtime.

14. Give as much attention to positive, expected outcomes as you give to negative behaviors. This will help your youngster recognize what to do – as well as what not to do. For AS and HFA kids, it is even more important that the consequence or reward immediately follow the behavior to have the greatest effect and opportunity to teach.

15. Give your AS or HFA youngster choices, and be sure you like all the alternatives. Initially, you may have to guide her into making a choice, but just the ability to make a choice helps any child feel important. Also, be sure to present the choices in your youngster’s language (e.g., using pictures, pointing, reinforcing verbal instructions, etc.). The more you use this approach, the more you will learn about your youngster’s abilities, preferences, and receptive language skills at each stage of development.

16. Be confident about your parenting skills. Discipline is an exhausting responsibility. There will be great days when you're amazed by your youngster's progress, terrible days when it seems like all your hard work was wasted, and plateaus where it seems like further progress is unlikely. But always remember, behavior management is a challenge for all moms and dads, even those of children who are typically developing. So don't allow yourself to get discouraged! If you set an expectation in line with your youngster's abilities, and you believe she can accomplish it, odds are it will happen.

17. Be sure to praise and reward your youngster for EFFORT as well as “success” (e.g., if he refuses to poop in the toilet, he could be rewarded for using a potty chair near the toilet).

18. Help your youngster build a sense of responsibility. There is a natural tendency to want to rush in and do things for a developmentally-delayed youngster. For these kids, the principle of “teach them how to fish rather than give them a fish” applies doubly. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies being given responsibility raises the youngster’s self-esteem.

19. To understand your AS or HFA youngster's behavior, it helps to become an expert in autism spectrum disorders. So try to learn as much about the unique medical, behavioral, and psychological factors that affect your child’s development. Read up on the disorder and ask the doctor about anything you don't understand. Also talk to members of your youngster's care team and other moms and dads (especially those with children who have similar issues) to help determine if your youngster's challenging behavior is typical or related to his individual challenges.

20. Encourage accomplishment by reminding your youngster about what she can earn for meeting the goals you've set (e.g., getting stickers, screen time, etc.).

21. When you catch your youngster doing something right, praise her for it. All children naturally want to please their moms and dads. So, by getting credit for doing something right, they will likely want to do it again.

22. After correcting your youngster for doing something wrong, offer a “substitute behavior.” For example, if he is hitting you to get your attention, work on replacing that with an appropriate behavior such as getting your attention by tapping your shoulder.

23. Provide lots and lots of structure. AS and HFA kids need developmentally- appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch your youngster, not the calendar. Try to get inside her head.

24. Always communicate your expectations in a concrete, simple way. For children with AS and HFA, this may require more than just telling them. You may need to use pictures, role playing, or gestures to be sure your youngster knows what he is working toward. Explain as simply as possible what behaviors you want to see. Since consistency is key, make sure babysitters, siblings, other family members, and educators are all on board with your messages.

25. Not every AS or HFA kid responds to natural consequences, so you might have to match the consequence to your youngster's values (e.g., a youngster who may like to be alone might consider a traditional "time-out" rewarding; instead, take away a favorite toy or video game for a period of time).

26. Value your youngster rather than focusing on the disorder. Practice attachment parenting to the highest degree that you can without shortchanging other members of the family. Feeling loved and valued from attachment parenting helps an AS or HFA youngster cope with the lack of a particular ability.

27. View all problematic behaviors as “signals of needs.” Everything an AS or HFA youngster does tells you something about what he or she needs.

28. If your youngster is too aggressive when playing with other children, don't stop the play altogether. Instead, work with your youngster to limit the physicality of the play. Use discipline where necessary (e.g., time-outs, enforced turn-taking, rules like "no touching"), and provide rewards when your expectations are met.

29. Reset your anger buttons. Your AS or HFA youngster will inevitably do some things that will frustrate the hell out of you, but getting angry with him or her will only throw gas on the fire. So, when you catch yourself starting to get angry – YOU take a tie-out. If you’re still angry after the time-out – don’t show it! Put on a “poker face.”

30. Can another mom or dad relate to the trouble you are having with your AS or HFA child? Sharing experiences will give you a yardstick by which to measure your expectations and determine which behaviors are related to your youngster's diagnosis, and which are purely developmental. If you're having trouble finding moms and dads of children with similar difficulties, consider joining an online support or advocacy group. Once you know what behaviors are representative of your youngster's age and disorder, you can set realistic behavioral expectations.

AS and HFA children need discipline, limits and structure. When they can predict what will happen next in their day, they feel confident and safe. Sure, they will test these boundaries, but it's up to parents to affirm that these standards are important and let their “special needs” youngster know that they believe he or she can meet them.

Young people on the autism spectrum require the same firm structure and guidance as their siblings and peers. While the form and degree of the discipline may differ, the basic rules still apply. Behavior must be addressed as it happens. Consequences must be meaningful and effective. And parents must follow through each time. This requires planning and communication between both parents and kids before an incident occurs. Consistent application of methods over time will produce improved behavior with less effort.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers and HFA Children

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

Transitioning from One Activity to the Next: Help for Aspergers and HFA Kids

Kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism usually live in the moment. They have difficulty moving from one activity to the next. Stopping an activity in mid-drift interrupts their train of thought, which pushes them out of their comfort zone -- and sometimes into a meltdown. 

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Helping Children with Asperger's and HFA to Navigate Everyday Social Interactions

If you ask “typical” children how they learned to read nonverbal cues in everyday conversations, they might reply that they learned these things through observing the interactions of family and friends. Other “typical” kids might reply that they aren't quite sure how they know that a certain expression means a friend is bored or annoyed — they just know. This is because the skills needed for social interaction come naturally during the process of growth and development. However, for young people on the autism spectrum, this process may not be so effortless, and direct social skills instruction is often necessary.

The ability to navigate everyday social interactions can frequently present significant challenges for children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Social situations that present difficulties can range from the fairly simple (e.g., engaging in a conversation with a classmate) to the extremely complex (e.g., determining whether a peer who seems friendly is actually harmful in some way). Because of this, social skills are often broken down into categories (or types of skill) according to the level of complexity and interaction.

Here is an example of one way of categorizing social skills:

Skill Set: Foundation Skills
Used for: Basic social interaction
Examples: Ability to maintain eye contact, maintain appropriate personal space, understand gestures and facial expressions

Skill Set: Interaction Skills
Used for: Skills needed to interact with others
Examples: Resolving conflicts, taking turns, learning how to begin and end conversations, determining appropriate topics for conversation, interacting with authority figures

Skill Set: Affective Skills
Used for: Skills needed for understanding oneself and others
Examples: Identifying one's feelings, recognizing the feelings of others, demonstrating empathy, decoding body language and facial expressions, determining whether someone is trustworthy

Skill Set: Cognitive Skills
Used for: Skills needed to maintain more complex social interactions
Examples: Social perception, making choices, self-monitoring, understanding community norms, determining appropriate behavior for different social situations.

Social interactions are incredibly complex, and the list presented above is not exhaustive in terms of the skills that AS and HFA children may need to successfully navigate social situations. Additionally, each child’s “social skill profile” is different. Some “special needs” children may have strong foundation skills but lack appropriate interaction skills, while others may require assistance in developing more basic skills (e.g., making eye contact).

Social skills training is often used to teach specific sets of social competencies to the child with AS or HFA. A common focus of social skills training is communication skills. A program designed to improve a child’s skills in this area may include expressing feelings in appropriate ways, starting a conversation, nonverbal communication, and assertiveness.

Another common focus of social skills training involves improving a child’s ability to perceive and act on social cues. Many kids on the autism spectrum have problems communicating with others because they fail to notice (or do not understand) other's cues, whether verbal or nonverbal. For example, some AS and HFA kids become unpopular with their friends because they force their way into small play groups. But a youngster who has learned to read social signals would know that the kids in the small group do not want someone else to join them (at least not at that moment). Learning to understand other's spoken or unspoken messages is as important as learning conversational skills.

Tips for teaching social skills to a child with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism:

1. A major goal in teaching social skills is to develop a program that meets the demands of specific roles or situations. This need developed from studies that found that, for kids on the autism spectrum, social skills acquired in one setting or situation are not easily generalized or transferred to another setting or situation. To assist these young people in using their new skills in real-life situations, parents and teachers should use role-playing, teaching, modeling, and practice.

2. Be careful not to intensify your child’s feelings of social incompetence (this caution is particularly important in helping children with social phobia, who are already worried about others' opinions of them).

3. Generally speaking, kids with AS and HFA gain more from social skills training in a “group setting” than in individual training sessions. Thus, when possible, it would be best to teach the child a particular skill while he or she is actively involved in a social activity with peers (e.g., teaching the child how to share during group play).

4. Move slowly so that your child is not overwhelmed by trying to change too many behaviors at one time.

5. One of the most crucial tasks in preparation for social skills training is the selection of suitable target behaviors. Things will go more smoothly if parents and teachers ask the AS or HFA child to identify behaviors that he or she would like to change, rather than pointing to problem areas that they have identified. Training sessions should consider the child’s particular needs and interests. While social skills training for some kids may include learning self-calming techniques, training for others may include learning strategies for dealing with peer-rejection.

6. Preparation for social skills training requires tact on the parent’s part, because some AS and HFA kids become discouraged or upset by being told that they need help with their social skills. One good approach to get around this issue is through reading self-help books and/or Social Stories (more information on Social Stories can be found here). Also, you can try to ease your child’s self-consciousness or embarrassment by explaining that no one has perfect social skills.

7. Social skills need to be transferred from the training session itself to real-life situations. This transfer is called generalization (i.e., the child can apply what he has learned). One approach to improving generalization is to situate the training exercises within the child’s social environment. Generalization takes place more readily when the social skills training has a clear focus and the child is highly motivated to reach a realistic goal. Parents can prepare their child for homework by explaining that the homework is the practice of new skills in other settings – and that it is as relevant as the training session itself.

8. Social skills training may be modified somewhat to allow for cultural and gender differences. For example, eye contact is a frequently targeted behavior to be taught during social skills training. But, in some cultures, downcast eyes are a sign of respect rather than an indication of social anxiety or shyness. Also, females in some cultures may be considered pretentious if they look at others (particularly adult males) too directly. These modifications can usually be made without changing the basic format of the training sessions.

9. Social skills training should rest on an objective assessment of the child’s actual problems in relating to others.

10. There are a number of reasons to consider using multimedia technologies to augment social skills training. Many types of multimedia technologies can be an excellent match for the specific learning styles and preferences of children on the autism spectrum (e.g., virtual environments, simulations, videos, etc.). For children who are visual learners, videos, simulations, virtual environments, pictures and other multimedia can be effective teaching tools. For example, you could video tape your child playing with friends, and then use the video to conduct a discussion (or “autopsy”) of the social interactions. Still images from the video could be captured and used to create a slide show with text or loaded onto a smart phone to be used as reminders when the child is in mainstream environments. AS and HFA children seem to learn social skills best when they are taught in authentic situations using a variety of mediums. Role playing, listening to Social Stories, observing peer behavior, and conducting social skills autopsies can all be augmented with the use of multimedia tools.

11. As already mentioned, a major difficulty with social skills training is that many children with AS and HFA struggle with generalizing new skills to different situations. Parents can help their “special needs” child generalize social skills in several ways:
  • Teach social skills that are valued by the child’s community (e.g., parents, siblings, peers, teachers, etc.). These skills are more likely to be reinforced.
  • Teach social skills with a variety of mediums (e.g., video, books, games, software, etc.) across a variety of settings and situations.
  • Teach new skills in the setting where they are most likely to be used (e.g., on a bus, in the classroom, at church, etc.). If this is not possible, role playing can be an effective substitute.

12. Because children use social skills in nearly every aspect of their day, every moment has the potential to be a “teachable moment.” To take advantage of this, parents and teachers should try to teach social skills throughout the day in a variety of ways. Some methods for introducing social skills include:
  • Use of Social Stories: Social Stories are a successful way of teaching social skills to AS and HFA children because they can provide them with a narrative or script about a variety of situations and appropriate behavior.
  • Social skill autopsies: After a social interaction, discuss what your youngster did, what happened, whether the outcome was positive or negative, and what he or she will do in the same situation in the future.
  • Reading and discussing kids’ literature and videos: Many stories for kids are on social skills topics (e.g., making new friends, dealing with bullies, encountering new situations, etc.).
  • Incidental teaching: This involves using a natural interaction between the child and an adult to practice a particular skill.

“Typical” children have learned to read nonverbal cues in everyday interactions. For them, skills needed for social interaction come naturally. However, for AS and HFA children, direct social skills instruction may be necessary. When this is the case, using the tips above should help parents and teachers begin the process of effectively teaching such skills so that the child can learn to navigate everyday social interactions in a way that approximates how “typical” kids interact with others.

Additional resources for parents and teachers:

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Nov., 2014]

Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.


Our son is 16 and was going to stay on into 6th form at his school, however he didn't get the grades he needed and had a poor academic and attitudinal reputation.  We were able to find a college course at the last minute which he has started to attend, but unfortunately the issues have followed and he's already on his first disciplinary.

To cut a long story short, my husband and I are to visit the college and subject lead later this week, but could really do with some back up advice.  You see we have no formal diagnosis - we always thought our son quirky in some ways, however as he has gone through teen developmental stages, his difficulties have worsened and put together, have informed us of a bigger picture.  the headteacher at school commented as he had previously managed an autistic unit within another school that the symptoms presenting sounded very much like HFA.  We all agreed a diagnosis at this stage would be unhelpful and our son would be mortified with such a label.  We have found teaching staff largely very unhelpful and unsympathetic and we get the impression they think our son is simply a pain in the backside.  In the UK as I'm sure you're aware without formal diagnosis, there is no extra funding or support available.

At this point, enough is enough hence the purchase of your book and meeting later this week.  We somehow have to get college to understand and support but this will be very difficult as why should they?  We were going to therefore, offer to be our son's mentors - in the background of course, but is there anything you can think of to help us get the message through this week etc etc


I found your name on the internet when researching Apserger’s children who drop out of college.  My son does not believe anything is wrong with him or that he should be labeled with “Aspergers.” 
He’s been attending college for the last 2 years.  I thought he was adjusting pretty well.  I know he had some problems but he seemed to be able to take care of them until this semester – his junior year.  He wants to drop out of college.  He has been experiencing physical symptoms – achiness, can’t sleep or eat (he lost 30 pounds, can’t focus or concentrate on anything, extreme sweating, very cold all the time.  He had great grades the first 2 years but is now barely passing.  He was on several different medications – the doctors were trying different ones to help him with his depression (although my son says he was never depressed) and his outbursts – he was on zoloft, risperdal, geodon, abilify, to name a few.  He says he is slowly dying.  He feels that this medication that he took in the past damaged his hypothalamus.  Could this be possible?  I don’t know what to do.  He was crying on the phone and begging for help.  He is afraid to come home because he feels that he will die because his home state is contaminated.  This was his way of experiencing OCD – it was more of an aura than a specific germ thing.  I can’t just let him drop out and then put him up in an apartment somewhere.  Does your book address anything like this?  In some ways he sounds so intelligent and then in other ways, he is so dependent still.  He doesn’t have a driver’s license and he is 21.
Please help. 


In a nut shell I am now a single parent of a 13 year old girl. her older sister now 22. The girls father past away from a sudden heart attack 1.5 years ago. My older daughter and I have had problems getting along for a long time. I divorced their father over 10 years ago and she blames me for everything. She is a negative influence on her younger sister who is out of control. Last night was the final straw. She won't go to therapy, and last night she touted me with wanting to go live with her step mother laughed at me while she told me to hit her. Which of course I did not do. I told her I was taking her phone as punishment for 24 hours and that's when it got crazy. She pushed me into the wall then the window and she left bruises on my arm but I showed restraint and I never hit her. I got the phone and gave it back today but was it worth it? She says she hates me, refuses to do any chores, treats me disrespectfully.

My older daughter told me I am selfish, wants nothing to do with me because I told her I hated her. I don't recall ever saying those words exactly but when it got too much I am sure I told her to go live with their father. What I do recall is my older daughter spitting in my face in front of her friend Emily.  I have tried to make peace with my older one but is content to tell me that if I don't change I will  be alone not invited to weddings grandchildren. I have to tell you her perception of reality is jaded but it feels like fighting a loosing battle. Both my children focus on the one thing I did wrong, not the things I have done right. They both were spoiled, more by their father as he had the means.

My younger one is out of control and I feel I have all the responsibility of children and none of the joy. I am at my wits end. I deserve to be happy weather my children want me to or not. I just don't know what to do. Let me know if you think you can help.


Hi Mark, I've read your newsletter with interest and bought a few of your guides. My son is 14 and when he was 2 we were told he had moderate to severe autism. In kindergarten, we were told he had Aspberger's. But today, he has very few remaining issues.  (He got an incredible amount of ABA therapy, music, pt, OT therapy before kindergarten and we tried numerous biomedical interventions which I felt made a difference.)

However, he's never stimmed or had odd repetitive behaviors. (His lining up trucks and trains as a child put him in that repetitive behavior category by the evaluating psychologist.) He doesn't have narrow fields of interest. He just has a bit of social misunderstanding in certain situations and poor organizational skills. He has a very hard time focusing in class, but did not meet criteria for ADHD when evaluated. His IQ is average. However, he has no motivation to do well in school. He's not black-and-white literal, but does tend toward that way of looking at the world. I think most people would never guess he had this diagnosis. He has friends, he's friendly, and empathetic. The only items on his 504 plan are extra time for tests over 30 minutes, and moving to a separate location for tests over 30 minutes.  I'm wondering if his initial diagnosis was too aggressive (perhaps in order to secure ABA therapy, which brought in more state funding reimbursement for the therapy group) or perhaps he outgrew it, or our treatments were successful. 

So my question, which might be helpful for other newsletter subscribers, is whether to have him reevaluated at this age.  What are the pros and cons of having a child evaluated again years after the initial diagnosis? Or is it dumb to "give up" a diagnosis so many people fight to get in order to secure help for their kids? (I read your article today on NVLD, but that doesn't totally sound like him either.)  Thanks so much for any feedback you can provide.


Hi Mark,

Thank you for your newsletter!

My interest is because I have become very concerned about my 11 year old grandson and feel he may have Asperger’s. He seems to fit the pattern – very bright, intelligent, interested in many things beyond his years, advanced language skills … but no social sense or eye contact, talks on and on in detail about what interests him with no clue that the listener has lost interest. He is home-schooled but really ‘freaks out’ when given work to do (guess that’s considered a meltdown), he cries and says he can’t do it, and he argues incessantly. The one thing that doesn’t fit from what I read is that he is very loving and compassionate and cares about people especially if they are hurting for some reason, however his mom says he was not always compassionate, e.g. when she hurt herself. He is loving to the point where he pops out with “I love you Gran” at the oddest times.

I have read some material on the Internet but just starting on this journey. I was not planning on mentioning my suspicion to my daughter yet, until I was a bit more convinced myself. Then a few days ago she told me that somebody had suggested to her that George might have AS so I did mention it then. She is not willing to accept it although I think she will when she has time to absorb it. Her husband is totally unwilling to entertain such a thought – there’s nothing wrong with George!

I look forward to being ‘educated’ on this syndrome and being able to help in some way. I was very interested in your online coaching and hope my daughter will soon be willing to subscribe to that to learn more.

Just one question about genetics – his mom’s female cousin’s son (both share the same grandparents on moms’ side) who is now around age 20, is diagnosed with Asperger’s. Any comment on that?


My son is in his 3rd year of college at a small Christian college 6 hours from home.  He has Aspergers and high functioning autism.  He has done remarkably well through the years thanks to the wonderful support we have received through the years at school.  He is very gifted artistically and we were thrilled to locate a Christian college with a great art department.   We understand that he gets fixated on certain subjects and can’t seem to move on.  We has developed an addiction to pornography.  We have tried to talk with him and help him by putting a filter on his computer.  He understands it is a tool to help him.  Complicating this matter is that it is male pornography that he is looking at.  When we first discovered the problem, we assumed that he was looking at men since it would be “wrong” to look at naked women.  He has never had close friends, but has always seemed OK with that.  People like him and talk to him, but when it comes to spending quality time with him, they are not so interested.  He plays on a Frisbee team and loves it.  These guys have always included him.  They practice 3 times a week and go to tournaments on the weekends.  He isn’t a very good player and they don’t put him in to play during the games, but he says he likes to go along and keep score.  His grades are always a struggle for him, but he has been hanging in there.  I was monitoring his computer usage and found a website that he has been frequenting.  He actually put his name and birthdate on the website and told where he was going to school!    He said he was attracted to men and was very lonely.  My husband and I have tried to look at this rationally to try to figure out how to help him.  He has always longed for male friends and I think he is just fixated on finding a male friend.  He mentioned the last time he was home that he was getting pretty lonely and would like to find a girlfriend to date, but didn’t know how.  We encouraged him to be friendly and try to join in a group of guys and girls to socialize and not just start out trying to find someone to date.  We explained that you usually try to be friends and talk a bit before dating someone.  I don’t know what else to do!  He’s not here where we can talk to him regularly and he doesn’t call home much.  He always seems fine when we talk to him, but I know he’s lonely.  He escapes with his computer.  He talked with a counselor at the college last year and didn’t do well talking to him in person.  He had a meltdown last year on his birthday and sent me an email confessing his feelings.  I told him I was proud of him for being so honest and encouraged him to send it to the counselor.  He did and so they decided to correspond through emails.  Apparently, that didn’t happen.

I am at a loss at what to do.  We have told him the dangers and pornography and that it is the new drug and in his head, I think he understands, but when he’s down and lonely, he must think he has no where else to turn.  He thinks all this is a secret from us, and I am unsure how much to confront him with.  I am open to any suggestions.


Hello Mark, I've discovered you wonderful on-line resources for those with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I am amazed and grateful for what you do in your profession of Psychology and how you help those seeking assistance and enlightenment. My son Sam has Aspergers (OCD, ADD and anxiety) I only wish I had seen your posts much sooner! Though my experience is only from my family and self study, my passion is helping others going through similar situations. 4 years ago my sons and I embarked on producing a documentary on Aspergers. I just received my 501c3 status! I wanted to reach out to you for a couple of reasons. One, to see if you would allow me to post your blogs (on a weekly basis) on aspergers101. If you visit the site you will see that I have regular bloggers (experts in their fields of study) and offer a bio and links with every blog post. I see you have many positive venues and we could list and link with each one if you would like. Also we could skype interview you on our Top of the Spectrum News segment on various topics. Whether you write new content or use the library of content you already're message is so strong and so very needed. I would be proud and honored to share your valuable info if you are interested! Second reason I wanted to write was to say thank you! I will share your resource with my friends as it's needed and is quality. (which is why i started my site in the first place...wanting a site for those seeking info but not sure where to turn) My son Sam and I have been asked to speak at the 23rd Annual Texas Autism Conference this week and I'll share you site as a great resource! Thank you.


I am struggling with my 9-year-old son, who is in the third grade.   I have read Ross Green's "The Explosive Child" and identify my son as someone with very low frustration tolerance.  When things don't go his way, he screams and runs away.  We homeschool, and unfortunately he seems to have some delays (like fine motor difficulties that make it challenging for him to do writing assignments) that frequently trigger defiant and/or meltdown behavior during our school time.  He also annoys others on purpose, argues and whines constantly, and doesn't respond well to parenting strategies which my two older kids do respond to.  I am frequently at wits' end about how to handle his behavior and the chaos it causes in our family.  I do feel like I am at a point of frustration.


Dear Professor Hutten,

Very recently a psychiatrist who I've been seeing for several years unofficially diagnosed my husband of 22 years with potentially having Aspergers Syndrome. To my astonishment all but a very few of the character traits described my husband's behavior and what I've been experiencing over, and over, and over again.

With that said, for 15 of my 22 year marriage, I slowly, but steadily transformed from a confident, independent, person who loved and loved to laugh to being emotionally confused, over whelmed with parental/household responsibilities, depressed/anxious, unable to work, and isolated from family and friends who saw a totally different person in my husband than the one I experienced behind closed doors. I was the one who was unstable and only I, was the problem. To put it mildly, my spirit was broken. I was a shell of the women I once was.  For 15 years my husband was able to have me committed to various mental institutions against my will until finally my psychiatrist, as if for the first time, heard my voice and the cycle of being institutionalized stopped for by that time I had become much more resilient, less emotional, and could explain more calmly what I was experiencing within my relationship with my husband. I'm slowly, very slowly, taking back my spirit.

Question: Professor, is my experience of being traumatized and met with unbelief by others, even by the Behavioral Health profession, "average" for the neurotypical spouse...the wife in my case? I'm still reading and considering whether to purchase your book. I'm also meeting, without my husband, with a therapist familiar with Aspergers.
I look forward to your response and am grateful that I discovered the professional guidance you may be able to provide me along my journey towards recovery....with or without my spouse but definitely with my restored mental, physical and spiritual health.


I guess my question is how do I help my son to realize that just because he is lonely and longs for male companionship doesn’t mean he is gay.  He has seen porn images that makes it look like this is a way men “bond” and relate to each other.  We told him that these pictures are not a true picture of life and how sad it is that these men have to do this for a living.  He lives in an all male dorm and I don’t think he truly knows how to relate to females.  Most of the females in his life are tutors or motherly types.  How can we encourage him without seeming judgemental?


My 16 year old strangled me, threw me to the floor and continued to try and get his hands around my neck, from the living room all the way out to the kitchen door where I was finally able to grab my phone, get outside and call the police. He has 2 charges, is not living with me right now. Court date in a month.  That's what I get for setting rules.


Hello, Mark.

I just came across through a friend’s post on Twitter. Thank you for being such a help, especially to those with high functioning autism. Our 23-year-old son has aspergers and is stuck as a Burger King lobby attendant. I was happy to run across your recently posted video today giving encouragement for those on the spectrum.

I couldn’t find your name as an author on my Swiss Valley Christian Bookstore. Please, Mark. I urge you to add your book(s) to DeeperCalling Media's database for Christian books so it can be seen by customers throughout our chain of stores. Your publisher should be able to do that for you. I would love to see your book(s) listed so I could embellish the listing and give it a push in the search engines through the access I have as admin to adding keywords to listed books.

Thanks again for your words of encouragement.


Dear Mr. Hutton;
Thank you so very much for your services and valuable information. I have a 28 yr old daughter that has Aspergers and need advice please. My daughter refuses to or can not see that she has Aspergers so it has been near impossible to get her help. If I even watch a show or talk to someone including Doctors about her, she has a melt down and accuses me of trying to label her. It would be so much easier to help her if I can get her to see she has a problem in certain areas and will let me or anyone help her. Have you seen this behavior before and what do you suggest?


Hi Mark,
My son is 16 years old and socially inept.  I have read your article and tried many social groups for him and with him and he just refuses to cooperate or engage with anyone.  At present he attends high school as a junior but right after school comes home and stays in his room.  Teachers tell me he has a lot of friends in the classroom but nothing outside of school.   How do I help this extremely stubborn child with social skills.  He has no emotion whatsoever for anyone, which is typical, but it has now filtered down to me and I was always the person he felt most comfortable with.  Please guide me in a direction that will help Peter come out of his room and live a semi happy and meaningful life.  Thanks so much.  


I am a pediatrician in MI and follow several kids with Autism and HFA. I have a family with a recent death of a significant grandparent and trying to deal with grief issues. Do you have any resources or suggestions that might help?

Sandra Wiederhold MD

Hello Mark,
I was very pleased to find your site today, in particular the article about "dealing with destructive behaviour in children with aspergers or HFA". My son was diagnosed early last year as having ASD (autism spectrum disorder); I identified many food sensitivities in him when he was a toddler, most of which are linked to making his ASD symptoms far more severe.
When I am able to keep his diet clean, his behaviour is far more stable, and his symptoms minimal. However, even a small amount of anything he reacts to can cause major problems with his behaviour, his cognitive abilities, and mental and physical health.
He is 10 years old, and so wanting to be like his peers, and eat the foods they eat. Because of his severe reactions, I don't feel like I'm doing him any favours by allowing him to eat things that make him sick. We have spent many hours at the hospital each year, with fevers, headaches, seizures, hallucinations, abdominal/intestinal pain, and he also suffers eczema, and explosive behaviours which have lead to injuries (his and mine), and destroyed property.
I have been seeing the therapist who diagnosed his ASD, regarding his behaviour, and how to teach him the things he needs to know to grow to be a functional adult. She insists that I should be more lenient with his diet, even to the point of including many foods he reacts to, and having a free choice day, where he eats whatever he likes, at least once every month. She has suggested medications to mask the more severe physical symptoms, and punishment and other behaviour modification techniques to deal with that side of things.
I feel that is the equivalent of feeding peanuts to someone with anaphylaxis, and relying on the epipen to keep them alive. Or flashing a strobe light at someone with epilepsy, then slapping them if they have a seizure. There has to be a better way!
What do you suggest in this kind of situation, where there are known sensitivities, and a strong desire to conform to what peers are eating?
I thank you in advance for any advice you are able to offer, and look forward to reading more of your site.


We purchased your program & are excited to begin learning how to better handle our defiant, EXTREMELY stubborn, 14 year old son with Aspergers. He has such a good heart, but boy, he sure knows how to push our buttons! This is sort-of a last ditch effort for us, sadly. We are nearly at our wits end with his lies, lack of respect, & general abuse of the 'system' (home, school, etc). So, we're crossing our fingers that your recommendations will work for him like they have for so many others! Thanks for all of your efforts, for helping us & other people struggling just like us...
We'll let you know! 


Good morning.

I found your website while searching for help for my nephew who has been placed in my home by DHS.  He is 15 years old and was only diagnosed as being on the spectrum within the last month since being placed in my home.

He is the son of my brother who was killed in an accident in December of 2007.  By the spring of 2008, his mother moved a man into her home that was abusive to him.   I have him in PTSD therapy and am working closely with the therapist, the school, caseworkers and psychiatrists to handle the major problems.  However, I need help dealing with the daily issues.  We have a lot of problems with common courtesy issues - i.e. throwing garbage on the floor, eating like he’s the only one at the table.  I am working with his caseworker to get him into a residential home as I believe he needs more therapy and supervision than I can provide.   However, the goal would be to have him move back here when he has completed their program.  Until the ideal situation is found for him, he will continue to live with me and we need to find a way for him to cope with living with a family.   With the abuse issue, would this be something that would help?


Hi Mark
Hope your well and I was hoping if you could help me.
My name is Hafifa Habib and I am Masters student at the University of Derby, studying psychology. I am currently undertaking my research project and have chosen the area Asperger's syndrome. My study involves to investigation the correlational link between Asperger's syndrome in young children and sleeping difficulties they may face. I hope to recruit mothers, parent or guardians of AS children to fill in a questionnaire and one other survey that still needs to be confirmed as my study has not been approved just yet by the ethical approval department at my university as I am currently working on the project for the deadline date.
Therefore I was wondering because you hold such a great Parenting group blog, would I be able to provide a link to my research methods(questionnaires) where you can support me in recruiting participants through your blog. The link would be directly to the questionnaire where parents could fill in if they wished. I believe you will need all the ethical form and information regarding the study which you will also receive in relation to the project.
Could you please let me know and this would be a great opportunity to recruit participants for my study. Please do not hesitate in asking questions.

Hi there ,
We are pretty new to the Autism Spectrum world. Our son was diagnosed in Feb this past year- and we are still trying to figure out how to help him. We have no idea if he needs in home therapy, or a couple hours a week, etc. He is 7 yo and high functioning. He is still having a hard time adjusting to a little sister - who is 2 years old. Any help you could give us would be awesome. We went thru a autism consultant group for an in home therapist and it was a disaster.
Thanks !



We are really trying to work the system but we have a teen who is addicted to video games and has admitted that it is the only place he feels good and safe.   We are in therapy to try and deal with all of the emotional aspects of his anxiety around going to school (btw, he currently is not going to school and now have him enrolled in an alternative school where there are less pressures than a traditional school system, but he is not going to this school either).   We have created a totally dependent teen who feels entitled to everything.   If we go cold turkey on the video games we are going to slip into deeper and deeper resentment where we have finally made some progress where he admits that he  is having difficultly coping with the outside world.   

Would love to hear your thoughts around this issue (video games).

Thanks and be assured that when we work the plan we see results.

Hi Mark,
I came across your ebook online and am looking for some more information...

We are living in Tokyo and my high functioning son just turned 13. He is in an American school and doing well academically. Socially he struggles, although he continues to make steady progress in this area. Unfortunately, there are no English speaking specialists in Tokyo that work on theory of mind and social reciprocity specifically.

I am a school psychologist and am looking for a specific program to utilize to help him develop these skills. After reading the reader reviews, I am a bit concerned that your techniques may be geared to younger children. (?)

Also, I am looking for some information about how to present his diagnosis to him...he knows he has attention difficulties and social relationships are hard for him. He has communicated feeling different from his peers. We have never used the term autism or Aspergers, but are now wondering if it could be helpful for him. 

Would appreciate any feedback you may have!


Hi Mark,

I share the pain of those people who write to you in total desperation.

I accept that when kids explode into tantrums and meltdowns, there is little you can do to calm it.

But I have a wife of 36, a girl of 13 and a boy of 11, and all have Aspergers, so of course I have tried EVERYTHING.

Aspergers is very different in boys and girls, and my wife, but there is a common theme that seems to get insufficient mention:

They are all very distressed by being with PEOPLE

My BOY: He was FROZEN and apparently terrified at school for years. I took him out of school permanently at 9, and should have done it at 6. I do home-schooling. We just love doing that. I do just 40 minutes a day, with one-to-one that is enough. I also have an enthusiastic untrained girl of 24 to do 15 hours a week, which is also brilliant. You can use a High School gorl of 16 to 18 for that: great little job for her and a blessing for everybody.

My GIRL: Always locked in her room, never spoke to anybody, never had a friend, very unhappy. Patience and Love go a long way, but she was still distressed. I tried sertraline 25 mg a day, and the difference is absolutely dramatic. She was cheerful, chatty, happy, relaxed and full of energy within 10 days.

My WIFE: Appeared to hate me for a hundred reasons that were all ridiculous, a mixture of fantasies and lies. Never ever spoke to the kids, or played, or came on holidays or trips. Never fed them. So she moved out, and is now very happy, just a few short visits each week.

So all three seem to be very uncomfortable with PEOPLE near them.

It seems better to ACCEPT that, but slowly work on it, bringing in gentle people now and then, to nurture friendship skills.

Who to bring in?
Young better than old, friend better than stranger, 1 or 2 better than 3.  Girls better than boys. Outside easier than inside.

Despite the wide range of aspects of Aspergers, after ten years of suffering with all 3, I have the impression that there is NOTHING ELSE in Aspergers except fear of people!

Watching Forrest Gump is also a good move!

Dr Andy Gudgeon in Philippines


Hello Mark,

I am the Special Education Representative for a high school in South Orange County, CA. I am the coordinator of All Abilities Day. All Abilities Day is a day where students rotate through stations to get a glimpse of what it would be like living with a disability. I am proposing this day to the high school for the first time. I have created the event for Elementary 2x and Middle school 1x. Since this is high school I need to increase the information and gear it toward their age range.

I was wondering if I could get your help in assisting me with ideas for this station. It will probably be a 15 min station which includes an experience then ideas to help. I read your website information about the Defiant Teen. This is the exact information that I would like to create this station around.

Please let me know.

Thank you so much,
September Warren


Hi Mark,

I am an autistic adult with an autistic child.  I am also a full-time college student, business owner, and an autism advocate and activist.  I am constantly asked for recommendations from allistic parents who are struggling to understand their autistic child.  I co-facilitate two Autism groups and am involved with numerous others.

From what I have reviewed so far on your website, I am really impressed by your approach and understanding of autism and autistic people.  I would really like to review your material further.  I have reviewed Love & Logic, Conscious Parenting, and Total Transformation - not really impressed with any of them.  Although, all three had some good points.

Would you be willing to allow me to review your program for free for a few days?  (I am currently living on student loans and ten hours of paid work a week.) I would be happy to provide you with a detailed review from an Autist's perspective.  I will not share my review with anyone but you.  If your program is as awesome as it seems, I'd love to promote it within the Autism community here in North Carolina as well as online.  I am so happy to see that it is actually affordable for most families!

I completely understand if you can't allow me access to it for a few days, I will just save up for a while and then pay the fee.  (no hard feelings at all!)

Thank you for your time!


Dear Mr Hutten

I was reading your page and I saw an article stating that 50% of kids with Aspergers or HFA are known to have delayed speech.  I have always read that Aspergers kids never have speech delay.  My son Luca, just turned 4 and I have always believed he has Aspergers not HFA.  I live in the UK and all the professionals will tell me is that he has Autism nothing else.  They have said that "they do not like to say which end of the spectrum a child is in" Which I find completely distressing.

My son fully understands instructions and does a lot of pointing but is severely speech delayed.  He is a big smiler but only makes fleeting eye contact, he loves puzzles and enjoys choosing short kids videos online using a touch screen computer. Need some advice please.


Hello--I came across your website, and wanted to know if you offer help with educational placement ideas. Our daughter has just been diagnosed with high functioning autism, at age 16, and has slipped through the cracks all her life. She recently attended a wilderness therapy program, and is now in a therapeutic boarding school, but we are wanting to bring her home. Would you be able to consult with us on educational alternatives to therapeutic boarding school/how to live with an autistic teen in the home who has shut down/is defiant/anxious/withdrawn? Thanks. 



I found you on the internet and was interested.
My son is 11, will be 12 on Monday.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 8 and is very high functioning.
He started middle school this year and makes excellent grades, he always has.  He is in the AIG program (Academically, intellectually gifted) as his reading scores are sky high!
He has been acting out a lot lately with me, (hitting, yelling, refusing to mind).  My friends say this is just his age but I know if I don’t do something, things might get worse.  He seems so angry at me a lot.  I am a single parent and not so young.
Is there an online support group you would recommend or anything you recommend?



What is your availability for skype counseling?  I am interested in this if you have time.  I am a 53 year old male who is married with 2 children Ben 20 and Alexis 14.  My wife and I are attending marriage counseling and at about the 3rd session my therapist said he thought I likely have Aspergers.  I never looked into this as a possibility.  I have been diagnosed in the past with depression, anxiety and most recently ADD.  ADD seemed like a good possibility since I had many of the symptoms.  I tried just about every variation of ADD drug and almost every anti depressant you can think of and none of them did anything positive.  My wife is threatening to leave me which is what brought on the marriage counseling and when the guy brought up Aspergers and after I looked into it (I read your “Living With An Aspergers Partner” publication among other stuff) I am starting to think this is the missing link.  I have looked around to see if there was someone who could give me an official diagnosis and I found a guy in Buffalo NY  who can see me at the end of January.  In the mean time I would like to start working with a therapist who understands Aspergers  and if you could do that I think that would be a great help for me.  If you have availability maybe we could discuss this sometime?  Thanks very much.


Dear mr huttten,
allow me to introduce myself & why I am emailing you . I am Mrs Greta Josso born 1924
& I have a 25 year old grandson who most possibly has S.C.D. His parents are aware that he is different , but don`t want to label him, consequently he has never had help.
I love this boy & am so sorry that he is missing out on so much  that I am prepared  to go to the ends of the earth  to find a way to help him.  In this case to America.
Please mr. Hutten.


Hi Mark, I found your website last night during a search trying to figure out what to do with my son. He has been getting into trouble for the last six months and just two weeks ago we found out he is smoking marijuana. What's worse, he's getting the marijuana from the dad of a friend of his. I also suspect this dad is giving or selling it to other friends too.
I'm not sure why I'm writing other than I got your reply to my site registration. I assume you do telephonic consultations. Right now my husband and I are contemplating our actions with regard to my son's situation none of them are good, but this is very scary.
I wonder if you might have experience with something like this . . . my son is turning into someone I don't even know anymore, and we need to get it turned around.


We adopted my two nieces 2 years ago Kaela & Ava.  They have been with us 4 years.  My brother's wife (their mom died of a massive heart attack when Kaela was 4 and Ava 5 months).  Without going into the very long story, my brother had 5 girls and 4 years ago I got 4 of them because CPS wanted my brother to complete some services.  (The oldest was an adult at the time).  A lot of dysfunction in their family, my brother rewarded them to sneak and spy on each other and to manipulate.  He openly had his two favorites, one of them being the youngest baby.  We had all 4 girls for a year, the favored one caused a lot of issues and started her pattern of manipulation here and CPS allowed her to go back to my brother for a time period until the Court intervened.  Some friends of ours stepped in and offered to let her stay with them because of the conflict she was causing with her sisters I had and also my 2 boys.  A year later, the older sister was trying to manipulate and divide by two sons and also myself and husband, another characteristic of my brother.  She was also very mean to Kaela, and would make fun of her and hit her.  I discovered that she was steeling my jewelry and my asthma medication and that was the last straw for me.  The family that had my other niece stepped up and took her.  Now we have adopted Kaela (15) and Ava (10) and our friends have Jamie (19) and Maia (14).

Since Kaela was very young, even when her mom was alive, she was always just different, saw things a different way and just lived in a make believe world.  Kaela's mom used to say that she would probably have to home school her because she didn't think Kaela could handle school.  After her mom passed away, I registered Kaela for Kindergarten.  She has always struggled with grades.  My brother didn't have the girls in school for 9 months, when we got them, I registered them for school.  Kaela was in 3rd that year.  It really didn't hurt to hold her back for 3rd because she was very behind.  At first Kaela had a lot of friends and our community embraced the girls.  I had the girls in counseling and we noticed that Kaela had a focusing problem which was diagnosed as ADHD.  We got her set up on medication and that seemed to help.  Toward the end of 4th grade and all of 5th grade I noticed that all of the friends had dropped off significantly.  I couldn't figure it out. Our 5th grade teacher insisted that the school test Kaela and they revealed that she had short-term memory loss, poor language arts, communication & a low IQ.  They wanted to blame it on her environment.  We went into 6th grade but none of her accommodations went with her.   We had her tested by an outside facility and they said her language arts/vocab/writing was on a 2.5 grade level, low IQ, short term memory loss, ADHD, math facts were fantastic.  We started going to a pediatric neurologist and I had him run a MRI, CAT scan and they also conducted genetic tests in an effort to determine if her learning disabilities were related to a past accident or genetic.  Test results were negative.  They also tested her for Autism and she tested positive for moderate Asperger's.  We were surprised because her IQ is low but then she did have a lot of the characteristics.  Kaela also has OCD and is extremely, extremely immature.  The doctor has indicated that the immaturity coupled with the ADHD and Asperger's is why her friends started dropping off.  She cannot keep up with them.

My biggest concern is that Kaela went from wanting to become a McGinnis (our last name), changing her hair color from blonde to brown, and eye color from blue to brown to not wanting to be a part of our family.  In fact, she has fixated on wanting to go back to her "awesome family" which consists of my brother, her formerly abusive sister and her other sister.  I found a picture she posted on instagram of them, not us.  From the time their mom died, until CPS stepped in, I paid for their groceries, bought everything they needed for school, bought all of their clothes, bought every Christmas present, paid for electric bills and this went on for 4 years and then when my brother couldn't hold it together, I rescued them but now she perceives me to be the enemy.  I am the one that has set her up in the 504 program at school so she can pass her classes and get help and I have gotten her help with counselors and doctors but I am the enemy, she talks about me behind my back to her sister that lives with the other family and to kids at school but yet her outward appearance is this sweet quiet girl that would never hurt a fly.  She purposely says things to try to upset me in front of my husband and she tries to drive a wedge in between myself and my husband and me and the other kids.  She says horrible things about me to her younger sister.   She purposely doesn't follow rules says she forgets or didn't understand yet seems to remember every rule at school.  When I asked her how she can do everything at school and follow their rules she said she does it because she doesn't want detention.  Kaela blames me for her lack of friends.

Kaela hasn't had a lot of tantrums, but she has had 3, and they have all been on my watch.  My husband hasn't seen them.  The other kids have.  I really haven't had a lot of success with the counselors and psychiatrists we have seen.  Kaela gets in there and nobody has addressed the underlying problem.  Kaela wants to blame it all on me but that's not it.  She really needs to be around kids that are similarly situated.  She thinks she should do everything a normal 15 year old does but she does not have the common sense or processing ability or maturity that a normal 15 year old has.  The doctor said she is more like a 5 year old in many respects.  


Dear Mr. Hutten,

I found your article online regarding teens with AS. My son is 15 and is diagnosed with AS and ADHD. He is very defiant and hard to talk to. doesn't listen and won't do his homework at all. He is very bright and smart but does not want to do anything. I am very worried about him and don't know what to do. I take him to psychiatrist and therapist but issues are still on going. I am wondering if he even can get his HS diploma and can go to college one day. I am so helpless and tired. His father is another problem that I need to deal with becasue he expects him like a normal child and gets very mad at him. Please advise me what to do.


 Hello Mark,

My 12 year son is very upset due to primary - middle school shift. He is in very good school with  well planned IEP. his session started in June 2014. He often at home, refusing to go school. Even that has not helped him , he is either anxious or giggly . His meltdown includes screaming, crying, spitting and sometimes hitting anyone trying to talk to him.  We have tried professional counselling on regular basis, tried talking to him when he is calmer. Nothing has worked so far. kindly advice.

Dear Dr Hutton

I have an 18-year old son with PDA (EDA, sometimes called Newsom's syndrome), and attended the conference on EDA Cardiff earlier this month, but I am also a clinical-academic.  I have been in discussions with Phil Christie, Elizabeth O'Nions, Janet Matthews and Hilary Dyer regarding a study I would like to conduct on assessment of adult PDA, which some say is an expression of autistic spectrum disorder, and am about to prepare an ethics form regarding the potential study at my University (my academic details are below).  Before I go into a long explanation of the study (which I'm very happy to submit to your own ethics/ research committee), I am writing to find out if I would be allowed to have a link to the study (with any relevant information) hosted by your website, and perhaps as a "sticky" within the forum.  I shall be approaching a number of other P/EDA resources on the Internet to maximize the spread of my sampling, but thought I should start with yourselves.  


Vincent Egan

Dr Vincent Egan
Associate professor in Forensic Psychology Practice 
Chartered clinical psychologist, chartered forensic psychologist (BPS/HCPC)
Centre for Family and Forensic Psychology
 University of Nottingham 
YANG Fujia Building
 Jubilee Campus 
Wollaton Road 

Dr. Hutten,
I found your information on you-tube and wondered if you could help me. I am leaving my husband after only 3 years of marriage. I left in 12 months and we have been separated this entire time. How do I know if he has just a narcissistic personality or Asperger's disorder?

Adam has always been edgy. I helped him after he was fired from his job because he has a very bad attitude and takes it with him everywhere he goes. He moved to Ohio form Utah as we met online. He became angry with anything I wanted. I am farf rom the normal wife that wanted a diamond ring or a wedding. I knew he had no money and did everything for him and paid for everything. He became angrier. He blamed it on his job, mother and everything else but after a few years of my constant helping him..he has a great job. He became abusive along the way and increasingly self centered and pompous. He would mock me and out me down personally in fights we had. He would denigh pushing me and finally the police came. He would punch his head, bang the walls and grit his teeth. He told me he wish I was dead.

I have become so depressed and finally filed. I tired to help but the waking around on egg shells to avoid any confrontation or anything I may want in a relationship has all but ruined my life.

When all is right with Adams world he is a kind funny man. He acts differently in public with a very robotic loud vice-as if he is acting the part. He says he hates people and social situations and it makes him nervous...he is I a lot of debt so he must keep his job at a bank beig very social. At tie though-he will say he loves his job. Can you just tell me if this sounds like an aspie? Or is he just a man that used me and is infantile when he does not get his way. I would like closure.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content