Part 9: Teaching Strategies for Students with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – Poor Concentration

Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA):
  • are easily distracted by internal stimuli
  • are often off task
  • are very disorganized
  • have difficulty figuring out what is relevant, so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli
  • have difficulty learning in a group situation
  • have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities (often it is not that the attention is poor but, rather, that the focus is "odd")
  • tend to withdraw into complex inner worlds in a manner much more intense than is typical of daydreaming

Programming Suggestions for Teachers:

1. Work out a nonverbal signal with the AS or HFA youngster (e.g., a gentle pat on the shoulder) for times when he is not paying attention.

2. Actively encourage the youngster to leave her inner thoughts and fantasies behind and refocus on the real world. This is a constant battle, as the comfort of that inner world is much more attractive than anything in real life. For these “special needs” kids, even free play needs to be structured, because they can become so immersed in solitary, ritualized fantasy play that they lose touch with reality.

3. Seat the youngster at the front of the class and direct frequent questions to him to help him attend to the lesson.

4. AS and HFA kids with severe concentration problems benefit from timed work sessions. This helps them organize themselves. Classwork that is not completed within the time limit (or that is done carelessly) must be made up during the youngster's own time (i.e., during recess or during the time used for pursuit of special interests).

5. Young people on the autism spectrum can sometimes be stubborn. Therefore, they need firm expectations and a structured program that teaches them that compliance with rules leads to positive reinforcement. Such programs motivate the youngster to be productive, thus enhancing self-esteem and lowering stress levels, because the youngster sees herself as competent.

6. In the case of mainstreamed AS and HFA students, poor concentration, slow clerical speed, and severe disorganization may make it necessary to lessen the homework load, classwork load, and provide time in a resource room where a special education teacher can offer the additional structure the youngster needs to complete classwork and homework. Some kids with AS and HFA are so unable to concentrate that it places undue stress on moms and dads to expect that they spend hours each night trying to get through homework with their youngster.

7. If a buddy system is used, sit the AS or HFA youngster's buddy next to him so the buddy can remind the youngster to return to task or listen to the lesson.

8. Encouraging the youngster with AS and HFA to play a board game with one or two others under close supervision not only structures play, but offers an opportunity to practice social skills.

9. A tremendous amount of regimented external structure must be provided if the youngster with AS and HFA is to be productive in the classroom. Assignments should be broken down into small units, and frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered.

Teaching Self-reflection Skills to Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

The ability to weigh options and make decisions are skills that all children need to possess. If we look closely to what those skills are and the building blocks that are needed for them, one crucial factor is present: the ability to self-reflect. Self-reflection is a necessary component to focus, decision-making, prioritization and action. For example: What might be the best career for me? Why should I get into a relationship with this person? What can I do to make myself happy? At the heart of all these questions is the ability to introspect and find the answers.

In conventional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) programs, clients are encouraged to self-reflect to improve insight into their thoughts and feelings, promoting a realistic and positive self-image and enhancing the ability to self-talk for greater self-control. However, the concept of self-consciousness is different for children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). There is often a qualitative impairment in the ability to engage in introspection (i.e., self-analysis).

Research evidence, autobiographies, and clinical experience have confirmed that many young people with AS and HFA lack an “inner voice” and think in pictures rather than words. They also have difficulty translating their visual thoughts into words. As one teenager with AS explained in relation to how visualization improves his learning (a picture is worth a thousand words), “I have the picture in my mind, but not the thousand words to describe it.” Some of these “special needs” children have an “inner voice” but have difficulty disengaging mind and mouth, thereby vocalizing their thoughts to the confusion or annoyance of others.

When parents attempt to teach self-reflection skills to their AS or HFA child, certain modifications need to be in place (e.g., a greater use of visual material and resources using drawings, role-play, and metaphor, and less reliance on spoken responses). Many young people on the autism spectrum have a greater ability to develop and explain their thoughts and emotions using other expressive media (e.g., typed communication in the form of e-mail or a diary, music, art, or a pictorial dictionary of feelings).

When talking about themselves, older teens and young adults with AS and HFA do not anchor their self-attributes in social activities and relationships, or use as wide a range of emotions in their descriptions like their “typical” peers do. They are less likely to describe themselves in the context of their relationships and interactions with other people. Thus, the teaching of self-reflection skills may have to be modified to accommodate a concept of self primarily in terms of physical, intellectual, and psychological attributes.

In self-reflection skills training, parents should attempt to adjust their child’s self-image to be an accurate reflection of his abilities and the neurological origins of his disorder. A bit of time needs to be allocated to explaining the nature of AS and HFA and how the characteristics account for his differences. As soon as the youngster has the diagnosis of AS or HFA, the parent needs to carefully and authoritatively explain the nature of the disorder to the family, but the affected youngster also must receive a personal explanation. This is to reduce the likelihood of inappropriate coping strategies to the child’s recognition of being different and concern as to why he has to see psychologists and psychiatrists.

The AS or HFA child also may be concerned as to why she has to take medication and receive “special education” at school. Over the last few years, there have been several publications developed specifically to introduce the youngster or teenager to their diagnosis. The choice of which book to use is the parent’s decision, but it is important that the explanations are accurate and positive. The child will perceive the diagnosis as it is presented. If the approach is pessimistic, the reaction can be to trigger a depression or to reject the diagnosis and treatment. The parent also can recommend the child read some of the autobiographies written by other kids and teens on the autism spectrum. The subsequent discussion is whether and how to tell other people of the diagnosis, especially extended family, neighbors, and friends.

When an accurate perception of self has been achieved, it is possible to explore cognitive mechanisms to accommodate the AS or HFA child’s unusual profile of abilities and vulnerabilities, and to consider the directions for change in self-image. One approach is using the metaphor of a road map with alternative directions and destinations.

Kids and teens on the autism spectrum need the tools to help them hone their self-reflection skills. Here are some examples of prompts that parents can use to start engaging their youngster in reflecting about his or her thinking (brainstorm some additional ones, too):
  • During what activities do you become unaware of time passing?
  • How did you feel?
  • How do other people see you?
  • How do you most want to contribute to others?
  • If you were brave, what would you do?
  • Tell me something that made you happy today (use the other emotion words like frustrated, sad, angry).
  • What activities are you good at?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you thinking right now?
  • What are your best gifts?
  • What are your dreams?
  • What are your goals?
  • What could this person be feeling?
  • What could this person be thinking?
  • What do you do right?
  • What do you fear?
  • What do you hesitate to admit about yourself?
  • What do you like to play with?
  • What do you love to do?
  • What do you most want to create?
  • What do you most want to give?
  • What do you value?
  • What do you want for your life?
  • What has gone well?
  • What has not gone well?
  • What have you always wanted to try?
  • What have you most enjoyed doing in your life?
  • What is challenging for you?
  • What is the next step?
  • What is your best contribution?
  • What made you excited today?
  • What motivates you?
  • What problem do you want to solve?
  • What takes energy away from you?
  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What was the least that you liked about your day?
  • When do you feel the most “natural”?
  • When is it time to take a break?
  • Where are you dissatisfied in your life?
  • Where are you meeting resistance right now?
  • Where do you get energy from?
  • Why do you like it? (best followed by “what makes you say that?”)

As much as these prompts are for the AS or HFA child, they are for parents, too. Parents should find the time to share their thoughts with their youngster and the entire family during family meetings (use some of the self-reflecting questions above as part of the meeting’s agenda).

Parents need to let everyone know what they are thinking and feeling and make it visible. In this way, the AS or HFA youngster realizes that the self-talk that goes on in her head is normal – and sharing it with her family is important. It also gives family members the opportunity to talk about not just what makes them happy, but more importantly, the deep, dark and ugly thoughts that keep them awake at night and in a state of anxiety. Self-reflection is not just about building self-esteem, it is also being able to share negative thoughts. Thus, parents will do well to give their youngster the chance to reflect on his fears – and face them.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Part 8: Teaching Strategies for Students with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – Restricted Range of Interests

Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have eccentric preoccupations or odd, intense fixations (e.g., obsessively collecting unusual things). They tend to: ask repetitive questions about interests; follow own inclinations regardless of external demands; have trouble letting go of ideas; relentlessly "lecture" on areas of interest; and, sometimes refuse to learn about anything outside their limited field of interest.

Programming Suggestions for Teachers:

1. Use the AS or HFA youngster's fixation as a way to broaden his repertoire of interests. For example, during a lesson on rain forests, the student who is obsessed with animals can be led to not only study rain forest animals, but to also study the forest itself since this is the animals' home. The student can then be motivated to learn about the local people who are forced to chop down the animals' forest habitat in order to survive.

2. Use of positive reinforcement selectively directed to shape a desired behavior is a crucial strategy for helping the youngster with AS or HFA. These “special needs” kids respond well to compliments (e.g., in the case of a relentless question-asker, the teacher can consistently praise the child as soon as she pauses – and congratulate her for allowing others to speak). These kids should also be praised for simple, expected social behavior that is taken for granted in “typical” kids.

3. Some kids with AS and HFA will not want to do assignments outside their area of interest. Firm expectations must be set for completion of classwork. It must be made very clear to the youngster that he is not in control – and that he must follow specific rules. At the same time, though, meet the child halfway by giving him opportunities to pursue his own interests.

4. AS and HFA students can be given assignments that link their special interest to the subject being studied. For example, during a social studies lesson about a specific country, a youngster obsessed with trains can be assigned to research the modes of transportation used by people in that country.

5. For particularly unruly kids on the autism spectrum, it may be necessary to initially individualize all assignments around their interest area (e.g., if the interest is dinosaurs, then offer grammar sentences, math word problems, and reading and spelling tasks about dinosaurs). Then, gradually introduce other topics into assignments.

6. Do not allow the AS or HFA youngster to incessantly discuss – or ask questions about – isolated interests. Limit this behavior by designating a specific time during the day when she can talk about this. For example, a youngster who is fixated on animals and has countless questions about the class pet turtle should be advised that she is allowed to ask these questions only during recesses. This can be part of her daily routine, and she may quickly learn to stop herself when she begins asking these kinds of questions at other times of the day.

Affective Education for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

A major part of emotional development in “typical” (i.e., non-autistic) kids and teens is how they recognize, label, and control the expression of their feelings in ways that generally are consistent with social norms (i.e., emotional control). Self-regulation of feelings includes recognition and description of feelings. Once a youngster can articulate an emotion, the articulation already has a somewhat regulatory effect. Typical kids are able to use various strategies to self-regulate as they develop and mature. They begin learning at a young age to control certain negative feelings when in the presence of grown-ups, but not to control them as much around friends. By about age 4, they begin to learn how to alter how they express feelings to suit what they feel others expect them to express.

By about age 7 to 11 years, “typical” kids are better able to regulate their feelings and to use a variety of self-regulation skills. They have likely developed expectations concerning the outcome that expressing a particular feeling to others may produce – and have developed a set of behavioral skills to control how they express their feelings. By the teenage years, they adapt these skills to specific social relationships (e.g., they may express negative feelings more often to their mom than to their dad because they assume their dad will react negatively to displays of emotion). “Typical” teens also have heightened sensitivity to how others evaluate them.

Unfortunately, young people on the autism spectrum do not develop emotionally along the same lines and time-frame as “typical” children do. Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), after all, have a “developmental disorder” – their emotional age is younger than their chronological age. Thus, they must be taught emotion management and social skills. Affective education (i.e., teaching children about emotions) is an effective way to accomplish this goal.

Affective education is a crucial stage in a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and an essential component for children and teens with AS and HFA. The main goal is to learn why one has emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression.

A basic principle is to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project. The choice of which emotion to start with is decided by the Cognitive Behavioral therapist, but a useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. For younger kids, this can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness or pleasure, but can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling, (e.g., a photograph of a rare rock for a child with a special interest in rock collecting).

For older teens, the scrapbook can illustrate the pleasures in their life. The content also can include the sensations that may elicit the feeling (e.g., aromas, tastes, textures). The scrapbook can be used as a diary to include compliments, and records of achievement (e.g., certificates and memorabilia). At a later stage in therapy, the scrapbook can be used to change a particular mood, but it also can be used to illustrate different perceptions of a situation.

If therapy is conducted in a group, the scrapbooks can be compared and contrasted. Talking about dinosaurs may be an enjoyable experience for one group member, but perceived as terribly boring for another. Part of affective education is to explain that, although this topic may create a feeling of well-being in the one participant, his attempt to cheer up another person by talking about dinosaurs may not be a successful strategy (perhaps producing a response that he did not expect).

One of the interesting aspects noticed is that group members with AS and HFA tend to achieve enjoyment primarily from knowledge, interests, and solitary pursuits, and less from social experiences, in comparison with “typical” group members. They are often at their happiest when alone.

Affective education includes the clinician describing – and the AS or HFA child discovering – the prominent cues that indicate a particular level of emotional expression in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face is described as an information center for emotions. The typical errors that young people on the autism spectrum make include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. The clinician uses a range of games and resources to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that a person is angry).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it is important to use an “instrument” to measure the degree of intensity. The clinician can construct a model “thermometer,” “gauge,” or volume control, and can use a range of activities to define the level of expression. For instance, the clinician can use a selection of pictures of happy faces and place each picture at the appropriate point on the instrument.

During the therapy, it is important to ensure that the AS or HFA child shares the same definition or interpretation of words and gestures and to clarify any semantic confusion. Clinical experience has indicated that some young people on the spectrum can use extreme statements (e.g., “I am going to kill myself”) to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “typical” child or teen. During a program of affective education, the clinician often has to increase the AS or HFA child's vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.

The education program includes activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others – but also in oneself – using internal physiologic cues, cognitive cues, and behavior. Technology can be used to identify internal cues in the form of biofeedback instruments (e.g., auditory EMG and GSR machines). The AS or HFA child – and those who know him well – can create a list of physiologic, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate an increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using one of the special instruments used in the program (e.g., the emotion thermometer). One of the aspects of the therapy is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next component of affective education is to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion. For example, after exploring happiness, the next topic explored could be sadness; feeling relaxed could be explored before a project on feeling anxious. The child is encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

Some young people with AS and HFA can have considerable difficulty translating their feelings into conversational words. There can be a greater eloquence, insight, and accuracy using other forms of expression. The clinician can use prose in the form of a “conversation” by typing questions and answers on a computer screen, or by using certain techniques (e.g., comic strip conversations that use figures with speech and thought bubbles). When designing activities to consolidate the new knowledge on emotions, one can use a diary, e-mail, art, or music as a means of emotional expression that provides a greater degree of insight for both the child and clinician.

Other activities to be considered in affective education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate her behavior when expressing anger.

Another activity entitled “Guess the message” can include the presentation of specific cues (e.g., a cough as a warning sign, a raised eyebrow to indicate doubt, etc.). It is also important to incorporate the AS or HFA child's special interest into the program (e.g., a child whose special interest is the weather can express his emotions as a weather report).

Emotional Flooding—

The opposite of emotional control is emotional flooding, which is characterized as overwhelming and intense feelings that can't be controlled. During an episode of emotional flooding, the autistic child's rational mind is disconnected, his nervous system is saturated, and his prefrontal cortex ceases to exercise its controlling function. Flooding may turn into panic and fear, fight or flight. It takes a long time to come down from this heightened state, and afterward, the "special needs" youngster is often completely drained to the point of exhaustion.

Here is a 7-step plan that parents can use to deal with emotional flooding in their AS or HFA child:

1. Create signals your AS or HFA youngster can use to let you know he is about to have an episode of emotional flooding. Signals can give these kids a tool to put some space in between the reaction and their response. One 11-year-old boy with AS came up with the word “burning” to use when he felt himself getting ready to spin out-of-control. He would shout “burning, burning, burning.” His sister knew this was the signal to back off, and his mom knew this was the signal to intervene. It worked for him by giving him a few seconds before his emotions took over.

2. When your child is flooding, don’t leave him alone – but don’t try to take away his uncomfortable emotions either. If you have an AS or HFA adolescent, give him some distance until he is ready to talk.  With a younger kid, wait and listen for a shift in the intensity, and then step-in to help soothe. Sometimes you can directly ask if your child needs help to feel better (e.g., “I notice you are really upset. Do you need some help to calm down?”). If your child is not ready, he will let you know. But if he is ready, you will get a nod yes, at which point you can make some moves to soothe. When an AS or HFA youngster is out-of-control emotionally, she needs your help to get her equilibrium back. You can’t problem solve until this has been accomplished. This is true even if the emotional flooding has occurred as a result of some disciplinary measure.

3. Understand the difference between emotional flooding and a child’s drama-driven display that is created to get something. If you have a youngster that you really feel uses emotional flooding strategically to get a particular response out of you, then back off until the intensity dies down, and then offer some assistance (but don’t give in to an unreasonable demand). If your youngster is using flooding manipulatively, and she is not successful in getting the results she is after, she will eventually stop. The goal here is to help your youngster learn to self soothe and problem solve.

4. Help your youngster move from (a) acting out intense emotions to (b) labeling and describing them verbally. Words help to diffuse and give a youngster some tools to begin regulating emotions. The better able your youngster is at describing in detail her emotional state or reactions, the better she can regulate them.

5. Never attempt to suppress negative emotions. No child can help the feelings he has. He can only learn how to best manage them. Getting rid of negative emotions prematurely just sends them underground, where they can gain intensity and explode later during an unrelated event.

6. Try to figure out what the trigger is for your child’s emotional flooding. Sometimes triggers are obvious (e.g., reactions to change of routine). But, sometimes out-of-control behavior is a reaction to something that isn’t so obvious in the current situation.  For example, an AS or HFA youngster who has been repeatedly rejected and/or teased by peers may be overly-sensitive to even the slightest hint of criticism from parents.

7. When emotional flooding has run its course and the child is calm, parents can attempt to address the problem in question. Encourage your child to talk, and then reflect back to him what you heard (i.e., provide feedback). In this stage of the game, it’s more important that your child feels understood than for you to correct his way of thinking. Let him play out the scenario, and then show you understand his point of view. After you have accomplished this, you can start helping him to come up with a solution to the problem that caused him to “flood” in the first place.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said… I needed this today. My so. Had an "emotional flooding" moment and let me know that kids walk away from him or ignore him completely when he tries to talk to them. How do i get services for social and cognitive behavior help at age 14?
•    Anonymous said… I wish we could have found people that actually knew how to do this. My daughter is now 22 and things have not gotten any easier. We put her in 3 different places when she was younger and none of them helped at least not long term.
•    Anonymous said… I would like to know if anyone here has a HFA adult age now that cusses them out constantly and nothing at all is ever their fault.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is 18 and heading to college in the fall. I've always wanted her to be able to get this kind of help. I've tried in my own way, but it's hard. So nervous to let her go. Don't give up smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… Once my son got to high school...he became more discerning of people's motives. After a while he could care less what anyone said or thought about him (negatively ). He had a few friends in Anime Club and pretty much ignored the bullies.
•    Anonymous said… So very true!! It breaks my heart every time our son THINKS a kid is either making fun of him, when he or she is not and it's just "typical kid banter". Or like recently, when a boy at his middle school was taking GREAT advantage of him because he knew how desperately our son wanted friends. He just didn't see the insincere behavior and thought it was what friendship is supposed to be. Just killed me when he figured it out after we talked to him about the "bad thing" that happened. frown emoticon But there is a bright spot to this. It can be taught and learned, understanding certain social cues and how to watch for them. He's getting there. It's just that, for so many others, this sort of thing is instinctive. For our kiddos, we have to help them, point things out, role play, help them learn it. Merry Christmas everyone!!!
•    Anonymous said… That's is all we all can do with a child with Aspergers is try in our own way. What worked yesterday may not work today so we just keep trying. smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… This is exactly my son too
•    Anonymous said… You are not alone, my son is 11. Place after place he went and all they would do is CBT. Now we live where there is an Autism center and he's too old, their age cut off is 8.
•    Anonymous said…. It's hard when you just want to make everything ok. Milan is not on the spectrum but he struggles socially and it's so hard to watch or answer why his five year old brother has so many friends and party invites

Please post your comment below…

Part 7: Teaching Strategies for Students with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – Impairment in Social Interaction

Young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA):
  • are easily taken advantage of (e.g., do not perceive that others sometimes lie or trick them)
  • are relatively na├»ve
  • are sometimes labeled "little professor" because speaking style is so adult-like and pedantic
  • exhibit poor ability to initiate and sustain conversation
  • have difficulty judging "social distance"
  • have difficulty understanding jokes, irony or metaphors
  • have well-developed speech, but poor communication skills
  • may appear insensitive and lacking tact
  • may be extremely egocentric
  • may not like physical contact
  • may use inappropriate gaze and body language
  • may use monotone or stilted, unnatural tone of voice
  • often misinterpret social cues
  • show an inability to understand complex rules of social interaction
  • talk “at” people instead of “to” them
  • usually have a desire to be part of the social world, but don’t have the skills to do so

Programming Suggestions for Teachers:

1. Protect the youngster from bullying and teasing.

2. Older students with AS and HFA can benefit from a "buddy system." The teacher can educate a sensitive classmate about the situation of the youngster with AS or HFA and seat them next to each other. The classmate could look out for the “special needs” youngster on the bus, during recess, in the hallways, etc., and attempt to include him or her in school activities.

3. Most young people with AS and HFA want friends, but simply do not know how to interact. They should be taught how to react to social cues and be given repertoires of responses to use in various social situations. Teach these kids what to say and how to say it. Model two-way interactions and let them role-play. Their social judgment improves only after they have been taught rules that “typical” children pick up intuitively.

4. Young people with AS and HFA tend to be reclusive. Therefore, the teacher must foster involvement with others. Encourage active socialization, and limit time spent in isolated pursuit of interests. For instance, a teacher's aide seated at the lunch table could actively encourage the youngster with AS or HFA to participate in the conversation of his classmates not only by soliciting his opinions and asking him questions, but also by subtly reinforcing other kids who do the same.

5. In the higher age groups, attempt to educate peers about the youngster with AS or HFA when social ineptness is severe by describing her social problems as a true “disorder.” Praise classmates when they treat her with compassion. This task may prevent scapegoating, while promoting empathy and tolerance in the other kids who may be “different.”

6. Emphasize the proficient academic skills of the youngster with AS or HFA by creating cooperative learning situations in which his reading skills, vocabulary, memory, etc., will be viewed as an asset by classmates, thereby engendering acceptance.

7. Although they lack personal understanding of the emotions of others, kids with AS and HFA can learn the correct way to respond. When they have been unintentionally insulting, tactless or insensitive, it must be explained to them why the response was inappropriate and what response would have been correct. Children with AS and HFA must learn social skills intellectually, because they lack social instinct and intuition.

Struggling with your "special needs" student? Click here for highly effective teaching strategies specific to the Aspergers and HFA condition.

Mood Disorders in Children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

Mood disorders are mental health problems (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder, anxiety disorder) that can occur in anyone, including young kids and teenagers. The cause of mood disorders is not fully understood, but an imbalance in brain chemicals play a role.

It is normal for a child’s mood to change, and most kids go through times of feeling sad. However, when these feelings last for a very long time or interfere with daily functioning, he or she may have a mood disorder.

Symptoms of mood disorders include:
  • an elevated mood (i.e., mania) that is accompanied by feelings of grandiosity, extreme energy, and heightened arousal
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue
  • feelings of inadequacy 
  • feelings of sadness
  • guilt
  • helplessness
  • hopelessness
  • irritability
  • suicidal thoughts
  • trouble engaging in daily tasks
  • trouble in relationships

When considering the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) – and the effects of the disorder on a child's adaptive functioning in a social context – we can expect such children to be vulnerable to the development of secondary mood disorders. Research suggests that about 65% of adolescents with AS and HFA have a mood disorder that includes depression and anxiety. There is also evidence to suggest an association with conduct disorders, delusional disorders, and paranoia. It appears that comorbid mood disorders in adolescents with AS and HFA are the rule rather than the exception. Thus, a good question to ask is: “Why is this population more prone to mood disorders”?

Research has been conducted on the family histories of young people with Autism, AS, and HFA and has identified a higher than expected incidence of mood disorders. Children with AS and HFA may be vulnerable to a genetic predisposition to mood disorders. However, when we consider their difficulties with regard to empathy, profile of cognitive skills, sensory perception, social reasoning, and verbal communication, they are clearly prone to considerable stress as a result of their attempts at social inclusion. Chronic levels of stress can contribute to a mood disorder. Therefore, there may be circumstantial factors that explain the higher incidence of mood disorders in this population.

Theoretic models of Autism developed within cognitive psychology and research in neuropsychology also provide some explanation as to why these children and teens are prone to secondary mood disorders. The extensive research on “Theory of Mind” skills confirms that young people with AS and HFA have considerable difficulty identifying and conceptualizing the thoughts and feelings of others – and themselves. The interpersonal and inner world of emotions seems to be uncharted territory for these kids.

Research on executive function in individuals with AS and HFA suggests characteristics of being disinhibited and impulsive, with a relative lack of insight that affects general functioning. Impaired executive function also can affect the cognitive control of emotions. Among young people on the autism spectrum, clinical experience suggests that there is a tendency to react to emotional cues without cognitive reflection. Research on individuals with Autism using new neuroimaging technology also has identified structural and functional abnormalities of the amygdala, which is known to regulate a range of emotions (e.g., anger, fear, sadness, etc.). Therefore, we also have neuroanatomic evidence that suggests there will be problems with the perception and regulation of the emotions.

Treatment for mood disorders depends on the evaluation of a professional. Behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, lifestyle modification, and medication may all be used. It is crucial to get early treatment for a mood disorder to reduce the severity of symptoms and manage any complications.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the primary treatment for mood disorders. CBT has been designed and refined over several decades and has proven to be effective in changing the way an individual thinks about and responds to uncomfortable emotions (e.g., anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.)  This therapy focuses on aspects of cognitive deficiency in terms of the maturity, complexity, and efficacy of thinking, and cognitive distortion in terms of dysfunctional thinking and incorrect assumptions. Therefore, it has direct applicability to young people on the autism spectrum who are known to have deficits and distortions in thinking.

CBT has several components:
  • an assessment of the nature and degree of mood disorder using self-report scales and a clinical interview
  • mood education with discussion and exercises on the connection between cognition, affect and behavior, and the way in which people conceptualize emotions and construe various situations
  • cognitive restructuring (cognitive restructuring corrects distorted conceptualizations and dysfunctional beliefs; the child or teen is encouraged to establish and examine the evidence for – or against – his thoughts and build a new perception of specific events)
  • stress management (stress management and cue-controlled relaxation programs are used to promote responses incompatible with anxiety or anger)
  • self-reflection (self-reflection activities help the child recognize her internal state, monitor and reflect on her thoughts, and construct a new self-image)
  • a schedule of activities to practice new cognitive skills (a graded schedule of activities is developed to allow the child to practice new abilities that are monitored by the clinician)

The neurology of AS and HFA makes life more demanding. Young people with the disorder are often disconnected from what they themselves feel, leaving them ill-equipped to make sense of their daily experiences. In addition, the nature of their social and communication deficits creates its own challenges. These kids are often deprived of the social rewards, support, and validation that “typical” kids know and take for granted – leading to even greater frustration. Many AS and HFA kids know constant criticism and rejection, which can result in a harsh self-judgment that they are failing others.

Here a few tips for parents of AS and HFA children with mood disorders:

1. All children have bad moods sometimes. That’s nothing to be worried about. However, a mood disorder deals with problematic behavior caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Many moms and dads are in denial that their AS or HFA youngster may have a mood disorder. They don’t want anything to be “wrong” with their youngster, so they chalk up bad behavior to an artistic temperament. A Surgeon General’s report found that 75-80% of kids in need of mental health services don’t get it because of the stigma. So, make sure “denial” is not a factor in your case.

2. An AS or HFA youngster’s dark mood, negative words, and problematic behaviors can be frightening to parents. But, the reality is what it is. Living with AS or HFA is stressful and can invite feelings of despair, hopelessness, and self-disregard. Don’t let your fear keep you at bay or leave your youngster alone with her suffering. Do not shy away from the outside world, isolating yourself as your youngster isolates herself. If her mood concerns you, seek professional help (e.g., counseling, assessment, medication, etc.).

3. AS and HFA kids crave the steady, quiet, self-regulated, unthreatening control of their computer, books, bedroom, etc. They deserve a place of respite that they can count on. Don’t ignore your youngster’s true need for “down time,” maybe even preemptively suggesting at times that she run off to her preferred retreat.

4. Be careful not to take words or behaviors that you don’t understand as being empty and meaningless. Try to discover what your youngster is attempting to convey or express. This teaches her the inherent value of communication and empowers her being an agent in being understood by others. The more clearly and directly your youngster can share what she feels, the less in the dark you will be, and the more information you will have to guide your interventions and actions.

5. Don’t cling to traditional parenting strategies. Traditional techniques will tell you that when your youngster misbehaves, the consequence should be immediate. That’s good advice for “typical” kids. But for an AS or HFA child with a mood disorder – it is bad advice. If a youngster with a mood disorder is acting-out, that may mean he is experiencing a meltdown rather than a temper tantrum (two distinctly different behaviors). And if parents try to impose disciplinary action at that point, it only escalates the meltdown. Therefore, delay the consequences, and don’t engage in the fight. When it’s calm, sit down with your youngster and explain the repercussions of his behavior.

6. Kids with AS and HFA tend to worry a lot. Try not to criticize or show your own frustration over this excessive worrying. Don’t try to rationalize away your youngster’s worry. Invite his expressions of hurt and worry with open arms. This will show him how good and comforting human connection can feel, and how it can alleviate an anxious or depressed mood.

7. Nothing truly comforts an AS or HFA youngster more than being in the presence of parents who feel genuinely at ease, especially when in the presence of his distress. If what you are doing is stressing your youngster excessively, try to back off and speak more quietly, more slowly – or not at all. You can’t shield your youngster from all the stresses of life, but you can be a calming influence from a world that moves too fast and too insensitively.

8. Parents of an AS or HFA youngster with a mood disorder must endure incredible stress – stress that affects the family, the marriage, and siblings. They’re constantly living in an unpredictable atmosphere and walking on eggshells, since they never know what may to set their youngster off. And, there are so many unanswered questions (e.g., Am I doing the right thing? Will my child be able to function as an adult? Will she hurt herself? Will she live a full life? …and so on). Furthermore, emotions like anxiety, despair, fear, hopelessness, and second-guessing yourself are all very common – especially when it seems like everyone around you is judging your parenting skills. Thus, it’s important for moms and dads to talk to a professional who is compassionate and non-judgmental and who provides a safe place to talk honestly and openly. Don’t be too proud to seek counseling for yourself!

9. Raising a youngster with AS or HFA is a lifelong endeavor. Helping him deal with depression and anxiety is a process that can proceed in a positive direction. Stay connected in whatever way you and he can muster and bear. Every molecule of connection parents establish with their youngster helps to protect him from anxiety, depression, self-hatred, despair, and the toxicity of isolation.

10. Lastly, watch for frustration and irritability that can’t be alleviated, that rises fast and frequent. A youngster’s losing interest in – or going deeper into – an obsession can signal depression and/or anxiety. Notice self-derogatory remarks and self-injury. Anxiety can intensify tics and body tension, or cause behaviors to grow more driven and rigid. When these signs reveal themselves, it’s time to reach out to a professional for assistance.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Dec., 2015]

 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.


Hi Mark

Thanks for the link to the teaching guide. Although our school system is very different to yours I think the advice will be most useful. In fact this is the most comprehensive information I have come across.


Dr. Mark, I am writing you tonight after a harrowing day . Our adopted daughter Shelby,now 18, has ADHD and had a very bad childhood until we brought her in her six years ago. Sunday, she went to a walk in clinic with Mom for help for a bad case of poison
ivy. The Dr. prescribed a prednisone pack where she took six pills fist day five the next etc. Shelby went off the tracks, stole money and bought a tablet so that she could do Facebook [something banned in our house] . She was obviously acting guilty
about something, got caught and became violent. We have experienced her rage before, years ago, but with good counseling
she has learned how to stay and not run, engage and not retreat. When we went to the ER this morning, they told us that there
is no way that she should have been given prednisone. That it could cause psychotic episodes in some patients and that the stimulant should never be given on top of her regular course of ADHD meds. My wife was attacked and struck in the face.
I was literally thrown around by her slight frame. Me 240,she 115 lbs. We do not have psychiatrists here to prescribe. Waiting list
is six months unless we caught up $10,000 for a three day eval' at the local psychiatric hospital.  Shelby was finally psych tested
and she is slightly on the autism spectrum. Her brother has been assumed to have some asperger's . As we try and discover
what all of this means it should be said that we adopted her without knowing about all of these disabilities! Shelby was four years back in school and was recommended to NEVER take math again. Shelby graduated with honors this year,on time, and did four
years straight of straight A's in Math. She is a loving and willing child who is socially immature and wants to be NORMAL, so much so
that she is beginning to think that if she is not on social media she will be a freak. We need to be able to know that she is not dangerous or crazy . My wife is so terrified of what she will do next. I am a mess. Now that I have spilled about everything that
we are going through, do you have any take on this? Can we possibly get something from your program?
Thanks for your consideration.


I have a son who has Aspergers and he is having a really hard time trying to get his drivers license. After several attempts with the lerners permit he finally passed. Well
 now we are going into his Fourth time for the drivers test. I have a friend helping him who deals with a lot of people with Aspergers and Autism and she has been a blessing.
Do you have any resources that I could go to? I have even explained this to the Instructors who are giving him the test but they really don't seem to care.. He is in College and needs
to have his license what can I do?


After another night of troubled sleeping, I got up to
Look online for solutions to our problems, and found you.  We are at wits end, and hope you can help. We have a 16 year old boy, Nathan, with Aspergers.  He is a quirky boy, and we love that about him!  He has always been very smart, and he loves performing well. He has also enjoyed being challenged academically.  He's always been in the top of his class and takes great pride in that. Last year, we moved from PA to MO (his freshman year, and with his blessing). He had a great year academically (finishing 5 out of 420 students). We were so proud! However, he hasn't made any friends, but has always been a bit of a loner and it doesn't seem to bother him, since he doesn't seem to enjoy a lot of the things most teenagers do. He decided he wanted to improve his class rank, and taught himself Spanish 3 and algebra 2 over the summer so he could skip those classes. We did not think it to be a good idea at the time, but went through with it because he was so motivated. I don't know what has happened since then. His grades are now terrible (currently 2 D's and 2 F's). We have been working with the school officials, and they believe the course work is too intense  and would like to drop him back some classes. We have all tried to talk to him and reason with him, but he is so upset. His time management is awful! A lot of his work is not handed in. As his parents, should we force him to change his schedule? When he is working ( and not goofing off) it consumes most of his time. We've tried explaining that we want him to have a healthy balance between life and work, and we don't feel he is happy now. It is impossible to reason with him. We are also afraid of him going into a depression, which we have read happens to a lot of teens. We only have a week to make a decision. We originally were going to let him suffer the natural consequences of his decisions, but are heartbroken at the thought. To ight he had tears in his eyes which is unusual for him, so we feel so bad for him. Please share your thoughts.



I just want to be able to learn ways how to relate better with our 13 year old son who has used defiance to be able to get his way about video game playing.

We have not been imposing consequences strictly because our son has started to show disinterest in school. One time he just decided to not go to school saying he is so tired.

Now he uses every possible reason so he can play video games. Before he still observes the one hour a day video game rule. Now, he just dropped it.

Yesterday he was asking if we can give him a Steam gift card as a Christmas gift. When I told him me and his dad will talk about it first and he just needs to wait until then. He got so angry that he grabbed a chair and swung it against another chair. Then he went to play the video game. He stopped after 2 hours then went to bed. But when he started asking if he can get it and I said the same thing, he got back to the computer and played again. Now he is still on it and it is already 12:30 past midnight.

We have a holiday party tomorrow and he was saying he doesn't want to go to with us. If we leave him behind, he will just play again.

And it just reinforces the idea that he can go on this way and that he can be disrespectful to us.

Please share with me your thoughts and some ways that we can do to help our situation get better.

We are just concerned that if we impose the rules strictly or take the computer away, he might just say he doesn't want to go to school anymore.


Dear Dr. Hutton,
 I am so very blessed to have found your information and youtube videos. My name is Leslie, and my brilliant husband, Vincent and I minister together in a personal ministry, and I am reaching out for help.
About 4 months ago, I just realized my husband has aspergers. He has not been officially diagnosed, and he has not accepted this fact. It is extremely clear to me, and I cannot tell you how relieved I have felt since learning so much about aspergers. I have finally been able to make sense of my husband, my life and our relationship.
However, my dear hubby has been extremely upset with me suggesting that he go see a doctor to get a diagnosis. I have tried several gentle and compassionate approaches, with fear and trembling I might add, in hopes that he will hear me out and do what needs to be done so we can continue growing together.  Looking back through our 22 years of marriage (we just "celebrated" our 22nd anniversary after Thanksgiving ( well... I celebrated) , and having 8 awesome children together, (yes- EIGHT ) ;) and one stepdaughter, I can tell you 100% that God has been providing His divine guidance for us all along. Vince has definitely come a long way…. a VERY Long Way!  But I am at a point in our marriage where we are not growing as I felt we should.  I mentioned earlier that my husband and I minister together. We have a personal ministry that seems to be growing more than we are, because of the knowledge and new ideas my hubby comes up with. I don't know if you are a Bible believer, please forgive me,  but the Bible is the most incredible book that never seems to have an end to new depths of revelation, and understanding. It truly is alive. This has been my husband's obsession, and its is an outstanding obsession.  However, there has to be a match with a person's character growth that goes along with their knowledge. And that is where I have a major problem dealing with my husband. We have been through several incredible healing ministry training schools, and have our certifications in each, and, of course, it has helped us tremendously in our personal relationship. (please see our website for more info. *(  )
However, Vince still has times of depression, or regression in his behavior, whether it be expressed through anger, extreme sensitivity to criticism, consistently having high automatic defense mechanisms, etc.  Sometimes I feel he is like a ticking time bomb. I have learned to be unbelievably careful with my words and responses.  There is no way in hades I would recommend anyone go through what I have gone through in the past 22 years to become the kind of people my husband and I have become… but for me, it definitely has been worth it! Truly transformational, and like the Bible says, Iron sharpens Iron. We are true soul mates and I believe fully in our marriage. 

So now, I am writing you because I have a problem. My problem is , because my husband and I are in ministry, and it is evident that he has a problem accepting himself, how can we honestly help people -with a pure heart- if we haven't dealt with our own serious issues? I feel like a hypocrite trying to counsel others. Vince truly is brilliant with the Word of God and his gifts are his unbelievable memory skills, excellent problem-solving skills, his practicality and reasoning, and loyalty. His weaknesses are he's diabetic, he is self-sabotaging, suffers from self-condemnation, thinks more and moves less (out of shape), has angry outbursts that are unpredictable, he's too often fighting within (flight or fight) , and he needs me too much to work for him (High Maintenance, kinda lazy ), and his criticism of me used to be unbearable, but he has cut down his criticism from 90% to 10%, which is a miracle . He is a Certified General real estate appraiser ( a perfect job for perfectionists who can do the mundane)  and this supports the family and ministry, and I do all the typing. It pays the bills, but we are not where we should be. So how do we move into our ministry and help others when I clearly see we have a problem? I understand that my hubby has been hiding the fact that he is different all his life, and he perceives this aspergers as a major threat to his character, and future even!   I am facing a huge challenge when dear Vince won't do the obvious to help himself?

To tell you a little about me, I am a very active Mom, a certified fitness & nutrition counselor, personal trainer, a former world class athlete in track & field,  and I love to coach kids. Vince and I are truly exact opposites. I truly "Feel" what others are feeling, I am a "Burden Bearer", I know what Vince is feeling when he doesn't even have a clue, and I have a terrible memory, and get easily distracted during work, terrible focus because I'm bored or uninspired! :P  ... So I really appreciate my husband. We are so very compatible, its unreal! But without having a true relationship with Jesus, I would not have made it this far…. no way! Anyone with a weaker heart would have possibly lost their minds.

Thank you so much for being there to help Dr. Hutton. I truly appreciate your advice or some insight that you are willing to provide. Thank you also for allowing me to share my story with someone I can trust. So far, no one is in my life that will Love my husband without judging him, and I have protected him by not involving my family with the many conflicts I have endured.  I will be buying your book as soon as I can.


Mr. Hutten- We having a difficult time with our "defiant teen" with Asperger's.  I purchased your on-line book on the subject and we are following its instructions. We will see.  It is nice to just have some sort of guidance.  Connor, 14, had a been a star student up until this semester.  He had never gotten less than a 99% in any class until he just stopped.  He blames us for being too controlling, but we also suspect he was bullied at school. He has gotten so far behind this semester- refusing to turn in any work and leaving tests blank for the past 1 month that he will likely fail most of his classes.  We are trying to address the defiant teen and are planning on placing him in a school for aspergers (the Talisman in North Carolina) for a semester or two so he can work on social skills. –Scott


Hi Mark,

I read some of the entries on your blog and relates strongly to the difficulties expressed by parents of adults with aspergers. I have a 47-year old daughter, Tanya, with aspergers. She is happily married with 3 wonderul teenage children (one has aspergers). She is very accomplished in her own business and brilliant. Unfortunately, she is extremely angry at me and has been pushing me away for a long time because my involvement in her life feels very painful to her.

I, on the other hand, am the 68-year old child of an alcoholic mother and lost my father at age 12, so I have my own issues that enter into this.

Without going into too much detail, our relationship is now in deep jeopardy and we need help to sort things out and come up with some techniques to help us get on an even keel.

Tanya said she would be willing to work with a psychologist over the phone (I live in NY—she's in PA) to get some help. Unfortunately that was Sunday—now she's ignoring my phone calls and emails.

I think we need to work with someone who understands aspergers and I think they're rare. I saw your forum and wondered if you have that expertise and if can help us or recommend another source for help.


Here's the situation, we took away the laptop from our son after he has reacted violently to his request for a $20 video game gift card as a Christmas gift. I told him to wait until me and my husband has talked about it. He grabs a chair swings it against another chair and went to the room slams the door close and plays on the computer.

He has a one hour video game time rule per day. He goes past that by about 30 mins. He goes to bed and asks the same question again. I told him the same answer. He then gets out of bed and goes back to play video game until 3 AM. Due to my impatience, at some point before that I told him ok if you are not going to follow, you may play as much as you want now, but know that we will make tough decisions after. So he uses this as an excuse to keep playing all night. When my husband found out that he was still on it at 3 AM. He gets the computer and told him we are going to take the computer to the authorities and have them come for him if he doesn't obey.  That's the only time he went to bed.

Now he doesn't want to do anything. He didn't come to a party that we were supposed to go to the next day. He didn't go to a group mtg. for a school project. He doesn't want to go to his choir concert later this afternoon.

I am concerned that he might just say tomorrow that he will not go to school.

He has also always refused to go anywhere lately. It's been so hard to get him to do something or go somewhere even if these are necessary.

Please help us think through this and share with us ideas how to approach him in this situation.


I dont know what to do about my over indulgence. I give her presents because she isnt motivated by social considerations. She has Aspergers she needs intelectual stimulation or she is acting out aggressively even. If I buy her things she gets occupied and interested in taking it apart and putting it back together. That means less fighting in my home (as a single mom) . Last night I didnt get her a present (usually $1 or $4) when i picked her up from her Dads visit... and she cried 40 minutes all the way home. I gave her a toy she hadnt used in a while and she through it at me and tried to jump out the other side of the car into traffic. That is so dangerous. I just want to appease her and not have her self injure. It is hard enough to get her buckled into a car seat (SPD issues).

She is not acting like this with others. She takes it all out on me. I read about an Emotional Link under Ligitmate reasons for parent child conflict. " Parent and kid get defensive when talking to one another
because there is an emotional link between the two. "
I am thinking of boarding school to save us both fighting. I dont know that I can live with that amount of conflict in my home. I am worth more that that as a person.


Mr. Hutton,
I admire your work and helpful advice.  What are your thoughts on neurofeedback for teens with Aspergers?  My son Jeyden is 14 and I am at the end of my rope with him.  I do not know what else to do.  The defiant behavior, the detentions, suspensions, no hygiene, impulsivity, depression, blah,blah,blah.  I can't help him anymore and I feel like a horrible parent who is giving up but I am so tired.  I am ready to send him away to a behavioral therapy school or something!  I am becoming physically sick with psychiatrists, psychologists, social skills groups.....they don't help in the real world. 


Thank you!  It explains a lot.  I really appreciate that.  Oddly, over all these 34+ years, I can see that I have taken on a whole lot of characteristics of someone with Aspergers, I’m assuming as a coping/avoidance mechanism.  But despite that, I still do “feel” differently, and so have different emotional needs on occasion, and that still causes problems with seemingly a cumulative frustration level.  But understanding helps a lot.  So again, thank you.


Hi Mark. Thank you for your email. I have actually purchased your material for professional use. I am a Special Education Resource Teacher and as such, I am always looking for new strategies to support our students diagnosed with ASD. I will also share some of your tips with parents. One piece that you touch on that I feel very strongly about is the accountability piece. While we are doing a great job at flexing around our students' needs, we are often not spending enough time with the accountability and consequence piece in order to prepare our students to be law abiding citizens.
Please keep me in mind if you come across any specific activities or templates that can guide educators and parents in explicitly teaching this concept. I have already downloaded your article re Anger-Control Contracts and plan to put that to good use.



Hello Mark again, My asperger's syndrome daughter has been putting up the silent act and ignoring us for the past 10 days because I confiscated her phone and computer recently. She continued to ignore us even after the phone and computer were returned to her after a specific 3-day period ended. Its difficult as some times we need to go out and have lunch or dinner and she is not joining us. In the end, she will just eat whatever left in the fridge. Other ways to start a positive communication with her failed too. She also ignores my wife and her younger sister. What should we do?


As long as she is completing her required disciplinary period (in this case, 3 days), then ignore her ignoring. This is her attempt at pushing your button to get a reaction out of you. Stop reacting (e.g., by trying to get her engaged) -- then there's no payoff for her, and she will stop this tactic.



I’m autistic and in my final year of college. I’m working on my senior thesis in Anthropology. My thesis is about activism and the autistic community. I'm looking for people to participate in my surveys and I'm reaching out to My Aspergers Child to see if it is possible for you to promote my call for participants via the blog or in whatever way you see fit.

My surveys are fairly short and are able to be saved so that folks who need to can take a break and come back to them if needed. I have four different surveys set up. I can only use data from people who are legal adults (18+) because of the rules for undergraduate research in the US. Though, because your blog is for parents I don't think that should be an issue.

The survey for non-autistic parents or siblings of autistic people is located at 

The survey for autistic adults who have autistic children is located at 

The survey for non-autistic people who work with autistic people is located at

 The survey for autistic adults (excluding those who have autistic children) is located at

For people who take them, the surveys include space for suggestions. If you have questions about the project, please send me an email. Please let me know if you will be able to pass along the surveys.

Thank you for your time,

Denise Parry


Hi Mark,

This is probably my third or fourth email to you regarding my relationship with an Aspie. I hope I'm not bothering you. After dating for 18 months I've decided, reluctantly, to end my relationship. Here is why, and perhaps you can help me make sense of it all:

1.    He put me and "a bunch of other people" on mute/Do Not Disturb for over two weeks through Thanksgiving. Despite a few phone calls and over a hundred texts from me worrying about what happened, he thinks that I am the problem for texting so much. Even though he disappeared without any warning or discussion whatsoever.
2.    He has said repeatedly that he doesn't want a relationship, but doesn't want to see other people and wants to continue to see me. I have repeatedly told him this doesn't make sense and I don't understand. Even though he has called me his girlfriend a few times, on accident I think.

Even though I have decided to end it, he will not return my belongings from his home and has not repaided me money that he owes me. I have given him multiple chances to do both where we would not have to see each other. I want a quick and simple ending to our relationship (though he never called it that).

Any advice?


How can i have a better relationship with my ODD/ADHD/Asperger's 11 yo son? (I only include all the diagnosis so you have an idea of what I am dealing with - I am trying hard to see my son as much more than his diagnosis.)  I don't know if I should want to be friends, but I want better than what I have now. Thanks for your great web site,
SO very helpful.


Hi Mark,

I'm in Melbourne, Australia and came across your site recently.  Our 17 year old Aspie son is out of control and we have next to no communication with him preferring to lock himself in the study to play computer games all day. He doesn't leave the room and his schooling is suffering because he is addicted to online games so refuses to do homework.  No part time job, no outside interests and he believes his online friends are his family.

We have at times turned the internet off to teach him a lesson when he refuses to do chores he promised to do but when we do he becomes a raging bull and damages our house and becomes physical towards us.  We have called the police on a few occasions after he has physically attacked us.  We live in fear and our family is falling apart.

I read one of your newsletters and see other parents are in the same boat as us.  We realize that with him turning 18 in 6 months time we have to show some tough love but there is no way he could cope in the real world.  That will entail taking removing the internet modem and cancelling his pocket money until he does what he is told and shows respect towards his family.

I don't know any other way to go about this and wanted to speak to either you or someone you could recommend here in Australia before I go down this path.  I know this will get really ugly and I fear the consequences but it just has to be done once and for all.  If not, he just retreats back to the study and plays games with his so called online family.  Before I do this I need to know I'm doing this the correct way from the start. Can you please help us.


My son just turned 11. He likes to hoard junk like scraps of paper and trinkets. Lately he has been stealing things like glitter, markers, and money. He then uses them inappropriately and gets in trouble at school. He has great difficulty problem solving. One on one he is a great, well mannered, interesting child. When left alone for even a few minutes it seems he chooses to do just the thing that he isn't suppose too. The psychologist seems to think the stealing is impulsive and yet he waited until my mother left the room to take money from inside her purse. This seems very calculated to me. I have researched this and found many asperger children tend to steal, but I haven't found anyone that has dealt with it successfully. What do you recommend?


I have a 20 year old who is very high IQ and graduated from college at age 17, cum laude--BS in Biology.  He then began to change. He always seemed very mature, but then things changed . It seems as if he just developed Aspergers, but maybe we missed the signs due to his high IQ.  I am a mess and don't know what to do.  He has very high goals and wanted to go to dental school but didn't put much effort into the DAT exam, so then he decided to go to Chiropractic school like his parents. He then failed out of the first school after one year--he had many excuses and we blamed the school and living alone in another state at age 18.  He then took 9 months off to recoup and he was very lazy and always late.  He went to another chiropractic school and is flunking again!  He seems very distressed.  I am so sad, because he really seems to want to succeed but has no idea why he isn't. I know he doesn't have time management skills and doesn't go to bed at night. He says he is socially awkward and had trouble adjusting to his new living arrangements with a roommate.  I feel terrible for his struggle but his father is very mad at him for flunking again.  He will be returning home next week and I know he will be very depressed and down on himself and there will be stress in the house.  His local friends are bad influences.  What do we do if we try your methods of discipline and he just has a friend come and pick him up and he leaves the house?    What do you do then?
Thank you for your time, I am trying to cram as much info in before he gets home as possible. 


My son who is 19 now is diagnosed bi-polar and has substance abuse issues.  He was charged on some felony charges for theft with assault, (which we know he was present, but not sure if he used any weapons or force) with 2 other boys and he went to a hearing and the Judge gave him a sentence of 15 years.  He has had some problems with the law in the past, but nothing this severe.

Unfortunately, our county decided since there were 3 incidents, the charges got trumped up to engagement with organized crime.  Now, that he's in the Texas prison system is there anyway to try to get the sentence reduced.  I don't think we can appeal it.  

Yes, my son made bad choices.  A lot of it had to do with his not being on his meds for bi-polar, and being only 17 and 18 at the time.  I hate to see him have to do THIS much time.  I could have understood a year or a few years, but 15????  

I've contacted politicians, but not much response there.

Do I just need to accept the sentence?


This is probably not something you normally would get involved with, but I am reaching out to Asperger’s support groups on the web in hopes of finding aid for our campaign.  A coworker of ours, and single mother of 5 is struggling right now both with affording a happy Christmas for her children, and raising a teenager with Asperger’s who is going through those tough early teen years when everyone is dating and he is struggling with the social demands.  Very talented, and highly interested in Science and Computers, a group of her coworkers thought it would be nice to start a fund for her son to get him the equipment he could use to get into Computer Programming as well as provide the family with their first ever home computer.  This is something she would never be able to afford to do.

If you have the time, please check out our GoFundMe campaign:

And if there is any other form of support for this mother that you all can offer, we’d love to hear it!


Good Afternoon, Dr. Hutten,

I found your website this morning and have read a few articles and watched several of your videos.  I am interested in a buying a book that will provide the most impact quickly. Can you recommend a book after reviewing my situation?

My 14 year old daughter has Asperger's. She has always had defiant behaviors and the techniques we are currently using have reduced the ugly behaviors (arguing, back talking, self-injury, and destructive of property). She is very unrealistic and clueless would be the best word to describe her in a nut shell. She does have obsessions, currently it is her futuristic goals that quite frankly are very unrealistic. 

She and I got into an argument yesterday and she ran away last night; this is the first time she has done this. She did have the mindset to pack a backpack with clothing, a few items of food, and used her bike. Thankfully, we found her about a mile from our home an hour after we noticed she was missing at 10:00 pm. She is remorseful, but does not understand the seriousness of her actions.

She and I are together 24/7 because we homeschool her due to her inability to function in the public school setting (anxiety, bullied, poor social skills, heightened sensory problems, and inflexibility). Since being homeschooled for 2 years, she is now on grade level in the 9th grade and enjoys learning. The downside is we get on each other's nerves. Mostly, she gets on mine and I lose my patience with her sometimes because its hard to handle all of her differences day after day. I work from home as well and this provides additional challenges. My husband and I are in agreement on how to manage her behaviors, but it's very, very exhausting and frustrating.


I need your help/advice!!  My son knows he’s adopted.  However, he also has Asperger’s and I don’t think he quite understands. He is very sweet and has a soft heart. His adoption is complicated.  It was local and his birth family know about him but have NOT been in his life and are not good influences.
They are drug addicts and liars. Just today they sent me a Facebook message asking to see him.  This is out of the question!!!  However, I worry if they see him out, they will approach him.
He has a 13 yr old biological sister who has approached my niece (11yrs old) and told her she was Will’s sister.  This confused my niece, she asked her Mom and her Mom explained to her.

What do I do?  Do I prepare Will for this possibility?  Do I tell him they are not nice people?  Risk the chance they could somehow speak to him at a school event, or other time a parent is not around?

With social media this problem is more and more a possibility.  (Although he is NOT on social media).

I really appreciate your time and consideration!  Thank you so much!!

A concerned Mother!


Mr. Hutten-

My 7th grader is having great difficulty transitioning to middle school.  Not socially, but academically.  I question the confusing fiction book assigned in English.  He quickly picked up on how inappropriate it was when in the first chapter the father strangles the mother to death.  The math unit is too fast paced.  The science review sheets are beyond overwhelming and even my Ph. D level scientist friend could not believe how much was required they cover and how abstract the wording was.  Most of all I find the lack of workbooks and push to everything computers particularly frustrating.The multi passwords to get to teachers pages and assignments is aggravating and if there is one glitch- he's done.  I feel there is just not a curriculum set up for how these kids learn.  What is your feeling about this and do you have any tips I can share with his teachers?


Hi Mark. I've been receiving your email Q&A for a few months now, which has helped me greatly as the proud grandma of my very intelligent, creative, beautiful 7 yr old Leah and her 4 yr old brother, Jacob. I'm struggling with trying to help their mom, my daughter-in-law Natasha, to comprehend and accept that at least Leah (and possibly Jacob) may fall on the Aspergers spectrum. Leah's dad, my 37 year old son, Adam, most likely also falls within the spectrum, although he was never formally diagnosed. He presented many similar traits as a child, but persevered through the tough times (with my unyielding support) and now functions very well as an adult, with a good job as an Intel Engineer, a good marriage and a love for his kids that defies his logic! He and I have discussed my concerns re Leah, who melts down regularly, but her mom believes it all to be behavioral issues, as Leah functions quite well at school (then falls apart as soon as she gets home).

I should note that Mom is culturally predisposed to resisting anything that might be considered a mental weakness (she's from Moldova) but she loves her family with everything that she has in her, and I believe she will be Leah's strongest advocate should this prove to be the case. I just convinced her to have Leah's pediatrician examine her (Natasha now suggests that it might be a physical infection, i.e. PANDAS) and hopefully use this to make a referral for a neuropsych evaluation. Natasha responds well to medical authority, so I'm hoping the physician will address the possibility...and then I can come alongside.

Long story short, I'm taking advantage of your 3 for 1 book offer and will order The Comprehensive Guide, but have no idea which other two to choose. Likely the Meltdown and School books (I don't remember the exact titles), I think? Can you make a recommendation? Of course, I pray that Leah does not have Autism, but perhaps this info will help with her behavioral issues anyway. Can you advise me as to how I might offer/share with Natasha this information? I have lots more questions regarding routine/rules/control, rigidity, anxiety, shyness, adversity to loud noise, and the like, but I won't take anymore of your time. Thank you for the service and support you provide to these parents. Btw, I have a young man (Ryan) boarding with my husband and I, who is struggling with his marriage due to his own Aspergers issues, so I am trying to help him too! Being a woman of faith, I truly believe that God placed Ryan in our path to open my eyes to the struggles that my own family has endured, and I intend to see this through for my beloved Leah.



Hi Mark,

My name is Catherine and I was in a 6 year relationship with my partner until recently. I was not made aware of AS until very recently (a week before our break up) and considered it may have been a plausible explanation as to why certain things happened. After extensive research, I am beginning to think he did have AS. 

My situation is abit different to the ones you have described in your e-book as most of these couples have already been married and only discovered it after the marriage and want to avoid divorce. I was engaged to him for more then a year, our wedding was meant to be the end of next month. However the past year has made me question alot of his actions where I had to think seriously to myself "If this is him, am I able to handle this for the rest of my life?"

Basically the normal questions one goes through when fast approaching nuptials. In our 6 years together, there were things I always found.. illogical and abnormal to my way of thinking. At first I thought that maybe it was our different upbringings or the fact he's a different type of guy etc etc. However it was all brushed aside and I continuously tried to "work" on us and eventually he would get my message across after months of having the same argument. It was only when my grandfather passed away recently that I found his response to it all VERY peculiar. 

That night, I knew he was out with an old work colleague discussing potential business. I messaged him to let him know my grandfather had passed away. He didnt respond until 2 hours later. This I was fine with as I knew that possible he didnt have reception or something of the sort, however I did hope that he would send some condolences or empathy or even a call once he did receive the message. 

His response was inappropriate needless to say. He replied to me saying "F***. Sh**. Sad baby! Sobs. Is there prayer?" I replied in a calm manner wondering what he meant by all this. 3hours later when I left the hospital he still had not responded to me or called me and I became impatient and annoyed. I messaged him saying "Are you serious?" And he didnt reply until an hour later asking if I was still at the hospital. 

I messaged him the next day explaining how he made me feel and he just became annoyed and defensive. It wasnt until a day or two later when he sought help from his parents that it seemed that he understood what was required of him in this situation. I did consider the fact that maybe because he had never experienced a loss of death in his life that he could not empathise. However I thought back to all our arguments where I could never seem to get him to understand my point of view until I do something drastic like threaten to give up and leave him that he would reassess and come back to me two days later saying he thinks he understands how I felt etc.

Needless to say, our arguments took its toll on me. I had a close male friend in which I was speaking to about our problems and he seems to understand me and empathise with me. I was so frustrated with my partner I avoided speaking to him about any issues. Eventually, it felt like my relationship with this friend was going beyond friendship. I started to compare the two people and couldn't understand. I used to attribute all of my partners "flaws" to him being male. But here was this other man that didn't seem to need any direction or didn't need to be TAUGHT or told how I was feeling. 

Although I became very close with this friend, I never crossed the physical line, he did once kiss me. I didn't want to hurt his feelings because at this stage I did not know if I wanted to pursue this or not and give up on my relationship. I didn't stop him but neither did I let him prolong it. 

Because of my partners aggressive nature, I was afraid to bring this up with him and unable to figure out how I would explain to him why I was getting close to someone else. I kept this from him and lied to him when he asked about the day that I went out. (Mind you we dont live together) A mutual friend spotted me that day and wrote a letter to my partner telling him I was cheating on him. 

I felt guilty and admitted I thought it was a form of emotional cheating. To cut the story short, the wedding is now cancelled and he says he is still deciding if he wants to pursue this relationship. Whilst I feel like, I still want to be in this relationship, I dont know whats going through his head or how it amy work.. From what i read, it seems as if he did just get very angry and unreasonably so (3weeks after the letter and he was still getting angry) and according to his parents, he seems to just shutdown when tried to be spoken to. 

He immerses himself in his 3 favourite hobbies, work, guitar and watching football. As the NT this is hard for me because I dont know whether to move on or to wait for him to go through his process. Neither do I know if he will get tested. I am willing to be with him despite the diagnosis but I fear that he will not realise that he had a play in pushing me away as well, especially since he has great difficulty seeing another person point of view also. 

For a while I thought maybe it was just the way I explained things, however I did speak to his best friend and when he was going through a break up, he found that my partner seemed to say "stupid suggestions" and not really seem to understand how he felt either. 

My question is, what is the normal process for an Aspie when processing an event like this? I am aware it takes alot more time for them to process then a NT person. But I dont know how to predict his thought process...

RE: My question is, what is the normal process for an Aspie when processing an event like this?
I would say he is most likely "scared off" at this point (lost trust in you and himself). So, he may go deeper into his distractions (obsessions) as a way to cope. Blaming you would be another "normal" Aspie-thing to do. Thus, he can justify the breakup. Also, he may simply not have the skills to mend fences at this point. One has to be quite socially skilled to undue the damage that has been done in this case.


I was fortunate enough to come across your Asperger’s blog and found it to have great information about Asperger’s. Thank you for your efforts to help raise awareness about the detrimental effects of this disorder!

My name is Rudy Rodriguez and I am contacting you on behalf of Dr. Velkoff of the Drake Institute ( of Behavioral Medicine, a Southern California based medical practice that provides effective nondrug treatment for Asperger’s. Drake’s Co-Founder and Medical Director, Dr. David Velkoff, is an expert in diagnosing and treating Asperger’s, and has offered safe, effective non-drug treatment programs for over 35 years now!

He has expressed an interest in speaking with you about Asperger’s. If you’re interested in sharing an expert’s opinion about diagnosing and evaluating Asperger’s, as well as in finding effective treatment for Aspergers’, then I think you would find a conversation with him to be extremely useful!

Dr. Velkoff has even mentioned that he’d be open to doing a type of Q&A session with you or your audience, and answering any questions about the disorder, its impact on the family, treatment options, etc.

Please let me know if you’re interesting in having a conversation or an email discussion with Dr. Velkoff. If you are, I’d be more than happy to provide you with his contact information so you can reach out to him directly.

Best Regards,

Rudy Rodriguez



My daughter is high functioning ASD/ Aspergers diagnosed since she was 3.  We've worked with assistance groups in my area and have had mild success.

As she's getting older and evolving I find so is her ASD.  Lately her twisting of logic, her quick negative downward spiral and her inability to self regulate in large groups is a concern.  I'm at a loss here. I'm in the works of contacting Kerry's place but I already know of the long wait lists and was hoping maybe you could offer some insight.  I find my daughter to be such a beautiful soul and caring individual but I'm frustrated when these times occur.

I'll be honest, just reading what to do doesn't always help myself.  My learning style has always been hands on and I find it difficult to translate theories into real life situations.

I did notice that on your website it was written in a way that seemed realistic and clearer than I've read before on other sites.  So here I am contacting you in hopes of some real useable strategies.


Thanks for the reply Mark,

I was wondering, when you say "at this point" are you referring to at this point in time? Or you mean that now the damage is done, there is no repair? 

To me, I feel like he has many Aspergic traits however he has managed to "learn" various social traits. In terms of relationships, probably hasnt learnt much regarding breakups and how to deal with them. I was his first girlfriend and his first love. 

In a situation like this, most NT would worry about their partner meeting someone else, moving on etc and although Ive been told by family and loved ones the same thing, I dont feel like he will move on that easily. 

He is a highly intelligent being when it comes to his interests and his field of work. However socially, I do feel like he is underdeveloped. I used to put this on lack of experience but now Im considering its an AS trait. 

He agreed to go to counselling (separate and together) after the new year when he says he thinks he's "calmed down". Is there a way for me or the counsellor to bring up the possibility of him getting tested for Aspergers? A week before he was given the letter, we did discuss he may have AS and that he should get diagnosed however, after this incident, I dont think the diagnosis would cross him mind. 

To me, my parents and his parents theyre starting to think he's strange and "insane". I couldnt explain to them my theory of him having AS. But the way he's dealing with the situation makes me more and more convinced of the possibility. 

So, is there anything I can do to make things better or amend this? He says he needs time and space if I respect him (Is this something Aspies value dearly? To deal with this on their own in their own way?) However as a NT, Im fighting urges to send him loving msgs, and a xmas gift to show I still care etc. I have a feeling he will view this as an intrusion as opposed to a loving gesture.

If I do give him space, how long do you think is an acceptable amount of time. No person wants to be stuck in limbo wondering what their sentence will be. As patient as I am, I am finding it difficult to "live life" when all I think about is how he is. 

Finally, once an Aspie's "walls" are up, what is the best way to get through to them and bring them down? What do they view as loving and devoted? 


Hi Mark

I have just started receiving your e-newsletters and am wanting to buy your on line e-book about parenting defiant teens but am a little skeptical, moreso about my own abilities to follow through than on the content of your e-book.

Would you please walk beside me for a few moments?

Our son stopped attending elementary school in February of 2013 (grade 8) due to bullying and a host of other reasons and it wasn't until June of that year that he received his ASD diagnosis.  We sent him to a new secondary school where none of his peers were going and for the reason of their tech program.  Grade 9 was a stellar year and he was on the honour roll academically.  Things started to slip in grade 10 and some non-understanding teachers made him avoid and consequently in semester 2 he was only attending 2 out of 4 classes and had to go to summer school to make up a credit, which he did.  

But since January of 2015 his ability to fall asleep has been horrible and all the traditional sleep hygiene techniques have not helped...nor has melatonin, nor has an anti-anxiety med.  He claims not to fall asleep before 5 a.m.

He made it through the first week of school this September and has not been back since.  A team has a list of options prepared but with this sleep issue at the forefront of his troubles, I don't know which comes first, the chicken or the egg.

The positives?  We befriended a vet tech with aspergers who leads dog agility classes and he faithfully took our dog to those for 8 weeks over the fall one night a week.  

He wanted to sign up for Track 3 skiing (where a one on one instructor is provided) for the 3rd year in a row.  Keep fingers crossed for snow.

He has very agreeable moments.

The negatives?  He has not gone trap and skeet shooting with his dad for over 9 weeks - his favourite activity.  They went to the club to volunteer the other day but he was unable to go the following day.  In the last week he has been defiant to the point of meltdown on 3 occasions and his response when calm is always that he is feeling anxious.

He says all the right things...he wants to go to school, he wants to clean his room, etc. but there is a disconnect and he either avoids or procrastinates and then does very little.

Overall the psychologist has been great but I don't feel she gets where we're at right now.  The same with the family doctor who keeps prescribing more exercise for a teen who can't walk the dog faithfully with his father 5 nights a week.
I feel abused, disrespected and angry when not crying at my lack of effective parenting.  I know both my husband and I are guilty of caving to his requests when he is good and reversing decisions made out of frustration.  


Hi Mr Hutton,

I'm confused about something and need your help.  Let me give you a little background info first.

My Undiagnosed Aspie husband and I have been married 5 years.  I am Christian, he is not.  His usual way of dealing with issues in the marriage is to leave.  The last time he was gone 1&1/2 years.  He's been home a year.  This September he began his stonewalling routine and then moved out a week before thanksgiving.  Every time he does this he says it's over, then that he loves me and wants to get back together, then we do marriage counseling, everything's going great (except the sex) and then the downward spiral into stonewalling hell begins, at which point he leaves.  Of course it's always all my fault (eye roll).  So, he has said he wants a divorce and doesn't want to work on the marriage, which is what he usually says, and I have avoided unnecessary contact with him.

He just sent me a text today discussing how our children will be dividing Christmas between us (his adult children from another marriage and my 17 yr old daughter from another marriage), and wishing me a Merry Christmas and a safe trip out of state.  I realize he is reaching out.  However, this is the first time I've dealt with this knowing he's an Aspie.  How do I go about this?  I feel God is asking me to pray for him and marital restoration again.

Can you explain why this keeps happening and how I should go about handling it?


Hi Mark,
I subscribe to your newsletter and have downloaded your Ebook. The information has been very helpful.  I have a 17 year old son that has recently been diagnosed as HF Aspergers.  He has recently returned from a Wilderness Therapy Program, EVOKE in Bend, Oregon.  They performed the complete Neuropsychological testings and ruled out a Bi Polar 2 diagnosis.  
We live in Los Angeles and I would like to find a Behavioral Therapist specialist for social skills training and therapy now that he’s back home.
Can you recommend someone? We live in the Hancock Park Area of Los Angeles.
Thank you,


Dear Dr. Hutton, 
 I am so very blessed to have found your information and youtube videos. My name is Leslie, and my brilliant husband, Vincent and I minister together in a personal ministry, and I am reaching out for help. 
About 4 months ago, I just realized my husband has aspergers. He has not been officially diagnosed, and he has not accepted this fact. It is extremely clear to me, and I cannot tell you how relieved I have felt since learning so much about aspergers. I have finally been able to make sense of my husband, my life and our relationship. 
However, my dear hubby has been extremely upset with me suggesting that he go see a doctor to get a diagnosis. I have tried several gentle and compassionate approaches, with fear and trembling I might add, in hopes that he will hear me out and do what needs to be done so we can continue growing together.  Looking back through our 22 years of marriage (we just "celebrated" our 22nd anniversary after Thanksgiving ( well... I celebrated) , and having 8 awesome children together, (yes- EIGHT ) ;) and one stepdaughter, I can tell you 100% that God has been providing His divine guidance for us all along. Vince has definitely come a long way…. a VERY Long Way!  But I am at a point in our marriage where we are not growing as I felt we should.  I mentioned earlier that my husband and I minister together. We have a personal ministry that seems to be growing more than we are, because of the knowledge and new ideas my hubby comes up with. I don't know if you are a Bible believer, please forgive me,  but the Bible is the most incredible book that never seems to have an end to new depths of revelation, and understanding. It truly is alive. This has been my husband's obsession, and its is an outstanding obsession.  However, there has to be a match with a person's character growth that goes along with their knowledge. And that is where I have a major problem dealing with my husband. We have been through several incredible healing ministry training schools, and have our certifications in each, and, of course, it has helped us tremendously in our personal relationship. (please see our website for more info. *(  )
However, Vince still has times of depression, or regression in his behavior, whether it be expressed through anger, extreme sensitivity to criticism, consistently having high automatic defense mechanisms, etc.  Sometimes I feel he is like a ticking time bomb. I have learned to be unbelievably careful with my words and responses.  There is no way in hades I would recommend anyone go through what I have gone through in the past 22 years to become the kind of people my husband and I have become… but for me, it definitely has been worth it! Truly transformational, and like the Bible says, Iron sharpens Iron. We are true soul mates and I believe fully in our marriage.  

So now, I am writing you because I have a problem. My problem is , because my husband and I are in ministry, and it is evident that he has a problem accepting himself, how can we honestly help people -with a pure heart- if we haven't dealt with our own serious issues? I feel like a hypocrite trying to counsel others. Vince truly is brilliant with the Word of God and his gifts are his unbelievable memory skills, excellent problem-solving skills, his practicality and reasoning, and loyalty. His weaknesses are he's diabetic, he is self-sabotaging, suffers from self-condemnation, thinks more and moves less (out of shape), has angry outbursts that are unpredictable, he's too often fighting within (flight or fight) , and he needs me too much to work for him (High Maintenance, kinda lazy ), and his criticism of me used to be unbearable, but he has cut down his criticism from 90% to 10%, which is a miracle . He is a Certified General real estate appraiser ( a perfect job for perfectionists who can do the mundane)  and this supports the family and ministry, and I do all the typing. It pays the bills, but we are not where we should be. So how do we move into our ministry and help others when I clearly see we have a problem? I understand that my hubby has been hiding the fact that he is different all his life, and he perceives this aspergers as a major threat to his character, and future even!   I am facing a huge challenge when dear Vince won't do the obvious to help himself? 

To tell you a little about me, I am a very active Mom, a certified fitness & nutrition counselor, personal trainer, a former world class athlete in track & field,  and I love to coach kids. Vince and I are truly exact opposites. I truly "Feel" what others are feeling, I am a "Burden Bearer", I know what Vince is feeling when he doesn't even have a clue, and I have a terrible memory, and get easily distracted during work, terrible focus because I'm bored or uninspired! :P  ... So I really appreciate my husband. We are so very compatible, its unreal! But without having a true relationship with Jesus, I would not have made it this far…. no way! Anyone with a weaker heart would have possibly lost their minds. 

Thank you so much for being there to help Dr. Hutton. I truly appreciate your advice or some insight that you are willing to provide. Thank you also for allowing me to share my story with someone I can trust. So far, no one is in my life that will Love my husband without judging him, and I have protected him by not involving my family with the many conflicts I have endured. 



I am interested in ordering your ebook. I just wanted to know how this is gonna look on the credit card statement or paypal receipt.

My wife and I are at the end of world war three here and I can't purchase anything that has a title like dealing with an AS spouse without angering the beast. She doesn't think she has it, though she knows our stepson does.

This year, among other things I bought my wife a car. Paid cash. After giving everything I had to give and seeing no change, I literally had a seizure while driving, and wrecked my truck, luckily at only 5mph. It was my first seizure. Still no change except that I am not allowed to drive for six months.

Actually after changing plans for our anniversary to fit her interest, baseball she told me that if I had died she would go after the catcher.   She now has a shirt that says I "heart" the catcher, Perez. And sees no issue with it.

 Meanwhile ..going on 6 months with zero(slightly less than normal) intimacy for me.

I am pretty much done grieving and I accept that she will likely never change. I need to change myself in order to survive this. I am open to pretty much anything though she may he on her own with baseball for a while. ;)

Thanks for letting me vent. No one really understands. I just look needy or insecure, which further damages my self esteem.
I am trying to stick this out for the kids but an affair is coming very soon if something doesn't change.

Is there some way to get this without her knowing what it is? We share an account. I told her I was going to donate $20 to feeding america just before I saw your book so the amount will go unnoticed as long as it says nothing about aspbergers....


Dear Mark Hutten,

I am reaching out to you all because I am currently conducting my dissertation research through the Child, Family, and School Psychology program at the University of Denver on the topic of the sexuality education of high functioning adolescent students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  I very much want to include parent/caregiver voices in my research, and am hoping to locate 5-10 parents/caregivers of high functioning adolescents with ASD to participate in my study.  I am wondering if any parents involved with My Aspergers Child would be interested in participating.
The purpose of this research is to develop guidelines for the sexuality education of high functioning adolescent students with ASD.  To date, there are few resources available that provide guidance on the sexuality education of students with ASD.  Through parent/caregiver insight and the joint effort of other participants, I hope to identify the key components of successful sexuality education of high functioning adolescent students with ASD.  The participants in this study include parents/caregivers of high functioning adolescent students with ASD, researchers and/or authors of sexuality education and ASD materials, and school psychologists who work with high functioning adolescents with ASD in a public school.  This is an important, but under researched area in the field.

For the purposes of this research, an adolescent is considered a student between the ages of 11-21 who is currently enrolled as a student between grades 6-12.  High functioning refers to students who have average to above average intelligence and verbal communication abilities.
Study participation involves completing three or more rounds of electronic questionnaires over a period of approximately three to four months.  Participant answers will be anonymous throughout the life of the study.  If participants would be interested in reading the results, I would be happy to send them upon completion of the study. 

If you or anyone affiliated with My Aspergers Child are interested, the Round 1 Questionnaire can be accessed here:
Thank you for your time, and please let me know if I can answer any questions!

  I am wondering if your book would be helpful for me and my 23 year old Asperger son. Though he is living in an apartment and attending college, he still has major problems with motivation. He is very resistant to reasonable expectations - like taking a daily shower and keeping his apartment at least semi-clean. I live about 2 hours away and visit him every few weeks. He still spends many hours a day wasting time on the Internet and has no motivation to get a job or think about the future. Can your approach work for a child no longer living at home with a parent? I am desperate to help him mature into a responsible, financially independent adult.


Thanks for this. Before we start I'd like to check if there's anything different we should do with our son. He was diagnosed only when we took him to see a specialist at the age of 18. He's now 22 but displays much of the typical teenage behaviour you describe. With that in mind we hope your book will be the help we need but have so far been unable to find. However, being slightly older may require something a little different. He's also 6' 5" so physical restraint (if any is advised - haven't read far enough to know yet) will be impossible to achieve.
Anyway, we'll work through your book and see how we get on.
Copying in my husband, John, so he has your contact details, too.


Dear Mr. Hutten
I apologize in advance for the length of this email. I think after reading your ebook, a lot has become clearer and I've had some things pent-up for a while that are so clearly hitting me.  Thank you for your insightful and approach. It doesn't fix my problem, but it gives me hope that this is "something" and we can attempt to tackle it. 
Here's my story:

For 25 years now I’ve just thought it was me—mostly because he has been masterful at turning it on me.  Denying, turning the conversation so far from the original topic or using the reason “I just thought it was best” or “I was just trying to be nice.”

After talking with our pastor’s wife yesterday about potentially leaving him, I think I finally realized this morning that this is not an incident in a marriage – like an affair or some one-time thing—that can be fixed or addressed and you try to move on—change or not do the behavior anymore.  This is about how he thinks—how his mind works and is wired.  Truly how he sees the world.

I have been told by two counselors (one most recently) that my husband has signs and symptoms of Asperger’s (with minor/possible passive narcissism).  I guess what that means finally hit me today when I was researching it on the internet and stumbled across your book and video portions.

He had a very successful career for 33 years in law enforcement. During that time, it was easy for me to justify his ‘turning off his emotions’ due to the job.  At the same time I was busy working full-time, doing all the housework, chores, finances and raising two children—these activities kept me too busy to realize what was really happening. 

Two years ago, he retired and we moved back to the Midwest where I am from.  Since then all the behaviors have become magnified. Behaviors like:
·        We got this marriage book to work on our marriage. One topic was empathy. When we came to the topic he told me he had never heard the word and didn’t understand what it meant.  I was dumb-founded…
·        We had a discussion even this morning and the point was that he didn’t tell me about a financial decision he made the day before. When I said he had mentioned something to me about a month ago, instead of seeing the problem as not communicating with me about the decision, he debated that it wasn’t a month ago (the time-frame mattered more).  He further stated that I just didn’t hear him—that he had thought he told me (he really thought he told me). We have lots of conversations with contradictory stories that ultimately go on and on and end up way off topic.
·        In 25 years of marriage, he has initiated sex once, maybe twice. We have had sex maybe 60 times in our entire marriage—a few more times in a year than normal when we were trying to have children, but generally maybe once or twice a year.
·        Two years ago our son was on floor, sobbing having a very difficult time with a terrible situation. I am on the floor comforting him.  He walks into the room and literally walks OVER him. Did NOT even notice his sobbing or that there was an issue. 
·        After he retired recently, I worked two jobs while I was diagnosed with two auto-immune diseases that kept me from (literally) walking or getting up—he watched every day and just went about his daily activities (went to the gym, watched movies).  All he would say is “I feel bad for you” as if disconnected from me.
·        We went on a date; I was in heels dressed up. My sister and her husband were in front of us holding hands but he didn’t even notice and just walked around downtown and observed as if there alone and really intrigued by the city—almost oblivious to the fact that I was there.
·        He recently sent an email to an acquaintance (he met this individual maybe three/four times) he knew was going through a tough time. He invited him to coffee and told him he would listen if the person wanted to vent.  A week prior I had to ask him to sit down with his 22-year old son, who was home on break, and chat with him. When I asked him how he could have coffee with this person and appear to be caring he said “because it doesn’t mean anything and it’s the right thing to do.” 
o   He knows how to put on the appropriate social appearances as if “textbook.”
·        Has brought home the wrong items from the grocery store multiple times—in multiples. For example, on one trip, he brought home 3 of the wrong juices, 3 of the wrong Pop-Tarts, and 2 of the wrong applesauce brands.  He had to get them off the shelf, put them on the conveyor for check-out, pack them, unpack them and put them on the shelf in our pantry – he didn’t even notice he picked the wrong ones.  He admitted to going into a convenience store, grabbing what he thought was a water only to get to the checkout and realize it was Sprite.  In these, and other repeated incidents—he really didn’t realize he had purchased or was about to purchase the wrong thing.
·        He is obsessed with news and sports scores for baseball.  Watches or reads at least 3-6 newspapers several times per day. Yet, he can’t sit with me for 15 minutes to discuss anything.
·        I have done all the grocery shopping, finances and raising of the children.  We don’t talk about finances or the children unless I bring it up.  He recently started grocery shopping but now it’s as if 1. He’s been doing it forever; 2. He doesn’t really share what he’s doing. He’ll make the list and do everything himself. 
·        He was a very successful police officer—really admired by many; pretty much because he knew the right things to say and do because it was very “black & white.”   He was told by many individuals that he was/is a very black/white person.
·        After many years of discussing topics and coming to what I thought was mutual agreement on a plan of action, he would go his own way without telling me or negotiating a different solution to what we had agreed upon. He would discount this until Has admitted openly to me recently (finally) that “he thinks he knows best.” Period. No debating—in his mind, he truly believes he has the right course of action—no collaboration, no partnering, etc.  When confronted—it was turned back onto me that I just didn’t see that he “was just doing what was best.”
·        I told him once I didn’t want a surprise party for my 50th birthday because instead I wanted to get my teeth corrected. I got a very large surprise party—because he knew best and was just being ‘nice.’  I was clearly angry about it. I now never get any surprises because “you don’t like surprises.”
·        He has very little sense of collaboration in our marriage. It’s either all him or all me—which is odd because of his career—but I guess it was more clear cut there.
·        My oldest son recently wrote him a letter (email) telling him how hurt he was and how he felt his dad didn’t care about him.  After reading it, he calls and the first thing out of his mouth was “what’s the matter?”  (truly curious about what the problem was…not remorse, not I’m so sorry you are hurting, etc.)
·        Whenever he writes me a card, even after 25 years, it’s very formal—almost something out of a literature book—no honey, babe, etc. 
·        We were talking about how in a day there are times when nothing would phase him—he didn’t have a jealous bone in his body, traffic never got to him, other people never annoyed him, movies were merely entertainment—not to move you or to mean anything, etc. He recently told me ‘a lot of people go through a day without being influenced by anything.’
o   It’s almost as if he’s robotic; again, he knows how to handle social things based on what he perhaps has read or seen on shows like Adam 12 or Dragnet or a John Wayne movie (which he is kind of obsessed about-these he truly believes are ‘real’)

How I feel:
·        Completely alone
·        No one to partner with; share with
·        Stuck/trapped
·        Can’t seem to have a ‘normal’ conversation with him
·        Like I know him but he doesn’t know me and at the same time like I don’t really know him—I know what or how a normal person would react
·       Stifled--emotionally
·        Exhausted! 
·        Crazy—he twists things so easily
·        Unnoticed
·        Sexually pent-up
Thank you, if you have read this far, for reading and indulging me.  I think I wanted to write just to get it out to someone I think might understand and seeing it now I feel really silly that I didn’t see it sooner and was kind of a ‘sucker’ for falling for his behavior all this time (or at the very least ignorant).  I thought he was just very egotistical or self-centered and narcissistic.  Understanding Aspergers will be key for me if we are to survive.

I realized recently we need some deep counseling to learn how to communicate—or at least I do so I don’t go crazy--and we have a resource locally for doing so. My counselor has referred us to someone who specializes in Asperger's.

At this point i know our old counselor from a few years ago told him he had Asperger's but he didn't ever acknowledge it. I was recently told by our mutual counselor that he has it (but I'm not sure she told him).   Do I tell him or ask the counselor if he has told him he has Asperger's?  Any other advice you can give me?  If you are still having seminars, please point me to where I could find one.
Thank you again.


Hi Mark,

I'm sure you probably get lots of emails like mine... I'm writing because I need help and I don't really know who else to turn to. Therapists in my area can't seem to help as they are not equipped to deal with my situation.

I've been married to my husband (who I suspect has undiagnosed Aspergers) for one year.  It has been a very challenging year, and I'm afraid we are at the brink of divorce.  I've listened to your talks on youtube, and everything you said resonated with me --- the relational issues stemming from different priorities, obsessive interests/activities, lack of emotional understanding, defensiveness, etc...  My husband and I have many, many unresolved disconnects.  It didn't seem to make sense to me until his sister mentioned that she thinks he may have Aspergers.  I didn't know what that was, but upon researching it, everything finally made sense.  Last October, I gently broached the subject with my husband that perhaps he may have some traits that are "on the spectrum." He responded very negatively (which is an understatement because he was actual quite vile about it).  It was a side of him I've never seen before.  Very angry and almost cruel.  He is now so very cold and distant towards me.  His son from another marriage has severe autism and he has accused me of being malicious in suggesting that he may be on the spectrum too.  

We are currently going to therapy, but I'll be honest.  I don't know if he actually wants to make this marriage work.  He has an extremely negative perspective about our marriage.  He is vehemently opposed to considering he might have ASD, even though verbally he tells me and the AS/NT therapist that he doesn't care about the label.  I'm so confused and I don't know what to do or where else to turn.  He is in such deep denial and refuses to look at himself or his role in our relationship challenges.  He is highly defensive and any input or feedback from me is seen as criticism or an attack on his character.  I'm at a point that I'm afraid to even be honest and open during our therapy sessions (let alone at home) because it only results in him further distancing himself from me and our marriage.  

Mark, I'm in utter despair.  Our marriage is hanging by a thread.  I'm writing to see if perhaps you can shed some insight or advice on how I should handle the situation.  How should I proceed when my husband seems so resistant to anything and everything?  Please help.

Thank you so much.