HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Dishonesty or Fantasy: Which One Is Your Asperger’s or HFA Child Engaging In?

“I catch my son (age 4, level 1 autistic) in a lie quite often. But when I confront him and try to get to the truth of the matter, he will vehemently insist that he is NOT lying. Arguing with him over the particular issue at the time is both exhausting and pointless. So, when he gets punished for lying, it has no lasting benefit (since he evidently doesn’t believe he has lied). So here we go again with yet another lie. I’m lost on what to do here. He’s either an expert at deceit, or blind to what the truth is and what fiction is. Any suggestions on how to handle this will be greatly appreciated.”

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) often confuse their parent by the quantity/quality of their dishonesty and by the fact that traditional disciplinary methods don't change the behavior. For young people on the spectrum, it will be helpful for parents to think less in terms of “dishonesty” and more in terms of "fantasizing" (i.e., the child will say what he wants to be true, rather than what is really true).

Fantasizing disguised at lying happens for several reasons. Here are just a few:

1. The “parent-pleaser” factor: The HFA or AS child knows that the truth may make his parents angry, and he wants to please them. If he has done something wrong (e.g., due to impulsivity, compulsive behavior, self-protective behavior, language processing problems, motor planning problems, etc.), he may try to make it right by telling his parents what he thinks they want to hear.

2. The “lack of awareness” factor: The child simply doesn't know what is true. If she behaves impulsively, she may not have an awareness of what she has done. Also, if she has problems with language processing, she may not understand what was asked or expected.

3. The “confusing reality with fiction” factor: The child can’t distinguish between wishful thinking and reality. What is objective to the parents may be subjective to him. If one truth is as good as another, he may select the one that seems (in his mind) to best fit the situation.

4. The “inability to predict cause-and-effect” factor: The HFA or AS child can't forecast the outcomes of her behavior. For example, she throws a rock and breaks a window. Her blameworthiness in the act seems clear-cut to the parents. However, if the child has trouble with the relationship between cause and effect, she may not be able to make the connection between throwing a rock and breaking a window. In her mind, intentionality is a factor. In other words, if she didn't intend to do it, she didn't do it.

5. The “it’s true for me” factor: The child is telling “his” truth. Due to his disorder, he often experiences the world very differently as compared to his parents. But, that does not make his experience “false.” If he persistently, frantically clings to an assertion that the parents feel is false (e.g., the water is too hot, this chore is too hard, my toy can't be found, etc.), parents should ask themselves if it might be only false to them.

6. The “anxiety” factor: The child is stressed. If parents know that their youngster can't think calmly and clearly when stress levels are high, then they shouldn’t be surprised if they see a lot of senseless, immovable dishonesty in that situation.

7. The “it’s my way to contribute to the conversation” factor: The child is simply trying to join in the discussion. If she has limited life experiences or a limited vocabulary, she may want to have something to say, but no real contribution to make. Coming up with a tale (however imaginary or fabricated) may seem to her like the only way to participate.

If the HFA or AS youngster has genuine “special needs” that leads him or her to tell “wishful half-truths” rather than the real truth, parents should think carefully before handing out punishment for dishonesty. Of course, the youngster needs to know that he/she should be honest at all times, but if the dishonesty is not deliberate, punishment teaches nothing.

When parents catch their youngster being “dishonest” (in their mind), they should ask themselves if the child is doing so with malice and intent. If not, they should try putting more honesty in their child’s fantasizing. Tell the child what you think happened instead of demanding an explanation. If he says, "I don't know," then take that as an honest answer. Stay as composed and rational as possible when getting to the truth of the situation. Respect your youngster's reality, and be open to negotiation. Also, tell more truth than fiction yourself.

How can you tell if your HFA or AS child is being dishonest, or simply fantasizing?

Pay close attention to your youngster's behavior, and you should be able to tell if he or she is being dishonesty. For example:

1. Watch the body language. Kids who are being dishonesty are more likely to appear nervous and defensive (e.g., hunched shoulders, stiff body or face, repeatedly touching the nose or mouth, avoiding eye contact, etc.). The child who is nervous when telling a particular story may be fibbing.

2. Look at your child’s facial expression. The child who is telling the truth has a relaxed face that usually shows an emotion that matches what she is saying. However, if she is being dishonest, her face may show anxiety caused by knowing that she is fibbing.

3. Stories that are made up often contain inconsistencies or elements that don't make sense. Parts of the story may not sound believable. If parents suspect that their child is being dishonest, they can ask him to repeat what he just said. Honest stories told two times in a row will usually be the same, but stories that contain lies often change dramatically or contain accounts that can’t both be true.

4. Decide whether or not your child’s story sounds rehearsed or spontaneous. Kids who are being honest will usually tell it "off the cuff" (i.e., the story will sound like a fresh recounting of an actual event). Conversely, a fib may sound stilted or rehearsed. Some kids may even repeat the exact same phrase when telling a rehearsed story the second time.

How to help the HFA or AS child who DOES lie: 
  • Always model “telling the truth.”
  • Avoid lectures and quick irrational decisions (e.g., “If you lie again, you'll be grounded to your room for a week!”).
  • Do not accept excuses for lying. Lying is never acceptable.
  • HFA and AS kids need to understand the hurtful consequences of lying, and when possible, should apologize for it.
  • Kids often lie to keep their parent happy. Thus, they need to know that the parent values the truth much more than a small act of misbehavior.
  • Let your child know that you are disappointed in his behavior, but bring him up before you bring him down (e.g., "It’s not like you to lie about your homework, you're usually very good at getting things done and staying on top of things").
  • Logical consequences need to be in place for lying.
  • Praise the truth! Catch your child telling the truth at a time when you know she would like to sugar-coat a situation.
  • Role-play the potential devastating consequences of lying.
  • The child should be part of the solution and/or the consequences. Ask her what she is prepared to give - or do - as a result of the lie.
  • Through role-playing, teach your youngster the value of telling the truth. 
  • Give a warning regarding future instances of lying. For example, “In the future, if you choose to lie, you will also choose the consequence, which is __________ (fill in the blank with an appropriate consequence, such as the loss of a valued privilege).”

When dealing with HFA and AS children, it’s important for parents to understand the difference between “The Truth” and “subjective truth.” Much of the time, parents of special needs kids are dealing with the latter. Something that parents may consider as true may not necessarily be considered true by their child – and vice-versa. So, when you are uncertain whether or not your youngster is being honest, don’t simply jump to conclusions and accusations. Investigate first! See if you can figure out how - and why - your child is “making sense” in the way he or she is.

How to Handle Non-Compliant Children on the Autism Spectrum

Learn 9 crucial interventions that are especially helpful for resolving non-compliance in Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic children...



Click here for the article: Noncompliant Behavior in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Learn the Difference Between Behavior Problems and Food Allergies


Is your son or daughter with Asperger’s (High-Functioning Autism) often defiant and easily frustrated? If so, have you simply labeled your child's behavior as mere disobedience - and reprimanded him or her accordingly? You may be nagging up the wrong tree.

In this post, you will discover the critical issues associated with allergy-related behavioral problems, such as digestive function, how your child's doctor can test for food allergies, and how you can eliminate the cause.

As one mother stated, “I am a firm believer that diet affects our Asperger’s children. I have had mine on a low- gluten diet for 2 months now & he is a very different child!!! He is happy, more attentive & is interacting well w/ peers. Temper is also MUCH better & easier to control. I opted for low-gluten because he is only 6, and ADHD med he is on decreases his appetite already, making him very small for his age. Even this small change in his diet has helped tremendously!!”

Click here for the full article ==> Misbehavior or Food Allergy?

Management Strategies for Employers with Employees on the Autism Spectrum

Do you have a person working for you who has Asperger’s (high functioning autism)? And, are you experiencing some issues in dealing with him or here?

Some of the difficulties that employees on the autism spectrum encounter include the following:
  • atypical body movements (e.g., fidgeting)
  • decreased concentration due to environmental distractions
  • difficulty communicating with co-workers or supervisors
  • difficulty exhibiting typical social skills on the job
  • difficulty managing stress in the workplace
  • difficulty managing time
  • difficulty performing many tasks at one time
  • difficulty recognizing faces
  • difficulty understanding abstract concepts (e.g., corporate structure, hierarchies of responsibility, reporting requirements)
  • memory deficits that can affect their ability to complete tasks, remember job duties, or recall daily actions or activities

Here are several important accommodation ideas that will help you get the most out of your “special needs” employee: 

Learn the Complexities of Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum

If you’re a teacher or home-schooler with an Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) student, here are some crucial classroom accommodations for the following traits associated with AS and HFA:
  • Poor Motor Coordination
  • Academic Difficulties
  • Emotional Vulnerability
  • Impairment in Social Interaction 
  • Restricted Range of Interests
  • Insistence on Sameness
  • Poor Concentration

Click here for the full article ==> Teaching Children and Teens with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

15 Parenting Secrets for Raising Difficult Children on the Spectrum

“Is anyone else having a hard time coping with their autistic (high functioning) child? My son, Aiden, is almost 6, and he is very difficult to understand and reprimand. He has been diagnosed with ADHD too. I'm not sure about the ADHD ...I see him with more of "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" with a dash of autism. My husband has a bit of this same issue ...so he and Aiden have major trouble communicating. I’m stuck in the middle. The situation between my son and my husband, and my son and myself is extremely grueling and it is affecting our health and our marriage. Aiden’s older sister is affected as well. Of course we do love our son ....just can't figure out a way to reduce the enormous family stress we are all feeling now! Help!!”

Welcome to the club. Raising a youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) will take a few "tricks of the trade" that parents wouldn't need to have "up their sleeve" were they raising a "neurotypical" (i.e., non-autistic) son or daughter.

If you are at your “wits end” and need a few fresh parenting strategies in dealing with behavioral problems, then read on…


1. Don’t believe it when your HFA or AS youngster seems unaffected by discipline. Young people on the autism spectrum often pretend discipline doesn’t bother them. Parents must be persistent with their planned discipline, and consider themselves successful by keeping their “parenting plan” in place. When your son pretends a particular consequence doesn’t bother him, you may be tempted to give up on it, which reinforces his disobedience. Remember, moms and dads can only control their actions, not their youngster’s reactions.

2. Don’t just tell your son the correct way to do something – have him rehearse it too. For example, if he has a habit of slamming the kitchen cabinet after reaching for a snack, have him put the snack back in the cabinet and, this time, close it less forcefully. Then reward him with acknowledgement and praise.

3. Notice and appreciate even small instances of teamwork from your HFA child.  Create as many opportunities for positive reinforcement as possible. For instance, if you're working on a household chore, ask your son to hand you the dust rag. When he does what you ask, thank him specifically for his willingness to help out. If he doesn't, simply move on without comment. The goal here is to make your request so easy that he will comply without even thinking about it. Then, for just a second, he will experience the positive feelings associated with being compliant, which will make it more likely that he will comply with tougher requests in the future.

4. Become a “transition coach.” Most HFA and AS kids have difficulty with transitions (e.g., moving from one activity or location to the next). Thus, as your child’s personal coach, (1) discuss well in advance what is expected from him, and (2) have him repeat out loud the terms he just agreed to. Some children need to negotiate for that "can I please have one more minute?" A little extra patience on your part will help avoid a useless tantrum or meltdown.  

CLICK HERE for more information on helping with transitions. 

5. Many parents of “special needs” children are indecisive about what course of action to take. After all, many traditional parenting techniques backfire when used on autistic kids. Thus, the parent may jump from one parenting strategy to the next without giving any one strategy enough time to be successful. Or, the parent may try a new strategy once and then give up in frustration because it didn’t work. How many times have you said something like, “I’ve tried everything – and nothing works with this child”? So, don’t make the mistake of floating from one parenting tool to another without sticking with one specific tool for a significant period of time. If a particular tool only works 50% of the time, that’s the same as cutting a behavior problem in half (not bad!).

6. Actively look for opportunities to model humility. You probably already know that your son copies some of your behaviors and phrases you use often. So, why not use that to your advantage. When you are wrong, quickly admit this to him. This will demonstrate (a) making amends and (b) that it’s safe to make mistakes. Admitting your mistakes teaches your youngster to respect others. If you’ll do this techniques often, don’t be surprised to hear him sounding exactly like you someday soon (e.g., “I’m sorry mom. I know you told me to feed the cat, but I forgot”).

7. How many times have you said something to your child like, “There you go again – making a big mess.” This downloads in his brain as “I’m a messy person.” As a result, he will continue to be messy as if it were a prescribed behavior. But, you can use this phenomenon to your advantage by employing “reverse psychology.” For instance, “That’s not like you …you’re able to do much better than that.” This line works because your child will live up to – or down to – your expectations. Also, this phrase downloads in your child’s mind as “I am capable.”

8. Frequently use humor to deal with family stress. For instance, one mother of an Asperger’s child would always start singing MC Hammer’s hit song (one of her son’s favorites) entitled “U Can’t Touch This” whenever her son began to muster-up the energy for a tantrum. In many instances, this would throw him off course and short-circuit the tantrum.

9. Don’t fight every battle that comes down the pike – and NEVER try to fight multiple battles at once. HFA and AS kids don't readily comply, so the more requests you issue, the more the opportunities for them to get stuck. Divide the things you want your son to do into 3 classes: Class 1 includes a few mandatory rules, which are usually about safety (e.g., put on your seat belt, don’t hit your sister, no playing with matches, etc.). Class 2 includes issues in which you are willing to negotiate (e.g., a slightly later bed time). Class 3 includes rules that aren't worth causing an argument over (e.g., when your son complains moderately about having to do a chore, yet he complies).

10. When it comes to getting your child to do chores, consider the "hiring a substitute" technique. He can choose to hire someone to do his chore (e.g., by paying a wage of 50 cents he has saved from an allowance), or mutually agree to trade chores with his sister.

When it comes to getting your child to do homework, CLICK HERE for some very crucial suggestions. 

11. Understand that the same discipline may not work in all situations because of the unique features of HFA and AS. For example, your child may be having a particularly bad day, and may have a tantrum or meltdown when a privilege is taken away for misbehavior, whereas on a typical day he may respond well. Also, try to blend a combination of several parenting tools to create a more effective discipline.

12. Always remember that HFA and AS children need – and want – structure. In many cases, these children are actually starved for structure, because it helps them feel safe. Having a clear understanding of “the rules of the game” (i.e., what is - and is not - acceptable behavior, the rewards for proper behavior, and the consequences for misbehavior) circumvents confusion and frustration. Write these rules down and post them. In addition, remember that rules have no value for kids on the spectrum unless they are backed up by immediate, yet short-term consequences.

13. One of the worst things you can say to your HFA son is, "If you do that one more time, you’re going to _______ (insert consequence)." He may be irresistibly drawn to do just that, either because you've set an impulse in motion, because he can't deal with the stress of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or because he gets stuck on what you've just said. Instead of specifying “one more time,” say something such as, "I have a number of times in my head, and you're not going to know what that number is. But, when you hit that number, you going to get a consequence." This gives your child a few extra chances if he seems to be trying without going back on a threat, and it gives him a little leeway to know that he can slip-up a time or two.

14. Social stories are great for helping HFA and AS children with their inherent social skills deficits. Because one of the traits of the disorder is the inability to interact normally in social situations, social stories can be employed in a variety of ways in order to model appropriate behavior. Through the use of engaging stories, these young people can learn appropriate and inappropriate responses to situations. The story should be specifically tailored to the individual youngster. By modeling situations familiar to your son, he can be better prepared to react in a socially appropriate way to those same situations in the future.

Social stories typically have 3 clear-cut ways of addressing a particular situation: The first describes who, what, where and why in relation to the situation. The second is a “perspective sentence” that explains how others react to the situation being discussed. And, the third sentence attempts to model an appropriate response. Social stories can be accompanied by music and pictures. Also, rewards can be used when a situation is properly addressed.  

CLICK HERE for more information on how to create social stories.

15. When it comes to dealing with your son’s meltdowns, think of him as a train with an “anxiety speedometer.” When that speedometer reaches 80 mph, it’s going to take a long long time to stop that train. Your goal is to keep him from coming anywhere close to 80 mph. Let’s say, for example, you enter the room when your son is at an anxiety level of 55 mph. The stress of a current situation is getting to him. In this case, you will want to slow that train down before it gathers momentum. Laugh, divert, distract, negotiate, or anything else you can think of – and the speedometer should come down to 30 mph (assuming you have skillfully camouflaged your intervention).  

CLICK HERE for more information on dealing with tantrums and meltdowns.

Parents of kids with HFA and AS face many problems that other parents don’t. These “special needs” young people are emotionally more immature than their “typical” peers. They may be indifferent - or even hostile - to their parents’ concerns. They often get punished for “misbehavior” when the behavior in question was really related to sensory sensitivities (or some other autism-related trait) that are out of their control. However, by implementing some of the ideas listed above, moms and dads can reduce – and in many cases, eliminate – many of the severe behavioral problems that exist today.

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for June, 2017]

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.

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Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for this. I just want to let you know that I am reading and digesting, and so is my ex-wife and her partner (both in CC). As we all co-parent Anna (our lovely 15 year old Aspie girl) we are actively working together to try to help her with these socialisation issues.

I just want to add that I find your specific descriptions of the kind of issues Aspie kids face to be so helpful. Speaking for myself, there have been so many times where I have felt a bit baffled as to why certain types of situations haven't worked out well for her. It changes the game to have these insights, as well as useful strategies for improving things. Anna is not without friends, but has experienced painful rejection a few times, and could  definitely use some help. I'm very hopeful that we can do that, with your books as an aid.

As you suggest, we will read and apply, and come back to you if there are specific issues that we can't tackle from the books themselves.

Thanks again, and best regards,

Daniel

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Good morning Mark,

Thank you for the link; I purchased the  Ebook and spent about 4 hours yesterday listening and taking notes.  This in addition to the 2 hour audio book along with some additional videos I found on YouTube.  I am convinced that my 27 year old son has Aspergers /High Functioning Autism, its just getting my husband to come on board to help with developing my son's independence and stop our enabling. But most important, its getting my son to realize he has an  issue which will explain most of the situations he has been confronting in the past several years.   I did hear you mention that you can offer guidance with this; I may be seeking your assistance in the near future.  This week we are on vacation so I will not be reading up on  this but I will be back.  Thanks again, your videos/ebooks have  been so informative and have explained ALOT!

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Dear Mr Hutten,

My name is Angela and within the last year I feel I've found the missing piece to my life. After reading Temple Grandin's book and then diving into this world head on, there is little doubt in my mind that I have ASD. I've carried a host of scattered diagnosis in the past but nothing ever really fit or made total sense.

I'm a do-er, I quest for knowledge, understanding and better in life. Every day. I've learned so much and overall am able to function pretty well in the neurotypical world. But it's still hard. Drastically hard.

One of the places I see many of the struggles is in my marriage. My husband and I are both super committed to one another and love each other deeply, but things are just hard. The meltdowns and lots of other little things are really taking a toll on us and we are starting to see real changes in how we operate with one another.

We are excited to download your ebook and glean wisdom and perhaps a new game plan to move forward with. We've worked with counselors in the past and they just seem so outside of our world we tend to be more productive without them. Just the two of us, stumbling around in the dark figuring out what works and what doesn't. It's exhausting for both of us.Our brains work differently. We come at problems with different tools to work with. It's great and hard all at once. We really would love some outside guidance from someone who understands this world.

I'm hoping to find someone eventually to work with one on one as well to understand this world more deeply and being able to add to the skill sets I already have with some concrete ideas to implement in my own life.

It's hard when NT people try to help and offer ideas with the best intent, but I then often seem unable to fully implement them or get the desired results because I just operate differently. I've had people tell I'm just not trying hard enough, and frankly for years I believed that. But no matter how hard I tried and pushed myself I still found myself unable to "hit that mark". I'd love to find someone to work with on adding to my own tools to be able to navigate things easier. Any advice for trying to find someone local?

I contacted my state Autism society and was basically told they don't know of anyone who works with adults on the spectrum near me and their primary job is to help families or children. Adult resources weren't to be had. I was also told good job for all I've achieved and for being where I am and to "just keep swimming". I appreciate the encouragement but I want to find help and answers.

I noticed some clips from seminars you've done and I was wondering if you have a calendar anywhere of any scheduled events? We'd really love to see you in person. I wish there were more therapists with a deeper understanding of this world. I really wish there was some type of network to find people who "get" us. We aren't less, just different and I want to find help that can speak to my different.

Anyway, any advice, information  or recommendations would be much appreciated. Thank you for what you do.

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Hello Dr Hutten,

 I am desperate for help. I have 8-year-old twins.  I am divorcing their father.  He was diagnosed with NPD by someone from a group called the Aspergers Autism Network (AANE).   I truly belief the diagnosis fits. 

I am looking for a therapist to treat my children and I am hoping you can recommend someone in Baltimore, MD.  The therapist does not need to take insurance.  It would be great if that person would be willing to testify in court.  I feel like I am screaming in the wind with regard to their father's diagnosis.  I can't stop him from having them several nights a month.  My kids hate it. My attorney says there is nothing I can do about it.  NPD doesn't present itself in a way that it is easy for the courts to deal with.  I am documenting every time them come back without being fed and other things the court can understand.

The therapists my children are seeing now are completely dismissive of my concerns and my husband's diagnosis.  I think they just don't understand it and the implications for my children.  They see a wonderful, charming father who shows up and says the right things.  I call it the "display model."  The display model is a wonderful human being.  The person that is with my children is in his bedroom watching pornography and ignoring his kids.  We will soon be getting his computers to see if it is underage porn. 

Please please please help if you can.  I am willing to pay cash and not use insurance.  I just need a good therapist for my children. 

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Dear Mark,

Thank you for your prompt reply. I really appreciate it. I am a computer programmer (MSc) and my second occupation is psychotherapist, although I know how it might sound to you. I have already one marriage after me. I have a son. I am trying hard to find better contact with him. I am now in the second relationship with a lovely woman (I am 43, so is she too). She still gives us a chance, as she (she has PhD in chemistry) recently figured out that I have to be on this autistic spectrum as an adult.

She gives all her hopes on you as a competent therapist for this kind of challenge. Until now I was looking at myself that I have some symptoms from autistic character, but I could never admit myself that I could be quite that, as I made two learning analysis. But realizing I am pretty sure a high functioning (or maybe not so high) autistic adult I feel pretty confident that talking to you might be very helpful for me to clarify my prespective and our relationship. I am using no medicine drugs, no psychiatric medication, I drink no alchohol, I am not a smoker ... I am psychoanalitcal therapist and also a hypnotherapist. I do it as a part time job.

My problem is that sometimes my partner doesn't feel that I am connected to her. She sees me distant, as a stoneface, pokerface if you want. Her feedbacks are normally true as she is very sensitive, though. She is an energetic healer, as she posesses those kind of skills. She works as an API sourcing manager.

For the time being we live seperate in wish to come togeter if possible. I am putting also a lot of hope in working with you at least for some hours. And yeah, this is my motivation. I would appreciate if you coud give me, or maybe to both of us together an initial hour to clarify some open issues. What can I expect in the future, I what is for my partner to expect if she continues to live with me.

I would very appreciate it if you could find this hour somewhere taking into account we live in Austria and CET time zone. But that's not a problem really as we would take any time needed.

So, I want to do my best out from me. To continue my personal development. I am a very sensitive man, I can be very strong and determined, but still I can get pretty unsecure and hiding behind another person. Right now I am working in a new company for more than a year. It is very promising if I get further. But my real wish is my psychotheraputic work, but until now I was always doing so not to have to many patients. Recently, I am getting to know why. I would like to stop living to comply to others and more to live as I am. I have all the support of my partner.

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Hi there -- I'm just wondering if any research has been done about the frequency of dementia or other such conditions among parents (especially mothers, I would say) of "children" with Aspergers?  For example, my son is 40 years old, I have about 99.9% of the responsibility for everything concerning him, I think his dad would be diagnosed with Aspergers too if he allowed himself to be seen; this morning it struck me that it would be a JOY to be diagnosed myself with dementia so I wouldn't have to deal with it anymore!  Unlikely to happen any day soon (I'm not yet 69), but I just wondered if there's anything to this idea.  Surfing the Internet brought me to you, who have done a lot of work with Aspergers and the parents of Asperger people, so I thought maybe you might know of any possibly connection.

It was just a thought -- maybe some doctoral candidate would like to do work on it...  I volunteer!

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Hi Mark,

My son Jordan is 16 and he has been diagnosed with Aspergers by a psychotherapist about a year ago.
By then he had gone through a lot of difficulties emotionally and socially (since aged 12) which resulted in:
- school withdrawal (eventually home tutored)
- social isolation
- anxiety
- depression

He is still followed by a therapist but he has been completely withdrawn and refuses to talk to anyone.

We live just outside London in the UK and I'd love to have access to a
Coaching service like yours in our area or at least in the UK.
Can you help?
Your approach and your webpage looks like it could really work for us.

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Good morning Mr. Hutten - 

I have recently come across your e-book My Asperger Teen and downloaded the book and also have been reading the hard book.  I find your book very interesting and am having issues with my 16 year old son.  I have 3 other sons besides Scott and I have given them your e-book to listen to to try to understand him more and help.  It has always been difficult dealing with him over the years and has caused a strain with him and his brothers.  I would also like if you have any suggestions on how to bring the family closer together.  

He is having a lot of changes coming up when school starts up in August and I wanted to see if you can provide me some specific help regarding specific issues I have.  

1.  He is 16 years old and is still having an issue with bed wetting.  He was on medicine to try to control the bed wetting and wetting his pants during the day and has been off the medicine for some time.  We actually did not have  problem for around 8 months and then we started with the same problem about 1 month ago and it has been happening at least 4 times a week.  Any suggestions?

2.  We also have a problem with his hygiene.  He is starting to mature and does not like to shower.  He goes into the bathroom for 30 minutes and am not sure what he does in there.  My husband and I have both sat in the bathroom with him because sometimes he would go in there and just sit on the floor.  He got a job in a supermarket and is changing schools in August and I do find that he has body odor quite a lot.  He said he doesn't smell it when I tell him and refuses to shower again.  Any suggestions on hygiene?  

3.  He is obsesses with his computer. He will sit on it for hours and when I tell him to get off he doesn't listen.  If I go over and just shut it off, he throws a fit and will throw things and start cursing and run into his room and hide in a ball.  He tells me he plays with his friends on the computer.  He doesn't socialize and doesn't have any outside friends.  When he does get off the computer, he goes and watches TV instead.  Any suggestions to stop the computer playing?  

4.  Like I said he is changing schools in August and I wanted to see how to make the transition a little easier for him.  He will be going to a trade/high school and he will be in classes with adults.  He does have problems with doing homework and doing classwork.  He just sits there and does nothing.  Fortunately, he is extremely smart and he tests very well.  I know counseling doesn't work so I didn't know how to deal with this.

I know you said we can't take on all these issues at once and can only fix one thing at a time.  I would like to know if you do any group sessions in South Florida because I would love to see you in person.  Do you have anyone in South Florida that you deal with that would be able to counsel me on some of these issues or is you would be able to answer them.  

Any help you can give would be much appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi Mark

I'm writing because my family is in crisis due to parenting issues. I was looking for parenting coaching but wondering if your Online Parent Support package would be a good fit?

I live with my husband (married five years ago), 13 year old son and 11 year old daughter. The kids have 30-40% custody with their father, who left me in 2010. My son has always been a challenge - ADHD, gifted, learning disabilities, behaviour stuff. In fact, he was homeschooled until this school year due to his issues. He started high school September 2016, and since then we have been dealing with a whole new crop of problems, in addition to old ones that never got resolved. My daughter is highly functional, though she gets away with more than she would if she didn't have the brother that he has.

My marriage is in crisis because my husband is frustrated with my ineffective parenting and the train wreck that he sees coming with my son. I struggle with consistency (I probably have ADHD) and also with not having the freedom to parent without having to seek input from both my husband (who doesn't have biological kids of his own) and my ex (who is a devoted father but also a narcissist and sets a bad example in some areas). 

I need support as soon as possible to implement results-oriented strategies in a rather complex situation involving a lot of very intense people. My son is displaying a lot of defiance around basic boundaries, some deceitfulness/insincerity, impulsive behaviours that are getting him into trouble, and disrespect toward others (everything from table manners, arguing, not respecting personal space, etc.).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I just discovered your material mentioned in the subject.  My question is, are either of these available as a talking book or video?


I am certainly interested in these, for myself and/or a family member who has a 13 year old boy with aspergers, and a 6 year old boy with autism.  We have been running into brick walls for the past three years regarding the 13 year old.  The school has no idea how to cope with this, and seem to have little interest to even care.  We live in New Brunswick, and there does not seem to be anything supported by the government to help these families or introduce helps into the school system.  I am looking into information to learn over the summer to prepare this young man for the next school term, and hopefully provide the school with some information on how to work with this student,  whereas this school term  has been a complete loss for him.  The 6 year old had the benefit of attenting a school from age 3 where he learned to talk etc., and kindergarted has gone well for him, so at present need to conentrate on the 13 year old.  In addition the 13 year old has a twin brother who is ADHD, and a talking type book would be convenient for the mother who is single and once the day is over is mostly too exhausted to look at a book.

How to Get Capable Adult Children on the Autism Spectrum to Move Out

“We have a 28 year old son with Asperger syndrome (high-functioning) who refuses to leave our house. He is a college graduate with a marketable degree, but he refuses to get a real job. He has earned a considerable amount of money playing online poker and just laughs in my face and tells me to shut up when I tell him that gaming is not a way to earn a living. I recently told him that if he was going to support himself by gambling that he needed to find a new place to live. He threw a huge tantrum, got in my face, cussed me out, and dared me to kick him out. On top of everything else, he does not clean up after himself. You’d think we had a 16 year old living here! We are at our wits end. We don't want to strain our relationship with our son by getting the police involved because we love him and have had plenty of good times over the years. But we are getting older, and it’s time for him to go. My wife and I are getting ready to retire and we do not need to spend our retirement dealing with this drama and chaos. How do we get our son to move on with his life in a non-confrontational manner?”

If you’re in a situation where your adult child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) is still living with you, is overly-dependent, or lives at home in a situation that has become difficult or unbearable for you, then now is the time to take action (i.e., today – not tomorrow!).

Many parents wonder what will happen if they throw their adult child with “special needs” out of the nest. They often have trouble knowing how much to help their “suffering” child now that he is an adult. At some level, they may continue to “cushion” him or to “feel sorry” for him, which results in home-life being so comfortable that the child sees no reason to ever leave.

In this all-to-common scenario, parents have “stepped-in” time and time again to over-protect and over-assist their adult child. At a time where “typical” young adults are going off to college, starting a career, renting an apartment, and even getting married – the HFA or AS adult simply wants to live in his parent’s basement and play video games.

Assess where you are right now by answering these questions:
  • Has the situation become so unbearable that your main concern is getting your adult son out of your house as quickly and safely as possible?
  • Do you see your son as wanting to become independent, or as simply being more comfortable allowing you to take care of all his responsibilities?
  • Are you in a place where your boundaries are being crossed and you need to establish some limits?

The longer you wait to muster-up some tough love, the harder it will be to get your son to launch into adulthood. If you’re waiting for things to get better on their own, you’re in for a long wait. You MUST begin the hard work of implementing a few tough love strategies. There is NO easy way out of this, so don’t expect that you can accomplish what you need to in a “non-confrontational manner.” You will have to confront – and be assertive here.

What can parents of a young adult on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum do to help him live independently? Here are some simple, concrete steps to take:

1. Make it more uncomfortable to depend on you than to fly from the nest. One way to accomplish this is to stop paying for all the “extras” that your son views as necessities that really aren’t (e.g., cell phone, internet connection, video games, etc.). One mother reported that her 25-year-old son with Asperger’s decided those “extras” were important. Once she stopped providing free handouts (i.e., giving her son money for this and that), he was motivated to go get a job and started paying his own way, including renting an apartment.

2. Learn to say – and stick with – “no”.

3. DO NOT try to shield your son from experiencing the negative consequences and painful emotions associated with his poor choices.

4. Some adult children on the spectrum have literally worn out their welcome by taking and taking – financially and emotionally – without giving in return. Therefore, parents should not feel guilty about moving their grown child into independence so they can have their own life back. Parents have the right to spend their money on things for themselves, to have the environment they want in their home, and to enjoy peaceful evenings with no drama. You’ve raised your son. He’s an adult now. You are not expected to provide for him any more than your parents are expected to provide for you now that you are an adult.

5. Keep an eye out for your son’s guilt-trips.

6. Your HFA son is not a fragile individual who will probably fail miserably when he leaves the nest. As with most other young adults on the “high-functioning” end of the autism spectrum, he is capable of functioning on his own out in the real world. Your worries and doubts may be causing you to be so afraid of what will happen to your son – especially if you continue to think of him as a kid rather than an adult. In reality, your son is equal to you, and equally capable of making it in this life. Thinking of him as incompetent is actually a disservice to him and keeps you in parental “care-taking mode.” He may be uncomfortable with some of the steps you’re taking that encourage more responsibility – but that’s fine. Change is supposed to be uncomfortable. Getting out of your comfort zone strengthens you. This is what he needs to experience in order to make some serious changes within himself. Changing your viewpoint will help you avoid those “guilt” and “fear” emotional buttons.

7. Even with an adult child, parents should discipline rather than nag – and discipline without later reducing or negating the discipline.

8. If your adult son eventually moves into a separate residence, but still depends on you as a source of income, set some limits. State what you will and will not pay for. If you need to start small and work your way up, that’s fine. If, for example, you just can’t stop buying groceries for him yet, then start “pulling the plug” on a few small things (e.g., cell phone, money for gas, cigarettes, movie money, etc.). It is his responsibility to locate other resources (e.g., friends, churches, government assistance, etc.). Your son can always apply for assistance through government programs (e.g., food stamps, rental assistance, etc.) if he is truly unable to locate work and support himself.

9. Know that your HFA son does not always have to be happy in order to have high self-esteem.

10. Make sure that you and your son’s other parent are united and bonded on most issues.

11. Many young adults – autistic or not – are struggling to become independent in today’s economy. True, the economy is bad, and our country is experiencing hard times. But that’s nothing new. We’ve gone through recessions and depressions before. The difference with many young HFA and AS adults in today’s generation is the “sense of entitlement” and the “aversion to sacrificing” in order to make it. Today, society is all about technology and instant gratification. But, it’s not too late to teach your son the value of delayed gratification and working for the things he desires. It’s okay for him to be uncomfortable and realize he has the ability to survive hard times through self-reliance. If your guilt or fear buttons start getting pushed, remember this: You are giving your child these lessons out of love.

12. Pay attention to your feelings of guilt about how you have parented, and know it is a sign that you are – once again – beating up on yourself.

13. When you catch yourself feeling sorry for your “special needs” son, know it is a sign that you are – once again – taking on too much responsibility.

14. It’s okay for your adult son to be uncomfortable – we’ve all been uncomfortable and survived. It’s actually a good thing – and necessary for change. “Change” occurs when things feel uncomfortable, out of balance, or unsteady. It’s what motivates us to find our equilibrium again – through employment, returning to college, offering our services through odd jobs, or whatever it takes to get the things in life that we really want.

15. When your son needs to be comforted or cheered-up, do so with active listening, empathy, paraphrasing, and validation rather than “giving” him things (e.g., unearned privileges, food, gifts, fun activities, etc.).

16. Your HFA son may have made a career out of asking you to provide things for him that he can’t afford himself. Other people are not going to provide these things for him. There are no free hand-outs in the “real” world. But you may have been providing free hand-outs to your son, which may have lead him to believe that free hand-outs are everywhere (what a shock when he finds out differently!). Your son can live without an Internet connection (he can get online at the local library). He doesn’t have to text (he can write letters). His hair can get really, really long (he doesn’t “need” a haircut). You get the idea. Make sure you understand the difference between wants and needs.

17. Teach your son ways to cope with little money. For example, if he doesn’t have the money for cigarettes or alcohol– he doesn’t get them. He can take the bus. He can get clothes from Salvation Army or Goodwill. He can eat cheap (e.g., macaroni & cheese, Ramen noodles, etc.).

18. If you are O.K. with your adult child continuing to live at home, but you want him to mature and develop some emotional muscles, draw up a contract that specifies the terms of his living there. This is an agreement between two competent adults. Don’t think of your son as your kid. Instead, view him as a tenant. In this way, you’ll be less likely to have your emotional buttons triggered (e.g., feelings of guilt). Your son is not “entitled” to live in your home past the age of 18. It’s a privilege, and you have the right to set some realistic limits.

19. If your son typically pushes the “guilt” and “sympathy” buttons in order to stay dependent and comfortable, prepare yourself for what’s coming and create a plan on how you’ll handle it (e.g., make some note cards or adopt a slogan to remind yourself that you have the right to be free from negativity or meeting another adult’s needs).

20. Understand the motivation behind your son’s “inaction” and resistance to change. When a young adult with HFA or AS feels “incapable,” he will try to feel “capable” by holding on to the “familiar” (e.g., surfing the Internet, playing childhood games, continuing to live at home with mom and dad, staying in bed, failing to find part-time employment, avoiding making plans to continue his education past high school, sitting on the couch, withholding overall involvement, etc.). All of this gives him a sense of being in control. To a parent, the behavior looks like pure “laziness” and lack of motivation. But the young adult views it as the only way to have power over what’s going on around him. The thought of being a “grown-up” with adult responsibilities is overwhelming. Thus, he holds on tightly to his comfort zone, which makes it even more difficult to “launch” into adulthood.

The young adult child who uses resistance as a form of “control” lacks both problem-solving skills and social skills. By implementing some of the suggestions listed above, parents can help their child on the autism spectrum to begin the process of blossoming into a functional, capable, contributing member of society.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said…  Help him find an apartment and hire a moving truck. He needs to see what the real world is like...
•    Anonymous said… Do you have another adult child or a trusted friend that can be there with you and help explain to your son that for many reasons it is time for him to move out. Emphasis all the positives for moving out! Good Luck
•    Anonymous said… Does your wife feel the same ?
•    Anonymous said… He doesn't need help or deserve it with the way he is acting
•    Anonymous said… How about making his life not so easy? He is home because its good there. Mom probably cooks, You pay the bills, do his laundry, pickup for him....etc.Only you know what you are doing that shouldn't be doing for a 28 yr old. Maybe cutting the internet so he cant online game. Or how about looking for a different home. One like a duplex or with an in law quarters so your still together but have your own privacy. Hope things work out for you guys.
•    Anonymous said… I love the internet comment.
•    Anonymous said… I think this is a great article with many solid options on 'how' to start the process of transitioning grown children to move on towards independence. Independence feels 'good' and yes it takes work and practice, like everything else in life, but the journey is an important one. Yes, the parental 'guilt' can be overwhelming so thank you for addressing the 'feelings' aspect. At the end of the day, we want our children to be able to be self-sufficient in the real world. That would give me some serious 'peace of mind' . We work in conjunction with a behavioral therapist so the message of independence is being 'echoed' by a supportive professional & it's not just 'mom or dad' being 'mean'. My personal opinion is that if calls to the police or forced evictions can be avoided, it's best for all; however, I'm sure that's not an option for everybody.
•    Anonymous said… I'd pack up and move myself, downsize so he has no choice but to find somewhere else lol
•    Anonymous said… If he's old enough to gamble online, he's old enough to deal with the consequences of his behavior, and that includes taking care of himself. Enabling bad behavior in anyone -- adults or children, and this is no child -- doesn't help anyone and only serves to weaken them in the long run. Out you go.
•    Anonymous said… I'm pretty shocked at the responses from parents. It's quite possible this adult son might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of suddenly moving into complete independence, hence the angry outbursts. Not condoning his behavior, but his brain is not that of a typical 28 year old man. Maybe the parents need guardianship of their adult son, if he is not able to handle the daily stress of life (like self medicating with gambling). Geez. Go learn about autism, folks.
•    Anonymous said… Maybe you could help him find his own place close to you. Our Aspie purchased his own townhouse 2 blocks from us and continues to come to our house every evening after work, but goes home at bedtime. It's worked well for our family. This was part of his 'life plan' though. He had always told me he couldn't be 30 living at home with his mom "that would be weird" -  :-)
•    Anonymous said… Tough love, move his stuff to the porch and change the locks.
•    Anonymous said… We parents make life & home too comfortable and easy, no wonder kids don't want to leave the nest. I would ring the police if they get abusive or violent . Give them a deadline to move out. Get a retraining order if needed.
•    Anonymous said… You need to have him evicted and you should call the police when he is being abusive.
•    Anonymous said… Youve let it go on way too long  🤗 tough love can be a very good thing for both parties.
*   Anonymous said... Talk to him like an adult, kindly, when things aren't heated. Give him a couple of months to save up. Unfortunately for them, their emotions are messed up and many times don't match the situation. He may need so assistance but yes, it's time for him to go. You need peace and type up a written request of his departure, notice to evict, if he's nit taking things serious. This way, you can protect yourself legally. He needs to learn about the real world and he's a decade behind.
 

Post your comment below…

Thriving in Adolescence and Preparing for Adulthood: Help for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“I have a 17-year-old son with high functioning autism. A big issue is social. He prefers to be alone rather than be with people. He has acquaintances at school that are nice and friendly with him but really no actual friends. He is perfectly content staying in his room playing video games. He is also very anxious and OCD. He likes things perfectly routine and on schedule. Gets very anxious if things aren't exactly on schedule, if something is out of place, or if doors and windows aren't closed and locked before we leave home or at bedtime. Homework is like dragging a horse to water, and short of drowning it, won't take water! Also, he has poor eating habits and problems with taking showers, combing his hair, and other hygiene-related things. I guess my main question is how can I help him cope better as a teenager – and help him get ready for adulthood? We seem to be so far behind schedule. There are so many things he needs to improve on, but I feel time is running out. Suggestions?”

Adolescents with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) have social, emotional and communication skills deficits. They have a lot of trouble understanding the unspoken rules that govern how they must act around other people in order to get along socially. They often end up with no close friends. In addition, they have a great deal of trouble understanding feelings (including their own), and as a result, they may appear to be detached and uncaring – or at the other extreme, out of control of their feelings.

HFA and AS adolescents also have a hard time reading other’s non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, facial expression, tone of voice, etc.), which make up about 70-80% of what we communicate (words only count for about 20%-30% of what we communicate). We need to read non-verbal cues in order to make accurate assessments about what other people are thinking, feeling, and intending. If you can't read non-verbal cues and don’t understand or predict other's thoughts/feelings/intentions, you will repeatedly be “off the page” in interactions with others.

Most teens with HFA and AS experience frequent “social failure” and rejection by peers. Because social encounters are seldom reinforcing (i.e., rewarding), they may avoid social interaction all together. Over time, they can develop a negative attitude about themselves, which fosters poor self-esteem that makes it very difficult to continue attempts to socialize.

So, how can you help your HFA or AS teen to THRIVE during adolescence – as well as prepare for adulthood? Here are some crucial strategies to employ:

1. You and your partner/spouse should have team meetings when your son is absent so you can speak frankly about your concerns without fear that your son may feel a lack of respect for - or faith in - him. Parents should develop and maintain a united front.

2. Most teens become less willing to take a parent’s advice during the adolescent years. So, it would be helpful for you to consider hooking your son up with another trustworthy adult. If you want your son to make better decisions in a certain area (e.g., completing homework in a timely manner), arrange for the encouragement, coaching – or even tutoring – to come from a trusted adult other than you (e.g., a guidance counselor, mentor, uncle, scout leader, youth group leader, a “Big Brother,” social skills group leader, weight room coach, martial arts teacher, etc.).

3. What kind of living situation, employment, and transportation fit your son’s picture of his future at age 18 or 25? Once the goals are set, where can he learn the necessary skills? Consider academic courses, electives, extracurricular activities, and additional services within and outside the high school (e.g. community college, adaptive driving school, etc.).

4. Teach your son when to ask for help, from whom, and how. It’s very helpful to have someone (e.g., a trusted guidance counselor) whose door is always open, and who can coach your son in problem-solving.

5. Teach your son laundry and other self-care or home-care skills by small steps over time. Try to get him to take an elective in some of these areas (e.g., cooking or personal finance) at the high school.

6. Don’t attempt to take your son’s “special interest” away from him. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important source of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for him.

7. When you need to “have a talk” with your son (perhaps something of a serious nature), side-by-side conversations (e.g., walking, in the car) work best and may be more comfortable for your son than talking face-to-face.

8. Seek out activity-based, practical social skills groups designed especially for “special needs” teens. Participating in such a group, being accepted by group leaders and peers, is probably the most powerful way to alleviate your son’s potential despair at not fitting-in socially and not having any friends. The positive social experiences and new skills he will learn will be assets for the rest of his life.

9. Assuming your son has an IEP, schedule regular monthly team meetings to monitor your son’s progress in order to ensure that the plan is being faithfully carried out. Modify it if necessary. Due to the fact that autistic teens can be so unstable or fragile – and because so many important things must be accomplished in 4 short years of high school – these meetings are very important.

10. Most teens on the spectrum are not ready for a residential college experience right after high school. To decide, use the evidence of how your son did at sleep-away camp or similar samplings of independence, and look carefully at executive function skills (i.e., organizational skills). As an alternative, community colleges offer a lot of flexibility (e.g., easy admission, low cost, remedial courses, the option of a light course load, the security of living at home, etc.). Some college disability offices are more successful than others at providing effective, individualized support. However, if your son continues to live at home while attending college, you may be able to sense trouble, step in with help, or secure supports he needs to succeed.

11. Look for volunteer activities or part-time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services in place for the “typical” teen, but may not realize that your “special needs” teen needs that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet his unique needs.

12. Instill the essential habit of a daily shower, brushed teeth, combed hair, and clean clothes. Let your son know that teachers, future potential employers, and prospective girlfriends are very put off by poor hygiene. If possible, put your son’s clothes on a well-organized shelf in the bathroom near the clothes hamper.

13. Impersonal, written communication is easier for an HFA or AS teen to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, calendars, etc.).

14. If your son seems like a good candidate for college, take him to visit colleges during the spring vacation weeks of the junior year of high school, or during the summers before junior and senior year. Visits reveal a lot about what environment he will prefer. Purchase a large college guide to browse.

15. Have realistic, modest goals for what your son can accomplish in a given time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career and/or college goals.

16. Multiple stressors during the teen years bring on anxiety and moodiness for all teens (e.g., increased academic pressures, social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, fears of the future, etc.). A teen on the autism spectrum who doesn’t get the supports he needs during this tumultuous time may be at risk for school failure, acting-out, alcohol and substance abuse, or even suicide attempts. Thus, the more supports that are in place for your son – the better! Build and use any support networks you can (e.g., extended family, close friends, church groups, school staff, therapist, etc.). If you don’t have a good network, consider individual or family therapy for some support during this stormy, demanding life passage.

17. Some parents consider delaying high school graduation in order to ensure that transition services are actually provided under DOE. It may be hard to convince your son to accept this route. However, it may be very helpful if he is going to need a lot of help with independent living skills and employment issues. Services need not be delivered within high school walls. Community college courses, adaptive driving lessons, and employment internships are just a few alternatives to consider.

18. Remember that teens with HFA and AS are relatively immature – both socially and emotionally – as compared to “typical” teens of the same chronological age. Imagine sending a 9-year-old off to high school, or putting a 13-year-old boy behind the wheel of car, or sending that 16-year-old off to college or the army. Adjust your expectations, and make sure your son has appropriate supports.

19. As your teenage son continues to seek independence, be prepared to tolerate and ignore considerable distancing, surliness, or acting out (knowing that it won’t last forever). At the same time, set some firm limits, and pick your battles carefully. Set and enforce only your bottom line rules and expectations (e.g., matters of safety and respect). Write them down. Make sure you and your partner/spouse agree on the rules. Also, give your son choices when possible (but not too many).

20. Having a regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever. Regular routines of all kinds (e.g., familiar foods, rituals, rules, etc.) are reassuring when your teenage son’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

21.  Last, but perhaps most importantly, foster the development of self-acceptance. The primary aspect of HFA and AS is the problem of human connectedness (i.e., reciprocity). This refers to the teen’s ability to engage others in a way that makes them feel connected or not. Teens on the spectrum not only seem disconnected, but in some cases, uninterested in being in relationships with others. In some cases, the teenager may wish to connect with others, but simply does not know how. The good news is that you can help your son in these challenges by helping him to develop a set of social skills. The most important skill to possess in this endeavor is called “self-acceptance.” With self-acceptance, your son will be able to capitalize on his strengths rather than trying to “fix” his weaknesses, yet he accepts his weaknesses for what they are.

Your son is probably at the age where he is beginning to realize he is not quite like others his same age. Once he realizes he has some extra challenges as a result of his disorder, he will need to deal with this “life test” – just like dealing with any other life test. We are all going to be tested, and we all have our own unique obstacles to overcome. By using some of the tips listed above, you will help your HFA teen to not only survive – but thrive in adolescence. This, in turn, will boost his self-confidence, which can then lead to possessing the skills needed in becoming a productive, happy adult.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Cut back the amount of time he spends engaged with technology including gaming.
•    Anonymous said… Everything you've mentioned is fairly typical of HFA teens. ABA can help tremendously with life skills and social skills, so can a good OT who is skilled at working with high functioning kids. Anxiety can also be helped through therapy and meds if you are interested in going that route. Sometimes, as moms, we can't help them as much as others can. With my kids at least, I'm always the one telling them what to do so I've found that they're more open to hearing suggestions and learning from others. Personally, I think the fact that he locks everything up is a great thing! You know you don't have to worry that he will be mindful of his personal security if he's ever alone! My kids always forget to lock the doors and it drives me nuts! You can try putting limits on gaming but if it quells his anxiety you're likely to get more push back than compliance with that, which won't be good for either of you. As far as homework I just told my son that he can goof off as much as he wants to as long as his work is done (school and chores) and once he started middle school he didn't have issues with that for the most part. You may ask an ABA or therapist to see if they can get out of him what he doesn't like about homework, it may be something that they can help gameplay with him. Good luck to you both, I hope some of this is helpful
•    Anonymous said… I know the feeling. My sons addicted to Xbox. He talks to boys only if they have something in common w him, like a boy from his school gave him game cards, a few everyday. I've never even heard him talk about other kids hardly at all. His school made a 6 person classroom n chose others with similar issues. I really think its becoming an epidemic here. Every person I talk to has a similar child, 16 n under. I don't see many adults but that could just be they weren't diagnosed. I am pretty sure my kids dad has asperger like qualities. Both my biological n non biological nephews are fully autistic.
•    Anonymous said… I never write here just read for support but I can truly relate to this. I thought & felt we were alone. My son is 16. He is very immature for his age (He loves to play with stuffed animals) and is definitely does not mentally have the proper age appropriate skills he needs to move forward into the transitions of becoming an adult. He struggles with multi step directions, impulse control, self advocating, will not communicate with adults he doesn't know, has a terrible anxiety when his routine is messed with and has never had a true "friend" besides his younger brother. I do the best I can to encourage him and educate him about the future but he lives in the now. He doesn't want to drive and struggles to get through a 6 hour school day with breaks. I can't see him working full time for a while he will need to work up to it gradually. My hope is he chooses to go to a technical school but school is not easy for him. But it would get him a little bit farther in life with some kind of degree instead of just a High School Diploma. I know we will be helping and caring for him longer than the average child. There are places that help adults with diagnosis's who test them, find their strengths, train them in that job skill and help them get a job. That is our plan for now. ((Hugs)) I thank you for sharing your fears & know you are not alone in those fears.
•    Anonymous said… I relate with nearly all of this.
•    Anonymous said… I suggest that you just allow the teenage years to extend for longer. Adulthood can come later. We realise now, there is no need to rush and conform. Safety and happiness is the best basis for these lovely kids.
•    Anonymous said… Just here to read suggestions my daughter is the same way, she is 17 with autism that has now progressed to having multiple personality disorder.
•    Anonymous said… Let me know if you find solutions. Our 15 year old boy is the same; poor hygiene, disorganised, thinks he doesn't have to revise because he "knows it all already."
Year 10 exams looming and everyday is a battle with both of us at the end of our tethers
•    Anonymous said… Life is but a race time is only running out of you plan to kick him out. Otherwise continue to challenge offer support and ask him what are his goals. Rule for living with me is have therapist who will help you and have a goal u are working on and contribute as much as you can because I'm disabled too and we are in this together
•    Anonymous said… My 12 yo son is like this. Had genetic testing and OATs testing done. Start with testing, get results, follow the regimen. It's a brain gut connection. Once u Defog the brain the rest will follow. Working on this with my son right now.
•    Anonymous said… My almost 15 year old has been like this for years. Doesn't tick enough boxes for ASC diagnosis but Anxiety, lack of social awareness, hygiene issues and is profoundly deaf so sometimes communication is an issue. I try to limit PC time but he then refuses to go to school. Having just got him back there after a year of refusal, it's hard not to bargain with him. I'm following your post for ideas too. Hope you get some new advice. Xx
•    Anonymous said… My son is 15 and very much like that. He takes medication for his anxiety. It has helped so much. His personal hygiene is terrible. He has no real friends and spends a lot of time gaming. He is into music though and is a wonderful musician who taught himself guitar and piano. He has taken trombone lessons and is so good on it as well. He played in the Colorado Youth Wind Ensemble this year. We take him to cognitive behavioral training and that is helping him on the social side of things. I worry about his future too.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds exactly like my 9 year old son. He has huge blow ups if people touch his things or him. Even if they make him take off his jacket which he wore all through may. I know for a fact most of the Dr.s in my area don't specialize in autism at all. They diagnosed him with just oppositional defiance syndrome.
•    Anonymous said… They tend to develop socially much later than peers... ours is 23 and took off socially around age 19 and 20 but still finds it hard to make friends. I have to say that I see peers not responding to him as much as they could because they can tell he is different or uncomfortable. He is doing much better but still struggles socially. Not all his fault. Still not enough awareness in the public. We tried him in tons of different hobby groups until finally 1 clicked.... his interest in history and Renaissance fairs. Keep seeking either groups or classes that focus on his interests. I have decided to be grateful for his acquaintances in the absence of close friends.
•    Anonymous said… This could be my 11 year old son too x
•    Anonymous said… This is a fantastic link and we have implemented a lot of these strategies, as well as, linking my son up with my friends children, not on the spectrum but with similar interests. This was a positive experience for my son. There have been lots of steps forward and backwards, but by knowing when to push the adolescent and young adult through difficult times, as well as, when you should take a step back, will enable them to take control of their life and themselves.

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Self-Soothing Techniques for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“I have a 5 year old with high-functioning autism. Whenever he encounters something frustrating, it’s like he ‘flips a switch’. He will go from cheerful and engaged to mad and yelling in one split second. I'm not sure if this happens simply because he encounters something hard, or if it is a buildup of frustration over time that results in a big meltdown when he finally hits his tipping point. Maybe he misses his anger cues throughout the day, and that causes a flood of emotions when he confronts something particularly frustrating. Are there some ways to teach him to calm himself so that he doesn’t get to the point of exploding?”

Most kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) struggle with low-frustration tolerance. Frustration is a powerful emotion, and their reactions can be intense in the moment. “Typical” children usually know when their anger buttons are being pushed. And many of them know what they need to do to work through something frustrating in a fairly appropriate manner. However, children with autism don’t enter this world with a pocket full of frustration-management skills. These skills must be taught.

Apparently your high-functioning autistic son experiences low-frustration tolerance and anger-control issues. Use the strategies below to (a) prevent emotional outbursts and (b) help calm your child down once he has launched into a tantrum or meltdown:

1. Use calming music.

2. Try fish oil. It has a calming effect.

3. The repeated act of chewing and sucking provides agitated kids the necessary oral sensory input that helps them relax. This is why some kids will chew the inside of their mouth when they feel agitated. Replace this destructive habit by giving your son food that requires repeated chewing (e.g., celery, carrots, and other crunchy vegetables). He can also chew gum or taffy to help him settle down. Or give him a smoothie to drink using a straw.

4. Teach your son what calm behavior looks like by showing him you can be calm, too.

5. Taking a mini-vacation with guided imagery. Guided imagery is a powerful relaxation tool for HFA and AS kids that pulls their focus to positive thoughts, all the while encouraging creativity. You can check out books on this technique at your local library if you want further information on the subject.

6. Try aromatherapy!

7. Some parents find that reducing or eliminating certain foods from the diet goes a long way in calming the HFA and AS youngster. If your son is a finicky eater, you will need to supplement the diet to make sure he has the fuels needed for his body to function well. Starting the day out with a healthy breakfast balanced with proteins, fats and carbohydrates is important. Keep your son away from caffeinated drinks and anything with added preservatives, coloring and sugar. Also, get in the habit of offering plain old H2O. With plenty of bottled waters that offer fruit flavors and vitamin enhancements, getting kids hydrated is easier now than ever before.

8. Remove your son from the stressful situation when possible. Lead him to a quiet room or a secluded spot.

9. Allow your son to play in a warm bath or dig in a sandbox. Agitated kids with autism experience a calming effect from the variety of textures.

10. Take your son for a walk. Not only does walking burn off toxic energy, the repetitive thump, thump, thump of feet hitting pavement brings the mind back into focus.

11. Put together a "Boredom Box" that provides creative outlets for your son. Fill this box or plastic storage bin with paint sets, coloring books, crossword puzzles, modeling clay, jewelry making kits, and other artistic areas of interest. Some HFA and AS kids bore easily, and their fast spinning minds need extra stimulation. In the absence of nothing better to do, they will lean on their own devises. You don't want your son doing that. Better that he draw than set the cat on fire (lol).

12. At the time of the inappropriate behavior, be sure to limit your talking to “stating the rule and consequence.” Lengthy debates, explanations and arguments should be avoided at this time. Also, ignore complaints from your son. Further discussion about the rule and consequence can be done at a later time when things have calmed down.

13. Offer your son verbal alternatives to his angry outbursts. For example, “Maybe you could have said this. Why don’t you try that next time?” If trouble is brewing, remind him by saying, “Use your words” – and be sure to praise him when he does (perhaps via a Reward Chart with a happy face for every day he doesn’t act-out when frustrated).

14. Sometimes it is best to leave a child to work through a tantrum by removing yourself from the situation. However, you should always ensure that your son is in a safe environment and not able to hurt himself.

15. Many HFA and AS kids do not know HOW to calm down or even what “calm” feels like. Explain this to your son and discuss it frequently.

16. Listen to your son’s point of view about a particular rule. When appropriate, consider making changes to the rule based on your son’s reasoning. This doesn’t mean you are “giving in” to his demands, rather it means that (at times) you will negotiate with him on a rule and reach a compromise.

17. If possible, find a space in the house to designate as a relaxation space. It does not have to be a large space, but it does need to be away from high-activity areas. This little corner (or even a portion of a walk-in closet) can have a beanbag chair and a few books, coloring books, or other quiet time activities. Encourage your son to go to this space when he becomes upset (but never make this a place of punishment). This special spot in the house is a positive place where he can go to settle down, sort things out, or just hang out when he needs to be alone.

18. Kids who see aggressive or violent behavior played out on TV or in computer games tend to be more aggressive when they play. If your son is consistently aggressive, limit his exposure to it in the media. If he does see it on TV, explain that hitting isn’t a nice way to act and doesn‘t solve problems. Reinforce the message by choosing storybooks and TV shows that promote kindness.

19. Help your son to identify the warning signs leading up to an outburst. He can even make a list of these warning signs and post them in a visible location. If your son is aware of what these signs are, he can then practice a breathing and counting technique.

20. HFA and AS kids thrive in homes that provide routines, consistency and structure. These kids especially need structure and schedules to feel secure in their surroundings. For them, a more "military" approach to routines works better. Waking up, eating meals, doing homework, and bed times should all occur at about the same time every day.

21. Help your son work out what he’s feeling. After he has calmed down from a tantrum, gently talk him through it. Ask him what was bothering him and why (e.g., “Did you think I wasn’t listening to you?”). Your son needs to be taught how to label and manage his feelings, especially frustration and anger. In order to do this, he needs an emotion vocabulary – and you can provide that by asking questions such as, “Were you upset?” … “Did you feel unhappy?” … “Were you frustrated?”…and so on.

22. When your son is beginning to get upset (assuming he doesn’t mind being touched in those moments), give your son a mini-massage. Touch is very important to most kids. Massaging your son’s temples, giving a shoulder rub, or lightly running your fingers through his hair may calm him quickly.

23. While providing structure and consistency are important skills for you to use with your son, it’s also important to be aware of the importance of allowing him some independence and autonomy. As often as is appropriate, allow your son to have opportunities to make his own choices and decisions, respect his choices and decisions, and allow natural “real-world” consequences to occur (when safety is not an issue, of course).

24. Identify the early warning signs that your son’s frustration level is building up. HFA and AS kids often don’t recognize frustration. In fact, many times they act out before they realize what happened. Identifying early warning signs helps these young people become more aware of their feelings, which in turn gives them more opportunity to control their responses to these feelings. Some common cues that indicate a child is getting upset and about to lose control include: unkind words, the tone of voice changes to whining or yelling, tensed body, squinting, rolling the eyes, restlessness, withdrawal, unresponsiveness, being easily provoked, pouting, noises with the mouth such as growls or deep breathing, increased intensity of speech or behavior, and clenched teeth.

25. If your son doesn’t have the verbal skills to assert himself in a non-aggressive way, then teach him. Children love “pretend play,” and you can use that to teach your son how to react to the things that tend to trigger his anger. Role-play a situation that would normally have your son going into meltdown, and work out how he can resolve it without getting mad and screaming.

26. When your son gets to the age where he can write proficiently, have him try journaling. This is an excellent way to untangle his frazzled mind and get things off his chest. It will allow him to spill his internal stresses outside himself and onto paper. When the timing is right, develop a daily habit of having your son write a paragraph or two about anything that comes to mind. Eventually, he will get to the guts of what is going on inside of him. Then he can rumple or tear the paper up and throw it away. These private internal thoughts are not for you or anyone else to read, however. So, respect your son’s privacy and let him know he can write anything down without fear of reprimand.

27. Allow your son to perform some heavy chores (e.g., vacuuming, moving objects, cleaning windows and cabinet doors, etc.). This helps him focus on completing a necessary task while using his energy in a constructive way. Heavy chores or intense exercises allow kids to experience sensory input to different muscles and joints.

28. Eliminate clutter in your son's environment to help structure and focus his energies to prevent repeated outbursts.

29. Teach your son to take a break from the difficult situation and to get alone for a few minutes. One of the healthiest responses to frustration at any of its stages is to step back. During that time the child can rethink the situation, calm down, and determine what to do next. Stepping back can help your son stop the progression and determine to respond differently. The length of the break is determined by the intensity of the emotion. A child who is simply annoyed may just take a deep breath. The child who is enraged probably needs to leave the room and settle down.

30. Do not speak in an agitated or annoyed voice to a frustrated child, because this aggravates the problem. Keep your voice calm while instructing your son in concise sentences on what he can do to calm down. Also, you can dim the lights so he receives less sensory input from surroundings that he may feel are harsh and which may further distract him.

31. HFA and AS kids often pay little mind to the effect their behavior can have on everyone else. If your son hits, bites or kicks, get down to his level and calmly ask him how he would feel if someone did that to him. Prompt him to give it some thought by saying things like, “If your sister kicked you like that, it would hurt you and make you cry.”

32. Do not tolerate aggressive behavior in any way, shape or form. As with every other aspect of parenting, consistency is paramount. The only way to stop your son from being aggressive is to make a House Rule that aggression is not acceptable.

33. Deep breathing is an easy technique autistic kids can use to defuse anger. Show your son what to do by placing your hand on your belly and getting him to do the same while taking in three deep breaths. The hand on the belly serves as a handy visual cue that you can use to remind your son to take a step back from what’s bothering him.

34. HFA and AS kids have difficulty remaining calm in a hectic environment. Clearing the clutter and taking a "less is more" approach to decorating can reduce the sensory overload. Your son’s bedroom especially should be free of clutter. Use plastic bins to organize and store all those little plastic treasures (that we parents commonly refer to as "junk") and small toys. Open the curtains to provide natural lighting. Keep posters and wall hangings to a minimum. Paint your son's bedroom in calming muted colors instead of bright primary colors.

35. Check your own stress levels, because most kids are often emotional barometers for their parents. Before you can calm down your son’s anxiety, you must first learn to calm down your own first. Lead by example, because you can’t put out a fire with another fire.

36. Allow your son to use his negative energy in a fun way (e.g., jumping, spinning, running, climbing, swinging, play-wrestling with pillows, punching a punching bag, etc.).

37. Your son will learn to manage anger and frustration by watching the way you manage yours. The irony is that an aggressive youngster can often be a major trigger for parents to explode. Deal with this situation as soon as possible, using a calm voice to express how you feel rather than yelling. And just as you expect your son to apologize for bad behavior, get into the habit of apologizing to him if you lose your temper inappropriately.

38. Lastly, if your son’s aggressive behavior is disrupting your home and putting family members or others at risk, and he reacts explosively to even the mildest discipline techniques, see your doctor. He or she may be able to refer you to a child psychologist or counselor (preferably one who specializes in autism spectrum disorders) who can teach you new ways of interacting with your son that will help you manage his anger and frustration more effectively.

The goal of self-soothing techniques is to reduce both the emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that frustration causes. Your son can't get rid of - or avoid - the things or the people that upset him, nor can you change them, but he can learn to control his reactions.

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Aspergers and HFA

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

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

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

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

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

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

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

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

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

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

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

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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