Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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The Most Difficult Trait that Children with Asperger’s and HFA Must Endure

Neurocognitive disorders affect cognitive abilities (e.g., learning, memory, perception, and problem solving). The DSM-5 defines six key domains of cognitive function: social cognition, perceptual-motor function, learning and memory, language, executive function, and complex attention.

Mind-blindness, the opposite of empathy, is a cognitive disorder in which the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is unable to predict the mental states of others (i.e., their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, desires, behaviors, intentions, and so on). It’s not necessarily caused by an inability to imagine an answer, but is often due to an inability to gather enough information to decipher which of the many possible answers is correct. This is referred to as an empathetic cognitive deficit.

Empathy is usually divided into two major components: (1) cognitive empathy is the ability to understand another's perspective or mental state, and (2) affective empathy is the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental states. Cognitive and affective empathy are also independent from one another (e.g., you may not be very good at understanding another person’s perspective, but you may be very good at empathizing with others). Children on the autism spectrum have deficits in both cognitive and affective empathy.

Cognitive empathy can be subdivided into three categories: (1) tactical or strategic empathy, which is the deliberate use of perspective-taking to achieve certain desired ends; (2) perspective-taking, which is the tendency to spontaneously adopt another person’s psychological perspectives; and (3) fantasy, which is the tendency to identify with fictional characters.

Affective empathy can be subdivided into two categories: (1) personal distress, which is possessing feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another's suffering; and (2) empathic concern, which is having compassion for others in response to their suffering.

Mind-blindness is a state where the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs has not been developed or lost in the AS or HFA child. Imagine living with a disorder in which you can’t perceive or interpret the behavior of others – the needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons of other people are a total mystery for you. No wonder why a child on the autism spectrum often views the world as a very confusing and frightening place.

The social and cognitive impairments seen in AS and HFA children can be attributed to mind-blindness. The abnormal behavior of these young people includes a lack of reciprocity, difficulty empathizing with others, being totally withdrawn from social settings, not being able to make eye contact, and having no desire to interact with other people (i.e., social detachment).

Behavioral manifestations that can occur in children with AS and HFA due to mind-blindness include the following:
  • lack of empathy for others and their emotions
  • difficulty with inferential thinking and problem solving (e.g., completing a multi-step task that is novel)
  • impaired reading comprehension (e.g., difficulty understanding characters in stories, why they do or do not do something)
  • lack of awareness that they can say something that will hurt someone's feelings or that an apology would make the person feel better
  • lack of awareness that others have intentions or viewpoints different from their own
  • when engaging in off-topic conversation, they don’t realize the listener is having great difficulty following the conversation
  • lack of awareness that others have thoughts, beliefs, and desires that influence their behavior
  • preference for factual reading materials rather than fiction
  • tendency to view the world in black-and-white terms

Children without an Autism Spectrum Disorder (i.e., neurotypicals) naturally have the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs. This is called mentalizing. Neurotypical kids can explain and predict others' behavior in terms of their presumed thoughts and feelings.

For example, you may observe me in my woodshop bent over a tool chest pulling out and putting back tools. You would make sense of this behavior by mentalizing (i.e., automatically recognizing that I am looking for a particular tool that I believe is in one of the drawers of my tool chest). Without mentalizing, you may come up with an odd interpretation of what I was doing (e.g., perhaps sorting my tools by size, weight or color – or enjoying the sound of clanking tools, etc.).

Mind-blindness theory suggests that the milestones of the normal development of mentalizing are absent in kids on the spectrum. Specifically, they fail to understand make-believe play, fail to point at or show objects of interest (both signs of shared attention), and fail to follow another person's gaze.

To simplify, think of mind-blindness as a condition in which you can’t imagine what another person may be thinking of feeling. Possibly, the most difficult aspect of AS and HFA is this subtle but devastating deficit in human social insight.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Oct., 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.


My grandaughter has ashbergers/autism. She is being tested for autism. The last year she has escalated continuously. Very aggressive. Has run away twice. Beats on her parents pulls hair and calls them hurtful names.  Her outbursts are awful. Screaming throwing things breaking things biting parents. Police have come so many things. Some time they take her to hospital then too a behavior place. Nothing is helping or changing.  The house has so much stress and anxiety in it.  Her brother is 14 and has some issues but he has lived with her doing stuff for years. But she is so bad and has threatened to kill them several time and the 14 year old had to go to emergency room with panic attack and anxiety cause she was coming home from hospital.  The cell phone and social media is the demon. She has had very bad contacts to the point of having restraining order on him. Was saying he was coming to get her. I am scared for my daughter and family. Please if you have some insight I would appreciate it. I am so scared for them all.


I am a Mum from the uk with two boys both diagnosed with autism not Asperger. My eldest also has ADHD and challenging behaviour and is under a psychiatry and psychology team. Would this program be suitable for my eldest child as I am at my wits end. He now refuses to go to school and when I do manage to get him there is goes into meltdown and I have to take him home. Although he is nine years old his mentality is that of a much younger child which makes him unable to express his emotion except through swearing and physical meltdowns and physical aggression towards myself and other. Meltdowns occur throughout the day and be because I looked at him or spoke to him. He is a very complex boy and I find it very hard to predict what might trigger him into a meltdown.


I found your website today and am interested in your program for my son. I finally have a answer for my son's behavior issues at that he presented from birth. He was always a very difficult child - angry, argumentative, biting, hitting. He started out as a very cranky "colicky" baby even though he was breast fed. We had a very successful nursing relationship for one year. The first mean thing he ever did he was 4 months old when he bit his older brother and then he turned to biting other children and it only got worse from there.

I'm writing today because my son is now 37 years old, and at least towards me, he still presents as an ODD teen. As you can imagine our relationship is a disaster. In addition to his serious acting out he became a drug addicted older teen after his father's death. After juvenile hall & foster homes I sent him to a 1 year long live in drug rehab center where he finally got clean, graduated from high school and has been clean ever since - 20 years now. As far as I know (he is married & doesn't live with me) he does not have a drug or alcohol problem.

Will your program be useful to he & I to get our relationship on track at his age? At this point in a relationship with him I feel disrespected, dismissed and belittled. Although I want a relationship with my son, I cannot continue a relationship with him feeling like this. I am desperate. I lost my oldest son to PTSD suicide after he returned home from his 3rd tour in Iraq in 2009. I don't want to lose another child.

I am 100% clear I cannot change another adult's behavior or make them willing to be in a healthy relationship with me or anybody else. Nor am I trying to control my son.In order for me to continue in a relationship with my son I have to be treated with the respect that is appropriate for one's loving Mother.

I am asking you believe your program can help ME change MY behavior  so that I might interrupt the negative relationship dance I am in with my son and by doing so, this may in turn influence his behavior in our our relationship to a more positive place.


Hi Mark,

I have a 6 yr old son who will be 7 on halloween this year who has been diagnosed with high functioning ASD.  He is struggling in school this year more so then ever before having frequent outbursts.  We have been trying to work with the school to identify interventions that will help lessen the behaviors as well as identify what might be proceeding his outbursts however have come up empty handed thus far with limited information to go off before things get out of control.  We received an email today from the special education teacher not his regular classroom teacher with the following.

My son and i typically review his day and highlight the positive and review what we could try to do differently.  We do this to encourage reflection, build on identifying feelings, and build conversation skills.  Today he was trying to say that he had a bad day because other kids were calling him names and when he tried to tell the teacher she would not listen to him.  He also told me that they made him a cool down corner, which i learned he interpreted as actual "cool" down not calm down as well as very uncomfortable ( i suppose is soliciting more negative sensory stimuli then helpful).  

I feel that i am working with professionals that are interpreting his behaviors as defiant and engage in a power struggle with negative consequences like loss of recess or lunch dentition which has no impact or influence on his behaviors.  I have tried to educate and provide suggestions of what has worked at home however it seems they will take the simplest thing and apply it minimally thinking it will work with no success and then revert back to interventions that work for neurotypical children. 


We have four boys, with our eldest the challenge.  He benefits from all the traits you list - smart, socially challenged, underperforming, increasingly disobedient and unhappy, and so on.   We have, perhaps mistakenly, avoided having him tested - it has been clear he is different since he was small. But it was all manageable.  Now it is not, and it is tearing our family apart.  He is refusing to go to school on any day he has a test or assignment due; he sneaks out to use the computers downstairs in our condos common area; he swears at us and calls me names; he threatens to hurt himself, or kill himself.  And so on.

We are wondering what to do, as we live in Bangkok, Thailand, and there are no suitable schools for really dealing with a child like this.  The teachers see it as a discipline problem, and have very limited understanding of his challenges. Could you tell me, are there any great schools in the States, where we could consider moving?  A place that has a fantastic reputation for taking particularly bright kids, not too far on the spectrum, great with math and writing, who just is starting to avoid doing his work, pushing back against his parents any time anything is required of him?  We would consider moving back home, if this were a good option.


Our 11-yr-old daughter (or will be on the 24th) was diagnosed, through her school, when she was 4/5 years old with Asperger's. Needless to say, it's been a long road for my husband and me. We have wonderful support at the school she attends, but life has been tough.

Without telling you our whole life story, we were married 18-years with no kids, and then we adopted Lydia. We took her straight home from the hospital. She is our only child.

Over a year ago, while she was in a very safe home environement for daycare, she learned the word, "penis." She actually was asked to leave the daycare because she would not stop saying it. She quickly learned to say, "Peanuts" so she wouldn't get in trouble. She is very clever in rhyming her words, and she has found this technique often with other words too.

She's in 5th grade, and this week she looked up "penis" on a school computer, and was caught. The school did not allow her to go on the field trip that same day with the rest of her class, as a consequence. We thought that was fair. However, on her way to the daycare that same day (on the bus), she used a pen and put it between her legs to make other kids laugh and said, "this is my penis." The other kids wrote some ugly words and drew a picture on a piece of paper. It was Lydia's pen/paper, so now the teachers are investigating who was involved. I don't doubt that the information Lydia gave me is incorrect. She is normally honest with me, because I confront her in such a way, that I already know the details.

With a little history, today she was suspended from the daycare for two days. I get it. School and daycares have to protect ALL of the kids, and they can't allow this kind of behavior tolerated.

Main question: How do we direct her mind away from "Penis?" She is so obsessed with this topic, it's driving me crazy.

What do we do with Lydia? She smirks a lot when she's in trouble, and yet, she can cry and act upset too. I say, "act" because sometimes I really think she is acting... it's a little too dramatic, and she can turn it off on a dime.

Is anything I'm telling you common with other Asperger's kids? It's always a challenge to pinpoint what is a "normal" fifth grade girl tendencies, and what is an exception (if it should be) labeled as Asperger's and then we should extend a little more grace.

Lydia is stimulated by sexual things. She started her period one week before her 10th birthday, so that is another dynamic to add to her hormones and puberty. I feel like she's a tiger in a kitten body. How do we control her desires, feelings, emotions? She has never been sexually abused, but she has always been curious.

I know you don't have all the answers, but it sure does feel good to vent and ask someone these questions and express my concerns.

In August Lydia started piano lessons. It's been fun seeing someone who has a natural passion for music learning how to play songs. She obviously has a long way to go, but we're trying to channel some of her energy.

We love her dearly, and only want the very best for our precious daughter. We are believer's in Jesus Christ, and we are confident that God created this human with a purpose and that He has a perfect design and plan for her life.


Hi, I am a paraprofessional,  recently started (about 2 weeks) working with a 5 year old boy. He hasn't been diagnosed as autistic. However he is receiving ABA in a center.

The boy is non compliant in his task, even if the therapist tries to cheer him up, reinforce him. Nothing works. He will keep saying or doing what he wants. Like when non compliant he is either singing or repeat the words/rhymes he learnt or stimming (sometimes high).

He has 4 ABA sessions and still not much help. (Reason: there are more adults in the room as Mother/Sister, Nanny, Therapist and me. All giving him instructions (recently started to attend) may be reason of non compliance.)

Recently, i came to know he was never been exposed to nurseries or any socialism. He was confined to a room, with TV watching all day, and whatever he wants were within the reach.

The boy overweighs at 5. He reflects laziness to completes his task. he walks but difficult to walk a little. He cannot run/jump/climb maybe due to his weight.

This is the insight, as i could gather this much data. His mother is not ready to share anything but expects me to deliver the results.

I will appreciate, if you can share your experience/knowledge to increase my insight on the subject.


Hi Mark, Your book is saving my mental & physical health!!

I need your advice about my boyfriend who will be seeing a Neurologist/Psychiatrist the end of this month. My boyfriend Brendan 'seems like' he is not open to considering AS/ASD or is simply disinterested in thinking about it. His uncle was diagnosed with ASD  a few years back. So it seems as if there is a stigma about it. I suspect his genius, computer engineer father might also be ASD from the stories I've heard. They are a Chinese American family so I'm not sure how their family's culture impacts their acceptance of this diagnosis. Although Brendan's mother has told me stories about Brendan's childhood and teenage years that fit so much with the info I've read through you ASD book on teenagers.

I will be with Brendan while he is meeting the Neurologist. The appointment is initially to address past concussions that Brendan suffered while skateboarding.  Is there anyway that I can gently suggest that he be accessed for AS/ASD? I don't want him to become defensive or put on the spot.  Brendan is 41, I am 10 years older. (And no my father was not Aspergers/HFA :))  It seems like Brendan has a lot of problems taking care of himself. Your book has helped me understand why.

He has a job at Trader Joes (grocery store), he's an extremely hard worker but he must constantly self medicate with alcohol to get through his day. At this point his body is addicted to the alcohol. I believe he uses it to cover his AS and allow him to be more social.  Just a bit of backstory---Brendan was a professional skateboarder for 20 years. He had a unique style that no one could imitate.  He broke 52 bones in his body at different times. His left knee 3 times. His pain threshold is so high that many times he didn't know he had broken anything. He now has arthritis in the knee and it pops out of place quite often and he ends up having to leave work.  I'm telling you this because I think it would be a good idea if Brendan were assessed so that he could at least have access to some possible services and also job accommodation.

Mark, thank you so very, very much again for your book. I'm a University Librarian and have access to a plethora of books about AS/APD and your book has been by far the best I have encountered!!


Hello, I am writing today due to the fact that I am doing a project about Asperger's Syndrome and after looking over your website after much research thought that somebody from the facility would be able to help.

I am a second year psychology student from Liverpool Hope University and at the moment we are focusing on clinical psychology. We are looking to see how psychological treatments can affect the quality of those with those in my case living with Asperger's Syndrome.

I was just writing to know that if somebody would be able to help me and just answering a couple of questions as I need a professional to help me within my research.
I would be very grateful if somebody would be able to help me. I look forward to a response.


Hi Mark

My wife and I have been struggling with our older son (14) who we believe has AS (I have it as well). We have gone through many of the suggested strategies for young people who are wired like him, but at the moment we are in a crisis, and the atmosphere in the house is becoming toxic and having a bad effect on all of us, including our younger son.

We are now working with the school and the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team), but I'm not sure how much progress we're making. While he is doing ok at school, he is struggling with relationships, experimenting with cannabis and generally trying to control the house.

Tonight we're trying a behavioural contract, but again we're not sure whether it will make much difference, as it's hard to think of any sanctions he will accept of rewards that we can give him.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts regarding this.


Halloween Precautions for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Do you want to avoid trick-or-treat tantrums and meltdowns?

All kids eagerly anticipate Halloween. It is their night out on the town. They may spend hours planning their costumes, mapping out their trick-or-treat routes, and devising new ways to sort and ration their bag of goodies at the end of trick-or-treating.

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) might see this special day differently. The bright and colorful costumes become too much for the eyes, or the decorative outfits are too itchy or obstruct movement. The smell of candles might be repulsive. The noises and flashing lights at the local “haunted house” go beyond an innocent scare, causing some AS and HFA children actual physical discomfort.

Halloween can be fun and exciting, but it can also be very frightening. For example, some AS and HFA children see a clown and think it’s the funniest, greatest thing. Others will look at that clown and think that it’s horrifying. Halloween is the same kind of phenomenon – even more so.

Parents will do well to follow these tips on having a positive Halloween experience for their AS and HFA trick-or-treaters:

1. Bobbing for apples is a popular Halloween activity; however, your youngster may not want to bob for apples. Rather than forcing him or berating him, have your child participate in a way that he is comfortable with (e.g., putting the apples in a bucket). This way, he is still part of the activity, but it’s a comfortable fit.

2. Adapt the party activities. Rather than diving into the slimy insides of gourds to carve pumpkins, decorate them with stickers or paint. Many children on the autism spectrum do not like the usual Halloween events. Some of the typical party fare (e.g., “guess what is in this bowl while blindfolded”) can cause sensory overload – so plan accordingly.

3. Avoid lectures and criticism during this special (and perhaps stressful) day. Focus instead on simple, factual statements of any problem behavior and the consequence (e.g., "Michael, don't walk into the road. Stay on the sidewalk, or we will go home."). Be prepared to act on your consequence if your youngster does not comply. It may be inconvenient, but it is important to follow through on consequences to improve your youngster's compliance in the future.

4. Consider time-outs for any misbehavior. This might mean returning home briefly (5 to 10 min.) before attempting another launch into the treat-gathering experience.

5. Keep it fun. Ignore minor inappropriate behaviors and focus on the most important problem behaviors.

6. Monitor your youngster throughout the Halloween festivities, and try to end the holiday celebrations before he has a meltdown. If you notice he is getting cranky or tense, it’s time to head home. Ending on a high note is crucial to AS and HFA kids’ self-confidence and sense that they had a positive experience.

7. Plan a special activity for AFTER trick-or-treating (e.g., a favorite snack or an age-appropriate movie). Before you begin trick-or-treating, tell your youngster about your plans. Remind her when it is time to go home to engage in this fun activity that is waiting. This may reduce the possibility of a tantrum or meltdown.

8. Kids on the autism spectrum do better when they know what to expect. So read a book about trick-or-treating, and practice at home before the big night. Using “pre-task rehearsal” to teach AS and HFA children acceptable behaviors on the trick-or-treat routes, during parties, etc., is smart parenting. Also, make sure to talk about the holiday and how some things are different on Halloween – and why (e.g., taking candy from strangers).

9. Set a time limit for trick-or-treating, and plan your route ahead of time. Tell your youngster what to expect, how long the journey will last, where you are going, and when you plan to return home.

10. Test the costume, and take your child’s sensitivities into account. Have your child try on his costume to make sure the outfits aren’t too itchy, tight or stiff, and that he can move easily in it. If he doesn’t like having things touch his face, don’t include make-up or a mask. If he is physically uncomfortable, he won’t have fun trick-or-treating, and you risk putting him in meltdown-mode.

11. Trick-or-treating simply may not work for some children on the spectrum. In this case, pick what works for your family. If it’s not trick-or-treating, tell your youngster you are celebrating by decorating pumpkins or jumping in the leaves – or make it about celebrating fall with apple-picking and a hayride (last year, we stayed home and made candy apples – the evening worked out just fine!).

12. Try to reward appropriate behavior and apply consequences to problem behavior as soon as it happens and as consistently as possible. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to keep up with impulsive “special needs” kids, but if you fall behind, your interventions will be less successful and may not help at all.

With a little preparation and planning, AS and HFA children with sensory difficulties can have a positive and memorable Halloween experience. Good luck - and have fun!

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

Imagine What It's Like To Live With High-Functioning Autism

Many kids with HFA want to have friends, but they simply don't know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others' emotions, or read facial expressions and body language. As a result, they may be teased and often feel like social outcasts. The unwanted social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression. And there's more...

  • Anonymous said... Good explanation. 
  • Anonymous said... Nice video of some of the simple basics. I would love to see every school do a performance for the children to explain what autism is, isn't. We all know it's there, bring it out and be proud of being you should be the message taught. If you teach pride, ignorance doesn't hurt you as much. Unfortunately, schools I've dealt with state that parents are more opposed to their children becoming targets and want them to fly under the radar. Have we not noticed sight out of mind didn't
  • Anonymous said... Sometimes I feel like I need to carry a pamphlet on Apraxia so I do not have to explain it over and over again to new people! Lol

Please post your comment below…

The Lonely Child on the Spectrum

Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are more likely to be lonely than “typical” kids. Research shows that they face considerable challenges in making and keeping friends. When a youngster comes home and says, "no one likes me" or "everyone hates me," it can be hard for a mother or father to tell the difference between "temporary exclusion" versus "ongoing rejection." 

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management: Help for Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Moodiness and Depression in Teens with Asperger's and HFA

“How should I handle my teenage son’s emotional instability? Specifically, how can I tell the difference between 'normal' moodiness that occurs in adolescence and depression? My son seems to have significantly more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’. He’s usually very grouchy and pretty much stays to himself. Is this typical for teens with Asperger syndrome? Should I be concerned? What can I do to help?”

Moodiness and depression are common among teens in general. And young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are at even greater risk for these comorbid conditions. Teens on the autism spectrum have a “developmental disorder,” which means that their emotional age is significantly younger than their chronological age. For example, the teenager may be 16-years-old, but still have the social skills of a 9-year-old. This dilemma causes problems for the teen due to the fact that he or she experiences great difficulty in relating to same-age peers, which in turn may result in rejection from the peer group – and this contributes largely to the AS or HFA teen’s lack of self-esteem and depression.

In addition, cognitive control systems lag behind emotional development making it hard for AS and HFA teens to cope with their emotions. Furthermore, beyond the biological factors, a lot of other changes are occurring during adolescence (e.g., experiencing first loves and breakups, butting heads with parents, start of high school, etc.). No wonder some teens on the spectrum struggle through this time in their life.

Unfortunately, other complicating factors are at play during the teenage years:

Difficulty with transitions— Largely due to the uneasy transition toward adulthood, most teens on the spectrum experience an increase in anxiety. It is during this time that they are dangling between the dependency of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It can feel intimidating to prepare to leave high school, head off to college, or into the job market. All these factors induce more mood swings and anxiety in AS and HFA teens.

Peer-rejection— Many teens on the spectrum are deliberately excluded from social relationships among their age group. As a result, they often choose to isolate themselves, which makes a bad problem worse. A teenager who feels rejected often spends too much time playing video games and on social networking sites, thus losing touch with peers even more. Teens who are ostracized by their peers also tend to underachieve academically.

Poor social skills— Most young people with AS and HFA experience social skills deficits. As a result, interactions with peers become very unpleasant. The more they “fail” in connecting with peers, the more they isolate. They want to “fit-in” and be accepted, but simply haven’t figured out the social politics needed to find and keep friends.

Low self-esteem— Peer-group rejection results in a decline in their self-image, a state of despair, behavioral difficulties, loneliness and seclusion.

So as a parent, how do you know when to wait out the moods – and when to worry? The truth is that it's difficult to know, because every teenager is different. Rapid physiological changes are occurring during adolescence. Therefore, a degree of vacillation between "ups" and "downs" can be expected. However, there is big difference between teenage mood swings and genuine depression. The major symptoms of depression may include:
  • changes in appetite
  • episodes of moping and crying
  • fatigue
  • loss of enthusiasm or interest in favorite activities
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mood swings that seem out of proportion to the circumstances
  • negative self-concept
  • outbursts of anger 
  • painful thoughts that manifest themselves in relentless introspection
  • persistent anxiety
  • persistent sadness
  • poor school performance
  • sense of hopelessness
  • withdrawal and isolation

If an AS or HFA teenager is suffering from depression, parents can expect to see the following symptoms unfold in three successive stages:
  1. Inability to concentrate, withdrawal from friends, impulsive acts, and declining academic performance
  2. Acts of aggression, rapid mood swings, loss of friends, mild rebellion, and sudden changes in personality
  3. Overt rebellion, extreme fatigue, giving away prized possessions, expressions of hopelessness, and suicidal threats or gestures

Other common symptoms of depression in adolescents include: eating or sleeping too much, feeling extremely sensitive, feeling misunderstood, feeling negative and worthless, poor attendance at school, self-harm, and using recreational drugs or alcohol.

Symptoms caused by depression can vary from child to child. To discover the type of depression your AS or HFA teenager has, your physician may add one or more “specifiers.” A specifier simply means that your teen has depression with specific features, for example:
  • Seasonal pattern: depression related to changes in seasons and reduced exposure to sunlight
  • Mixed features: simultaneous depression and mania, which includes elevated self-esteem, talking too much, and increased energy
  • Melancholic features: severe depression with lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure and associated with early morning awakening, major changes in appetite, feelings of guilt, agitation or sluggishness, and worsened mood in the morning 
  • Catatonia: depression that includes motor activity that involves either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or fixed and inflexible posture
  • Atypical features: depression that includes the ability to temporarily be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, sensitivity to rejection, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and excessive need for sleep
  • Anxious distress: depression with unusual restlessness or worry about possible events or loss of control


1. Psychotherapy: Different types of psychotherapy can be effective for depression in AS and HFA teens (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). Psychotherapy can help your teen:
  • regain a sense of satisfaction and control in his or her life
  • ease depression symptoms (e.g., hopelessness and anger)
  • learn to set realistic goals for his or her life
  • identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
  • identify issues that contribute to his or her depression
  • change behaviors that make depression worse
  • find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • explore relationships and experiences
  • develop positive interactions with peers
  • develop the ability to tolerate and accept distress using healthier behaviors
  • adjust to a crisis or other current difficulty

2. Alternative Therapies: Therapies other than face-to-face office sessions are available and can be highly effective for teens on the autism spectrum (e.g., as a computer program, by online sessions, or using videos or workbooks). These can be guided by a therapist or be totally independent.

3. Social Skills Training: Teens on the autism spectrum experience depression largely due to their awkwardness in interpersonal relationships. Thus, social skills training is perhaps the best method for combating depression in these young people. A major goal of social skills training is teaching AS and HFA teens:
  • how to understand verbal and nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions
  • how to make "small talk" in social settings
  • the importance of good eye contact during a conversation
  • how to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions
  • how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity
  • how to interpret social signals so that they can determine how to act appropriately in the company of others in a variety of different situations

Social skills training assumes that when “special needs” teens improve their social skills and change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. The AS or HFA teen learns to change his or her social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions.

4. Medication: Many types of antidepressants are available, including:
  • Atypical antidepressants (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL, Remeron, Trintellix)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Parnate, Nardil, Marplan, Emsam)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, Zoloft, Viibryd)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, Khedezla, Fetzima)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Pamelor, Surmontil, Norpramin, Vivactil)

Other medications can be added to an antidepressant to enhance antidepressant effects. Your physician may recommend combining two antidepressants or adding medications (e.g., mood stabilizers or antipsychotics). Anti-anxiety and stimulant medications can also be added for short-term use.

Other things that parents can do to combat moodiness and depression in their AS or HFA teenager include: encouraging physical activity; praising the youngster's skills; promoting participation in organized activities; reminding your youngster that you care by listening, showing interest in his or her problems, and respecting his or her feelings; and setting aside time each day to talk to your youngster (this step is crucial in preventing further isolation, withdrawal, and progressive depression).

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

The 6 Most Important Things Parents Can Do for Their Child with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism

“We recently got a diagnosis of high-functioning autism for our 6 y.o. son. After researching all the interventions that are recommended, my husband and I are feeling quite overwhelmed. Our son has so much to work on, and we simply don’t know where to begin. Please give us a starting point so we’ll know if we’re on the right path or not. We desperately want our son to be as happy and ‘functional’ as possible.”

Being a parent of a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) is both exhausting and rewarding. Whenever you feel confused, apprehensive or worried, know that you are not alone. The good news is this: armed with just a few simple “tools,” your course-of-action can run relatively smoothly.

Although there are many techniques parents will need to employ to successfully raise a child on the autism spectrum, here are the 6 most important ones to consider first:

1. Analyze your AS or HFA youngster’s strengths and weaknesses – and find the right tools to help him or her.

Think about what you know about your youngster before selecting any treatment options. Each youngster on the spectrum is different – there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to interventions. What works wonderfully for one child may backfire drastically for another. Count on the fact that there will be some trial-and-error as you search for the right approach to dealing with your child’s challenges. As you stay the course, there will be clues and indicators of what will work best for YOUR child.

Pay close attention to your parental instincts. Just because you heard something worked for someone you know - and their youngster got much better - does NOT mean that the same intervention will work for your child. You will have the most success if you know your youngster’s strengths and weaknesses, and find a combination of techniques that are a good match for him or her.

2. Understand that your youngster will NOT know what to expect in social situations. So, teach him or her what to expect in various situations in a very clear and precise manner.

Imagine how a pajama party might seem to a child who has never been to one (e.g., kids running around laughing and jumping, popcorn all over the place, pillow fights, trying to sleep on the floor rather than in your own bed, and so on). Imagine how it would feel to go to your first day of elementary school when you’re around 30 other kids, you don’t know where the bathroom is, you don’t know how to ask the other kids if you can play with them, you’re not sure how to interact with peers in the unstructured environment of lunch time and recess, and so on.

Kids on the autism spectrum have social skills deficits. Thus, they do best when placed FIRST into social situations that interest them and have plenty of structure. As your child ages, expose him to more social situations, and provide him with information about what to expect and how to behave. For example, if your child is meeting his teacher for the first time, let him know exactly what it involves (e.g., going to the school, walking into the classroom, saying “Hi, my name is Max”, shaking the teacher’s hand, making eye contact, listening to the teacher introduce herself, and answering any questions she may have). Never feel that you are breaking things down too far for your AS or HFA child. The more detailed and concrete your instruction – the better!

3. Find activities that your AS or HFA youngster is highly interested in, and help him cultivate friendships within those activities.

Children on the spectrum have difficulty finding and keeping friends. For instance, Michael (a 6-year-old) is friends with James (also 6 years old). Michael has HFA and does not like to be in large groups of people. Michael likes soccer, but James likes to talk to his friends. Michael often becomes frustrated and is not sure what to say when James is around. Michael doesn’t read social cues, doesn’t know how to get into the conversation, and doesn’t like to talk about what James and his friends are talking about.

Because Michael enjoys soccer, finding a soccer team or class that he can attend regularly, and then role-playing and coaching him to help with social skills related to those relationships could evolve into people who know Michael and share an interest with him. In the future, those relationships will turn into friendships and into a network of advocates who will share Michael’s interests.

4. Become your child’s advocate.

As a mother or father, you’re the one who has spent the most time with your child, and you may have already figured out what works and what doesn’t (or are coming close to figuring it out). As an expert on your child, you may find yourself being his advocate all the time.

Much of this advocacy happens in the classroom. You’ll need to tell your child’s teacher what techniques work best, what triggers him, and what calms him down. If you find that the school system is just dragging your child along without actually educating him, you’ll need to advocate by talking to the principal, superintendent, or even a lawyer. It may take all of these people to get the school system to take your child’s education seriously.
5. Appreciate the benefits of consistency and routines.

Example: Shelley wakes up one morning and eats a bowl of cereal, brushes her teeth, gets dressed, then gets on the bus. The next morning, she wakes up and is surprised to find that she has to take a shower before getting dressed. She becomes agitated and has a meltdown. She starts slapping the wall and knocking stuff off of the counter on to the floor. Now all the kids are late to school – and stressed out!

By building in predictability when possible, your AS or HFA child does not have to find other ways to cope (e.g., meltdowns, tantrums, shutdowns, aggression, etc.). Of course, you can’t predict every situation in life, but having a core routine within the family, and preparing your “special needs” child for any upcoming change in routine, will cut down on family stress ten-fold.

In Shelley’s case, maybe she got extremely dirty the night before, but it was too late for her to take a shower. So, you had her get the shower the next morning before school. In this scenario, it would be important to tell her the night before what to expect the next morning. Preferably, you would make a schedule (written or with pictures) so she could visually see what to expect the next day.

Visual schedules are very important when changes in routines are necessary. However, be careful not to over-schedule the routine. Some kids on the spectrum become so dependent on their routines that it can be very upsetting to alter them when “life” happens. Thus, try to build adaptations and variations into your child’s regular routines. This will teach him to cope with the many changes in routines that happen all the time.

6. Take action as soon as possible.

Some therapists have reported working with kids 2 to 3 years old who were diagnosed very early with an autism spectrum disorder that looked like classic Autism (e.g., screaming, banging head into the wall, flapping arms all day with no initiation of communication, etc.) – but with early intervention and treatment, their symptoms fell more in line with high-functioning autism or mild Asperger’s by the time they were 5.

Kids who are already in elementary school and have never had services because the parents thought they were simply late talkers have missed the optimal time for intervention. Thus, the prognosis for improvement is less than ideal.

Parents must catch their child when he is very young and provide treatment. It’s better to help a child who would have been fine either way than to overlook him because you think he will “grow out of it.” Many therapists report working with children who are 5 years old, and the parent knew something was not coming together right for years. Getting help early works. Step through the fear and advocate for the services your youngster needs.


The initial period of learning about AS or HFA - and all of the necessary therapies and treatments - can be isolating. You may even feel sad at first, or angry that your life with a child on the spectrum is different than the one you dreamed of and different than the lives of most of those around you. Your ideal world will be very different from the world you actually live in. Still, there are many ways to work towards making your life more of how you want it to be.

As you begin to get more involved in the Autism community, there will be more activity and company of others. This involvement will help your situation feel more “normal” as it provides more chances for typical activity and interaction with others. Over time, life and ideals change, and you will begin to dream new dreams for your real world. 

Reasons Why Your Asperger’s or HFA Child Gets So Stressed-Out at School

Kids with and Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) commonly experience anxiety. Estimates report that as many as 80% of kids on the spectrum have anxiety disorders such as specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. Physical complaints with no apparent medical basis is often an indicator of anxiety (e.g., stress in a social situation, a demanding school setting, sensory sensitivities, etc.).

Factors that can make existing anxiety even worse can include an introverted temperament, having highly anxious parents, high levels of family stress or conflict, and a family history of anxiety.

Signs of school anxiety in AS and HFA children include the following:

Behavioral Signs—
  • Abnormal failure or delay to complete everyday responsibilities
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Frequent lying
  • Nail biting
  • Pacing
  • Significant change in school or work performance
  • Trouble getting along with classmates and/or teachers

Cognitive Signs—
  • Anxious thoughts or feelings
  • Chronic worrying
  • Impaired concentration
  • Impaired speech (e.g., mumbling or stuttering)
  • Reduced or impaired judgment
  • Repetitive or unwanted thoughts
  • Trouble with remembering things (e.g., homework assignments or deadlines)
  • Unusual desire for social isolation

Emotional Signs—
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feelings of sadness and/or depression
  • Irritability
  • Less than normal patience
  • More frequent or extreme pessimistic attitude
  • Reduced or eliminated desire for activities once enjoyed or regularly done
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of isolation
  • Trouble coping with life’s issues

Physical Signs—
  • Chest pain with or without tachycardia
  • Clenched teeth 
  • Fatigue 
  • Flushed skin 
  • Getting sick more often than normal 
  • Headaches 
  • Heartburn or indigestion 
  • Involuntary twitching or shaking 
  • Irregular bowel movements 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Nausea 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Unusual changes in weight

Other signs include:
  • Shutdowns
  • Shadowing parents around the house
  • Severe tantrums when forced to go to school
  • Regressive behavior
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Nightmares
  • Meltdowns
  • Feeling unsafe staying in a room by themselves
  • Fear of being alone in the dark
  • Excessive worry about harm to themselves
  • Excessive shyness
  • Exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars
  • Clinging behavior

Let’s take a deeper look at all the things that can contribute to your AS or HFA child’s anxiety level:

1. There's a lot of pressure for students to learn more and more – and at younger ages than in past generations. For example, while a few decades ago, kindergarten was a time for learning letters, numbers, and basics, most kindergarteners today are expected to read. With test scores being heavily weighted and publicly known, schools are under great pressure to produce high test scores. That pressure gets passed on to the students, and no one feels that pressure more than a child on the autism spectrum.

2. Just as it can be stressful to handle a heavy and challenging workload, some students experience stress from work that isn't difficult enough. Many children with AS and HFA have average to above-average IQs (sometimes into the “gifted” range), and can become easily bored and disengaged if the subject matter is not challenging enough. They may respond by acting-out or tuning-out in class, which leads to poor performance, masks the root of the problem, and perpetuates the difficulties.

3. Many of us have experienced test anxiety, regardless of whether or not we're prepared for exams. Unfortunately, greater levels of test anxiety hinder performance on exams.
Due to the fact that the AS or HFA child already has an element of anxiety to contend with throughout the day, the added pressure of an exam may prove to be too much anxiety-overload, resulting in either a meltdown or shutdown.

4. With the overabundance of convenience food available these days - and the time constraints we all experience - the average youngster's diet has more sugar and less nutritious content than is recommended. This can lead to mood swings, lack of energy, and other negative effects that exacerbate the stress levels of “already-anxious” kids on the spectrum.

5. While most “typical” kids would say that their peers are one of their favorite aspects of school, peers can be a source of stress for students on the spectrum (e.g., due to being rejected, teased, and bullied). Concerns about not having any friends, not being in the same class with someone who actually is a friend, not being able to keep up with peers in one particular area or another (e.g., gym class), interpersonal conflicts, and peer pressure are a few of the very common ways kids with AS and HFA can be stressed by their social lives at school.

6. In an effort to give their “special needs” child an edge, or to provide the best possible developmental experiences, some parents enroll their child in too many extra-curricular activities. As the child becomes a teenager, school extracurricular activities become much more demanding. College admissions standards are also becoming increasingly competitive, making it difficult for a college-bound high school student to avoid over-scheduling himself. All of this adds up to stress-overload.

7. Many parents of children on the autism spectrum report that their child is not getting enough sleep to function well each day. As schedules get busier, even younger kids are finding themselves habitually sleep-deprived. This can affect health and cognitive functioning, both of which increase anxiety levels and impact school performance.

8. Noise pollution from school hallways, strange smells coming from the cafeteria, the buzz of florescent lighting, and other environmental stimuli have been shown to cause stress that impacts the AS or HFA child’s performance in school.

9. As you know, there are different styles of learning. Some students learn better by listening, others retain information more efficiently if they see the information written out, and still others prefer learning by doing. Students on the spectrum usually learn best through visual forms of instruction. If there's a mismatch in the child’s learning style and the teacher’s teaching style, this often leads to a stressful academic experience.

10. Due in part to the hectic schedules of parents, the sit-down family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule in many households. While there are other ways to connect as a family, many families find that they’re too busy to spend time together and have both the important discussions and the casual day recaps that can be so helpful for “special needs” kids in dealing with the stressful issues they face. Due to a lack of available family time, many parents are not as connected to their children - or knowledgeable about the issues they face - as they would like.

11. A good experience with a caring teacher can cause a lasting impression on an AS or HFA youngster's life – BUT so can a bad experience. While most teachers do their best to provide “special needs” students with a positive educational experience, some students are better suited for certain teaching styles and classroom types than others. If there is a mismatch between student and teacher, the student can form lasting negative feelings about school or his own abilities.

12. Many schools now have anti-bullying policies. Though bullying does still happen at many schools, help is generally more accessible than it was years ago. The bad news is that bullying has gone high-tech. Many kids use the Internet, cell phones and other media devices to bully HFA and AS kids, and this type of bullying often gets very aggressive. One reason is that bullies can be anonymous and enlist other bullies to make their target miserable. Another reason is that they don't have to face their targets, so it's easier to shed any empathy that they may otherwise feel.

What can be done to reduce school anxiety in AS and HFA children? Here are a few suggestions:

1. You may have tried to “reassure” your anxious child. But oftentimes, these reassurances sound “empty.” Saying something such as “It's going to be fine” is not likely to help a nervous AS or HFA youngster. When he begins to worry, you can use it as an opportunity to have more dialogue and find out what is making him so anxious. The more information you have, the better job you can do to help him feel more comfortable in the school environment. Thus, do a bit of an investigation to get to the root of the problem. For example, your child may become extremely anxious getting on the bus in the morning, during transitions, in the lunch room, during gym class, while taking a quiz or test …just to name a few. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest level of anxiety), your child is not at a level 10 all day. Most likely, there are only one or two situations that launch him to that level. Address those situations first.

2. Try to find out if your child is refusing to go to school due to real anxiety issues, or some other reason. Answers to the following questions may help to determine the motivation behind school-refusal:
  • What specific tangible rewards does your child pursue outside of school that cause her to miss school?
  • What specific social situations at school are avoided?
  • What specific school-related stimuli are provoking her concern about going to school?
  • What specific problematic behaviors are present in the morning before school?
  • What is her degree of anxiety or misbehavior upon entering school?
  • What is her academic and social status? (This would include a review of academic records, formal evaluation reports, attendance records, and IEP or 504 plans.)
  • What family disruption or conflict has occurred as a result of her school-refusal?
  • What comorbid conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, sensory sensitivities, etc.) occur with her school-refusal?
  • What are her specific forms of absenteeism, and how do these forms change daily?
  • Is her school-refusal relatively acute or chronic in nature? 
  • Is her refusal to attend school legitimate or understandable in some way (e.g., due to a school-based threat, bullying, inadequate school environment, etc.)?
  • Is she willing to attend school if you accompany her?
  • Is she willing to attend school if incentives are provided for attendance?
  • How did her school-refusal develop over time?
  • Have recent or traumatic home or school events influenced her school-refusal?
  • Are there any non-school situations where anxiety or attention-seeking behavior occurs?
  • Are symptoms of school-refusal evident on weekends and holidays?

3. Put a picture of you, the parent, in your youngster's notebook, or place a special note in his lunch box (e.g., “Mommy loves you”). These “little things” aren’t so little, and will help your child feel more comfortable at school (especially if he is coping with separation anxiety).

4. Discuss the daily plans with your child so that everyone is informed and knows what to expect. Make sure your youngster is aware of everything, including who will be at the bus stop or who will be picking her up at school (this is especially important if you carpool).

5. Emphasize the positives of school. Frequently discuss how much fun school can be and all the new friends your child can meet. If your AS or HFA youngster has an older sibling in school, have that sister or brother talk to your “special needs” child about recess and all the fun that is had during the school day.

6. Meet with the school guidance counselor. This visit will make you and your child more relaxed about school. If you keep your youngster’s anxiety in the open with the counselor, he or she will likely check in on your child more often.

7. Lastly, if your youngster’s anxiety continues to grow, or you feel you can’t help her resolve her fears about school, it is time to see the doctor. Your doctor can consult with you and the entire family in order to decide if a therapist is needed.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism



•    Anonymous said… Even with the IEP it's still about conforming.
•    Anonymous said… Great article. My daughter has always shown signs of anxiety, but it ballooned once she started high school and resulted in severe depression, cognitive decline, and school refusal. It was not until age 16 that she was diagnosed with Asperger's. Her diagnosis came as both a surprise and a relief to us. She flew under the radar for so long, developing her own coping strategies along the way... but it finally became too much for her to handle. It has helped her and us to have a better understanding of her behaviour and sensory triggers. She is now back in school but on a reduced schedule of 2 in-school classes and 1 online class this semester. Our school has been very helpful and accommodating. She knows it will take her longer to complete high school with this schedule and she's fine with that. We still have our daily challenges but, with the right medication and removing the pressure to attend a full day of school, we've seen a positive change.
•    Anonymous said… I am done with school systems. After my son being bullied and called a loser by the school psychologist, that was the last straw. My ASD Spectrum son is 16. I dropped him out and homeschooling him. He'll take the Hi-Set (new GED) and go at his own pace until he's ready to take the Hi-Set.
•    Anonymous said… I am raising a child who is struggling in school.She doesn't have servers but has learning disabilities. You are right, it might look good on paper but the schools don't understand anxiety or learning pace.
•    Anonymous said… I am so sorry your son was bullied. No one deserves that.
•    Anonymous said… I can only speak from my own experience. The schools in our area really have nothing for Aspergers kids. My son is expected to be neurotypical and this has caused so much heartache for us. Inclusion without real support is rough. My hope is that there are schools out there who have more than what we've been given.
•    Anonymous said… Inclusion without support is not has been my experience that schools think they're being inclusive when really they are working towards integration...trying to make a neurodiverse student indistinguishable from their peers...the pressure to conform causes significant anxiety... this was one reason we recently moved schools...there are good schools out there striving for a truly inclusive culture... we are feeling positive about our new's small and has a great part time program
•    Anonymous said… It is a real shame that schools don't work with kids with aspergers the way they should. Oh they go through the motions but they don't seem to do all that they can! It is very difficult for kids to sit in a classroom for a whole period and concentrate on the that so hard to understand!
•    Anonymous said… my son gets stressed out at school feeling hes being bullied because other kids are trying to tell him what hes supose to do, then they ignor his requests knowing he will loose it and will get into trouble when they tell the teacher, all innocent, that he was yelling at them.
•    Anonymous said… my son is in first grade and I'm exhausted. We changed schools to give him something better. Looking ahead is hard. The thought of middle school worries me as well.
•    Anonymous said… We are in elementary school have problems with it too. I am very worried about middle school.
•    Anonymous said… You can ask for a IEP Which gives aspergers children a easier time. my son also has aspergers and makes his school day rough but he has learned to cope thank goodness also do you have any charter schools in your area they are also more prepared and willing to work with aspergers children.

Post your comment below…

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Sept., 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.


Would you recommend this program to friends or family?

I wholeheartedly recommend this programme to EVERY parent. I am a single-parent and have found my son's out of control behaviour completely overwhelming.  I wish I'd learnt these strategies when my son was younger.  It's really worth sticking through and following Mark's advise to the letter. I was on the verge of a breakdown at home and unable to cope with my son's outbursts.  My son had punched holes in walls, broken furniture, stolen from me, and was physically intimidating i.e. not letting me leave the house by blocking me.

It's not all plain sailing and I've had a few setbacks, e.g. there was a huge backlash after I started initiating the discipline. However,  I stuck it out and it really paid off. The  intensity of my son's tempers have mellowed and are less frequent. He's started a new sport, is sleeping at night time (I now switch off the internet and night and he must give me his mobile before he goes to bed). We are eating together all the time and life is getting back to normal. 

Did you get a timely response to your emails?


What was the most helpful feature of Online Parent Support? 

I think the phrasing of how to approach situations also Mark correctly anticipated potential reactions to changes I was implementing and how to deal with those.

What was the least helpful? 
Nothing - everything was really helpful.

Additional Comments:

I wish the CD was available in downloadable format. I live in Europe and can't purchase it.


Hello Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to put your parenting programme together. I wanted to let you know that your advice and strategies have had a positive and transformative impact on our home life.

More importantly, I think it's benefited my son as he's learning boundaries and how to behave especially around women.  One of my biggest fears is that he'd grow up to a man who abuses his wife and family.  

I've submitted feedback on the feedback page which you are welcome to use (without identifying me).

I only wish I could buy the CD ( I'm in Europe) -  it would be great if this was downloadable so I could listen to it in the car.

Keep up the good work!
Many thanks and God bless



MARK!! I have just started reading!! OMG I can't believe it! Thank you so so so so so much! I am going to Staples to buy some paper (mine is always recycled and crappy!  - autism is expensive! lol) I am so very thankful to you!! Thank you so much! Seriously, thank you. I love your info and subscribe to your info and am excited when I get new info! Thanks again! Wish me luck with my son! He started Gr. 3 today. He knows he has autism and we think he knows what that means at a basic level, but we are wanting him to be as informed and involved as he can be. I am 45 and my husband ( very good daddy) is 47 and we know that we are not long for this world - he will need to know how to live his own life and we are (obv) terrified. Your articles help us feel like we/he is going to be ok.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mark. Seriously. If you ever come to Canada, let me know - you can stay with us!!!

xoxoxoxo Blessings,



Thanks Mark!

I've been reading your FB posts and really appreciating them.

Our 5 yo son w/ AS/HFA started kindergarten last week and he's really struggling w/ unprovoked aggression towards his peers. Then when adult educational staff intervene, he has subsequent aggression towards them and some times he has meltdowns.  Some aggression is in response to predictable triggers (e.g., asked to do writing which evokes anxiety and embarrassment, bumped by other kid while waiting in line) and some aggression towards kids is seemingly out the blue.  When asked why, he says "I don't know."  My sense is that he is overwhelmed by anxiety and sensory processing challenges related to new environment.  We had IEP place before school started but doesn't seem to adequate based upon response first 2 weeks.

Where do you recommend that I start looking in the materials you sent for ideas about how to help him?


Good evening Mark!
Let me start by saying my name is Hope Cook and im the manager of the Crystal Coast Autism Center,Inc in Morehead city nc. I was wondering if you go to places and talk to parents,teachers ect. About Autism? The reason why im asking is because we are a small city but we have surrounding counties. There is a lot of teachers and parents that are in need of learning more about autism. I watch your video and it was very inspiring. I would love to see if I can have you come and talk to you the parents and teachers of Carteret County and surrounding counties. How much would it cost if you could do this? I am extremely interested in learning more. I have a 13 year old son that is on the Spectrum. It's extremely hard I am a single mother and I tried to learn as much as possible. I really think your videos and what you would have to say would be a tremendous help to a lot of people in Carteret County and surrounding counties. Please consider this and get back with me as soon as you can. Thank you for all you do! I look forward to hearing from you.


Your articles are amazing. I am the nana to a 19-year-old girl. She was diagnosed at around 5 years old and now is being tested for autism. Since my first text to you, it has been awful.  In the last couple months they have had to call the police to let them take her to the hospital several times.She seems to be calm there like their is nothing major and just keeps it in but will explod soon after being released. She makes a plan to herself and when she voices it and they say no it all starts. Her screams don't sound right and are scary and I fear for the families life at times because she is so aggressive and makes so many threats. It is very disturbing to see she her thrown things and hit her mama repeatedly and her daddy it goes between hitting biting slapping and throwing things.   They have a upstairs and I fear she may push someone down them.  We fear for them and the other little children. It is majorly affecting her 14-year-old brother who had a panic attack and had to go to the ER because of her. He has lived in this stuff for many a year. Maybe had she been handled differently younger as some of your stuff has been placed out there to read maybe it would have helped her I don't know. She has such serious meltdowns we're just at a loss and and the parents are totally exhausted. Removing the 14-year-old for a while to go to the grandmas and really do not know what's going to happen with Hailee. She seems to be a different person with friends but with her family especially her mom is very bad she supposedly test is only like a 12-year-old but is 19 and thinks she is an adult and anything can set her off She has ran away several times threaten to kill the family and herself and already packed a bag please just give me some hopeful and helpful information as a grandma I ended up going for counseling but I am at a loss. I am a Christian and I do trust God for his guidance 100% but I would like to have some information to read on and stuff you say I really really admire you and thank you for how you can help me and encourage me waiting for your response thank you Gail. Also she has guys she talks with and one particularly has had a hold on her. He lives out of town and that is a answer to prayer.  She wants a boyfriend and she is in a dangerous place. He is aggressively talking and very bad .  He says he will come get her.  Fearful if she did he would abuse her.   Just another area of scarienes. Thanks again.  I do pray Mark you do handle these text but how do you handle so many or you just have certain things you say for a situation.  Sorry just desperate and


last four years have been brutal. 5 grade with bulling, then a private school which ended in as refusal as they did not understand how to deal with our son and treated him more as will full.
The third school understood and tried to help which lead to the district supporting him being moved to a school for kids with learning disabilities.
This worked for a while and we thought it was the solution as the staff seemed in tune with autism.
Anders did well in the beginning but then started having issues with a kid then another one and after a third one he was done.
He spend a lot of time talking to teachers and the schools director but it was mostly a one way conversation. He demanded an action which was difficult for them to do and at the end he simply refused to go to school.
Now in response to the strategies we have been unable to make anything work and at them moment he is forcing me (his dad) out of our home but throwing fits and banging on walls and doors until my wife asks me to go somewhere else which means i am at the moment sitting in a parking lot writing to you. all whiles she has to deal with my aspergers son (Anders) and 12 year old twins and all the house work.
something has to change
 my wife and i no longer possess the energy to do it.
we are working with the school district, wrap around services, phycologists, aba team, ucsf specialists.
given all of the special help we are unable to function and Anders rejects the help by hiding or going crazy yelling and screaming.
i am currently with out job and find it hard to focus on getting one with all this going on.
my wife is stressed out and i am feeling more and more panic coming on inside if me.


I have two adopted children ages 9 and 10.  The eldest has been diagnosed with RAD and I believe he has SAD (Separation Anxiety Disorder) too.  He started school just before his 5th birthday having spent two terms at playschool and seemed ok, the odd day of resistance but nothing that registered as being abnormal.  But once he entered a more formal educational setting in Year 1 (England) the problems began.  He would refuse to listen in lessons preferring to be under the tables.  He was constantly in trouble, found it difficult to maintain friendships and was bullied.  We moved schools hoping a smaller school would be better but the problems continued until eventually he refused to even go to school or stay there if I had managed to get him through the door.  After many meetings with teachers, the head of school,  the post adoption service we gave up and at the end of Yr 2 we decided Home Education was the only option.  Clearly a school setting was not for him.  We have since removed our daughter too who  is also showing signs of attachment disorder.

My main difficulty is that we are now in our 4th year of Home Education and every day is a struggle to get him to learn anything.  He has been assessed for Autism and ADHD neither of which he has but the refusal to learn continues.  He says “if he does his learning then he will have to grow up and that means leaving Mummy”.  No amount of reassurance will change his mind.  He is an avid reader and learns a lot this way but won’t do anything formal. He disrupts his sisters learning time too.  He wakes me most nights with nightmares about us being separated in some way and follows me around the house which makes me feel a little smothered at times.  If he cannot be with me he bothers his sister and if she doesn’t want him around he hurts her.  The rejection is too much.  Even spending time with my husband so I can have some ‘me time’ is difficult for him.

I practice Therapeutic Parenting technicques and the bond between us has grown but I would not say it is secure although in the last few weeks he has started saying that he knows I care about him and always will so I feel we have made some progress.  While his sister was still at school I facilitated a year of regression to infancy and he had two years of playtherapy to help him explore his rather chaotic past.  My husband and I have in the last 10 months lost both remaining parents to cancer so the children are both grieving this loss on top of previous loss through adoption.

This is a brief synopsis of the last 7 years.  I have joined your mailing list as I have found some of the techniques on your website very useful.  Any words of advice you can offer would be gratefully recieved.  I admit I am struggling. 


You describe my partner completely. Unfortunately, he is now my ex partner as he ended our relationship only 4 weeks ago. I am devastated, not only because I am still very much in love with him but also because I have only just discovered that he has the condition.

Frank is a 48 year old man and has never been diagnosed. His marriage of 20 years ended 5 years ago and I am the only partner he has had since. His ex-wife (whom I know) became depressed and this is the official reason the marriage broke down.

Now Frank has finished our relationship of 18 months because he realises he cannot stop hurting me, unintentionally. And yes, I was hurt... because I too was unaware of the reasons behind his, often strange, behaviour. Now I understand it so much better but am at a loss as to what to do.

We ended nicely, as in nobody is angry. He is a very mild-mannered man and I am a kind NT woman. However, he says he is now totally ‘empty’. I have not seen or heard him in two weeks and it’s causing me a great deal of pain. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way forward?

Please realise that my love for him has always been, right from the beginning, genuine and committed. I have never given up on ‘us’. He tried to end our relationship twice before already but I convinced him not to.


Mr. Hutten,

I stumbled onto your site today in the early a.m. because I have chronic insomnia, and have been a collector of expert information for my son for nearly nineteen years.  Our stumbling block is that we have a young man with severe anxiety, depression, irritability, and self-loathing.  We have NEVER made him feel badly for his meltdowns and have always been positive about his diagnosis and all of the hard work that put into speech therapy, etc., when he was a young man.  We have always praised his desired behaviors and tended to re-direct and not draw attention to undesirable behaviors.

He was home-schooled from third grade as we started witnessing the effect that some minor bullying was having on him.  We had a team of professionals who studied him in a typical school setting and advised us, due to his extreme anxiety, and the bullying, that he would learn more effectively outside a typical classroom.  For a very long time, we attended classes and social events put on by our homeschool community.  When he was around age 12, he started refusing to participate and became very irritable.  He loathes his autism diagnosis and feels that he will never fit into society and that he is going to kill himself once something happens to his immediate family.

As you know, typical therapies do not work with an autism diagnosis.  When he was young, I was able to implement social stories and games and things to improve his life.  Now he refuses to accept his autism, doesn't want to talk about it or have any services or therapy to help him cope.  He says that autism, ocd and adhd, are all excuses for the idiot that he is.  He say he can't trust anybody, including us, because it makes him feel vulnerable. And, that he absolutely does not want or need friends  This is impacting every area in his life that needs to be improved on.  For example, he is diabetic and will not comply with the testing an insulin management when he eats.  He also has avoidant/restrictive eating disorder and we had to quit therapy because his behavior was so bad.  (The feeding clinic basically asked us to manage his treatment via email.)  His blood sugar is not being managed completely because as his parents, we do have to get some sleep and he is a night owl.  He says he deserves to die and he doesn't care about himself or how diabetes can impact his health and energy levels.

My question, how do I get him over this hump?  I have recently found a doctorate level therapist that only sees children with autism but we are stuck waiting until his SSI/Medicare kicks in because she doesn't take medicaid.  We also are now registered in our state for priority services here at home and in the community.  He doesn't want that either even though we are proceeding despite his refusal.   He graduated in May and is extremely bright, but refuses that notion too.  Have you had any young adult patients that are this difficult?  He has been through several therapists and pediatric psychiatrists that have patients with autism, and they can't seem to sort anything out.

Obviously, I could go on and on about our son and his difficulties. Any ideas you may have to get past this would be appreciated.


Good Evening,
I am in desperate need of some help with my 7 year old son. We are in the process of getting him diagnosed and it's a LONG process, but I am for sure after all the research and everything I have read, that he has Asperger's. His tantrums/meltdowns are escalating as well as disruptive behaviors in class. I am at my wits end and am wondering what I can do? What classes can I take? I was reading about do I sign up? I am feeling like a failure of a mom because I have lost my patience and have run out of tricks.
Please Help!


I read so much wonderful and thorough information on these topics but have such a hard time finding the help that we need (in Southern California) because our son's case is so very complicated. . If you have time to read this and have any suggestions, thank you and God bless.
At this point we are just finally trying to find a college or career counselor or life coach for my 15 years old son who is very smart but struggles with many issues. He was diagnosed in third grade by a neuropsychiatrist with: Asperger's Syndrome, auditory processing disorder, cognitive disorder, learning disabilities, ADD, and depressive symptoms. He appears COMPLETELY typical and the school district does not understand him even with his IEP. We have tried a charter and a private school and are back at the public school. No one understands him and they are basically pushing him through the system. He has so much potential and it's so sad.  We have tried so many things and he has several interests but he has such a hard time with so many different things that nothing has stuck. He is artistic and has an aptitude for several different things, i.e. golf, surfing, drawing. He starts all these things but doesn't get anywhere bc of his executive functioning issues. He is currently taking lessons to fly and the teacher is very impressed with his instincts but there is so much other work to becoming a pilot I'm not sure that will come to fruition. I am trying to find a life or career or college coach that understands his issues but am having a VERY difficult time finding one. He gets excited about the thoughts of a future but has no motivation bc it's all been so difficult. He hardly has friends and he plays computer and watches videos as much as we try to keep him involved. I simply want to find the right path and friends and direction for him so he can have a successful and happy life. I need to find someone who can help me hone in on his interests and aptitudes so we can figure out what the next step should be.
We live in Ventura County about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. I know I should be able to find some help here but I have not.  Any input or advice or referral would be appreciated.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope to hear back.


Hi Mark,

We had multiple communications among the board and Green Hope high school, there is no solution and impossible for Jeffrey to switch back to his old high school. They requested us to take care of Jeffrey's mental health firstly. I agree Jeffrey has mental problems.

 Fortunately, a small charter high school (Triangle Math and Science) offered to accept Jeffrey. We even consider this high school last year and we think this school will fit Jeffrey very well. 

Now Jeffrey's mindset is still to go back to Enloe high or Panther Creek and he wants to move back to our old property. My husband and I declined his request because we worry about he will get worse since he no longer can go back to the old high school even though he moves back to our old property.  We try to make a deal with him we can rent an apartment for him if he tries to go to Triangle Math and Science since he insists to move out of our new property.  Even though my husband is now homeschooling him, we are very stressful because my husband must work to afford the family.

Mark, do you have any suggestions on how to persuade Jeffrey to try the new high school Triangle Math and Science.

I am waiting for your responses ASAP.


do you have recommendations for a child that is now an adult who was not told of his diagnosis by his parents until 30 (when it was suggested to them and they admitted it had been previously diagnosed) and instead was told he was simply violent and had anger management issues due to ADHD?

How do you go about helping an adult with this? Suffering from problems in the workplace now (being continually let go due to social abnormalities), but is likely gifted so he did not struggle in school. The child was physically and mentally abused by the parents his whole childhood. The parents attempted to take the grandchild from him accusing him falsely in court of physical violence that did not actually occur as his outbursts are actually only verbally abusive and self destructive. Are there grounds to press charges for child abuse by the time you are 30 and figuring these things out on your own?

Thank you,
A wife that will stick by her husband through everything and simply wants to help

P.S. What are signs I should be looking for in my step daughter and my own son for similar situations? Both learn quickly and school is no problem. I believe my step daughter's acting out is due to the custody situation as it has been difficult, and she has bounced around A LOT as grandparents and aunts tried to keep her from her father by keeping her with her drug addict mother (who they supported for sometime but since they cut off support she is now homeless and has been completely absent for a year).


my son has A diagnosis of aspergers and has a iep and is in the tenth grade. (We have emailed before.)School only began on August 30th and yesterday and today  he walked out of class and yesterday he went to the jrotc room (junior military cadets) and helped out  he is apart of that program and likes it.  He used to walk out last year and go to the bathroom and just sit there and they would look for him and always know where to find him but obviously walking out of class isn't allowed. This year he is in regular classes per his request and they aren't going to be as leniant on him. So now he is not allowed out of class and walked out today and he says how he hates the school and wants to switch to the alternative school  he thinks it will be easier there but he wouldn't be able to do jrotc. I spoke with the principal there and it's more for kids who are credit deficinit. I guess what I am asking is. What advice would you give me to encourage him to not walk out of class and how do I encourage him enough to want to stay at the high school he is hard to get thru sometimes and   normally if he gets in trouble he isn't allowed his Xbox for that day  I tell him if u have a good day you get ur privileges so it's more of a positive affect.  I am not sure if u think when negative things happen at school what should be the consequences at home.


Hi Mark,

First I want to thank you for your eBook as it has been helpful and insightful.  I just realized that my husband of 21 years has Aspergers and I’m still trying to process all this information.  The way you described what the wife is feeling is right on point.  I basically ran out of the house after we dropped my last son off at college, I couldn’t catch my breath and looking at the future with my husband was just unbearable.  Of course he thinks I’ve lost my mind and can’t understand what I’m going thru. To make matters worse my father is in the hospital and we are not sure if he’s going to make it and all my husband wants to know is when I’m coming home, cause I’m disrupting his life.  I have been emailing him lots of information regarding Aspergers and I think he’s now accepting that he does have “bit” of Aspergers.  I sent him a quiz and he said he was borderline. I’ve asked him to find us a Therapist in Phoenix who specializes in this area for couples.  I know this would be a huge step for him to do this on his own and already he’s saying that “I don’t want to feel like a dog and perform to get a treat”.  I texted back “ If you care enough about me- PLEASE do this”.  Which leads me to ask you…… Can you recommend anyone in Phoenix who might be able to help us?  I’m not sure my husband will do this and I really want to make my marriage work.

Thank you again
God Bless!


My husband of almost 1 year is the (undiagnosed) Aspergers.

One of our current main issues is that when he has and 'incident' (he disputes the fact that it should be identified as a meltdown)
which involves extremely loud animated talking (he says he is not yelling) and 'language', he does not understand my reaction because
he is not hurting me.

My reaction to the incidents is to feel extreme anxiety and withdrawal. My chest hurts and I feel like I may have a heart attack. The following day
or two I feel like I may cry at any moment for no reason and I shut him out. He is infuriated that it takes me a couple of days or longer
to feel comfortable with him. He says he feels like I am punishing him. For some reason I feel the need to retreat to my 'bubble' where I
try to restore my sense of calm and peace. I don't believe I am intentionally punishing him, but obviously I am.

My question is: what recommendation do you give for people like me who are 'too sensitive' when being involved in these
'incidents'?  We have been trying to locate a counselor and have not been successful as yet.


Dear Mark Hutten,

I came upon your article on Parenting Teens with RAD after searching for some research on RAD which I am sure you know Is hard to find since it is a newly understood trauma.  My husband and I are struggling to parent our 18 year old son with multi-diagnosis including RAD.
He fits your classic description, has been in 5 different residential treatment environments and now that he is 18, he will need to decide if he wants anything to do with help therapeutically.  He walked out of his last Therapeutic boarding school this past June on his last day of High School.  He wants to live with us but fights us on every rule and boundary and is very abusive.  He does not want to do any work but wants to find others who he can depend on. We have had him leave 2 times already he is a great manipulator.

The questions I am looking for answers are:

When do parents decide that the home provides too much enabling and old trauma or shame…..and putting their child on the street would be better for them to  learn life’s lessons and start to do the work?

Where do these young adults go who have no life skills and have mental health issues?

Are there any resources or books that you can direct me too?     

What is your support group about and how does one get involved?


    My granddaughter is 13 with Asperger’s Syndrome – High Functioning Autism.  She has made some really offputting social errors about which I cannot be specific as she cannot accurately report them.  She projects blame onto others.  She is always trying to get attention, even to the point of creating drama.  She thinks that she can sing but does not have a pleasant singing voice.  She has lost parts in plays because of her inability to sing but still thinks that her voice is fine.  She does have some artistic ability but will not accept any criticism from instructors and will not attend art classes.
     Things at home are pretty bad with a chaotic room, inability to use time well enough to leave for school on time, and meltdowns.  Also, she does not turn in assignments.  Any coaching of ways to solve the problem of turning in assignments is met with “I can’t do that.”
    You know that any help is appreciated.



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

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

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

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

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

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

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

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

Click here to read the full article...

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

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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to read the full article...

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We've bundled four of our information products for one low price -- with struggling single moms and dads in mind. We know from first-hand experience that many single parents are struggling financially -- especially when they are raising a child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content