Poor Concentration in Kids on the Autism Spectrum


My son was diagnosed last yr with aspergers -high functioning- and i have had no help from his school. He can't concentrate and we spend hrs at night doing work that he could not finish in school. Is there any medication to help him with this? Where should i go from here ? thank you


There is no one specific medication for Aspergers or high-functioning autism (HFA). Some are on no medication. In other cases, we treat specific target symptoms. One might use a stimulant for inattention and hyperactivity. An SSRI, such as Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft, might help with obsessions or perseveration. The SSRIs can also help associated depression and anxiety. In children with stereotyped movements, agitation and idiosyncratic thinking, we may use a low dose antipsychotic such as risperidone.

Students with an autism spectrum disorder:
  • are distracted by internal stimuli
  • have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities (often it is not that the attention is poor but, rather, that the focus is "odd"; the individual with Aspergers or HFA cannot figure out what is relevant, so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli)
  • are off task
  • tend to withdraw into complex inner worlds in a manner much more intense than is typical of daydreaming and have difficulty learning in a group situation
  • are very disorganized

Because parents are not in the classroom to assist their child with his studies, they should share the following information with the teachers, which will help them employ educational techniques specific to children on the spectrum.

Suggestions that parents of Aspergers and HFA children should share with their child’s teachers:
  • A tremendous amount of regimented external structure must be provided if the youngster with Aspergers or HFA is to be productive in the classroom. Assignments should be broken down into small units, and frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered.
  • Students on the spectrum with severe concentration problems benefit from timed work sessions. This helps them organize themselves. Class work that is not completed within the time limit (or that is done carelessly) must be made up during the youngster's own time (i.e., during recess or during the time used for pursuit of special interests). Students with Aspergers and HFA can sometimes be stubborn; they need firm expectations and a structured program that teaches them that compliance with rules leads to positive reinforcement (this kind of program motivates the youngster to be productive, thus enhancing self-esteem and lowering stress levels, because the youngster sees himself as competent).
  • If a buddy system is used, sit the youngster's buddy next to him or her so the buddy can remind the youngster with Aspergers or HFA to return to task or listen to the lesson.
  • In the case of mainstreamed students on the spectrum, poor concentration, slow clerical speed and severe disorganization may make it necessary to lessen his or her homework/class work load and/or provide time in a resource room where a special education teacher can provide the additional structure the youngster needs to complete class work and homework (some students with the disorder are so unable to concentrate that it places undue stress on parents to expect that they spend hours each night trying to get through homework with their youngster).
  • Seat the youngster with Aspergers or HFA at the front of the class and direct frequent questions to him or her to help him or her attend to the lesson.
  • The teacher must actively encourage the special needs youngster to leave his or her inner thoughts/fantasies behind and refocus on the real world. This is a constant battle, as the comfort of that inner world is believed to be much more attractive than anything in real life. For young Asperger students, even free play needs to be structured, because they can become so immersed in solitary, ritualized fantasy play that they lose touch with reality. Encouraging a youngster with Aspergers or HFA to play a board game with one or two others under close supervision not only structures play but offers an opportunity to practice social skills.
  • Work out a nonverbal signal with the youngster (e.g., a gentle pat on the shoulder) for times when he or she is not attending.
  • Be prepared to handle meltdowns (i.e., intense temper tantrums) in the classroom.

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


•    Anonymous said… Adhd medication made my sons tics exponentially worse but we asked for reduced assignments. Rather than do 25 math problems, he does 3 to 5. He stops when he shows mastery of a topic.
•    Anonymous said… essential oils and gemstones are a great compliment to any treatment
•    Anonymous said… Get an IEP or 504 plan set up for him asap. My son hated school and homework was a nightmare for both of us. Once his 504 plan was developed his teachers gave him only enough to learn it. The rest he skipped. He is now a sophmore on the honor roll every marking period. Made the biggest difference
•    Anonymous said… I have no experience with meds, but First thing id do tbh is stop the work from skool. It not helping him, he should be winding down. N it should make skool rethink their approach. Do u know Asd kids dont have to do homework at all, though my daughter really gd at doing it (if she understands it)
•    Anonymous said… I'd consider a different school, if they aren't going to help with statement and support, rather than loading him up with meds. Sending luck and support your way xx
•    Anonymous said… It will get better in time. My son is a teen, now. I call it stages. K- 7th grade was a challenge. I thought I was going need meds. It will get better. The attention span is a problem when their younger. Sometimes, meds. will not fix the problem with Asperger's. You may try various meds. before one really works. Watch out for side effects. Some meds can actually make them rage and alter behavior.
•    Anonymous said… It will get better. We had our son on concerta because it's in the system for only 12 hours. He did have appetite changes and such so we ended up switching to essential oils. We also started homeschooling and he is now almost 12 and concentrates fairly well but has to be challenged. He just started pre algebra because his other math wasn't challenging him so we had melt downs.
•    Anonymous said… Many children on the spectrum also have ADHD. We have found ADHD medication to be very helpful for our son.
•    Anonymous said… no meds.aspergers kids need quiet environment with no stress etc and 100% are being bullied becayse they fir perfectly into "victim profile".asperger kid will not tell you about bulling because he dont know how. and after time it becomes so normal to a child that he wont otice the wrong. stress prevents kids from learning.aspergers kids have no learning disabilities unless diagnosed with something extra. my child is Aspie.he is 8,5.fo 4y he has been bullied .just recently I took him out of school.last week and he already learnt so much and he is so relaxed.and not raging my fridge compulsively like he used to after school. aspergers kids are not retarded or disable so no meds exist for that.change school carefully or HE. pm if u need x
•    Anonymous said… poor concentration is an environment fault.unless diagnosed with something else. aspergers kids tend to learn what they like and not what they dont like.thats all.
•    Anonymous said… We are also finding ADHD medicine to be helpful.
•    Anonymous said… We did ask for IEP/504 but the school wants an updated psychologic evaluation report, rather than the one that was four years old in case there were changes in daughter's DX. So more waiting. So they will try and work with her. Sigh...not happy about it.
•    Anonymous said… We found non stimulate adhd medication helpful. It helps with his anxiety that triggers stimming .
•    Anonymous said… We spend nearly 2 hours on homework every night after a 6 hour day in school. My daughter get discouraged so I just focus on what she CAN do instead of allowing the school to grade her on what "normal" kids can do. I refuse medications. We're in the process of getting her on IEP but it's taking forever.
•    Anonymous said… You can approach this problem in two different ways. One is education and another is medication. Meds could be helpful but not always and can't be the ultimate solution. Education skills will teach your son to solve the problem and make him comfortable. So I think you need a special educator.

Post your comment below…


  1. he needs a good IEP-do you have one in place? you have the right to request a meeting to discuss what the school needs to be doing to address his needs. please look for a local autism support group in your area that can have a representative attend your IEP meeting with you.

  2. there are a lot of medications on the market, our own experience is to go with what is tried and true, for my son the new medications don't work any better than the old, and they are far more expensive. Our son takes methylin twice a day and has show a lot of improvement in focusing. As with all medications, all children react differently, your son's doctor will have some good information for you

  3. Where did you go for his evaluation? You might be able to ask whoever did the evaluation to come to your child's school for a meeting with his teacher, principal and (do you have a school social worker and/or psychologist). They can be your and your child's advocate in speaking with the school to inform them of your child's needs. Does he have an IEP? Sorry you have to go through this. We went through something similar last year before my daughter was diagnosed, but we had very strong suspicions that Aspergers is what she had. The social worker was the only acomodating person in the school and it was a daily struggle with homework and the teacher being a help. The principal was quick to hand out detentions and very much singled my daughter out. Now, we have a diagnosis, and have since moved her to another school within the district....this school I give 5+ stars to on how they are handling my daughter and acomodating all her needs. Find out of your son's eval administrator can come to the school. What state are you in? Find out yours and your childs rights in your state involving help by the school/district. Hope this is a help!

  4. I would definately put forth the effort for a new IEP before coating the problem with medications. Ask the school supertendant or the Principal for a meeting to discuss his needs. Unfortunately its not something a public school automatically does on their own. Protocol has to be followed and you as a parent have to request it in writing in order to get the ball rolling. I hope it all works out and feel free to PM me to ask more questions reguarding this. Have a great day.

  5. You need an IEP plus an advocate for your son, check about an aide. Your son will bring in alot of money from the state to the school and make sure they put that money towards your sons educate and help for him, don't let them tell you they can't afford an aide, the worst off a child is in school the more money they get from the state. A child being labeled with autism (money), speech therapy (money), occupational therapy (money), aide (money), the speech and OT is done at the school. My son also has trouble focusing on his work in class, so his aid will take him to a different room and he'll finish his work before the other kids (sometimes work will be sent home too) and make sure you put that in his IEP that if he has trouble focusing they will take him to another room...Get an advocate!!!! When you have an IEP meeting your school should provide you with an IDEA booklet each state should have their own version, get it from the guidance counselor. In Ohio we have the Ohio Coalition which was a HUGE help for my son, we had a lawyer waiting for us to call them to file a due process if the school did not agree with us on his IEP, the lawyer was provided by the taxpayers, it's in the IDEA booklet. If you need to call your state dept. of education and get some info from them.

  6. You have to keep on ALL the school stuff... IEP talking to teachers, its a job in itself but can be done. I would get in touch with a child psychologist, they can help with IEP info to the school also could talk to you about what medications are available. A therapist/social worker would be a great advocate for your child too. With your permission they can talk to the school and work with whoever becomes "in charge" of your sons IEP...

  7. I went to the districts autism specialist, she was very helpful and informative. My son is on an IEP and this year he doesn't have to have an aide with him full time. So much has changed for him in the last year and a half and it has gotten better, with out meds. We still have our fall outs, but atleast I am not getting a call from the school every day. It is all about working with everyone at the school....teacher, principal, district. You just need to talk to everyone and stay on top of the people you talk to. If they say they are going to do it then make sure you check in with them to see if they did it. Your child has rights and make sure you are heard : )

  8. We used to spend hours on homework with my daughter - finally, we decided that the only way the school is going to acknowledge the problem is if we start sending it in incomplete, with a note as to why. It hasn't really worked yet, but I think that is because we haven't had to send many in like that - her big challenge is word problems. When she starts bringing home more of those, things may get ugly. Good luck!

  9. I definitely agree with all of the IEP advice. My son is 15 and takes Concerta (now available as a generic) and a small dose of methylphenidate in the afternoon. It has made a world of difference in his coping in school and also in his ability to have self-control during the time he is home with family as well. We can always tell if he hasn't taken his med. yet and he is almost manic in his behavior without it. He has always been in a regular classroom without an aide and is very successful in school.

  10. No meds for aspergers. Get him into therapy. My son is doing great with it. Make sure the teacher has read up on aspergers.

  11. I had my son tested for food intolerance and discovered he had a few,and now he is on a new diet.He takes natural supplements,vitamins etc,and does neurofeedback therapy and we have seen huge results,which are all natural with no side effects.Find a good naturalpath or homeopathic doctor it is so worth it.

  12. Also another piece of advice is to break up his work....my son also gets over whelmed with lots of homework ,so I have him do an hour and then give him a small reward and break,like computer time and a snack .Then I go back to work again with him and he is more on task.Also on the weekends I kinda jump ahead and do any work I know he'll have for the next week,just to make it a little easier.Maybe the teacher could give you some of the material ahead of time to pace yourself,and make it easier on your son.Hope this helps and good luck...I know how it is.

  13. ‎..also don't allow the IEP to get him out of his work! He may need extra time to do it (which is fine),but make him get it done and turned in! I would never allow my son to use his IEP as a get outa work card.. I would tell him you are just as smart as everyone else you just need a little more time to do it. Make him be responsible, if you don't want your child treated differently for his condition by peers and teachers then you first have to treat him the same!!

  14. My son is 12 and in the 6th grade. He is also an Aspie. Homework was a nightmare. Once he got home he needed to decompress. He also wanted to leave school at school and argued work from school is done at school. He has not had homework since 5th grade. Its not worth the fight. He also knows the tradeoff is all school work will be finished at school. Its in his IPE. This works for us.

  15. Two suggestions. First is, we tried all kinds of "focus" medications that made every asperger symptom WORSE! Then we put him on a diet similar to the Feingold diet. We removed BHT & TBHQ preservatives and also artificial dyes and flavors. We saw a tremendous improvement in concentrations and hyperactivity within a week! Just try it for a week...just a week.
    Second is with homework we use a timer. He controls it. He works for 15 minutes (it counts DOWN, not up), then gets a 5 minute break that we usually do some OT activity (hopping, swinging, etc), then back to work for 15 min.
    We still have an occational meltdown with word problems, but not as many as before. Good luck and know that you are not alone!

  16. depending where you live call the school system or early childhood connects about an iep. go to your family doctor or your childs doctor. ask to get a referal to a specialist. they can get sum meds that might work. it will be hard i know that. my son is 6yrs and he has had aspergers for 2yrs. they have tried 8 meds and three doctors and consuling . he is doing good. he has improved so much since the begining. have faith . i know i do.. i am a single mother to 3 boys and he is the middle one but you know i wouldnt trade it for the world.

  17. Yes~ most def call the school and get on an IEP immediately! here is a link to the parent network that can help you with your questions..

  18. what does IEP stand for?

  19. Individualized educational plan....in CA there is also a 504 plan available if they don't qualify for the IEP.

  20. The IEP and 504 Plans are great suggestions and I highly recommend them. It is difficult sometimes to get the school staff to stay in conjunction with the Plans. Many teacher's equals many more ways for things to go wrong. I'm not downing school staff..I'm simply stating that teacher's have several students and since not every child is on a Plan, those who are sometimes get overlooked and are sent for discipline for what may seem like straight defiance. You definitely need to contact your child's school. Ask for a meeting with the School Psychologist, Special Education Teacher (this person will be necessary if your child does get on an IEP), Counselor, Vice Principal and Homeroom teacher if you have one. I personally have meetings with these people several times each school year. I also have a couple of meetings with ALL of my child's teacher's. If they aren't informed and educated then they will not know what to do. It is a full-time job in itself but the benefits totally outweigh everyone ignoring it or hoping that it will get better as they get older. Good Luck!

  21. My son was the same when he was in primary school, very slow processing but eventually producing outstanding work. He has difficulty with hand writing, we have used a combination of him verbalising his understanding and us writing, typing on the computer, using a timer, because he loses track of time when focused. Also huge challenge getting started because he wants to perfect the work in his head before putting pen to paper. We started off by breaking the work down into tasks written on cards (eg get writing paper and pens, write introductory paragraph, write main body, write closing paragraph, finish at ...), to get some structure and routine, then put the task cards into a box as completed, eventually he developed his own routines and works independantly now with some organising with regard to a timetable for home which includes free time activities from Ed Assistants at school. It does get better but it takes time and patience.

  22. Every city should have an EDC program (educational develope center) you need to start there.

  23. My son was the same when he was in primary school, very slow processing but eventually producing outstanding work. He has difficulty with hand writing, we have used a combination of him verbalising his understanding and us writing, typing on the computer, using a timer, because he loses track of time when focused. Also huge challenge getting started because he wants to perfect the work in his head before putting pen to paper. We started off by breaking the work down into tasks written on cards (eg get writing paper and pens, write introductory paragraph, write main body, write closing paragraph, finish at ...), to get some structure and routine, then put the task cards into a box as completed, eventually he developed his own routines and works independantly now with some organising with regard to a timetable for home which includes free time activities from Ed Assistants at school. It does get better but it takes time and patience.

  24. One problem was that his anxiety level was so very high that he could not process changes or handle having something different happen than what he prepared for. What we found to work was meds. He took an SSRI (zoloft) and within 10 days, we saw amazing results. His anxiety level lowered and he was able to learn the skills to cope with things. It was not a miracle because he still had problems and still had to learn how to deal with changes but it was a big step forward for him. Back then, we had no idea what else to do to help him and the school was not any help. But I think I would have also written some stories to show how to deal with various events or happenings if I knew then what I know now. He would have done well with help to think through "how" to handle situations - learning to plan and problem solve. When he got older, he was tested in problem solving skills and he did so poorly in that. (TOPS - Test of problem solving). It just really confirmed what I knew already. But the ST was supposed to work with him on how to think through situations and solve problems, although by then the ST were not that great at working with an older child. Today, I would have gotten him with a good ST who could help with these things.

    The good news is that even with poor therapy over the years and the fact that we didn't know how to help him, he does pretty good today. He is 22 yo now. I think he started thinking things through better when he was in high school - he started to plan what he would do in various situations. I mean, he saw the kids throw another kid into the trash bin at school and so he planned what he would do if they came for him. I know, what an example! lol. But the upside to that is that he gained confidence by having a plan and so, nobody ever tried to do that to him. He didn't spend his days ridden with anxiety over it. He also learns alternate ways of dealing with things when he can't deal with them. For instance, he has learned to drive around the back way to get somewhere if where he wants to go is through a busy area. So I am very happy he is finding solutions on his own. This was not an overnight thing! It has been years in the making. He doesn't want to take meds anymore so he deals with anxiety the hard way now. But I think once he learned the skills he needed earlier in life, the knowledge and confidence was there.

  25. A meltdown is not 'an intense temper tantrum'
    Aspergers children have meltdowns when they are internally upset, or are feeling overwhelmed by society. They do not usually understand why they are upset, which is why they tend to target random subjects which are totally unrelated. This leads you to believe it is a temper tantrum. I realised this a few months ago. I myself have Aspergers.

  26. Don't put him on risperidone that would be irresponsible,the true way to help something with aspgers is to listen to them and help them emotionally, otherwise the child could end up worse, chiden with aspergers are highly intelligent, and education can be diffclut because of emtional problems, due to not understanding soical interractions, treat the child like a normal child the best advice i can offer you.