Search This Site


Can Asperger's Teens Make It In College?


My son was just diagnosed with aspergers syndrome and i am heartbroken. Will he ever be able to go to college or even make it through HS? He is 13 years old and can’t make friends and has a tough time in school.


Improving social skills can be an important part of any child's repertoire. Asperger's (high functioning autism), like classic autism, falls on a continuum of symptoms and impairment. Usually, it constitutes an exclusive focus on one area of interest, or one topic, particularly of a non-social nature. The ability to empathize with others and their circumstances could be one area in which social skills get compromised.

Social skills can be improved, and an awareness of social signifiers may make a big difference in your son's experience at college. Sometimes called interpersonal training, the approach consists of two dimensions.

First, a individual is taught to understand communicative cues, and how to send and receive them in a contextually appropriate manner. These cues include smiling, eye contact, nodding to register comprehension, posture, and learning to ask open-ended questions. In addition, learning to disclose opinions, experiences, and feelings in a reciprocal manner with others can immensely improve social skills and social standing.

The second dimension to learning interpersonal skills is gaining emotional insight: managing anxiety, self-criticism, depression, anger, and avoidance in social circumstances.

The first dimension gets most of the attention, but the second dimension is most important. That's because we might learn a "skill," but feel too much anxiety, depression, or critical self-consciousness to implement it.

Remember that the average male teenager may have a lot of social-skill deficits that usually get worked on because of his desire to get along with females. Females develop social skills earlier, on average, and males catch up to become viable companions and boyfriend material. However, the emotional glitches I mentioned above, including anxiety, self-criticism, shame, and depression might be the more important issues to tackle.

By developing emotional muscles, which consists of displaying creative optimism, self-acceptance, and an acceptance of others with whom we disagree, your son can learn some specific social skills. Saying "hi" and smiling to one new person a day will provide immense feedback, as will the task of deepening relationships with real self-disclosure (including taking some appropriate risks) and confidently being himself.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said… Asperger's, although a struggle, can also be a blessing. Once my son was diagnosed, we finally had our answers which explained his behaviors. It then put us on the right track to help him. He is now 18, graduated from high school, and working full time. The best thing you can do is educate yourself.
•    Anonymous said… Aspies are some of the most successful people..
•    Anonymous said… Bill Gates is known to be an Aspie...
•    Anonymous said… Don't give up hope but also realize there's more to life then going to college. There are training schools.. oh could set out to be a business owner and operator.. my aspie just turned 18 and is a junior,she has plans to become a manicurist.
•    Anonymous said… Hang in there! Remember Aspies have a lot of strengths too. Foster those strengths and teach skills to make up for what does not come naturally. This disorder is not a curse. My 14 year old also had huge problems making and keeping friends. This is the first year that he has found the right circle of friends and it has made the world of difference. College/University will definitely be difficult for him, but with the right supports in place, I'm confident he'll do just fine.
•    Anonymous said… He will be fine. He is just a loner in his own world. My teen is 16 and wants to do everything. This is a strange diagnosis to understand but read and educate yourself. It will help. Each child is different. My son would be an excellent computer geek. Hopefully, it will be a good career.
•    Anonymous said… How did she go 13 years with no clue?? I can't go an hour without knowing my aspie son is up to something, let alone the behaviors and obvious signs.
•    Anonymous said… I have a friend that is sr it manager for a nationwide company with aspergers. My son has aspergers and is 12 and i know he will be fine
•    Anonymous said… I mentor students with asperger's in university, my students are all doing really well, so don't worry, with the right support your son could do anything xx
•    Anonymous said… I think it may be of help to know what state people are expressing concerns in so perhaps local support can be offered and added. Especially with getting help.
•    Anonymous said… It's very common for Aspergers to be diagnosed later. My son was diagnosed at 11. At no point did the post say she had no clue- but sometimes the diagnosis takes time - each Aspergers diagnosis is different - what appears in your child may be different for the next. Support and compassion is what each of us Aspie parents need. No judgement necessary.
•    Anonymous said… many of the worlds best have aspergers. have faith
•    Anonymous said… My 15 y.o has always had trouble forming & keeping friendships. It's still somewhat of an issue but the issue lies with me, not him. For the most part I feel he has people he hangs with & feels comfortable with, I'm just not sure how reciprocal those friendships are. In his eyes though, they are his people. I do believe he will fare better in an adult world though as he is so much more adept at adult conversations. I know in my heart he will be fine, there are times when I think he feels on the outer but to him it is just the norm. He has many connections daily with people & never misses an opportunity to hang out with friends after school. These are important for building his social skills. Don't be heartbroken, there are many positives, you just have to navigate the hard times (& there are plenty but you just go on, for your child, cos they need you!) Look to the future & just be his support network during the teen years.
•    Anonymous said… My aspie son is 17 and in his last year of high school smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… My husband and his twin brother, age 45, were not diagnosed until they were in their 30s, so they never got help as children or teens. Both now married with kids, did great in college, and have executive level jobs for good companies. So yes, they can definitely succeed. I think a lot of it had to do with my in laws teaching them the mindset that failure is not an option.
•    Anonymous said… My son has Aspergers & is also 13. I have all the hope that he will go to college & be successful!
•    Anonymous said… My son is 10 and we think he has aspergers.
•    Anonymous said… My son is 22, he completed a college course, he makes film's, he passed his driving test first time and he is the best son, would'nt change him for the world x
•    Anonymous said… My son struggled through high school and is doing great in college. 13 is tough enough without having Aspergers on top of things for sure - keep working with him socially and find out what programs the high school offers. My son was on an IEP, which is good and bad. You have to stay on top of the teachers to get them to stick with the IEP. Some teachers are amazing and others not so much. Wishing you and your son all the best.
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed last year at13 and what a difference a year makes!! All the help he now has, has made the most incredible difference. 3 1/2 days at school a week and able to socialise a lot more. A long way to go but with the right help and support I know that he has a very bright and rosy future smile emoticon It's not a death sentence just means they are wired different once you get your head round that its a lot easier smile emoticon x
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed with Aspergers, ADHD, OCD, early onset bipolar disorder etc he graduated 2nd top of his class in college (computing) went onto uni and finished with a 2.1 in Computer Forensics. You bet it's possible!!
•    Anonymous said… Not only go to college, but probably work at one. Go to any lab on any campus at any university, you'll find at least one person on the spectrum there. Trust me. He'll do just fine. Exploit his strengths. Always trust him to know himself better than anyone. Support but don't push. You got this Mama.
•    Anonymous said… Our story is the same and the proper school was key in his progress.
•    Anonymous said… Please don't be heartbroken. Your child will have amazing ability (most likely, several abilities) that will shine through. He may do things "differently" but his mind will blow you away at times. He may be challenging, but, possibly innovative and strong-willed. Our children are not fighting a deadly disease. It's not a diagnosis for a terminal illness. This means they think differently. We just have to find the puzzle pieces to understand. It can be overwhelming...but the community is very supportive. You are not alone, and neither is he. Our children have so many gifts that are waiting to unfold! It's amazing to me, how talented they are, all in their own ways. Keep being his biggest advocate and help others understand, because, more times than not-they probably will not. But that's okay, sometimes, it takes time.
•    Anonymous said… Some very very intelligent well paid professionals have aspergers. He will be absolutely fabulous!!!
•    Anonymous said… Sometimes you know there is a problem but it takes years for professionals to diagnose the problem.
•    Anonymous said… That's crazy to me how they can delay diagnosis for some parents, leaving them at a loss, and give some parents a quick diagnosis. I didn't judge her🙄 I'm just wondering how 13 years passed with no one batting an eye, that's how the post made it seem.
•    Anonymous said… There are some great support colleges and college programs for aspies. Definitely!
•    Anonymous said… There is hope...Einstein was an Aspie, Susan Boyle too. My child was diagnosed at age 7 with ADD and age 12 with Aspergers (high fumctioning) going to grade 10 next year. Get yourself lots of reading, google, get familiar with it in order to 'understand' your child. Strongs!!!!
•    Anonymous said… With God all things are possible...There is hope...
•    Anonymous said… With or without aspergers you get out of life what you put in. Surround him with love support and give him the confidence to know he's different but that it's not a negative. And there's always more than one way to do something and the world is his.
•    Anonymous said… Yes! My son is 22 and a junior in college. He was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 14. He had difficulty socially from preschool up until he was a junior in high school. By then, he was in a good school that gave him the academic challenge he needed. With maturation, he was able to start working on social skills. He is still a work in progress, but I am so proud of the obstacles he's overcome. You can feel free to PM me.

Post your comment below...


Anonymous said...

I have a son with Aspergers and I agree with the Answer. When we go out to dinner we practice with him before the wait staff comes to the table so that he can order his own food.

Juli said...

My son is much better with adults than other kids so I am not as worried about college as I am middle school. People in college tend to be much more tolerant of those different than they are. I work at a public university and we have a man with Aspergers in our college that is working on his third degree. Just make sure you encourage him to study something he is interested in and everything else will hopefully fall in place :) Good luck!

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group said...

Leeann Duncan My 10 year old son was diagnosed this year. It is tough, but you are doing what you are supposed to do. You have started on the road to help him reach his potential. It's tough right now, but it will get better. It has taken us a year to get our son situated in school. Part of his IEP is for him to learn social skills so that he can make friends. We are still trying to find a therapist that is right for us. There are a lot of good, knowledgeable people in this group that have really helped me. Just knowing that you are not alone was a big help. Good luck.
27 minutes ago · Like
Kala Teddy im aspergers, and i managed fine in hs, and even some college. wasnt easy :/ BUT, i did it.
27 minutes ago · Like · 2 people
Valori Howse i was told by my asbergers specialist that silicon valley is built on asbergers. My son is nearly a sevante in many ways. the key is finding his niche and helping him deal w obstacles. he will do great. w my boy the school started doing more one on one time. in that situation online classes r perfect. good luck. dont look at it as a disability but as a gift.
25 minutes ago · Like · 1 person
Vanessa Willis Don't lose hope! With the right support from therapists and teachers he'll be just fine. You have to stay positive and put your energy toward getting the right help for him - social skills therapy is so important.
11 minutes ago · Like
Denice Molina Egilsson My son is in the high honors program at his middle school and is very involved in theater (he wants to be an actor). We support him in every way we can and it is working. Three years ago I never would have thought he would be doing what he is doing today. I believe it is all possible. Don't give up. There will be tough times (we still have them), but it is worth it. Find his gift! It is there!
5 minutes ago · Like · 1 person
Carey Baker-Harmon my son is 10yrs old, was diagnosed with aspergers2 yrs ago, he is mainstreamed at rogersville, at the top of his class, but when he was 2 yrs old he didn't even make eye contact, we thank God everyday for him, he is a blessing.
4 minutes ago · Like

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group said...

Catherine Young Don't be heartbroken. My daughter had Asperger she is 14 and was 4 when I found out. Our goals have never changed we have just broken them down into more manageable steps and hold to work a little harder. Dreams and hopes are reachable. Just remember to stop and see the world thru their eyes too once in awhile because it is really amazing.
4 hours ago · Like · 6 people

Elisabeth Matulewicz At first it was a hard pill to swallow. With your love and support, they can succeed. I wouldn't change my son for the world.
3 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Just Jennifer Boisvert Don't be sad you did nothing wrong. I took me years to figure that out. And dont look at it as a disability at all. It makes then different, but they have special gifts to show us in a non conventional way. Things we would have missed, if it weren't for their gifts.
2 hours ago · Like · 4 people

Kylie Bathman- Ahumada you said it all l" just Jennifer " love them for who they are either a rocket scientist or a gardener , dose not matter ! as long as they like what there doing in life and you will have no cplaont from them , I should now I have 3 kids out of 5 with Asbergers :)))
2 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Anonymous said...

Don't lose hope. My son is 12 and was diagnosed at 6. We are having the roughest time in middle school. The key is to make sure he has the proper support at school. You will have tk be very stern and knowledgable at IEP meetings. Never take no for an answer. Always bring an advocate with you. But don't worry...I know we will make it through these tough "hormone" years. Aspies are smarter than the average bear. :) They can do anything they set out to. Mh advics is tk do your own research...ALOT of it. Our modifications had to begin at home. Chin up...there will be better days ahead.

Anonymous said...

In response to Valori....I so have to agree. I have a son age 18 that is mild to moderate autistic and a daughter ( age 20) with aspergers. I think that is the huge difference between when they were little and now that they are older is how I look at it all. I fond it to be true with many with the older kids especially, that it is no longer seen as a disability but a gift. I guess things are just still too new when they are young, especially first diagnosed.

Anonymous said...

I have multiple students with Aspergers who are attending college. We are working on their social skills and they are making wonderful progress, and doing well at school. Sorry to hear that your son is having a hard time at school. I highlly recommend you find a social skills group for him. Also, please check my book Social Rules for Kids. It has help many.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there! My son will be 10 in December. He was diagnosed in April of this year. We have completely embraced his Asperger's and he isn't ashamed, in fact he is proud to be different and understands that his brain just works a little differently than others. He has an amazing 4th grade teacher (he is mainstreamed) and she suggested that he share his story with the class. He has spent years being bullied and teased. Last Tuesday after his teacher read the book "All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome" to the whole class, he courageously got up in front of his classroom and shared with everyone that he has Asperger's. He apologized to anyone that he might have hurt their feelings. I was so proud. ALL the kids had a ton of questions and he answered them all, they even asked ME some questions. I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive the kids were and my little guy told me that the kids seem to be nicer to him now and more patient. Having Asperger's is nothing to be ashamed of, and I think once more adults AND kids are educated on it, the easier it will be on our Aspie's. Good luck to you and your son, Keep your chin up and know that you are in my prayers. ♥

Anonymous said...

I learned that my now 10 year old son had Asperger's when he was 6 years old, just before he entered first grade. Just like Marcie above, we have embraced his Asperger's. Once we both began to understand his diagnosis, we tackled it head on. As I learned new things, I have shared them with him and his teachers at school and daycare. He now knows how to calm himself, how to recognize when a meltdown is approaching, and he has no problem telling people when he needs some space. He has several really close friends and is quite popular at school. He has always been very open about his Asperger's, and most people are willing to work with him and not against him. Yes, there are bad days and there are people who just don't want to understand what's going on, but fortunately, this has not been the norm for us. I feel that as long as you and your son work on this together and that you are completely honest with him regarding his diagnosis, he will grow and adjust. Please don't be heartbroken. Your child has so many wonderful Asperger-related qualities that will come through once you begin to understand and adapt to how his brain works.

Anonymous said...

My son is 11 and in middle school. Last year when we found out for sure and told him we let him look up online all the famous ppl present and past that have or thought to have had Aspergers. He was kinda excited learning all the super smart sucessful people that have it. Made him and i both feel better about his future. It is a hard road sometimes but well worth every second.

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Dr. Hutten,

I am a college instructor who wants very much to do all I can to make sure the student I have with Aspergers gets the quality education he deserves. He is a freshman and is struggling to not become part of the 40% who never complete their college careers.

I am searching information which would assist me in presenting content in a way this young man can succeed.

Do you have any suggestions for approaches, study skills, social adaptations etc. for students with these challenges?

Thank you for your genuine concerns for the well being of all children and adults who live day to day with these challenges.

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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 Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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 Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the 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…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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…

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.

Click here
to read the full article...

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

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

Click here for the full article...