Search This Site

ASD and School Behavior Problems


Mark, I have a daughter age 6 who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (unspecified) at age two. She received intensive therapy, 40 hours plus, per week utilizing various techniques. She is now 6. She is extremely friendly to even strangers, her IQ is 133… she is great with the exception of some behavioral problems. She is in first grade and is getting in trouble and being punished regularly for things such a marking on things she should not mark on, refusing to write. I need help.


You need to have a functional behavior assessment performed (go to and type “functional behavior assessment” in the search box for more on this).

Consider the following scenarios: A child with an ASD has a behavior meltdown, in the school hall way. He begins to scream and hit other child. A grown-up is able to redirect the child and thus eliminate the behavior. Afterward, the team meets to discuss behavioral approaches for the future and to try to find out what led to this behavioral incident. As the team discusses potential reasons for the behavior, they discover that the child has been the victim of intense bullying and teasing. In response, the team questions what they can do in the future to eliminate behavioral difficulties. The issue of dealing with the bullies is never discussed.

Another child has a history of behavioral challenges that were minimal during elementary school, but have intensified in middle school. The team realizes that middle school presents special challenges because of changing classes and working with multiple staff.

Accommodations are discussed that may assist the child in making numerous transitions throughout the school day. Despite these efforts, behavior incidents continue to occur. The behaviors are most likely to occur in the cafeteria or in hallways, which are incredibly noisy. It is suggested that in the future, in-school suspension be considered when there is a behavioral challenge. This is the approach used with other child, and the school has a strong zero-tolerance policy. The child is warned repeatedly. Despite these warnings, behaviors continue and actually escalate, resulting in removal from the educational setting.

Responding to Problematic Behavior—

When a youngster with ASD engages in problematic behavior, a typical response includes trying to identify what is going on within the youngster that leads to this behavior crisis. Questions are asked, such as, “Why is he exhibiting this behavior?” “Why is she hitting others?” or “What will stop this behavior?” All too often, this last question keeps us focused on consequence procedures that are child specific. However, simply focusing on the child as the sole source of the behavior provides limited insight into potential solutions and problems. In these situations, there are multiple issues to consider.

First, the federal law guiding special education services, the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), requires special procedures and safeguards to be used when considering discipline for child with disabilities. These IDEIA provisions regarding discipline were designed to ensure that kids with disabilities maintain their ability to receive an appropriate education, even though the symptoms of their disability may include behaviors that require interventions. These provisions consider the amount of time a child may be removed from class or school due to behavior, and require the school team to analyze whether the behavior is related to the child’s disability. This process is called manifestation determination. If the behavior is determined to be due to the disability, the law requires that a functional behavior assessment be conducted that results in an individually designed behavior support plan. This plan should use positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports to address the behavior and teach alternative ways of responding.

When conducting a functional behavior assessment, professionals and family members examine setting events or triggers that may increase the probability of these behaviors. These setting events may not be readily apparent. For example, a child with ASD is ill, has had a difficult morning ride on the bus or has not slept. These conditions will increase the likelihood that a behavior incident will occur. For most of us, stresses in life, changes in morning routines or skipping our morning coffee may set us up to be moody and agitated. These are setting events. Setting events that we often do not consider are related to the culture of the school. Schools that struggle with bullying, high rates of suspension or expulsion, or even high staff turnover may be settings that promote problematic behaviors. If this is the case, then schools should take a systematic approach in creating a school culture that is responsive to child and staff.

Best Comment:

Well, I guess it’s time for me to tell our school administration about my son. I initially wanted to wait on this as I was trying to grasp what Aspergers was, make sure he really has this and really understand it. I feel I have the tools to do this now, two diagnoses from two professionals, a neurologist and a psychologist and after the two incidents that happened at school, I must say something.

First incident: I received a call from the school that my son was doubled over in pain in the office because he said his stomach hurt. I arrived at the school to pick him up in the office. The secretary said that he was in the bathroom (I told her to encourage him to go over the phone as he has had this problem/ his 8 yrs of life) Well, I waited and waited and waited...I told her he was taking too long. I then decided to knock on the bathroom door. He was not there. I walked over to his classroom and looked into the window and there he was! I went back into the office and told them that he was in his classroom. The office called him back so I could assess the situation. He now felt fine and wanted to stay at school. He loves school and could have easily pretended he was sick or just come home but that is not how he is. The office had no clue their student went m.i.a on him and if they had looked him in the eye and told him to make sure he came back and check on him after 3 min he would have been back. In his mind, he was ok and went back or just forgot and had his mind on one idea.

Second incident: My son was called into the office (he never gets called to the office!) because he spelled out loud an inappropriate word at school. The note said that he said the F word for which he does NOT know nor ever heard. I was in shock, tears, you know it! They said he heard this from a kid at camp over the summer. I asked him what he said. He said "mom, I spelled Sucker" When he went to the office, the administrator asked him to spell what he spelled out on the playground and the admin said he spelled it with a F. My son told me that spelling that with an F is NOT a word and does NOT make sense. I know in my heart that the admin heard it wrong. An F and an F sound alike when said out loud. What really bothered me was that the admin thought my son was lying or changing his stories in the office. When he said to the admin, I did not spell that, I spelled sucker. the admin said "you know what you spelled!" that is just wrong and then after being questioned my son started to get confused and cry and told the admin...uuhh I forget, which he does! It was not the admins fault. I blame myself. They need to know my so does not lie. He is a truth teller! I told my son that he has a detention for spelling sucker and that is not a good word. I’m hurt and angry because now he has been exposed to the F word because the admin. Thought that is what he said. It’s so unfair! I did not bring up Aspergers etc when I was in the office crying and trying to make sense of all this. I did not want to use that as an excuse. I called for the impromptu meeting in the office, they did not.

My son is also going through testing for an auditory processing disorder (on Wed) and other language issues. His speech is unclear at times, slurs words (may have been why the admin thought he used an F) and had a hard time expressing himself at times. The school does not know this. The only teachers that know of his diagnosis are his current teacher, teacher from last year and the music teacher. I will now be setting up an appointment with the administration.

My son told me that he did hear the word sucker from a kid at camp and that the boy did not get into trouble for it but he somehow knew it was bad. He said "Mom, it is a bad word to say and that is why I SPELLED it!" From the mind of a child with Aspergers. Thank you, God that he did not say the F word even though the guy in admin thought so. I know what he said...they can believe what they want.

I wrote a letter stating that for the record, my son did not spell what they thought he spelled, but I stand by the school 100% and YES, he should have a 20 min. detention for spelling the word SUCKER.I do not allow that word in our home and as a matter of fact the word Stupid is a bad word in our home. Stating the facts and supporting the school at the same time, shows the school I’m not a crazy parent without a brain.

My son attends a private school that we love! The admin who heard him wrong, is an amazing individual. I respect him but I think his "hearing aid" needed to be turned up that day! Ahhhh, I need to laugh.

Thanks for listening, my eyes are swollen! ( :


Anonymous said...

My son 6 yr old son was diagnosed with Aspergers in the summer of 2011, however his kindergarten teachers first alerted us to the possibility about 12 months ago.

Last summer he did attend some social skills training ( 10 lessons given on Saturdays), but I did not see any benefit from these in terms of his behavior.

Although I have dozens of questions and concerns I will start with the issues that he is experiencing in the first grade. I approached the school at the start of the year with some basic suggestions that I got from our psychologist, in an attempt to be proactive, and help the teachers better connect with our son. The school seems to think that the only solution is to get special services involved in his day to day, which means that my son would have to be a coded student - something that I am not closed to, but also something that I do not believe should be the first thing we try.

Here are the disruptive behaviors flagged by the teacher:

- hands in the pants
- defiance/lack of motivation when asked to complete a task
- talking out-loud to himself

I believe my child to be very bright, the IQ test given to him last summer put him in the average range, but my theory on that is that the testing was quite long and his "lack of motivation" may have kicked in and his answers may have been affected.

He is able to read quite well, and he has a strong grasp of arithmetic while his class is focusing on topics that are much more basic. Right now his behavior is obscuring his potential from the teachers, so I need some good suggestions to help get his behavior in line, so that I can then start to work on all the other problems.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Aspie dd10 has been getting almost nothing done at school due to endless day dreaming. When I try to teach her at home (specially math), no matter what I do, it looks like she is no more than 25% mentally present. At school she draws beautiful comics and does not participate in class work. She tells me that she day dreams about TV shows she watches. But I am sure if we stopped TV then there will be something else. She is bright and it hurts to see her not learning much. I wonder if any of you encountered such issues with your child. If any accomodations at school might help (We are in California), or medication, currently she takes prozac for anxiety. She does not seem to have ADD or ADHD because I heard that ADD is external distractions and she is not hyper at all, however her problem is internal thoughts. She is withdrawn and seems to live in her head.

Zachary's mom said...

I have an 8 year old son who was diagnosed with Aspergers and SPD over the summer. The diagnosis was essential because he was starting a new school. I was terrfied, the new faces, sounds, smells and routine. I informed his new school before he even startted about his uniqueness. They immediatley embraced me and allowed my son to visit the school and his classrom. They even let him pick out his coathook and desk (which he choose right next to the teacher). As expected, he immediatley started showing his Aspie traits. He is an avid reader and refused to complete assignments or meltdown if he was slower than the other chilfren in completing a task. He would wander off at recess. He wouldnt complete a standardied test (he read for 3 hours). All of this and he is a complete genius. Due to his sensory issues he left the lunchroom and sat in his dark classroom making the school fear for his safety. There was a change in the bus schedule and it was so overwhelming the Principal decided to drop him off her self until a soultion for him was reached. The Speech Pathologist, Socaial Worker, Classroom teacher, Occupational Therapist and Special ED. teacher met at the beginning in the year to devise a plan. That plan goes into implemation today. He gets his own paraprofessional to guide him throughout the day and to help him transition between classes recess and lunch. A special needs bus will bring him home to the doot to releive his anxiety of getting lost in our new neighborhood. All of the afermentioned will be assiting my son throughout the day or week on a well thought out schedule. We will meet again in few months to discuss how the plan is going. I am truly blessed. I am in tears while writing this because I felt so alone. I know now there are really good resources out there. Just search and search and dont give up!

Anonymous said...

I need help! My 13 yr old ds with Aspie is really struggling with school lately, and the issue of late is writing utensils!!! He has significant sensory issues/hypersensitivity, and beginning a few years ago began having problems writing with regular wood pencils. The scratchiness he would feel from the pencil on the paper was like fingernails on the chalkboard unless his pencil was exceedingly sharp. Therefore he was CONSTANTLY sharpening his pencil throughout the day. He would stay in his seat and use a small sharpener, but with the constant fiddling with the pencil, sharpener, and shavings, he missed much of what the teacher was saying (and he has huge attention issues as well). Using a pen was only slightly better, because unless the pen is at the exact right angle, he would have a similar scratchy feeling, or the pen wouldn't write.

We went through a variety of pencil types, lead hardness, and different pens (although he really is supposed to be using erasable pens). Reluctantly this year, I have allowed him to use mechanical pencils (the school is accommodating and will let him use whatever he needs). The mechanical pencils seem better in terms of the scratchiness, but he is now CONSTANTLY fiddling with needing to advance or retract lead, put more lead in the pencils, and messing with separate erasers because the "erasers" at the end of mechanical pencils are useless. He starts each day with 4 filled pencils, and if one "goes bad" he is to just get the next one from his pencil bag, but that doesn't seem to alleviate the problems.

I realize that we have two separate problems--the preoccupation and need to fiddle with something in his hands that detracts from his attention (fiddle gadgets are no better-they take his attention as well), and well as the sensory issue with the pencil/pen itself. I am first trying to solve the sensory issue. I have looked at some of the autism websites and have found weighted pencils, and vibrating pencils (that still write straight). Does anybody have any experience with these products, or with anything that can help my son be physically more comfortable writing, with less scratchy feedback that drives him bonkers? He does most of his written homework on the computer (he has become a fairly proficient typist), but for taking notes in class, math, and general survival, he needs to be able to physically write. Eventually much of his notetaking will be done on a laptop, but that is not very practical for a 7th grader.

Anonymous said...

My Name is Bridget, My 7 yr old son was just diagnosed with Asperger's in September of 2011 and the biggest problems we are having are in school: He is getting more defiant, refusing to do his work and having more frequent Meltdowns and using threatening gestures. I seem to notice that around full moons his behavior is worse and when it is raining and the kids do not get out for recess. We do have an IEP but they did not address the Asperger's issue so i refused the IEP and made the school get the Autism Specialist involved. We are currently waiting for the results and a plan. My son is in 1st grade he loves music and it is his best subject in school, he also excels in computers where the rest of his class is just learning.Reading and spelling are above grade level but math is a weakness. We are frustrated at how to help him with the problems in school. We are in Massachusetts and I have health insurance but it is a privatley funded insurance so they have the right not to cover services which should be covered under the ARICA Law. So i cannot get him a 1-1 or aba therapist or even into a group of peers to help with the socilization skills. Do you have any suggestions that would help us?? I am so frustrated that I have to basically do the school systems job for them. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated and welcomed.

Anonymous said...

I am feeling so stressed right now. My son, who is 13, has Aspergers. The older he gets, the more worried I am for him. He hates to have to talk unless it is something that he wants to talk about. He gets so angry when he has to either do or hear something that he doesn't want/like. He use to do so good in school but now he is failing his history class. I just found out he had a substitute for that class for the past 3 weeks so now I understand why he isn't doing good. He refuses to ask for help as it is and with a sub he would be even more shy about saying anything. I don't really know what I need or want from anyone on here, but I just feel like I'm about to have a breakdown from all the worrying I do about him and just wanted to come somewhere that I felt people would understand what I am dealing with. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

Our son is 12 years old and experiences similiar things in school. We are in Manitoba, Canada and are able to get funding for our son, which gives him access to an educational assistant. He gets 20 minutes of one on one reading as he is reading at a high grade 3/low grade 4 level. Is there funding where you are?

Anonymous said...

We pretty much get the run-a-round here. I have had him assessed with the school Psychologist 2 times and both times they say he didn't qualify because his grades weren't being affected. This is the first time that his grades ARE being affected so I am hoping they will finally do something for him. I have a meeting with his "team" of teachers next week and I am going to bring that up because he will be transitioning into the high school next year and the guidance counselor has told me that he is going to have a rough time of it there. It bothers me that they know he will have a rough time but yet they wait until it is unbearable for him before they will even consider anything. I am also going to a meeting next week to start his tss hours at home again. He previously had 4 hours a week but I stopped them because it wasn't doing any good for him at all. I live in a rural area and we don't have access to people that truly know what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

I have a 14 years old son with Asperger. Until the beginning of this school year Sam did great in school and had great support system in his inclusion classes. He even made honor roll. Since the beginning of high school everything became a nightmare and now my worst fear came true: Sam is shutting down. All these problems, the science teacher wanting to put him in a self contained, after only 10 days of school,the continued negativity, spite work for not agreeing with her, the super focusing on his quirky behaviors, the proposed behavioral plan(punishment) and lastly knocking him down with his grades, all contribute to Sam complete losing interest in school and retrieve more and more in his fantasy world. . I just found out that few teacher knocked his grades down so badly by giving him 30 and 40 for school participation and not starting his DO nows right away.This is so upsetting!!He participates the best he can , he calls out sometimes but along with not doing the do nows right away it's all related to his disability, more specifically executive functions . How can a support teacher give such poor grades if they have a knowledge and understanding and some basic empathy . Is this allowable under the IDEA? I only know that right now our life has become pure hell, trying to get Sam back while he is more and more drifting in his own safe world. I never saw him like this before ,so disinterested and so uncaring towards doing his homework and so lost! He is hurt badly and this has to stop. Please help.

Anonymous said...

I don’t even know where to begin….. I have an 11 year child who has been diagnosed with Aspbergers. We have known about this for several years now and still find it difficult to get things nailed down. I am at this facing her failing the 5th grade. It seems no matter how much I preach or how much I educate her school staff we always right back around to this stale mate. At this point she is being viewed as that student who isn’t applying herself, not towing the mark. So at this point they are talking about taking away her recesses and giving detention for her lack of work, or incomplete work.
I am sorry I am rambling, but I am at my wits end. We have 2 ½ months left of school and she isn’t passing……. I don’t know where to turn at this point and don’t really know what else to do. Parenting and supporting her is a very difficult, but extremely rewarding job, but I feel like I failed her.

Anonymous said...

Structuring a daily routine for and behavioral discipline of an ASD two year old. We are dealing with lots of abnormal fears, such as of trash can, ceiling fans when on, ect. And lots of screaming all day long. We sing to him to divert his attention. He doe not respond well to the paddle, as if he doesn't comprehend what he's doing wrong so no physical discipline at all. Only makes things worse. He is on the SCD diet and that is working wonders with attention and eye contact. Still not verbal. We keep his routine daily and minimize any diversion from it or we can expect lots of crying and whining. He is just rarely cheerful which makes being with him a challenge. I am home with him everyday. He's happy if he's riding something or if the tv is on and when you sing or read to him. I'm exhausted. He's child number 8 and our eldest is 22, so we've been parents a long time. Older children are all great and love him immensely. So he has lots of arms holding him and sisters reading and singing to him as well. We homeschool, so he has consistency in his caregiving.

Anonymous said...

Just want to thank you SO much for all the articles you post. My son had a behavioral instance at school during the first week. The principal called me an their first response was "suspension" I was able to find the source of an article where you mentioned the downsides of suspending a child with asperger's frequently and requested a meeting first.

The meeting went GREAT today. Their tone was much more on focusing on the behavior and how to help support a positive change than a quick fix discipline.


Anonymous said...

I need some advicne and well my 9 yr. old started school this past Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were "IFFY" days. As per his paraprofessional was saying he only wants to draw and not do his WORK. Mind you in 4th grade he had alloted time to do that and even other kids also had time to for thier activivties. He now wants every tiime to draw and gets really irritated and or frustrated that, when it is time for dismall he ahs a mad face on him. Instead of a pleasant one. So, he started lauging due to looking at a safety patrol who was doing somethiing funny. Out of that he got a "red card" for his behaviour. He is a smart kid everyone loves my son. But when he comes home he is very verbal and starts saying things like I hate that school or Im' gonna kill or set off a bomb?!! I don't know if he wants a reaction out of me or what?!
Then when he came from school he kept at it, about the person who did the funny thing didn't get a red card..ectra. He blalmes everyone but himself which i have stated over and over again. The meltdown which was a first from coming from school.. i took him to the shower to cool off it was muggy here in New Jersey yesterday. So, he resisted but i got hiim in there. I thought it would pass but NOPE!! He kept on and on i beng his mom and concerned sat down with him and gave hiim words of advice and he would cry and cry.. so it stopped for a few hours until bedtime. Oh boy!It did not let up even though i was laying in the bed with him trying ot talk to hiim again and soothe him but he was crying so hard and then he looked at me and said . "You made me like this"! That remark came out of nowhere and it nhit me between the heart!
I cried myself though without him knowning. My response was God made you like this because he didn't want to make you a boring person. He looked at me but i was caught off guard. So yes he put the blamed on me! Guilty yes. Not that i should be. I feel bad for the pain that he is ging through now as a 5th grader. I feel for my son i want him to progress and follow hs aide's instructions. He is a very, very smart boy, he is in a general education and he has thrived from wehre he was before. Please help me. I don't know what else to do?

mich said...

My son has Aspergers and is 14. He was in a special needs school. He was not wanting to go to school then he kept saying he had diarrhea or threw up and they have a 24 hr policy. They wanted a dream excuse and he kept missing for the diarrhea. I think it was anxiety caused. The Drs didn't find anything wrong. He was complaining about bullying on social media. Then he went back and they separated him from his friend at lunch and he went into a meltdown. He kicked and shoved teachers. Then they locked him into a room and he broke things. They called the police and took him to the hospital. Now he won't go back.

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...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content