Behavior Problems in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Parents often have difficulty recognizing the difference between variations in “normal behavior” versus “Aspergers-related behavior.” In reality, the line between ‘normal’ and ‘Aspergers behavior’ is not always clear – usually it is a matter of expectation.

A fine line can often divide normal from Aspergers teen behavior, in part because what is normal depends upon the teen's level of development, which can vary among teens of the same age. Development can be uneven, too, with a teen's social development lagging behind his intellectual growth, or vice versa. In addition, normal teen behavior is in part determined by the particular situation and time, as well as by the teen's own particular family values, expectations, and cultural or social background.

Understanding your Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) teen's developmental progress is necessary in order to interpret, accept or adapt his behavior (as well as your own). Remember, teens have great individual variations of temperament, development and behavior – especially when they have to deal with the Aspergers condition.

Your responses, as a parent, are guided by whether you see the adolescent's behavior as a problem. Frequently, parents over-interpret or over-react to a minor, normal short-term change in the teen’s behavior. At the other extreme, moms and dads may ignore or downplay a serious problem. Also, they may seek quick, simple answers to what are, in fact, complex Aspergers teen problems. All of these responses to teen behavior may create more difficulty or prolong a resolution.

Adolescent behavior that moms and dads tolerate, disregard or consider acceptable differs from one family to another. Some of the differences come from the parent’s unique upbringing. They may have had very strict parents themselves, and the expectations of their kids follow accordingly. Some behavior is considered a problem when parents feel that others are judging them for their teen's behavior. This leads to inconsistent responses from the parent, who may tolerate behavior at home that he/she would not tolerate in public.

Sometimes moms and dads feel so hurt by their Aspergers teen’s behavior that they respond by returning the “disrespect” – which is a mistake. Teens know that they still need their parents even if they can't admit it. The rollercoaster they put the parent on is also the one they're feeling internally. As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.

But no one's saying your Aspergers teenager should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you, for example. When this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. By letting your teenager know that you're here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he'll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while.

My Aspergers Teen: Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens


Anonymous said...

I'm a UK citizen with a 14 1/2 year old Aspergers Boy having huge difficulties in dealing with his behaviour which has deteriorated so much in the past couple of years. George is of average intelligence with a good memory for detail but with very limited interests (he really only enjoys computers, x-box and anything to do with the paranormal). Since the age of 12 he has hardly attended school as mainstream school cannot cope with his challenging behaviours (e.g. sensory overloads, agression, foul & sexualised language, physically kicking other objects etc).

He has been seeing a pscyhotherapist for a year and a half and is on medication 54mg Concerta (previously Equasym 30mg XL) and a 0.25mcg Risparadone. The past two months particularly have been a nightmare as he has threatened suicide on numerous occassions, minor self harm, aggressiveness, paranoia, threatening other people that he will kill them, running away for hours on end. He has started to taunt me particularly saying he longer wants to live with me, wishing I was dead and pulling strange faces at me and getting right in my face to try to get a reaction. He has also started using really bad language towards me (he has never done this to me before) and will continue acting in a lewd and aggressive manner for up to five hours at a time. It's really impacting our family life and my 3 year old child has become quite scared of him and will often cry.

George has started to do strange things like sell his x-box for small amounts of money, then blame the world because he has carried out this action and it's up to me to ensure it's replaced. (I'm adamant I will not replace it as this was his own decision and he has to understand the consequence of such an action).

I'm at the end of my tether as I've put in to place all the professionals have suggested but George's behaviour is getting so much worse. On the days it gets too much, all I get told is to take him to A&E (hospital) and let them deal with it... but this is just temporarily plastering the problem, not providing us with a long term solution.

Anonymous said...

Get him off the drugs and increase his dosage of your love.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that things have gotten better for you & your family. We are going thru a very similar thing.

I'm guessing that the other replier has never dealt with this sort of thing. Love only keeps you going, it doesn't fix the problems that you're dealing with - if it did things would be so much easier.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully he doesn’t have a bad temper but he is defiant about cleaning up after himself and helping out in the house with chores. I’m new to this condition as well because he was only diagnosed a couple of weeks before his last birthday and the service that diagnosed him doesn’t support the children once they reach 18 years of age. They did a home visit to talk to Brendan a few times and recommended some books to read. He has no interest in getting a job even something part-time. I can’t even get him to visit the social welfare office to apply for job seekers allowance, which he won’t get anyway if he admits to not looking for a job. He is busy with his friends during the day; doing Parkour, skateboarding, playing Yu-Gi-Oh cards, playing his guitar, on Facebook etc.

I have tried all the usual techniques and failed. It is much harder to motivate this young adult to embrace the next stage of his life. He graduated last year from High school and spent the past year on a course for Health and Fitness. He believed he would make a great personal trainer. However a few months into the course he wasn’t happy about one of the modules about the business of managing a gym and lost interest in it. I insisted he finish this course which he did with merit results on most of the modules except the business one which he declined to take. Now the focus has shifted to music. He recently passed an entrance exam into the Cork School of Music but there is fierce competition for places. Only 30 available for over 200 applicants. We will know late August if he has a place. I feel like I’m living with a lazy young man. He says no when I ask him to do some chore or he’ll say he’ll do it later. He never does. He started drinking a few months ago. He wanted to know what it feels like to be drunk. He can buy alcohol because he is 18. Vodka is the drink of choice. I have had to pick him up when he is drunk and bring him home a couple of times. I have always told him to call me no matter how much trouble he is in and he does. Brendan is a good guy and most of the time he is easy to get along with. But as a single parent I’m ready for him to take responsibility for himself as much as possible. How do I get him there?

Anonymous said...

My stepson has had problems since he has been three years old. Our doctors say it is a mood disorder along with ADD. But as a parent who lives with him, I sense that there is some other issue going on. He doesn’t react to people and situations like others do. I have researched so many conditions it is crazy! But, 2 years ago I read about Aspergers and he fits the profile almost exactly. He doesn’t have the repetitive behaviors that I can tell but everything else seems to fit. He is now 16 and fighting us about everything. He argues about things that don’t make any logical sense. I have tried every disciplinarian technique that I can think of. In fact, I have tried all the conventional ones you listed and nothing has worked so far. It seems that consequences don’t make a difference and positive reinforcements don’t make a difference. We are at a wits end, while he just gets angrier and angrier.

Most people who I have spoken with have waved off his behavior as teen behavior (little do they know he has been acting like a “teenager” since 3 years old). Only those who have had to discipline, correct him, or get him to do something realize there is a problem with him. Those people have been teachers, cafeteria personnel, the Nanny for our younger kids, special education teachers, and us. Even the doctors we have gone to don’t seem to think he as anything but mood disorder and ADHD. (BTW, the ADHD medications only made him agitated… didn’t help much with getting him to focus in school).

So, please let me know because our household has been completely stressed and difficult since the day his mother gave us full custody (10 years ago). But, now that he is a teenager things have gotten so much worse.

Anonymous said...

Our son has been diagnosed with all kinds of different disorders - bipolar, nonverbal, ADHD and Aspergers. I'm not sure which is the correct diagnosis and doesn't really matter other than having a better understanding of what we are facing and being able to have the resources to assist us in parenting. We adopted our son at 2 days old. I could tell as an infant that there was something different with him. He was unable to keep his eyes focused on us and just didn't want to be held. It has been a very difficult 18 years with each year becoming more difficult to live with him. I can relate to each and every parent (except the one that commented to quit giving meds and just love your child more). As we all know, that is just nonsense. We love our children and unless you have a child with Aspergers, you have no idea the challenges we face with the irrational and unlogical behavior of your child. We try and try to have rational discussions with our son only to end with him becoming extremely upset and my wife and I wanting to bang our heads on the wall. It seems it is impossible to have a rational and logical conversation with our son. We have attempted countless times. Our son has graduated and he is not motivated to do anyting other than sleep, eat, xbox, movies and hang out with the one friend he has. And if we attempt to remove xbox and tv for disciplinary action...watch out. Our son turns into a monster. My wife and I are worn out and exhausted with trying to teach, train, motivate and parent our son. He is verbally abusive to all of us including our 12 year old daughter (innocent victim). Do any of you ever question if your Aspergers teen has a conscience? It just appears our son does not. He never feels guilt for his actions or behavior. Unless you live it, it's impossible to understand. Anyhow, it is encouraging to read other parent's comments to their same struggles. Makes you feel that you're not the only one facing such trials.

Anonymous said...

She loves him more than anyone can know but when 20 drs tell you its neglect to take them off kindof puts a damper on things. I agree with the medication issues but the love comment was a bit harsh. Parents of aspy kids are often looked at like that.

vibrantlinda said...

I have just found this site, I have a son who's now 23.was diagnosed with adhd at 6 and then at 18 diagnosed also with aspergers.youngest son has same difficulties but no diagnosis because we haven't found the mental health team supportive &so he's got the problems with practically no help-hes now almost 18.
I want to let you know that most young people with ASP are very very talented in something, but their mental age doesn't relate to their actual years, even when they hit puberty.They're always a couple of years, if not more, less mature than others their age.so that's why they cant engage in things that we think they should for how old they are physically. Most aspies excel in music (both my boys play guitar without even music sheets, just from hearing a song) my youngest is also a brilliant drummer.but attending school, college or a job isn't in their focus for a long time.As my oldest has an esa related part time when he is able, job .my boys had to rely on us to explain to others how they are. And both are on antidepressants to help them stop being so depressed because they cant focus or fit in.and the tablets help enormously. We accept they can't focus very well, concentrate, have anger management problems and are impulsive, and we attend every place with them as they cant meet new people without anxiety. .if you can explain to the dr with your son there, that he has his disability, is diagnosed and is to anxious to work or attend the interviews for a job, the dr will write sick notes for esa (employment n support allowance).you fill in a form and become his appointee then fill in his esa forms and he will get money to live on.I hope this helps.if you want any help . just ask.I will be in touch.

vibrantlinda said...

Hi.once you stop trying to fight his issues (because we never win against them as the neurotransmitters in the brain govern his very being) and get as much help on the Internet on how to manage the problems, then things take on a different meaning and they wont seem so personal against you and your family etc.There is also a likelihood that your step son is depressed.firstly because he is frustrated by his illness and secondly that hes very anxious by almost everything. That's why it seems hes just so stressful to be with.its not an easy decision to put a young person on antidepressant medication. But both my aspie boys 23 And almost 18 really benefit from them and are a lot calmer and feel less distressed and anxious. The medication helps give you both breathing space if that makes sense.if you find out a particular thing he is passionate about, then join in and either do it or try to support him with it, it will give him something to look foward to and give you both bonding time.I hope this helps.Im just a mother and not a professional, but I have learnt so much and suffered so much that I feel in some areas, only another parent can know exactly how parents and children work together.

vibrantlinda said...

Hi.im here again and totally understand the situation you're in when you say that having a rational discussion with your son is impossible. I have found that if I need both my sons to understand something, I have to include something that the boys can understand, for example, if the youngest is having a meltdown and smashing things up in the home, I would say, ,would you like it if I came into your bedroom and put on your favourite headphones (they're his absolute pride and joy, im not even allowed to look at them, never mind touch them), most times it stops him for enough seconds for me to distract him and say, do you want to get out and walk or skateboard. Fresh air (they often feel trapped inside) often helps calm him down and I could sit for 15 minutes outside and watch him ollie (I've learned to use the words he likes to engage him).There might be a time much later on when I could say"what was all that about before?"and sometimes I get an answer that might help me understand for next time it happens. Sometimes they are like 5 year olds and so need distraction away from whatever you dont want them to do.I hope this has helped.no body could love and feel so helpless about our children, than a parent of a neurotransmitter challenged person whatever the name they have been given for it.we truly want the child we love so much, to enjoy life as others do.it breaks our hearts when we see how upset they get.

Kelly said...

Curious. I just found this site and reading all the comments I feel I am not alone. My son is 19 and by far the hardest year for all of us. I thought woukd get easier.. not. My hopes is as he gets older it will get better.kind if level out once he doesn't seem maturity wise so young.. I see you wrote this in 2012.. how are things now for your familyand your son? Thanks

Anonymous said...

My son is 16 also has Aspergers. Lately I have discovered he is taking diazepam he bought off the street. Says it calms him and helps him with his leg (he has perthes disease) my head is melted. I don’t know where to turn. I feel he is so out of control and listens to nothing I say. Also lives in his room on a Xbox or else out with friend whom I think lead him to bad activities. He has a woeful temper and also Doesn show any real remorse. Shows very little love for me at all anymore. Curses all the time. Smashes things up if u try and enforce any requirements or restrictions on him. He talks about his anxiety all the time. The doctor won’t give him any medication at all for it. Any advice would be great

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