Aspergers Children and Behavior Problems


I have an 11 year old boy with AS …we just got the news 2-3 weeks ago after many years …oh it’s this, oh maybe this …so now were at Asperser’s syndrome. We are at our breaking point with him and have been talking about residential care. So here goes...

He doesn’t fall asleep until 11 or 12 and I have to stay up with him to monitor him. He likes to go through stuff and make messes (like putting food in glass of water). We have found lots of other family member’s stuff in his room (money, lock boxes, stuff of his dads). He is very defiant and out of control …he cusses a lot and does inappropriate things …like tonight he peed in a soda can and said his brother did it. When I cleaned his bathroom, he had written ‘fuck you’ on the wall. He has no respect for anything or anyone. He follows NO rules and we can’t get him to do anything. I don’t know what to do or where to go to get help! Where do we even start?


Re: Sleep difficulties…

1. Avoid giving your son large meals close to bedtime.

2. Be firm and go through a certain bedtime routine that your son is used to. At the end of that routine the lights go off and it is time to fall asleep.

3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as having your son take a warm bath or reading a story.

4. Don’t give your son foods and drinks with caffeine in them, like hot chocolate, tea, cola, chocolate, etc. Even caffeine earlier in the day could disrupt your his sleep cycle.

5. Don't let your son watch more than one to two hours of TV during the day, and don't let him watch TV at bedtime at all. TV viewing at bedtime has been linked to poor sleep.

6. Establish a regular time for bed each night and do not vary from it. Similarly, the waking time should not differ from weekday to weekend by more than one to one and a half hours.

7. If your son has a TV set in their bedroom, remove it. Research shows watching TV is linked to sleep problems, especially if the TV set is in the child’s bedroom. The presence of other media, such as a computer, video games or Internet in a child’s bedroom is also associated with worse sleep. So no television, radio, or music playing while your son is going to sleep.

8. Keep to a regular daily routine. The same waking time, meal time, homework time, and play times will help your son to feel secure and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime.

9. Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.

10. Make sure the noise level in the house is low.

11. Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortable and that the bedroom is dark.

12. Make sure your son has interesting and varied activities during the day, especially physical activity and fresh air.

13. Never use sending your son to bed as a threat. Bedtime needs to be a secure, loving time, not a punishment. Your goal is to teach him that bedtime is enjoyable, just as it is for us adults. If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, he will fall asleep easier.

14. Put some thought into finding your son’s ideal bedtime. In the evening, look for the time when he really is starting to slow down and getting physically tired. That's the time that he should be getting ready for bed. If you wait beyond that time, then your son will tend to get a second wind. At that point he will become more difficult to handle, and will have a harder time falling asleep.

15. Some Aspergers (high-functioning autism) children are soothed by the sound of a vaporizer or fan running. This "white noise" blocks out the distraction of other sounds. Small, portable white noise machines with a variety of different sounds are now available.

16. Use a simple, regular bedtime routine. It should not last too long and should take place primarily in the room where your son will sleep. It may include a few simple, quiet activities, such as a light snack, bath, saying goodnight, and a story.

17. Use light to your advantage. Keep lights dim in the evening as bedtime approaches. In the morning, get your son into bright light, and, if possible, take him outside. Light helps signal the brain into the right sleep-wake cycle.

18. Monitor your son’s diet:
  • Help him avoid sweets. Although sugar can give a burst of energy, it's short-lived and can cause uneven blood sugar levels. This can disrupt sleep in the middle of the night as blood sugar levels fall.
  • Look for hidden sources of caffeine such as chocolate, cough and cold medicine, and other over-the-counter medicine.
  • Help him eat foods that facilitate sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Carbohydrate snacks such whole grain crackers before bedtime may help to promote sleep. Just be sure to stay away from sweets.
  • Have him eat magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium is a natural sedative. Deficiency of magnesium can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. It has also been use for people with restless leg syndrome. Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, and whole grains.

19. Consider using some relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are one of the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. They require a minimum of 20 minutes before going to bed.

20. Consider sleep meds if the problem persists (e.g., Valerian, Melatonin, Kava).

Re: Stealing other people's stuff…

1. Avoid a long grounding sentence. Jail does not reform hardened criminals, and grounding will probably not reform your Aspergers child.

2. Be a good role model. Children learn by watching their parents. You should show concern about the property rights of others. A parent who brings office supplies home or boasts about a mistake at the supermarket checkout counter, teaches his child that honesty is not important.

3. Do not tempt him to lie his way out of it by asking questions like, “Did you get this from our bedroom?” … “Why did you take that?” … “Where did you find this?”

4. Don't ask your son for explanations. Merely state that he is not allowed to take things from other people. Do not sermonize. Just use simple explanations. "Stealing is wrong. You would not want anyone to take your stuff. So it's wrong for you to take other’s stuff."

5. Don't overreact. When a child steals it does not mean that he is a thief or is headed for a life of crime. It is really no different than any of mistake that your child makes. Losing your temper will not help, and may even act as a reward for him.

6. If he steals money from you, estimate how much he took and make it clear that he must pay you back. He may do this by helping around the house for money. You should pay him enough that he pays off his debt in about a month. Don't leave money around where your son can find it. Tell his siblings that you are going to watch their money for a while. Don't tell them why.

7. Never imply that your son is bad. Stealing is bad, not the child. Do not call your son a thief, dishonest, or a liar or any other name that you do not want him to become. When you give your child a label, he will grow to fill that label.

8. Once it is over, get over it. Get back into reward mode. Look for the things your son is doing right, not wrong – and work hard at reinforcing honesty. It is the stealing that is the enemy, not your son.

9. Watch your son – not to catch him being bad, but to catch him being good. Reward and praise the little acts of honesty that you see. All of this promotes a culture of honesty in the home.

10. Your main emphasis needs to be on promoting honesty. Use every day events, such as stories from television or school, as a starting point for talking about honesty, integrity, and family morals. At the same time, model it yourself.

Re: Defiance…

The most important way to help a defiant child is to become aware of his underlying insecurities and vulnerabilities and be as soothing as possible. Underneath the child's defiance is his inability to let you know directly how much he needs you and how much he depends on you for comfort and security. The only response he knows is to act defiantly. Therefore, you want to first gain your son's trust and confidence and somehow slip under his defiance so that you can offer him what he needs.

The defiant child, with his constant need to be the boss and his ongoing power struggles with you, makes life more difficult. Yet, it is crucial to remember that this child is just as prone to being overwhelmed and overloaded as the highly sensitive child. The defiant child uses bossiness and defiance in an attempt to feel secure. To protect himself, he shuts out part of the world - including his parents at times. Your goal is to provide tender, loving care in spite of his negativity and defiance.

At first, such a child may not trust you completely. He is not sure whether your attempts to soothe will be comforting or upsetting. He is so accustomed to taking charge, and so fearful of intrusions, that he feels he can trust only himself. You have to convince him that you can be comforting. Approach him slowly. Make sure your movements and voice tone are as relaxing to him as possible.

Firm limits also need to be implemented. Being empathetic doesn't mean always giving your son what he wants. But when he is being refused another helping of ice cream, or punished for kicking his sister or cussing-out his mother, the limit setting needs to be done in a firm but very gentle manner. Gentle limits coupled with empathy and flexibility will gradually help your son be less critical of you and himself.

Also, a defiant child can learn to choose certain physical activities to decrease his oversensitivity and overload (e.g., jumping with joint compression, large muscle movements, rhythmic actions in space like swings or spinning games).

Online Parent Coaching: A Unique Online Resource for Parents with Aspergers Children


•    Anonymous said... Almost identical behavior but at age 19. It got pretty scary. So here what we did. Physiatrist, who prescribed cymbalta and intunive for anxiety and ADHD. take him to therapist and a Speech therapist once per week and have enrolled him in Kung fu. Still has problems but most of the scary stuff is gone.
•    Anonymous said... Been there too. My son turns11 NXT month, he had the most problems where trying to treat ADD . After almost a year after diagnosis. I told them that the things I read on there mad Aspergers worse. That it did. I could tell you toe cuing stories.
•    Anonymous said... Dropped off add med and only on ridperdol. The stories I could tell, I don't think the hospital would be good. We have had a hard 3 years. One day at school o heard sr little girl said Landon and he shouldn't ' brag about being so mark.? You know when they are on these space ship thing about doing complicated issues.? Does your son ypvll
•    Anonymous said... Firstly deep breath - you have one diagnosis. My son has Asperger's and ADHD. Have you considered an ADHD assessment? Next, remove everything breakable from his room. And I mean everything. Strong rules and order now have to be the order of the day. He is not allowed to take others' stuff or there will be consequences. Try melatonin to help him sleep at night. Remember aspergers makes people very tired - esp in the afternoon. It's a fight andc struggle and I feel for you. But be firm. You will get there. Much love and hugs xx
•    Anonymous said... I BEG you to start him on the "fail safe " diet compiled by Sue Dengate and her Huband Howard. She is a dietician and he is a biochemist. They really know there stuff. I found out my son has ASD at the age of 4. I have had him on this diet since. He is the model child, until I decide to take him off it, or give him a treat outside of the diet, then the whole world pays for my mistake. He gets suspended from school, he hurts people... Including me. He smashes things to cause distress and watched it unfold. Please I beg you try it, be strict with it and your life will change beyond what you could imagine. By the way my son is now 15 and at the time when I should be frightened of his power, he is a loving boy... He lies, and hides things still, but he doesn't hurt people.
•    Anonymous said... I cried for first year or so. The DR said that you have to be able to grieve. Not that's it's a bad thing just not what kinda life he would. I had one or two seasons of team sports until he got tired or seone got the ball. The final straw was when he was made and there was no way he was leaving the dug out. Archery is only sport he likes. I homey son for last year. He does so much better. He get 100 on every thing. I'm second grade he was reading on 7 Tj grade level.? The computer does everything at your chosen. There are even public schools on a virtually public class. We have been cussed, hit, spit, told to hell. I know how you feel. You could spank an asperger child till your arm feel off and it only things it's violence to h.
2 years ago and I was devastated. Please feel free to tx me any time. They dr
•    Anonymous said... I have a 13 yr old daughter that is the same way. We have in home therapy a behavior specialist and mobile therapist and after a few years things have gotten better. She still blows up and curses but now I have the tools from therapy to deal with her. I think he needs medication and need a to be in therapy. He needs your help he isn't acting out on purpose to hurt you he cant control it. Sending him away isn't going to help unless you are giving up. Then he would be better off someplace else. Believe me we have been through hell and back and our daughter didnt ask to be born this way but its our job and responsibility as a parent to help our kids and do whatever it takes. Good luck
•    Anonymous said... I have a friend who has a son with aggressive Asperger's tendencies like that and she recently chose to have him enter a program at her state's mental hospital after so much gut wrenching nail biting worry and fear that it was the wrong thing. Well turned out to be the right thing to do. He has been helped tremendously through the program and has been discharged and able to come back home after only a few weeks of in-hospital therapy. You really need to research and ask questions and take a tour of the facilities and find out for yourself about the help a mental institution can provide before you write it off as a cruel and unloving thing to do. It is not. It is extremely hard and such a personal decision for a family to make but it can make worlds of difference, for the better. The tools they can give you are invaluable and psychology has come a very, VERY long way since Freud. So many improvements have been made over the last 10 years alone! So give it a try, do your research on it and don't reject the idea based on common public fear/misperception.
•    Anonymous said... I never knew ! So glad you seem to be coming through what must have been a nightmare for you and the family
•    Anonymous said... Melatonin will help with the sleep, which might improve behavior during the day.
•    Anonymous said... Melatonin works to help my son sleep (thank goodness). It helps them fall asleep (just not stay asleep) so anywhere from 5am onwards he is awake. But at least he goes to sleep earlier (and we get to have a break)
•    Anonymous said... my 13 Year old is a slob but he will loose his gaming pc if he is a slob. Do you punish him? because all you wrote is what bad stuff he does, and no consequences for his actions? If there are no consequences why would he improve and behave properly? He stays up late or all night, it doesnt matter to me as long as he gets his online school done. Some people are just night people. He is a gentleman I dont have to ask him to unload the car he comes out when he hears me pull up. I have to remind him daily to take out the trash he never complains. I remind him to shower like once a week and he says yes ma'am. So yes I am on him all the time but he also will loose his gaming pc which he lives for if he was anything less then a helpful family member or gentleman
•    Anonymous said... My Aspie was in Behavioral Therapy for awhile. Now it's mainly just school therapies and he's on meds. He takes Concerta, Guanfacine/Tenex, Ability and Depakote. We work closely with his doctor to monitor the medication and his lab tests. He is on the honor roll in the 6th grade. Every year gets better.
•    Anonymous said... oh you poor people I know your pain with my aggressive over-sized aspie, take time out to nurture yourselves, cbt is helping my boy no end, and if your aspie has a high iq try reasoning with him over his behaviour, sometimes (more than half the time, this is winning for me) I can simply say, 'but you're more intelligent than that my love' and he knows he is, time, patience and love, lots and lots of love… please don't send him away though, my poor boy was subject to violence and abuse at his special school, he now has to go through a healing process for that as well as accepting he's different
•    Anonymous said... To all of you who posted, no matter the advice, I wish I could give you a medal and a giant hug for what you go through to care for your children. We've been told Aspie for our son, but our challenges are minute upon reflection. You are my heroes. Keep being brave strong mommies.
•    Anonymous said... Try giving the melatonin a few hours before bed time. I know my son is worse if he has had a bad sleep.
•    Anonymous said... We too can relate and as he gets set the disrespect has escalated... We did residential years ago and it was just a bandage for a deeper problem and old habits came up
•    Anonymous said... Well I am sure you have tried everything but just in case, avoid confrontations and try to get along side him more, join in whatever he is interested in and find acceptable ways to encourage what he enjoys, say if it is collecting and he is inappropriately collecting the wrong things ...like others belongings....watch him carefully and try to find what kind of things he likes collecting and see if you can legitimize that.......ignore his bad language or what ever but reward him when he is being more polite. Work hard on keeping your approach positive where ever you can and eventually he may begin to copy your attitude and be less confrontational.
•    Anonymous said... Yes, he can't help it, make sure he feels your love, tell him you will love him no matter what. Back off punishments. Medication can really help. Have you tried melatonin for sleep? Sleep is key. Well done for asking for more help .. Keep looking it is out there. Xx
•    Anonymous said... you must grieve. It's very important. My son is now 16 and finally a success story in the making. We were like you - honestly we were. You can do this. He needs you and you love him xx
•    Anonymous said…  Anxiety is a huge trigger. Often these kids, like mine who is 18 now, lack the emotional maturity to express themselves. Everything you said here I've been through & some. Maturity helps as does letting go of SOME expectations. And not inflating our own reactions...as that often makes a bad situation worse. We toyed with residential care but $$ stopped us. I'm glad it did. I think he's better for being home with parents willing to stick it out even when he was at his worst. I know every situation is different & nobody here would judge you if you went that direction...but know that you're not alone. Also, I ditto medication. Rx'd right, it can really settle the flare ups. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said…  Aperges is an attention seeking illness with many autistic traits and tantrums thrown in. We want to fall down,cry and admit defeat. Get fustrated with them, scream and shout. I've found time out from each other and detailed explanations till they understand helps. Keep yourself as calm as you can at all times. Listen and explain. Pm for more or my number. Mine is now 18 xx
•    Anonymous said…  Could be his aspergers behaviors are heightened because he's been so stressed out for years without parents having a proper diagnosis or services. So, not entirely the child's or the parent's fault.
•    Anonymous said…  Don't give up. Dig deeper to find root cause. The world is so stressful to these kids, they need a home place to always feel accepted and loved...a place to unwind and Reba lancet. I see lots of good advice here. Parents should seek therapist specialized in thid area as well.
•    Anonymous said…  For my son the most important changes have been acceptance for who he is, connection, trust and unconditional love. The book will help you change the way you view your son and interact with him.
•    Anonymous said… he may be aspbergers OCD, add, defiant disorder etc ( not say is just an example) but you should start with the worst diagnosis get help for him and yourself and family. They will help child give support for you and help for the family. Try autism center as they lump most of it together CHOP if you have has a program. We also have another group here called child Guidence resource group that helps. Friendship circle see if they can help after you get him some help. Melotonin is a must if not sleeping not enough sleep aggravates everything else.
•    Anonymous said…  He needs to have support, as well as yourself, from specialists. A psychologist and a paediatrician for meds if needed, melatonin for sleep and strategies for coping. Then they will guide you where to go from there. There are support services out there and they can help you find them.
•    Anonymous said…  I have a 11 year old son. He also has AS and there are days that he has his meltdowns, doesn't listen, doesn't sleep and then there are days he is so mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted he crashes and sleeps for 12 to 14 hours. First you need to take him to a psychiatrist and they can put him on medication and let him put him in a behavioral hospital to get him the help he needs, and ten you need to get him into with a therapist.
•    Anonymous said…  I have a 13 yo that loves computers and doesn't have a ton of friends. Inbox me if you want a pen pal for him. Every kid needs at least one friend  😉
•    Anonymous said…  I know you must be feeling overwhelmed yourself at his new diagnosis and probably don't know much yet about how to interpret your son's needs from his actions. Please avoid putting him in residential care. That is usually the wrong course to take with a child with Asperger's and gives them a huge sense of rejection by their family. He may need meds, but meltdowns and acting out are very often caused by sensory overload and/or feeling overwhelmed or unsafe in the environment. Aspies very often have strong sensory issues and it's important for the parent to learn about that and how it can easily throw them into meltdowns when their body feels overwhelmed.
•    Anonymous said…  I painted one wall of my son's room in blackboard paint when he was around 10, he used to write all kinds of nasty stuff on it, but that was ok, because I always felt it was better to be expressed without punishment in a safe space than for him to be struggling with intense feelings and having no outlet. My son was bullied in school and was also abused by teachers as I later found out. At the time I was at my wits end, worried about him harming myself or his sister and fully expecting him to be going to prison as soon as he was old enough, his meltdowns were awful and destructive (as the holes in my doors and walls will testify) After I got to the bottom of what was causing him to behave so awfully (his extreme anxiety and feeling like he had no control over anything in his life) I changed the way I managed him. I started to talk to him like an adult, and when he kicked off I'd calmly ask him if he really believed I deserved to be spoken to or treated like that? The logical approach worked, eventually, he is a different person now, and I'm so glad I never sent him away, because had I done that he would have never trusted me again
•    Anonymous said…  I'm not sure it's helpful to assign blame. The many ways problems develop within families doesn't often lead back to any particular cause. Most problems simply aren't wearhoused within an individual.
•    Anonymous said…  Learning about challenges of an 11-year-old's behaviors is helpful. The foul language, disrespect, lying, and stealing paint a picture of his struggles. However, these kinds of behavior do not develop and are not maintained in a vacuum. To understand and address these kinds of difficult child behaviors, you have to better understand the environments in which they are expressed. You can't address family dysfunction through the child.
•    Anonymous said…  Look into ABA programs in your area. Also research social stories . They have been really helpful for us. I always say the diagnosis explains the behaviour but it's not an excuse .. don't be afraid to set clear boundaries and consequences for negative behaviour ... and reward the positive behaviour like crazy ... even if it's only brief .
•    Anonymous said…  Melatonin 6mg...its natural and it helps my son with sleep issues
•    Anonymous said…  My 5 year old does all this and is very very aggressive. He jumped out of a moving car the other day. Refuses too wear a seat belt. Smashes furniture swears spits the list is endless.I'm at breaking point. Residential care is not the answer. My hearts breaks that ppl are willing too even think about giving up on their child.
•    Anonymous said…  My son is 16. He was diagnosed with Aspergers this year. Unfortunately, my son got involved in drugs & alcohol. We sent him to a wilderness therapy & then transferred him to a therapeutic boarding school. Not much has changed with him, I'm sorry to say. The therapist tells us it takes time. It also takes A LOT of money! I hope & pray it all works out for your child.
•    Anonymous said…  Praise praise praise him when he is being well behaved or does something that deserves praise...every little thing. Ignore the bad behaviour but when he is calm tell him it isn't appropriate. REWARD him as well for the things he does that are good  :)
•    Anonymous said…  Residential care is not the way to go. It's rough, not going to lie but I have decided to stop wishing my son was different, trying to make him "normal", etc etc. I've decided to put the focus on myself and my reactions, and have been working on acceptance. He is on his computer all the time but he is talented in that area so I try not to make such an issue of it anymore. I tell him I'm proud of him often. I found that by changing myself, his behavior has changed. Not perfect and still bad days but he's 15 and I haven't seen a meltdown in a long time. His grades are less than desirable and he has no friends but he is content. It's a hard road but you can do this!
•    Anonymous said…  See if you can get wrap around services in the home. Anxiety is a bigger trigger than you may think. My son is 11 and on adhd meds and that helps as well. It slows down his impulsivity and gives him a second to consider his actions.
•    Anonymous said…  Seroquel, and especially Seroquel XR, works wonders. Unfortunately, Seroquel XR is not yet generic. There are other relatives to this medication. A psychiatrist can choose the best one.
•    Anonymous said…  Several posts regarding children and families struggling with a cluster of symptoms related to ASD, ADHD, and anxiety. For anxious children with ADHD who fail to respond to stimulant medication it is worth exploring with the child's prescribing physician what influence, if any, psychostimulants might have in exacerbating their anxiety. Anxiousness can look an awful lot like ADHD. Attention problems can look an awful lot like anxiousness. Trauma can look an awful lot like anxiousness and attention problems. To complicate matters, all three can be present simultaneously or in any combination. To further complicate matters, poor sleep can look like anxiousness and attention problems and can be the result of trauma. So, if a child has not responded as expected it is worth exploring whether or not the symptoms being addressed are the symptoms that underlie the problems.
•    Anonymous said…  Start by realizing he has about as much control over his actions as you do. Blaming and critical opinion will not set him 'straight' or make him easier to communicate or reason with. 11 years is a long time to go without a diagnosis. There is a world of help at your feet now that you finally have one, make some calls, get occupational therapy to your home. Praise for good behavior does not always work. My son found it patronizing and embarassing. High praise made him shut down the good feeling moment. Often found an unremarkable thumbs up or a simple, "cool" worked great.
•    Anonymous said…  The diagnosis for us was a blessing. It gave us the chance to start new. Once we knew my son had ASD, I invested in a good psych and read lots. When i realised why all the common parenting strategies didn't work and learnt what did, life changed. It's still a roller coaster but at least now we have more ups and downs and when it's down, i know that it will turn around again soon. I hope for you that this to becomes a blessing and your family receives support and love.
•    Anonymous said…  These are all signs of ODD. An indepth mental health assessment may be in order to see if there are also any other coexisting issues. These are not asd behaviours as such but learnt behaviours stemming from other issues possibly at home/school.
•    Anonymous said…  This is the best advice I've seen in a long time.
•    Anonymous said…  What medications do you use? I've battled with meds for my son ... opens doors to other problems.
•    Anonymous said…  With the correct psychiatrist and the correct meds (administered faithfully - and don't ever let the school do it) and, if possible, a specialist school....miracles can happen. Really!

Post your comment below… 

1 comment:

Springingtiger said...

Much of the sleep bit I agree with particularly the importance of routine. As an Aspie - allbeit an adult - any attempt to curb my TV or IT time would meed with severe resistance and the development of devious work-arounds.
Stealing - the problem is not honesty it's the concept of ownership, it took me years to realise that I couldn't just make use of anything that was available. There is nothing dishonest about taking what you want unless you are hooked into ownership and ownership is dependent upon a sense of individual identity which is another odd concept. Don't assume because an Aspie's behaviour is unacceptable to you he is dishonest, he is probably frighteningly honest but operates from a different values system.

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...