The Misunderstood Child on the Autism Spectrum

Students with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) often display advanced abilities for their age in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills, and music – sometimes into the "gifted" range. But this may be offset by significant delays in other developmental areas. This combination of characteristics can lead to problems with educators and other authority-figures.

Misunderstanding #1—

HFA and AS students are often regarded by educators as a "problem child" or a "poor performer." The student’s low tolerance for what he perceives to be boring and mundane tasks (e.g., typical homework assignments) can easily become frustrating for the child, resulting in his refusal to complete certain tasks. Consequently, a teacher may well consider the  student on the autism spectrum to be arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. This “misunderstanding” often results in a “power-struggle” between teacher and student, and in combination with the youngster's anxieties, can result in problematic behaviors (e.g., severe tantrums, violent and angry outbursts, withdrawal, school refusal, etc.).

Misunderstanding #2—

Two traits often found in children with the disorder 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 child’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by teachers and other students as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Misunderstanding #3—

An issue related to alexithymia involves the inability to identify and control strong emotions (e.g., sadness, anger). This leaves the child prone to sudden emotional outbursts (e.g., crying, rage). The inability to express feelings using words may also predispose the "special needs" child to use physical acts (sometime violent in nature) to articulate his mood and release “emotional energy.” All of these traits may give teachers the impression that the child is simply “defiant” and “rebellious.”

Misunderstanding #4—

Children and teens on the spectrum often report a feeling of being “unwillingly detached” from the school/classroom environment. They often have difficulty making friends due to poor social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for these students. Accordingly, feeling incapable of winning and keeping friends, they prefer to engage in solitary activities. As a result, peers and teachers often view the HFA or AS child as “self-absorbed” and “narcissistic” – another unfair label.

Misunderstanding #5—

These kids may be overly literal and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to sarcasm, banter, or metaphorical speech. Difficulties with social interaction may also be manifest in a lack of play with peers. These problems can be severe or mild depending on the child. Due to their idiosyncratic behavior, precise language, unusual interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues – particularly in interpersonal conflict – HFA and AS students are often the target of bullying at school and branded as "odd," both by peers and by adults who don't understand the neurological deficit involved.

But here’s the good news...

There's an increase in how sensitive teachers and clinicians are to developmental learning styles. There are a lot of children that have social and communication problems and learning problems. They aren't retarded. There's been an effort to figure out if there are clusters of these children that fit together into diagnostic patterns.

Here are a few basic steps a teacher and parent can take to ensure the best possible educational experience for a child on the autism spectrum:

• Develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the child. The parent, teacher, principal and the school's special education teachers should all be involved in the IEP’s development.

• Educate yourself on the many behavior modification resources that exist to help teach self-help and socialization skills to the student with HFA or AS.

• Have the student evaluated by his/her school's special education specialists.

• Make sure all adults working with the child know about his/her special needs.

• Read the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that guarantees a right to an appropriate education for all children with disabilities.

• Understand the placement options available. A student with the disorder may do better in a regular classroom or in a special education environment.

These "special needs" students should have as many opportunities to interact as possible, such as speech therapy and socialization therapy. The ‘key’ that parents should keep in mind is this: Don't let anybody flatter you out of services. Don't let them say, “He's so smart! He doesn't need that!” If you think your child needs services, you can find them. The first place to go is your school district. And some parents will have to fight.

Parents need to think about where they want their youngster to be in 5 to 10 years. Parents should make sure that their child can set the table, fold his/her clothes, shower independently, make a can of soup, and so on. Often times, students on the spectrum are so smart that they never cross paths with teachers who would be focused on things like daily living and vocational skills – and these kids really suffer because of that.

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Adult Aspergers and Lack of Empathy


I would really like to encourage you to keep writing for adults... I bet there are a ton of us out there, not diagnosed but living a hellish life trying to fit in... Having someone who understands me is refreshing to say the least...

I used to be a Pastor but I gave it up because I had no empathy for people... No feelings of sympathy or love... I have no feelings of love at all, so if you were to ask me if I love God, or love my mom, or my wife... I have no feeling so I would manufacture a response, so I have felt like a fraud and very uncaring and ashamed... I have admitted this to my wife, which had to be recanted because of her shock and pain: "You mean you don't love me??" And my response is: "Oh, no, I did not mean that... of course I have feelings of love for you!"

It’s a real problem because, how can I be truthful and at the same time not offend... Love is somewhat of a decision, not a feeling, for me... I no longer go to church because it’s a problem for me...

I also have a very tough time with sadness... when I approach crying, it is physically painful... I can't get the pain out... I feel sad, but it gets too intense and painful... Is this Normal for one with Aspergers?? Is there any way around it??

I would REALLY like to encourage and challenge you to keep writing for us adults... You truly have a gift... Trying to figure out my maleness, issues AND Aspergers is really really confusing, and painful...


Re: “I have no feeling so I would manufacture a response, so I have felt like a fraud and very uncaring and ashamed...”

I regularly recommend to men with Aspergers to pick prudent times to (a) tell white lies and (b) fake emotions when there are none.

Why would I recommend this for crying out loud?

Let’s use an example regarding white lies: Your wife asks, “Does my butt look big in this dress.” Your honest response might be, “No more than usual.”

BAM!!! You might as well just smack your wife in the face. Your “I have to be honest because I don’t want to be a fraud” philosophy just got you into big trouble.

Now, let’s try it again from the beginning: Your wife asks, “Does my butt look big in this dress.” Better to say, “No, not at all. I like your cute little butt.” Was that a line of bullshit? You better know it! And you just made your wife’s day.

Let’s use an example regarding “faking” emotions: Your mother-in-law has stayed with you and your wife for a 3-day visit. She has just left to catch her flight back to Arizona, and your wife states, “It sure was good to see mom. I wish we lived closer. I’m not going to see her again until Christmas …I’m going to miss her.” You say nothing! Right?

Poor choice on your part. Your silence just sent the message: “I don’t really care if I see her again or not.” Instead, you should assert, “Yes it was good to see her. I’m going to miss her sense of humor.” Do you really feel a sense of loss or sadness with your mother-in-law’s departure? I doubt it. But you just cheered-up your wife. And that’s a good thing.

Re: “Love is somewhat of a decision, not a feeling, for me...”

The same is true for the rest of us! Love is not a feeling. “Falling in love” and “love” are two different things.

Falling in love:
  • can be a first step towards genuine love
  • can be a flash of emotions
  • if it is mutual and both people work at their relationship, can one day grow into genuine love
  • is a strong instinctive attraction to a person
  • is the call of one's longing to belong
  • usually means falling in love with the person's appearance, with the way she walks, the way she talks; sometimes we impute to our object of love some ideal qualities, and the more we get to know the person, the less we “fall” for her (that's when the feeling of love disappears even faster than it appeared)

Genuine love on the other hand:
  • implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom
  • is a decision
  • is a state of awareness
  • is a way of being in the world
  • is a way of seeing oneself and others
  • is misunderstood to be an emotion
  • is volitional rather than euphorically emotional

The concern and commitment to another's spiritual and emotional growth is the purest form of love. It is for this reason that commitment is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship. The person who truly loves does so because of a “decision to love.” This person has made a commitment to “being a loving individual” – whether or not the “loving feelings” are present. It can be difficult and painful to search for evidence of love in one's actions, but because true love is an “act of will” that transcends transient feelings of love, it can be said, "Love is as love does." Love and non-love, as good and evil, are objective and not purely subjective phenomena.

Re: “I can't get the pain out... I feel sad, but it gets too intense and painful... Is this Normal for one with Aspergers?? Is there any way around it??”

It is normal, but I would never recommend going “around it” – rather you should go “through it.” Without pain, there is no learning – no growth. It is this pain that is helping you develop emotional muscles and wisdom that you would never develop otherwise.

What did your mother tell you when you were young? She may have said something like, “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.” You should listen to your mother.

==> Living with an Aspergers Partner: Relationship Skills for Couples Affected by Aspergers

Help for Men with Aspergers: 90 Tips for Husbands


You talked in your ebook about behavior modification... I need some tips on how to connect with my wife’s emotions... That is her big complaint... As you know I do not understand them, I don't recognize them when they arise in their many subtleties... She will usually begin an emotional outburst by accusing me of a generalization like: "You NEVER take me out anymore!" I get defensive cause in my mind. I took her out last year, and as you aptly pointed out in your book, my main emotion is: ANGER. The fight then escalates to me leaving and not talking to her for a day or more...


Males and females approach problems with similar goals but with different considerations. While males and females can solve problems equally well, their approach and their process are often quite different. For most females, sharing and discussing a problem presents an opportunity to explore, deepen or strengthen the relationship with the person they are talking with. Women are usually more concerned about how problems are solved than merely solving the problem itself. For females, solving a problem can profoundly impact whether they feel closer and less alone or whether they feel distant and less connected. The process of solving a problem can strengthen or weaken a relationship. Most males are less concerned and do not feel the same as females when solving a problem.

Males approach problems in a very different manner than females. For most males, solving a problem presents an opportunity to demonstrate their competence, their strength of resolve, and their commitment to a relationship. How the problem is solved is not nearly as important as solving it effectively and in the best possible manner. Males have a tendency to dominate and to assume authority in a problem solving process. They set aside their feelings provided the dominance hierarchy was agreed upon in advance and respected. They are often distracted and do not attend well to the quality of the relationship while solving problems.

Some of the more important differences between males and females can be illustrated by observing groups of young teenage boys and groups of young teenage girls when they attempt to find their way out of a maze. A group of boys generally establish a hierarchy or chain of command with a leader who emerges on his own or through demonstrations of ability and power. Boys explore the maze using scouts while remaining in distant proximity to each other. Groups of girls tend to explore the maze together as a group without establishing a clear or dominant leader. Relationships tend to be co-equal. Girls tend to elicit discussion and employ "collective intelligence" to the task of discovering a way out. Girls tend to work their way through the maze as a group. Boys tend to search and explore using structured links and a chain of command.

While males and females can reach similar conclusions and make similar decisions, the process they use can be quite different and in some cases can lead to entirely different outcomes. In general, males and females consider and process information differently.

Females tend to be intuitive global thinkers. They consider multiple sources of information within a process that can be described as simultaneous, global in perspective and will view elements in the task in terms of their inter-connectedness. Females come to understand and consider problems all at once. They take a broad or "collective" perspective, and they view elements in a task as interconnected and interdependent. Females are prone to become overwhelmed with complexities that "exist", or may exist, and may have difficulty separating their personal experience from problems.

Males tend to focus on one problem at a time or a limited number of problems at a time. They have an enhanced ability to separate themselves from problems and minimize the complexity that may exist. Males come to understand and consider problems one piece at a time. They take a linear or sequential perspective, and view elements in a task as less interconnected and more independent. Males are prone to minimize and fail to appreciate subtleties that can be crucial to successful solutions. A male may work through a problem repeatedly, talking about the same thing over and over, rather than trying to address the problem all at once.

While there are differences in the ways that males and females think, it must be emphasized that they can and do solve problems in a similar manner. There are no absolutes, only tendencies.

Females have an enhanced ability to recall memories that have strong emotional components. They can also recall events or experiences that have similar emotions in common. Females are very adept at recalling information, events or experiences in which there is a common emotional theme. Males tend to recall events using strategies that rely on reconstructing the experience in terms of elements, tasks or activities that took place. Profound experiences that are associated with competition or physical activities are more easily recalled. There appears to be a structural and chemical basis for observed memory differences. For instance, the hippocampus, the area in the brain primarily responsible for memory, reacts differently to testosterone in males and it reacts differently to changing levels of estrogen and progesterone in females. Females tend to remember or be reminded of different "emotional memories" and content to some extent as part of their menstrual cycle.

There is evidence to suggest that a great deal of the sensitivity that exists within males and females has a physiological basis. It has been observed that is many cases, females have an enhanced physical alarm response to danger or threat. Their autonomic and sympathetic systems have a lower threshold of arousal and greater reactivity than males. In both males and females, higher levels of testosterone directly affect the aggressive response and behavior centers of the brain. Increasing estrogen and progesterone in males has a "feminizing" effect. Sexually aggressive males become less focused on sexual aggressive behavior and content when they are given female hormones. On the other hand, changing estrogen and progesterone levels in females during menstrual cycles can produce a "flood" of memories as well as strong emotions. Increasing or high levels of testosterone can produce an emotional insensitivity, empathic block and increased indifference to the distress others.

At the heart of sensitivity is our capacity to form, appreciate and maintain relationships that are rewarding. Even here there are important differences. For males, what demonstrates a solid relationship is quite different from that of most females. Males feel closer and validated through shared activities. Such activities include sports, competition, outdoor activities or sexual activities that are decidedly active and physical. While both males and females can appreciate and engage in these activities, they often have preferential differences. Females, on the other hand, feel closer and validated through communication, dialogue and intimate sharing of experience, emotional content and personal perspectives. Many males tend to find such sharing and involvement uncomfortable, if not, overwhelming.

How A Man With Aspergers Can Connect With His Wife’s Emotions—

1. Allow your wife to express herself freely, without fear of being called illogical or dumb.

2. Allow her to teach you things without being defensive.

3. Ask her and then listen to what makes her fearful and insecure (without judging).

4. Be a good listener. Show your wife you value what she says.

5. Be careful to choose your words, especially when angry.

6. Be especially helpful when she is not feeling well.

7. Be helpful and cooperative, both before and during the time you have other people over to your home. 

8. Be sensitive enough to ask your wife if you offend or hurt her sexually in any way.

9. Be supportive. For example, help your wife to finish her education and goals that are important to her.

10. Be sympathetic when she’s sick—and help her however you can.

11. Be verbally supportive and honor your wife in front of the children.

12. Brag about your wife to others, both in front of her and when she is not with you.

13. Call, email or text your wife when you’re apart so she knows you are thinking of her.

14. Communicate with your wife instead of talking AT her or shutting her out emotionally.

15. Compliment your wife for the giftedness you see in her. Be specific.

16. Consider your wife as your marital partner in how you spend money.

17. Continue to court your wife. You dated her before marriage, which helped you to fall in love, now date her to STAY in love.

18. Defend your wife to others—especially to your family.

19. Do something active together to lift her spirit —even taking a walk hand-in-hand.

20. Don’t belittle her intelligence.

21. Don’t criticize your wife in front of others—keeping her dignity intact.

22. Don’t embarrass your wife by arguing with her in front of others.

23. Don’t focus on the physical features of another woman (because, whether you understand her reasoning or not, that can make your spouse feel dishonored).

24. Don’t forget to hold her hand in public like you used to when you dated her.

25. Don’t ignore the small things that bother your wife and let them build into bigger issues.

26. Don’t negatively compare her relatives with yours.

27. Don’t tease and belittle your wife, saying “I was just joking” when she doesn’t find it funny.

28. Encourage your wife to relax in some way while you clean up after dinner.

29. Exhibit humility, admit your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness. She’ll appreciate that.

30. Express to your wife that you need and value her.

31. Express your love and appreciation for your wife in a love note which you give to her.

32. Find out what her sexual needs are (and then try to fulfill them).

33. Find something that makes you laugh together.

34. Find ways to help your wife know you are her partner in all areas life.

35. Fix dinner for your wife sometimes.

36. Give your wife grace when she offends you – and forgive (even as you want to be forgiven).

37. Give your wife the love gift of being thoughtful and considerate to her relatives.

38. Give your wife your undivided attention when she wants to talk.

39. Go out of your way to help your wife feel valued over everyone else.

40. Go shopping with your wife and don’t sigh or look at what time it is even once.

41. Guard your tongue from saying “unwholesome words” or down-grading her.

42. Hold your wife close and verbally express your love when she is hurt or discouraged.

43. Honor your wife by not disagreeing with her in front of the children.

44. Keep her trust at all costs. Leave no gray area when it comes to other female relationships, money and your word.

45. Keep yourself in as good of shape as is reasonable so she’s proud to be with you.

46. Let go of the small stuff. We all have annoying habits and preferences that are different from our spouse’s.

47. Maintain good grooming habits so you look and smell good. It shows you care.

48. Make a point of honoring anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions.

49. Make eye contact when she is talking to you and when you are talking with her.

50. Make it a point to write a mission statement together for your marriage and family.

51. Make sure she has money each paycheck to spend any way she would choose.

52. Make sure the children speak to your wife and treat her in respectful ways.

53. Make the time to set specific goals with your wife to achieve together for each year.

54. Plan a mini-honeymoon, where the two of you can spend quality time together.

55. Pray about and act upon what you can do to alleviate any fears.

56. Put your arms around your wife when she needs comfort, holding her silently.

57. Refuse to compare your wife unfavorably with others.

58. Relate what happened at work or whatever you did apart from her.

59. Remember to tell your wife or call her as soon as you know you are going to be late.

60. Run errands without complaining.

61. Scratch her back, rub her feet, or her rub her neck—whatever she’d prefer.

62. Share the responsibilities around the house (without looking for special recognition).

63. Show affection for your wife in front of friends.

64. Show enthusiasm for the things that she’s excited about—let your actions show it.

65. Show your wife affection without sexual intentions.

66. Show your wife that she matters more to you than any activity you could do, or any one you could be with, that somehow threatens her sense of security in your marriage.

67. Show your wife that you prefer her to others—give her your attention whenever possible.

68. Show your wife you are her marital partner by not making plans without her knowing and agreeing with them (unless it’s a surprise for her).

69. Show interest in her friends and give her time to be with them.

70. Show interest in that which she values as important in her life.

71. Sit close to your wife —even when you are just watching television.

72. Start - and end - each day with a kiss.

73. Stay away from web sites, chat rooms or anything that gives you sexual gratification from anyone other than your spouse.

74. Surprise your wife by asking her to give you a list of 3 things she’d like done around the house within the next month. And then make it your goal to do them.

75. Surprise your wife by doing some things around the house that she’s wanted done.

76. Surprise your wife by doing something you think she would want done before she asks.

77. Surprise your wife by giving her a special gift from time to time.

78. Surprise your wife by suggesting a marriage seminar or weekend retreat you can attend together to deepen your marital relationship.

79. Surprise your wife from time-to-time with a card and flowers or a little gift.

80. Surprise your wife with a 15 second kiss (with no expectations to go any further).

81. Take your wife out to breakfast or make her breakfast (cleaning up afterward).

82. Take the time to touch every day—even if it’s only for a minute or two.

83. Talk to your wife respectfully without demeaning her or hurting her feelings.

84. Tell your wife (and show her) you love her often.

85. Thank God for your wife by name when the two of you are praying together.

86. Try not to argue over money. Peacefully discuss future expenditures instead.

87. Try not to make sudden changes without discussing them with her first.

88. View and treat your wife as if God put a sign over her that said, “Make me feel special.”

89. When you feel you must correct your wife, be gentle —speaking the truth in LOVE. Allow her to teach you things without being defensive.

90. When you’ve been apart for a time and she asks how your day went, don’t just say “fine” — actually give her details.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


When You Get Non-Stop Questions from Your AS or HFA Child


My 5 year old son with autism (high functioning)  has just started asking non-stop questions. I know that questions are a normal part of development, especially at this age, but his are EXTREME (one after another, questions upon questions, questions about the answers.... it is exhausting). By the end of the day, my head is just pounding from attempting to answer his questions, and if I don't answer them, it escalates into a meltdown. I don't know what to do and I feel like we are both losing our minds, and losing control of the situation. Any advice?


This is a common occurrence among children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS). Here's an idea that has worked for other parents. Give it a try:

Set up a “question-and-answer time” (e.g., after dinner). This is a time where you’re going to sit down with your son for 5 to 15 minutes – and that’s his time to ask questions. You may even instruct him to keep a journal so he can keep track of questions and write them down. So, something goes into his “questions journal,” and then during question-and-answer time, you take the time to explain things to him.

The great thing about the use of question-and-answer time is, if he starts asking questions at 3:00 PM, you can say, “Write that in your questions journal please, and we’ll talk about it at question-and-answer time.” In this way, you get a way to defer the question and do what is called a “redirect.” You are effectively redirecting him to another task (writing) instead of the task of asking questions.

NOTE: He doesn’t actually have to write down the entire question …just a word of two that will jog his memory. For example, if he starts asking questions about birds, redirect him to write the word “birds” in his questions journal. Also, get him a very cool-looking journal—one that he will be proud of. He can decorate it with stickers – or whatever.

==> Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Kids on the Autism Spectrum


The Aspergers Questionnaire

The following questionnaire is designed to identify behaviors and abilities indicative of Aspergers (high functioning autism) during the child’s primary school years. This is the age at which the unusual pattern of behavior and abilities is most conspicuous. 

Answer the following with ‘yes’ or ‘no’:

1. Does the youngster appear unaware of social conventions or codes of conduct and make inappropriate actions and comments (e.g., making a personal comment to someone but the youngster seems unaware of how the comment could offend)?

2. Does the youngster become unduly upset by changes in routine or expectation (e.g., is distressed by going to school by a different route)?

3. Does the youngster develop elaborate routines or rituals that must be completed (e.g., lining up toys before going to bed)?

4. Does the youngster have a lack of sensitivity to low levels of pain?

5. Does the youngster have a tendency to flap or rock when excited or distressed?

6. Does the youngster have an exceptional long-term memory for events and facts (e.g., remembering the neighbor's car registration of several years ago, or clearly recalling scenes that happened many years ago)?

7. Does the youngster have an odd gait when running?

8. Does the youngster have an unusual tone of voice (e.g., seems to have a "foreign" accent or monotone that lacks emphasis on key words)?

9. Does the youngster have poor motor coordination (e.g., is not skilled at catching a ball)?

10. Does the youngster have problems repairing a conversation (e.g., when he is confused, he does not ask for clarification but simply switches to a familiar topic, or takes a very long time to think of a reply)?

11. Does the youngster have unusual facial grimaces or tics?

12. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to light touch on skin or scalp?

13. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to noisy crowded places (e.g., supermarkets)?

14. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to ordinary sounds (e.g., electrical appliances)?

15. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to seeing certain objects?

16. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to unexpected noises?

17. Does the youngster have unusual fear or distress due to wearing particular items of clothing?

18. Does the youngster lack an understanding of how to play with other kids (e.g., unaware of the unwritten rules of social play)?

19. Does the youngster lack the intuitive understanding of another person's feelings (e.g., not realizing an apology would help the other person feel better)?

20. Does the youngster lack precision in his or her expression of emotion (e.g., not understanding the levels of emotional expression appropriate for different people)?

21. Does the youngster lack social imaginative play (e.g., other kids are not included in the youngster's imaginary games, or the youngster is confused by the pretend games of other kids)?

22. Does the youngster lack subtlety in his or her expression of emotion (e.g., the youngster shows distress or affection out of proportion to the situation)?

23. Does the youngster need an excessive amount of reassurance, especially if things are changed or go wrong?

24. Does the youngster read books primarily for information, not seeming to be interested in fictional works (e.g., being an avid reader of encyclopedias and science books, but not keen on adventure stories)?

25. Does the youngster seem to expect other people to know his thoughts, experiences and opinions?

26. Does the youngster take a literal interpretation of comments (e.g., is confused by phrases such as "pull your socks up," "looks can kill" or "hop on the scales")?

27. Have you had a ‘gut feeling’ that your youngster’s behavior was “different” compared to other kids?

28. Is the youngster fascinated by a particular topic and avidly collects information or statistics on that interest (e.g., becomes a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on vehicles, maps or league tables)?

29. Is the youngster indifferent to peer pressure (e.g., does not follow the latest craze in toys or clothes)?

30. Is the youngster not interested in participating in competitive sports, games and activities?

31. Is the youngster's speech over-precise or pedantic (e.g., talks in a formal way or like a walking dictionary)?

32. Was the youngster late in acquiring speech?

33. When free to play with other kids at school, does the youngster avoid social contact with them (e.g., finds a secluded place or goes to the library)?

34. When in a conversation, does the youngster tend to use less eye contact than you would expect?

35. When taking to the youngster, does he or she appear uninterested in your side of the conversation (e.g., not asking about or commenting on your thoughts or opinions on the topic)?

If the answer is yes to the majority of the questions above, it does not automatically suggest your youngster has Aspergers; however, it is a possibility – and a referral for a diagnostic assessment is warranted.


Behavior Modification Plan for Your Aspergers or HFA Child

A short-term behavior modification plan can break through a cycle of bad behavior in your Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) youngster. Think of it as a learning tool to help him move forward to a new level of social development. Four to six weeks on the plan is usually enough to change one or two specific behavior problems. At the very least, your youngster will have a clear understanding of your expectations for his behavior, even if he is not yet able to consistently maintain the desirable behavior.

Click here for full article...

Aspergers and HFA Children Who Refuse To Go To School


"My son J___ has been "playing hooky" since he suddenly became afraid of going to school. Before then he attended grammar school (pre-university). He was very young when he went there (11, skipped one class) and failed the 1st year, passed the next 1st year and then failed the 2nd year. He had to leave school. The next 2 efforts at other (lower level) schools failed miserably. I think his self-confidence was shot.

We also experienced an extremely turbulent family life. All sorts of governmental institutions became involved, and after oodles of interviews and tests they concluded that a) I'm a threat to my son, b) he has to be placed outside the home and c) he has to go back to school at all costs. This also included reporting him for a court appearance.

J___ has indicated he only feels safe at home and has recently been diagnosed with Asperger/PDD-NOS. He has, in any case, trouble with adhering to the rules of society. I'm afraid I might be at fault there, as I don't really fit in either.

He wants to learn, I ordered a home school study for him and he went through it like a hot knife through butter until he reached the mandatory literature part. He can't do it, he says. They now want him to go through a day treatment plan and place him in a special school. J___ has indicated he will run away as he doesn't want to be treated as a retard (his words).

Why am I reaching out to you? English is my dominant language and I tend to think in it. I'm also looking for a neutral, objective second opinion as well as support in helping my son. Because despite what the Dutch organisations say, I do want to help my son, just not by making him march to the music and be miserable.

Last week I asked a child psychologist what she would have done with a young Einstein and she told me I was a 'smart allic' (OK, she might have a point there). Basically the intention is to medicate J___ up the kazoo, place him outside the home and take parental rights away from me because I'm the threat. I view this differently (obviously) as I have managed to steer him through 'normal' schools for nearly his complete school period. In my opinion this has benefitted him more, and has exposed him to more opportunities and information then if he had been secluded in special education from an early age. No, I'm not bashing the special education system, but it's just not for J___.

What would I like from you? Maybe some ideas and thoughts on how to teach J___ to deal with his problems and get a handle on things. My partner and I don't think it's a problem if he 'hangs around' for several more years, we always tend to look after vulnerable and defenseless critters (my partner works at a sheltered workshop, and he himself has dyslexia; we know about so-called hurdles).

This will sound very jumbled and it's a lot of information. Sorry about that. Think you might be able to help? At least think along on how to approach matters in order to help J___? I'd appreciate any feedback (and please don't say you can't help me because I'm in The Netherlands)."


Re: “afraid of going to school…”

There is a big difference between truancy (skipping school to have fun doing other things) and school refusal (fear of circumstances at school). I think you were blamed for your son being “truant” …but he’s not a truant.

Most Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) children, at some time in their school career, are challenged by anxiety. School phobia (known to professionals as school refusal), a complex and extreme form of anxiety about going to school (but not of the school itself as the name suggests), can have many causes and can include related anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia and selective mutism.

Symptoms include:

• a racing heart
• fatigue
• frequent trips to the toilet
• nausea
• shaking
• stomachaches

Young children on the autism spectrum (up to age 7 or 8) with school phobia experience separation anxiety and cannot easily contemplate being parted from their parents, whereas older kids (8 plus) are more likely to have it take the form of social phobia where they are anxious about their performance in school (such as in games or in having to read aloud or answer questions in class).

Aspergers and HFA children with anxieties about going to school may suffer a panic attack if forced which then makes them fear having another panic attack and there is an increasing spiral of worry with which parents often do not know how to deal.

Going to school for the first time is a period of great anxiety for very young kids. Many will be separated from their parents for the first time, or will be separated all day for the first time. This sudden change can make them anxious and they may suffer from separation anxiety. They are also probably unused to having the entire day organized for them and may be very tired by the end of the day – causing further stress and making them feel very vulnerable.

For older children on the spectrum who are not new to the school, who have had a long summer break or have had time off because of illness, returning to school can be quite traumatic. They may no longer feel at home there. Their friendships might have changed. Their teacher and classroom might have changed. They may have got used to being at home and closely looked after by a parent, suddenly feeling insecure when all this attention is removed; and suddenly they are under the scrutiny of their teachers again.

Other children on the spectrum may have felt unwell on the school bus or in school and associate these places with further illness and symptoms of panic, and so want to avoid them in order to avoid panicky symptoms and panic attacks fearing, for example, vomiting, fainting or having diarrhea. Other kids may have experienced stressful events.

Possible triggers for school phobia include:
  1. Being bullied.
  2. Being off school for a long time through illness or because of a holiday.
  3. Being unpopular, being chosen last for teams and feeling a physical failure (in games and gymnastics).
  4. Bereavement (of a person or pet).
  5. Fearing panic attacks when traveling to school or while in school.
  6. Feeling an academic failure.
  7. Feeling threatened by the arrival of a new baby.
  8. Having a traumatic experience such as being abused, being raped, having witnessed a tragic event.
  9. Moving to a new area and having to start at a new school and make new friends or just changing schools.
  10. Not having good friends (or any friends at all).
  11. Problems at home such as a member of the family being very ill.
  12. Problems at home such as marital rows, separation and divorce.
  13. Starting school for the first time.
  14. Violence in the home or any kind of abuse; of the youngster or of another parent.

Children with Asperger Syndrome need to be dealt with differently to kids without the syndrome as, for example, teaching them relaxation techniques can actually make them more anxious.

A common strategy in dealing with school refusal in Aspergers and HFA children is to switch to a home school environment. However, home schooling a child with the disorder is completely different than educating a non-autistic child. 

Here is a summary plan:

The child can only grow to be fully functioning if he first experiences a fully functional home life. Fighting, crying and meltdowns do not positively contribute to a functional home. The child functions best when conflict is removed, so ALWAYS remove conflict and remain flexible.

• Meltdowns are worse for the child than they are for you. Remain calm and use the child's logic, obsessive compulsiveness and anger as a learning experience. Shutting your ears is tantamount to saying you know everything and are a superior person.

• Nobody can accuse you of being a bad mother. By designing education around the need of your child you are being the best mother you can be. Most people will be grateful that their children do not have the disorder.

• Nobody can read your mind. Think abusive thoughts but NEVER say them because they will destroy the child's confidence and reinforce further unacceptable behavior and school refusal.

• Short term goals are not time specific. They can be revisited and strengthened at any stage. Know that the goals can be re-met if you do things differently.

• Teachable moments are everywhere. School does not have to represent that which we know as beneficial for us. School is everywhere and learning occurs best without stress.

• What I value as important is not important to the child or his development. Allow him to explore that which he is highly interested in, even if it has no recognizable educational value to you.

• When you reign in and block outsiders from coming to your home and adding over stimulus, remember that it will only be for a short time while the child reaches emotional and social equilibrium again. Email and on-line support groups produce no over stimulus to the child and are there 24 hours per day. Use them.

• Work through obsessions. On days when the child is focused on issues not included in the home school learning areas, it is acceptable to investigate the child's obsessions. These are teachable moments that will otherwise be lost.

• You are a team, a package, a caring parent. Team work means working together to get the best result. Work with the child, not against him.

• You can only recognize a bad day because you have first had good days to measure against. Things do improve. Hasten improvement by reducing conflict and grabbing whatever teachable moments you can.


Educational Strategies for the Aspergers Student

Children with Aspergers (high functioning autism) can have difficulty in the classroom often because they fit in so well. Many may miss the fact that they have a diagnosis. When these kids display symptoms of their condition, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Learning about Aspergers in general and about the specific characteristics of your "Aspie" student will help you effectively manage his or her behavior in the classroom.

Below are some helpful hints that can guide everyday school life for students with Aspergers. They can be applied to children with Aspergers across the school years and are applicable to almost all environments:

1. A buddy system can be helpful to Aspergers students. In social situations, the buddy can help the Aspie handle these situations.

2. Any changes―unexpected changes, in particular―can increase anxiety in a child with Aspergers; even changes considered to be minor can cause significant stress. Whenever possible, provide consistency in the schedule and avoid sudden changes. Prepare the youngster for changes by discussing them in advance, over-viewing a social narrative on the change, or showing a picture of the change. The environment can also be managed by incorporating child preferences that may serve to decrease his or her stress (e.g., when going on a field trip, the child might be assigned to sit with a group of preferred peers – or if the field trip is going to include lunch, the child has access to the menu the day before so he or she can plan what to eat).

3. Because children with Aspergers cannot predict upcoming events, they are often unsure about what they are to do. Provide information and reassurance frequently so that the child knows he is moving in the right direction or completing the correct task. Use frequent check-ins to monitor child progress and stress.

4. Children with Aspergers have difficulty distinguishing between essential and nonessential information. In addition, they often do not remember information that many of us have learned from past experiences or that to others come as common sense. Thus, it is important to state the obvious. One way to do this is to “live out loud.” Naming what you are doing helps the youngster with Aspergers accurately put together what you are doing with the why and the how. In addition, “living out loud” helps the child to stay on task and anticipate what will happen next.

5. Enforce bullying rules and minimize teasing.

6. Every Aspergers child needs to (a) be evaluated, (b) have a plan established addressing areas of weakness, and (c) have a teacher that believes in the student and expects him to reach appropriate grade level requirements. Teachers who are willing to learn and implement new strategies will provide the best education for all students.

7. Find opportunities throughout the day to tell students with Aspergers what they did right. Compliment attempts as well as successes. Be specific to ensure that the child with Aspergers knows why the educator is providing praise.

8. Frustration can develop from a lack of understanding that Aspergers students are unable to generalize the skills that they learn. For example, a parent or teacher might work at teaching the student how to respectfully address a teacher. Typically this skill would then be generalized to any person in a position of authority. A student with Aspergers is likely to only apply the skill to the person initially used as the target of respect in the learning process. He will probably not apply this behavior to a supervisor, principal, or police officer.

9. If you have a child with Aspergers, adjust your teaching strategies to accommodate the youngster. Many times, kids with this syndrome see things in a very concrete way. If a youngster raises his hand and the educator responds that she will be with him in 5 seconds, he may very well announce when the 5 seconds have passed because of the concrete way he views things. The educator will have to learn to be precise in what she says and use concrete materials rather than abstract ideas whenever possible in her lessons.

10. It is of the utmost importance that the teacher understands what Aspergers is and how it hinders students. Without a clear understanding of this disorder, the teacher will not understand the student. Actions that are clearly a part of the syndrome can be confused with behavioral issues and dealt with inappropriately.

11. It will be extremely important for an educator of an Aspergers child to create a supportive environment where she can thrive. If she is in an integrated classroom, this may mean helping the other children understand her special needs, pairing her with a buddy and having a consistent predictable schedule as part of the daily classroom routine. The educator may also want to create an area where the youngster can go to and calm down if she gets overwhelmed with a given activity.

12. Keep your language concise and simple, and speak at a slow, deliberate pace. Do not expect a child with Aspergers to “read between the lines,” understand abstract concepts like sarcasm, or know what you mean by using facial expression only. Be specific when providing instructions. Ensure that the youngster with Aspergers knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Be clear, and clarify as needed.

13. Kids with Aspergers can have high levels of anxiety, which makes changes in routine and unpredictable events difficult for them to handle. An educator should plan well ahead and give the child plenty of advanced notice if a change in routine will occur or a new subject will be taught.

14. Kids with Aspergers often display what is known as splinter skills. In other words, they may excel in one area, even beyond their age level, and yet severely delayed in other areas. For this reason, it is important for an educator of a child diagnosed with Aspergers to have him tested in all of his skill areas. It should not be taken for granted that a youngster who excels in math will also excel in reading; many times the opposite may occur.

15. Make a visual schedule that includes daily activities for children with Aspergers. It is essential that the demands of the daily schedule or certain classes or activities be monitored and restructured, as needed (e.g., “free time,” which is considered fun for typically developing youth, may be challenging for children with Aspergers because of noise levels, unpredictability of events, and social skills problems). For a youngster with Aspergers, free time may have to be structured with prescribed activities to reduce stress and anxiety.

A good scheduling strategy is to alternate between preferred and non-preferred activities with periods in the schedule for downtime. It is important to distinguish free time from downtime. Free time refers to periods during the school day when children are engaged in unstructured activities that have marked social demands and limited educator supervision. Lunch time, passing time between classes, and time at school before classes actually begin all meet the criteria for free time. These activities are stressful for many children with Aspergers. Downtime, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for the youngster with Aspergers to relax or de-stress. Children’s downtime may include using sensory items, drawing, or listening to music to relieve stress. During downtime, excessive demands are not made on the children.

16. Middle school and high school settings present new social challenges for the Aspergers student. Passing periods are a desirable time of socializing for most students. For the Aspergers student, passing periods are a social zoo. Allow the student to leave 5 minutes early in order to avoid the overwhelming social interaction. Without such options, the Aspie could possibly spend most of the next class trying to recover from the distressing sensory overload experience.

17. Operate on “Aspergers time.” “Asperger time” means, “Twice as much time, half as much done.” Children with Aspergers often need additional time to complete assignments, to gather materials, and to orient themselves during transitions. Provide this time or modify requirements so they can fit in the time allotted and match the child’s pace. Avoid rushing a youngster with Aspergers, as this typically results in the youngster shutting down. When time constraints are added to an already stressful day, the child can become overwhelmed and immobilized.

18. Some peers can be educated about Aspergers and gain some understanding of what to expect from their fellow student.

19. There is an aspect of learning that is not obvious to students with Aspergers. This aspect of learning includes the basic “how to's” of living. These are things that other students seem to just know. The social know-how that tells most people what is inappropriate conversation material may be foreign to an Aspergers student. Teachers should instruct students struggling in this realm through the use of “scope and sequence” (i.e., teaching the student about the basics prior to expecting the generalized rules to be learned), direct instruction, social stories, acting lessons, and self-esteem building. Social stories and acting lessons give examples of proper actions in given public settings.

20. When planning activities, make sure the child with Aspergers is aware that the activities are planned, not guaranteed. These children need to understand that activities can be changed, canceled, or rescheduled. In addition, create backup plans and share them with the youngster with Aspergers. When an unavoidable situation occurs, be flexible and recognize that change is stressful for people with Aspergers; adapt expectations and your language accordingly (e.g., an educator could state, “Our class is scheduled to go to the park tomorrow. If it rains, you can read your favorite book on trains”).

Prepare children for change whenever possible; tell them about assemblies, fire drills, guest speakers, and testing schedules. In addition to changes within the school day, recurring transitions, such as vacations and the beginning and end of the school year, may cause an Aspie to be anxious about the change. Children with Aspergers may require additional time to adjust to the new schedule and/or environment.

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


Aspergers Adults and Relationship Difficulties


My son and my husband both have an Aspergers diagnosis. My husband and I no longer live together, and the diagnosis came a year after we separated, following my son’s. My husband no longer wants to work at the relationship and has given up (in my opinion). The divorce paperwork has been initiated.

1) How do you handle a spouse who refuses to accept the diagnosis and its impact on the marriage?
2) How do you handle extended family that refuse to accept the diagnoses (of your child/your spouse) - and continue to blame and lash out at the partner for all problems.
3) What do you do in the case of tactile sensitivities and no interest in sex? How can a spouse handle this?


Re: How do you handle an Aspergers spouse who refuses to accept the diagnosis/ and its impact on the marriage?

Accepting the diagnosis is not all that important really. What is important is that he understands that he has some areas of weakness (as we all do) on his end – regardless of the origin. So the new question could be, “How do you handle a spouse who refuses to see his contribution to the relationship difficulties.”

In that case, you really only have three choices: (1) continue to try to change him (good luck with that one), (2) take more responsibility for the relationship than he does (not recommended), (3) move on.

Re: How do you handle extended family that refuse to accept the diagnoses (of your child/ your spouse) - and continue to blame and lash out at the partner for all problems.

Don’t do the same thing (i.e., don’t blame them for not accepting the diagnosis). The more you try to convince them that it’s the “diagnosis” fault – not yours, the more you will strengthen their conviction that you were (are) the problem.

Let’s say for sake of argument that they ‘came to their senses’ and agreed that “Aspergers traits” have contributed largely to the relationship difficulties. What will they do with that information? If he’s not willing to work on the relationship, that information is rather useless. The Aspergers traits are not really the problem here – rather it is a spouse who is unwilling to work on the relationship.

Re: What do you do in the case of tactile sensitivities/ and no interest in sex? How can a spouse handle this?

To answer the first question, you may be assuming the lack of interest has to do with tactile sensitivities. This is not always the case. Here are some of the reasons men are not interested:

• I am angry at her
• I am depressed
• I am interested in sex with others, but not with my wife
• I am on medication that lowered my libido
• I am too tired
• I am/was having an affair
• I decided I’m gay
• I don't have the time
• I have difficulty achieving orgasm
• I lost interest and I don't know why
• I no longer find her physically attractive
• I prefer to masturbate, but not online
• I prefer to watch pornography online and masturbate
• I suffer from erectile dysfunction
• I suffer from premature ejaculation
• I wasn't interested in sex to begin with
• I'm bored
• She doesn't seem to enjoy sex
• She has gained a significant amount of weight
• She is depressed
• She is/was having an affair
• She isn't sexually adventurous enough for me

So his lack of interest could be any number of things.

Here are some things to consider about sexless marriages (which you may already know):
  • It is often the man who loses his sexual interest – in fact, women complain about sexless marriages far more than men do.
  • Sexless marriage doesn't mean zero sex – it can also mean very infrequent sex.
  • Sexless marriages are very common – it is estimated that in the U.S. alone there are millions of couples who are living in a sexless marriage.
  • Sexless marriages occur for a variety of reasons, and are usually the result of deeper relationship issues between husband and wife.
  • Sexless marriages occur with couples of all ages, not just older couples.
  • This may be common, but it's not something which has to happen – it's up to the couple to make sure it never happens.

Surviving a sexless marriage is very hard. The feelings of rejection are intense and build up over time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like you will be able to “get him in the mood.” (If he were interested in working on the relationship, I would be giving you a bunch of suggestions to “get him interested.”)

So, move on (easier said than done, but you really should move on). Save your time and energy for a relationship worth keeping.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

=> Skype Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Helping Aspergers and HFA Teens Cope With Life

The teenage years are the most difficult time for young people with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Most experts do a great job of presenting the problems these teens face, but they offer few solutions.

Below are 50 tips for parents who want to help their "special needs" teenager survive and thrive during the tough adolescent years:

1. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever, if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kinds—familiar foods, rituals, vacations—are reassuring when the adolescent’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

2. A regular bed time for the adolescent gives you time you can count on each evening for yourself and/or your spouse. If you can build in regular respite—such as a night your adolescent spends with a grandparent once a month—go for it, and plan ahead for some relaxation, fun, or culture. (Divorced moms and dads may be able to count on a little time alone or with friends as long as they set up and adhere faithfully to a regular visitation schedule.)

3. Adolescence is a time of tumultuous change for most kids, but for adolescents dealing with Aspergers or HFA, it can be one of tremendous difficulty. In order to combat this frustration, social training is critical. A small class with an instructor who is capable of creating strong bonds and trust within her students is paramount. Once this bond is created, systematic teaching of how to interpret indirect communication, manners, and body language can take place, and may help remarkably in allowing this type of adolescent to navigate the often confusing world of adolescence.

4. An activity the adolescent can walk to is great—for my grandson it was Tae Kwon Do lessons; he could decide how many lessons to attend each week, and get himself there and back. Learning to use public transportation is also great. Consider buying a T pass, or rolls of quarters.

5. Appropriate school placement and staff training, exercise (martial arts, yoga), and/or appropriate therapy with a carefully chosen professional, may help control the level of anxiety. Meds may need to be introduced or adjusted.

6. Forgive yourself for being an imperfect parent, and for not loving your youngster “enough.” Forgive yourself for sometimes losing your temper, yelling, or handling a tense situation awkwardly. Forgive yourself for getting your adolescent diagnosed “late”—there are still plenty of years in which to help your youngster. Forgive yourself for not arranging play dates, or sports, or tutoring, the way other moms and dads may be doing. We each offer our youngster our own unique talents, interests, and qualities, as people and as moms and dads. We each do the best we can to gather the information, insights, resources, and services that will help our children live and grow through adolescence. And—willingly or of necessity—we each end up making significant sacrifices for our children. In the hardest years my mantra was: “The best I can do has got to be good enough—because it’s the best I can do!” It is a hard job; we are all heroic moms and dads.

7. The “job description” of an adolescent is to pull away from moms and dads toward more independence; for our children, the process can be extra messy—not least because they may be even less ready for independence than other adolescents. Although some adolescents on the autism spectrum are more docile and child-like, be prepared to tolerate/ignore considerable distancing, surliness, or acting out, knowing that it won’t last forever. At the same time, set some firm limits, and keep a close eye on the youngster/adolescent’s welfare.

8. Be patient. Remember that kids and adolescents with Aspergers and HFA are relatively immature, socially and emotionally, compared to non-autistic kids of the same chronological age. Imagine sending a 10 year old off to high school (even if she has a chronological age of 14), or putting a 14 year old boy behind the wheel of car (even if he has a chronological age of 18)—or sending that 14 year old off to college or the army. We need to adjust our expectations for adolescents with AS—and make sure they still have appropriate supports. Don’t pull the “ramp” out from under the “wheelchair”!

9. Males may need to spend increased amounts of time with their fathers, and/or other male role models, as they undertake to become men. If dad has taken a back seat, let him know his son really needs his attention now. If you are a single mother, look especially hard for male mentors at your son’s school or in the wider community.

10. Build and use any support networks you can: extended family, close friends, church/synagogue groups, and an understanding school staff. If you don’t have a good network, consider individual or family therapy for a little support during a stormy, demanding life passage. When you have a demanding adolescent, it’s good to be reminded once a week that your needs and feelings are valid and important, too!

11. Consider delaying graduation in order to ensure that transition services are actually provided under DOE. It may be hard to convince an academically gifted, college bound student to accept this route. However, it may be very helpful for students who will need a lot of help with independent living skills and employment issues. Services need not be delivered within high school walls. Community college courses, adaptive driving lessons, and employment internships are just a few alternatives to consider.

12. Discipline & responsibility: A simple, low key, consistent approach is more important than ever, as adolescents become taller and stronger—not that physical restraint was ever very useful with our children. Pick your battles. Set and enforce only your bottom line rules and expectations—matters of safety and respect. Write them down. Make sure both moms and dads/all involved adults agree on the rules. Give choices when possible, but not too many. Engage your adolescent in problem-solving; what does s/he think would work?

13. Encourage your adolescent to carry a wallet disclosure card to show if stopped by a police officer or other first-responder. A lot of adolescents on the spectrum like to walk at night to unwind, and police may view their behavior as suspicious. You may want to introduce your adolescent to your local police community relations officer, and explain a little about the disorder.

14. Establish verbal codes or gestures to convey that one or both parties need a time out: a chance to cool down before continuing a difficult discussion at a later time.

15. Even for a previously well-adjusted youngster, multiple stressors during the adolescent years may bring on anxiety and even depression. Stressors seem to include increased academic/abstract thinking and social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, and fears of the future. Highly anxious adolescents who do not get help may be at risk for hospitalizations, school failure, acting out (including alcohol and substance abuse), or even suicide attempts.

16. Go with the flow of your youngster’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If your adolescent only likes plain T shirts without collars or buttons, buy plain T shirts. If your kid likes familiar foods, or has a favorite restaurant, indulge her.

17. Have realistic, modest goals for what the adolescent or the family can accomplish in a give time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

18. If both parents can largely agree about an adolescent’s diagnosis, treatment, and rules, it will save a lot of family wear and tear. To get your spouse on the same page, attend conferences or classes together. When you hear the same information, you can discuss it and decide what will work best for your adolescent and in your family. As you learn more about the disorder, you may also come to better appreciate each other’s contributions to your youngster’s welfare. Attend team meetings at the school together, or alternate which parent attends. Seeing your youngster’s therapist together (possibly without the youngster), or seeing a couples or family therapist, may help you weather a tough time together.

19. If you can afford it, you may prefer to pay private school tuition rather than paying a lawyer to negotiate with a financially strapped or resistant school system. However, a private school may not be the best choice. Some families move to a community with a better high school. If you have not talked to your adolescent about the disorder, you or someone else should do so—to the extent that the adolescent is ready to hear it. It’s tricky for adolescents—they so much want to be “normal” and strong and successful. A diagnosis can seem threatening or even totally unacceptable. In truth, however, the adults with Aspergers and HFA who do best are those who know themselves well—both their own strengths, which point them toward finding their niche in the world, and their own blind spots: where they need to learn new skills or seek out specific kinds of help.

20. If you have not yet made a will and set up a special needs trust, do it now. Ask the lawyer about powers of attorney or other documents you may need once your adolescent is no longer a minor. Few moms and dads assume guardianship of a young adult 18 or older, but it may be necessary and appropriate in some situations.

21. If your adolescent seems like a good candidate for college, take him or her to visit colleges during the spring vacation weeks of the junior year of high school, or during the summers before junior and senior year. Visits reveal a lot about what environment the adolescent will prefer. Purchase a large college guide to browse.

22. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the adolescent to absorb: lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, or calendars. E-mail may become a new option.

23. In adolescence, communication becomes complicated, as adolescents invent words, signs, and body language to discreetly talk with a friend. For a youngster on the autism spectrum who has been struggling just to understand common social cues, this change can be frustrating and incredibly difficult to understand. The best scenario is when language is "concrete and definite." Teenage conversations that use shortened terms or lingo are going to be very difficult for a youngster with Aspergers or HFA.

24. In so far as you can, keep your cool—they can’t handle our upset feelings. Walk away if you need to.

25. Instill the essential habit of a daily shower and clean clothes: peers, teachers, and future potential employers are very put off by poor hygiene. If possible, put your adolescent’s clothes on a well-organized shelf in the bathroom, near the clothes hamper.

26. Children still need structure, down time, soothing activities, and preparation for transitions.

27. Children with an autism spectrum disorder can be difficult to parent and to love even when they are young. Often, our children neither accept nor express love or other positive feelings in ways a non-autistic parent expects or finds most comfortable. Children’ behavior can be trying or embarrassing for us. Adding adolescence to the mix can make this dilemma even more painful.

28. Look for opportunities for a sheltered, successful overnight stay away from home with no parent. Examples: long weekend visits to relatives, a week or two of a carefully chosen sleep-away camp, taking a course on a college campus.

29. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for intellectually challenged adolescents—but may not realize our children need that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet our children’ needs.

30. Make sure thorough neuropsychological re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, a good transition plan; choosing an appropriate college or other post secondary program; proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.

31. Not all adolescents are ready for a residential college experience right after high school. To decide, use the evidence of how the adolescent did at sleep-away camp or similar samplings of independence, and look carefully at executive function skills (organizational skills). As an alternative, community colleges offer a lot of flexibility: easy admission, low cost, remedial courses if necessary, the option of a light course load, and the security of living at home. Some college disability offices are more successful than others at providing effective, individualized support. However, if the adolescent is living at home, you may be able more easily to sense trouble, step in with help, or secure supports your young adult needs to succeed.

32. Reading body language and understanding sweeping generalizations can also be quite frustrating. Therefore, adolescents on the spectrum benefit from systematic social training, where they are given the change to role play, study body cues and language, and practice interpreting new signals that may not have been evident in early childhood. I recommend speaking clearly, using a small amount of abstract terms, and directly communicating as much as possible.

33. Residential schools may be worth considering for some. The right fit can build tremendous confidence for the adolescent, give the moms and dads a break, and prepare everyone for the independence of the post high school years.

34. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to monitor your adolescent’s progress, to ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out, and to modify it if necessary. Because adolescents can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in four short years of high school, these meetings are critical. If an adolescent is doing very well, the team can agree to skip a month—but be sure to reconvene to plan the transition to the following year.

35. Seek out activity-based, practical social skills groups designed especially for adolescents. Participating in such a group, being accepted by group leaders and peers, is probably the most powerful way to allay an adolescent’s potential despair at not fitting in socially and not having any friends. The positive social experiences and new skills they learn will be assets for the rest of their lives.

36. Side by side conversations (walking, in the car) may be more comfortable for the adolescent than talking face to face.

37. Make sure the IEP provides for social skill learning/social pragmatic language. A good overarching goal is: “Robert will learn the social skills appropriate to a 9th grader …10th grader … to the workplace …etc.”

38. Some adolescents adjust o.k. to middle/high school with appropriate supports and accommodations. Others, however, just cannot handle a large, impersonal high school. You may need to hire an advocate or lawyer to negotiate with your school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

39. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the adolescent.

40. Teach laundry and other self-care/home care skills by small steps over time. Try to get the adolescent to take an elective such as cooking or personal finance at the high school.

41. Adolescents begin to see themselves as independent entities and often use this time in their life to forge new friendships and intimate relationships. For an adolescent with Aspergers or HFA, friendships can be a struggle. This youngster may not understand social cues, and may not know how to be someone's friend. They may feel the typical feelings of a first crush, but be uncertain on how to act on it. I recommend social therapy to help combat the frustration. Social training can help adolescents who are dealing with their disorder understand social cues, slang, and meet other kids who feel similarly about how to deal with new friends. In these social trainings, adolescents should be taught how to listen, and how listening and reacting appropriately can lead to stronger bonds. The parent should try to explicitly explain what the act of flirting is, by pointing it out on a TV show or movie.

42. Adolescents need to learn when to ask for help, from whom, and how. It’s very helpful to have someone such as a trusted guidance counselor whose door is always open, and who can coach the adolescent in problem solving.

43. Adolescents with Aspergers and HFA are less prepared than non-autistic adolescents for the new challenges of sexuality and romance. Some are oblivious; others want a girl or boy friend, but are clueless about how to form and maintain a relationship. Males especially may be at risk for accusations of harassment, and girls especially at risk for becoming victims. Teach appropriate rules, or see that another adult does. Look for supervised activities in which boys and girls can socialize safely together, supervised by a staff person who knows about autism spectrum disorders - and can coach appropriate social skills.

44. Tell your adolescent just what he needs to know, one message at a time, concisely.

45. The transition plan (part of the IEP) should address the skills that an adolescent needs to acquire while in high school, in order to be prepared for the kind of independent life he wants to lead after graduation. Many high schools are unfamiliar with transition planning, however—especially for college bound students. The more you know as a parent, the more you may be able to ensure that a solid transition plan is written and carried out.

46. What kind of living situation, employment, and transportation fit your adolescent’s picture of his/her future at age 18 or 25? Once the goals are set, where can the adolescent learn the necessary skills? Consider academic courses, electives, extracurricular activities, and additional services within and outside the high school (e.g. community college, adaptive driving school).

47. With or without autism, most adolescents become less willing to take a parent’s word or advice; so we need to hook them up with other trustworthy adults. If you want your adolescent to learn or try or do something, arrange for the suggestion or information to come from a trusted adult other than a parent (e.g., handpick your adolescent’s guidance counselor). Look for other good mentors: Uncle? Scout or youth group leader? Psychologist, social worker, peer mentor, “Big Brother,” social skills group leader? Weight room coach or martial arts teacher?

48. Yes, Aspergers and HFA adolescents do continue to grow and develop. You may get some nice surprises along the way, as you see the adolescent take an unexpected giant step toward maturity. I think of it as their neurons maturing on the vine! Maybe it’s just that they figure some things out, and get used to the feel of their new body chemistry.

49. You want input and ownership from the adolescent as far as is possible, but moms and dads can and should have input. You may need to have team meetings when the adolescent is absent, so you can speak frankly about your concerns, without fear that the adolescent may feel you lack respect for or faith in her/him.

50. Have plenty of patience – and take care of your mental health along the journey!

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

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