Environmental Triggers for Autism Spectrum Disorder

"What might be some of the environmental factors involved with autism spectrum disorders, and how would they interplay with genetics?"

The rate of diagnosed cases of ASD level 1 (high-functioning autism) grows each year. A number of experts believe that the rising Asperger’s rate is an epidemic that will continue to grow, and they claim that the cause of autism must be environmental.

Other experts argue that the increased number of cases is not due to an epidemic, but instead due to a better understanding of how to diagnose these children with symptoms that were previously missed. Still others claim that the rate of the disorder is not growing more now and would have been larger in the past if the current diagnostic criteria were in place.

Environmental Factors—

A variety of environmental triggers is under investigation as a cause (or contributing factor) to the development of ASD and other autism spectrum disorders, especially in a genetically vulnerable youngster:

1. Mercury: A major toxin to the brain is mercury in its organic form. But according to a report published in Pediatrics, there is no evidence that kids with ASD in the U.S. have increased mercury concentrations or environmental exposures. Though many moms and dads of kids on the autism spectrum believe their youngster's condition was caused by vaccines that used to contain thimerosal (i.e., a mercury-containing preservative), the Institute of Medicine concludes there is no causal association. Even so, many Autism organizations remain convinced there is a link.

2. Gluten and Casein: Another environmental factor may be associated with gluten and/or casein consumption. A popular hypothesis follows this logic:  Wheat gluten and casein contain proteins which break down into molecules that resemble opium-like drugs. Kids on the autism spectrum have compromised digestive systems (called "leaky gut"). Leaky gut syndrome means that a child’s intestines are unusually permeable, allowing extra-large molecules (e.g., proteins) to leave the intestines. Thus, instead of simply excreting these large opium-like molecules, ASD kids absorb the molecules into their bloodstreams. The molecules travel to the brain, where they induce a state similar to that of a drug-induced "high."

When wheat and casein are removed from the diet, the youngster no longer experiences the high, and his behavior and abilities radically improve. A corollary to this hypothesis states that when a youngster's preferred diet is mostly comprised of wheat and dairy products (e.g., pizza, crackers, milk, ice cream, sandwiches, etc.), that proves that the child is addicted to the opiate-like molecules and would benefit from the GFCF diet. In any event, if your child will only eat a few foods, and these select foods involve wheat and/or dairy, then you will want to have him tested for food sensitivities.

3. Pesticides: Exposure to pesticides during pregnancy may boost risk. In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers compared 465 kids diagnosed on the autism spectrum with nearly 7,000 “typical” kids, noting whether the mothers lived near agricultural areas using pesticides. The risk of having an autism spectrum disorder increased with the poundage of pesticides applied and with the proximity of the women's homes to the fields.

4. Organic Pollutants: Exposure to organic pollutants that have built up in the environment is another area of concern. For example, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs (substances previously found in electrical equipment, fluorescent lighting and other products) are no longer produced in the U.S., but linger in the environment. Particular types of PCBs are known to be developmental neurotoxins.

The Genetic-Environmental Interplay—

Researchers are focusing on how the interaction of genes and the environment play a role in autism. Among the findings so far is that the immune system functioning of the mother may play a role in the youngster's later development of an autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers took blood samples from 163 mothers – 61 had kids with an autism spectrum disorder, 62 had normally developing kids, and 40 had kids with non-autistic developmental delays. Then they isolated immune system antibodies (called IgG) from the blood of all the mothers. They took the blood samples and exposed them in the laboratory to fetal brain tissue obtained from a tissue bank. Antibodies from the mothers of kids with an autism spectrum disorder were more likely than antibodies from the other two groups to react to the fetal brain tissue. There was also a unique pattern to the reaction.

In an animal study, researchers then injected the antibodies into animals. The animals getting the IgG antibodies from mothers of kids with an autism spectrum disorder displayed abnormal behavior, while the animals given antibodies from the mothers of normally developing kids did not exhibit abnormal behaviors.

In another study, researchers found that levels of leptin (i.e., a hormone that plays a role in metabolism and weight) was much higher in kids on the autism spectrum than in normally developing kids, especially if the disorder was early in onset.

Critical Developmental Windows—

Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders are considered to be “developmental” disorders, meaning that disruption of specific maturational steps in the brain is thought to be prerequisite for developing the disorder. With many cases of autism spectrum disorders now routinely diagnosed before age 2, sensitive windows of developmental vulnerability must occur during the prenatal and/or early postnatal periods of development. Within those periods of development, there are likely to be narrower windows of greater risk for environmental exposures. Thus, it would seem that the prenatal and early postnatal periods should be a primary focus for risk of the disorder.

No single environmental factor explains the increased prevalence of Asperger’s or other autism spectrum disorders. While a handful of environmental risk factors have been suggested based on data from human studies and animal research, the most significant risk factors remain to be identified. The most promising risk factors identified to date fall within the categories of physical and psychological stressors, infectious agents, environmental chemicals, drugs, and dietary factors. However, the rate at which environmental risk factors for autism spectrum disorders have been identified through research has not kept pace with the emerging health threat posed by the disorder.

Additional research is needed, but perhaps more importantly, successful risk reduction techniques for autism spectrum disorders will require more extensive developmental safety testing of drugs and chemicals.


Motor Skills Disorder in Kids with ASD Level 1 [High-Functioning Autism]

"Is it common for children on the autism spectrum to be rather clumsy and to have problems with motor skills? If so, how can it be diagnosed/treated?"

Neurological in origin, Motor Skills Disorder (MSD) is a developmental disorder that impairs motor coordination in daily activities. Many kids with ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience deficits in motor skills development, which often manifest as abnormal clumsiness (although it may not be major enough to be considered a disorder in and of itself).

MSD is a result of weak or disorganized connections in the brain, which then translates to trouble with motor coordination. Movements are performed because the brain sends messages to the area requiring action. MSD is a result of weak or poorly structured neural pathways to the moving parts of the body.

Clumsiness is a matter of poor balance and gross motor coordination. The origin of this deficit is the vestibular system of the inner ear. The vestibule is an organ responsible for maintaining balance and coordination and is located beside the cochlea, which acts as a sound receptor. Although they attend to different information, the proximity of the vestibule and cochlea allows them to work together. But, if one system is not functioning well, the other is concurrently affected.

ASD children with MSD tend to have an overly sensitive tactile system that causes them to perceive the most gentle touch as objectionable. They may also have a very low pain-threshold or an automatic reaction of fear when touched (i.e., “tactile defensiveness”). This is a result of a sensory processing disorder, which is a problem in the way the child’s brain interprets information received from the senses. This issue (similar to that of coordination) originates in the vestibule, because all sensory information is transmitted to the vestibule before being sent to the cerebellum (i.e., the part of the brain associated with movement).

Kids with MSD often suffer with low self-esteem resulting from poor ability to play sports and teasing by their peers. The disorder can be extremely disabling both at school and in everyday life due to impairment of functioning. Young people with this disorder are also at risk for obesity due to the higher rates of physical inactivity.

Kids with MSD have a variety of symptoms depending on the age of diagnosis. Infants may present with non-specific findings, such as floppy baby (i.e., hypotonia) or rigid baby (i.e., hypertonia), and may be delayed in their ability to sit, stand or walk. Toddlers may have difficulty feeding themselves. Older kids may have a hard time learning to hold a pencil, throw and catch a ball, ride a bike, place a drinking glass on the table without spilling the contents, etc.

As children with this disorder age, they often avoid physical activities, especially those requiring complex motor behaviors (e.g., sports, dancing, drawing, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, etc.). This is due to the child’s propensity to fall or trip more often than others and their inability to complete motor tasks adequately. These children may have more bruises or superficial skin injuries due to being "clumsy." They may often feel unable to judge spatial distances, have difficulty with shutting off faucets, turning off devices, and tend to have trouble putting together puzzles or toys.


If you suspect that your youngster may suffer from MSD, consult with your doctor. The first step in diagnosis is conducting a complete physical, neurological, and motor exam in order to determine that other movement or neuromuscular disorders are not causing the problems. During this exam, the doctor will ask you about various major developmental milestones to try to understand just how "lagging" your youngster's development may be. The doctor may refer you to a child neuropsychologist for more extensive assessment with some of the following tools:
  • The Bender Gestalt Test is used to assess visual-motor integration and visual perception skills (e.g., whether the eyes and the parts of the brain related to vision communicate with each other appropriately). This test consists of nine figures that the youngster must copy.
  • The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency assesses the fine and gross motor skills of kids ages 4 to 14. These tasks often appeal to kids because they are similar to typical childhood activities (e.g., throwing and catching a ball, running, doing pushups, etc.). This test is the most widely used assessment of motor ability, and can be used on a wide range of young people, from able-bodied children to those with severe physical handicaps. 
  • Reitan-Indiana Neuropsychological Test Battery for Children, an assessment for kids ages 5-8 years, provides a measure of overall functioning and hones in on specific motor skills or impairments that may be present. A corresponding test for older kids (ages 9-14), the Halstead Neuropsychological Test Battery for Children, is also available.


Physical or occupational therapists can work with young people affected by MSD to develop and improve their physical skills and strengthen their muscles. Community-based services in the home or school-setting may also be beneficial. Also, "by-pass methods" can be used (i.e., special adaptations such as allowing an unlimited amount of time for HFA kids to take tests, providing modifications in requirements for handwriting, using specialty tools such as left-handed scissors, adaptive writing instruments that help these kids to achieve academic and occupational goals, etc.).

Targeted multi-sensory interventions include Sensory Integrative Therapy and Perceptual Motor Training:
  • Sensory Integrative Therapy teaches children how to properly absorb and sort information about sensory experiences (e.g., touch, body position, sound, how hard to bite down, how wide to open your mouth, etc.).
  • Perceptual Motor Training involves retraining the child's body to recognize and prioritize various sources of stimuli and respond accordingly (e.g., they may learn how to use certain muscle groups rather than others while walking or grasping things).

The course of MSD is unpredictable. For some autistic kids, the disorder essentially goes away after a while. For others, the lack of coordination continues through the teenage years and into young adulthood. Though early intervention is better than later intervention, treatment received as a grown-up can still help lessen the severity of symptoms.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Teaching ASD Children to Self-Manage Their Behavior

 "I need some useful behavior management strategies for a very out of control 6 yo boy with autism (high functioning). Thanks in advance!"

Teaching kids with ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to manage their own behavior allows parents to spend less time dealing with challenging behaviors at home. Managing your own behavior is called self-control. Self-control skills are used to help HFA children to pay attention to their own behavior. These young people can learn to monitor their own behavior and control their own actions through using self-control techniques. 

In order to help a child on the autism spectrum learn to monitor his own behavior, parents should ask themselves the following questions:
  • Are there any factors or challenges that my youngster faces that need to be considered before implementing a self-control plan?
  • Is my youngster able to make an accurate self-assessment of his behavior?
  • What goals do I have for my youngster in using a self-control plan?
  • What is it that interests or engages my youngster that may be used to begin a self-control program?
  • What is my youngster’s current level of self-control?

How to teach HFA children to manage their own behavior:

1. Parents should assess their youngster’s current level of self-control to accurately report on her behavior. For instance, the parent may ask the youngster as she sits watching television, “Did you pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket?” If the parent has just seen that the dirty clothes have not been put in the basket, yet the child responds that she did put them in the basket, the parent will know that her youngster currently does not accurately “assess” her behavior.

It’s easier to have a child assess behaviors around activities in which she is currently engaged. Some kids may not be able to accurately assess their own behaviors and may need to be taught how to self-assess prior to using a self-control program. Parents may need to teach their child to correctly report if she did or didn’t perform a task that the parent asked about (e.g., doing chores, completing homework, etc.).

2. Parents can identify what observable behaviors they want their youngster to learn to self-manage. Each step needs to clearly describe what the youngster should do. For instance, your son may be taught that when told to “get ready for dinner,” he should stop playing computer games, wash his hands, and take a seat at the dinner table.

3.  Once the behaviors have been identified, they are visually displayed for the youngster using photographs or drawings on a poster. The youngster is given a way to monitor her behaviors using a checklist or chart that shows the activity with a place to indicate whether she performed the step correctly (using a check mark, smiley face, sticker, thumbs up/thumbs down, etc.). Parents can laminate the chart or checklist and use a wipe-off marker so that it is reusable.

The goal of the chart or checklist is to teach the youngster how to independently engage in appropriate behavior – not to punish or withhold activities. It can be used to chart special activities that the youngster earns. Oftentimes, kids on the autism spectrum respond well to the use of an earned “special” activity if they complete the chart (e.g., having time on the computer). If the self-control chart includes a special activity, the youngster can choose the special activity. A visual representation (e.g., a photo or picture cut out from a catalog or magazine) of the special activity can then be placed on the chart as a reminder of what the youngster can earn when the chart is complete.

4.  The youngster is taught to engage in the desired behaviors and then to monitor his performance. Once the chart is prepared, the parent should review the chart with the youngster after the activity has occurred. The parent can review the steps that are listed on the chart and explain how the youngster’s performance will be marked (e.g., “The first picture shows ‘I put my dirty clothes in the laundry basket’. If you put your clothes in the basket, we are going to place a smiley face on the chart. If you did not put your clothes in the basket, we will not place a smiley face on the chart. Let’s see what happened. Did you put your clothes in the basket? Yes, you did. We can put a smiley face on the chart.”).

Once parents have reviewed the system with the youngster and they believe the youngster understands it, they should try it out the next time the activity occurs. During the activity, parents can remind their youngster of the behaviors on the chart. When the activity is over, they can help him mark the chart.

5.  Parents should provide positive attention or feedback to their youngster while she is learning self-control. When parents give their youngster feedback for using the chart, they should praise her for engaging in the behavior and the accuracy of her ability to self-manage. Over time, parents can gradually provide less assistance for using the chart. The goal will be to get the youngster to use the chart independently until she does the behavior easily and no longer needs the self-control system.

Self-control skills are designed to teach autistic kids how to engage in appropriate behavior, independently. Over time, parents should decrease their assistance and support their child to use self-control skills independently. If the youngster misses a step or does not complete the chart, parents can gently redirect him to complete the step and encourage him to try harder the following day or during the next activity.

When methods to teach self-control skills are carefully implemented, positive changes in behavior can be expected. Self-control skills are most effective when parents implement the self-control program systematically and monitor their youngster’s progress. When an autistic youngster has difficulty with the process or is not making progress, the self-control system should be reviewed, and additional instruction or new procedures should be implemented.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for September, 2013]

Hi mark, my 13 year old son aspergers. In the past and less so now he has felt extreme sensitivity to wearing certain clothes and shoes. He seems to be getting better with this. For the past 12 months though he seems to have a fixation on closing every door in the house. It either has to be wide open or fully closed. He cannot bear to think of it half closed and says this gives him pain in his head. This is driving my husband, my 9 year old daughter and I mad. He is up and down all day and night closing doors after us. My husband refuses to give in to his demands and it causes many arguments. I know this is genuinely upsetting my son but he said he cannot get out of doing it as it causes him pain. What can we do?

Dear Mark Hutten,

I am a Research Associate in Dr. Dennis Wall's lab at Harvard Medical School. We are months away from completing a mobile system for rapid detection of developmental delays and would like to discuss recruiting for our study through your community. With more community involvement, we will be able to finish work on an application that simplifies the process of detecting developmental delays. The study consists of uploading natural home videos and straightforward parent questionnaires. At this years International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), Dr. Wall received the prestigious Slifka-Ritvo Innovation in Autism Research Award for this clinical research.

We are seeking caregivers of children 7 and younger with or without a diagnosis of a developmental delay. It will take only minutes to participate, but will help ensure families everywhere get the attention they need as early and often as they need it. We would love to discuss how we can collaborate and reach out to your community as it is robust, well-rounded, and filled with caregivers who want to help one another.

Also, we have a "supporting organizations" tab on our website and would love to help get more traffic to your site by posting your organization's name, logo, and website in this tab if we move forward with this collaboration. Please let me know your thoughts.


My son has Aspergers and he has difficulty in making and keeping friends. Academically, he is very good  but I'm seeing some difficulty in maintaining the grades. He has trouble in comprehension and does good if given individual attention.  He does have a IEP but it is not helping him that much. Since he is capable of doing his work without assistance, he is not given any extra help. I strongly feel he is not getting correct motivation in school and i understand that one teacher cannot give individual attention to one kid is she/he has 29 more kids to take care. We decided to move to a new school district in hope that new place will have a new begining. And I do not want to make same mistakes  as I did in previous school.  Could you explain step by step process how he can get extra help from new school. I'm new to this and need some help. Appreciate your response.


So a new school year has started and I've already received a call about
lack of participation, didn't hand in the first assignment, and sleeping
in class. This is 3 days into the school year!! He tells me he doesn't
care, wants to drop out, school is stupid etc. I'm currently working
with psychologists at the school to determine if he is ADD. I've had him
placed in inclusive classrooms but he has already gotten an E on a
participation assignment! He just turned 15 and is now repeating 9th
grade at an alternative school. Does not want to go back to his home
school. I just don't know how to handle another year of this. I punish,
reward, you name it. Nothing works. He doesn't care.

A friend of mine suggests taking everything away from him. Problem is
that I've done that before. Did no good. He still failed. He tells me
punishing him doesn't change how he is. He just has no interest so he
doesn't bother. I've tried rewarding with things he likes, but I've
never been given the chance to EVER reward him. He never gets far enough
to earn it.

I don't know where else to turn but to just let my kid become a loser
and fail. But why do I have to let someone like that live in my house
and be a leech off of me?? I've spent thousands on lawyers, therapy,
meds. Still nothing. He is draining the life out of me and I want him
gone to see what is so great out there outside of school. I'm tired of
providing a warm bed, hot shower, and a nice meal all for nothing. What
am I supposed to do for the next 3 years??


Hey there. Thanks for adding me. My husband has Aspergers and I'm the Neurotypical wife. We just listened to your seminars and find it fits perfectly. Matt has never had anyone be able to put it into words like that and give him specific objectives. I've asked for a lot of the things you spoke on but it was conveyed differently through the seminars. Are you having any coming up or can we schedule a private counseling session or two with you? We are currently stationed in Jacksonville FL and I'm deployed right now but after the first of the year we could drive up.
We were at a very tough spot in our marriage. We just had our 1 yr anniversary last month and I've been gone for 3mo so it's been tough. Your book and seminars have been a saving grace. We appreciate them so much.


I am a school counsellor, a young boy 10 years old, with suspected Aspergers, by his teacher, has recently been referred to me for counselling. My concern is how to engage him in the counselling process. He doesn’t understand why he needs to come to counselling, and any initial attempts at engaging him in any activity have been met with resistance. Do you have any tips?


Hello Mr. Hutten,

I just stumbled across some of your workshop segments on YouTube regarding NT Spouses of Asperger's partners.  It is as if you wrote specifically about the dynamic of my husband and myself. 

I have been researching High Functioning Autism/Asperger's Syndrome for a few months and am relieved to have found the information.  My husband is "The Asperger's Loner" type and we've been through four marriage counselors.  The last counselor grew frustrated with us and said that therapy was useless unless my husband actually made an effort to do something...anything...towards participating. The therapist suggested I move on for my own sake as well as my children's. 

I've reached the end of my rope and am emotionally and physically spent after 31 years of this.  The pain expressed by my two sons, 11 and 16 years old, is really what made me decide that my husband and I should separate. I have them both seeing a family therapist who said it would be best to diffuse the tension in the house by having my husband leave.  The boys are sweet and caring, but frightened by their father's increasing detachment and over-involvement with his passion: film.  My husband is a film curator at a museum and works two film jobs and takes on freelance work to avoid coming home.

If there is stress of any sort or tension, he will dive back into work.  He works 7 days a week at his regular job plus weekend mornings at a second job. He also works 2-4 nights a week. His mom just died and he took a third job to avoid having to care for her.  I am the corporate admininstrative assistant/wife and do all financials, taxes, future-planning, child-raising, home and yard care, college visits with Junior, etc. He will work to earn $$, but cannot handle any other responsibilities involving contact at home.  I'm in the resentment phase even if he says he loves me (no sex for 9 years + no dialog + no dates + no help = none of my needs met = no relatable love).  I put my career aside to raise and protect my kids and his career/film passion has grown to the point of swallowing all of us whole.  Separation leaves me quite vulnerable financially, especially since he is in the not-for-profit world of museum curation.

I don't know where you live/work, but I'd love to get my husband connected to you online or in person or.... anything.  He probably won't pursue it if I drop the ball in his court, but I've been sending him the YouTube clips because I thought he might connect to the video images. I'm feeling like it's over for us, but I can't stand thinking of the world of hurt he's headed for while the rest of us run for cover.  He's a gentle giant, but he can suck the energy right out of our home the minute he walks in....


HI, thank you so much for your email! My son is almost 14 and has Aspergers (among other issues) but we are largely dealing with severe anxiety/depression and anger these days!  He was recently hospitalized for 8 days in June (which was horrible) and we are now on a day to day basis as far as school is concerned. He likes school, but it's like all of a sudden, he just can't seem to handle anything. Is this normal? He currently takes Risperdol, Intuniv and Cymbalta and things are a bit better, but we still deal with this imaginary "switch" that seems to suddenly flip where he'll be perfectly fine and happy and then the next second he's stressed out, anxious, and angry! It's very hard to see my sweet boy become this other "person" with cuss words coming out of his mouth and mean, spiteful words...and then, the switch flips again and he's back to normal.  I feel like it's only my son that deals with this, so looking for any insight on ways to best help him.
Thank you!


Dear Dr. Hutten,
I am the mother of a nine-year-old child. To Texas. The public education has not really worked out well and has not addressed his problems. He has had increased anxiety over the last year. We decided to move him out of the public education and found a small young private school that seems to be working well but doesn't seem to target his social skills problems. We are considering moving to Los Angeles Where if he found could talk to school however where little hesitant. We got good job offers for both my husband and I In LA. But it seems to be a big move for my family. What do you think? in your opinion do schools and more services make a difference for these children? 


Hi Mark, I am having a hard time teaching my Asperger’s daughter (Amelia who is 11) basic personal responsibility.  Particularly, getting herself ready for school in the mornings.  We’ve tried visual aids (a chart with what she should be doing at what times), prompting, we have maintained the same schedule since she began pre-K at 5 years old (and even before that), reward charts if she does everything herself, removal of TV/computer time if she needs continual reminders, and up to letting her miss the bus and get dressed in the car on the way to school.  None of these things seem to make any difference, she gets distracted ridiculously easy.  We’ve gone so far as to remove all the books and toys in her room (reading instead of doing what she is supposed to be is a constant issue) to no avail, she simply finds something else to do.  It’s amazing what she can find to do. Needless to say, while it is better than it used to be, she still has issues with time management.  Is this something that is just going to take more time and prompting?  We are kind of at a loss.

In addition, there’s the homework thing.  She is on Adderall XR to help with her attention issues, as well as Risperdal for anxiety.  She has a hard time focusing during class and, so far this year (today is the 6th day of school), is already having a hard time using her class time to do her classwork.  This  ends up coming home as homework, in addition to the homework assigned for the day.  She had an aide in the classroom through 3rd grade (she is in 5th this year), last year became challenging when her workload increased about halfway through the year.  I know she gets very frustrated, and feels that she can’t handle all of this work that she is being given.  While I think that she should still complete the classwork as well as the homework  after school (because she didn’t use her time wisely during class), it also seems like it may be too much for her.  I’m pretty sure she feels so frustrated and has decided she can’t handle it and shuts down in school and doesn’t even try.  The work itself is not particularly difficult for her, she’s a smart kid.  She does have an IEP, and I have been communicating with her teacher to figure out how to reduce her workload so that it is manageable while still making her accountable for her work. I guess my question is….where exactly is the line between punishing her for her disability (especially the extreme lack of focus) and making her accountable?


I first stumbled upon Mark Blakey’s “Asperger’s Test Site”, featuring Professor Simon Baron Cohen’s AQ Test, the first of August.  Since then, I’ve read up considerably on Asperger’s, and am completely convinced my 42-year-old gay partner is an Aspie.
I do substance abuse outreach work with inmates, parolees, and probationers through Alcoholics Anonymous Hospitals & Institutions Committee.  3 years ago, my partner wrote the local AA Central Office for a sponsor / outside support, and his letter was given to me.  We wrote back and forth, and then I started visiting him in prison every weekend.  We kind of connected from the first letter, but it wasn’t until he was released in March that I fully realized he was gay.  (He knew I am.)   I brought him home with me to my mom’s place, and then we got our own place, and have been in a relationship ever since. I’ve met his father once – a retired chemical engineer – whom I suspect may also have Asperger’s.  My partner, Chris, was the 5th of 6 children.  His mother died when he was an infant.  His dad later in life began taking Paxil for anxiety / depression.  I’ve heard horror stories from Chris about how his dad went through ballistic melt-downs frequently when he was a kid, and even beat him up so bad that he had to be placed in foster care for a year.  Chris was a Ritalin kid, and began smoking marijuana at 11, and acting out in school.  From there, there was a progression to hard drugs.  A steady parade of child psychologists, drug reahabs, mental institutions, more psych meds, and harder street drugs then led to trouble with law enforcement, stays at juvenile hall, jails and finally long stays in state prisons.
Over the 2-1/2 years I visited him in prison, I noticed that he was moody, sometimes withdrawn, introverted, uncomfortable in his dealing with others, and somewhat younger than his years in social maturity.  He did have trouble showing empathy, keeping eye contact, and staying out of depression / anxiety.  Pysch meds had never really worked on him.  He’d had trouble maintaining friendships and relationships.  You certainly know the pattern.
When I tried broaching the subject of Asperger’s with him and showed him the self-diagnostic test, his reaction was:  “You think I’m a retard!  I’ve always known I was different.  But there’s nothing wrong with me.  I looked at the self-diagnostic test and that website, and it was pure quackery!”
Somewhat down the road and he brought up Asperger’s again, asking me if it helped me to put a label on his situation, as if to categorize him.
He’s been incarcerated about 15 years out of his life.  He’s never really had much more than day labor, short duration jobs.  He’s been clean and sober about 3 years, starting just before I met him, which is good.  And he’s about ½ through his 1-year of supervision upon prison release from Probation.
Areas where I seek your advice
1.       In your book, you did suggest telling an adult about his apparent condition,  encouraging him to seek professional confirmation.  If he’s in initial denial, do you have suggestions of how to overcome that?  In Alcoholics / Narcotics Anonymous, the concept is about one alcoholic /addict (who knows from where he speaks) helping another.  Would it help having someone with Asperger’s from a support group, etc. broach the subject with him, possibly minimizing the perception of a “Normie” labeling him?  My objective is for him to gain understanding of himself, possibly see if there is some of this in his dad, and facilitate understanding, healing, and coping through techniques and training. 
2.       He sleeps with a body pillow of a Japanese anime cat character, which he talks to, plays with, and clings to.  I recognize that he doesn’t have to worry about abandonment, two-way communication issues, and acceptance.  He has stated that he has intimacy issues, and there has been no intimacy or overt displays of affection between us, but of course, I would like there to be.  I have no problem with the stuffed animals being part of the relationship; I would just like to be included.  This is something that apparently he has carried with him ever since he was a child, and even in prison, he had a “Linus” blanket. 
3.       We used to give each other a hug every time I saw him and departed on the prison yard, but now that we live together that’s stopped.  I have taken to asking him for a hug, then I’ve gotten them.  Like asking permission if I can touch him is a strategy to avoid his discomfort.  Any suggestions?
4.       Mark Blakey and Leslie Burbey have co-authored a book called “Emotional Master for Adults with Asperger’s”.  Are you familiar with it?  I just got your book today, so have yet to finish it. 
5.       There are a couple of iPhone apps I’ve come across – “Social Navigator” by Seven Minds Education, and “House Rules” by Jodi Picault – that may be exercises mainly designed for autistic kids.  Once I get Chris to open up to the likelihood that he has Asperger’s, and accept it, are there techniques / exercises you’d recommend to deal with avoiding getting triggered into melt-downs and anger, and getting out of it when it happens?  Also to get out of anxiety, OCD episodes, depression?
6.       Your book addresses hetero relationships, where the Normie is the wife.  Does that translate pretty well to gay relationships, too?  Do you have any specific lessons for gays?
Thank you so much in advance for your time!  I’m looking forward to studying the materials of yours I’ve just accessed today!


My son has always been "difficult". From the time he started prek Ive always received phone calls at least two times a week about his behavior. When he was 10 his father committed suicide, at the age of 11 he lost his vision and was diagnosed with brain cancer. He has been through treatment and phycological testing. It was a nightmare getting him to receive treatment. He is negative and yet he could be such an inspiration to others if he had a positive outlook. His attitude is poor, hes angry, hes depressed and hes only gotten worse. He is now 17, will be 18 in March. He doesnt want to do anything that will help in getting him through this new life he was given. He only does what he wants to, he isnt concerned about the next years of his life. He assumes he will live with us forever. Todays phone call, his teacher said they had an outing last night at a horse show. He had homework and instead of doing it when they got back he went to bed early. This morning my son told the teacher "I didn't do my work because it cut into my personal time" I wanted to draw an make jewlery".
He always has that mindset of he can do what he wants and doesnt have to follow rules. Always has had, no form of dicipline has helped. We are clueless what to do. Drs have stated they have never seen anyone like him. Need some advice!


Hi Mark, I have written to you before about your program.  It is so helpful.  When I find myself in the throws of an all out war with my 16 yo son, I reach for your ebook.  Your emails always seem to come at the most appropriate times, as well.  I even find your information and suggestions as well as those from other parents to be more helpful than the visits to his Social Worker. I plan on checking out the Online Support Services that I just read about.  I'm afraid to ask how long they've been around and I haven't noticed! Anyway - You are a Godsend!!  Thank you for your expertise at a price that all can afford! Diane


Hey Mark! I'm so thankful to have found your website. I am currently struggling with getting the proper diagnosis for my four year old son. He has been tested but given the label of ODD. We have been treating this for several months with no improvement. He has actually been in therapy for over a year with no improvement. We have tried Tennex, Zoloft, and now Folcilan. ( I'm sure I didn't spell those right lol) still meds haven't helped. The Folcilan has given us a little relief. He started kindergarten this year and we are 4 weeks in and today was our first good day. He was already placed in ISS his third week of school partially for violence but also for an inappropriate word and drawing (breast) His therapist office is wanting me to place him in a 28 day facility that will take him off meds and start from scratch. I'm curious if this is a good idea. When I read the article on your page about meltdowns it's exactly what I see. There are lots of other symptoms too that I see. His therapist office feels he is autistic on the high functioning side but say they are unable to diagnose. I would just appreciate any help at all. Thank you!!


In short, my son is diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive type.  “High Functioning Autism” or “Asperger’s Tendencies" have been tossed around by school and community psychologists.  He is definitely defiant, but it's more like ignoring rather than blatantly defying.  He only gets aggressive if I try to pressure him to do something.  He definitely does not intentionally annoy anyone as you describe with ODD.  He doesn’t choose to annoy people; he is just too busy with his own agenda to do anything other than what interests him.  This includes bathing, putting trash in the trashcan, doing his schoolwork, etc.

My son will be 19 in less than a month and I am very worried about his future.  He has been in brick and mortar public school, and several different virtual schools.

I would greatly appreciate if you could answer two questions for me.

1) Should I be taking him to a psychiatrist to be diagnosed or is there some other approach to getting help for my child?  He is on an IEP, but academically, he is at or above his grade level even though he has completed very little schoolwork since he was 9 years old.  He is on the IEP because of the ADHD diagnosis and “Asperger’s Tendencies” indicated by the school psychologist.

2) Although he has not been diagnosed with ODD, I am thinking of taking part in your OPS (Online Parenting Support) program.  Does this make sense with the things I have shared with you?  I truly have tried everything with him and if he doesn’t want to do something, he doesn’t care if I ask nicely, yell, threaten, beg, or cry.  He just seems to get annoyed that I am bothering him with things he thinks are my problems.


Hi Mark, 

My daughter Sophia was diagnosed in March this year with Aspergers when she was 4 and a half years old and of all the sites I have visited on-line since then I have to tell you how much I appreciate your site for all your wisdom you have in providing parents the most valuable information on this subject. I love reading your site and so appreciate the weekly emails.

My family lives in Regina, SK Canada and I was wondering if you ever travel here for conferences or have plans to, I would love to attend one of your seminars.
 Hello Mark-
 I recently came across your work on line. You are excellent.  Clear, direct, knowledgeable. Excellent!

I am a therapist here in Boulder Co.  I have worked with sexual abuse for 30 years, both on the receiving end and teens who commit offenses.  I also have been working with teens with dx of Asperger's, PDD-NOS, NLD, AD/HD.  Two were referred to me bout 8 yrs ago after committing and charged with a sexual offense.
I realized quickly that I had to take a VERY different approach with these guys.

Since then I have learned a good amount and move deeper into therapy for ASD youth not necessarily in the juvenile justice system.  Man, it is so rewarding, fun and challenging.

Okay, I stated group work by accident.  Had about 8 fellas for 1-2 years. One day I realized- maybe they want to meet each other!  (I had groups for AD/HD boys earlier in my career... can you imagine that! I do agree they have plenty in common and the differences too).

I asked Will in our meeting- "Hey, would you be interested in meeting another fella who experiences life and perspectives similar to you?"  "Okay"

The first day they met each other was amazing. Talk about connection!  "MenzGroup" (15-18yo) was born and has thrived for the past 2 years. We have rituals, and rules, and snacks too.  I stay away from all clinical/psychological terminology (eg- social skills, social cues, impulsive, oppositional...) to the best that I can.  They have been through so much by the time they reach this age, from torture by peers and torture by professionals who want them to be different (normal). They are immediately skeptical and ready to bolt when brought to see me by their parents or P.O.s.  I work with the families too, school personnel, probation officers, psychiatrists, etc.

We talk about everything they want to talk about. They bring in their models, class N trains, key collections, musical instruments, music recordings...
We also use real life situations (at the store, at school, at home, with sibling, parents. Plain 'ol out in the community situations.  We role play, set goals, practice good relationship building and maintaining them.

I know I am going on and on, just setting the stage.  We talk a lot about sex; feelings, urges , masturbation, partners (I am more concerned with healthy relationships than gender issues), fantasies and PORN.

Many people I come across in the field do NOT like to talk about this, don't know how, avoid it, etc. Slowly, I am seeing, in the offender treatment groups I am involved with, more talk and articles about these teens who "commit sexual offenses" and how destructive it is when they are charged and treated like a criminal.  It does not work, is hugely shaming and hurtful, and totally misses the important aspects of what is really going on for that kid.

What have you experienced?  I have a lot to say (and do say) about role of sex/porn for Asperger's guys, you?


RE: Controlling son-in-law with Aspergers won't allow us to talk to our daughter, and our daughter goes along with it...

Hi Andy,

This is a terribly unfortunate situation. I’m not sure this is fixable. My message here will be short and simple:

You will need to learn to “let go.” It would be a whole lot easier – and much less painful – to simply beat your head against a brick wall than to continue living this way. It’s beyond absurd!

Realize and accept the fact that you are not going to change your son-in-law. The more you butt heads with him, the more he will distance himself from you. I’m also very sure that he has brainwashed your daughter (in the fullest sense of the term).

The harder you try to bridge the gap, the more you are creating a gap. However, the opposite may very well be true as well: the less you try, the more likely they will narrow the gap. You are simply taking on too much responsibility for the relationship – LESS IN BETTER RIGHT NOW!

Keep quiet during tense situations. This requires major self-discipline. It may take some time to acquire this skill. The last thing he wants to hear is that you think he should do things differently. Also, I would stop all communication attempts immediately. As long as you play by his rules – YOU LOSE!

Tell them that you cannot continue to live this way. You respect the rules to his game, but you are not willing to continue to play that game.

It’s just that simple. If you make it more difficult than this, then you are back to square one (again).

Give this some time to work. It may take years for them to come around.

As you doubt my advice (which you will), remind yourself that your way hasn’t worked so far. The more you keep doing what doesn’t work, the harder it will be to turn things around some day.

I wish I had a better plan, but I’m sure a better plan is not available. You will do well to trust me here and follow my advice.

This situation is a lot like “trying” to sleep. When you can’t sleep, you try harder to get to sleep, but the harder you try, the longer it takes to fall asleep. When you stop “trying” to fall asleep, you drift off. Trying harder works against you. The same will be true with your relationship to your daughter and son-in-law. Trying harder maintains the gap.

Grieve the loss of your daughter and son-in-law. Move on. Pray. Trust.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


 I have watched a number of your videos and really enjoyed them.  You seem to be one person who really gets it.  While I myself do not have Aspergers I believe my son Brian, my ex-husband Jason and my Dad all seem to have Aspergers.  Firstly my Dad.  He is 76.  He has 0 friends.  He is highly intelligent, esp in history.  My parents are still married.  He is extremely socially awkward and appears unaware of it.  He has many many tics for lack of a better word.  My Mom never worked when we were kids so we were forced to accommodate his every whim.  My Mother also forced us into submission.  I believe it was her way of protecting us as the meltdowns were ugly.  Imagine any adult that goes through life and always gets his way.  He has 0 friends.  Secondly, my ex.  I always said everybody loves Jason.  Spaz.  Couldn't seem to help himself.  The dog was afraid  of him.  Also, very intelligent.  Very manipulative.  When he didn't get his way firstly I would get the silent treatment, followed by numerous threats and then it got even uglier.  I could of possibly worked it out with Jason if it weren't for the inlaws from hell.  I thought nothing positive would come from that environment.  I left.  I always could look after myself.  Lastly, and most importantly Brian.  I have 2 kids.  One boy and a girl Kelly.  They are close in age, 25 and 23 and always have been and still are very good friends.  Brian is the older.  I see no sign of Aspergers in Kelly.  At the moment they are both extremely angry at me.  Brian was playing his father and I off each other, this included the new wife as well.  At one time I told him I was happy he had 2 mothers as I could use the help.  That put a bit of a halt to that for awhile.  He informed me he was going to take Engineering and he and his girl would live with me for a small fee. I told him I was proud he was going into Engineering and that if he was smart enough to pass Engineering he was more than smart enough to figure out how to pay for it.  He is doing so at this time.  He was 22 at that time.  The other one was asked to move out at 21.  She was told that if she is old enough for sex, she is old enough to pay her own hydro bill.  She now works and pays her own bills.  I won't take anymore of your time.  I love my kids.  They will come around because I know they love me and they know I love them. I need help and advice so when they come around I am ready.  I have no family support.  I am very open to advice.  Sincerely,  Penny Yeomans  PS, Brian was an oddly exceptionally well behaved kid until I left his dad.  He did suffer a lot of depression.  He doesn't drink or do drugs.  He claims he is allergic to alcohol.  Thank-you Jesus is all I have to say about that.  There is too much to tell you. I will eventually get Brian in to be assessed.  He is very gifted in Math.  He sees the world in patterns.  He was 16 months old when he was in the hosp for his bladder.  They, for whatever reason had a psychologist assess him and they told me he was years ahead of himself in Math.  They returned him to me without fixing his bladder problem and I raged all the way home about the fact he didn't talk, still pooped his pants and they were testing his Math abilities.  It goes on and on for years.  Nobody ever mentioned the word Autism.  Thanks,  Penny


My husband and i are united in the battle to handle both our daughter’s mental illness, as well as other medical issues; thus, years ago, we were able to get the Power of Attorney for Property and Personal Health, plus
we had our daughter with us when we signed up for the Henson Trust.
In reference to our daughter running away, we had to interfere with our POA at the bank that she dealt with. To the credit of this particular bank( not all financial institutions are as accommodating),
we managed to cancel her account there and set up a joint account at another financial institution. With this in place, we have control of any of her incoming money, and she requires two signatures
to withdraw any money. We make sure that she has everything that she needs and provide her with a modest amount of spending money each week.
Where we live, children need to attend school until age 16 according to provincial law. Our daughter is in her late 30’s and on a disability pension, but she is high functioning, to the point that I felt like a private-eye
in attempting to catch her to giver her the help that she needed.
Clinical depression information I obtained from my local mental health office, where I served on the Board of Directors for eight years.
Electronic communications with all with whom I need to  converse, is my greatest aid.

 RE:   Organization skills for autistic adults


The Special Education Service Agency has a grant program called the Alaska Autism Resource Center (AARC), which provides information, referrals, training and consultation for individuals on the autism spectrum, their families, caregivers and service providers across the state of Alaska.  You can see more about the agency and the AARC at http://sesa.org.

Providing information is a key component of the AARC mission, and one method the program uses is information packets designed for parents, teachers and paraprofessionals.  These packets contain brochures, booklets and other items that we have created or purchased through various organizations. We estimate that we distribute 100 packets of each type every year. We are exploring the concept of doing this packet as both a paper version, and as a pen drive (with links, not necessarily full text).

We are in the process of creating a packet that will have information specifically for adults on the autism spectrum. We are gathering information and articles, and we are interested in the above-referenced article from your website.

We would like to include this article in the packet, for a total of 200 copies of each article over a two-year period.

Thank you so much for your consideration--


Hello Mark,

My 14yr old definitely has ODD -- Finally, a description to his behavior.  For years we (my husband and I) have been struggling w/Jeffrey's behavior.  This morning, a simple "No" turned into him telling me "F U" throwing a sneaker at me.  Saying he wasn't coming home on the bus and will walk to where he wants to go after school, with or without my permission.   We are at our wits end with him.  He walks around the house cursing and knocking things over.    Saying he doesn't care about this or that.  And never listens.  He won't eat any meal outside of his room.  He rarely joins in on family functions.  He will destroy things without care.  We went to therapists & doctor's and honestly no one really get's him or understands what we are going through.  They tried to prescribe anti-depressants, but that is not the answer we are looking for.   We just want a caring child who behaves and speaks appropriately.
I have just read your first book chapter. I am an MD and ENT here in Colombia.  I have a high suspition my 21 yo son has Aspergers, i have been w many specialists for him but no one told me this could be the problem.
At 9 yo he was tested for a IQ and it was 151 mostly by his language abilities. Despite this fact, during teenage it was really a complete challenging period for us as parents. Although he has improved a lot in personal and social actitude still is struggling to find his career way.
We always come to the point of lack of interest or feel rejected by peers or confronting his teachers.
Now reading all this and going through a process of psycological evaluation for pilot it scares me if this is a safe path for him to pursue knowing the limitations he can have. This is my question for u and if you  believe it could be too dangerous for him.
On the other hand to thank you for this complete resource for us like parents of very particular kids.


Dear Mr Hutten,
I live in Cardiff, UK, and purchased your book "living with an Aspergers partner or spouse" after starting to experience serious difficulties in my marriage. I now have an official diagnosis of "high functioning autism" (Aspergers is no longer a recognised condition) coupled with "adult attention deficit disorder". I found the book very helpful and it explained most of the problems which I experienced in the marriage.
Unfortunately the marriage could not be saved (although I tried as best I could) and my wife is now in the process of divorcing me on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviour". She feels that my behaviour is unlikely ever to change and that divorce is the best course to take. There is little I can do now except cooperate. I do have two lovely daughters who I see regularly.
However I am now looking to the future. I have met a young woman (through a church choir) who has Aspergers. She has three children who have all been taken away from her by social services as she has been deemed unfit to look after them. They live with her ex-husband and she is rarely allowed to see them. Her Father is dead and her Mother has disowned her. Unfortunately she was taken advantage of by several men earlier this year and as a result is expecting a baby in December. She does not even know at this stage who the Father is. She is also in a great deal of debt. She has been told that when her baby is born it will be taken away. She is in a desperate situation and has nobody to support her. We get on well together and I am beginning to feel that we could support each other, so I am wondering about the possibilty of us getting together eventually. I am writing to ask your advice about this. Have you come across such a relationship? Can such a relationship work, or would it be a recipe for disaster? I am wary of becoming too involved as I am worried that such a relationship would not work. I would be interested to hear any advice you can give me on this.

Dear Mark,
Firstly I wanted to say hi, I run the Aspergers Test Site and its always great to reach out to fellow bloggers.

Recently one of the subscribers to the Aspergers Test Site mailing list contacted you about broaching the possibility of Aspergers in their partner. You gave him this quote:

"If one has Aspergers, it is better to know than not to know. If you have Aspergers and don’t know, it affects you anyway; if you do know, you can minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that one has Aspergers, one often fills that void with other, more damaging explanations such as failure, weird, disappointment, not living up to one’s potential, etc."
I wondered if you would give me permission to quote you in an article, im writing about how to broach the issue of getting an Aspergers Diagnosis with a loved one?
Also I noticed you have several books. Would you be interested in doing a cross promotion with your mailing list. I have one book for adults with Aspergers and I also run a magazine called Autism Parenting Magazine and we are always looking for new readers. Let me know your thoughts.


 Hi Mark,
I have been enjoying the wit and wisdom in your podcast on Parenting Defiant Asperger Teens.  I had been looking for assistance for my teens to be able to interact more meaningfully with my new 16yo step-son who was diagnosed with Aspergers in his early primary school years. 

A happy upshot of finding your podcasts available online today was that listening to them I was struck by how similar the outbursts were to my step-daughter's.  Her behaviours of concern have been escalating since we announced our engagement in February this year.  We thought things were going fairly well until escalating again recently.  Alot of the very words you use in examples of parents and the adolescent are word for word.
My younger son Mario, who just turned seven last week,  has recently been diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum. (As I'm sure you know, the new DSMV has changed yet again, and aspergers  syndrome is now generalized back under the autism diagnosis.)  I am facing a neglect charge in the state of Maine with the Department of Health and Human Services,  (DHHS),  partially due to my son Mario's behaviors. (I'm opposing the negligence charge) As far as they are concerned, I am being negligent as I cannot manage his behaviors. Additionally, I have an older son Sal who turned 10 in June, whom often targeted Mario with aggression, due to the fact that he thought I was favoring his younger brother. As I've said previously, I have sent a link from your newsletter to my lawyer, so he can also understand the autism factor, especially in dealing with behaviors.  With luck, he will be able to take some of your knowledge and present it to the court in such a way that they can also understand.  I'm a year out of an abusive 15 year marriage that both my children have suffered from in various ways. Instead of going into much more detail, I'll end my explanation here.

I'm not looking for pity nor for judgment, but actual help that I can use to better my situation with myself and my boys and to bring them home. I have tried several programs with social services, however because of  cutbacks and insurance issues, (my children weren't progressing quickly enough),  they were not as helpful as they could have been. Your book and your website, along with all the things I keep discovering on it have been helpful to me.
My husband and I live in Johannesburg, South Africa and have not been able to find many resources here that can help us and now our situation has become very serious in the sense that we are both completely exhausted and quite frankly I, personally, am for the first time feeling hopeless that our situation will improve or work out. Let me explain briefly.

We took 4 year old twin sisters in foster care in May 2010 (about 3,5 year ago) who turned 5 years old about a month after they came to live with us. Until that time they had spent their whole life in an orphanage. Therefore they suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder and are very affected by being institutionalised for so long. They have also been diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety but there is not much awareness of RAD here and therefore that is something we have learned about ourselves from the internet but the girls show a number of the symptoms.

This year has been particularly difficult but the girls started primary school last year and are repeating Grade 1 this year (which I am not surprised about due to their background) but initially they seemed to be doing ok in the mainstream school with the extra support available (extra reading etc). However the one girl – who has always been a bit more naughty started getting into trouble the second half of last year for steeling etc. at school. This started again early this year and in March I had to go and see the principle and the result was that we transferred her to a special boarding school (boarding from Monday to Friday) which is for children with severe behavioural issues (and is familiar with attachment disorder).

The other girl who stayed at home (because her history has not been as "bad") and continued in her normal school started acting out in July (after we came back from overseas where we visited my family for a month) and has now burnt all bridges and is going to join her sister in the boarding school in the beginning of October which will hopefully give my husband and my self (and our 4 year old son and my husbands 12 year old son who sometimes stays with us) some break and enable us to handle the girls better when they come home over the weekend. 

This is only a brief introduction and of course a lot of information missing but the reason for the urgency is that the girls are in our foster care and the contract will be up for a renewal in June next year and the way I'm feeling at the moment is that we should not renew because I feel the girls are beyond any further help. And that brings the whole guilt of bringing more rejection on the girls on top of all the other issues they are dealing with – in addition to the heart brake it will cause our sons, us and the rest of our family and friends that have learned to love the girl over the past years. 

Since we are taking the action of sending the other girl to join her sister at the boarding school I'm hoping that we will manage to get some clarity on the situation (and regain some of our sanity)  but I feel like we need some serious assistance to help us make the right decision or at least to take steps in the right direction for all of us. 


Thank you for all the information that I received from about Aspergers. Do you have any information like the one you provide in English for Spanish Speaking parents?  I work at a school and we have several parents with Asperger's kids and would like to get more information like the one you provide in English.  I will really appreciate your respond on this.  Thank you for all you do!


 Hi Mark- I subscribe to your newsletter and read it religiously.  So much of the advice you offer applies directly to our life with our 10 year old son, Jonah, who was diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD when he was 6 years old.  I am very appreciative of the expertise you offer weekly!

Jonah has been in a weekly Social Skills Group through a local private organization that specializes in Autism since his diagnosis, and also participates in a Social Skills Group once a week at school, as part of his IEP.  Socially, he is doing very well.  He has lots of friends and prefers, above all else, to spend time with them.  

Jonah excels academically and participates in the Gifted and Talented program at his school.  He always scores very highly on standardized tests, and gets good grades on his report card in all areas, with the exception of organization.

Jonah is in fifth grade now, and where we have struggled with him since he began school, is with homework.  As the years have gone on and school has gotten more fast-paced, the struggles have progressively gotten worse.  Each evening when we finally get him to sit down at the table to start his homework after MUCH effort on our part to even get him to the table, he screams and cries and whines saying "I can't do it. It's too hard. Why are you making me do this?" etc.  Once he finally calms down, after 15-20 minutes of crying, my husband or I have to sit with him the entire time in order for him to complete the assignments.  He is perfectly capable of doing the work and often when he gets started he finds that it is actually quite easy for him.  Getting him to that point, however, is a knock-down-drag-out battle.  Night after night, this happens and my husband and I are exhausted.  Middle school starts next year, and we are terrified of what that will bring to the homework struggle.

Jonah has always had issues with anything that seems even remotely difficult to him, as he expects perfection immediately.  I suspect this is what the issue is with homework, as well, but I am at a loss with how to get him past this. Any advice you can offer is much appreciated. Thank you, Mark!

Hi Mark,

I apologise in advance, because I'm certain this will be a very long email. But I am hoping you are able to help me, I am extremely desperate. I will start from present and work my way back in time.

I have lost my 13 1/2 year old son, Brodie ! I have only seen him for three days out of this month of September, and that was 3 weeks ago. He is with his father by his own choice and does not wish to come home, nor even to see me or his sister. I have had some telephone contact with him, but not terribly positive, he usually answers my call, not by saying "hello mum", but "yeah". And I usually end up in tears because he tells me and his sister, he does not want to see us and is not ready to yet. And his father is not helping the situation either, re enforcing to him that, it's ok you are fine with me, mum can't make you go home or do anything you don't want to do, you don't have to see her if you don't want to, I will not force you to, and she can't get the cops to take you home either.  I don't think he is even encouraging Brodie to want to see me. I have had a mental heath plan done for Brodie to attend a psychologist as well, but he refuses to go, and cannot understand that this is part of the solution for all of us to understand, function and get better.

Brodie has an Auditory Processing Disorder, as well as Dyslexia and bad Working Memory. He has not been formally diagnosed  with Asperger's, but I think at the time when testing was done, which was quite a few years ago, he did not have enough signs. But since the onset of puberty, and especially lately more have become apparent. With fixation on gaming, nothing else matters, his lack of emotion, to show empathy or understand feelings, and to have massive meltdowns over the smallest things,and or not getting his way, and other symptoms.

I have always had my children do chores, and have to moreso now, due to myself now having a physical disability, and being a single parent as well. But I think it teaches them to be self sufficient as well. They are written up on a roster, and reward of electronics come afterward if they are done. Brodie does not like this and a lot of the time he will attempt, but does not finish. His father however, refuses to do such a schedule, and has never made Brodie do anything. I also have a locked door room for the electronics to be kept. I have always been firm with my "no" can't have, and do not give in.

Due to having a 2 storey house, and unable to repeatedly go up and down stairs to call Brodie, I am required to yell out to him from downstairs, but also loud enough through his closed door. And sometimes I do get frustrated and yell (raise my voice)to him, like to get out of bed 5,6,7 times or more in the morning to go to school.

His father has not played an active role in his life or been interested in it much. Just has had Brodie every other weekend. It has been me that has taken care of him, all his medical,  testing, specialists, schooling, including bulling issues in previous years. He has no understanding of Brodie's disability, and thinks something is wrong with him, why he doesn't get stuff, and wants to toughen him up ! He think's Brodie is too much of a "soft cock", as he says. And has told me people say to him, "what's wrong with Brodie", as in, him being withdrawn an not wanting to socialise and try new things. I have to keep reminding him I have been trying for years to make Brodie self sufficient, but like lots of things said, falls on deaf ears.

Brodie has indicated for a while he would like to spend more time with his father. His father however has his own bachelor lifestyle, and repeatedly said it would be too inconvenient for Brodie to live with him. We did do a trial of week about, and Brodie liked that, and wanted it, but I ended it, due to knowing his father did not really want it, and his father's residence, which was him still sharing a house with his ex of 4 yrs and someone else  as well. Him and the ex get verbally abusive with each other, and I did not want Brodie around that, nor do I want him to think it is acceptable for men to speak to women in that manner. Brodie resumed living again at home with then back to only seeing his father again every second weekend, which eventually flared up again, because he didn't like it, and having to do chores etc. what he does at home, would have an anger tantrum grab the ph and call his father and have a meltdown, and said he can't handle it anymore.

Brodie has threatened to runaway from home as well, and did during the last school holidays, but returned after a few hours. I do not want him to do this again, I have not insisted his father bring him home against his will for fear he will do this, as I want Brodie safe as well. Brodie has no problem with doing what his father asks, including getting out of bed early in the morning for school apparently ! As his father gloats to me ! But I try to get through to him that of course Brodie is, because he wants to be good for him so he can stay with him ! Brodie's father has always used me as punishment, saying to Brodie, if he does not do as he is told or what his father wants to do then "I'll take you home to your mother ". And same in this case.

Brodie's father and myself were only together for 18 months out of Brodie's life, and separated when Brodie was about 4 yrs of age. We have no legal parenting orders in place as we have always been amicable with access arrangements with Brodie.

My friends have advised me to wait it out, saying his father will grow tired of the situation and Brodie will slip up sometime with trying to please his father. But I don't know if I can, it is killing me not seeing him or being able to hug and kiss him. I love him so much and miss him so much. And so does his sister.

I desperately need your help ! I don't know what to do ! I don't know what I can do to get Brodie back, or to get him to want to talk to me or let me see him. I find myself writing this email to you at 1.30am in the morning after lying in bed crying, not able to get to sleep.


 Your description of the SPD fits my 6 year old girl perfectly. Your research into the matter is very complex and in depth, and it helped me tremendously to understand her. We live in Northern Virginia area, and I was trying to find a good speech pathologist/therapist who could officially diagnose her and work with her. If you have any recommendation I would greatly appreciate it. And also, could you point me towards resources/studies that I could read and inform myself as well. I need and I want to help her so much, if I could find the right way to do it.


  Beginning many years ago, my son, who was adopted from Russia, was very attached to his blankets.  At first, we weren't concerned, thinking that the blankets merely offered comfort to him, comfort that he didn't get as a baby in an orphanage.  Starting last year, at just about the same time as my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer, this "attachment" took on a much more of an obsession than merely an attachment.  Over the past year, he has stolen blankets from my next door neighbor, a friend (when we stayed overnight at her house), from our church, from a fellow Boy Scout on a campout, from a skiing lodge when the Scouts went skiing, from a mission trip location, and finally right before my husband passed away, from a neighbor's house (someone he didn't even know) in the middle of the night.  He was brought home in a police car, in handcuffs.  He was charged with a felony and tresspassing.  For several months he had to wear an ankle monitor, but when we went to court, the judge ordered him to go to a residential treatment facility.  He had been seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist regularly during ALL of these things, seemingly to no avail.  Of course, now that he is in a residential treatment facility, the opportunity to steal blankets simply does not exist.  The treatment team thinks he is making great progress and he may return home next month.  I have had a security system installed, but I am petrified that he still has the obsession.  Our psychiatrist told me that obsessions are the hardest to "cure."  He has already been told by our lawyer that IF this behavior cannot be controlled, he will most likely end up in prison OR shot as an intruder into someone's home.

I just do not know what to do.  We probably have 10-15 blankets in our home that he can have, but the need for a "different" one seems to be so deep rooted, most likely due to the lack of bonding and cuddling that he did not get as a baby.  Would hypnosis work?  ANY suggestions you have to offer would be most welcome.  I have read your articles with great interest for about 18 months now, but I have never seen any issue such as ours.
We are struggling more with Meltdowns at school.  Oh, we have them at school and at church occasionally but my bigger concern is with school.  My child ranges more as a High Functioning Autistic child (the school once referred to him as Asperger's) but I think he is a little more significant than that.  As he doesn't have the language skill set that most Asperger's children seem to have.  Do you think that your program could help with him not having meltdowns at school?? 
As that is where I am at the end of my rope, as you know if these behaviors are too much they will say he is not in his least restrictive environment and move him to be with students that are much lower functioning than he is.
 My grandson age 9 for the last 4.yrs has had a challenging time. Dr appts assessments , rx and change in rx.  Last year his trouble really ramped up at school. Before the year was out, he was moved to a smaller school. Already last week he had such a violent situation they won't allow him back until , well his mom is not sure. The social worker came explained to him that he will be temporarily home schooled 2 hrs a day in a public place and attend a 3 hr per day class designed for his situation . My daughter is ok with the 3 hr class she wanted him in there last yr, but the school assured her they could handle it, how this is where she is at.  The social worker advised her they could even press charges on him for his violent reaction but that they would not . My daughter is frustrated with that for she feels both her and my grandson are being treated unfairly. However my one question is, he does very very well in all situations but at school where neither her or I are at. We don't have much issue with him at home , errands , playing with friends etc .


 Hello, I have sent you a few emails over the last few years.  I am starting (for the second time) your online book I purchased - my aspergers child even though the last counselor told me my child has full blown narcissism and not aspergers.  I don't know what else to do.  I sit here reduced to tears because all I do is yell at my child and I really don't want to be around him.  I just torture myself with guilt, but I really don't want to be anywhere near him.  I had him live with my sister for about 9 moths and that gave my family a break. (my sister now understands what I go through and she by herself had a very difficult time with him but at least there were no other kids around that he could torture) My younger son got a much needed break.  He went from throwing up  2 or 3 times a week to not throwing up at all.

Now here I sit still not knowing how to handle my child. And my younger child is having the same physical signs of stress.  My older child is verbally brutal and spews venom.  Last time I tried the book, it - I don't know just didn't work.  I mean I didn't stay with it.  So I am trying it again.  I am not the best reader.

My child with whatever he has is perplexed as to why others are mad at him or offended by him even though I go to great lengths and explain in great detail why they are mad at him.  I have to scream so loud it hurts my throat to get him to realize the impact of his behavior on others.  And as I'm sure you already know, I am not very nice to him.  I tell him I don't want to talk to him at all.  And I tell him why and we always have two very different versions of events that occurred.

It's very hard for me to sit and read, but maybe I can do it this time. My son is 14-years-old, a freshman, he has good grades and lots of friends,(although I suspect if anyone of them had to do any work with him regularly he would lose some of them),he breaks something in the house about once a week and he is clumsy.  I divorced his dad who gave my son the same gene that he had.  He has since died from what is most likely effects of drug and alcohol abuse.  I can't divorce my son.  I am just wiped out.  I won't even get started on why my current husband thinks.


I have a 15 year old son with asperger's who has the most incredible anger issues. He is receiving counselling, but none of the strategies they give us seem to make any difference!

The problem is there is never any warning of when his anger will erupt and therefore no time to prevent it happening! There are also no specific triggers! It can be anything from something happening at school, his brother annoying him (just by breathing!), or me!

He is very, very abusive and calls me the most disgusting names, afterwards he is always devastated and extremely remorseful! I am at my wits end with worry for him and total exhaustion for me! He is very intelligent and has a very good insight into his condition, I think this is sometimes to his detriment!


Dear Mark,
I am in the midst of legal proceedings to  finally sorting out my sons contact with me.

Whilst I recently got more Direct Contact with him via a court order. My EX was furious with, (as she tried in court to reduce ALL my contact). But as the In Direct contact was by agreement between us, she acted unilaterally and reduced it to 17% of what it was before the hearing. It is obvious that she did this to punish me for getting more Direct Contact with our AS son.

I am now seeking via the court that the original in direct contact be reinstated. My Ex is now telling the court that it is in our son's "best interests" to have such a little amount of In Direct contact with me, despite our son saying he wants more contact, both; Direct and In Direct.  I need some scientific data to support my position, so I get to speak to my son daily, as opposed twice a week as she allows now.

She refuses to allow him his own phone or let him take his iPad with him (so he could skype me) so any In Direct contact is always controlled through her.

Additionally, with his AS, routine is important to him. Even though we had established a daily routine for over two and half years, she disregarded it in the blink of an eye to get back at me for her perception that I "won" in court.


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