Coping with Divorce: Help for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips for helping my son with high functioning autism to cope with my recent divorce. He's taking this really hard to say the least."

For all kids, divorce is often stressful, sad, and confusing. But for children with ASD level 1, or High Functioning Autism (HFA), divorce is especially problematic due to their difficulty with transitions and dislike for routine changes. Unfortunately, divorce may be the most disruptive event in a "special needs" child’s life.

Research on divorce shows the following:
  • stresses resulting from the life changes surrounding the divorce make kids more vulnerable to physical and emotional illnesses, especially when moms and dads continue to fight over custody issues
  • kids of divorced parents are more likely to have health problems, to participate in more risky and antisocial behavior, and to be at higher than average risk of school failure than are young people from two-parent, non-divorced families
  • kids of divorced couples are more likely to live in families experiencing poverty or difficult financial circumstances after the divorce

Studies are showing that there is more confusion and disruption during a divorce – and the effects can last much longer – than previously thought. Some research suggests that HFA kids of divorced parents have more difficulty establishing mature emotional relationships when they become grown-ups.

Parents usually feel uncertain about how to give their “special needs” kids the right support through a divorce or separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time – and help your child emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong. It is very possible to make the divorce process and its effects less painful.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Helping your youngster cope with divorce means providing stability in your home and attending to his or her needs with a reassuring, positive attitude. It won't be a seamless process, but the tips below will help:

1. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings. You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings rather than dismissing them. Also, inspire trust by showing that you understand.

2. Although strong feelings can be tough on children, some reactions can be considered normal. Sadness about the family’s new situation is normal, and sadness coupled with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness is likely to become a mild form of depression. It’s natural for kids to feel anxious when faced with big changes in their lives. Your children may express their anger, rage, and resentment toward you and your ex-spouse for destroying their sense of normalcy.

3. Be age-aware. In general, younger kids need fewer details about a divorce and will do better with a simple explanation, while older children may need more information.

4. Kids have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your kids of your unchanging love.

5.  Conflict between moms and dads (separated or not) can be very damaging for children. It’s crucial to avoid putting your kids in the middle of your fights, or making them feel like they have to choose between parents.

6. Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members, and encourage your kids to do the same.

7. By providing structure and routine that your HFA child can rely on, you remind her that she can count on you for stability, structure, and care.

8. Be polite in your interactions with your ex-spouse. This not only sets a good example for your children, but can also influence your ex to be gracious in response.

9. Be patient. HFA children struggling with divorce may seem to “get it” one day – but be unsure the next. Treat your youngster’s confusion or misunderstandings with patience.

10. For all children, divorce can feel like loss (e.g., loss of a parent, loss of the life they know, etc.). You can help your HFA child grieve and adjust to new circumstances by creating social stories around “dealing with change.”

11. Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, you may need to pick and choose how much to tell your kids. Think carefully about how certain information will affect them.

12. Help your children find words for their anger and sadness. It’s normal for HFA kids to have difficulty expressing their emotions. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.

13. Let your children know that, even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both mom and dad.

14. Let them be honest. Some HFA kids might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. If they aren’t able to share their honest feelings, they will have a harder time working through them.

15. Don’t be critical of your ex-spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events (e.g., infidelity), but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the “blame game.”

16. If you often find yourself locked in battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose at hand – raising a happy, healthy child.

17. If you can keep the long-term goals in mind (e.g., your kid’s physical and mental health, education, etc.), you may be able to avoid disagreements with your ex about daily details. Think ahead in order to stay calm.

18. If things get worse rather than better after a few months, it may be a sign that your youngster is stuck in depression, anxiety, or anger and could use some additional support. Watch for warning signs of divorce-related depression or anxiety (e.g., frequent angry or violent outbursts, poor concentration, refusal to participate in favorite activities, self-injury, eating disorders, sleep problems, trouble at school, withdrawal from loved ones, etc.).

19. However simple it may sound, letting your kids know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way just as before, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework. 

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

20. Maintaining a “working relationship” with your ex can help your children avoid the stress that comes with watching their mom and dad in conflict. Such a transitional time can’t be without some measure of hardship, but you can powerfully reduce your kids’ pain by making their well-being your top priority.

21. Many children believe that they had something to do with the divorce, recalling times they argued with their mom or dad, received poor grades, or got in trouble. You can help your children let go of this misconception.

22. Never argue in front of your kids, whether it’s in person or over the phone. Ask your ex to talk another time, or drop the conversation altogether.

23. Resist the temptation to spoil your children during a divorce by not enforcing limits or by allowing them to break rules without consequences.

24. Physical closeness (e.g., kisses, hugs, pats on the back, etc.) has a powerful way of reassuring your youngster of your love.

25. Share logistical information. Tell your children about changes in their living arrangements, school activities, etc., but don’t overwhelm them with too many details.

26. Refrain from talking with your kids about details of their other parent’s “bad” behavior. It’s the oldest rule in the book: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

27. Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won’t. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go. Let them know that things won’t always be easy, but that they will work out. Knowing it’ll be all right can provide incentive for your children to give a new situation a chance.

28. The benefit of schedules and organization for HFA kids is widely recognized. These children feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next. For example, knowing that even when they switch homes, dinnertime is followed by a bath and then homework can set a youngster’s mind at ease. Maintaining a set schedule also means continuing to observe rules, rewards and discipline.

29. When it comes to telling your children about your divorce, many moms and dads freeze up. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your kids by preparing significantly before you sit down to talk. If you can anticipate tough questions, deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your kids handle the news.

30. While it’s good for HFA children to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new things at once can be very difficult. Help your children adjust to change by providing as much stability as possible in their daily lives. Remember that establishing continuity doesn’t mean that you have to be excessively rigid, but creating some regular routines at both households and consistently communicating to your kids what to expect will provide them with a sense of calm and stability.

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

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

"Blind Rage" in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"How can you handle an explosive child (high functioning autistic) who has tantrums and/or meltdowns that end up becoming violent in nature?"

Some children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are known for their “explosive” and “out-of-control” behavior. This is referred to as “blind rage.”

A blind rage is “blind” in the sense that the affected child may not be totally aware of his or her behavior during the rage episode.  It’s a feeling of intense and growing anger that is associated with the fight-or-flight response, but should not be confused with temper tantrums or meltdowns.

During a tantrum, the child is aware of his or her behavior and motives, whereas rage occurs in a semi-conscious state. Meltdowns are driven more by anxiety-related issues (e.g., sensory sensitivities), whereas rage is driven more by anger-related issues and a need to retaliate.

An Aspergers or HFA child with ADHD and/or ODD has an increased susceptibility to blind rage. Rage can sometimes grow to the point where the child is capable of doing things that may normally seem physically impossible. Children experiencing rage usually feel the effects of high adrenaline levels in the body. This increase in adrenal output raises the physical strength and endurance levels of the child and sharpens his or her senses, while dulling the sensation of pain.

Children in a blind rage have described experiencing events in “slow-motion.” An explanation of this "time dilation" effect is that, instead of actually slowing the perception of time, high levels of adrenaline increase the ability to recall specific minutiae of an event after it occurs. Since people ordinarily gauge time based on the amount of things they can remember, high-adrenaline events, such as those experienced during periods of blind rage, seem to unfold more slowly.

A child in a state of rage also loses much of his capacity for rational thought and reasoning, and may act (usually violently) on his impulses to the point that he may attack until he has been restrained, or the source of his rage has been “destroyed.”

A child in a blind rage may also experience tunnel vision, muffled hearing, increased heart rate and hyperventilation. She often focuses only on the source of her anger. Also, the large amounts of adrenaline and oxygen in the bloodstream may cause her extremities to shake.

==> Preventing Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns in Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Blind rage has three components:

1. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. For example:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking the child’s property or invading his space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that the child do something that she does not want to do (e.g., brushing her teeth).
  • Physical assault, which involves one youngster doing something to another youngster (e.g., pushing or hitting).
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict (e.g., a tease or a taunt).

2. The second component of rage is its expression. Some Aspergers and HFA kids vent or express rage through facial expressions, crying, sulking, or talking, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the “offender.” Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still others express rage with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the “offender.” Some kids on the autism spectrum express dislike by telling the offender that he or she can’t play or is not liked. Others express rage through avoidance or attempts to escape from the “offender.” And some use “adult-seeking” (i.e., looking for comfort or solutions from a parent or teacher, or telling the adult about an incident).

3. The third component of the rage experience is understanding (i.e., interpreting and evaluating) the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of rage is linked to an understanding of the emotion, and because these kids’ ability to reflect on their rage is somewhat limited, they need guidance from parents and teachers in understanding and managing their feelings of rage. The development of three basic cognitive processes undergirds autistic kids’ gradual development of the understanding of rage:
  • Memory: Memory improves substantially during early childhood, enabling children to better remember aspects of rage-arousing interactions. Aspergers and HFA kids who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express rage may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy – even after parents and teachers help them gain a more helpful perspective. This implies that adults may have to remind some these young people (more than once or twice) about the less aggressive ways of expressing rage.
  • Language: Talking about emotions helps them understand their feelings. The understanding of emotion in these young people is predicted by overall language ability. Parents and teachers can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings because the kids’ families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.
  • Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors: Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in kids on the spectrum provides a base for parents and teachers who can develop strategies to nurture these kids’ emerging ability to regulate the expression of rage.

Techniques to help children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism learn to deal with blind rage:

1. All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to get angry. So, it’s actually fairly easy to identify the “rage signs” in a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism. For example, you may detect a certain "look in the eye," a tone of voice, or a tightness in the child’s body. Thus, your first course of action is to help your youngster observe these signs right at the onset of rage. Once Aspergers kids can identify the early signs of their rage, they can also learn to diffuse it by self-soothing techniques (e.g., walking away, taking full and vigorous breaths).

2. Train your youngster to respond to your "signal" (e.g., a hand motion) to stay calm. Give that signal as soon as your youngster starts "stewing" about something. If your Aspergers youngster is too young for such self-control techniques, use distraction as soon as you notice her exhibiting a rage sign. A distraction, in order to be effective, has to be of interest to the youngster (e.g., suggest to her "let's ride a bike" or "let's play ball").

3. Teach your kids to talk about how they feel. Give them a language to express their feelings. If they are too angry to talk or don't have the words to express their feelings, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation. For example, "Do you feel rejected?" "Hurt?" "Let down?" …etc. When your youngster expresses the feeling behind her rage (e.g., embarrassment or rejection), suggest some other ways to look at the same event that might not be embarrassing or humiliating.

4. The thought, "It's not fair," is a big rage-arouser for many Aspergers and HFA kids. If that is the case, ask them, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When your youngster answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his feelings.

5. If the youngster refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about her rage and starts yelling, stomping or breaking an object, impose appropriate consequences. But have these consequences in place ahead of time to serve as a guideline. That means that you have discussed them with your child beforehand and written them out for future reference. Armed with a list of consequences (which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges or charging the youngster a "penalty"), moms and dads should encourage their child to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about the rage rather than acting out of rage.

6. How about your own rage in response to your youngster's rage? You can set an example of rage control for your youngster. No teaching technique is as effective as a parent "modeling" for the youngster with his or her own example.

7. One thing that makes many moms and dads angry is to see their youngster challenging their authority and defying them. Sometimes it may appear so, but that may not be the intention of the youngster. For example, a child may be too unhappy to be told ‘no’ because he or she wants something so badly. Of course, you shouldn't give in to the child’s demands, but try to understand what might really be his or her intention.

8. Some kids on the spectrum get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act out in rage to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that this might be the case, it's helpful to say to your youngster, "Everyone makes mistakes. I am okay with it. Don't feel so bad about it."

9. Aspergers and HFA kids that lash out at others should be often reminded of such consequences as losing privileges at home, going to the Principal's office at school, and being restrained.

10. If the rage outbursts occur in relation to the siblings, and you didn't observe the whole interaction from the very beginning, it's better to impose a penalty on both siblings.

==> Preventing Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns in Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

11. Some of these young people get angry because they don't have appropriate peer-interaction skills. For example, they don't know how to join in a conversation or a game. They abruptly try to get in. When resisted or rejected by peers, they explode. Teaching appropriate social skills can go a long way to avoid such negative encounters.

12. Parents can establish a home environment that reduces rage and teaches tolerance. For example, they can set a personal example for their son or daughter that "big people do apologize” and “it's graceful to loose and try again.”

13. Parents and teachers can use guidance strategies to help these kids express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. These kids develop ideas about how to express emotions primarily through social interaction in their families, and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books. Some have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing rage, and when confronted with everyday conflicts, resort to using aggression at home or in the classroom. A major challenge for parents and teachers is to encourage Aspergers and HFA kids to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express anger in positive and effective ways.

14. Create a safe emotional climate. A healthy environment permits these children to acknowledge all feelings – pleasant and unpleasant – and does not ‘shame’ rage incidents (e.g., “You should be ashamed of yourself for acting this way!”). Healthy environments – whether at home or at school – have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

15. Encourage them to label feelings of rage. Parents and teachers can help children produce a label for their rage by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe. A permanent record (e.g., book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for rage (e.g., angry, mad, hot, irritated, annoyed), and the child can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

16. Encourage them to talk about rage-arousing interactions. These kids better understand rage and other emotions when grown-ups explain emotions. When these kids are embroiled in a rage-arousing interaction, parents and teachers can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

17. Help your youngster develop self-regulatory skills. Parents of children on the autism spectrum do a lot of “child-regulation work" (i.e., doing things ‘for’ their child rather than ‘with’ their child). This is because parents know that their child has a very limited ability to regulate emotions. As Aspergers and HFA kids get older, grown-ups can gradually transfer control of the self to their kids, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

18. Model responsible rage management. They have an impaired ability to understand emotion when adults show a lot of rage. Adults who are most effective in helping kids manage rage model responsible management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings, and by expressing anger in direct and non-aggressive ways.

19. Use books and social stories about rage to help them understand and manage it. Well-presented stories about rage and other emotions validate a kid's feelings and give information about rage. It is important to preview all books about rage, because some stories teach irresponsible rage management.

20. Special needs children that are guided toward responsible rage management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non-aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor rage management. Parents and teachers can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing rage by adopting the positive guidance strategies listed above.

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


•    Anonymous said... I just booked an appointment for my daughter to see a specialist about her out of control rages, we're talking, growling, hitting, screaming, breaking, etc. multiple times a day at home, school, etc. Taking her off dairy has made a big difference. Her brother, who has ADHD and Asperger's, has finally turned around this year from out of control to the best behaved because of parent training, behavior therapy, and medicine. However, what is rigidity of thought frustration in a boy changes to emotional explosions in his sister. Feeling confidant because brother has become so successful.
•    Anonymous said... i'm not a fan of meds, especially for the young ones, we kept encouraging better ways to express feelings, use your words, take deep breaths, count when frustrated, 2+ years of consistently encouraging this has paid off, but what also had a big impact on turning things around for the better was identifying the triggers (rigidity of thought, crowds, loud noises, peer interactions), getting special accommodations at school, and having an IEP at school for occupational therapy and extra assistance at busy times (when he struggles to cope). I'm talking about serious ear piercing or destructive tantrums that can last well over an hour, even a couple hours. (not just the average child tantrum), we've managed to help him cope so much better now, and he's happier at school for it. A rage tantrum now might last 5 to 10 mins as we or a teacher will guide him down, they happen far less these days. I highly advice reading up on what you can do and using all the school resources you can to help your child. Also once you learn the triggers you can avoid some, go to park at times when it's most quiet, plan swim lessons before the pool opens, find the quietest beaches, small playdates, avoid crowds etc.
•    Anonymous said... My son has developed these within the past several months. It's tied in with his OCD. We're not supposed to talk about medication here.....but from what I understand this is the best solution for this type of problem. Really the only potential solution.
•    Anonymous said... This is my son, does anyone have any suggestions to curb these 'blind rages'.
*   Anonymous said... My son is 10 and his behavior has regressed in the past year. He has OCD which triggers his rage. The "attacks" are mentally and emotionally draining on every member of our family, and that is putting it very mildly. His pychiatrist has suggested he be put on Abilify, and after years of resisting this particular drug, we are being forced to try him on it I'm not happy about it AT ALL, but can't see any other solution.

Empowering Children on the Autism Spectrum: The Ultimate Parenting Challenge

What are some of the best tips for "empowering" a special needs child on the autism spectrum?

Raising a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) will have its ups and downs. There are going to be times when you want to crawl back into bed and put the covers up over your head (and occasionally you have to give in to that). But, you have to get right back up and push forward. You should always keep your eye on the prize, which is your “special needs” youngster.

Even though raising a youngster on the autism spectrum is a long journey, moms and dads have many options and places to turn for help. Early intervention is key. You have to get going right away, because time is of the essence. Get focused on what your mission is. Here’s how…

Best tips for empowering a child on the autism spectrum:

1. Assess your youngster's need for medication. While there is no medication for Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, there are drugs for specific symptoms that your child might display. For instance, the FDA approved Risperdal in 2006 for the treatment of irritability in young people with the disorder. Short attention spans can sometimes be improved with stimulant drugs that are used to treat ADD or ADHD. Asperger’s and HFA kids who have anxiety, depression, or OCD behaviors can often be treated with anti-depressants.

Drugs have a limited role in improving symptoms of Asperger’s. However, some may help prevent self-injury and other behaviors that are causing difficulty. Medicines may also take a youngster on the spectrum to a functional level so he or she can benefit from other treatments. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests targeting the main problem behaviors when considering medicines.

2. Become very familiar with public policies so you can be your youngster's advocate in gaining the best education and care possible. For example, make sure that plans (504 or IEP) are in place for your youngster to receive therapies at school.

3. Beware of irritating sensations. Many children with Asperger’s and HFA are hypersensitive to certain sounds, lighting conditions, skin sensations, tastes, textures, temperatures, and certain colors. The exact form of these hypersensitivities tends to vary over time, but most kids require some adult recognition of the problem and adjustments to limit their exposure to them. A variety of programs to desensitize kids to touch and sound sensitivities are being researched, and may offer hope in the future.

4. Communicate with other professionals and moms/dads, and learn from those who have crossed this bridge before you.

5. Consider supplementation. One supplement some moms and dads feel is helpful for a youngster with the disorder is vitamin B-6, which is taken with a magnesium supplement. The results of research studies are mixed on vitamin B-6 and magnesium supplementation. While many kids respond positively, some respond negatively or not at all.

6. Develop a consistent structure and routine. Children with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism thrive best in an environment where things are predictable. They usually have great difficulty with unexpected change and lack of structure. So, have a schedule that your youngster follows every day, and do things in the same way. Some kids can cope with a free-time schedule and appraise the happenings of the day each morning. Others will need to be scheduled right down to the task of putting on clothing.

7. Do not expect your youngster to tolerate new people or group situations. If your youngster must be with a group, allow him or her a large personal space and opportunity for escape.

8. Find local support groups and parent network organizations for families of kids on the spectrum. Ask your doctor for referrals. Also, join online chat groups.

9. Get support for yourself. The burden of raising a youngster on the spectrum can be lightened by family, friends, community agencies, and others who have shared similar experiences. Gathering your support network involves knowing ahead of time whom you can call for different types of support (and emergencies), including: (a) emotional support (e.g., a close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you  trust with your most personal feelings and concerns), (b) social support (e.g., a friend or colleague you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories), (c) informational support (e.g., your youngster's doctor, teachers, therapists, or other caregivers you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his or her treatment), and (d) practical support (e.g., a neighbor or close friend who will help you out in a pinch).

10. Learn more about diet changes. Diet changes are based on the idea that food allergies and/or an insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral can cause symptoms of Asperger’s and HFA. If you decide to try a special diet for a given period of time, be sure you talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian. The youngster's nutritional status must be assessed and carefully measured. One diet that some moms and dads have found helpful is a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. Gluten is a casein-like substance found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Casein is the principal protein in dairy products such as milk. Ask for guidance from your youngster's doctor or nutritionist to ensure your youngster is getting adequate nutritional value from his or her diet.

11. Learn to live with some stereotypic behavior. When your youngster is in public, you want to train him or her to behave as well as possible, but at home, the child should have opportunity to just be himself or herself. Many self-stimulatory and characteristic behaviors serve a purpose. Thus, while it may seem advisable to try to prevent some of the more peculiar behaviors, it is extremely difficult to eliminate fixations entirely. Eliminated behaviors are typically and quickly replaced by another self-stimulatory or unusual behavior. The new behavior may or may not be more tolerable than the initial behavior, and programs to eliminate these behaviors must carefully consider the possible consequences.

Diminishing the frequency, or limiting the expression of stereotypic behavior to certain times and places, are the most reasonable goals. These are best accomplished by some disregarding, redirecting, or providing another task to focus on. Substitution or training to reduce some peculiar behaviors can help the youngster to appear less different in the school or community. This involves adult intervention and requires detection of equally reinforcing alternate behaviors. Any behavior to be changed will need to be replaced with a behavior that is at least as pleasurable to the youngster.

12. Look for warning signs that come before meltdowns. Once you can identify warning signs, you may be able to adjust the situation to prevent a meltdown. For many kids on the spectrum, a meltdown is their only method of communicating a need or distress. Other “typical” kids may be quite helpful in figuring out the message of a meltdown and the warning signs.

13. Plan outings with other families who have a youngster on the spectrum. There are many families who share your concerns and daily challenges. Talking openly with these families can give you new insight and better ways of coping.

14. Plan time for breaks. Many moms and dads of kids with Asperger’s and HFA feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and sometimes defeated. They talk about difficulties in their marriage and other relationships. While there is no quick fix for resolving negative emotions, you can take measures to protect yourself so your youngster's disorder does not get in the way of your physical or emotional health. Review your calendar weekly. In the midst of the many appointments your youngster might have with speech or occupational therapists or other health care professionals, write in "appointments" for yourself and your relationships. Schedule regular dates with your spouse, other kids in the family, and close friends.

15. Prepare your youngster for changes in routine. For some kids, this will require only a reminder of the next event (e.g., "First dinner, then bath"). For others, the use of pictures can help with the transition.

16. Protect your youngster from aggressive role models as much as possible. Kids with Asperger’s and HFA often copy behaviors without understanding why the other person did them. This “copy-cat behavior” is called echopraxia (i.e., the abnormal repetition of the actions of another person). This is similar to the echolalia (i.e., the echoing of words or phrases) many kids on the spectrum engage in. Both forms of echoing may occur immediately, or in a delayed fashion. Kids who are spanked or hit are more likely to hit others.

Those who observe violent behavior at home, in school or in the community, as well as in movies or cartoons, may also imitate it inappropriately. Decide which TV shows are appropriate for your youngster to watch. This will require considerable adult insight and the cooperation of all family members, including siblings.

17. Read all you can on Autism Spectrum Disorders so you understand the symptoms and behaviors and the differences in medications or alternative therapies.

18. Review the recommended treatment options. Experts agree that a youngster with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. There is no cure for autism spectrum disorders, but early intervention using skills training and behavior modification techniques can yield good results. This type of educational and behavioral treatment tackles autism-related symptoms (e.g., impaired social interaction, communication problems, repetitive behaviors, etc.), and can boost the youngster's chances of being able to go to school and participate in normal activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following techniques for helping a youngster with the disorder improve overall function and reach his or her potential: (1) speech therapy can help the youngster improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively; (2) occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficiencies in coordination, muscle tone, and motor skills – and may also help the youngster to learn to process information from the senses (i.e., sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways; and (3) behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication.

19. Teach your extended family members about the disorder. Many parents of children with Asperger’s talk about feeling isolated. Once a youngster is diagnosed, parents often find that some family members stop asking about the youngster, or the youngster is left out of birthday parties or other family gatherings. Sometimes siblings admit to feeling stressed, lonely, and even angry, as all attention is focused on their Asperger’s brother or sister.

While these feelings are natural, you can help your family members cope by educating them about the disorder and your youngster's specific needs. Training family members about the disorder and how to effectively manage the symptoms has been shown to reduce family stress and improve the functioning of the child. Some families will need more outside assistance than others depending on their internal functioning, established support systems, and financial situation.

20. Work closely with your child’s school. His or her curriculum will require a major focus on self-care and social skills. Deciding what your youngster needs to learn in school will depend on his or her unique features, level of intelligence, family setting, and need to function in the community. The family and school should decide together on the critical skills your youngster needs to develop, and then work together to train him or her to use these skills in a real life setting.

There's no doubt that raising a youngster with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism is the ultimate parenting challenge. But with the necessary support and ongoing training, you and your family can learn how to cope and work as a team.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for October, 2013]

My son who has Asperger Syndrome , just joined a new school in UK came home today crying his heart out because his so called group of friends ran away from him and avoided him the whole day - and it just broke my heart. He is 14 years old and he faces this same problem when he joins a new school. He was so happy when he found this group but for whatever reason they decided to abandon him. I really hope I can get some help in dealing with this problem.  It is so difficult trying to explain things to him about friendship and how to interact with his peers and being the new guy in school.


My daughter, who is four, has many great days at school.  I know it takes everything in her to make the days great and she really lets us know at home!
I'm wondering if you have any advice  regarding toilet training.  My daughter has known when she needs to go since she was 19 months old.  At home she does not wear a diaper until she requests one.  She is embarrassed that she wears diapers as she's the only one at school who does.  Even her sister who is not quite two is potty trained.  This is really hard on her.  I have stopped talking about the toilet with her as it causes her to become very upset.  She will not sit on it even with a diaper on, even on the special seat she picked out.  She won't use a little potty chair either.  I'm not sure how to gently help her as everything I suggest is met with fury!  I do know that she wants more than anything to be like the other kids and use the toilet.
Thank you for all your advice! I enjoy reading it.


Question: Hi Mark, We have been clients of yours for years and have referred many people to your program.  We now have an 18yr old college daughter who recently moved away to go to school.  We have been using your program with her since she was 12.  She is basically a good kid.  Good grades, no drugs, no boy friends and healthy.  She desparately wants her independence now and when she turned 18, last week went out and got herself a belly button ring (which were not opposed to, but she communicated it after the fact).  We have always used the app Life 360 (gps tracking) for safety.  She now refuses to allow us to use that on her phone. She feels that she is 18 now and can take care of herself.  We discussed the only other option with her that we were comfortable with and that was to give us her roomates phone #'s and to text us when coming and going that she is safe.  She doesn't want to do any of these and even suggested to us "you don't have to pay for me anymore if this is a problem." Are we being overly protective while she is away at school or is this a reasonable request? What should we do?


I listened to your program again and am waiting for more. After listening to your advice I figured out that my son with (HFA) got to level 1. I am an very emotional person and as you know it is hard for them to show reciprocation. I wound up trying to commit suicide while he was with his PCA in Feb. woke up at the hospital and was sent to a mental hospital but have been since the age of 13. I was there a month and he thought I was going to be all better when I got back. I was not I quit Methadone cold turkey in January he had wanted me to and I did in a way but I also tried to commit suicide in January. which I went to jump down the stairs he turned me the right way and I already had 2 slipped discs and know have 3 but may have more will find out soon.

When he was a young boy he always said he loved me and would hug me. I guess looking back I never knew he had Asperger's except for when I did go pick him up he was always alone and building these amazing things. Also in pre-school we had EEE which told me he had fine motor skill problems. It wasn't until he was about 8 I had to send him to a private regular school because the place we lived at was bad and he would get beat up or picked on when he walked home so that was the only option. There after 2 years they tested him and told me he had (HFA) He came home for the 7th and 8th grade but would only play video games or go on his computer. I was the layed  back parent and didn't really enforce rules so no routines. I didn't know anything about his diagnosis maybe I should have been a better parent and looked things up. In the 9th grade is when he really started being defiant about anything I told him to do so in turn I would give up or yell. The yelling really started when he began to verbally abuse me and then I would yell and swear.

When I came home from the hospital in March like I said he thought I would be better but I had to crawl up my stairs I couldn't cook do dishes anything so we started to argue so we're beyond the cops. We realized plus he had been asking to leave. He went to respite for a month in N.H. but HCRS couldn't pay anymore so the only option was for him to temporarily be in the custody of DCF. He is now doing great in school he worked in the summer and he was the only one they asked to work in the fall around his school schedule. Everybody loves him says he's polite well mannered will greet a person and look them in the eye. He will be 16 next month and he seems to be on a power kick because they asked him how often would he like phone calls he set a certain day and time. Know that he's working I agreed that visitations would be an issue. I feel like a failure why don't they make a position for a person to learn what to do and help you instead of having to leave them with the state? Also I feel like I'm dead I have no other family except a cousin who lives an hour away with no car either. I have no friends. It's been 5 months and I miss him so bad I begged for him to come home and he told me not to go there.

What do I do? This woman he is with is very nice and has had several children with her and he likes it there. Should I fight to get him back or let him stay with her where he is flourishing. I have heard I love you 3 times in 6 years. He is my life. Please send me some advice please. My selfishness and ego because someone is doing what I should be doing , wants him back yet at the same time when I have seen him he's smiling.


Hi, I have a daughter with Asperger's (9 years) and I am doing my Master's Thesis on girls with Asperger's. Specifically, if there should be a different diagnosis for girls. I am aware that the DSM-V has removed the diagnosis but also that there is a lot of controversy over the new release.
Would you be willing to provide me with any information you have about girls with Asperger's. Redacted case information would be especially appreciated.
Thank you for your time,


Hello, Mr. Hutton. I'll try to be brief. My daughter Ellyn has an 11 year old, Colin, with asperger's. He has become uncontrollable even though he has been in a special school for the past two years. He has gotten worse, not better. Yesterday he was to see a psychiatrist but I talked my daughter into buying your program instead. I was convinced that there are ways to reach these kids with behavioral techniques rather than therapy and medication.
Today I visited their house to help with a few things. All was well until we were cleaning up from supper and Colin was told to feed the dogs. This was a chore that would take all of one minute but he refused. I immediately told him he could choose to feed the dogs, or if (as he insisted) that he didn't feel well, he could go to his room and lie down. It would be his choice. He said he felt well enough to get on the computer, but not to feed the dogs. I told him the computer was not one of his choices.
Suffice it to say that a royal meltdown ensued. He became violent, he "ran away" in his stocking feet twice, he threatened suicide, he screamed non-stop - and this went on for hours. We remained calm and non-confrontational to no avail. He refused to go to his room and hit me over and over. When I told him it was his choice not to have the computer he simply screamed at the top of his lungs. After 3 hours he was undaunted and still never went to his room. The rest of the family was exhausted and in tears but he didn't care.
I now feel guilty for having my daughter cancel the psychiatric appt. By the end of three hours I felt that the best solution was for my beloved grandson to be put in some sort of facility and removed from the home because no one has any peace due to his behavior. He is a big child and cannot be physically restrained. With these new violent tendencies I am afraid for the rest of the household. My daughter is completely drained and I fear for her well-being as well.
I'm sure this is not a new story to you - but I am beyond perplexed. This child we love so much is literally holding his family hostage by his behavior - and he's only 11. I am frightened and shocked and don't know what to do. I don't even know what to ask except a reply that you have seen this before and the child doesn't become a criminal. This one seems to be well on his way...


Hi Mr Hutten,

My husband & I listened to the online recording of the 45 min seminar today.
I was both relieved and encouraged by it!  I was beginning to think I was the
worst parent on the planet.
I do know that I/we have a love of work ahead of us; but, you have
given me/us hope and encouragement!
My son is now 17yrs old; and, is failing all but 1 class in school.


Greetings From Florida,

I would like to know if you present workshops/training where I can receive my yearly hours needed.  I would have to be able to have a print out of the outline, materials and/or a certificate.
 If so, could you provide a list of the courses you offer.
Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you and hope you can meet this need because I enjoy your material.


Hi Mark,

I came across your website and I wanted to reach out. I work for a new CBS show and we are doing a special on “out of control” teens. This can be anywhere from intense anger to growing up too fast to being involved with sex and drugs. I was wondering if you could spread the word about our show and reach out to anyone who may be interested in participating and sharing their story. My contact information is below. Thanks so much!

Melissa Recine
Production Assistant
"Serch" (a CBS Television Distribution Production)


Thank you for continuing to supply helpful, informative resources and information pertaining to Asperger's.  Your articles have been a huge asset in helping us with our grandson (age 6) to provide early intervention. We have provided some of the letters to his teachers, and have found local intervention.  He is doing much better now thanks to the support of people like you who make a difference.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Donna

Hello Mark,
Thanks for all your updates.
Our son is 15 years old and has Aspergers and ADHD.
He's at the stage where we really feel he should understand his 'needs' / diagnosis better.
We did tell him and do refer to it but now that he's getting older it would really help if he under stud more to help him believe in strategies to help him cope.
He's a real computer guy, biggest love is Gaming. We do to the best of our ability restrict this (Hard).
Its hard to get him to sit down with a book.
What advice would you give us please?
All thoughts greatly appreciated.


I am awaiting appointments to go and see someone locally about getting a diagnosis for my nine year old daughter, but after reading up on things I am inclined to believe that my girl may have High Functioning Autism.

She has meltdowns over little things, is unable to cope in a classroom environment but seems to do brilliantly one to one, she will happily play with up to four other kids (her cousins) for a while but then there's a fight and she storms off up to her room believing she is being wrongfully punished (sometimes she is), she blames computers and other technical gadgets when she loses a game and will often take her temper out on it, if she makes a mistake (even if over something small) she slaps herself in the face and no amount of me telling her not to will prevent it the next time, when I tell her things i seem to need to over clarify them to her (such as this afternoon, telling her not to take my cellphone outside apparently meant to her that it was okay to take it out of the house but not down the back yard), she's started crying when i leave her at school in the mornings but she's started making her own breakfast and lunch and is eager to get there right up until the point of seperation, and she comes down really hard on herself when things don't go right, to the point of telling me that she will leave because i deserve a better kid.  

When i told her we were gonna get someone to help her learn how to make friends she gave me the biggest thank you hug like i'd just given her a present she'd been hoping for.   I haven't told her about Autism yet although she has heard a description of it as being 'someone who's brain works a little differently'' because a neighbour's grand daughter has autism, and got thoroughly confused when my girl told her that "I'm a boy and my name is Jai" when her grandmother told her that my kid is a girl whose name is Krysta.   She's been adamant for almost a year now that she's a boy, cos she started watching a cartoon about lego ninja's, called Ninjago.  And in that, there's four brothers who are ninja, and the girl character is a Samurai cos only boys can be ninja's.  So Krysta's logic is that she has to be a boy so that she can be a ninja.   I've had talks with her, her grandmother ridicules her, (which i know  doesn't help, but how do you tell your almost seventy year old mother to back the hell off), and she's persistant to the point where she has actually told a teacher at school that she's growing a penis.  

On top of all that going on, in the last few months we've had to deal with getting off the lease in a share accommodation situation turning toxic due to verbal and emotional domestic violence towards me by another flatmate, to the point where we were too scared to come out of our rooms without knowing where he was and if it was safe to do so.   She saw me go through all that... we ended up going to a cheap hotel for a week  while i sought help from a tenancy advocacy crowd to get off the lease, and I know that she will have internalised a lot of that stress, but i had nowhere to send her (solo mother) while i went through it.

So with all that rambling and offloading.... I actually do have a question.  Somewhere.  lol.

Even before diagnosis, and perhaps even after if they don't diagnose HFA, will your course still help me make things easier for her in regard to relating to others, picking up social clues, calming down easier, transitioning between tasks at school and home easier, and getting her off this whole "I'm a boy" kick?    If it will help, I'm considering getting it in a few days, but I don't have money to put into something that won't assist me.
She's been to a paediatrician who said that she doesn't need to be medicated, but he mentioned nothing about autism and i don't know if he even knew about it.  So the psychologist we will be seeing towards the end of the month, who specialises in children under 12, will hopefully shed more light on what's going on.

I hope at least some of this email makes sense, i'm just trying to find ways to help her based on the behaviours she's presenting.
Dear Dr. Hutten,
My 12yo son was recently diagnosed with Aspergers/ADHD/NVLD and has been seeing a Psychologist and Medical Doctor for his depression (is taking Zoloft) but nothing sees to help. His father and I recently divorced and he is not liking that I am dating someone. He has frequent meltdowns and argues with me constantly. He is failing in school but is very smart. He has always had a problem with math and his nerological tests show that he has Dyscalculia. His father doesn't help at all just tells me that taking him to all of these doctors are making matters worse. I just don't know what else to do to help him. Can you give me any advice?
- Exhausted mama

I was wondering if you could help me.  I am a single mom parenting a very smart, previously more often than not “happy to be with me” child.  She was diagnosed with aspergers at age 4 and has had early interventions since Pre-K (social worker, OT/PT, counselor at school, ) and has an IEP and does very well in 4th grade.  She is pretty and very smart but over the course of the last 2 years I cannot get her to listen or comply – she back talks, does her own thing, gets very angry at me – I used to think I had a handle on this but it is very, very, very difficult.  If you could offer and advice, support groups in the Albany NY area – anything – I would be very appreciative. 


Also, I have a question.  Son (a 12 year old 8th grader) was recently diagnosed with Aspergers.  Outside of some minor behavioral concerns regarding what I now know were associated "meltdowns" in certain classrooms over the years, have never noticed any real impact on academics.  Thus, didn't feel the need for a 504 or IEP.  However, this year he is taking both geometry and Spanish I (high school credit bearing courses) at his middle school.  Despite getting permission to provide an online setting for his Spanish I class that would be more conducive to his success, he was placed in an overcrowded classroom of 30 students (he was 30th).  Classroom is small, so desks are tight.  Teacher is very rigid and has not been helpful despite our reaching out to meet and request strategies.  (All factors that are not conducive to son's success given he is classic Aspergers when it comes to distractions and difficulty following string of commands, etc.  Is becoming frustrated with rigidity of teacher and acting out.)  Grade is suffering.  Threats of giving detention instead of implementing strategies.  School administrator inferring that this is about the grade and a teacher/student personality clash has determined that child must remain in class through end of nine week period.  Was initially told child could move immediately by guidance who is now backtracking and stalling.  Any suggestions?

My daughter has an 9 yr old with Aspergers.  He frequently launches into a rage or a meltdown.  My Daughter says the child's psychiatrist says to physically restrain him with her body by wrapping her arms around him during these episodes.  The restraining is horrific, my grandson is traumatized during these restraining.  It is horrible to witness for everyone.  This has been going on for over a year.  I do not see any improvement.  I cannot believe this is a positive experience under any circumstances.  I have asked my daughter to seek out another psychiatrist.  My daughter continues to physically restrain with her own body and it is a physical battle. Any advice?


Hello Mark, I’m glad I became a subscriber today. I’ve been following My Aspergers Child page & Parenting Aspergers Children Support Group for several weeks now & it has helped me better understand how my son try’s to express himself. My wife & I are attending a 2 hour seminar this Saturday at the Ryan Woods Autism Foundation. I know I’ve been in denial for along time now about my son and have to face the fact that he will never be a typical teenager & will always struggle with social issues. Its been difficult to say the least & our father/son relationship is almost nonexistent. My wife & I have lost touch with each other and our marriage is suffering. I know we need marriage counseling, parenting classes, family counseling etc,. As well as work groups for my son to socialize with teens his own age. It feels good just writing to you about all our issues. I need to be able to talk about it to relieve all the built up stress & anxiety I am constantly feeling. Feels like an emotional rollercoaster. We live in CT so if you have any advice on where to go for support or help in these areas it would be greatly appreciated. 


 My son is 16 and resently became aggressive towards his tutor. He is a wonderful child with a lot of empathy towards others. He has been diagnosed with aspergers when he was 9. This is new to us and I want to deal with it in the correct way because his emotional stability is very important to all of us. He has an older sister of 18.


Hi Mark,

I recently read your ebook and think it will be very helpful for a lot of conflicts my husband and I have.  However, we have a regular recurring issue that, each time it comes up, it becomes an increasingly worse scenario and I am having trouble framing it within the guidelines your book suggests. You see, my husband does not  “have my back” if you will. Our son could be beaten up at one of his family events and when I ask for us to leave, he won’t “because we need to be there to support his family”.  Or when I have disagreed with him mom about my own personal needs, he believes his mom makes better decisions about my life and my needs than I do. The last time a conflict between us and his family came up even involved the police! And we’re good people.   I’ve never had the police involved in my life! I feel increasingly minimalized, alone, disrespected, and unsupported.  Sometimes, I even think I’m going crazy? (I mean, I’m sitting here holding a 7 year old who just got brutalized by an older cousin and I’m the only one that thinks we need to take him away from the situation and to get medical attention? Are we not both experiencing the same situation?)

So, I tried to frame this issue in your rules and this is what I got:
'When we are in a conflict between your family and our family, you take your family’s side.  It creates a problem for me because I feel rejected, invalidated, and unsupported.  I know that you usually let me handle my own conflicts and conflicts involving the children because you haven’t heard me ask you for help very often but I’d rather we come up with a plan where you choose me and the kids over your family when I choice is presented.'

Somehow I don’t think he’ll understand.  He often doesn’t understand when I even ask him what his goal is when we’re arguing or he doesn’t understand the idea of putting me and the kids above others. Do you have some guidance?  I’m at the end of my rope.  12 long years of marriage, not feeling understood, protected, and heaven forbid cherished… Thank you if you made it this far through this rambling email!

Answer: First of all, be sure to listen to all the audio files on your download page (and if you can get your husband to listen as well, that would be ideal).

RE: "So, I tried to frame this issue in your rules and this is what I got: When we are in a conflict between your family and our family, you take your family’s side.  It creates a problem for me because I feel rejected, invalidated, and unsupported.  I know that you usually let me handle my own conflicts and conflicts involving the children because you haven’t heard me ask you for help very often but I’d rather we come up with a plan where you choose me and the kids over your family when I choice is presented."

A couple revisions are needed here. I'll just do a bit of a re-write (please review the reframing business again when you get time).


"When a couple is in conflict over their extended family members (i.e., in-laws), I know it's easy for a person to take his biological family’s side because - after all - it's his family, family bonds are strong, and he really loves them. But I’d rather we come up with a plan where we put our marriage first, because our marriage is the foundation for our future. We will be together long after our parents are gone. Don't you think?"


Hello Dr. Hutten:

Recently, your website page was posted on our facebook page. Very appreciated!
However, the reason for my email is to see if you would be interested in contributing
to our Parent Magazine on Aspergers?  OF course, I can spend time over the next week and
review many of your articles and request specific ones, however, before doing so,
I wanted to receive permission and see if you would be interested in this opportunity.

We have over 75,000 readers from our Autism Notebook and over 95,000 from our Parent Notebook.
Our Parent Notebook explores all abilities, however, we have a Learning Differences section and we are the leading resource in the S.Florida region who supports children in this area.

Of course, The Autism Notebook would most certainly be considered as well. However, I am fully responsible for the content of our Parent Notebook and our educators have been asking for more support in this area for their families.  

Just wanted to reach out and see if there's an interest to work on a new title(or titles), and permission to reprint a current article if we find one that would fit upcoming issues.

Warm regards,

Lori Swetoha
Publisher / Editor in Chief
Question: Hi Mark, I recently purchased a copy of your e-book as I only discovered that my 16 year old has Aspergers. His obsession is with guns and the military.  He is currently in High School and seem to have no interest in pursuing a University education at this time.  He is doing very well academically with minimal effort. He is currently in therapy with a Cognitiive Behavioural Therapist, who is trying to get him to change his interests and want him to stop focusing on his obsession with guns. I am thinking that changing his obsession is a futile exercise as he seems not to be able to do so.  He is now beginning to think that the therapy sessions are a waste of time as she is trying to interest him in other areas to which he is not interested. Is a career in the military a good option for him and should I try to encourage him in this direction.

Answer: As mentioned in my material, parents should take an Aspergers child's "passion" and use that passion (i.e., special interest) to help the child mold it into something positive (which can be done in most cases no matter what the passion). In keeping with this philosophy, military school might be nothing short of perfect.


Question: I found your ebook and my husband and I are both reading and listening to the materials.  My husband is 66 and we have been married for 27 years.  He was diagnosed a few MONTHS ago.  You can imagine the ball of tangled string that exists in our marriage.  We live about 15 miles from Memphis, TN.  We have tried several counselors with poor results because no one recognized Aspergers.  Since the diagnosis, we have read several books and all of them tell us that if we seek counseling, it has to be someone who has knowledge and experience working with adults who have Aspergers.  I have not been able to find anyone who meets that criteria in this area.  I am hoping that you may have knowledge of some resources for us…even if we have to drive 200 miles! 

Answer: I have two therapists that I would recommend in your area:

Janis G. Neece, PhD
Cherokee Health Systems
7714 Corner Road, Ste. 105
Powell, TN 37849
Phone: (865) 947-6220
Cherokee Health Systems
6350 West Andrew Johnson Highway
Talbott, TN 37877
Phone: (423) 317-9344, ext. 3


Karen L. Weigle, PhD
The TEAM Centers, Inc.
Director of Clinical Services and The Chattanooga Autism Center
Medical Towers, Suite 102
1000 East Third Street
Chattanooga, TN 37404
Phone: (423) 622-0500

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


My son is 4 nearly 5 and over the last 2 years or so he has been showing some signs of something but im not 100% sure as to what. He has very violent meltdowns where he is kicking,  screaming,  biting, lashing out. He does droning humming, pulling at his clothes, walking on his toes, doesn't like certain foods, likes set routines, gets very anxious, shakes,  clicks tongue, he only has 1/2 friends at school,  tends to play on his own more that with the other kids, is over higher intelligence than his peers and doing very well at school. He doesn't always make eye contact when he is speaking or spoken to. He has an obsession on wheels and putting things straight and  neat. Yes he can play quite happily on his own or with his coupla of friends and he can empathise when he notices that there is an upset etc. He also doesn't take turns and he is very literal.

I have taken him to 2 gps who have both referred him to 2 different paediatric people and each time he has been well behaved and they have both dismissed him and his problems do2n to his age and anger problems. When I saw the first specialist I didnt know that his father and his fathers brother have both got aspergrs but I did when I saw the other specialist last week. 

My daughter was diagnosed with the complexities of early childhood bi-polar illness since 8 years old, (and medicated well) as well as Asperger's syndrome (diagnosed around 11 years old), she exists with mixed state bipolar and anxiety disorder to the point that she is barely functioning today.   She is still under the public school with an IEP, although she has completed her academics, and the focus is on independent living skills and vocational readiness/training with a job coach. These programs are both well suited to her; but fears, paranoia and anxiety prevent her attending. While her adolescent psychiatrist and her psychologist (who specializes in AS) are both working hard with her and seem to be on target, she remains virtually non-functional as her anxiety and OCD/obsessive componants rise and she cycles all day long.  It is exhausting for her and for me.  She functions like a 4 - 5 year old emotionally, although she has normal intelligence with some learning disabilities.  She has not attended any program, school or left the house for almost 5 weeks now - which she has gone through before - and is resistent to any self care.  Over this summer, she tried to be independent and on her own (living with a close family friend in their two room with a bathroom guest space) but she failed miserably by week three, although stuck it out another three weeks. Disheartened, embarrassed and realizing how hard it is, she has given up on that dream of independence - at least for now.

I want to help her regain belief in herself and give her a bit more of a push to get on with life, go to program and try again to gain those independent skills - without causing more agitation and aggression toward me or her fearing that she will be abandoned because she can not succeed.  She is complex.


My wife and I have been married for 22 years and have two daughters, aged 15 & 12. We both work, I am en event manager and my wife has her own psychology practice.
A couple of things really stand out about our eldest daughter. She has always had a very oppositional temperament. In the early stages, around 3 and 4 years old, this manifested in her crying uncontrollably every day when being left and picked up from the child care centre. The carers at the centre said that they had never seen a child do this before. She appeared to be quite shy and very attached to my wife.
We have since discovered that she has a very low zinc level and must take supplements and her ability to read and comprehend situations is very immature. We suspect that underlying this is an immense anxiety that when confronted by pretty much anything results in a furious reaction. Academically, she is below average, despite ongoing tutoring.
At around 8 years old it became evident to us that she would never back down in a situation she did not agree with (with us) or when she would not comply with a request from us. We have never been violent, but there have been some very loud exchanges. As I mentioned she won’t back down, so there were occasions when I would forcibly take her to her room; she would then continue to trash her room in anger. After realising that this approach had no effect whatsoever, our engagement in approaching conflict shifted dramatically. When a situation arose, we would try and resolve quickly and not engage is discussion. Two years ago we did get her to complete a number of neurofeedback sessions, which didn’t really seem to have any noticeable effects.
We have attempted a number of strategies to try and create a more serene household as my daughters demanding behaviour has steadily increased and her desire to have things completely her own way has steadily escalated. This has a direct impact on the mood/ environment of our household. Not knowing how she will respond means that we are always on alert. Whilst we have explained as well as we can to our 12yo, it greatly impacts her life as well.



I would like to take the time to Thank you for sending all these information. I also would like to let you know that Bailey has come around full circle. I have tried several different therapist and I have found one that Bailey has opened up too so much. This Psychatrist suffered thru alot of what Bailey has gone thru and it's just amazing how he has turned around.


My name is Mrs. Moore. I am a special education teacher and I was wondering if your online course would work for teachers as well as parents? I have a student with autism and oppositional defiant disorder. His mom has taken him off his medicine and refuses to give him any. His behavior has gone from wonderful to uncontrollable in a matter of weeks. I am truly at my wit's end, feel like i've tried all the tricks of the trade and then some, and I don't know what to do!!!
Thanks for your time!

You know it's funny to read how you describe "out if control teens", it's as if you had met me before. I have stolen from my parents ATM card credit card, I once even bankrupted my dad while he was in vacation I stole countless times my parents cars  and guess they know, and they can't do anything about. They did call the cops once but he didn't do much. But see I'm invincible many of us " out of control teens" are too powerful, we can read parents before they act. Were high deceptive and we will always be a problem to society, you know why? Cause you don't know what to do with us nor does the government. With the prison population increasing beyond the limit.. Who know what could happen. ahah but I like your website. So with a child like me what would you recommend to my parents?   Omar Mostafa


 We've been enjoying your blog with articles and feel I am learning everyday. We have a 15 year old son Vincent, diagnosed at age 3 1/2 with Aspergers. We were fortunate enough to have enrolled Vincent in a social skills summer camp here in Buffalo NY from age 6-11. Every year is a new challenge! This year has been extreme with explosive outbursts at home, sometimes leads to meltdowns and him crying with feeling sorry for himself, worried about girls, bullied in hallways at school, he feels bullied online, likes call of duty and my little pony! He does see a psychologist every other week and a psychiatrist once a month. He takes meds for attention, mood stabilizer and depression. Life isn't fun here anymore.


 Hi,my name is chalina ,I was reading all your stuff online n everything I read was...hey thats this family,thats wht my daughter does,I swore I was lost..completely daughter is 12 n I just got her n her brother back from there grandma about 3 months ago,ive talked 2 every1 I could that might have some ideas...let me explain  A bit,I got incarecerated when my children were 1 n 2 yrs old,I got out when they were 7 n 8 but during those yrs my kids were sent to there dad who held them hostage and did some messed up stuff to my babies,he was placed in prison n my mom got them,then my mom lost them to c.p.s. for abuse n neglect,was placed in a few foster homes,cps gave them back to her after I got out,I got back on drugs when I got out of prison,about 3 yrs ago I got clean and started physically going to my moms to visit them,I wouldnt before because I didnt want my kids to see me high but I always wrote and called them faithfully,anyways I got clean, was constantly in my kids lives,I even lived near them n they would come spend the night every weekend,and things were good,things happened again with there grandma n them so I stepped in and removed them,my kids begged to live with me.well during the time I got clean til now I got disabled,im bed bound now,n my health is very poor,im only 33 and my medical issues are going to be taking my life sooner then most,alot sooner.well since my daughter moved in shes so angry,she lies constantly and steals,yelling,screaming,she wont do what shes told,im so kids know mommy is very sick,and stress is not suppose to be going on for me,my home doctor said it will kill me faster,my daughter knows this but yet she keeps going n going..she gets in my face and she gets so mean with her brother,which my son absolutely loves his sister,but she will treat him bad at times,my spouse is also my caretaker,she trys so hard to defuse the situation but my daughter gets worse.yesterday she had me hysterically crying over the things she was saying,n so stressed out I was throwing up and ended up taking my nitro for my emailing you to beg for advice,for help,because of my issues I dont have the money to buy your books,it all goes on bills,medical and im barely making ends meet, I read all I could on your site and I felt I wasnt alone for once,that others have been there.since I cant afford it I was hoping you could give me some advice,anything at all would help.thats why I gave you some information about her past n mine, I know im not the best parent  I was young and stupid and an addict,its no excuse at all,Im just scared my daughter will walk my old path.i want to leave this world knowing my daughter loves me,and knows that I LOVE HER MORE THEN THIS LIFETIME,and that her heart and head isnt so heavy.n that shes heading in a good scared,im lost,confused,hurt...its 1:59am right now,and I cant sleep because ive been searching for help,answers, suggestions, babies have been thru alot,much more then most children and It kills me that im trying to reach out to my baby girl but I cant reach her.i dont know what to do,the only thing ibDO KNOW is th a t I LOVE HER and I WANT TO HELP HER,TO HELP THIS WHOLE FAMILY,I have her in counseling,my aunt takes her since my spouse cant leave me,I cant go to her meetings,cause I cant walk,im bed bound.and I want to help her so bad...I want to get her and I close..I want her having good memories before I go,not these ones..she basically said she hates me n couldnt care if I died...



Hello Mark, My daughter is still at home with extremely inconsistent ability to care for herself in all manners - bathing, self care, room care, basic cooking, clean up, laundry are rarely accomplished independently during the year.  She can barely get to school regularly. She remains in her room, unshowered and only reading or watching Anime for the past 5 weeks, unable to get out of her room for more than 15 minutes and certainly not to school or to the internship at a job. My question then: are there materials or strategies you have - or resources you can suggest that I can use which might address the significant anxiety and OCD factors that limit her interactions and abilities and keep her very stuck?  she does see a therapist weekly and an adolescent psychiatrist; and is medicated with risperdal, topomax, zoloft and wellbutrin.  She is now 20 years old, still under the public school until 21 years old, with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS, childhood bi-polar illness (always in a mixed-state) with anxiety issues, OCD and social phobia most prevelant at this time.  Of course, the mixed state of her mood instability and agitation factors add another layer to her daily challenges...and to my challenges! Thank you for any suggestions you have to offer.


RE: My question then: are there other materials or strategies you have - or resources you can suggest that I can use which might address the significant anxiety and OCD factors that limit her interactions and abilities and keep her very stuck?
The best course of action here would be to look for the antecedents of your daughter's anxiety. More on that here:
Also, a diagnosis of both Aspergers and Bipolar is especially problematic because there are fundamental differences between ‘Aspergers mood states’ versus ‘mood states of a child without Aspergers’. Four specific domains need to be considered in the process of diagnosis:

• ‘Psychosocial masking’ make some unusual behaviors seem like disorders when they are not.
• ‘Intellectual distortion’ involves confusion in communication; a person may say she is afraid instead of angry.
• ‘Cognitive disintegration’ may interfere with proper diagnosis since a child may exhibit odd behavior in response to seemingly insignificant occurrences.
• ‘Baseline exaggeration’ differences suggest that unusual base behaviors can interfere with proper diagnosis.
Try to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders.
Here's a list of my contacts (since I don't know where you live):

Mark Hutten, M.A.



Hi Mark, So far, your ebook and your email help has really been life-changing.  I feel like once I got over my resentment, forgave my husband for past transgressions, and moved forward in a neutral state with your ideas, life has gotten so much easier. Now, I’d really like to have him listen to the audio files with me.  I listened myself (and found myself saying, “yep” over and over again while doing so) but I can see a world of benefit in having him listen, as well.  I feel like I need to tell him I believe he has Asperger’s before I introduce the audio, though.  I want to play up the benefits and make him feel good about it because I know that he’ll shut down if I don’t tread extremely carefully and I don’t know if we can recover from that.  How would you tell a husband he likely has Asperger’s syndrome?  I know you touched on it in the ebook but I really don’t want to screw this one up. Thanks in advance!


Re: How would you tell a husband he likely has Asperger’s syndrome?  ==>  Keep it very simple and short - just as described in the eBook (I think I gave you a line or two that you can recite exactly as is). But then the rest is up to him. You are just planting seeds right now. Don't go for the big win - instead, chip away at his defenses one small tap at a time.



Question: I am intrigued by your success, however, I am not a parent of a child with aspergers, I teach an 8th grader who just began receiving special education services with a diagnosis of Aspergers.  Honestly, I have been skeptical about the diagnosis, but I am more convinced that she definitely has the emotional problems associated with Aspergers.  She is a delightful child and very smart.  The problem comes in when she has to do any school work that she feels is pointless or hard.  Whatever the reason, she just shuts down, does nothing, and won't communicate.  After 2 months of trying to figure it all out, I'm not much closer to an answer.  Her mom is feeling the same frustration and I will certainly pass along your information to her, but do you have any resources for teachers?

Answer:   Click here for highly effective teaching strategies -- specific to the Aspergers condition.


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

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