How to Effectively Advocating for Your Child with ASD

Being a mother or father of a youngster with ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can be both exhausting and rewarding at the same time. As the parent, you are responsible for being your child’s advocate. Advocating on behalf of a “special needs” youngster can be both intimidating and daunting; however, armed with just a few simple “advocacy tools,” the parent’s course-of-action can run relatively smoothly.

The following “keys to success as an advocate” will show how you can become an effective activist for your child:  

1. Make sure you understand all the assessments and evaluations that are going to be – or have been – conducted concerning your youngster. Always request clarification before consenting to evaluations or when reviewing test results. Ask questions such as, "who, what, where, when, why and when" …and then listen carefully to the answers you receive. Research relevant questions, and then document responses instead of simply relying on your memory. Learn how to best ask questions, and don't come across as hostile or defensive in order to get the best open and honest replies from others.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

2. Avoid blaming the people that you need assistance from, and don’t be a problem-maker. An adversarial relationship between you and your child’s educator is typically never in the best interest of the youngster. It's easy to fall in the trap of blaming others – or even pointing the finger at bureaucracy – for disappointments or a particular unsettling circumstance. But blame doesn't typically result in anything more than bad feelings and a disappointing outcome. Try the opposite approach. Keep calm, know the facts, and advocate about meeting your kid's unique needs. Propose solutions or create a possible plan that works best for everyone. Be open-minded and hear proposed solutions from the educational side as well. Being an advocate is not synonymous with being pushy and demanding.

3. Be an expert in special education. It’s good to become extremely knowledgeable about special education law. Learn the details behind the federal law that effectively created special education, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Moms and dads typically have goals for their children, and families of special education children in particular should establish goals – along with a strategy to obtain them.

4. Stay positive. Celebrate what is right with your youngster. Have your youngster's teachers tailor curriculum so that the focus is about “capitalizing on strengths” rather than “fixing weaknesses.”

5. Fill out an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your youngster. You will be thankful you have this document, which is considered legal and binding in a court of law. Add as much information to it as possible. If it is not documented in the IEP, your youngster's school does not have to follow it. Your first year may be trial and error as you learn what needs to be included and what can be taken out. If the school does not adhere to the IEP and you have contacted them unsuccessfully, you can request a hearing. If your issue is not satisfactorily handled at the hearing, you can bring your matter before a judge. The school knows how binding the IEP is, so most of the time you will never have to request a hearing. If you find that your IEP isn't being followed, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer. The IEP should include the following:
  • Description of any modifications in state- or district-wide assessments of achievement that are needed in order for your youngster to participate. If the IEP team determines that she will not participate in such an assessment (or part of an assessment), a statement of why that assessment is not appropriate for her and how she will be assessed.
  • Statement of how your youngster's progress toward his annual goals will be measured and a description of how you will be regularly informed of his progress toward the annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable him to achieve the goals by the end of the year.
  • Statement of measurable annual goals for your youngster, including benchmarks or short-term objectives. These must help him to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, as well as meet other educational needs that result from his disorder. 
  • Statement of the special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services to be provided to your youngster. This would include program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for your youngster: (a) to be involved and progress in the general curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; (b) to be educated and participate with other kids with “special needs” and “typical” children in all of this; and (c) to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals.
  • Statement of your youngster's present levels of educational performance, including the ways in which her disorder affects her involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. 
  • Explanation of the extent, if any, to which your youngster will not participate with “typical” kids in the general education class and in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities. 
  • Beginning at age 14, and updated annually, a statement of the transition service needs, and beginning at age 16 (or younger, if appropriate), a statement of needed transition services. 
  • Projected date for the beginning of services and modifications, as well as their frequency, location, and duration.

6. Find out what type of schools are available for your youngster, and make an appointment to visit them. Some states have “special needs” schools, and others do not. Many states have different classrooms within their school for “special needs” children.

==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

7. Parenting an ASD youngster comes with a lot of paperwork. Make sure to keep those papers neatly organized in a file or notebook. Additionally, you should always write down any questions you have concerning your youngster's care or education prior to meeting with physicians or educators.

8. Imagine that YOU are the youngster on the autism spectrum. Advocating for your son or daughter can be stressful at times, but it has to be done. Try to imagine that you are the youngster with AS or HFA. What would you want someone to do for you? Often times, thinking about the situation like this will give you the right perspective and the direction you need to become a very strong advocate.

9. Learn as much as possible about your youngster's disorder. Do your own research, attend meetings, and join support groups. Information is power, so moms and dads need to start with the facts about their youngster's disorder. Keep emotion out of it. Have fact-based knowledge from your youngster's doctors, specialists, special education experts, attorneys, educators, and anyone else who can provide information.

10. Don't just assume that your youngster’s school doesn't want to meet his or her unique needs and provide educational benefits. Most do! However, a wide range of need combined with limited resources often create the potential for conflict between (a) what reasonably can be provided versus (b) the parent wanting what she believes is "best" for her child. Moms and dads and educators should do everything possible to establish a positive, partnership-based learning approach and work collaboratively.

11. Recognize that you, the parent, are your youngster's BEST advocate. Despite the professional opinions of teachers, therapists, physicians and researchers, you know your youngster's personality better than anyone else. Don't be hesitant about calmly asserting your own views, but do so in a non-aggressive way.

12. Be assertive when dealing with physicians. If you feel something is wrong with your youngster and your physician insists there isn't, you need to take action. Request a specialist. Most physicians will give you a referral to see a specialist. There are doctors who specialize in autism spectrum disorders, and they will be more open to listening to your complaints and finding whatever is wrong. Don't discount your parental intuition.

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

13. Be assertive when dealing with insurance companies. Along with the physician, you are going to need to advocate for your youngster with the insurance companies. They may try to deny anything extra that your youngster needs. Don't give up. Get documentation from physicians and specialists to back up your claims. Also check with other moms and dads about what your insurance company may cover. The insurance companies won't tell you this, but you can find out by asking other parents with kids on the autism spectrum.

14. Think long-term. Moms and dads not only have the responsibility of planning their youngster's education and requirements today – they are also faced with the difficult task of thinking about the future. Be an active forecaster in setting-up your youngster's successful life down the road.

15. Questions to ponder as your child’s advocate:
  • Are you satisfied with your youngster’s progress in school and/or at home?
  • Are you tired of being told your youngster does not qualify for a special education assessment?
  • Do you feel comfortable dealing with your school officials or regional center representatives?
  • Do you feel your youngster is misunderstood at school?
  • Do you feel your youngster was assessed adequately and is placed in a program that fits his or her unique needs?
  • Do you need assistance and/or advice in your efforts to be an effective advocate in your role as parent, an equal partner during IEP or Regional Center meetings?
  • Do you need help overcoming road blocks in your efforts to gain appropriate services for your AS or HFA youngster?
  • Do you need help persuading the school to give the educators and support personnel the tools and skills to help your youngster gain benefit from the curriculum presented?
  • Do you need help securing services or placing your youngster in a particular program meeting the unique needs of your youngster?
  • Do you understand your youngster’s rights regarding education and/or early childhood intervention?
  • Do you understand your rights with regard to your parental involvement with your youngster’s program?
  • Is your youngster getting the right services?
  • Is your youngster reaching his/her potential?

Failing to be an advocate for your ASD youngster is not an option. If you skip over this most important role as a mother or father, the only person who is going to suffer is your son or daughter. Learning how to be your child’s hero and blazing a trail for his or her success in life is your most valuable mission!


Surviving Christmas Break: Tips for Parents with Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Christmas break gives the family a reprieve from the ordinary time spent with school and work; however, crammed schedules and unpredictable routines, mixed with the sights and sounds of the holidays, can add up to two weeks full of stress for a youngster with ASD or High Functioning-Autism (HFA) – and his or her parents and siblings. The change in routine is the biggest difficulty during the holidays. The unfamiliarity and excitement often lead to many difficult moments.

If you are the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, then following the guidelines below will help make Christmas break run a lot smoother:

1.    A daily calendar can be very helpful during the Christmas break, especially to help your ASD youngster anticipate any parties or family gatherings that you may be going to.

2.    Avoid taking your “special needs” son or daughter shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your youngster is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping, you can select a few gifts and bring him or her home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your youngster. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

3.    Before you leave for holiday parties, parades, or other fun events, have a quick family meeting so your whole family knows how long you plan to stay and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit “typical” kids as well, since any youngster can get overwhelmed with the excitement of the holidays.

==> Crucial Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism 

4.    Kids with sensory sensitivities may require a little extra planning to enjoy holiday festivities (e.g., you may need to bring along ear plugs if you will be in a noisy environment, or sensory fidgets if your youngster is expected to sit still). For sensitive children who need to wear dress clothes for events, bring along some soft clothes for them to change into as soon as possible. Be prepared by knowing your youngster’s specific limitations and how you will handle them if the need arises. Don’t wait for the meltdown to begin.

5.    Don’t get sucked into the “hustle-bustle trap.” None of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for ASD kids to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Kids on the autism spectrum should be given notice of transitions.

6.    Don’t overbook your “special needs” boy or girl. It’s important to use Christmas break for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas until noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your child’s body, mind, and spirit.

7.    Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your child feel more comfortable with people he may not have seen in a while. Aunt Martha won’t seem quite so creepy when she bends down to hug your youngster.

8.    During family gatherings, have a code word your youngster can use if she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Assure your youngster that, if she uses the code word, you will respond right away. Again, giving kids some control during activities that may be over-stimulating for them will reduce anxiety.

9.    If your youngster has an interest in a particular item, you can use that item as a “focus point” to help him keep calm and on task during Christmas break. It can be a favorite toy, Pok√©mon card, stuffed animal, or anything that your youngster has a strong attachment to. You can create a few simple rules in which your youngster can have access to this item during the day. Make them easy enough so that he will have the opportunity to spend some quality time with his item of interest throughout the day and during Christmas break. This will reinforce positive behavior and make your life more enjoyable!

10.    If your youngster is easily over-stimulated, limit holiday decorations in your home. Too many twinkling lights combined with smells from the kitchen and other holiday distractions, while enjoyable to most, can be too much for kids on the spectrum. Let your child help you decorate for the holidays so she is involved in the changes that take place in her environment.

==> Teaching Social-Skills and Emotion-Management to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

11.    If your child has food sensitivities or allergies that prevent him from eating holiday treats, plan ahead to offer alternatives (e.g., all-natural candy, a gluten-free treat) from home.

12.    Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your child see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage her to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

13.    Family routines change drastically during the holidays. Bedtimes are later, naps may not be on schedule, and there is no set schedule. Make sure you start getting back into your daily routine a few days before school reconvenes so that the adjustment in January is a little easier.

14.    Let your child do one thing for the holiday that makes him feel proud. Children can collect acorns, or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful centerpiece.  They can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain from correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays.

15.    Make “notes to self.” Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Children love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your ASD youngster make a list of what she wants to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate, or what to pack for a self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your child feel involved. Encourage her to add happy words (e.g., smile, laugh) or draw a smiley face on her list.

16.    Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your kids. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

17.    Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your ASD youngster emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for “anxiety causing” issues. Is wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at grandpa’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask him to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about meltdown-triggers ahead of time. If your youngster doesn’t like to be hugged, suggest a handshake or just a wave.

18.    The meaning of Christmas can be abstract and difficult for a youngster with  ASD to comprehend. To make it easier: (a) prep him ahead of time about the updated school schedule and special events; (b) have pictures or social stories about what he can expect; (c) practice and rehearse what is going to happen, especially if your youngster is going to be a part of a presentation; (d) talk to the teachers and assistants about how your youngster is going to participate, and confirm that supports are in place to help him succeed; and (e) plan for a quieter evening after the event, so your youngster has a chance to decompress from the excitement.

19.    If you’re wanting to get out of the house for a few hours during Christmas break, let your youngster invite a close friend to join you for a couple of games at your local bowling alley, take an adventure to a local museum, or just plan a short outing to the park to play. You can always check your local area for “autism-friendly” activities that your youngster might enjoy participating in (e.g., Christmas lights, holiday crafts, a visit with Santa, Christmas stores, etc.). If the plan is to stay close to home, you can always have a family movie afternoon, play board games together, or enjoy reading a book to your youngster.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

20.    Visiting friends and family will always pose a challenge. Some moms and dads insist on hosting instead of visiting a place that is unfamiliar to their youngster. If you are going to a relative’s house: (a) prepare a social story so your youngster knows exactly what to expect; (b) make sure you prepare your youngster to travel; (c) bring activities that your youngster is familiar with and enjoys doing; (d) speak to your hosts and arrange a quiet spot for your youngster to retreat to if the activities are too overwhelming; (e) if your youngster is weary of large groups and attention, give relatives a heads up about approaching him or her; (f) arrive early to set up and get comfortable; and (g) give yourself some permission to leave early if needed.

21.    Your youngster can enjoy downtime when she feels over-stimulated at your house or at your relatives. Set up a “break space” and be sure that the other kids and guests know that this space is off-limits. Empower your youngster to recognize when she needs to go to her break space. No matter where you may be, your youngster needs to know that she has a special location where she can be calm, relax and enjoy some quiet time.

22.    During Christmas break, try to maintain as much of your youngster’s usual schedule as you possibly can, using your knowledge of what he does each day. If he normally does something like board-work first thing in the morning, or spends a certain amount of time on Spelling before lunch, you can help him review what he has been learning at school. Making a game of your youngster’s Spelling, Science or Social Studies will show him that you know his daily schedule is important. You can make this a fun experience, while still maintaining a similar routine that your youngster can feel comfortable with over the break.

Christmas break doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year for you or your youngster. I hope the strategies listed above will help your entire family enjoy this fun time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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


“Learned Helplessness” in Adult Children on the Autism Spectrum

In working with families affected by Autism over the years, I’ve noticed that a lot of young adults (ages 20 – 30 approximately) are still living at home with their mother and father, not out of true need, but out of what is known as “learned helplessness.”

This phenomenon occurs when a young adult comes to believe that he has little (or no) control over his life, and that whatever he does to try to change a “bad” situation is futile. As a result, this “discouraged” individual will stay passive in the face of any unpleasant, harmful or damaging state of affairs, even when he actually does have the ability to improve his circumstances.

As a parent of an adult child on the autism spectrum, you may want to copy and print the following information and share it with your “late-bloomer” (especially if he is a legal adult who feels powerless to “leave the nest” and start his own life):

Learned helplessness can be thought of as believing you are incompetent, that you have no control over the outcome, that it doesn’t matter what you do since outcomes no longer depend on actions, and that your actions are pointless. To qualify as true “learned helplessness,” the phenomenon should meet the following three conditions:
  1. The adult child has to become inappropriately passive.
  2. This change has to follow exposure to uncontrollable events.
  3. There is a change in the way the adult child thinks about her ability to control similar future events.

The adult child with learned helplessness has certain rationalizations and self-talk that often go something like this:
  • “Adopting a passive stance provides me with a sense of control over my life circumstances.”
  • “Beating my head against a brick wall wastes time and energy and is potentially harmful.”
  • “Hope has its limits.”
  • “Persistent attempts to control the uncontrollable are futile.”
  • “Remaining passive allows me to conserve energy when the ‘evidence’ tells me there is simply nothing else for me to do.”

When important things happen, we tend to explain what caused the outcome. The way we explain misfortune can be analyzed along two dimensions known as “locus of control” and “generality”:

1. Locus of control: An “internal” locus of control refers to the tendency to take personal responsibility for the outcome. An “external” locus of control refers to the tendency to attribute the outcome to external events.

2. Generality: Generality refers to considering the outcome as an isolated one-time event, or as a permanent condition. Generality has the dimensions of time and scope:
  • Causes lasting for only a limited time are called “unstable,” while those lasing for a long time are referred to as “permanent.”
  • Limited scope is called “specific,” while general scope is called “global.”

Young adults with learned helplessness tend to (a) have an external locus of control (e.g., “I have no control over what happens to me”), and (b) view unwanted outcomes as permanent (e.g., “Because I didn’t get hired for that job this time, I probably won’t get hired for any other job ever”).

Consider these four different ways of explaining why you did poorly on a job interview...

Specific time and scope:
  • “I didn’t prepare this time for this job interview” (internal locus of control).
  • “The person doing the interview wasn’t fair” (external locus of control).

General time and scope:
  • “I’m never any good at being interviewed for a job” (internal locus of control).
  • “All job interviews are unfair” (external locus of control).

People have characteristic explanatory styles they habitually use to explain why things happen. Attributing causes to “internal specific” factors explains outcomes in terms of behaviors (e.g., “I didn’t get hired for the job this time”). The unwanted outcome is attributed to a single isolated instance of poor performance. This is an “optimistic” explanatory style for bad outcomes, because your behavior can be modified to best suit specific events.

Attributing causes to “internal general” factors explains outcomes in terms of character traits. (e.g., “I didn’t get hired for the job because I’m incompetent now and always”). This is “pessimistic” for bad outcomes, because character traits remain largely constant over time.

Now consider the possible explanations when something good happens. Here are four different ways of explaining why you got hired for a desirable job:

Specific time and scope:
  • “I was skillful in answering the interviewer’s questions this time” (internal locus of control).
  • “This interviewer was fair this time” (external locus of control).

General time and scope:
  • “I’m usually skillful, especially with answering questions during job interviews” (internal locus of control).
  • “The job market is getting better. I must have got lucky this time” (external locus of control).

Here the optimistic individual takes full credit when things go well, attributing the good outcome to internal rather than external factors. The optimist takes broad credit for good outcomes, but narrow responsibility for bad outcomes. Attributing the good fortune to your generally good character (rather than specific behavior) is optimistic. The optimist:
  • Adopts an external locus of control when things go bad
  • Allows himself to dream and see possibilities
  • Attributes bad outcomes to external factors and rare circumstances, or to narrowly isolated mistakes
  • Discounts or dismisses risks 
  • Fuels aspirations of hope
  • Inspires others
  • Is bold
  • Is undaunted by defeat
  • Is unlikely to suffer from anxiety or depression
  • Personalizes and adopts an internal locus of control when things go well
  • Recovers quickly from setbacks
  • Seeks to advance
  • Seizes the possibilities
  • Sustains the effort and persistence required to overcome obstacles
  • Takes broad personal credit for good outcomes

 ==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

On the other hand, the pessimistic individual attributes good outcomes to external events, including uncharacteristically good luck. The pessimist blames himself broadly for bad outcomes, but attributes good outcomes to external factors. The pessimist:
  • Adopts an external locus of control when things go well
  • Attributes good outcomes to external factors or luck
  • Blames himself broadly for bad outcomes
  • Highlights and emphasizes risks
  • Highlights problems
  • Is likely to suffer from anxiety and depression
  • Is overly concerned with safety
  • Is timid, conservative, and protects what he has
  • Personalizes and adopts an internal locus of control when things go bad
  • Promotes caution, critical thinking, skepticism, and defensive measures
  • Recovers slowly, if at all, from setbacks
  • Wallows in defeat

Explanatory Styles—

Research shows that explanatory styles are primarily “learned” rather than inherited. You learned how to explain bad things from three main sources:

1. You learned your own explanatory style from major life crises. If you experienced a crisis (e.g., a house fire, divorced parents, bullying, poverty, etc.), you noticed if those major life-stressors got resolved after a short period of time, or if they persisted for a long period of time. If the crisis got resolved quickly, then you learned to believe that adversity is specific, temporary, and can be overcome. If the crisis expanded and never ended, you learned to believe that adversity is permanent and pervasive.

2. You modeled how your mother and/or father explained adverse events. If your parents tended to blame themselves (or you) broadly when bad things happened, you probably noticed and learned this pessimistic style.

3. You learned your explanatory style from the other adults that cared for, disciplined, taught, and criticized you (e.g., teachers, coaches, other authority figures). When these adults blamed your character or personality whenever bad things happened, you quickly learned to blame yourself using personal, permanent, and pervasive explanations for why things go wrong.

The style you learned for explaining adversity typically persists throughout adult life. But, you can learn to dispute your pessimistic explanations. If you tend toward pessimism for adverse events, you can learn to dispute your own reasoning and adopt more objective, accurate, and optimistic explanations. Remember that in blaming yourself for a bad outcome, you are accepting a fallacy of “disproportionate responsibility.” Generally, many causes contribute to each result, outcome, event, or incident. For example, the causes contributing to an automobile accident may include:
  • choice of route
  • choice of time and schedule
  • choice of vehicle
  • design of the automobile
  • design of the road system
  • driver attention
  • driver preparation
  • driver training
  • maintenance of the automobile
  • manufacture of the automobile
  • obstacles
  • other cars and drivers on the road
  • passenger behavior
  • pedestrians
  • traffic signals
  • weather conditions
...and numerous other factors

So, be objective when assessing blame or taking credit. Divide the responsibility for the bad result (or good result) evenly among all those involved in the situation, based on how their inactions (or actions) affected the result. Maybe you must take some of the blame, or deserve some of the credit, but it is unlikely you or they are 100% responsible for the outcome. Become your own defense attorney, re-examining the evidence, challenging assumptions, considering other possibilities, and offering alternative explanations.

Let’s use the “job interview” example again to illustrate this concept...

You didn’t get the job following an interview, so you automatically blame yourself, believing “I’m just not any good at making a good first impression.” As a result, you feel ashamed, mildly depressed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. Now it is time to recognize that you are not helpless – it’s time to dispute your hasty, inaccurate, and pessimistic conclusion.

What does the evidence say? Certainly you have made a good first impression in your lifetime to get to where you are now. You were able to make at least a few friends over the years who liked you and wanted to spend time with you. You “won them over” by making a good first impression. This evidence clearly disputes your pessimistic belief that you are never any good at impressing people.

What additional contributing causes are there for you not getting hired based on one job interview? Maybe you were upset about some recent problem (e.g., a fight with your lover, your car broke down, etc.). Maybe you were under unusual stress, needed extra help from a job coach, didn’t prepare adequately for the interview, or didn’t get a good night's sleep the night before. Maybe the person conducting the interview was looking for someone with a specific skill-set. With so many factors at work, it’s inaccurate to attribute blame entirely to yourself, and it is certainly an over-generalization to extrapolate from this one occurrence to a general, pervasive, and persistent conclusion. 

A more accurate explanation is that you did poorly on this particular job interview for some isolated reason (e.g., poor preparation, lack of experience with interviews, fear of being under-qualified for this particular job, etc.). This isolated problem can certainly be overcome, and there is no need to feel ashamed or helpless. Put this setback into the past, address any specific issues, and go about preparing for the next job interview. Take responsibility only for what you did and what you can change.

Learned helplessness is also pertinent to your health. Several studies show that an optimistic explanatory style is linked to good health, and a pessimistic explanatory style predicts poor health. Mechanisms probably include biological, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal factors. Research also suggests that learned helplessness is an important mechanism contributing to passive behavior in aging, athletic performance, chronic pain, and unemployment.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right.”

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for December, 2013]

I watched the videos in the first lesson last night. Great job. It's like you are speaking from personal experience, like you remember what it was like to be in the mind of a child. It's just crazy because you have successfully transported into the mind of my three kids. More importantly, you have become the virtual voice of my sons with PDD. I have had trouble figuring out what is going on in their head, since they cannot speak in full sentences yet. But behavior is communication. I have to shift my focus from words to actions. Be an observer. 

I am hopeful and feel liberated having week 1 strategies. They are pretty simple, if you think about it. The part on dependency and self-reliance blew MY mind. I have got work to do. And I scored an 81 on the indulgence test. Yikes. But this is all dead on and I have a part to play. It is now time for me to create these healthy boundaries the correct way. 

I just wanted you to know I appreciate your dedication to your site. This is the exact help I needed without breaking the bank anymore than has been done with my husband in a mental facility. 

Have a great New Year's and I will touch base following this week. This is an extreme home situation and I will have one hell of a testimonial one day. Everyone tells me I need to write a book one day to help other parents' with their children given the range of experiences we have had as a family. You just can't make some of this stuff up. :( The parenting strategies-how I handle things-has been the missing piece. 

Thanks for your advice. 

Here's to more balance!



Hey, I'm having a issue with attendance. I've been late 19 times and missed 15 exused days and 12 unexcused days. Do you think you could explain what might happen? They told me I would be expelled if I missed or was late 2 more times. I missed 1 day and was late another. Would I still be able to get a job if I got expelled? Like a few weeks after the expulsion. Do I have any other alternative options for schooling like online school?


Dear Dr. Hutten,

Our parents died 23 years ago and we have a 50 year old sister with Aspergers.  We have struggled for years with all the issues common to adults with aspergers.  She was only diagnosed 5/6 years ago because Aspergers is a fairly new diagnosis.  We fear we are pioneers on "seniors" with AS as there is very little help or information out there.

We purchased a home for her to live in 20 years ago but her ability to manage her life has continued to decline.  She of course would not admit that this is true.

Most important to us is the medical issues that we are facing with her.  She does not take medication properly, does not take care of herself and does not eat properly.

We could also use your advise on how to deal with her...as you may imagine she is "very set in her ways".  With all the research out there that I have done I still seem to be ineffective in dealing with her.

Do you know of any living situations that would address her AS as well as her aging?  She seems to be willing to "downsize" but little else.  She lives in Michigan and will not look elsewhere although this is not a deal breaker for us if it is the right situation.  It just might be unpleasant getting her there.

 We have spent the last 7 years holding her accountable.  She is very capable of working but chooses not to work very much...she chose to not move to a living situation that would take care of her bills, food, medical so now she is experiencing the consequences by being behind and having her heat turned off, being overdrawn at the bank and having no food.  This doesn't seem to motivate her to work more.  She appears to like the drama it creates on Facebook (yes, evil for an Aspie, she is addicted).


Hi Mark,
We have a 19 year old son who is out of control. Can your book be applied to dealing with a "legal"  adult.
Ever since our son turned 18 things began to go down hill. Will this book advise on how to raise and adult teen with Aspergers?
Our sons live with us, but feels he does not have to follow rules. We also have another major problem that he has two younger sisters who want him removed from the home because of his disruptive and often threatening behavior.  Any advice as to whether this program would work for us at his age and or do you have another suggestion?
Many thanks!


Good Evening:

I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the letters you send out.  I paid the fee for the counseling, and as of yet, haven't consulted with you about anything....but the letters you send with the tips are SO incredibly useful; helpful-as well as the guide.  Last night, I was at the Kroger near my home in Indianapolis. The moment I entered the store,  I heard a child moaning, wailing and screaming, 'Get off me! You're hurting me! Get her off me! Why?! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME? Get off me? Let go of me!"

I instantly recognized a melt down occurring.  I have heard these outbursts before.  I walked past frozen shoppers-some looked uncomfortable...one shook her head and said to her friend, "I would never let my child behave like that. A teenager or not! I would smack the living shit out of her-she's not too grown for me!  Give me that child just one week, and she'll wish she'd never found her little attitude." Her friend nodded and said, "Mmmmhmmmm."

I pushed through the crowd where a shaking mother was sitting on her flailing teenage daughter while yelling at another mother who was standing to the side with her daughter.  She was saying, "I have the whole thing recorded on my phone. Everything your daughter did to my daughter, I have the whole thing recorded.  Just wait until the police get here.  Your daughter was chasing my daughter and touching her-she knows she's autistic; they go to school together-how horrible is your child? How mean and cruel can she be?"

The other mother said, "My daughter barely touched your daughter." Her daughter nodded and stepped forward, and with a sneer, said, "My mom is right, all I did was this," and while the Autistic girl was pinned down by her mother, the perpetrator leaned down and touched her leg with a slight squeeze.  This sent the poor autistic child into a further rage.  She kicked and cried and screamed, and the mother screamed to store clerks who had come running, "Get that girl away from us until the police come! I've already called the police....get her away from my daughter!"

My heart ached, and I really had to fight back tears.  It was painful to watch both the pain of the mother and the melt down of the child.  There was nothing I could do to help, the situation was being handled by the store, and soon the police and EMS arrived-all the while the melt-down screaming and fighting occurring.  The child was clearly under a sensory overload -the lights, the noises, the people gathered, the carts, a bully from school, her mother freaking out-and she was miserable and confused.  I remembered how you said that once the melt downs start, they are very hard to break....so prevention is the best thing. 

As I wheeled my cart away from the scene, I listened throughout the store to the child carrying on, and I listened to other shoppers comments about it.  I don't think anyone who hasn't personally experienced the moods and mind of an autistic/Asperger's child has any idea of what it feels like as a caregiver or parent or suffering child.  It is truly a gift you give to share your experience and experiences with all of us, and I deeply appreciate it.  Many things you've said I've implemented with our 10 year old son-even if only to read about the condition and better understand it when I dish out solutions of my own which seem to work for him; for us.  I have prevented many meltdowns...going to great lengths to prevent them...and now I see the value in it even more, as I listened and saw this teenager last night going through such a difficult time. 

Just taking a minute after my workday to type this to you, and let you know the gratitude I feel for all the lessons.   

Thanks, LTS


Mr. Hutten--I just ordered your ebooks and listened to the first audio recording on Launcing An Asperger's Young Adult.  I must say I believe your website is an answer to prayer as I've been feeling quite hopeless of late with our son who has the Nonverbal Learning Disorder (very closely related to Asperger's).  The purpose for my email to you was to find out where any of your upcoming seminars will be to see if we might be able to attend?  I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained by the challenges of our son and feel a strong need to get connected with other parents facing similar issues.  Thank you in advance for your reply.  Sincerely, Marilyn Sherman


Dear Mark:

A year ago you adviced me to seriously  see to my son's leaving  home, on account of his aggressive behaviour.

My son and I have just achieved it: for the last three weeks, he's  living by himself at an apartment, 30 minutes' walk from my home.

He is  supposed to  look after himself and intends to prepare some competitive exams for a job as  civil servant in the Administration of Law, (as I mentioned to you before, he's a 25 year old "highly  functioning Aspie", with a  Law  degree and  a four months' professional internship experience at an Arbitral Law consultancy)

Where is the problem, then?  Well, I very much doubt if, after a two years' cramming for the exam, he'll be able to take -and pass- a 100 questions test of four item options each, (apart from a case  study test and a four hour written exposition of  two topics). Most of his Aspie draw backs play against that possibility, as I gather from some traits of my son's profile, which  I'm including in the adjunct document .

I 'm afraid  he'll  soon realize the competitive exams are much above his reach and give up preparing for them altogether. Then, what?

I have read your  "Employing Older Teens and Young Adults with Aspergers: 10 tips for Employers". I find it most helpful but there are no such employers available. The job offer for Aspergers young adults in Spain is absolute ZERO! But I'm convinced that what my son needs -and very badly- is  to prove himself capable and self sufficient in some congenial job.

This is my question : Can you suggest  kinds of possible jobs  and  possible addresses and  contacts to find out more about it? Thank you so much for your attention, Mark.


Last Tuesday my daughter swore very offensively at my husband and slammed her sisters computer shut (losing 2 weeks of her work). We demanded her phone as a consequence to her behaviour. She refused to give it. I then turned the Wifi off, took her ipod, computer and all the chargers I could find. When she realised I had taken all the chargers she attacked by spilling nail polish over our bed, taking my phone etc. After 4 days of her refusing to give her phone we stopped the account and refused to give her money to her. By Saturday evening she gave the phone up. We don’t want to physically restrain her in the future to get the phone. Is our only option to stop the account each time? I would appreciate your advice on this matter. I am very anxious imposing these boundaries. I have realised how frightened I am of my daughter.


Atten Mark
I am e-mailing you in desperation
My 21 year old son has Asperger syndrome was diagnosed  at the age of 4 he has little interest in anything but gaming
He has finished a year at college and dropped out now is trying to upgrade his math but he seems to not want to go every day I have struggled with him not wanting to attend school I have taken him to all sorts of doctors but nothing seems to work I noticed in the website that you have a book out Help for Parents with Asperger’s was wondering if this book would help my adult son
Any  help would be appreciated


Hi Mark,
I am reading so many articles on Aspergers in your web site. Thank you so much. The information is so useful.
My daughter is 8 year old and she is diagnosed with Aspergers. She has problems interacting with other kids. I took her to the doctor and she tested for "Serum Oxytocin"
Normal range is in between 7-15 pg/ml. But her results say 2.72
My daughter Oxytocin level is very low. She advised us to put her on Oxytocin treatment.
As a mother I am very nervous to put her on medication. I know that it is in still research.
Can you please put some light into it. Very confused.


I am a teacher with an Asperger's student and I am desperate for help. Let me explain the student. I have not noticed that he is hyperfocused on any particular area of interest but I plan to explore that more. I teach 6th grade reading and writing. This child, like many boys that age, doesn't really like writing although he seems to like to read. In order to get him excited about writing I have incorporated computer research, videos and guest speakers into the in-class writing assignments. He gets excited about the topic and is usually happy to do research but does not want to do any of the writing that comes along with it; including taking notes while watching a video. His writing is very limited and lacks expanded details and correct facts that would come with correct planning. When he is not doing what he is supposed to do I remind him of what he should be doing, then give several warnings and finally tell him to come in at lunch so he can do it then. This is not improving the behavior. I am not an expert on this disorder and his behavior looks to me like laziness and the product of being enabled by his mother. I believe that, rather than making excuses for him, he should be taught coping skills so that he can achieve the same as every other child. I'm just not sure what more I can do to accommodate him while still having high expectations. I greatly greatly appreciate any help you can give! Thank you so much!


Hi Mark,
I have a 24 year old son who I am reasonably sure has Aspergers. He lives at home.  He pays rent. He cooks his own food except that I prepare his daily vegetables in return for him driving my daughter to her violin lesson weekly. He has a girl friend ( now for 1 and 1/2 years); she is a psychology major. He can be very helpful when I ask him to do something- however there is always a huge gamut to run first with questions such as "Why do you want me to do it? Can you do it yourself? What exactly does it entail(down to the last little detail )(and if I forget a detail and he does not do it, then there is a lot of anger when I ask him to do that detail, and often no compliance).  He has a good heart and I know that he would move the earth for me if he could and if I really needed him to do it.

The problem is that he is stuck and scared. When he was 18 he did not know what he wanted to do, so after taking the summer off, and with much pressure from me, he got a job which he worked at for almost 2 years.  At the end of that time he decided that he wanted to go to university and try computer science.  He went in the fall of 2009 which was just after my mom had come to live with us for almost 6 months and all hell broke loose. I will not go into detail on that.  It was an extremely stressful situation for all of us.  My daughter ended up depressed and unable to continue with anything for about 2 years. I have worked hard to get help for her and now she is finishing off her high school (at age 21) and moving ahead with her life. Just as a note, she has a learning disability ( my son does not) and ADHD (inattentive type)  which I believe my son also has to a lesser degree, and PDDNOS (and I believe my son is more strongly on the autism spectrum). My son is being tested right now, but I believe he would benefit from life coaching, which is why I am writing to you. To continue, my son missed his mid-term exams (says he did not look to see when they were until they were past). and decided that that program was not for him. He then stayed at home, using up all the money he had for about 5 months, then had a series of 1-4 month jobs at minimum wage, with some time off between each of them, before a friend got a job for him at the grocery store where he was working.  My son worked there until this past March.  Last fall (2012) my son paid for carrer counselling and was told that he would make a good engineer.  In order to get into engineering, he would have to have an average of more than 89% on his 5 best subjects.  He decided to take upgrading of 4 top level high school courses (physics, chem, math, and English) in a month.  Well, he did not start to organize himself to be ready to do this until the day he was supposed to actually begin the courses, so he ended up wasting the first 3 or more days getting to know the system, the teachers, and what assignments were due when.  Then he began, but he did not have a plan for how many days it would take him to complete each unit, and he was soon very far behind. He did get scores of more than 90% on all the tests he took, though.  He quit, but has not yet returned the books, as he has a year (til the end of March, 2014 to complete them). So there went the engineering program at university.  Meanwhile, his firlfriend persuaded him that he might like psychology, and convinced him to go to university  as an open studies student to do it. Again, he procrastinated. The Friday before classes were to start on the Monday, he had not heard from the universtiy, so finally got on the phone, only to find out that he was not elegible to take open studies at the university because he had applied for engineering, and then not done it.  He would have to wait til January.  He told me he did not want to do that, so I looked into alternatives for him and found that he could do it online through a long-distance university.  He ordered the text.  It was out of stock but soon arrived ( within a week and a half of him ordering it). He showed no interest in retrieving the text from the mailbox, nor in opening the package.  He still has not started it; says he does not want to do it.  What does he want to do? Nothing. He has said for a long time that nothing interests him as a career. Recently, when I was looking online for a post-secondary 2-year program for my daughter outside of our city as the one here has been recently shut down, , I just happened to see a program that I though he might be interested in and showed him.  He again said that nothing interested him, without finding out anything about it.  I asked him to read the description of the course, but he could not relate that to what a day-to-day job in that field might be.  I sat beside him and got him to check out all the engineering technologist courses (which are 2 year programs).  Again, he needed my help to even think what the next step could be in order to consider if this might be for him (I got him to check the OCC pages online and then to google what the day-to day job would be like.) At the end of this, he still did not know.  I asked him to check off if the job would be of even the tiniest bit of interest to him.  He did not know how without prompting-eventually I was able to get out of him that if the job was not hazardous to his health, and he did not have to get his hands dirty, and he could at least somewhat choose his own hours, the job might be all right. Of course, it had to make him more money than a job he could get right now (which is up to $16 an hour). At least taking a 2 year engineering technology course was much better than spending 4 years of his life at something that he did not like and end up with a job he did not like and have given averything in life up that he does like in order to pursue it. He was the most excited I have seen him be as he listed the pros and cons(at my request) of taking such a course or "continuing" to work at any old job now.

To backtrack a little, after he quit the grocery job in March of 2013 in order to do the upgrading, he got a summer job, beginning in June, purely in order to help me out.  I had to move from our previous home where we had been for 13 years because the area was getting older, and there were too few kids left for me to make a living teaching music, which is what I do.  However, moving to an area with lots of kids would require me to pay mortgage in August, which I could not afford.  So he paid the mortgage for me to be able to move here and make a better living (which I am now doing).In return, he got the master bedroom with its own bathroom and walk-in closet. The job he was doing ended at the end of September, and he has been sitting at home, using up all his money plus the $5000 inheritance he got from his recently deceased grandmother on his deceased father's side of the family. He has about $1100 left and owes almost that much on his mastercard, for car insurance. I have been asking him about a job.  He says he cannot apply for one until he knows what course of action regarding schooling he wants to take. He cannot decide  on that. It is as if he does not have the skills necessary to make the decision, or he has decided that the decision has to be the one and only, never to be changed  again, or both. I reminded him that he will not find the perfect job, because there is no such thing. That does not seem to change anything. His pattern nowadays is to get up about 11:30 or noon, play Starcraft on the computer, go out to a movie or dinner with his friends who live in the old area, or go out with his girlfriend (at her place or here), then come home at about 11:30 or so and play more Starcraft until about 3:00 or later in the morning. If it snows, he will shovel the front. He lifts weights in between sessions of Starcraft. He does not smoke or do drugs, nor ever has.  He drinks about 1 or 2 drinks every two to four months,on special occasions. He is a "good" young adult except that he cannot seem to get anywhere.

I am despairing. I feel that he won't talk to me because he feels that I will "tell him what to do". I do not know how to help him any more than I have.  Like I said, he is getting tested, like my daughter did, and it helped her a lot, knowing her profile, and getting accommodations, etc. for it.  I am hoping that it will help my son equally, but he is not as willing to try things as she, nor motivated to do so. How can I help him?  Sometimes I feel like I want to not be here anymore because it is just too hard. I told that to my sister, who also has an Asperger boy (age 11).  She sent me to your website and I bought your book about getting your teenage Asperger's child motivated.  However, I did not find much of it helpful as we have already been that route, or as much of it as he will travel or is applicable to him.

So far I know, from his testing, that he has a slow processing rate, that he perseveres more than anyone else (according to his tester) at the math questions he was given to do (math is his strong point) -I think he sat ther doing them for about 2 or 3 hours. When it came to the questions about "Elephants are blue" etc. he finished them all in the allotted time, and in his psychologist's experience, no one else ever had.

Are you able to help him?  Would he benefit from life coaching? I could wait until the end of his testing, which will probably be in Feb, however, he is almost out of money, and I cannot afford to feed him without going into debt myself (he is tall and skinny but eats a special diet due to food intolerances, so his food costs about $700 - $800 per month.).


Hello Mark: I was reading through the website My Asperger’s Child recently:   http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2010/10/aspergers-in-family.html

Your name and the counseling you provide and the ebooks you have written became apparent. I am interested in learning about social training for young adults and adults. Our son Kevin is 30 years old. We have known about his special differences for almost 20 years, and where he might sit on the autistic spectrum, and have tried to counsel him and guide him accordingly though the years. My question is: what material do you have for a 30 year old that now wants to engage socially more (at least my wife and I think he does), but is intimidated by the dating scene and interfacing with the world “out there”. We encourage him to join a ski club and go on trips with other young adults so that he can meet people his age that like to do the same things he can do. He is hesitant to do so, and says that he really needs to know what to do just to meet people and talk with them and to engage socially. Things like social coaching; a social playbook; a social mentor; conversation 101; online dating and so on come to mind, but so far we haven’t been able to push Kevin over “top dead center” in the social relationship world so that he can establish his own social circles. Have I explained my question well enough to you, and is there anything you have that can help Kevin and/or his parents? Can you point us in the right direction?


Hi, I am from England and have just found your website and articles.  I have a 25 year old son who I increasingly believe has Aspergers. Your description of meltdowns so much describes my experiences with  my son as a  child and now as an an adult . He is an adult now and i am at my wits end in knowing how to support him and get through his anger.  His anger is all consuming and has resulted in breakdown in family relationships and leaves him isolated, depressed and I believe desperately unhappy - but totally unwilling / unable to move on or accept support . I don't know what to do anymore .  Do you have any resources for parents with adult (children) or will your programme give me strategies that work with my adult son / Any advice welcome.


HI Mark, things are not going well. My son is in grade 10 but is repeating 2 grade nine subjects, Math and English. He has been avoiding the 2 grade nine subjects by skipping them. They are the last 2 subjects of the day and thus he just leaves school and goes home. Due to all the missed classes and undone assignments he is failing both subjects again. We have had many discussions about this and although he does not use the word anxiety I believe the 2 grade nine subjects and not being with his usual class is causing him anxiety so he avoids them. Do you have any thoughts that might help?


Dear Mark,

I stumbled onto your website a few days ago and since then have been drawn to it like a magnet.  I saw your videos about the out of control teen and found them to be very instructive even though I'm a teacher and don't have children of my own.  I also read your book about the Asperger's marriage and found many pointers that would work in my relationship.  I'm writing because I think my partner suffers from undiagnosed ADHD and the way we both handle that may not be best.  Do you have some practical, behavioral advice for us and recommendations for resources that may help.  Thank you in advance for your time.



Mr. Hutten, 

 I am writing to ask your advice on our current situation with our son.  Our son is a senior in high school and just turned 18 years old in November.  He has always been very strong-willed.  I resorted to seeking out your advice and put your e-book strategies to work last year.  After implementing your strategies, his behavior had greatly improved.  

Now that he has turned 18 things are starting to change.  Within a few days of his 18th birthday, he started not returning home at the time we requested.  He didn't think it was necessary to tell us where he was going and when he would return.  We warned him on a couple different occasions that if he didn't meet the expectation of completing school work and being home at the time requested that we would have to take his truck for a short period of time.  He did purchase his own truck but we are paying for his auto insurance and registration (which is in our name).  Our primary concern is that his school work gets completed each week so that he can graduate high school. 

Last Monday he was at a friend's house and texted us that he wasn't going to come home that night and if we kept bothering him he wouldn't come home at all.  After a number of warnings via text messages about complying to the rules or we take the truck, he still was being defiant and refused to come home.  At that point we drove to the friends house, took the truck and brought it home. When he noticed the truck was gone he was very angry.   He decided that he no longer wanted to stay at home and has since been staying with a friend (I am friends with the parents).  He has continued to attend school and work at his part-time job.  We told him that since we pay for insurance and registration that the truck stays here until he comes back home.  He is still angry with us for taking his truck and continues to say that he wants to live at his friend's house. 

My question is ... Are we doing the right thing by withholding the truck or should we come up with another plan?  We are concerned that if he has the truck on weekends and if any risky behavior happens or an accident were to occur that we would be responsible.  So I was thinking that if we were to come up with another plan, that it might be better to allow him to have the truck primarily for getting to school and work and dropping it off at home for the weekends.   What do you think??

I think it was a good idea to take the truck, but I wouldn't make "returning the truck" contingent upon him returning home since he paid for the truck (that's not quite fair). However, what is fair is that he gets his truck AND starts paying his own insurance. So make a new deal, "Start paying your own insurance - and the truck is yours."

RE: staying at friends house...

Hey, he's 18. Let him try it!


My company is trying to recruit parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome to test a social skills tablet-based game we’ve created. The innovative platform is informed by a content expert with years of classroom experience with children with Asperger's Syndrome and a PhD in Cognitive Science and we are very excited about the way it will help these children learn how to be their best selves in a fun, highly interactive way. Could you please post this ad for the research study on your blog and if possible e-mail it to your members as well? We’d appreciate it so much, please let us know if this is possible (allison@interactable.org):

I am Allison D’Eugenio, the founder of InteractAble, a start-up developing an adaptive tablet-based game to teach social skills to children with Asperger’s Syndrome. We are looking for parents of children ages 5-11 with Asperger’s Syndrome for an important research study we our conducting on our latest product. Compensation will be given for the time spent, at the rate of 30$/hour, and 20$ for each additional half hour spent on the study. The research study should take approximately 1.5 hours to complete. All data collected will be anonymous.

Please find a bit information about our current platform here:

Local greater New York City area residents are given preference as we will be running our live research study at our lab in the SoHo area of Manhattan, but, parents who live outside New York City and are interested in having their children participate in the study will also be considered for remote testing. The study will occur in late January, and information about registering for the study will be announced early in the new year.

If you are interested, please send an e-mail to allison@interactable.org, to get on our mailing list for information about the study.  Please include:
            -Age and sex of child with Asperger’s Syndrome
            -City and State where you reside

Thanks so much!


Hello Mr. Hutten,
I am desperately requesting assistance in getting help for me and my son.  My son is 12 years old and has been diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Attention Deficit Syndrome.  He is intelligent but has had difficulty in school because of his lack of social skills and is unable to make friends.  I have 50 percent custody of him and I am trying to get full custody of him because of his father's anger issues.  I need help with getting Eric the right assessment.  I feel so strongly that Eric has Aspergers and in order to get the right services I need to get the right diagnosis. 
I'm also interested in getting some recommendations from you.  Eric is starting to act out in ways that is starting to scare me.  He ran away from school in October and was in the news because they found him sleeping on the street in downtown San Diego.  He is so sad inside and I know it.  He just needs the right services and the right school placement but I know that has to start with the correct diagnosis and the right services. Do you do any distance therapy or advisory service?

I have 2 questions regarding my 6 year old daughter with PDD-NOS, and struggles with social and independent related issues:

1)  She refuses to use the bathroom by herself at home without my presence in the bathroom despite the fact that she will use the bathroom at school by herself.  Any efforts for me to step out of the bathroom so that she can be more independent or even brush her own teeth by herself results in a huge tantrum.  This refusal to use the bathroom by herself literally keeps me tied to her such that my husband and I can't leave her with anyone b/c she refuses to use the bathroom by herself unless it's in a school setting.  I am convinced that she is using this as a method of control and I can't seem to stop this behavior so that she will act like a normal 6 year old.

2) How do I handle abrupt/rude out of the blue comments she makes to others?  For example, we had some people over last night and she asked me to get her a cup.  One of our guests kindly gave her a cup and she so rudely stomped her feet and yelled I hate you to our friend.  I was baffled and stunned and had no idea how to discipline her.  Unfortunately, her behavior changes therefore, if I get her to stop saying one comment, she will then turn around and make some other socially inappropriate comment.  I often feel that I can't attend social functions with her due to inappropriate comments that she may make and once she does say something bad, I am left feeling helpless as to how to apologize to the person and what to say to her. 

Any advice?
 Dear Mr. Hutten,

I have been reading your articles online and also watching the videos and your show online and have been so impressed with your knowledge and also am seeking help from you.  I work with kids who have special needs and have been doing so for fifteen years.  This year I am working with a six year old boy in a First Grade classroom who is a high functioning boy with Asperger's but also has ODD.  We are all at out "wits end" with him.  The past two weeks he has spiraled out of control, becoming more aggressive, hitting, kicking the staff and last week said, "I will kill you and you will die".   He refuses to do any work at school or go to PE or Music.  He wants to do ONLY what HE wants to do and will say, "I'm NEVER going to do it".

I am so frustrated and want to help him but there are really no consequences in place for him.  We are told to take him out of class for a sensory break, etc. if he acts out.  A few weeks ago the class had to be removed as he was tearing things off the walls, etc.  He frequently will and have meltdowns falling on the ground and crying.  I'm frustrated as I don't think he belongs in a typical classroom but an ED room where he will have consequences and can be better helped with his ODD.

Any advice or guidelines you can share with me would be greatly appreciated.   Thank you.


I am a mother of a 20 and half years old female Aspie . She was diagnosed in 8th grade and has received communication services in the school from 8th grade to 12 the grade.  Her name is Ellen. She is attending a local university in the 3rd year but not smoothly. She is a fun and humorous but not sensible or mature for age. She has talent in music but she just wants to have fun with it and use it as way of socializing with people. She always seems to be afraid of missing out social interactions but she considers herself awkward with people and has said she prefers animals than humans. Her major right now is Zoology. 

My mistakes as her mother are over protecting and over correcting her immaturity given that she is a girl. She also takes her intensity from me. We cannot talk to each other now. In the last year, I usually end our communication by walking away from it to stop further ramifications. As result, my husband and I have limited information about what she is doing outside our home. She is not happy living at home as a college student. She leaves the house at 7 in the mornings, and comes past 7 pm on the weekdays due to the marching band practice three days only. On the weekends lately, she finds reasons to hang out as late as possible after she broke up with her boyfriend 3 months ago.  We have mentioned to her if she can find a part time job to support her living expenses we will support her moving out by contributing her rent. She has not made the consistent effort to find a job. 

The reason she broke up with her boyfriend is to pursue her happiness. Her pursuit of happiness is mingling with brothers of  a band fraternity after being turned down by one of the brothers for her pursuit of a possible relationship with him. She said hanging out with guys Is a lot easier than with girls. The problem is these brothers drink a lot. She talks about alcohol and whiskey now as if she is savvy on the topic even though she was never exposed to them a couple of months ago. My husband has a couple glasses of red wine for holiday/birthday family events and we do not have any alcohol in our house. As a result of this new social venue, she neglects her own band sorority sisters (and brothers.) Her ex- boyfriend is as concerned as my husband and I are. He has been in and out of speaking terms with her. Ellen is angry at us trying to meddling her social life and is tired of us controlling her life by telling her what time to come home and no drinking and driving. 

The last paragraph sounds like a normal college girl's drama except she does not have enough of common sense and social awareness and tends to act in an over-doing style to amuse the crowd. She knows A LOT of people (not typical for Aspergers) but they all seem to fade in and out her life after several months of her repeated, random, and immature jokes. Ironically, she is lonely most of the times as a result of her intensive and inadequate pursuit of fitting-in. She does not like us because she wants to move out and we "won't let her". Her communication tactics are blaming/excusing, lying, escaping/isolating when confronted with truth/reality. 

What makes her situation worse is that her younger brother who is a high achiever at school and swimming is probably going to go out of town next year for college. Almost all colleges he has applied offer him some merit scholarship. In contrast, she applied one university and got in and we have to pay all tuitions and all of her expenses. She got in university with ok GPAs ( took only 1 AP class) and has not have much confidence since the day she found out she was accepted. The university disability services and counseling services were not much help to her because she chooses to hang out in the music building all the time except in classes than committing to the scheduled services offered. We offered her a life coach for young  female adults. They met once, she did not say a word after their meeting. 

How can I communicate to her about the fundamental values and life skills that she has apparently chosen not to adopt? I tell her I love her often, but I feel so hallow inside about this love. There is no reciprocation from her. We have gone through too many years of fightings, yellings, tears, and counseling. There have been so many damages done. I have turned into religion to seek support inside my soul. My husband is very supported and wise but he is lost with ideas and words,  too. He made an alarming comment about Ellen that got me scared. He said if Ellen were not our daughter, he would not have much to do with a person like her. Ellen has evolved from a child with a golden heart to someone we did not expect her to be. Ellen trusts her piano teacher ( of 14 years) over me. Ellen has shared less with her piano teacher lately because her piano teacher has been given her more stern messages in the last few months as well. 

I read several online articles of yours on parenting adult Aspergers but I do not know systematically  and consistently how to apply to our unique situation especially when Ellen is totally shut down from me. I am willing to change me to help the situation. My husband has told Ellen "You have no idea how much your mother have done and will do for you. If she has to walk on fire to save you, she will." That sums up this mother. Apparently, I have done something majorly incorrect to face the situation I am in. I regret but I also do not have much time to regret as I have too much correction to do. Please advise me where to start in the middle of the mess. Thank you for your time,  patience and work to help all the families who are trying to be afloat. Enjoy your holidays. 


Dear Mr. Hutten,

My 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with Aperger's in 1st grade. Since then, her moods and behaviors have escalated with each passing year. She has seen 2 psychologists, and a psychiatrist. We have spent thousands on her therapy. She does fine at school (internalizes her feelings), then explodes at home. She is abusive verbally, emotionally and sometimes physically. She wounds us (Dad, Mom, 2 younger sisters and brother), over and over. Breaks from school are unbearable. We can't take vacations with her, so we just stay home. I have lost hope that she will change her reactions and behavior. Medications didn't seem to do anything for her, (prozac and Risperdone). One of her psychologists, in my opinion, enabled her behaviors. For example, told her she didn't have to see her grandparents on holidays, because she doesn't like them. They have given her everything a granddaughter could ever want! 

Our family cannot function in our home. Anytime we try to cook a meal or bake cookies, or play with toys, she gets abusive because anything out of order or the slightest mess triggers her anger. Do you have any advice for us? 


I have three kids, my two boys both have PDD-NOS.  They are 8 and 6.  My husband is suicidal and has been in a mental facility for the past five weeks.  He has been diagnosed with Bipolar 1.  His father had the same diagnosis and took his own life when my husband was 13.  There are many details you cant possibly know from this correspondence but, as you can imagine, my boys are not dealing well with the current home situation.  Neither am I.  My oldest son, Bryce, is having devastating meltdowns.  He alternates between flipping himself on the bed, floor, screaming and as if he is in pain-banging his head on the bedframe and glass doors-to laughing almost hysterically.

This is not new and accompanies periods of high stress.  I took him to a child psychologist today in the hope that psychotherapy will help him to verbalize his thoughts and control his anger.  I think he is very scared and angry at his father.  I dont think it is lost on him the heaviness and despair his father has been carrying for so long.  My heart is breaking.  I am overwhelmed with three kids, two with PDD, and my own pain.  I dont know how to help Bryce and I think he knows it.  At this point, where does the mental illness begin and end? Is it just PDD or something more? My real question, given the general background is: How can I communicate with Bryce when he goes into his seizure-like fits to prevent escalation?


I have been reading your web page on aspergers and wasn't sure if the book could help someone in my situation. I have a 21 yr old son in his 3rd yr at thr university of Colorado majoring in Russian. So I don't need to mention he is smart. He has never been officially been diagnosed with aspergers but it's so oblivious he has it. Everything you wrote describes him. When he was young he would run back in forth in the same line for hours, when he went to school he found a new line on the edge of the play ground to run back and forth on. He has never had a best friend or a girlfriend and avoids all social situations. He has done the obsessed thing too first with football where he learned about every player on every team their records stats etc then it was saltwater aquariums and fish where he read every book ever published. I am summing it up as quickly as I can but I know he has aspergers and I feel so guilty for not seeing it and helping him earlier in his life, is there anything I can even do at this point? We are on a ski trip with my husband and other 3 children and his dad got on him for eating too much ice cream and he left and went back to school (where nobody is because they are all home with their families and he doesnt have his classes to fill his time either) I am so afraid for him I feel like even tho he has been seeing a therapist in boulder is is getting worse. He has let himself go a bit and gained some weight and usually won't even go out to dinner with the family anymore. Is there anything at all you can recommend? I feel so helpless.


Dear Mr. Hutten,
I hope you enjoying the holidays. I am benefitting so much from your videos and newsletters in the recent days. My 7 year old son has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism, bipolar disorder and depression. he is extremely defiant, especially when depressed.
We will be seeing a psychiatrist/ developmental pediatrician soon, who might be able to help with the bipolar, depression, and/or anxiety. Can you please tell me what kind of therapy may be most helpful for a child suffering from ODD and autism? is there a particular type of occupational therapy for that?
Thank you for all  your work that I have benefitted from:) 
Good morning,

I found your YouTube videos and website yesterday. I've already purchased your e-book and signed up for the newsletter. How wonderful you take e-mails and I can't believe you have the time to respond as you must get so many.

My son, Erik, is almost 17 (dob 2-17-97). He was adopted from Russia at 18 mo. He wasn't walking or babbling, but otherwise was a healthy looking child. We have since found his birth mother and she said she put him in the orphanage after birth and that she smoke, drank and took drugs for syphillis during pregnancy. She broke her leg during that time as well and blamed the baby for slow healing of the leg since he was taking needed nutrients from her.

The birth father disappeared off the face of the earth when she told him about the pregnancy and she had only known him a couple months so she was all alone.

I say all this because I've been told it figures into a child's brain development. I'm a researcher by nature I guess and have, since I noticed "difficulties" with Erik, been looking for the root of it and the answer on how best to help as a mother. I've had him in a neurodevelopmental program through "Little Giant Steps" out of Plano, TX and years ago he was diagnosed as ADD "inattentive". The doctor then prescribed Ritalin, but I didn't feel that doctor was "hearing" what I was saying and it was pretty much, in, diagnosis given, medicine prescribed, and out of his office. I didn't feel comfortable with that. So, that, plus being into natural health and good nutrition, I looked for another way. That was how I found Little Giant Steps.

After almost two years of their program, which did help a lot with Erik's sensitivities to different things, he wouldn't do the program anymore so we quit.

I homeschooled him for almost three years during that time and last year he just started a small private school, Christian Life Preparatory School. It's a University Model School where he goes three days a week and then is home working on assignments the other two days. It's a wonderful blend, but very challenging.

Little Giant Steps doesn't "label" children so I didn't know what explained all his "quirks", etc. Now, I believe it's Aspergers. It fits him to a T, but I don't know how to proceed at his age. I had heard an author being intereviewed about how he found out he had it and it was all so "Erik". I got the book (Journal of Best Practices), which was just his journey. I then bought other books (Parenting your Aspergers Child) and read.

We've been in counseling for about three months with a counselor from TCU's child development center. http://www.child.tcu.edu/ They have done a lot of research into parenting adopted children especially foreign adoptions and those from backgrounds of abuse/neglect. They identified a "non-connectedness" with these children. A lot is due to the brain development and environment.

That "non-connectedness" is a piece to Erik that hasn't fit with anything else. His cold, unattached, unfeeling, inability to "feel" for anyone is the thing that has worried me most and this is a big distinguishing thing in Aspergers. However, he has all the other markers as well.

I guess I don't know what to do from here. I don't know if I have to get him officially diagnosed first or if this matters. He has taken an online test for this (the one the guy who wrote the book took) and he's not truthful. Meaning, he doesn't see himself as others see him so it's like he can't answer truthfully in order to get a true picture of what he does or doesn't do or think or doesn't think.

My thing now is, do I find a different counselor who specializes in Aspergers teens? I feel it would be much more helpful to me to have someone who "gets" it. I was crying last counseling session when basically told to be more understanding, play with him more, etc., because no one knows how much I have/do try for him. I feel the life is sucked out of me most days just dealing with little things constantly in redirection, reality checks, talking him through little instructions, etc.

Then, it's also time for him to start doing the driving part to drivers ed. Will he be able to do this? Do I tell the instructors anything or just let them tell me if there is a problem? (He doesn't know directions at all, couldn't find his way home from town, etc.)

Then, he's on school break. He was failing History most of the semester which meant he couldn't play basketball (which he's never played, but was his next sports obsession after the same thing happened with football last year... failing most of the season so not playing). He was borderline by one point in two other classes. If he fails, it might throw back his high school graduation next year.

The teachers expressed frustration with him saying he was a good, kind kid, but he doesn't seem to care or pay attention, etc. Agreed. He won't let me study with him for tests, etc. always saying "I got this". But, he doesn't. If they knew what we might be dealing with, maybe they would be more lenient in demands on him.

There is so much I could go on, but I'm sure you truly understand.

I just need direction with what to do first:
--Diagnosis? If so, why, where and with whom?
--Driver's Ed?
--Talking to teachers about Aspergers and educate them on what we are probably dealing with? If I do this now, on break, maybe they will take that into consideration when figuring grades.
--Different counselor specializing in this area? I need help in knowing how to help me help Erik and how the family can not implode while also helping him. We're a blended family (divorced) so it provides extra challenges as well even for someone without Aspergers.


 Hi Mark , I am at a loss in regards to my ASD son who is 13 yrs old . The main issue at the moment is personal hygiene . He has a real hard time being reminded to do the necessary things he needs to do to keep clean and he refuses to cut and clean his nails ! I have been taking his privledges away until he either lets me cut them or does it himself .Doing this makes him extremely angry .  It is causing a huge problem. I as his mum won't let it go as I care but I can't help but feel this isn't the right way for me to approach this situation . I don't want to hurt his already unhealthy self esteem and cause him to hate me all because I won't accept him having long nails and poor hygiene . He tells me that nagging him and I'm sure I am , I am at a loss  , I am hoping you can point me in the right direction .  Thanks Mark for reading if you've got this far !


I cannot get my son to speak to me at all.  He is 15 years old, been to all types of therapists, social groups and still chooses to be alone.  He is also very self centered, never thinks of anyone but himself, to include this Christmas, when he refused to buy a card and/or gift for me his Mom.  Why? I don't know.  In trying to get in touch with his feelings, I in turn, returned all his Christmas gifts so he maybe would understand how it hurts.  NO!  He did not say one word or even an emotion to show that is bothers him.  Where do I turn next to try and help this young man before it's too late when he begins having relationships with other friends/girlfriends?  Can you please give me some advice, I am so lost.


Hi! Mark,
My son Jeremy does not like taking medication, worse if it’s pills.
Last week Wednesday he came down with a fever, I tried to bring down the fever with medication, I took him to the doctor  because he was not eating or drinking much liquid was just sleeping, and kept hold his belly. Jeremy put up a fight when the nurse came to put on the drips, so much that my husband the guard and I had to hold him down to keep him in position for the nurse to hook up the drips.
He has been doing fine since yesterday, I told him that the nurse and doctor gave him medicine because he was too sick and that the medicine helped him and today he was able to play games on the computer and read his story books. Jeremy laughed and felt happy when I told that, I try as much as I can everyday to explain simple things to him, doing it over and over again.
Last night I wrote a note and stuck it on the wall of the washroom with these words, wash hands after using toilet, before I could say anything within a few seconds after Jeremy used the wash room he went back and washed his hands, I did not even have to remind him, but he does bot like to brush his teeth and I try to  help him by singing a song  “You got to brush those pearly whites” most of the time he responds well. 
How can I help Jeremy take medication without having to put it juices? 
How can I make him more independent and like brushing his teeth?

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