Difficulty with Transitions: How Teachers Can Assist Students on the Autism Spectrum

"As a teacher in Middle School, I need some suggestions regarding how to help my special needs student to transition from one activity to the next without having anxiety and resultant tantrums."

All students must change from one activity or setting to another throughout the school day. Transitions naturally occur frequently and require children to stop an activity or move from one location to another, and begin something new.

Students with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) often have greater difficulty in shifting attention from one task to another. This is due to a greater need for predictability, challenges in understanding what activity will be coming next, or difficulty when immersion in a favorite activity is disrupted.

Several supports to assist students on the autism spectrum have been designed both to prepare them before the transition will occur, and to support them during the transition. When transition techniques are used, these “special needs” kids are able to increase appropriate behavior during transitions, participate more successfully in school outings, reduce the amount of transition time, and rely less on teacher-prompting.

Transitioning strategies can be used before a transition occurs, during a transition, or after a transition. Also, they can be presented verbally or visually. These techniques attempt to increase predictability, create positive routines around transitions, and are utilized across settings to support “special needs” students.

A variety of factors related to autism spectrum disorders contribute to difficulties during transitions. For example:
  • difficulty sequencing information and recognizing relationships between steps of an activity
  • greater anxiety levels, which impact behavior during times of unpredictability
  • having restrictive patterns of behaviors that are hard to disrupt, thus creating difficulty at times of transitions
  • inability to recognize the subtle cues leading up to a transition (e.g., children packing up their materials, educators wrapping up their lesson, etc.)
  • problems comprehending all of the verbal information when a teacher or parent announces that an activity is finished and provides multi-step directions related to upcoming activities
  • problems in understanding the verbal directives that a teacher or parent is providing
  • the ongoing activity may be more reinforcing to the AS or HFA student than the activity he or she is moving to, or a second activity may be more demanding

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Simple requests to move from one activity or setting to the next can lead to refusal and even behavior outbursts from children with AS and HFA. This doesn't mean these young people are trying to be difficult or can't follow directions. Transitions are among the most difficult times of the day for many children on the autism spectrum. Transitions require flexibility and executive functioning skills. In the classroom, children must transition frequently with little support. But, transition difficulties are at the root of many non-compliance incidents. When AS or HFA children "never follow directions," "don't stop reading when asked," or "have to be chased to come in from the playground," their noncompliance is symptomatic of a fundamental problem with transitioning. Teachers and parents often ask these “special needs” children to do something they don't have the skills to execute.

How can we help young people on the spectrum to handle transitions more successfully so they don't become uncooperative?

There are four components to a transition, and it's equally important to support AS and HFA children whether they are having difficulty with one – or all of them. Here's an example: "Put your art supplies away. It's time for lunch!"

1. Stop the current task: “Special needs” kids need extra support finding a stopping place in activities. They need specific instruction on how to find a stopping place (e.g., “Stop drawing in 15 seconds from now. I will count down.”).

2. Start thinking about the next task: These children usually have to make a mental shift before they transition physically. They have to stop thinking about art and start thinking about lunch. Help them visualize the new task. Use a visual schedule (e.g., students sitting in the cafeteria) so they know what's coming and can be prepared.

3. Begin the next task: Anxiety significantly affects the ability to begin an anxiety-provoking task (e.g., a child who does not do well in noisy environments and/or large groups, such as the cafeteria). Besides countdown transition warnings, many kids on the autism spectrum need help beginning the new activity. Often, accommodations are necessary to support initiation. For example:
  • Help them start— Educators typically give children work, then moments later offer help to a child who hasn't started. By the time you get to an AS or HFA student at that point, he may be highly anxious and/or shut-down. For these “special needs” children, use a different approach. If you have only 30 seconds for each child in your classroom, make it the first 30 seconds for the AS or HFA child with anxiety who requires support to initiate a task.
  • Preview the upcoming task— You can't preview enough for children with AS and HFA. In the morning, most educators review a visual schedule of the day. Preview alone doesn't necessarily alleviate a child’s anxiety toward a particular subject – and doesn't help her initiate the task when it comes time. If a spelling quiz triggers a child’s anxiety, knowing that the quiz will be given at 11:00 AM doesn't necessarily reduce that anxiety. Anticipation may even increase her anxiety all morning. Thus, as a supplement to reviewing the schedule, preview the actual piece of work (e.g., "I’m going to tell you some of the words that will be on the quiz. Let's spell the first word together"). When the spelling quiz comes, the youngster has an entry point and hopefully won't have an initial avoidance response.

4. Wait for the next task to happen: It's common for AS and HFA children to have difficulty with waiting for things to happen during the day (e.g., waiting for materials to be passed out, standing in line, etc.). First, teachers need to help children to identify “wait time.” Through the use of videos, social stories or role-play, you can demonstrate how to identify “wait time” when it's beginning. When the child knows she's being asked to be on standby, you can teach structured activities to keep her occupied and productive. For example, younger kids can draw or perform a helpful task, such as pushing in chairs. Older kids can think of history trivia.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Some specific transitioning strategies include the following:

Visual Timer— It is often helpful for AS and HFA students to “see” how much time remains in a particular task before they will be expected to transition to a new one. The use of a visual timer (e.g., the “Time Timer” available at www.timetimer.com) has been proven to be quite helpful. The timer displays a section of red indicating an allotted time, and the red section disappears as the allotted time runs out.

Completion Box— Place a box in a designated location where students can place items that they are finished with when it is time to transition. When work-time or free-time is completed (as indicated by a visual timer), the child can be instructed to put his items in the completion box before transitioning. This will assist in creating a clear and predictable transition routine, which will decrease transition time and increase positive behavior. Oftentimes, students on the autism spectrum prefer to complete a particular task before moving on to the next one, but this may not be possible due to time constraints (e.g., when it is time to go to lunch). In these cases, establishing a location where the AS or HFA student knows she can find the materials to finish-up at a later time or date may be helpful.

Photo Cues— Using a visual cue during a transition decreases challenging behavior and increases following transition demands. Photo cues can be used with AS and HFA students during transitions from one task to another, from the playground to inside the classroom, and from one room within the school to another. At transition times, staff can present these children with a photo of the location where they will be going. This will allow them to see where they are expected to go and provide additional predictability in their day.

Task Adjustment— Consider adjusting the tasks that AS and HFA students are transitioning to - and from - if transition difficulty continues. Certain critical factors (e.g., length of the task, difficulty level, interest level, etc.) all contribute to transition problems. Likewise, if a particular location is too crowded, noisy or over-stimulating, AS and HFA students may resist transitioning to that area. A check of the environmental factors that could contribute to transition difficulties is highly recommended. Also, the sequence of tasks may need to be reviewed. Review the tasks required of the AS or HFA student throughout the day and categorize them as “preferred,” “non-preferred,” or “neutral.” If the student has difficulty transitioning, it may be helpful to strategically sequence certain activities so that the student is moving from non-preferred tasks to preferred tasks, and from preferred tasks to neutral tasks.

3-Step Transition Process— One of the most difficult transitions is from a preferred task to a non-preferred task (e.g., “Free-time is over, so get ready to read a chapter in your history book”). It's difficult for AS and HFA kids to stop a preferred task, let alone initiate a dreaded one. Stopping a pleasurable task to do something that is both boring and difficult is a set-up for transition problems. Instead, have the youngster transition more gradually from the preferred (step 1) to less-preferred (step 2) to non-preferred (step 3) task. The child will require less shifting and flexibility. Instead of going directly from free-time (preferred) to history (non-preferred), add an intermediate step (e.g., "Sit down at your desks, and you can color for a few minutes"). Once the child is coloring at her desk, shift to the history lesson.

Visual Schedule— AS and HFA students often benefit from the use of a visual schedule that is located in a central transition area in the classroom. However, if the schedule is centrally located, these students will need a cue to know when and how to transition to their schedules to get information. Using a consistent visual cue to indicate when it is time to transition is helpful, because concrete cues can reduce confusion and help in developing productive transition routines. When it is time for the student to access her visual schedule, present her with a visual cue that means “go check your schedule.”

Many students with AS and HFA report that transitions cause great anxiety. Transitions for some of these “special needs” children result in academic difficulties, social and/or emotional problems, poor motivation, decreased attendance, decline in self-esteem, and increased dropout rates. Since teachers and other school staff are charged with helping these students become well-adjusted in the academic setting, they have an important role in assisting students' adaptation to change.

Throughout the school day, students are confronted with an array of transitions, teacher expectations, standards of behavior, and social pressure to fit-in with their classmates. Kids who are different in any way often have difficulty adjusting to all of this. AS and HFA students may find conforming difficult and may require individual consideration. By using some of the suggestions above, teachers and parents can help the “special needs” child cope effectively while moving from one activity or setting to the next.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Note to parents: Please feel free to send this article [via email] to your child's teachers. Here's the link [copy and paste]:  

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


Autism Meltdowns: Intervention And Prevention Techniques That Work

Most kids on the autism spectrum will experience meltdowns. Parents often find it hard to tell  meltdowns and tantrums apart, but they are different problems. Meltdowns can be difficult and scary for kids with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism, as well as to their parents and siblings. However, with just a few critical changes, the household can move past such episodes fairly easily. The affected child will feel more in control of his or her feelings/reactions and will, hopefully, come to trust that help will always be there.


Promoting Social Competence and Play Skills in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

How well a youngster gets along with others may be the single best childhood predictor of how well she will function later in life. Kids who are unable to sustain close relationships with peers, who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who can’t establish a place for themselves in the peer-culture, and who do not have a basic level of social competence by the age of 6 usually have trouble with relationships when they become adults. The long-range risks for a youngster who can’t interact well with peers may also include poor mental health, low academic achievement and other school difficulties, and poor employment history.

Click here for the full article...

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Feb., 2015]

 Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.


Hi Mark,

You helped me with my son K in 2008. He ended up moving out with his father and we were estranged for 3 years. That was a very painful time, but one consolation I had was that I did everything I could to get him on the right track and help him live a good life. And that is due to your advice and support and because you gave me the tools to be calm and set boundaries and express my concerns for his wellbeing to him.

Two and a half years ago, after much prayer and the help of his sister, we were reunited. I can't express what a joy that was!

He has grown into a respectful and thoughtful young man (he is 22 years old), and we have a great relationship. And he knows that I had his welfare at heart all along.

I still remember what you did for me, when I had no one to turn to.

I would like to send a small sum of money as a thank you gift.



For the second time, my son applied (at our urging) for SSDI in the state of NC. For the second time he was turned down. In case anyone has any misgivings on what the state of NC deems a disability, let me enlighten you. Asperger's Syndrome ASD, HFA, is NOT a disability. According to the state medical evidence shows that the condition is not severe enough to considered disabling. ASD HFA persons are able to think, act in their own interests, communicate, handle their own affairs, and adjust to ordinary emotional stresses without significant difficulties.
For parents who believe in the American Dream, that my ASD HFA son/daughter can receive training, education and have a fulfilling career is a misconception of the utmost part. Once that training is complete, once that college degree is in hand, there is no guarantee he/she will be hired. You see, HR neurotypicals, want to know things in an interview, "tell me about your hobbies, what do you like to do for fun, tell me about your family". None of which in an Aspies mind has a thing to do with the credentials for the job and yes, some will come right out say so. And let's not go into the fidgiting and the lack of eye contact, the latter being the MOST important and could make or break an interview according to every job help website, HR training manual, but you get the idea.
Adults with ADS HFA Asperger's still experience Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Adults still avoid eye contact, dislike touching others or others touching them, displays fear or pain when pitches in sound change or come up all at once, dislike crowds and have trouble focusing in large crowded noisy atmospheres, their sense of smell has not changed since childhood, certain smells with make them physically ill, pain can be reacted to instantly or not at all, will only eat certain foods and certain brands of foods, will often smell a food if someone insists, "try it you might like it," (clue: if they don't like the smell they aren't going to eat it, child or ADULT), and they still "fidget" and it increases exponentially when under stress, like a job interview.
Today, my husband and I are going to do the hardest thing we have ever had to do. Our son is going to apply for welfare. Yes folks, welfare. You see he has no health insurance, (has not had any health insurance since 2009) because he was turned down for SSI and SSDI, the medicaid that goes with it, has also been turned down. Should, something happen to my husband or I, our son will be homeless and his sister (not ASD) has no means to care for him. We have had options of moving to Charlotte or Raleigh in "hopes" our son "perhaps" could find work as a draftsman. However, that is not possible at this time. My husband has secondary progressive MS and we believe that moving is not an option.
I have suggested many time (FB and blogs) to "educate" employers all over the the state, not just in Charlotte or Raleigh, especially in the STEM career fields, but again, the conferences and the help seems to stay in those two places, leaving families who live in outlying areas out of reach and mostly due to finances.
My son, with medicaid, could get therapy on how to "deal" with life as the "children" who are getting the same "therapy" and "medication" (for free, under 18) are now receiving, but he was turned down for a second time. How long before he gets depressed? How will my husband and I know? Will he continue to withdraw despite the hope we have instilled him and despite the many educators we still have contact with (elementary, high school, college) who also believe in his success? Cheerleaders do get weary. We can't take him to a doctor, he doesn't have insurance. So now we send him to apply for welfare, and get the "looks", the "stares", the "tsk, tsk" from fellow taxpayers. (and yes, my husband and I are taxpayers).
I don't see an even playing field here when it comes to ASD HFA children and adults, especially in areas east of I-95. Job connections are non existent. Vocational Rehab is a revolving door of counselors. He has had about 6 in the last two years. All he is told is, "let me know if you apply or get an interview", he does and .... doesn't hear a word from them. I have saved a pile of jobs, job numbers he has applied for in case anyone needs “proof” that he was “actively” looking.  Oh, they want him to attend a round table discussion with others who are looking for a job, however, if you know an Aspie, "talking about it with a bunch of strangers you care nothing about doesn't help the Aspie get a job, and takes away the time needed to assist the person looking for a job." oh, yeah, that's right. Logical to me and I'm ENFJ. So tomorrow, my husband will be taking him to sign up for welfare while I am at work. We have not told him yet, so this yet will be "another" change.


Hello, my son is 12. He is full functioning and in 6th grade. I just got custody of him a month ago and I am having to break him of his habits that his mother allowed.  He is doing well but the one thing I can't explain or understand is what he is currently doing. He is actually putting his fingers in his butt and pulling out fecies. He has wiped it on towels and the carpet. He hid it in piles in the closet of the spare bedroom. He knows it is wrong and unsanitary but he can't stop. He says it feels good. I don't know if this is normal or what j can do to help him. Please help.


Dear Mr. Hutten:

I have recently finished reading your online publication:  “Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens”.  I am looking forward to implementing all of your recommendations.

However, I’d like your opinion regarding my suspicions that my son has Aspergers.  I’ll try to be as brief and concise as possible.

My son, Teddy, is 15 years old, and has been in some sort of counseling off and on ever since he was 6.  He’s been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD.  However, as his mom, I can say that I’ve always felt that there was something more going on with him.

Things have always been very difficult with my son, but things got especially alarming when he hit puberty “and fired me” (to quote you).  He is ill-equipped to be managing himself, so his hygiene and everything else have gone downhill.  I pulled him out of middle school about half-way through 7th grade because he had given up on school due to social and academic struggles.  I have been home schooling him ever since.

Teddy has always absolutely hated meeting with counselors, and we have had very little success with any of them.  However, since October he’s been with a counselor (LMHC) who at least makes him feel comfortable enough to talk.

When I expressed an interest in medication for my son, this counselor referred me to a nurse practitioner who has a lot of experience with psych meds.  I gave her all of my son’s previous counseling records, and she did an evaluation of my son.  She is the first mental health provider who ever mentioned HFA or Aspergers to me.  We did not continue meeting with her because my son really disliked her and refused to meet with her.  However, her comments have stayed with me.

I have recently done quite a bit of reading on Aspergers.  My first internet searches frequently sent me to your website.  I read a number of your articles before purchasing your online publication.  I have also read: How to Teach Life Skills to Kids With Autism or Aspergers, by Jennifer Myers, and The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide,by J.D. Kraus.

Based on this information, I have made a list of all of the characteristics that Teddy shares with teens who have Aspergers.  However, I have also included a list of contradictory characteristics that do not match the profile.

Will you please look over this information and let me know if you think my child could have Aspergers/HFA?

Aspergers/HFA symptoms:
Hates fireworks, crowds, stadiums, movie theaters
Extremely annoyed by certain noises
Trouble making friends (currently has none)
Massive meltdowns
Struggles with simple things
Poor hygiene
Overwhelmed in middle school by changing classes, different subjects
Shuts down
Too rough with other kids
Was socially "tone deaf" when he was young (tried too hard, too rough, too loud, couldn’t tell when he wasn’t wanted)
Freaks out if things are different than his expectations
Very poor loser
Quits if he makes a mistake
Spends most of his time playing one video game (Runescape)
Needs very specific instructions to complete a task
Not empathetic
Extreme anxiety
Fears, paranoia
Digestive problems
Social phobia
Very impulsive
Hates sports
Frequently bullied

Contradictory symptoms:
Very articulate, speaks expressively
Very perceptive
Eye contact is fine with family members (not sure about other people)
Great sense of humor
Understands innuendo, metaphors, etc.
Not naturally clumsy (has good rhythm, coordinated)

Thank you for your wonderful website and publication, and thank you in advance for any assistance that you can give me with this request.


Hi Mark,

My granddaughter just got diagnosed with high functioning autism,  she is a brilliant little girl who is 7 1/2yrs old. She reads at a grade 3 level and is also at grade 3 level with her math too.
I love reading your information,  it makes it easier to help with certain things.
Thank you


Is it common for children with Autism and/or Asperger's to have muscular skeletal issues?  My son is often going from a seated position to his knees with his weight on his joints. He complains often of his back hurting and cannot maintain his posture in a chair or sitting in circle time at school. He tires easily and won't sit upright when in a chair.


I have enjoyed your newsletter for a few years now, and you have helped me understand and guide my adult asperger son. He is doing very well.

I am also an aide in a class made up of many Asperger/autistic kids. This year we have one boy that has us baffled. He is a 10 year old asian and the family does not speak very good English which makes it hard for us to communicate with them, and must be hard for them to understand him at home. He is intelligent, but demands attention - either positive or negative. He doesn't seem to understand consequences and will repeat the same behavior over and over again. We can't find anything to give him that he will work towards to become positive. As Dr Phil would say, " We can't find his currency". He is very persistent in his negative ways and will go on and on for 20 minutes asking the same thing over and over again even though we have answered and asked him to quit. The other kids are very sick of him and he is always getting in their way causing more problems. We try to give him positive attention and rewards. We try to ignore him and even get stern and strict, but it doesn't get better. He is very sloppy in his body awareness, purposely running into things, tossing his coat around, swinging his glasses. If you ask him to walk faster he slows. He leans on you if you try to encourage him along. He purposely gives incorrect answers thinking he is funny. He talks loud or makes noises when you ask him to be quiet.

Do you have any newsletter or information addressing this type of behavior? We could really use a direction.


My 14 yr. old son has a seizure disorder since he was one and has aspergers symptoms. Have you ever seen these two related with a seizure disorder and Aspergers. He recently had a small seizure after 9 yrs without one because of not taking his meds wich made him depressed about himself then refusing to go to school for 3 weeks. He mostly slept through the day and wouldn't sleep at night which made it highly confusing if these were true symptoms from having a seizure or just aspergers tendencies. He was diagnosed with Aspergers two years ago.
I appreciate your insight.
Thank you.


Hello Mark
I have spent much time reading your book, but wanted to know if you could give me some extra clarification/encouragement on the section of resentment by replying to my email.

I believe that I do have some resentment, which I have tried very hard over the past 20 years to let go of and work through.  I believe that I am a patient and forgiving person, always trying my best to see the good in others and the world around me.  But I need some clarification on how to know what is resentment and what is simply seeing the reality of a situation. 

What I mean by that is that I can see so much of what is happening in my family and how it affects me and also my children.  For so many years I have tried to work through it and move forward with faith and hope.  Understanding more about Asperger's the last couple years has helped to explain many of his struggles. I am afraid that I feel my hope and faith is running thin as of late.  My husband is a good man, but I think what I am feeling is the sorrow of not having my life be what I thought it would be, thinking that in time it would all work out and be okay, that the struggles would not be in vain.  Ironically, in some ways things look as though my life should be happy and fulfilling, but deep inside I have felt it has not for many years and I am now seeing the reality of it all - which perhaps I was not ready to deal with earlier in my marriage.  It seems there may be hope at times and then it all comes crashing down.  I feel so weary of the roller coaster.

I know he wants things to be better, but he is mostly blind to how it affects me and suffers along with the Asperger's, co-morbidly with depression and anxiety and so I never feel that I am able to really express to him the depth of my disappointment and hurt.  I don't know that I ever should, as he is deeply affected by what people think of him.  He already realizes I do most of what is required in our relationship, and feel tremendous guilt.  I don't know that he would ever be able to let go or forgive me if he knew of how my heart feels -- if I ever told him how I am hurting or how most days lately I feel like giving up.  It is not like it is his fault or that he intentionally did this to me or our relationship.  I understand we all make choices and that he also needs to be responsible for his part of our relationship, but I am afraid if I brought it up he would go to extremes, take it all personally and it would make things tremendously difficult, forgetting all the good that has been over the years.  I feel your instructions on communication  are helpful to me,(specifically I plan to write down some dialogue and then prepare myself to voice some of my concerns), but experience reminds me that issues are rarely really truly resolved, just patched up enough to move on...most often with residual tension...

I have no one else in my life to support me and sometimes I worry that I have a co-dependent personality and worry my children will pick up on this and believe that this is a healthy relationship.

I am not really sure what I am even asking of you,  I guess I am reaching out to try to get some more perspective on how to keep moving forward.  I feel that it is best to stay together, but I feel as though my heart is finding it hard to agree, and I am so very weary of trying and sometimes wonder if it will be worth the effort... 

Although I continue to be deeply discouraged, I thank you for your time and thoughts and for providing the information you have about Asperger relationships. 


Our 12 year old adopted son has never been diagnosed but shows most signs of both Aspergers and RAD.  Do your parenting strategies work if a child has both?  Some things we've been told seem opposite for a RAD child versus an Aspergers child.  Like with RAD, do not negotiate with them but with Aspergers do negotiate.
Would appreciate your opinion,
Thanks, Cathryn


Hi, My name is McKenzie Campbell. My step son, Dalton, 9 years old, was diagnosed with Asperger's, ADHD and other mood disorders not specified in November 2012.  He is in the 4th grade and does pretty good in school, grade wise. It is the behavior that seems to be getting worse. He is getting discipline reports from school almost weekly, sometimes more than once a week. He has outbursts, throws books and other objects, uses profanity quite often at home and school, gets physical with his twin brother pretty much on a daily basis and gets in school detention as a result at school. Tomorrow we have a meeting with the IEP board, a manifestation determination to determine if his behavior is due to his condition or something else. I am afraid that he is going to get kicked out of school. Is there anything that you can help us with. We just started play therapy, today was his second session, we have to drive to Oxford, MS which is about an hour from where we live in Grenada, MS because we can't get anything here. We have asked about occupational therapy at the school and have been told that he doesn't qualify for those services. I am really at my wits end with this because I don't know what else to do to help him, especially if they determine that his behavior isn't due to his condition. Can you please help us?


Hello! I came across this chat room and noticed that you were a contact :). I'm a certified, licensed speech-language pathologist with experience working at the middle and high school level with students on the autism spectrum. I would love to somehow host or facilitate a group of students through videoconference or group Skype. I know there is a need out there for kids who are struggling in school (across the board but mainly with social language/social skills), and I'd love to get small groups together to specifically target these skills! I'd really appreciate any feedback you might have :)


Our grandson (turns 12 Feb 27th) (6th grade middle public school) has had a difficult life. He was 5 when diagnosed. Meanwhile he went to bad daycare & pre-schools even tho his mother did not go to work until he was 10. He also has a 7 year old brother that their parents adore. Since their lives were darkened with drug & alcohol problems, we kept Gaige most of the time and still keep him weekends, summers, holidays. He is not happy at home but since they mentally abuse rather than physical they appear to be good parents. My son is a recovering drug addict but is now an alcoholic. They both smoke in the house & car. My younger grandson has asthma which I know is due to 2nd hand smoke but since the doctors do not know they smoke, the doctor blamed it on other problems. My 7yr old grandson rules the roost as he is what they wanted (possible linebacker) & loves home as he has never known anything else. He does hate the smoking, the beer & the cussing & fussing. He does not care about staying with us much, as he has no boundaries at home & he would here. Gaige feels invisible.

I do not believe his parents love him. I believe he is an asset to them. They do not believe Gaige can love deeply & have said so, which is so untrue. He just is not expressive & they have a son that is. Gaige has seen too much in his young life. Drugs taking his dad over, drunken nights coming in, 2 arrests & his going to jail. His dad hitting his grandfather, his dads temper tantrums, his mom's lack of caring. Bad day cares & preschools even tho his mom did not work until he was 10, changed schools 4 times in 4 years (once after only 3 months in 1st grade) He basically cared for himself as his mom stayed in bed until afternoon, so he was taught to sit in front of a TV until told otherwise. Many times w/o breakfast, even lunch. He has a fobia about food, hates most of it, & no way they will compensate for that. He is small for his age, weak, so thin, angry, smothered with hurt (holding it all in), was bullied in school for years until I became room mother for his classes & Emma certainly helped. The truth: Gaige is the most amazing child you will meet. He has so much potential but it is stifled each time he shows it for lack of interest in him. They are raising him playing R rated war games, R rated war movies. So much anger in his home, if a teacher yells he is terrified. But as you know, that increases his being non-verbal.

I applied for & Gaige was accepted/qualified for a certified service dog from Easter Seals (11 months in the waiting) after years of meltdowns at home & school. Emma is his only friend & has been a miracle for him. I pay for her pills & grooming. His parents hold us hostage, so we give too much so he can continue to stay with us. He is a changed child here. You should hear what he says about how is lives 5 days a
week. He has 2 amazing teachers this year that I am working with to help him thru the 1st year of middle school. Gaige has always taken strong medicine which scared me, however, I never gave it to him when he was here. I finally got a teacher to talk to them about a trial time of no medication & he is doing so much better.

Due to all of this, we kept him most of his life. They needed their rest, freedom, breaks, so anytime we were not working he was with us. We raised him for years so the bond is strong. When he got older, we placed him in non competitive Karate (loved it) during 1 summer. They would not take him when he went back to school (too much trouble). Do not take him to Church. Do not pay bills such as cable, internet, so cannot use any electronics. Brother is perfect, Gaige is a bother. They do not help Gaige in any way. I drive to Dothan to take him to therapy (after they stopped taking him for over a year). I looked for & got a tutor (I pay) when he dropped down in English & math. If we do not do these things, nothing ever happens.

At times I believe, his parents truly believe they are decent parents, but holy cow! Right now I have him going to "Autism Surfs" in the summer, all volunteer organization that helps kids such as Gaige thru gaining confidence in the water, however, I do anything to anger them, he will not be allowed to go or stay with us.

We live in Destin Fl, Gaige lives in Dothan Al, 2.25 hours away. Do I move to Dothan to help him (only way I will know what he needs)?
I am 70 years old, I am so afraid of what will happen to him if I die or get alzheimer's or whatever. I have COPD. Thomas, his grandfather has kidney problems. I am scared for his future or lack of. We are on a fixed income & most of our money goes to help them.

I believe Gaige loves his parents regardless but is so miserable with their lifestyle, especially the tempers (which both have), fussing, cussing, yelling, unfair punishment. They have no friends, Gaige just sits in his room when home, but will read books. I am now rambling so will stop. I just don't know what to do anymore, I am worn out with all of it. Gaige is beginning to go into puberty & is emotional at times, but is not allowed to be emotional at home so how does he hold so much in? He recalls all the bad things that has happened thru his young life. He is beginning to resent so many things, even trivial such as giving his stuff to his brother w/o asking him. I am so worried. I can only be glad they do not beat him or place him in a closet or that sort of abuse.


Read a couple of your articles as I search for suggestions for how to handle our Aspy & Anxious 17 year old HS senior son. Recently he  has stopped doing school work. Seems any discussion of what he is interested in after HS shuts him down. However he is vocal about knowing what he is supposed to do and resents people giving him todo lists and "hovering". Looking for ideas on how to help him understand he is setting himself back by not doing school work.

Any suggestions are welcome. You site / blogs are very good.


Hello.  My grandson Vinny is 7 years old.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s about 3 years ago.  He went to a special preschool and did pretty good.  He had a few incidents on the bus because someone was sitting in his seat( I understand these kids like to not have change) but all in all he did well.  His parents were told he could go to main stream school but would need some special attention to speech and socializing.
He went to main stream kindergarten and really had it tough.  The only one who would play w/him was another little boy who was mean to him and bullied him and lead him to do naughty things but to Vinny he at least talked to him.  Vinny befriended him because he was sitting on a bench all by himself and he probably appeared to be a kindered spirit.  He had a few problems but he got through it with a lot of help from his parents and grandparents.  This little boy is so sweet and kind.  He always asks how everyone is doing, he is always wanting to help out and have friends to play with  but he just can’t make friends.  Last year he had the arm flapping thing going and was made fun of often.  He never had anyone to eat with at school and he never had anyone to play with at recess.  So far this year things are going ok.  He has good days and bad.  His arm flapping has almost disappeared but this having no one to play with is just breaking my heart.  When we ask how your day was he just clams up or he just says fine.  Which all my boys did that too so it doesn’t seem so abnormal to me however he tells his dad he doesn’t want to talk about it because he is home now.
He was tested for ADHD upon some teachers insistence and that came back negative but the dr says he has High Functioning Autism(which we all knew).  He said that he did not refer to him as having Asperger’s because all that is is another word for High Functioning Autism.  They think he is depressed because of not being able to make friends and could use some counseling.  I agree with all that and his parents are going to be talking with his teacher who is great this year but what can I do as a grandma?  He loves his one cousin but this cousin is older and really does not want Vinny hanging on him and that is one thing Vinny does.  He is not sophisticated enough in his socializing to know when to step back and realize kids don’t like to have him in their face or when silly play happens and then stops he is still being silly and doesn’t know when to quit.  I am just lost and my son is also so sad about this and worries about this depression because of all these kids who commit suicide because of depression from being bullied.  Home schooling is out of the question, private school is also.   I just want this child who has stolen my heart the day he was born to grow up as happy as he can be and always have love and friends and family surround him.    I want him to be safe and learn how to interact with people.  He is very smart, he loves to play video games especially Mario Kart and Minecraft.  He likes some lego play but he does not get into the super heroes  or star wars thing.  Weirdly he loves zombies.   I am thinking he might do well with a pet like a cat or a bird.  He likes cats.  He also loves to swim in our complexes pool and loves playing in the snow.   I paid for him to have swim lessons one year and he really had a hard time paying attention to the instructor.  All he wanted to do was play in the water.  He did better when his mom was teaching him.  He seems so normal to me that I find it hard to see how he could have problems with friends.  I wonder why anyone would not want to be his friend.  I think both sides are missing out on a great experience….but then again I am a little biased.
 Any help here would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.


Thanks for responding so quickly.  Actually I am the grandmother of a 14 year boy recently diagnosedwith asphberger, sorry I stilll have troubly saying it as well as spelling it.   I really have not been able to find out much but the basics on the internet.  It is only after many therapist  doctors, and test have this diagnosis come up.  He has been in the psychiotic units in the childrens hospital here in New Orleans and once in Shreveport because of his behavior.  This was before the diagnosis so I hope things will get better for him.  I can go on can't I .  Well now you can see why I will look forward to getting your newsnellter and more information.


Hi Mark,
I like your tips and comments to support carers having difficulties with their Aspergers children.

I am feeling very sad and helpless after I have just spent a weekend away with my two sons, the one aged  12 has Aspergers  &the other  aged  10 is neurotypical.  They both like particularly like  'Dr Who' so as part of their Christmas present I paid a ridiculous amount of money for them  to go to see the' Dr. Who's Ultimate Symphonic Spectacular' in the CBD of Sydney and my husband kindly paid for accommodation nearby.

Initially my eldest son was well mannered and his behaviour wasdelightful while he was doing something that pleased him such as playing on his IPod.  As soon as something didn't go exactly his way, such as  when we were looking for a car park or having a five minute  walk to the Arena , he began vulgar name-calling outbursts, making racist remarks, swearing, and slyly pinching and hurting me.  His unacceptable behaviour was directed at me.  My other son said very little to keep the peace. When he started this I reminded him that  these behaviours we unacceptable and  I wanted him to choose the correct behaviours.  That seemed to be a red rag to him as he then his unacceptable behaviour escalated.  I am thoroughly appalled and disgusted with him and I could see the hatred towards me  in his eyes as we parted. He is boarding at school and is loving the company, the constant stream of activities the teachers think his is wonderful quite the opposite to my feelings.  What are your thoughts on how I could have managed this situation ?


I need some assistance on how to begin to parent a child with Asperger's. He is 9 years old.
I am a therapeutic foster parent. I am also a Registered Nurse, have experience working in an adolescent psychiatric facility and children’s shelter. Foster son’s sister (8 years old) was also placed here. He has a history of being (at least) verbally aggressive with her. Also there is my own (Neuro-typical) daughter, and a 9 year old foster son who functions fairly typically but has FASD. He has been with us since October and has settled in and we do not have and issues that we can not handle with him.
Living with a Asperger's  child full time is a whole different challenge.
This is Sunday, the child was dropped off Friday evening. There is not any support to me other than a crisis line until Monday.
I have re - arranged our house to make it less stimulating. For example. All of the toys are in a play room in our finished basement. The bedrooms have bed and clothes and a few book only. On the main floor is the living room, kitchen, dinning room and bathroom. The living room has a big box of legos and books, and the TV is on only occasionally. 
Yesterday  the toys and stimulation with all of the kids in the playroom seemed overwhelming.
Today has started out much better. They each have something quiet to play with in the living room. I have encouraged him to use an indoor voice and when I notice he is being calm and being appropriate I add a sticker to his chart.   He seems to like the idea of earning a prize.
Any insight and strategies you can suggest would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you so much for all the tools available to parents on your website. My husband and I are at our wits end not knowing how to help our son, who has Aspergers. Now looking back, I see all the traits he had as a small boy. He is 23 and we have recently been pushing him to move out and start his life, but for one reason or another he comes up with ways to prolong it. He is very
content being in his room, playing video games and only working enough to pay the $300.00
a month rent we enforced in January and not a penny more. We just ordered your book and I'm sure it's going to help us, help him.  Thank you again. I joined this site and newsletter group too.
Wish us luck!


Do you have a book or material for one with Aspergers that speaks to them? I am hoping to find information describing Aspergers with their perspective in mind. Also with a social skills "course" with specific exercises to help compensate. I just reviewed what I have received online from you and want to find something that I can share with my son that is written in a way where he would feel talked to and not about. He was diagnosed in 1998, endured a peer group therapy situation that was not approached correctly. It became an extension of his horrendous school day, only on "steroids". He came away more frustrated and angry and has spent the last 20 years in denial. He has left and returned home several times. In the last three months he has gone through a very humbling, spiritual awakening where he has become approachable but desperate. I feel we basically need to start over and help in all the ways I wish we would have or could have when he was 13 at diagnosis. I am fighting my own guilt trips for not being successful through the many attempts to help. We are LDS (Mormom) and he is very committed to that lifestyle. He has yet to find a career path having taken on multiple jobs, when his first choices of military, flying and air traffic control have been illuminated, due to diagnosis. He is kind, respectful, but certainly awkward. He is not totally without hope but in need of intervention. I am in the process of figuring out what all that will be.
Again, I am looking for something he can learn about Aspergers for himself with an Aspie friendly approach.
Thank you so much,


I am excited to begin your series.  It reminds me of the only really helpful book I've read, Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser.  Here is the question I have as I begin this process:  my daughter has been seen by multiple psychiatrists and counselors and we have spent thousands and gotten absolutely nowhere.  Her "symptoms" are worse now than ever (she's almost 17) and we have no official diagnosis.  However, I strongly believe that I have finally found the "diagnosis" that explains everything, including why traditional therapy/medication.  She is a classic fit for an undiagnosed Aspie girl.  That having been said, I have 2 big questions.  1)  At this point, is there a reason to pursue an official diagnosis with her?  2)  How to I rectify this idea of holding her accountable for her actions with the idea that she spends much of her time NOT being in control of her actions (multiple daily meltdowns).  A meltdown can be triggered by ANYthing she doesn't want to hear (you need to study, please put the phone away, help us set the table, etc..)  When she's in meltdown mode she loses control completely and anything we wanted her to do prior to that is completely out the window at that point.  It's such a vicious cycle!  I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, I just am having a hard time understanding how to hold her accountable and make her "earn" everything, when so much of the time she seems, at best, apathetic to any consequences, but usually just completely could care less.  Also, I feel that due to a recent  overseas move and her lack of friends/activities, she thinks she has nothing to lose anyway--in other words, what else could we take away?  We are so desperate, especially living overseas, we feel our resources are limited and are even considering sending her back to the US to some sort of boarding school or treatment facility, but where??  If you met her, you'd think she was so lovely; she is well spoken, very smart, and talented.  But behind the doors of our home, you would be so shocked, thus it's very difficult to get therapists to understand the magnitude of the problem we are dealing with.  She won't discuss the future (i.e. college, taking standardized tests, etc..--she took the ACT once and made a 29--an excellent score for a first timer in 10th grade--and even that doesn't motivate her), she refuses to learn to drive--I have no idea what her future holds and am terrified that she isn't prepared to "launch"--and it's not healthy for her to remain in our home much longer.  I know this is a LOT to process, but I really want to give your program a shot, I just need to understand how it fits w/ this idea of Asperger's.  I'm certainly open to the face that this could be something other than Asperger's, but as of yet, no one else has offered any other suggestions other than depression; she is certainly severely depressed, but I feel that that's only a symptom of the real problem.

Dear Mark

My daughter suggested that I subscribe to your newsletter so that my wife and I can get additional information regarding Aspergers. Our six year old grandson has Aspergers and we would like to contribute in any way we can to his development. We are actually looking form information regarding how we can make a contribution and avoid taking incorrect actions.  
Please help us by providing guidance as to the steps we need tom take. We live near my daughter and have the opportunity to interact with our gran son frequently.
I would appreciate any advice that you can provide
Thank you for your help.


Hi Mark

Thank you for your materials, they are not only helping with my son who has Aspergers but my parenting of my other 3 children as well.

I have tried to explain to my son what Aspergers is and how it causes issues in his life that are not issues for others (and have explained to my husband too), but he (son) just says that I am looking for problems where there aren’t any.

Do you have a way for me to help him see that we need to work together as a team, perhaps even including other people, to equip him for real life?

He is not a rebellious young man, he works in a business with his sister, has completed his schooling at home, is pursuing an online art portfolio but has major social issues (no friends except one), time management and organization problems and only “acts out” when he feels lost in how to handle situations.

Anyway he has a long health issue list, a dysfunctional relationship with his dad (probably due to Dad’s Asperger’s) etc…

Sometimes my words come across as though I am disappointed in him but I am truly not…he has overcome dyslexia, dyspraxia, low muscle tone, 5 operations and more….

Dear Mark

Thank you for the information. We now have a different perspective regarding our grandson condition. We will start by identifying areas where we can be of help, I plan to spend more time helping my grandson develop those areas in which he excels. He is six years old and was awarded first place on a spelling test. He has shown an outstanding ability to memorize books and songs including those in Japanese.  I think that developing his talents will give him additional security and recognition. Any help on these area would be appreciated.

Thank you for sharing with everyone your experience and in dept knowledge. I think you deserve all the appreciation everyone feels for you and what you are doing.


Thanks so much, 

I was wondering if you have a retreat for Husbands with Aspergers?  I just feel info coming from you would have so much more positive effects than coming from a wife...  

Just let me know and thank you for your ministry to us couples that struggle with this condition!

Thanks so much, 



Grandson Gaige turns 12, has High Functioning Autism & has a certified service dog that goes everywhere with him including school due to high meltdowns & other reasons. He is a hoarder & has many problems over giving his toys & stuff to his 7 yr old brother. He cries because his parents never ask him or tell him they are taking stuff from his room. They say he must "adapt" to this world & get out of his comfort zone.
He does well this year school wise, with a tutor, but has too much anger built up inside. He must share everything with his "normal" sibling, even items he still plays with or wears & his sibling taunts him about it. How can I explain to his parents this anger (he is not allowed to express) will not bond the brothers together? His brother also uses part of his room for his "fort" so he does not get a break from the noise. 


Dear Mr Hutten,
I'm very interested and impressed by your site, recently discovered, and plan to explore it further.

On this occasion, however, I have a query regarding a comment (from 2011) that I have just read; I'll copy it below.

I'd very much like to correspond somehow (privately if possible) with the writer of the comment, concerning the following statement: "(because frankly we won't tolerate it)" - as I need to know exactly what they mean - how exactly in practical terms do they "not tolerate" it?

How do they manage to prevent this behaviour? I'd like a moment by moment account. And what do they do if a violent outburst does happen or starts to happen?

I feel that this may be the most important key to our own problem, so I'd be very grateful if you could offer my email address and questions to the writer of the comment, or, if she agrees, put us in touch somehow. The problem is, that as it's from some time ago, I daresay she may not see my request if I were to post it on the site.

Anonymous said...
Thank you for the wonderful information on your website. I am a parent of a very intelligent 7 year old little boy who has just been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome with a co-morbidity of ADHD. He has become increasingly violent at school towards his classmates and the teacher. He has stabbed a little girl with a pencil because he found her voice very annoying. He has also thrown a pen at the teacher's face which resulted in her having to go to the hospital for a scratched cornea. These are just two of the several situations I have experienced so far this year. I do hours of research everyday on his condition and try to control it with a strict diet. I don't want to put my son on medication, because I am afraid of the long term effects it might have on his brain (since his brain is still developing and it has been proven that medication can alter normal development).
He doesn't act this way at home or with family at all (because frankly we won't tolerate it). He can be very mentally manipulative at times if you're not on your guard. Since there have been so many serious situations at school, the school wants to put him in Special Education. He is so intelligent and brilliant, I know this would not do him any good academically. I just can't seem to stop his violent outbursts. What can I do to help him achieve his full potential?

I would be tremendously relieved if I were able to have this question answered.

Best regards,



Dear Mr.Hutton,
I feel stuck and helpless as to how to create a moving out contact and properly present it to our son. He works half time and claims that there are no jobs out there that he can qualify for, obtain and that which will pay him enough to live and collect benefits. He turns 26 in September.
My husband and I can't seem to talk about this without fighting since neither of us have the answer. He truly couldn't survive on his current salary but doesn't want to try the disability route either.
Last, he has been addicted to computer gaming and online communities for nearly years, staying up past 3:00 and living in his room, otherwise isolated from peers.  His younger brothers have graduated and moved on and out and we want to retire over the next 4 years.
What can we do?
Hope you can help us.



I found your videos on youtube. I have recently discovered that my boyfriend (he is aged 38 and i am 36) has what i believe to be aspergers. He has never had a diagnosis. He is identifying with the things that i am presenting to him about aspergers and feels relieved on some level to know that he is not just wierd.

Is the book that you can download for helping couples in aspie and NT relationships free? I have only been with glenn for about 6 months. However i am already going through the grief cycle, however i am not angry just unsure if i want to carry on in such a relationship.

I have learnt quickly of how to manage my emotions and feelings around him as they can have a negative effect on him sometimes. if I want my needs met emotionally, I have to try to break it down step by step by that time i have already dealt with my own emotional need.

I am feeling a little tearful and fed up at the moment. Looking for some help.


Hi, Dr. Hutten, my name is Katie Ferreira a C.A.G.S. student to get my LMHC and have come across your website.  I am very interested in RAD.  I have also heard a lesson plan or method you teach to parents about blowing up a bridge analogy.  I am trying to find information on this because I think it is a very helpful tool in relating how RAD children work using this model.  Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.


I have a 16 (almost 17) year old boy with Aspergers. His name is Danny, goes by DJ. He was diagnosed this year actually, going misdiagnosed for many years as bi-polar. I knew that wasn't right and had to seek out a new doctor for testing. It's been a huge relief to finally have the correct diagnosis and it makes so much sense finally. My problem is that I am freaking out because he is almost 17 which means almost 18. He wants so badly to drive and work and do all the things kids his age do. However it's a constant struggle because I don't think he is mature enough yet to drive especially and I've left it up to him to try to get a job but he doesn't know how to follow through with things enough to get one. I coach him some but also try and let him see that all of these things take a lot of responsibility and that he may not be ready. I don't want to be over protective but I also don't want him doing things he's not ready to do. He's high functioning so to the rest of the world that doesn't know him he seems "normal" so I get judged that I'm being too protective. But I live with him day to day and know what it takes just to get him to high school for the day. It takes A LOT of coaching and reminders of all the things he needs to do before leaving and constant reminders about his assignments, etc. He really needs help with basic things. It's heartbreaking to be the one to set limitations on your child when they don't understand why they have to be treated differently. I don't know how to handle it without discouraging him altogether. Don't get me wrong, I see a lot of potential in my son and want great things for him like trade school that he's interested in after high school. I think with the right direction he could really go far but in due time. I'm a single mother with him and his brother and I am just learning about all of the resources that are available. I just got his IEP in place for all of his accommodations but I feel like I need more help. I just feel helpless and feel like he could really accomplish so much with the right direction, at the right time. I need help helping him. 



I saw the ad for your book, Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management.  I have a son who is a senior in college and I am suspicious that he may have Aspergers.  As I am sure is common, I see some of the “signs,” but certainly not all, I have read about.  He is extremely “functional” as evidenced by the fact he is about to graduate from William and Mary.    I am using quotes because I am just starting to read about the condition and am sure I am using inappropriate words.  The reason I am writing is to ask you for advice on the best way for me/him to determine if he indeed has AS?

Thank you or your time and attention.


Hello Mark,

I happened upon your website while looking for resources for a student in  a school that I’m working with – an adolescent with Asperger’s.  I really liked your page written for parents and I would like your permission to use it – modified for teachers instead, though – to send out to a school.  The write up you put up on-line is titled:  Teaching Interpersonal Relationship Skills: Tips for Parents.   I’m hoping to give this to the teachers so that they may work with this young man who is desperately trying to get a girlfriend, but turning them all off with his stalking behaviors and perseverative interests.  Do you mind if I use portions of this, but modify it a bit for teachers?  I will certainly credit you and the website, of course.  But wanted to get your permission before I go ahead.

Can you let me know soonest?  This young man needs help.



Dr. Hutten,
   I have a 25 year old son who I believe has Aspergers. It looks like I did almost everything right in raising my son until about the time he was 20. He graduated high school at nineteen and then after we talked decided to work for a short while. He knew ever since he was 15 yrs old that after high school he had two choices, work or college. This was going along well.
   He did work a pizza place and then on his own decided to join the air force, he wanted to move away from his step- dad, he almost made it through basic training before he decided that he did not like the politics of military life.
   He returned home and once again I said, work or college. I was enrolled in college myself and he decided to join me. He started off strong, even was making friends and NOT hanging around me at college. His first quarter was a mixed bag of results, anthropology, art history, biology were A's and B's and two F's in some sort of class the college said had to be taken about how to study and another about life goals.
    Then it all feel apart. We where both signed up for the next quarter, my husband at the time was not happy about me going to college (even though I had a full scholarship and it did not affect us financially) then decided that he wanted to take on a second wife. When I said no. He said he wanted a divorce. One month later we were separate, eight months later divorced. Both my son and I were stripped of everything, except of a few family heirlooms and two thousand dollars. Needless to say that ended college for the both of us.
    I moved us back to where family was and started over. My son never bounced back. Once again I said, college or work. He did try to go to a tech school but did horribly. Had three jobs all were very stressful for him and myself. Then I thought that maybe something had clicked when he started working for a grocery store, He held that job for just over two years. He was paying bills, was talking with his co-workers and even had a girlfriend (until she had to move away).
   By now I was dating again and developed a strong relationship that turned into a marriage proposal. My son was fine with this, he likes my fiancee. I moved out of the apartment that we shared and keep my old bedroom as a art studio, with the understanding that I would still pay half the rent but the rest was up to him. He was doing just fine, except for the occasional melt down about a customer at his work (which I could talk him through).
   Four months ago he just quit his job after coming back from vacation with some of his friends. He decided that he would do his art full time. I said if you can make rent and cover your bills go for it! At first he was doing it and loving it. I was proud of him. Then he slowly started to not work as much and started chipping away at the money he had saved.
    Three month ago, his' soon to be step brother found himself without a place to live. Talked it over with my son and since they were the same age that I would move out my art studio and the young man would move in and they would split the bills evenly. It worked for one month. Then my son started comparing himself and realized that he was making less money than his now roommate. My son just about stopped working all together and I started to pay his half of the rent. I made a promise to my soon to be step son that the room was his until the lease came to an end in the end of April. I have explained two both of them that I am not renewing the lease and that they both need to look for a place to live.
   One month ago the girlfriend of my soon to be step son moves into the apartment with the understanding that the rent was going to be divided three ways. It sounded good to my son and I thought it was a bad idea but let him make his own choice. The Boyfriend and girlfriend fight all the time and my son cowards away in his room. He now won't work, won't look for a job, and unless I take him to look at places to rent won't do it on his own.
    Just got him on food stamps and have been trying to get him into affordable housing. Five years ago he was showing promise and now he is penniless and I fear soon homeless. I'm still holding my ground and have told my son that I will help get information but it is up to him to do it. The panic attacks are becoming more often and he spends a lot of time depressed. He's so lethargic. What should I do?


Good Afternoon Mark,
My name is Paige. My professional background is as follows: I was a special education teacher for 7 years working with severe autism, and ranging handicapping conditions from profound to trainable mentally handicapped kids ages 3-21. I then received my Master’s degree in school counseling and have done that for the past 15 years- general population, middle school age. I am also a licensed behavior analyst.  The reason I’m sharing this with you is only to explain that I have a good understanding of teens both with and without developmental challenges.

After reading some of your literature, I think I have uncovered something in my future step daughter and I would appreciate your professional opinion and any input you could provide. I know you cannot diagnose via email but I’m reaching out for some direction,
and I would be so grateful for any help you could provide.

Here is the situation. My fiancĂ© has a 15 year old daughter. She presents as moody, sullen, stubborn when she doesn’t get her way, etc.. Most people around us chalk it up to “typical teenage behavior”. That explanation never really sat well with me. 

She is very high functioning academically - all honors classes- a 4.8 GPA. Very hard on herself is any grade even momentarily slips to a B. I thought, OK, super high achiever, kid from divorce, gains love and attention when getting good grades, etc..makes sense. 

In the family dynamic she has been overly responsible for an alcoholic mother, she is the primary caregiver for her little sister (this is not the case when they are with their Dad).  She’s very serious and intense. Iinitially I took this as a teen who’s been forced to be an adult in a chaotic home- overachiever - but it’s her social/emotional behavior and sensory issues that kept sticking out to me.

She has a lot of difficulty making friends, she is not flexible with schedule changes, she takes things very literally. She is intolerant of other people’ wants - we have to watch her shows on TV, when we go to the movies- she has to pick the movie or she pouts or we don’t go- she immediately gets in the car and changes the station to her music- anything else is not soothing to her. The dinner menu revolves around her likes and she’s very picky about foods and food textures. She tantrums but has difficulty showing emotions if that makes sense. She is robotic when asked feelings -But if I question her gently and repeatedly, she has just started letting one or two tears out at a time. It looks as if is painful for her. At first, I thought, OK,  this is from living in a home where there is alcoholism and the kids are not encouraged to have their own feelings.

She is very uncomfortable when many people are around. Has one or two friends at school- that’s it. Those relationships are off and on.  Again, this was chalked up as “spoiled/ moody” initially- but the one thing that tipped me off more that anything is her hand-flapping and her difficulty making eye contact.

When she gets happy, and can’t process it- she starts rapid hand-flapping.  It’s as if she can’t process good feelings so that self-stimulation is her outlet. She only does this with happy feelings or when she’s extremely nervous in new social settings. The only other emotions she displays are sullen, pouty and intense.

After doing some minimal research, I am wondering if she has mild asperger’s? I believe she also suffers from depression- understandable given the home situation with mother. She is in counseling for that situation.

Do you have any advice/ thoughts you can share? Specifically how do we handle her moody/sullen/ have to have it my way/ behavior and how to separate “teenage typical behavior” from these other issues? We have cancelled vacations, when she’s with her Dad, the home pretty much is run to accommodate her.  I’m not in agreement with that- I don’t think that’s going to help her in the long run. This girl wants to attend an IVY league college. She has no social skills to be able to function in those future endeavors.  What can we do to have a more harmonious home - how do we stop walking on eggshells around her, while still meeting her needs?

Anything you could offer would be helpful - I’m frustrated, confused and exhausted.

Thank you for your excellent work. I think finding your literature, has finally opened some doors to this - until now- unnamed issue in the house.


Good morning.  My name is Arianne.  I have a son who is 21 years old and also a triplet.  He has been diagnosed with ADHD since he was 7 and also has anxiety and depression.  Only one doctor has suggested Asperger’s but the more I read, the more I think he is indeed and person with many of those traits. 

My question is...Do you think your book/program would help being that he is 21?  He has gone to Community College and dropped out, finished a dental assistant certificate and passed state certification but has had a hard time holding a job because they say he is slow and not catching on etc…  This has happened in the last 4 jobs he has had, all within the last year.  He claims people yell at him, tell him he’s slow etc..  We know he’s not dumb as he’s been tested many times and his IQ has always been 102 or so. 

Just wondering if you think the program could help him because he’s 21.

Thank you for any input.


Hello Mr. Hutten,

I have been listening to parts 1-3 of the lecture you have online and am seeing that your ideas describe my situation at home with my son very well.  I am a single mom of an Aspergers child who is now an 18 year old senior.  Because of choir obligations at school which take up a lot of weekends, my son has never had a job.  I had him get his drivers permit at 15 1/2 and he has successfully completed drivers Ed plus the required 50 hours of driving but at 18 still will not take his drivers test.  In all honesty, he's not a good driver and with his low processing speed still doesn't seem to register that when he sees a stop sign he needs to stop.  I got so frustrated with the fights about homework I asked my retired dad to help Tommy with the hours of homework he needed to do a couple of years ago.  Tommy has a great interest in making movies and has enjoyed Animation Film production in the career center at his high school for the past two years.  He has been accepted into Columbia College in Chicago and he really wants to go, but has nowhere near the maturity to leave the state and the school is way to expensive for me.  He has also been accepted to Ball State and IUPUI but doesn't want to go there and wants to take a year off.  I think that school has been very stressful for all of us and, while I am wanting to start implementing your techniques at home, I have a personal goal of ensuring that Tommy graduates and wonder if  now is the best time.  I guess my question is do you think that if I began implementing your techniques now that my son could learn enough to go off to Ball State in his own (where he would have to be more responsible for himself), or should I let him take the year off to take the time to get his act together?
Thank you for being willing to provide your opinions to all of us desperate parents!


Hi Mark
My 15 year old daughter has just been diagnosed 6 months ago with Lymes disease and recently with Asbergers.Yesterday linked in with private psychiatrist.If only I had known how the public system worked and sought proper treatment for my beautiful daughter.  History of depression for 6 years and because of neglect from the public health system. I am a single parent and presently are unable to work full time because of my daughters condition. So can you please inform me of the costs relating to your parent coaching. Thanks very much for your time.


Could you please give us some clues to manage thoughts of severe anger  towards me and my husband in our 13 yo son. I read your book on management of defiant teenagers. We feel that we are almost "scared of" our son "hating us" that everything we have tried to do, put in rules, be nice to him, etc nothing has worked so far and he always feels that we are 'annoying and unfair" no matter what we do. He doesn't see or accept the fact that he has a part to play in everything wrong that he does and he feels it is all "our fault" and we have to respect "his rules" - cannot sneeze in his room, cannot interrupt him in his room, etc. Please advise.


I have been thinking for a few years that my son may have Aspergers. He is 12 1/2 years old in his first year of middle school. He is extremely bright, but struggles interacting with peers, bossing, talking back, sharing, taking turns,etc.  He has seen a psychologist for anxiety for 7 years. He also sees a Psychiatrist for Celexa and Concerta meds. After spending a week on vacation with family friends who have kids near his age, my concerns seem very glaring.
How is Aspergers diagnosed?  What can I do for social support for him? Will things ever get better for him or me?  I am an exhausted and frustrated parent right now. He feels so different from his peers. He complains that other kids say he is annoying, but he doesn't understand how his behaviors make them feel that way. I don't feel like I am helping him at all, but only making him more frustrated. And I am tired of other parents comments on what I should do.



My name is Aaron Boyce and I am currently collecting data for my dissertation through the University of Houston. I was curious if it would be possible to recruit parents from your organization? Potentially through the newsletter and/or facebook group? I am attempting to create a measure that will assess the etiology of peer rejection in children with developmental disabilities (including Aspergers). My study is only online and would require about 20-30 minutes.

Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to talking with you soon,
Aaron Boyce, M.A.
Predoctoral Intern
Munroe-Meyer Institute Center for Autism
Omaha, NE


Thank You So Much for this blog! My son is 9 years old and was diagnosed with borderline Asperger when he was 4. He has become much more severe in recent years especially this year. My Godmother turned me on to this blog because of recent issues I have started having at his school with one of his teachers. He has recently had an adverse effect to his medication so we are off of it for 30 days. The blog I read described Aidon to a tee. Thanks Again!!


Hello Mark,

I purchased one of you programs and just started.

However we found out that my wife has 6 free sessions available through her work here in Washington State
through the Magellan assist program.  They use EAP counselors

I called and tried to get some ideas on counselors that were very savy with the Aspergers syndrome but alot of them kind of generally add that to their resume

We live between Seattle and Portland and would be willing to travel anywhere in that distance to help our grandson.

Do you know of someone that is really knowledgeable with Aspergers in that area...or could you suggest some place I could call that could help guide me to find the most suitable counselor.



Hi Mark,

I am on week three now and have a question...

I am always second guessing myself as to what is reasonable! I am aware I back down from my son very quickly (but I don't with my other kids) when I ask him to do something above and beyond what he needs to do everyday as I know the kickback can be aggressive and it tends to alienate him from me.

He does more than 5 chores a day and always has, is sometimes forgetful, but does do stuff eventually. He cooks dinner once a week and works two days in the business with his sister. The rest of the time he is pursuing an online art course and this takes up a lot of his time.

Is it unreasonable for me to expect output in his art area? He has told us to stay out of that space as we "freak him out" but in someways I feel he is drifting still and needs a framework to work towards.

Is it unreasonable for us to set goals for him or at least help him to set goals?


RE: Is it unreasonable for me to expect output in his art area?
As mentioned in the eBook, parents should pick their battles carefully. This issue certainly belongs in that category. I'm guessing you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about art output.
This is a battle I wouldn't fight. Things like art, music, dance, etc., while privileges, are to closely tied to academic pursuits rather than leisure activities.
I would strongly suggest letting him go at his own pace.



   I have a 13 year old boy that is extremely picky about his food. Unfortunately he will mostly eat foods with tons of carbs. He will eat most fruits and no veggies. I have been trying to sneak the veggies in fruit smoothies made in my bullet. Won't eat red meat or chicken unless it's in the form of a all beef hot dog or chicken strips. I at least got him away from Mc Nuggets. He won't touch them because I told him how they are made. I'm tempted to tell him about hot dogs too. We get the Hebrew Nationals, not that would be much of a difference. Still tempted to tell him. I make the chicken strips but he doesn't like them baked. lol  His favorite is a PB&J or PB&Banana sandwich. 

   He's not a major sweets eater but my boy is over weight and we are worried for him. I have been trying so many ways to hide things that are good for him in his meals but many times have been busted. lol I do get him to try new things because I always remind him since he was 6 that he would try new stuff at least with a bite. Of course he will sniff it first and touch it with his tongue and then a tiny nibble. Thank goodness he won't break the promise. I ask him, Is it good? Do you like it? And he will always answer, It's not bad, yes it's good. And then I will say great, you want some? And ALWAYS, No thanks I'm good. lol 

   I was just wondering if you have any suggestions about the food thing or how to get him out and about or what kind of things to do? This Spring we are getting him an adult tricycle because he refuses to try a bike but he said he would like a trike. His dad and I are pretty much his only friends and there just aren't many social opportunities available for him. We have him in online school because of our school system here. But we are looking into opportunities for him and there just doesn't seem to be much out there unless you have money to spend on it. We would love to but just can't with our budget and right now only being a one income household. 

   My main questions are about the food suggestions and activities he might like outside our home or even in our home during the winter. He really doesn't eat much but the food is mostly carbs and he doesn't get enough exercise. I got him wii games to move him about and he does love those but it doesn't seem to be enough. 

   I would really appreciate any suggestions on any of my concerns for my son. He's a great kid. Very proud of how far he has come from the day we found out about his aspergers. 


Dear Mark,
Love the blog.
My litle is 11, he has High Functioning Austism. He currently is having some inbalances. I believe they are hormonal. We have him under medication for his ADHD. He also takes meds for his the Austism and for his anxieties. And some of it is working but he has discovered girls, and he has discovered that he is different. But different in the awkward sence of the word.
He tries to be funny but he misses the punchlines. He is disregarding everything that he's been taught about personal space. He goes into middle school in August. We did ABA at home, and with everyone that participated in the program at home, he can work with, and walk away when in an unconfortable position, but in school, its different he cant seem to walk away. He lies to get out of trouble, which only gets him into more trouble. He is the youngest of 4 kids. My oldest being 20, and 2 teen girls, so he has the disadvantage that there is nothing that he can pull that I have not surpassed. He takes things that arent his. He loves to be the clown. He does try to be social, but when we had him play with kids on the block, it turned into a bully session. He does well with younger kidsm, and older people, because he has the manipulation piece down packed with these groups. We have done social groups which he hates. Bc he says, why are you teaching me to share and be nice, when other kid dont do it with me. 
I just want more resources as to how to deal with him in this onset of puberty and all these changes that are about to begin. 

Hi Mark,

I frequently use your website, and it has been very helpful. My 10-year-old daughter has Asperger's and is gifted, but she also has depression and defiance issues and is on medication for these. I am trying to find a child psychiatrist who is a good fit for us - someone who is educated about autism/Asperger's. Can you recommend any in the northwest suburbs of Chicago?



My son is thirteen, and has become very defiant at school this year. He has ‘run away’ from school and had to be picked up by the police twice in the last three weeks. He is blessed to be in a school with so many resources, but I can’t figure out why he’s doing it in the first place. When talking about it at home, he always knows what’s right and wrong and why. But when he goes to school, he wants to do what he wants when he wants to and nobody can make him do anything different. It feels like we have tried everything, and nothing is working anymore. Any suggestions?


Dear Doctor Hutten.
My son behaves better in school than home. This Sunday he even hit me . 
My both sons witnessed the severe domestic violent w/ their father . 
My oldest son pull up a knife on me last Xmas. 
Some people told me to call the authority and press charge again them. That I am teaching them bad habits . To place them somewhere . 
My sons think if I do place them in a home that mean I abandoned them .
I can not call the police on my sons. I don't know what to do. 
Please help 


Mr Hutten,

I am so thankful to have found your website. My son was just diagnosed with high functioning autism  only 2 days ago so I am an infant in the world of autism. I firmly  believe this diagnosis is correct however the catch is my son is 15! This was the 5th psychiatrist he had been to and he caught it within 45 minutes.  He had been previously diagnosed as schizophrenic, drug seeking and a  possible sociopath. He has been arrested 4 times, mainly for truancy and pot. He lies, steals,  cusses us,  will not go to school (now we know why) and is totally disrespectful to us and others and has a substance abuse problem. The doctor says the majority of this stems from his autism and recommended intensive weekly therapy. He also said at this point not to tell my son he has autism because it would just upset him (I agree) and my son was told he has social anxiety; which my son agreed that he does have anxiety and this is why he can not go to school.

I did notice my son getting worse each year, it is a relief to know why he acts like he does and the diagnosis makes me see him more tenderly. The majority of literature I see is for much younger children, my son receiving a diagnosis at 15, it makes it a little more complex. My main question is: I have a 15 year old who is making horrible choices with actions and friends. Now that we know he has Asperger's his behavior does make more sense. Do you agree that the majority of his problems is due to his autism? Also do you think that his smoking pot makes his high functioning autism worse? Thank you.



I have a 12.5 year old son with Asperger's/Tourette's/Severe ADHD who struggles continually in school. He's in 6th grade and has such a lack of motivation to do schoolwork/homework or anything that challenges him. Do you have any tips to help get him to be more responsible about his studies/homework that we can provide as parents? This is a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly struggle as us for parents and it has to be for him as well.

Thank you!!!


Good Morning,
I had no idea ECU had this program.  My son who is HFA (autism) was a transfer student 2009 and graduated in 2011 with a BS degree in Industrial Technology.  He also holds an AAS degree in Mechanical Engineering Drafting and Design.  At his time on campus there wasn’t a program or any assistance for him, financially or otherwise.  He was left in the wind.  He resided at the Bellamy in Greenville and was exposed to roommates who drank, smoked, (legal and illegal), partied all day and night and made his life miserable.  Despite the fact he was the original applicant for the room and REQUESTED specifically NO drinking, NO drugs and NO partying or overly religious.  He has thought about graduate school or going and getting his engineering degree but does not want to have to go through the pie crust promises of roommate issues.

As of graduating in May of 2011, neither degree has helped him find a job and there were no internships at ECU, or tutoring programs where he himself could assist students struggling with higher math or autocad when he was a student there.  He is able to work one on one, but not in large crowds. Right now he has a student loan balance of about 30K, ECU and Federal Gov. that my husband and I have been paying off.  He is living at home and was denied twice for SSDI and SSI.  So basically, if it weren’t for my husband and I he would be homeless.  He has a driver’s license.

I realize this is a long shot and probably a NO answer, but would he qualify for the STEPP program to get his graduate degree, either on campus or online?  Would there be some financial aid available?  He is 31 yrs old and has Asperger’s Syndrome.  We truly believed he would have no trouble getting a job after receiving his degree from ECU, however, that is not the case.  No matter the fact he is enrolled at VOC Rehab, no matter the countless meeting and fact findings my husband and I attended at ECBH, no matter the many emails to Autism Society of NC and Autism Speaks (advocates for children only it seems) no matter the 100’s of jobs he has applied for, interviewed for in the private sector and at Cherry Point Marine Base, and the year he spent in Charleston SC with my mom, he has been rejected.  He has no health insurance.  He recently applied for Autocad job locally here in New Bern and emailed his Voc Rehab counselor as he was instructed to do after the interview, never heard a word back.  Makes one a bit cynical.  With his logical mind-set he is becoming that way.  Yet we continue to work with him on job searches and he applies time and time again only to get rejected.  Sure, he could easily do AutoCad work from home, IF, he could afford the $1500.00 it would cost for the CAD software and the $2000.00 it would cost for a large format printer and accessories and if his desktop computer had the hard drive and memory to hold the program.

I realize he is not a newly graduated high school student, when he was, there was nothing for him. It appears, today, there is nothing still.  The ECU office of Students with Disabilities (when he was there)  was a “self-advocating” program only.  How does someone with severe problems with social interaction and Asperger’s Syndrome, “self-advocate” to anything?  The CC persons in this email can tell you that we have been advocating for our son and it has been falling on deaf ears.  Reason:  either he is not blind, deaf or bedridden, or (autism) is completely non verbal, or he is too high functioning to get any assistance of any kind.  He is the fall through the cracks person.  The only reason….the only reason his is where he is…..is because of my husband and I.  No help, no state aid, no scholarships, no fed aid, nothing.  And we have struggled and are still struggling.  It has been said perhaps therapy and medication would help.  Yeah, sure would, and just who is going to pay for it?  He has no health insurance and can’t get it. 

My husband and I have been his only advocates.  He is over 18 and now over 25 and it is getting harder and harder.  The longer he goes without a work history and not using the countless years of post high school education he has received, the further and further back he retreats from the job market.  We have heard, “he can work at Wal-Mart”, yep, sure can, but it is required that you work with the PUBLIC all the time.  Aha, social interaction, Asperger’s, yeah, there-in lies the rub.  If was in the stock room all day long, he would be just fine. And the 10 yrs he spent in college getting 2 degrees is now chaff in the wind. Unfortunately, multi tasking is the order of the day, so any “service” job dealing with the public is a not a good choice.

It is paramount that all who deal with persons with HFA realize that children with HFA, grow up to be adults with HFA.  And try as they might, they are left to fend for themselves and yes the parents have to take up the slack.  When we are gone, the prospects of him being homeless or in a state/fed run group home sends chills down my spine.  As this does not have to happen.  I have heard, “oh there is plenty of opportunity out there for your son.”  Yeah, where?  I think the CC line with the exception of the Dept of the Navy Disabilities office in DC (to which I have written) pretty much covers all the avenues explored.  He is Schedule A qualified for a civil service job, and for some reason is never referred.  So much for the EO of July 2010. (hiring 100,000 persons with disabilities to civil service)

I have BCC people I know well who have young adults like my son, who are also going through the same scenario and I am sure there will be countless others in the Craven, Carteret, Pamilco area who are up and coming.  They need to understand what they are in for.

If this “new program” is of no benefit, please let me know, so we can cross it off our list as yet another closed door.

Hi Mr. Hutten,

I was fortunate to find your webpage, and thank you for so much helpful information. I hope you will not mind me asking a question or two. 

My family has been fostering a 4:1 (years: months) little boy for about 6 months. He was removed due to physical abuse, and is the "meal ticket" of his adoptive mother, who is his biological father's step-mother. She is fighting hard to get him back (i.e., attending all the therapy, even if she arrives notably late to the appointments), despite the fact that he is no blood relation to her.

I have a PhD in speech/language pathology, but no preparation for anything like RAD, and this is our first experience with fostering. Our little foster child is being "transitioned" back to his mother, as the judge's initial decision was that the foster child would be removed from his mother's care until May (no date established). Anyway, my question is this: Is it reasonable to expect that his mother will be able to prove her ability to appropriately care for him to the point that she will be a good mother to him? I have serious doubts, but wonder what the likely outcome will be. I am concerned, obviously, that she will begin abusing him again and that the foster child will be unable to defend himself, given he frequently lies.

I guess my biggest question is whether it is in the best interests of a child with RAD to be returned to their abusive care giver, once physical abuse has been documented, and there seems little evidence to suggest the parent has genuine love and compassion for the child. If you can give me some assistance with this, please let me know, as I would be very appreciative of better understanding how to help the child in the court and foster-care system.

Thank you very much! I sincerely appreciate any perspective you can share, and await your response with great anticipation


Eileen M. Savelkoul, PhD, CCC-SLP


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