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Should You Seek A Formal Diagnosis For High-Functioning Autism?

Diagnosis as an adult can be a mixed blessing. Some people decide they are O.K. with being self-diagnosed and decide not to ask for a formal diagnosis. However, for those who DO want a formal diagnosis, there are a variety of benefits. 

How to Implement the GFCF Diet: Tips for Parents of Autistic Children

A lot has been said about the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet and its use to help kids on the autism spectrum. There is growing interest in the link between autism spectrum disorders and gastrointestinal ailments. 
Research studies have revealed the following:
  • autistic kids were more likely to have antibodies to gluten than typically-developing kids, which may point to immune and/or intestinal abnormalities in those kids
  • kids on the autism spectrum were more likely to have abnormal immune responses to wheat, milk, and soy than typically-developing kids
  • kids on the autism spectrum were 7 times more likely to have diarrhea or colitis than children with no disorder

In a different study, researchers used survey information from moms and dads to conclude that the GFCF diet may improve behavior and GI symptoms in some autistic children.

One theory suggests that some autistic children can’t properly digest gluten and casein, which results in the formation of peptides (i.e., substances that act like opiates in the body). The peptides then alter the child's perceptions, behavior, and responses to his or her environment. Also, some researchers now believe that peptides trigger an unusual immune system response in certain children. Studies have found peptides in the urine of a significant number of autistic kids.

A theory behind the use of the GFCF diet in autism is that if a child is having GI responses to gluten and casein, the resulting inflammation can damage the lining of the intestine, thus leading to absorption of molecules that are not normally absorbed by healthy intestines. Evidence suggests that these molecules (or the inflammation they cause) may interact with the child’s brain in ways that cause significant problems (e.g., mood abnormalities, anxiety, mental difficulties) that worsen the behavioral symptoms of autism.

If your youngster has gastrointestinal problems and sensitivity to certain foods that contain gluten or casein, then the GFCF diet is worth considering. If you do decide to embark on a trial of the diet, the first thing you should do is make a list of the benefits you want to see (e.g., better sleeping patterns, less acting-out behaviors, increased ability to focus, etc.). Make this list a week before you start your youngster on the diet.  

Next, keep a diary of the behaviors or other symptoms of concern to you. For instance, if you hope the diet will improve your child’s diarrhea, you need to know exactly where you are starting (e.g., he or she has diarrhea 7 days a week). Then, continue to log relevant information in the diary as your youngster starts the diet. Two weeks later, does he or she still have diarrhea 7 times a week? If not, then the diet may be beneficial.

This procedure is called “establishing a baseline.” The problem with NOT establishing a baseline is that you and your physician are left with uncertainties about the effectiveness of the diet. This makes it difficult to decide whether to continue with the diet or not. So, take the time to establish a baseline.

In addition to establishing a baseline, you may want to discuss the diet with your youngster’s physician.  Some physicians are more familiar than others with the GFCF diet’s popularity in treating the symptoms of autism.  But, most physicians understand the dietary restrictions involved and how they interact with a youngster’s unique nutritional needs and health conditions.

Also, a nutritionist can provide guidance around the GFCF diet. Some parents believe they are providing a GFCF diet, but actually continue to offer their child foods that contain gluten or casein. These proteins can be in some foods that parents don’t suspect.

How long should you continue the GFCF diet with your child? It can take months for your child’s gut to heal with clear improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms.  So, a trial of 3 to 6 months should be enough to see the benefits. If you do continue with the diet beyond the 3 month period, your youngster should take a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure adequate amounts of recommended vitamins and minerals.

Some advocates of the GFCF diet suggest removing one food from the diet at a time so you will know which food was causing a problem. It's often recommended to remove milk first, because your child’s body will clear itself of milk/casein the quickest. Then, gluten can be removed a month or so after eliminating milk. Also, it is helpful to ask other adults (e.g., teachers, babysitters, etc.) who know your child and see him or her frequently – and who do not know about the dietary change – if they see any improvements after a couple months.

Try to find a substitute for milk that your youngster can tolerate (e.g., almond milk, coconut or rice milk). Also, you can find gluten-free flours in many grocery, specialty and health food stores (e.g., waffles, pretzels, pasta made of rice, crackers, cookies, cereal, bread, etc.). Many products are already gluten-free and casein-free (e.g., rice, quinoa, amaranth, potatoes, buckwheat flour, corn, fruits, vegetables, beans, tapioca, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, nuts, eggs, sorghum, etc.).

In addition to gluten and casein, some moms and dads report that removing soy or corn led to equal or greater improvements in their autistic kids. Since soy protein is similar to gluten and casein, some diet advocates suggest removing it if the youngster seems very sensitive or does not improve on the GFCF diet.

Sample GFCF Diet Plan—

Week 1:
  • Monday: Hamburgers, Ore-Ida French Fries
  • Tuesday: Honey Chicken Thighs, Honey Roasted Carrots, Mashed Potatoes
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti Squash Marinara, Salad
  • Thursday: Ham, Pineapple, Green Beans
  • Friday: Catalina Chicken
  • Saturday: Turkey Chili served over Fritos, Fruit Salad
  • Sunday: Franks ‘n’ Beans, Corn

Week 2:
  • Monday: Honey Mustard Fish, Sugar Snap Peas, Rice
  • Tuesday: Tacos, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice
  • Wednesday: Creamy Penne Pasta
  • Thursday: Barbecue Brisket, Potato Salad
  • Friday: Shepherd’s Pie
  • Saturday: Red Honey Chicken Drumsticks, Peas, Mac & Cheese 
  • Sunday: Honey Orange Pork Chops, Butternut Crunch

Week 3:
  • Monday: Chicken Nuggets, Pasta Salad, Mango slices
  • Tuesday: Meatloaf, Roasted New Potatoes, Broccoli
  • Wednesday: Sweet Wine Fish, Edamame, Sushi rice
  • Thursday: Barbecue Chicken, Corn on the cob, Watermelon
  • Friday: Pork Chops with Pears, Mashed potatoes
  • Saturday: Beef Stir Fry
  • Sunday: Pot Roast

Week 4:
  • Monday: Almond-Crusted Chicken, Salad, Cinnamon Apples
  • Tuesday: Greek Wraps with Cucumber Tzatziki
  • Wednesday: Vegetable Soup, Corn Bread 
  • Thursday: Turkey Meatballs, Green beans, GFCF Rolls
  • Friday: Banh Bao, Spring Rolls
  • Saturday: Tandoori Chicken with Potatoes
  • Sunday: Lemon Chicken, Asparagus, Sautéed Mushrooms

Week 5:
  • Monday: Cajun Fish
  • Tuesday: Greek Flank Steak, Sautéed Peppers and Onions, Stuffed Tomatoes
  • Wednesday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Coleslaw Salad
  • Thursday: Fish Tacos
  • Friday: Green Chicken Curry
  • Saturday: Chicken and Rice Casserole, Sliced Peaches
  • Sunday: Mexican Pizza

More information on diet plans for autistic children can be found here:

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

Almost 2 years ago now we were at our wits-end trying to find a medication/treatment that would alleviate my son's constant anger & irritability. He has been taking Risperdal for many years & it has helped, but it wasn't a "miracle" situation that seemed to solve everything. We went GLUTEN-FREE. It is known that gluten, an un-digestable protein found in wheat & other grains, is a "poison" for the brain & body..especially for those with neurological conditions such as Aspergers or ADHD. It was our last-ditch effort. It seemed daunting because there are many things you just can't eat..but nowadays almost every store or restaurant you may go to has gluten-free foods & options. Anyway..It took a few weeks to "kick-in" but my son's anger & irritability literally WENT AWAY! His general mood was happy & at-ease rather than on a constant short fuse. His hyperactivity did not go away..but his antics became more silly & fun in nature instead of mischievous & problematic. He absolutely loves all the food too! So as I mentioned my son has other mental issues that simply going gluten-free will not resolve but as far as his general mood on a day-to-day basis, it has made an amazing difference!

Reversing Autism Through Dietary Changes

There are a number of reasons why kids develop autism. Genetics may play a part, but the vast majority of the causes are not genetic, which means parents can do something about them. Correcting the underlying causes of your youngster's autism  will produce significant improvement in his or her functioning.

The diagnosis of autism is overwhelming and stressful for parents and other family members.  However, contrary to popular belief, with a concerted effort from parents, some of the youngster’s symptoms of autism may be reversed.

A noticeable difference is often seen in a short period of time, with amazing, sometimes miraculous long-term results. One parent eliminated almost all autistic behaviors her son suffered from, and so have many thousands of other parents around the world. You can too!

Note to skeptics: If you believe that reversing the symptoms of autism is an impossibility, do a Google or YouTube search for "reversing autism" and witness for yourself accounts from other parents who have had such good fortune!

Relationships With Partners On The Autism Spectrum

Are you struggling in a relationship with someone who has Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism? Are you at your wits-end?  Have you been having thoughts of separation or divorce? Can you identify with some of the comments in this video from neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) partners/spouses?

As you can see, a lot of neurotypical partners/spouses are hurt, angry and downright resentful. But, healing can begin today. Join our support group on Facebook: Relationships With Partners On The Autism Spectrum

Also, check out this eBook: Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

"Sensory Diet" for Kids with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder

Many kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) struggle with sensory processing challenges, and some have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD is a condition in which the child’s brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. 

The symptoms of SPD include the following:


•    can’t crawl "on all fours"
•    can’t hold self upright in walker, high chair for more than a few minutes
•    can’t latch on, or suckle to nurse
•    cries when bathed
•    difficulty lifting head when on tummy
•    doesn’t like baby swings, or riding in car
•    doesn’t like to be cuddled, or will not let you put her down
•    extremely active or extremely quiet
•    frequently make fists
•    may only sleep when swinging or riding in car
•    must have absolute quiet to settle down/or must have certain sounds
•    screams hysterically when hungry, wet, cold, or hot
•    seems to never sleep, doesn’t develop sleep patterns
•    struggles when changed
•    takes an unusually long time to nurse or finish bottle
•    tenses, or cries when held in space
•    uses soldier crawl, or scoots rather than use arms to bear weight


•    acts claustrophobic when slightly stuck in clothes
•    acts out aggressively when touched, provoked, or upset
•    afraid no matter what consolation you give
•    afraid of dark
•    afraid of drain in tub
•    afraid of falling in toilet
•    afraid of new places, people
•    always has shoes on, or never leaves them on
•    bites fingers and tongue while eating
•    can’t hold pencil or crayon in correct grip
•    can’t pedal tricycles, bikes, scoot type toys
•    can’t sit through a meal
•    can’t snap, zip, buckle, or tie
•    can’t use scissors
•    can't get comfortable
•    chews with mouth open
•    complains food too hot, or too cold
•    crashes, crashes, crashes
•    cries when fingernails and toenails clipped, or hair cut
•    difficulty doing puzzles, Leggos, stacking blocks
•    difficulty going up or down stairs
•    difficulty guiding utensils to mouth
•    difficulty with push and pull toys
•    dislikes carbonated drinks
•    doesn’t like baths, washing or combing hair
•    doesn’t like belts, or anything snug around waist
•    doesn’t like certain textures; too crunchy, soft, grainy, or slimy
•    doesn’t like feet touched
•    doesn’t like sleeves that hit wrist, or high collars
•    doesn’t like to brush teeth
•    doesn’t recognize need to go potty
•    drops food on floor, all over table, unintentionally
•    easily frustrated, quick to anger
•    falls off of chairs, couches, bed
•    falls out of chairs
•    fidgets and moves around a lot while sitting
•    flits from one activity to another
•    food has no taste, or tastes too strong
•    grabby, hugs too hard, body slams while playing
•    has hard time with spoons and forks
•    has trouble dressing self
•    hates taste of toothpaste
•    hides under furniture
•    jumps, jumps, jumps
•    legs hang, rather than wrap around someone's hips when carried
•    likes certain clothes, usually cotton
•    likes cool or very warm baths
•    likes to be totally covered, or is constantly removing clothing
•    likes very few foods, or will eat anything
•    meltdowns in stores, restaurants, public places
•    messy eater, dribbles food down chin, or can't stand mess on hands
•    over dresses in hot weather, or under dresses in cold weather
•    over stuffs mouth, chokes
•    poor posture
•    potty accidents that go on and on
•    prefers picking/grazing through the day, instead of regular mealtimes
•    prefers unusually hot, or unusually cold food
•    rests head on hands or arms frequently
•    seams in clothing or socks bothersome
•    seems not to listen
•    seems under/over sensitive to pain
•    severe separation anxiety
•    severe temper tantrums, sometimes many per day
•    spills food and drinks frequently
•    spins, spins, spins
•    strong preference for or against playground equipment
•    trouble kicking ball, or catching balloons
•    trouble playing with other children
•    uses sippy cup long after most children have moved on
•    vomits a mouthful when too upset
•    walks into walls, corners, people
•    wants tags removed
•    when excited, over does it, can't calm down
•    withdraws into self, zones out
•    won't carry objects, seem too heavy

Older child—

•    acts wild when in a group
•    bumps into people and things
•    can’t complete more than one direction at a time
•    can’t follow directions without constant verbal reminders
•    can’t judge time
•    clumsy, spacey, lazy
•    craves/avoids touching
•    difficulty hearing adult voices over background sounds
•    difficulty with handwriting
•    dislikes changes in plans or routines
•    doesn’t complete tasks
•    doesn’t like loud noises or commotion
•    easily distracted
•    erratic sleep patterns
•    “falls apart” frequently
•    forgets shoes, socks, homework, assignments
•    has trouble making choices
•    hides when anyone comes over
•    immature, baby talk, cries over inconsequential things
•    impulsive
•    inverting/reversing numbers and letters
•    leaves the table during meals
•    misses when placing objects on table
•    overly excited when people come to house
•    poor speech, articulation
•    poor written work
•    reading and math difficulties
•    short attention span
•    speaks unusually loud/ talks too soft to hear
•    stubborn, uncooperative, defiant
•    unusually low/high energy
•    won't join the group

Children whose bodies need particular types of sensory input tend to do exactly what they need to obtain that input, sometimes in ways parents may not particularly like. The AS or HFA youngster may love to chew on nonfood objects, crash into furniture or other children, hang upside down, jump on the furniture, flap his arms, or spin in circles. This is called “self-stimulatory” behaviors. Some “self-stimulatory” behaviors are an attempt to obtain much-needed sensory input that either revs up or slows down a poorly functioning nervous system. At other times these behaviors act as a coping mechanism until the youngster figures out how to ward off or deal with sensory overload.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Three major challenges for parents and teachers who deal with a child who has SPD are (1) recognizing when the youngster is under-reactive or over-reactive in any given moment, (2) calibrating sensory input to meet her where she is, and (3) providing a “just right challenge” to help her move forward into a “just right” state of being. Fortunately, there are proven techniques for reducing under-sensitivities and over-sensitivities, and modifying tasks and environments to support success while the child builds underlying sensory processing skills. Foremost among these techniques is what’s called a “sensory diet.”

Senses that should be included in a sensory diet include the following:

1. Auditory— Auditory input refers to both what you hear and how you listen, and is physiologically connected with the vestibular sense.

2. Proprioception— Proprioceptive input (i.e., sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness) can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including the child’s own weight. He can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together (e.g., pushing something heavy), and pull joints apart (e.g., hanging from monkey bars).

3. Smell— Olfactory input comes through the nose and goes straight to the most primitive, emotional part of the brain. So, if your AS or HFA youngster is upset by something being “stinky” – it’s no wonder. Certain odors can stimulate, calm, or send her into sensory overload.

4. Tactile— The tactile sense detects pain, light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, and vibration. This includes both the skin covering your body and the skin lining the inside of your mouth. For the AS or HFA child, oral tactile issues can contribute to picky eating and feeding difficulties.

5. Taste— Taste input is perceived by your tongue, but how you interpret or experience it is strongly influenced by your sense of smell.

6. Vestibular— This is the sense of movement centered in the inner ear. Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but swinging, spinning, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input.

7. Visual— Visual input can often be overstimulating for an AS or HFA youngster with sensory issues.

The goal of a sensory diet is to give your AS or HFA youngster the right kind of sensory input in regular, controlled doses so there’s no need for him to resort to undesirable behaviors. For example, rather than bouncing off the walls during lunch, he can bounce for a few minutes on a mini-trampoline before it’s time to sit down to eat. Rather than chewing on a crayon, he can munch on a “Gummi bear.” Instead of crashing into the furniture to get deep pressure stimulation, he can jump into a safely placed “crash pad” or punching bag.

The starting point in creating a sensory diet that meets your AS or HFA child’s unique needs is to look at her behaviors, especially those that are a bit odd. In general, a youngster whose nervous system is “hyper” needs more calming input, while the youngster who is more “slothful” needs more arousing input. While each child’s likes and dislikes are different, activities that are more rapid and less predictable tend to be more alerting – while slow, rhythmic, and repetitive activities tend to be more soothing.

Finding the perfect activity to achieve that optimal state takes some detective work and creativity on the parent’s part. Few kids are always tired or always wired. The right combination of sensory input is something parents will need to figure out together with the child, and preferably with the assistance of an occupational therapist.
 Below is a sample sensory diet that was created for Andrew, an 8-year-old youngster with Asperger’s and SPD. A separate program was created for Andrew with the school, including an inflatable seat cushion for wiggling while remaining seated, frequent movement breaks, and providing chewy oral comfort snacks during handwriting class.

Sample Sensory Diet--

In the morning:
  • Eat crunchy cereal with fruit and protein
  • Jump on mini-trampoline as directed
  • Listen to recommended therapeutic music
  • Massage back
  • Use vibrating toothbrush

After school:
  • Artwork time (e.g., drawing, clay projects, painting projects, etc.)
  • Do ball exercises as directed
  • Eat crunchy and chewy snacks
  • Go to playground for at least 20 minutes
  • Listen to therapeutic music
  • Massage feet 
  • Mini-trampoline
  • Push grocery cart
  • Spinning as directed

At dinnertime:
  • Provide crunchy and chewy foods
  • Help with dinner preparations (e.g., mixing, chopping, blending, etc.)
  • Help set table

At night: 
  • Warm bath with bubbles and calming essential oil
  • Massage during reading time
  • Burn scented candle prior to falling asleep

Here is a list of 50 activities to consider when creating your child’s unique sensory diet:

1.  Bang on pots and pans.

2. Climb up and down stairs.

3. Create a scrapbook (lots of pasting and working with different textures).

4. Do cartwheels, swim, jumping jacks, and dance.

5. Do jumping jacks, floor pushups or wall pushups.

6. Do wheelbarrow walking, with ankles held.

7. Dress up in fun costumes to get used to the feel of unfamiliar clothing.

8. Drink thick liquids through a straw.

9. Eat chewy or crunchy foods or chew gum.

10. Encourage child to walk barefoot in the grass, sand, or dirt.

11. Encourage play with make-up, face painting, and costumes.

12. Get a firm massage.

13. Get a white noise machine, tabletop rocks-and-water fountain, or aquarium.

14. Go swimming.

15. Go to the beach or sit still and listen to the rain, thunder, etc.

16. Go to the playground and use slides and swings.

17. Have child finger-paint, play with glitter glue, or mix cookie dough and cake batter.

18. Have child hang upside down from playground equipment, do somersaults, or ride a loop-de-loop rollercoaster.

19. Have child play with foamy soap or shaving cream, and add sand for extra texture.

20. Have child vacuum, carry books from one room to another, help wash windows or a tabletop, and transfer wet laundry from the washing machine to the dryer.

21. Have the child sit very quietly and try to identify the sounds he/she hears (e.g., traffic, people taking, planes, etc.) and where it’s coming from.

22. Help child garden and repot indoor plants.

23. Hold the youngster’s arms and spin in a circle as he/she lifts off the ground.

24. Inhale favored essential oils or other fragrances.

25. Jump on a mini-trampoline, bouncy pad, or mattress placed on the floor.

26. Let child run in circles or ride a carousel.

27. Let the youngster drink plain seltzer or carbonated mineral water to experience bubbles in his/her mouth (flavor it with a little juice).

28. Listen to birds singing and try to identify what direction a given bird is calling from.

29. Listen to favorite music with headphones.

30. Listen to natural sound recordings of rain falling, ocean waves, bird songs, etc.

31. Make a “burrito” by rolling child up in a blanket.

32. Play a musical instrument.

33. Play in a sandbox or use a sensory bin filled with uncooked rice and beans.

34. Provide the youngster with a musical instrument and encourage him/her to play and even take lessons.

35. Provide the youngster with frozen foods (e.g., popsicles, frozen fruit) and mixed temperature foods (e.g., hot fudge sundae, hot taco with cold toppings).

36. Put on a play or making a mini movie with a video camera.

37. Rake leaves, push heavy objects like firewood in a wheelbarrow.

38. Ride a tricycle or bicycle.

39. Rock in a rocking chair, glider, or on a hobby horse.

40. Sculpt, sew, weave, crochet or knit.

41. Sit in a quiet “safe space” with soft lighting.

42. Spin on a Sit N’ Spin, Dizzy Disc Jr., or office chair.

43. Squish between sofa cushions to make a “sandwich.”

44. Swing on a hammock.

45. Take a warm bath or shower.

46. Try Sound Eaze CDs that desensitize autistic kids to everyday sounds (e.g., balloons popping, vacuum cleaners, flushing toilets, thunder, barking dogs, alarms, and other sounds these children find distressing).

47. Use a vibrating item (e.g., Squiggle Wiggle Writer, vibrating pillow, or oral vibrator).

48. Use a weighted blanket, vest, lap pad, or other weighted item.

49. Use sandpaper to smooth a woodworking project, or make things out of clay (try using a potter’s wheel).

50. Wear a heavy knapsack or pull a luggage cart-style backpack, or mow the lawn with a push mower.

In summary, a sensory diet is a term used to describe sensory activities that are used to treat children with SPD. If your AS or HFA youngster has symptoms of SPD, your physician can refer you to an occupational therapist for an evaluation. If it is discovered that your child does have SPD, the therapist will create a “menu” of activities. He or she will have you perform these activities in a particular order to create a sensory “meal.” Just like nutritional diets, the sensory diet is designed for your youngster’s sensory needs. The occupational therapist will create a plan of activities for you to do throughout the day.
Note: BrainWorks simplifies the process of creating sensory diets and teaches self-modulation through its use.  Click here to join BrainWorks.

Join "Relationships With Partners On The Autism Spectrum"

This is our new support group for people who are married to, or in a relationship with, someone on the autism spectrum (e.g., Asperger's, High-Functioning Autism). Share your challenges, frustrations, hurts, fears, concerns -- and yes, your successes and victories as well. We are here for one another! 

Click ==> Relationships With Partners On The Autism Spectrum

Sensory Diet for Children on the Autism Spectrum

BrainWorks: The Sensory Diet Creator Tool

Just as youngsters with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism need food throughout the day, their need for sensory input must also be met. A “sensory diet” is a personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input “special needs” children must have in order to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Children and teens with mild to severe sensory issues can all benefit from a personalized sensory diet.

Each Asperger’s or HFA youngster has a unique set of sensory needs. Generally, a youngster who is more lethargic or tired needs more arousing input, while a youngster whose nervous system is energetic or hyper needs more calming input. Occupational therapists can use their training and evaluation skills to develop a sensory diet for the youngster on the autism spectrum, but it’s up to parents and the youngster to implement it throughout the day.

Effects of a sensory diet are usually immediate and cumulative. In other words, activities that stimulate the youngster or soothe her are not only effective in the moment – they help to restructure the youngster’s nervous system over time so that she is better able to handle transitions with less stress, limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, regulate her alertness and increase attention span, and tolerate sensations and situations she finds challenging.

Each Asperger’s and HFA youngster is different and has unique requirements. But if parents take a close look at what their child is doing, he is telling his parents in the only way he knows how (with his behavior) what he needs. Parents can take what their child is already doing and make it safer and more appropriate. That's the beginning of a good sensory diet.

BrainWorks simplifies the process of creating sensory diets and teaches self-modulation through its use.  Click here to join BrainWorks.

Brainworks Is The Premier Sensory Diet Creation Tool. Sensory Diets Are Designed Primarily For Those With Autism And Other Sensory Processing Disorders.

Developing Friendship Skills: Help for Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s includes a description of some of the deficits in social interaction, for example, (a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction; (b) lack of social or emotional reciprocity; and (c) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.

Children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have considerable difficulty with the understanding and expression of social reciprocity and nonverbal behaviors. With respect to peer relationships, when a parent or teacher observes the social play and friendship skills of these young people, he or she often notices a delay in the conceptualization of friendship. Also, these children may have an overall intellectual ability within the normal range, but their understanding of friendship skills resembles much younger kids.

We can only guess what the consequences may be for Asperger’s and HFA children who fail to develop peer relationships that are appropriate for their developmental level. But without a doubt, there will be lasting effects in several aspects of social, cognitive, and emotional development. When interacting with their peers, “typical” (i.e., non-autistic) kids naturally acquire increasingly sophisticated strategies to resolve conflict, as well as interpersonal and team skills. Also, they learn the value of alternative perspectives and solutions in problem solving. Many of the traits valued in a close friend become the traits associated with lasting personal relationships. However, with Asperger’s and HFA children, these skills are not intuitive – they must be taught!

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

The social isolation of an Asperger’s or HFA student in the lunch room or on the school playground can increase his or her vulnerability to being bullied and teased. Also, a lack of close friendships can be a contributory factor in the development of childhood depression. Furthermore, a delay in social knowledge can lead to anxiety in social situations that may develop into school refusal, social phobia, and even agoraphobia. “Typical” children achieve cognitive and affective growth within their circle of friends. So, it is not surprising that impaired peer relationship skills often result in significant emotional and social problems for the “outcast” (i.e., the child who doesn’t fit in).

Before considering strategies to improve specific friendship skills, it is important to determine the Asperger’s or HFA youngster's stage of friendship development. Unfortunately, there are no standardized tests to measure friendship skills as there are for cognitive abilities, language skills, and motor development. However, assessments can be made by analysis of the child’s answers to specific questions and observation of his or her interactions with peers. Questions might include: What makes you a good friend? Who are your friends at school? Why do we have friends? Why is (name) your friend? How do you make friends? What do friends do? What makes a good friend?

How parents and teachers can foster the development of friendship skills in children and teens on the autism spectrum:

3 to 6 years of age—

In this age group, the Asperger’s or HFA youngster needs to identify relevant social cues and appropriate responses to those cues. For instance, the youngster can learn the cues to join a group of peers without causing disruption or annoyance. An activity can be to brainstorm with the youngster the “entry cues” (e.g., someone giving a welcoming gesture or facial expression, or a pause in the activity or conversation). These “acts of the social play” can be rehearsed by identifying a few kids who are willing to help with the friendship skills of the Asperger’s or HFA youngster. They can be informed that he or she is learning the rules for joining in their play.

The procedure of identifying the cues in planned settings and practicing appropriate responses can be used for many friendship skills. The parent or teacher can act as a mentor or stage director, giving guidance and encouragement. It is important that the attitude from the adult is one of discovery and guidance so that the Asperger’s or HFA youngster does not perceive the activity as being critical of his or her ability and a public recognition of his or her social errors.

Due to their developmental delay, kids on the autism spectrum often demonstrate more mature interaction skills with grown-ups than with their same-age peers. It is important that parents and teachers observe the natural play of the Asperger’s or HFA youngster's peers (e.g., noting the games, equipment, rules, language, etc.). They can then practice the same play with the youngster, but with the adult “acting” as a peer. This includes “child speak” (i.e., using the speech of kids rather than adults), role-playing examples of being a good friend, and role-playing situations that illustrate unfriendly acts (e.g., disagreements and teasing). Appropriate and inappropriate responses can be performed to provide the youngster with a range of responses.

Parents and teachers can borrow (or buy) duplicate equipment that is used at school or is popular with the Asperger’s or HFA youngster’s peers. Once the youngster has rehearsed with grown-ups who can easily modify the pace of play and amount of instruction, he can have a “dress rehearsal” with another youngster (e.g., an older sibling or mature student in his class) who can act as a friend to provide further practice before the skills are used openly with the youngster’s peer group.

Another strategy to learn the relevant cues, thoughts, and behavioral script is to write Social Stories that can be used by the youngster to improve her social understanding and abilities.

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

6 to 9 years or age—

In this age group, “typical” kids develop greater cooperation skills when playing with their peers and develop more constructive means of dealing with conflict. It is important that young people with Asperger’s and HFA experience more cooperative than competitive games. In competitive games, there are winners and losers and strict rules. Kids on the autism spectrum often require considerable instruction using Social Stories to understand the concepts of being fair and gracious in defeat. Specific aspects of cooperative play that need to be recognized are (a) accepting suggestions rather than being autocratic or indifferent, (b) giving guidance and encouragement, and (c) identifying and contributing to the common goal.

Kids of the spectrum can learn that, when functioning as a cooperative and cohesive group, many activities and goals are easier and quicker to achieve. Parents and teachers can use role play games to illustrate appropriate and inappropriate actions with some time taken to explain why (in a logical and empathic sense) certain actions are considered friendly or not friendly. The unfriendly actions that are particularly relevant for kids with Asperger’s and HFA are (a) coping with mistakes, (b) failure to recognize personal body space, (c) inappropriate touch, and (d) interruptions.

Children on the spectrum can benefit greatly from published training programs designed to improve “Theory of Mind” skills. Programs on Theory of Mind skills also can help these children distinguish between accidental and intentional acts. They may consider only the act from their perspective and not consider the cues that would indicate it was not deliberate. In addition, educational programs on emotions can help them identify the cues that indicate the emotional state of their friends and themselves. The intention is to develop their empathy skills so that they can be recognized as caring friends.

On a side note, there can be different coping mechanisms used by girls with Asperger’s and HFA in comparison with boys. Girls on the autism spectrum are more likely to be interested observers of the social play of their peers and to imitate their play at home using dolls, imaginary friends, and by adopting the persona of a socially adept girl. This solitary practice of the social play of their friends can be a valuable opportunity to analyze and rehearse friendship skills. Some girls on the spectrum can develop a special interest in reading classic literature or fiction that is age-appropriate. This also provides an insight into thoughts, emotions, and social relationships. Girls tend to be more maternal than boys and can facilitate the inclusion of a girl with Asperger’s or HFA within an established peer group. The autistic girl’s social difficulties can be accommodated and guided by peers who value the role of mother or educator. The girl also may be popular because she is honest and consistent and less likely to be spiteful.

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

9 to 13 years of age—

In this age group, there is usually a clear gender preference in the choice of friends. The activities and interests of boys (who may be playing team games or sports) may be considered of little value to the boy with Asperger’s or HFA. Also, he is likely to be less capable than his peers in team games and ball skills, which may lead to teasing and bullying by boys who can be notoriously intolerant of someone who is different. When the boy on the autism spectrum approaches girls, he can be more readily included in their activities, because girls can be more patient, maternal and supportive. However, one of the consequences of being more welcomed by girls than by boys – and spending more time playing with girls than boys – is that the boy on the spectrum can imitate the prosody and body language of his female friends. This can result in further isolation and torment from male peers. The youngster needs a balance of same and opposite gender friends. Some social engineering may be necessary to ensure acceptance by both groups.

During this stage, there is a strong desire for companionship rather than functional play. The youngster with Asperger’s or HFA can feel lonely and sad if her attempts at friendship are unsuccessful. She needs instruction and guidance, and this may be achieved by discussion with supportive friends and grown-ups. Individual peers who have a natural rapport with a youngster on the spectrum can be guided and encouraged to be mentors in the classroom, playground, and in social situations. Their advice may be accepted as having greater value than that of parents and teachers. It is also important to encourage the “special needs” child’s peers to help her regulate her mood, stepping in and helping her calm down if she is becoming agitated or tormented. Peers may need to provide reassurance if she is anxious and to cheer her up when sad. The youngster on the spectrum also needs advice and encouragement to be reciprocal with regard to emotional support, and must be taught how to recognize the signs of distress or agitation in her friends and how to respond.

At this stage, existing remedial programs use strategies to develop teamwork rather than friendship skills. Attending a program on teamwork skills (e.g., sports or employment) may be considered more acceptable to the Asperger’s or HFA teen who may be sensitive to any suggestion that she needs remedial programs to have friends. Another strategy to help the teenager who is sensitive to being publicly identified as having few friends is to adapt speech and drama classes.

The teen on the autism spectrum can learn and practice tone of voice for particular situations, self-disclosure, facial expression, conversational scripts, body language, as well as role-play people she knows who are socially successful. The “special needs” teen sometimes uses this strategy naturally, but it is important to ensure that she chooses good role models to portray.

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

13 years of age to adulthood—

When the individual with Asperger’s or HFA reaches this stage, he usually seeks friends through recreational pursuits and work. Attempts to change a relationship from friend to work mate can present some challenges to the young adult on the autism spectrum. A mentor at work who understands his unusual profile of friendship skills can provide guidance and act as a confidante and advocate. The mentor also can help determine the degree of genuine interest in friendships from the coworkers.

Sometimes adults on the spectrum assume that a friendly smile, act or gesture has greater implications than was intended. There can be a tendency to develop an intense interest or infatuation with a particular person. This “special interest” may dominate their time and conversation and can lead to inappropriate behavior (e.g., stalking). On the other hand, the individual with Asperger’s or HFA can be desperate to have a friend and may become the recipient of abuse (e.g., physical, financial, sexual) through failing to recognize that the other person's intentions are dishonorable. The two-way misinterpretation of signals and intentions can lead to mutual confusion.

Relationship counseling is helpful, but most counselors today have limited knowledge and experience with Autism Spectrum Disorders. An interesting development in recent years is young adults on the spectrum providing guidance through group counseling sessions organized by support groups. These groups are often formed by people with Asperger’s and HFA who want to meet like-minded people. They meet on a regular basis to discuss topics that range from personal relationships to employment issues.

The Internet has become the modern equivalent of the dance hall in terms of an opportunity for young adults to meet. The great advantage of this form of communication to the individual on the spectrum is that she often has a greater eloquence to disclose and express her inner self and feelings through typing rather than conversation. In face-to-face social gatherings, she is expected to be able to listen to and process the other person's speech (often against a background of other conversations), to immediately reply, and simultaneously analyze nonverbal cues (e.g., gestures, facial expression, tone of voice, etc.). However, when using the computer, the individual on the spectrum can concentrate on social exchange using a visual rather than auditory medium.

As in many other situations, people with Asperger’s and HFA may be vulnerable to others taking advantage of their social naivety and desire to have a friend. Young adults on the autism spectrum need to be taught caution and to not provide personal information until they have discussed the Internet friendship with someone they trust. Genuine and long-lasting friendships can develop over the Internet based on shared experiences, interests, and mutual support. It is an opportunity to meet like-minded people who accept individuals on the spectrum because of their knowledge rather than their social persona. People on the spectrum can be somewhat self-centered and peculiar – but can prove to be honest, loyal, and knowledgeable friends.

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


At any age, having friends provides support and promotes mental health and well-being. Friendships are also very important for social and emotional development. Through friendships, kids learn how to relate to others. They develop social skills as they teach each other how to be good friends. Most kids with Asperger’s and HFA want to have friends, but don’t have the skills to acquire them. Kids on the spectrum who have friends are more likely to be self-confident and perform better academically at school. When these “special needs” kids have difficulty in making friends or in keeping them, it often leads to feeling lonely and unhappy with themselves. Feeling rejected by others often leads to significant distress, too.

Parents and teachers have important roles to play in helping the Asperger’s or HFA youngster develop friendship skills. They set examples for how the youngster can manage relationships. They can also act as coaches, teaching the child helpful social skills and talking through friendship issues to help with problem solving. 

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

==> 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 


Is there a link between school shootings and ASD?

“It has been suggested that Chris Mercer, the shooter in the Oregon community college incident, had a developmental disorder (the same claim was made of Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook incident). Are people with autism more prone to violence than the general population? What can be done to address any potential violent tendencies early before tragedy strikes? What are the pros and cons of medication in these cases? I have so many other questions… We have a teenager with Asperger’s who has exhibited aggression, not only toward us, but with a few of his classmates as well. So, I believe we are justified in our concern at this point. (FYI: We do not have guns in our home!)”

We have to careful about jumping to the conclusion that school shootings by people with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism are caused by their disorder. Violence is seldom an isolated problem and is particularly complex in teens and young adults with a developmental disorder. It is important to understand that violent behavior is not always associated with just one condition and can have highly varied sources.

An array of theoretic models has been proposed to understand violent behavior in people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There are promising (a) biologic models that suggest the behavior arises from alterations in dopaminergic reward mechanisms, and (b) cognitive models, suggesting that such acts are an outcome of conditioned learning.

Physical violence is often a response to a variety of circumstances and occurs in the context of diverse emotions. It has become fashionable to consider violence as clear-cut evidence of bipolar disorder, particularly when ASD individuals are distractible, restless, and have chronically decreased need for sleep. It is increasingly important to consider, however, whether features of bipolar illness appear together and depart from chronic baseline functioning.

It is also relevant if they are associated with pharmacologic (e.g., serotonin reuptake inhibitor) side effects. In addition, it is useful to know the circumstances preceding and following violent outbursts before selecting a medication. For example, when violence is a response to anxiety or frustration, the most helpful interventions target those symptoms and the circumstances that produce them rather than exclusively focusing on violent behavior.

Unfortunately, the request for treatment typically follows a crisis. But the press for a rapid, effective end to the behaviors may not permit the gathering of much data or discussion. Nevertheless, it is NOT appropriate to “always” begin with one medication or another. Moving to a more “surefire” medication too quickly may mean that the person on the autism spectrum takes on cardiovascular, endocrinologic, and cognitive risks that might be otherwise avoided.

There are reports in support of using serotonin reuptake inhibitors, alpha-adrenergic agonists, beta-blocking agents, “mood stabilizers” (or anticonvulsants), and neuroleptics for violent behavior. When a psychiatrist or other professional has the luxury of time, the support of family, and collaboration with staff where the individual is working or attending school, then an agent that is safer (but perhaps takes a longer time to work or is a little less likely to help) can be tried.

It does seem that those agents with a greater likelihood of success pose greater risks. The most evidence supports use of dopamine blocking agents (neuroleptics) for violence, but the side effects and long-term risks from these agents are greater than from most others agents.

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


•    Anonymous said… Generalising is not helpful in any circumstances. It is however frustrating.
•    Anonymous said… I can understand the difficulties of raising a child who has Aspergers. My son 15, is at times difficult to manage. I have asked him if he would like to home school, but said no. He has only one peer he associates with. He doesn't care to converse with others if they are not interested or can talk on his intellectual level. He is a respectful, God loving does take tough love at times, constant life coaching, Lots of Prayers. It's what we can only do. God Bless you.
•    Anonymous said… I don't think just because someone has a certain disorder makes them automatically prone to violence or school shootings. I don't like how the media just lumps each shooting on "well, he had a mental disorder" and try to place blame. But I do believe if all of these young men would have had better access to professional help and less access to firearms, we may have seen less of these types of shootings. We may never know if certain ones had a disorder they were struggling with but they certainly needed help in dealing with their thought processes & emotions if anything.
•    Anonymous said… my heart aches for you. You are doing your absolute best each and every day. I can hear it. Your actions will make a difference. They will.
•    Anonymous said… My son, who was diagnosed at age 5 with Asperger' almost 17. As a younger child he was not aggressive but as soon as his hormones kicked in we saw a different side to him. He has had a very hard time in our public school system and now is being home schooled. I fought very hard for him in the system but he still could not conform to what they wanted him to do. With all of this said....Over the years he has felt very rejected by his peers. He has longed to connect with them but despite all of his attempts..and there were has never happened. Recently he made a public post about his school's Homecoming Dance stating he wanted to go so bad but knew he couldn't get in since he didn't go there anymore. He proceeded to be inappropriate with his wording and after it was all over we found him being investigated as a threat. It was one of the worst experiences of our lives. I know that he would truly never hurt anyone however in the world we live in things like this cannot be overlooked. I do worry that the more isolated he is from his peers the more anger he will develop. Parenting an almost 17 year old Asperger's young man is the hardest thing I've ever done.
•    Anonymous said… There are all kinds of personalities with ASD. This is not a cookie-cutter issue. While it is true that aggression can go hand in hand with ASD during volatile meltdowns, it's not always true for everyone. My son has mood swings and meltdowns. Everyone does, even NT folks have breakdowns and their own meltdown versions. It goes deeper that ASD. There are correlating mental disorders at play here with these people that do these things. Some of those cases have been proven. Kids with ASD can be clever at hiding depression and their tendencies and obsessions. I think that's why a lot of these kiddos get past the suspicion of their parents. My son for one, has to be bugged and nagged in order to admit when something is bothering him. He is so lovable, even when upset, that he doesn't want to disappoint or upset us, his parents. I'm sure he's not the only ASD kiddo out there to do that.....
•    Anonymous said… Yeah let's put a stigma on them!
•    Anonymous said… Yes some aspies have anger problems however it is up to the parents to get help for their child. My son is 7 and is an aspie. He is not nor has ever been aggressive to anyone in his life. My son having autism does not make him a mental case. If these boys did have HFA they clearly had not be supervised like they should have been or this would have not happened. It is bad enough my son has to struggle everyday to just fit in and now you are trying to say we need to watch him for violence. I think these boys parents should be responsible for there children. They got the guns from somewhere.
•    Anonymous said… You dont have to have asperges to be angry I see much anger and more in the so called unafected people. Blaming is not on my grandson has asperges and yes he has outbursts like any other person on earth .The out bursts come from frustration he is 8yrs old we find asperges experts a great help .
•    Anonymous said… Bullying and harassing children with Aspergers is a very serious offence. Focus and keep an eye on the Bullies. Not the Aspies. They need to be protected. Bullies and Harassers needs more psychological attention . Bullies should be monitored and supervised in a daily basis and scrutinize their criminal behaviour.
•    Anonymous said… Every time there is a new shooting there I wait to see what condition it will be blamed on. Recently it has been ASD, previously it was ADHD and whatever else journalists and the public can come up with to pretend that the real issue doesn't lie in access to massive amounts of deadly weapons. If you want something/someone to blame, try the gun culture and not our ASD children who don't seem to be mass killers in such places that have stricter gun control laws. Yes, some ASD kids can become angry and aggressive but then again so can many neurotypical kids/people. This obsession to blame those with special needs is a deflection from the real concerns.
•    Anonymous said… I don't think Aspies has nothing to do with this issue when Firearms and other dangerous incidents are involve in recent school shootings.
•    Anonymous said… I think ANYONE who feels they do not BELONG are not HEARD or cared for can snap - if that is the link then we need to do more to be kind to everyone, appreciate the special traits of each individual. I know my son hated himself at school until we felt a school that worked with him and not against him, value his special talents. The anger in him has stopped and he is happy and feels accepted smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… I think as a parent you do what you need to do for your child. Anger management etc can be useful.......................I do worry though that America will do anything to shift the blame. Your country allows this through allowing anyone to get their hands on a gun. I think we could do a lot by nurturing ALL children rather than arming them. As a mum to a teenager who has Aspergers, yes he gets angry (wouldn't you), yes, the world baffles him (wouldn't it you? ) Do I think he would ever intentionally harm anyone ? Absolutely not.
•    Anonymous said… Id blame medication more than autism.
•    Anonymous said… I'm fairly certain other countries have similar rates of ASD occurring, but not similar rates of mass\school shootings. Seems to be about something else to me!
•    Anonymous said… Like it's not a challenge as is for our kids to be accepted now blame the spectrum really come on !!! Stop finding an excuse for someone and realize that the spectrum isn't at fault for these gunman , hell a hunter is killing animals does he have Aspergers ???!!!! See the stupidity in blame game ?!! What's worse is the media even playing into it , hence kids repeating parents or parents letting kids watch news then turn around and go into school and pick on a child bc of Aspergers and then those children knowing that they have Aspergers coming home second guessing themselves or not wanting to go to school bc they don't want to be called a monster or a murder when they get older !! Our kids have enough issues seriously enough is enough a killer is gonna kill wether on spectrum or off period !
•    Anonymous said… So, are we going to bring on the assumption that because a school shooter "had" Aspergers, that all Aspies will be more prone to violent acts? I don't think so. I think these school shooters get the "autism" label so the media can pat them on the head and try to garner sympathy for them. These school shooters didn't have autism; they had pure evil in their blood.
•    Anonymous said… Thank-you for your kind and encouraging wordsJoanne Gibson and Isa! I know we are trying and doing our best to raise our children on the spectrum.
•    Anonymous said… This wasn't just an anger problem, this was a deep deated hatred for Christians. Raise your kids right and your wisdom will not leave them [paraphrase, Proverbs]

Please post your comment below…

Help for ASD Kids Who Are Overwhelmed by Social Situations

"Question: How to help a child with ASD to have enough confidence to engage in activities and with people that are outside his comfort zone?"

A common experience among children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is being overwhelmed in social situations. A child with social anxiety faces sensory overload as well as extreme feelings of nervousness around people. As a result, he or she feels uncomfortable participating in many everyday social situations.

Children with social anxiety usually interact easily with parents, siblings, and a few close friends. But noisy crowds, meeting new people, going to new places, or engaging in new and unfamiliar activities can be highly stressful. Instead of enjoying social activities, children with social anxiety dread them — and avoid some of them altogether.

Social anxiety can affect an AS or HFA child’s life in many ways. For example, it can keep him or her from reading aloud in class, volunteering an answer in class, or giving a presentation. He or she may feel too nervous to ask a question in class or go to the teacher for help. Social anxiety not only prevents these “special needs” children from trying new things, it also prevents them from making the normal, everyday mistakes that help them improve their social skills still further.  Social anxiety may also prevent the AS or HFA child from chatting with classmates in the lunchroom or on the playground, joining an after-school club, or going to a party.

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

What can parents do to assist their AS or HFA child in expanding his or her social circle?

Many moms and dads report that they simply wish it was easier for their youngster to make friends and to be less inhibited in social situations. If your youngster is experiencing social anxiety that is interfering in his life, there are several strategies you can employ to address this problem.

Here are 20 ways to help your AS or HFA child feel more comfortable in social situations: 

1. Most kids enjoy sleepovers as a special activity with their friends. However, some children on the autism spectrum report feeling afraid of going to others' homes for sleepovers. Many feel this way due to social anxiety and fears of separating from the parent. Parents can start to help their child feel more comfortable by encouraging sleepovers at a relative's house (e.g., grandparent, aunt, etc.). The youngster should be encouraged to talk about her specific fears about sleepovers so that mom and dad can help her deal with each of these fears directly. Also, moms and dads can encourage their AS or HFA youngster to invite friends to their house first for a sleepover so that she can become used to the activity.

2. Allow your youngster to feel and express his emotions – including anxiety – without the fear of reprisals.

3. If your child’s social anxiety is extreme, you may want to ask your physician about medication. This may be given for just a short time as your child learns ways to get comfortable in situations that have been difficult.

4. Build your youngster’s personal strength through praise and finding things at which he excels. Also have him do jobs around the house so he knows he is contributing to the household.

5. Parents can encourage their youngster to set up "play dates" with other children. Before the youngster leaves school for summer vacation, mom or dad can encourage her to get a list of all her classmates' phone numbers. The youngster can have a special address book or small notebook where her classmates can sign-in their name and phone number. During those summer days when there are no activities scheduled, she can refer back to the list of school friends' numbers to invite a friend over to play.

6. Don't continually reassure your anxious youngster. Let her learn by doing things on her own. Teach her to answer her own questions, and show you believe in her.

7. Exposure therapy is a good method for overcoming excessive anxiety around people. Starting with situations that are not too threatening, you might arrange for your child to practice surviving social encounters (e.g., asking a cashier how much something costs, saying ‘hi’ to the greeter at Walmart, reading a poem to everyone at the dinner table, etc.).

8. Keep your own fears to yourself, and let you youngster know it's safe to explore the world around him.

9. Dance, Boy/Girl Scouts, sports and other clubs are excellent places for AS and HFA kids to meet peers with similar interests. Parents should engage their youngster in a discussion of his interests and help him join a club to develop a hobby (e.g., music, art, model building, karate, etc.). (As a side note, it has been my experience that a lot of kids on the spectrum tend to love karate!)

10. You may want to ask your child to keep a diary of her thoughts as she goes through the day. Sometimes recording your thoughts about uncomfortable social encounters – and what you imagine other people may be doing or saying at the time – will help you develop a new perspective.

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

11. Set expectations for the anxious youngster the same way you would for any other kid; however, understand the pace may be slower, and it may require more work to get there.

12. AS and HFA kids are better able to enter a feared situation – and are less likely to avoid it – when they have a skill to help them relax before entering the feared situation. There are many relaxation CDs for autistic kids to help them learn the skill of progressive muscle relaxation using positive imagery. Through the use of the CDs, these kids can learn to relax themselves in numerous situations that cause them fear.

13. Host a neighborhood get-together, a cookout, a playgroup with both parents and kids, or a music group. These are ways to help AS and HFA kids practice being around peers and other grown-ups.

14. Set consequences for inappropriate behavior, but don't confuse anxiety-related behaviors with “misbehavior.”

15. Scripting is another method to help alleviate social anxiety. Your child can prepare, in advance, a script or some responses to use when placed in an awkward situation. This will help make those situations less threatening.

16. Work together with the other adults (e.g., spouse, teacher, coach, etc.) in your child’s life so he gets a consistent message across settings.

17. Let your youngster know that it is perfectly normal to feel a little hesitant about certain social situations, or meeting new people for the first time. Also, it is natural to feel a bit nervous about raising your hand in class to ask the teacher for help, giving an oral report to the class, or talking to a total stranger. This anxiety is normal, and it will go away the more your youngster practices the situations that he is most anxious about.

18. Role play social situations that have been difficult. For example, some anxious children refuse to call their friends due to fears that they will not know what to say. Role play these and other situations with your youngster (e.g., your youngster can be taught to say something like, "It would be great if you could come over to my house sometime next week! Do you want to get together to play, go swimming, or have dinner?").

19. Acknowledge and praise successes in social situations. Tell your youngster how proud you are of her specific successes. Let her know that you enjoy watching her have so much fun with her peers. Applaud her achievements in trying new things (e.g., making a phone call to order pizza for the first time, ordering for herself in a restaurant for the first time, etc.). Tell your youngster exactly what you like about her behavior, and you will likely see this behavior increase. Also, acknowledge “attempts” at social successes, whether the attempt was successful or not (e.g., “I noticed you tried to talk to your friend, but she was preoccupied with something else and didn’t hear you. Good job. Maybe try again later.”).

20. I’ve saved the best for last: Social skills training may be the greatest method for dealing with social anxiety. Your child can take classes or receive specific training to help him overcome certain fears (e.g., making good eye contact, walking in the school hallways between classes, coping with unstructured time such as lunch, etc.). Assertiveness training and learning positive body language can also be taught in social skills classes.

Over time, the coping methods listed above can help your AS or HFA child control the symptoms of social anxiety – and prevent a relapse. Remind your child that she can get through anxious moments, that her anxiety is short-lived, and that the negative consequences she worries about so much rarely come to pass.

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


COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Oct., 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.


 I recently came across your facebook sight for parenting children with Apergers. My son is almost 8 and was diagnosed with ADHD by a therapist. Although he is not medicated, it doesn't seem to affect his academics. He has behavioral issues that he qualified for the emotional disability section of help from the school. He has had an IEP for 3 years now and we tweak it constantly. I'm stressed because I have been feeling like its not just ADHD. He has most of the symptoms/signs of aspergers to the point where I could name at least 3 situations to back up each sign. The problem I am having is its going to take 3 to 6 months for him to see a developmental pediatrician and with him getting suspended for stupid stuff or for the school not following his IEP, I just cant bare to wait that long. Are there any resources that could expedite him seeing a developmental pediatrician?

A Concerned Parent


Hello Mark,

Three years ago I was frantically looking for a safe solution for my then 19 year old daughter. She had become endangered in her new community college setting and as I searched around on the web, I came across an article where you highlighted Ramapo for Children's young adult program in New York. I contacted them and by March, my daughter was in New York where she's been since then.

During the time she has been there, my husband and I began to recover ourselves, our resiliency and our hope. As Kelsey became more settled we realized that we had the business and personal resources that would allow us to create a program here in the Pacific Northwest, where there are none.

Fast forward 2 years later and we have done just that!

We are very close to achieving the ability to open our doors to 25 young adults. The Concerto Project has learned the best from many programs nationwide, and we have crafted ours specifically for our locale and the population we are most familiar with-- mid to high functioning young adults aged 18-25 years.

I wanted to let you know about this and ask for your help in reaching out to those who will benefit from the program and who have the resources to now make it happen.

Our website with FAQs and history over the past two years, is extensive. I'm also attaching a copy of our brochure and our most recent press release with the exciting news that an 80-acre farm has been offered to us. The owner of the property has asked us to raise $1M of the $2.95M sale cost, to secure the property, then we are off and running towards the goal of opening the doors as soon as possible.

Your consideration and support would be most appreciated. You have already given us much and my family, friends and colleagues are most grateful to you for sending us to Ramapo in the first place. Talk about a ripple effect!


I bought your ebook for my sons 4th grade teacher...he has high functioning autism and is having a very hard time in her class. She is a second year teacher. He is having a hard time paying attention during class discussions.  I'm thinking that I'll have to read the book and then give her specific page numbers to reference since she 'doesn't have much time to read books'.

My son tends to read books while the teacher is conducting the discussion and she is disappointed in his class participation. Even though I would love for him to participate in a class discussions - I am just happy that he's not up wandering around the classroom because he's bored.

Thank you for your help!


With me it isn't exactly a romantic relationship although I believe it could develop into that. He's my best friend and I just found out he's autistic or has aspergers (I've heard both from his family). To be honest I don't know much about it at all. I never had a reason to. I could tell there were issues like he's spoiled and I always thought he could be rather self centered but I see there's more to it than that. Could this help me? We are super close and I really want to be the best friend I can be (possibly girlfriend at some point, pretty sure he doesn't know how to have a normal relationship and he's been in some bad ones). Anyway could this help me or is there anything you could tell me to help me?


My daughter is out of control lately. As she gets bigger the battles get bigger.Growth spurts are hormonal - tells me her sensory therapist.

I am considering having an ABA therapist come into my home to deal with her daily routines.
Her doctor has yet to diagnose her with Aspergers (autism). I have to confront the doctor next week. She wants another evaluation done by the doctor she trained with. My daughter already got the diagnosis by a psychologist but she wanted an MD that she (knew) to re assess. (in case it was an anxiety disorder). When I first met this doctor and gave my list of problems with my 2 year old she said off the bat this is Aspergers (when I asked her what is THIS). Her initial instinct was right... now that I have researched all this. At first I told the doctor NO WAY my kid is so social and loves other kids.
My daughter has SPD since 18 months. Never looked anyone in the eye as a baby.
And her history is why a psychologist diagnosed it . Unless people are in my home, they often dont see issues with her just a few quirks and a REALLY smart 3 year old.
I have so much frustration with getting an Aspergers diagnosis for my daughter, since she is verbal and not academically behind. I have had her in so many outside therapies and buffered all her issues with the world before I send her out. So she looks great, but I am drained to the MAX.
I love your suggestions about Taking Care of Ourselves.

What can you give me as a way to PUSH this doctor to commit to her first diagnosis ? Because if I get the diagnosis, I can apply for a special Autism Waiver, which would give us 3 years of help in the home.
I am a single mom, low income who left her alcoholic dad before I knew I was pregnant. I have not taken him back and he has taken me through court with all his money. He must have Aspergers himself since nothing he did made social sense and thus I have full custody and responsibilty.

Any tips for communicating to her doctor to get the diagnosis?


I live in chicago so it is cps i am dealing with i have called to get an advocate for to help with my sons IEP but no answer yet how do i go about moving this a little faster as they are not understanding him in school and how to approach him so then when he reacts he gets in trouble, i feel all this pressure for him to perform is on him and nothing on them.


Dear Mark,
I am a fourth grade teacher who has a highly functioning Aspergers student in both my reading and math class. I am stumped as to how to help my student.  He will not write, even when the topic is narrowed down a lot.  I've tried sitting by him and talking to him; asking him what I can do to help him and he will not answer me.  He has an iPad which he does not like to use.
He does not like to type.  We recently spent time researching Greek Gods and the students made posters and shared them.  J. wouldn't even start.

He's a very smart, nice young man.  I'd appreciate any suggestions that you may have for me to better help him. Thank you for your time!


Fourth grade teacher


Need some advice  as our  adopted  son has  RAD and he is stealing.  He hacked  into  someone's Amazon  account    and  changedthe  mailing  address  so that  the  delivery  came  to  our  house 
It was  reported  to  the  local  police  department  and  they  came  and  met him at  our  house.  The  case  will  go to  the  county  but  we haven't  heard  back  from  them.  Meantime  another  package  comes  and it's  an Xbox  one  that  he says  he  won from  a you tubers contest. My wife  is  good  at remaining  calm and  communication  skills  but  then it  seems  to  turn  into  enabling.  We called  Microsoft  Office  to see how  he  got  it but  they  could  not  find  the  order  and  told us  to  keep  it.  And  it seems to  me  that  my  wife  was going  to  accept  that.  I reminded  her  of all  that has  transpired  and  that  I felt like  I  had  to  reach  out  to  someone.  We have  not  shared with  family  about  his 2 hospitalizations  or how  bad the  stealing  and lies  are.  He wants  to  resolve  all this with  jail time.  I'm  tired  enough  to  just  let  that  happen  but I know  the Lord  wants  me  to  intercede. I  think  he does  accept  his  wrong  doing  but  doesn't  want  to  turn  from  it as it  gives  him  the  attention  in the  way  he  wants it.
Thank you.  Can you  please  make  any  suggestions?


Dear Mr. Hutten,

I have an important question about my sons classroom in grade 3.
I just noticed yesterday that my son Luke, was sitting by himself at a desk facing the wall away from his classmates.  So I asked the teacher, and he said that "It was Luke's desk from now on... because he talks a lot and it helps him focus without distractions.  I didn't know what to say to this, except I got a bad feeling in my stomach.   Luke hardly ever gets in trouble so I was surprised to hear this news.

   Then today he got in trouble for disrupting the class with shouting out to get the teacher and the classes attention.   He said, I didn't want to put up my hand one would see me put it up.  So I stood up and asked for the classes attention"      He shouted out,  "Now that I have your attention, I think that trees etc. .......".     He said that he was only trying to help the class learn and he couldn't help from where he was sitting.   This is my concern,  that Luke is feeling isolated and not a part of the class.

In your opinion, will this help him?    Will this teach him to cooperate with others?
Is this typical of how ASD kids should be taught?

My son, age 8 was diagnosed in July with Moderate ASD high functioning.  (resembles Aspergers).  

Any advice you can give me?

Dear Mr. Hutten,
I'm sorry to report that my 17 year old son is getting more oppositional: abusive(throws things at me,pushes, etc), destructive of my property,irresponsible,failing a class in school, etc. I'll spare you the details, but, suffice to say he is threatening to me on a daily basis.
My problem, and why I'm not able to implement the suggestions is my husband refuses to work the program,won't give consequences, role models poor communication/problem solving. He is very stubborn and gets his way most the time for the last 21 years of our marriage. I have no influence on my son now as he goes to his enabling Dad if I want to hold him accountable. The most he says is "Don't do that Andrew", and of course he does it again, we are talking,vaping,not coming home all night, not at the carpool from school, and never returning phone calls as to his whereabouts(Dad won't let me cancel the service or call the cops)
I know alot of the problems are nurture as my 15 year old son is now uncooperative and disrespectful to me.

Can you suggest a strong influential counselor to talk some sense into my husband. You can see we need outside help and are willing to pay what ever it takes.


My son, Brian, is now 11 years old and in middle school.  After a good start with a healthy diet as a toddler, he started becoming more and more picky about food from about 3 years old on.  At this point in time he is only eating cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, french fries and chicken nuggets.  I can occasionally get him to eat an apple (granny smith only) or a few grapes if I offer a bribe.  I will occasionally find another food he'll eat, but after a few weeks he suddenly won't touch it.  Even the foods he does like have to be certain brands.  If I try to sneak in a different brand he realizes it and won't eat the food.  He is gaining weight at an alarming rate and shuns any kind of physical activity, even walking up the stairs to retrieve an item he needs.  When he is hungry he becomes absolutely impossible, having horrific meltdowns. There is diabetes on both sides of the family, so if he keeps going at this rate the results are not going to be good. I realize that issues with taste and texture are part of being an Aspie, but I have to find some way to get some healthy food into him.  He is also eating huge amounts of food.  If we try to restrict him to a single serving, or even two or three, he goes nuts.  I don't want him to feel bad about his body, but I'd also like to outlive him.  He's already close to 200 pounds at 5"3" and has almost outgrown a man's extra large. Please help.


We have been having a pretty rough time with Jake. He became very angry and violent . He wanted me to kill him (I am his grandmother) He said if I did not kill him he would kill me. I called 911 they took him to the ER. He was taken to Laurel Heights Hospital in Atlanta , GA. It was a rough two weeks. They adjusted his meds ...He is like a different boy (15 years old) now. We have a homebound teacher for him.  After one week this seems to be going well. This has been the worse time of my life. I never thought I would call 911 on my grandson. He is with me most of the time as his parents are divorced.....
Any thoughts or advice.
Thank you and God Bless,


I have an 11 year old with Aspergers, so I thought I was a pro so to speak. However, I have gone back to work going from being a mobile therapist to a paraprofessional in the local school district. I have a student that blows and the antecedent is inconsistent for the most part. One common factor is not liking what he hears. My question is how to de-escalate? I have tried ignoring, but the behaviors cannot be tolerated in Middle School. I am on his side and support to the best of my ability, but admin is ready to boil over. any help or direction to help would be appreciated. 


I am looking for a place where my step son can get the help and discipline he needs because he does not want to go to school he disrespects his father me and his brother and is tearing this family apart I have been raising him and his brother since he was 6 and his brother 5 we just do not know what else we can do for him he has been in in home intense therapy and we gone to family counseling to try and find new ways to deal with his out of control behavior do you think that you can help us find some place for him he has been in the mental hospital and that help for a week after he got out we are at the point that we just want to ask the sherriff’s to come and pick he up because he is also hitting on his brother and he has hit me in the past on numerous occasion's please help us.


Saw your site and was impressed.  I have a 17 year old boy with Apsergers, bi-polar syndrome and PTSD.  He is on Sertraline, llthium carbonate and Risperdal (risperidone).  Under NY state law (where we live), a potential driver must notify the DMV if that person is on a drug which could alter awareness while driving.  

Sean now wants to drive, and 1) disagrees that any of his problems could alter his awareness or ability to drive and: 2) that any of the drugs causes an awareness problem.

Under NY law, a potential driver must get a doctor to verify that his illness or treatment will not effect his ability to drive if under medication in certain circumstance.  One treating doctor has recommended that he not drive.  Sean is very uncoordinated, very easily distracted, talks to himself constantly and very often thinks in a disjointed way. 

The argument from him is that he need not check the box regarding a potential condition (see page 2, question 2: 

Your thoughts would be appreciated. This is a big deal in handling a kid like Sean, so I am assuming you have crossed that bridge.  What my wife and I are worried about are the legal consequences if we don't have him check the box and the fact that if he crashes and hurts himself or others, our insurance will decline coverage.   Sean also wanders off sometimes and gets lost while walking, and we are worried that he might just take off on a trip and not be able to find his way home.  His time management is zero.


i am a grandparent to a foster grandaughter (A) who came to our family at age 9 and her sister (B) was 4. they are now 14 and 10.
the oldest girl (A) has been problimatic always and has the 20 symptoms of RAD but not officially diagnosed by anybody. she is very manipulative and very voilent in recent times when she doesnt get her own way. she is a compulsive liar and reported abuse by her foster father but retracted it as it was a lie . 
her birth mother does not like her because she talked too much about the family life but the mother adores the younger child.(B). (A) hates her sister (B). 
they have little supervised contact with their mother but she would be appear at birthday times. this year she did not appear for the 14 yr old in june but the little ones bthday is this friday10yrs and the mother wants to meet her. 
now to me this was like a 2 sided jagged edged  sword been put through the older girls heart. 
She went on the rampage . she refused to do what was asked of her and threw a chair at her father thenwas sent to her room and she continued to chant the gibrish nent morning she went to school and made same aligation to school and said she was sick so her dad took her home.
next day back to school and said she was with a councellor all day but the school had told her mom that she ever went to the councellor. next morning her hatred of her was evident in that sh took a big bag of golf clubs and hurled at her sister. 
my daughter her mom just packed a bag and took her to the social workers to  get respite.
she is now in respite care for a week but it is a big holiday for her . she asked to meet her sister after 2 days just to show her the fullmanicure and pedicure an nail painting plud new hairstyle. she gets 20 euro each day and does not have to do any chores at all, and IF she comes back she has a list of demandsincluding  a TV in her bedroom , not have to do any chores  etc.
this is rewarding her for bad behaviour and the social workers seem to think its ok 
QUESTION?  Am i wrong in thinking this and what  do you think the outcome of this should be.
Thank you for reading this. Ihave spent over 50 years working with childrenm, my own family of 5 .  Short term  fostering of children for 30 years. Over 40 years  Teaching in all areas from Pre school with Ethnic community 2 -12 year olds. Secondary  school. College lecturer to adults in Early Childhood Care and Education 0to 12 years
this is the most challenging  i have come accross. 
There are 2 Natural brother ans sister adopted in my daughters family and I collect the children and do the homework with them.


My 18 year old son was recently diagnosed with ASD and has started counseling with one of the social workers at Aspire located in Melville, NY.  This is his second week.. he has one appt a week for 45 minutes.

Unfortunately AJ was not diagnosed earlier, and has become addicted to marijuana.  His high school years were horrible and he is not a very happy person.

It has been the most difficult 4 years of my life trying to get him help with the marijuana addiction, something that he absolutely refuses to give up.. no matter what.  There is nothing more I want than to see him happy..

He has one friend, that he sees maybe a few times a week, and of course it is a smoking buddy.  He is a nice boy, 2 years younger than AJ, and I am somewhat happy that he has someone he can call a friend.

He wants so desperately to be able to make new friends, but struggles a lot with social anxiety due to the Aspergers.

I have such a difficult time trying to help and it seems like I never have the right thing to do or say.  I would literally cut off my right arm for him, but I just don’t know what to do or how to help. 

He is in his first year at community college and again, he wants to make friends, but struggles.  I try to get him to join some of the clubs up at school, but I believe his anxiety wins over.


Good Morning Mark,

My name is Rebecca. My husband Mark and I have 1 child, Brandon Schaeffer who is now 24 years old with Diagnosis of Aspergers and ADHD.

 With many bumps in the road, Brandon has completed college with a Bachelors Degree in Applied Mathematics Minoring in Statistics with close to a 3.5 GPA. Since he graduated in May 2014, he has been searching for employment. While he has gone on probably 10 face to face interviews and numerous phone screenings, he is about 0 for 50. He does not drive (and needs to..we approached this years ago and were told he needed to 'wait' for what I'm not sure). WIthin the last 1 1/2 years my husband and I have spent close to $12,000 in non-profit agencies who claimed they knew exactly how to help Brandon, yet I ended up giving these agencies more leads to jobs than they had and they were charging us up to $55 an hour. 

I am concerned for his mental state of being because my husband and I work fulltime, and Brandon sits at home searching through leads and applying through on line job boards. His resume has gotten him numerous calls of interest and he has been invited to face to face interviews. I am guessing you know the rest of the script. Brandon prepares and prepares to learn about the position and the company and when it comes time for phone interview or face to face interview I am 100% certain that his anxiety and or physical mannerisms in the face to face interviews shine through. His interviews for the most part are 30 minutes or less, even interviews Brandon has had out of state (we live in Bucks County PA (near Trenton NJ) and he has had interviews in New York and Connecticut. Brandon thinks he does well on interviews, but has NEVER gotten past phone screen or been invited to 2nd interview. The answer is pretty predictable.

We are currently using another agency ARC of Philadelphia whose mission is to support individuals on the Autism Spectrum. However, 3 or 4 of the last interviews Brandon had the coordinator of the program says he tries to reach out to the HR person to advocate for him, but cannot seem to get through to them..he does not leave a message so therefore Brandon who thought he was going to be supported has gone on the interviews but have not heard back from last 3 interviews as to status of decision.

We are so frustrated from lack of positive results. As I said, I fear for Brandon's current situation (he lives at home with us). We need a separation from him and likewise.


Hello Mark I wanted to ask you if you have published any information concerning aspergers and identical twins. I have identical 14 year old twin girls and one has been identified with aspergers and OCB and the other not yet. My problem is the non asp twin is starting to act out negatively towards her sister, I believe because of the added attention the other requires from us.   


Dear Mr Hutten,

How easy is for an ASPERGERS  diagnose to be missed in young girls?
Also, can lack of self confidence and underlying anxiety in a child mimic some of the common signs
of Aspergers? Eg., inappropriate eye contact, easily frustrated, poor social skills, dislike of new situation, etc.
Would be most grateful for any feedback you may want to give.
Kind regards,


Dear Mr. Hutten,

After much internet research I came upon your books and name via a Google search. I am contacting from out of your state (I am in Michigan) regarding my son who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and is prone to extreme violence (mainly directed at me, his mom).

My son has gotten into SO much trouble despite my best efforts and despite the incredible damage and devastation to our entire family and despite that his father is disabled with brain damage. It almost seemed like when he turned 14 he became a monster. 

He is now just 16 and recently released from an inpatient program. He does well in structured environments but the minute he returns home, he reverts right back to negative behaviors like: stealing prescription medication, being abusive and aggressive, verbally and physically attacking, --- he refuses to cooperate even though somewhere inside he KNOWS this is wrong. 

I am killing myself to keep my family together but he just won't cooperate. When I ask him why he can do so well in a facility but then come home and pick right up again with these destructive behaviors, his only response is: "Because I CAN. And: I don't care. I did what I had to do in those programs to get out of them. I was forced to comply. But here you can't stop me." 

We are all killing ourselves to help him find a better way to cope. I have lost my home, car, even my spouse essentially with his medical condition is a huge loss. And I have managed to keep it together with no sleep, driving at least 2,000 medical miles EVERY 20 days, getting my son into programs, outpatient therapy, new classes -- the works. 

Last night he again stole prescription drugs -- lied about it -- assaulted me and damaged the entire house breaking glass and every other thing. We have no bathroom door as he broke that too -- and the refridgerator. He was supposed to be discharged from court and be released as "dismissed" today. But instead, he dragged me outside, strangled me, tore my clothes off to try and get a cell phone to call his drug addict girlfriend.

I had no choice but to call the police. Again. They are now not dismissing anything -- he is in juvenile detention in holding and I need to go to court first thing in the morning. 

My son was a brilliant, beautiful and gentle Soul. I don't know what happened to him other than getting into drugs. But he is not the same person. And he doesn't seem to want the help. He wants "mom" to "shut the fuck up" -- let him take any number of drugs (he says he needs it to feel "normal") -- and if I ask anything at all, I get kicked or told to "fuck off". 

This is no way to live and now the court is again involved as I had no other choice. I am traumatized and terrorized. And the worst part is, he has no idea what financial ruin he has caused. Not only are we close to being homeless, but now we face upward of a $100,000 bill from the state for "treating" him in the Juvenile Justice system here. I have no way to pay that. I have no more assets to give. 

I am writing to seek a counseling session with you, even if by phone, to help me figure out what is the next best step. Please let me know as soon as you can. I do have court at 9AM Saturday 10/16. 

Thank you for your work.


Our 5 year old son (he'll be 6 in November) was just diagnosed with Asperger's/Autism Spectrum Disorder and we've been working with a child psychologist who practices the floortime method.  She's recommends Occupational Therapy and we'll be starting that in two weeks. I've also been reading about the ABA method.  How do I know what's the right course of action for my son? 

I feel like I've been thrust into a whole new world and don't quite know how to navigate it.  

Thanks ,


Good Morning Mark,

I look forward to receiving your newsletter. As I have reviewed your site I would like to ask you to guide me to the first eBook to purchase.

  • My son is diagnosed with high functioning autism
  • second diagnosis emotional disturbance
  • He is addicted to video games
  • I took him out of public school 
  • he was bullied
  • he wasn't educated reason from the staff was his inability to focus and would become disrupted in class
  • result he wasn't educated
  • he was placed in special ed
  • he is brilliant 
  • I home school
  • he has no friends
  • I have entered him in a co-op
  • anxiety result children go away from him
  • he questioned God existence
  • Needs confidence
  • Rebels against technique I provide
  • Mother and Father remarried 
  • Father and step mother do not recognize the diagnosis
  • blames mother
  • No real support

So you see I am at a cross roads and I need guidance I would like to begin with a book and then move forward from there. I will never give up but I don;t want to fail him and right now I am feeling over whelmed Sebastian is 12 going on 20, I look forward to your response

In Gratitude,


Dear Mark,
Hello... My name is JoAnne Cascia and I am an assistant professor and researcher in the field of speech, language pathology at Kean University in New Jersey. I am currently involved in a research study that is examining the correlation between language, vocabulary, and executive function skills with empathy skills in individuals with autism. As I was researching articles and literature, I came across your website.

I was writing to ask if your site, My Aspergers Child, allows researchers to extend invitations to participate in research to your members? Participation would include completing anonymous questionnaires and scales online. I would provide an invitation to participate, along with a link to the questionnaires/scales. Anyone who was interested could click on the link and complete them at their own convenience.

If this is something that you would be interested in, I would certainly provide you with documentation of the IRB approval as well as the questionnaires and scales for you to review. I would be happy to discuss this opportunity with you if you are interested. I look forward to hearing back from you, and hopefully working with you in the future. Thank you, and have a great week,

Hello Mark,
I am married for almost 11 years now, 11 bewildered  years to my husband who I believe has AS.  He doesn’t believe so, as he doesn’t fit the typical “ angry, outwardly mean” type AS – as he read about them on line- at my persistent prompting.  I approached his parents and they don’t support the diagnosis either- as their AS diagnosed teen grandson ( from daughter) is a very angry and rude and hard to handle AS.
 My husband is intelligent, quiet, agreeable, polite and “shy”.  He has the Pollyanna type affect.. not grasping the sacrifices I make to keep our marriage intact.
 I have dragged him to counseling for most of the past 11 years to no avail.  He came along, not working on anything, believing/reasoning during some sessions only to have it all erased by the time we got out of the building.
I spent thousands of dollars that way.
Last counseling sessions I managed to have him undergo testing- not for AS -per say.. just neurocognitive testing.  He came out from it with accepting the diagnosis of “slow processing” only.  As the counselor mentioned AS at my request, he didn’t accept it. 
I needed to know , and I need him to know: so that I can feed my fainting courage to go on- as it is hard to keep it all together- financial support, emotional support, and now as our little boy turns 7, the parenting support.
I am not home 4 of 7 days a week- and he is not 100% reliable- he lacks insight.
He is good to my son, shows affection- at this level they get along well and he is caring to him- but as he grows our son will want more- and he won’t be able to give him of himself..
Last few months – he seems a little more communicative and intermittently puts in small efforts that resemble connecting with me- maybe because we started praying together in the morning..  but it is a far cry from normal.
He is still polite and closes up like a clam- the moment I initiate any type of conversation that has any depth.. past the  mundane surface conversation.
He does not appear to be a mean man:
He either has AS
Or he is a selfish man who lives off his woman’s back since day one.. not giving much in return, and looking down on my survival ever adjusting emotions.
He has a BS in GIS- yet no job in the field, and actually- no job at all since almost a year ago- when he was kindly given the choice to be fired or resign.
If you read the carefully descriptive final evaluation and comments.. you can see it.. Yet, he cannot.
He is passionate and has an unusual depth of knowledge when it comes to classical music, or anything related to that field- yet he plays no instrument, nor does he use that knowledge towards a lucrative occupation.
If you ever Google AS the silent type on you tube (even if it is not a reliable source), the description fits him like a glove- as far as I am concerned.
I would like to skype counseling with you.
I would like to know what is your fee?
And do you think you can get through him even though he
-has minimal to 0 ability to self evaluate or introspect,
-his words don’t “hold watter”- and have no central meaning..
Ie: his yes or aha doesn’t really mean yes- it could mean anything from “I am thinking about it ( to no end)”, or “I hear you (literally)”, I think hear  (get)what you are saying but I don’t agree with it”..
-is highly sensitive to any negativism or criticism ( even if it is not a criticism- just a remark about his ways)- and his way of dealing with it is closing in, disappearing ( except he is physically there).
- and the physical and emotional connect- has been as it is described in most internet info- from after we said “I do”. 

I believe/hope that if he truly is AS and he owns it, he can learn the skills and fill out his "gaps"- and be able to be gainfully employed.  I may be able to deal with the rest, but having the burden of providing for us for the rest of our married life, feeling like I live  one life and present the other to the outsiders in order to save face and maintain some dignity - missing out on home and motherly things... is hard to settle for... 
I know it is a long e-mail- even though there is so much more to say...


My 12 year old son is really struggling this year.  It seems the older he gets the wider the gap with his peers gets.  He was not diagnosed until he was 10.  Until then we’d thought ADHD but something still did not seem right.  We finally scheduled an evaluation at Children’s and got the diagnosis.

The end of last school year 6th grade and beginning of this year 7th grade has been crushing.  He has been largely ostracized and is bullied.  It has become this viscous self-fulfilling prophecy. He is anxious, feeling bad about himself and very isolated.  We have in social group and weekly therapy.  But meeting friends – which he desperately needs – is hard because he struggles so much with social interaction.


My name is Jenn, I live in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. I am currently taking social work courses and am doing a group presentation on Aspergers. My portion is the training life skills/ social skills to someone with Aspergers. Just wondering if you could help me out by explaining the funnel a little more clearer.. As in which step to do first and how. Make sense?


I am writing to ask for help , my marriage of almost 8 years is almost done .
I have been reading and researching for months since I found out my husband Asperger condition .
We live in NYC and we are looking for help , a therapy ? A couching ?
We have Aetna insurance.
We have been spending thousand of dollars for almost 6 years of therapy .
Trying to figure out what was going on .
We do not have any dollar left .
I wanted to have a child , he didn't know what to said or to do .
I insisted and finally after 5 years of trying to get him to want also I was able to convince him ( but deep he didn't know still ) so we did and took a credit for proceed with IVF .
We are completely los .... I don't know what else to do .
My brain is exploding in confusion and my heart hurts a lot .
Please if you have any idea what I could do I will be so grateful from the bottom of my heart .


Good morning Mr. Hutten,
I am wondering if you have any suggestions for reasonable consequences for my 14 year old granddaughter with Asbergers.  She has been hanging with the "wrong" crowd and I am worried about her!  Apparently a friend's mother called my daugther and said my granddaughter sent a text message talking about smoking weed.  My daughter is going to have a talk with her tonight and is trying to figure out consequences.  She had mentioned taking away her cell phone, which seems kind of harsh to me, but wanted to look into some other consequences and thought I would ask an expert, such as yourself! I would appreciate any ideas you may have for this. Her grades have been getting worse and she is not willing to stay after school to get extra help, etc....  Naturally, I am very worried about her.  She doesn't do well with consequences (positive reinforcement has always worked better with her!), so not sure what to do.  Any help would be very much appreciated!  Thank you in advance!!


Hi Mark,

Thank you for all the great information. I do not have a child with HFA Asbergers, it is my boyfriend. After a year and a half, I want to call it quits. I cannot get him to talk about our relationship. I can't get him to buy me flowers or say or do nice things for me. I feel neglected, ignored, and completely shut out of his life. He can go weeks without seeing or talking to me and we live close to each other. He will even ignore my texts for days, especially when I am upset and I need relief by discussing matters the most. I am not allowed to stop by to see him, he becomes angry and verbally abusive towards me. It doesn't seem he has the capacity to love me. I feel like my love is a one-way street. I have tried being clear and spelling out my needs, I've been nice, too nice, gotten angry, too angry, and I've backed off. But all he does is ignore me when I need him the most. I am out of ideas.

He seems happy enough to work his IT job and tech support 7 days a week and never see or talk to me. I am at the point where I want to see other men because I am so lonely and lacking the love, affection, and care that I need from an intimate partner.

He says he wants me in his life, but I just don't see it. Our connection is totally lost on me. He seems perfectly satisfied to see me for sex every other week, and that's it. He has been unhappy and constantly overwhelmed and stressed since I met him and he can't block out time even on the weekends to be with me. I'm afraid I've lost my patience with his beautiful, albeit tortured soul.

Any advice? Or have I held on too long and need to just walk away.

Good Morning Mark,

We are in desperate need of some help.  About a month ago, our son started to question EVERYTHING about how fresh our food is here in our house, asking what the expiration date is on EVERYTHING and basically began to stop eating anything except Buttered Noodles.  He has it in his head that ALL food is bad and not fresh. Our food is always kept fresh and for the most part very healthy!  We took him to his regular Pediatrician and he had lost 3 pounds and looks somewhat thinner.  We started giving him the Carnation Breakfast each morning at the suggestion of his Pediatrician and he will drink that.  Dinner is a nightmare as he will not eat much of anything.  He isn't even eating all of his lunch at school!!!

On top of it all, he is constantly washing his hands and using excessive amounts of Hand Sanitizer which is not good :(
My fear is that he is exhibiting symptoms of OCD but I am not sure.  I have seen documentaries on people who have OCD and it scares me to death that he may have this, not to mention what to do about it and how to help him!  He does have a Developmental Pediatrician at CHOP Philadelphia and we see her in December.

Please help as I am afraid this is going to continue to get worse if we don't get some help...


Hi, I m Yen from Vancouver, Washington. Actually I m just moved from Malaysia to Vancouver in this June. I have found a public elementary school for my six years old son. He has been diagnosis mild Asperger since he is 4 years old.

Recently, my lovely son hav some trouble in the school. He is playing bardchip in the school playground and there is one time hav accidentally throw to his friend. And, his teacher is complaining that he don't know how to partner with his friend when doing some work given by teacher. We hav told to school his
condition with a summary letter written by a OT therapist in our country before we register him in this school. This all happened after he changed to a new class due to hav one additional teacher in this school. We hav find a time to talk with this new teacher but the teacher still not happy.

This week, this teacher hav contact the psychology in the school without our acknowledged. The teacher said she need some support in class. The psychology is required us to fill some survey form for evaluation. There are some question I would like to seek your opinion :
1) Can I reject for the evaluation?
2) can I insists my kids stay in the mainstream class? Cos I want him mix with other kids to improve his social skill.

My son feel hurt cos he told me that teacher don like him. He would like to be helper in class and he is requested but the teacher ignored him. We hav talk about this and the teacher explained is she has 24 student in the class and everyone has to take turn. But so disappointed, my son with her about one month, but never get the change. What should I do to get her support?

Waiting for your advised...


My daughter was misdiagnosed with not having aspergers! She has all the signs and i have seen them since she was 2!  The first big event was when we moved the change distroyed her and it took alot of energy to make her feel safe again. i took her to a school phycologist and she tested her and spoke to me about aspergers. I took her to a clinic when she was about 7 and i was told she had aspergers and then i was told no! it was ocd! i have lived with this as a single parent for 17 years and i am afraid now because she will be leaving to college! i am worried! She has been bullied most her life and now finding boys to talk to on facebook! I can't get her to understand the dangers! i am worried about the change and her being safe! Not sure what to do! Can you help?


Hi Mark,
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly!
Ok, I have been searching for something like what you are teaching, and am willing to try everything! I thought I was mistaken because as I red, my child is not so angry, yet, she doesn't want to run away or get mixed up where we need police then I thought it was pertaining to teenagers.

My girl is quite mild in the spectrum, and she's very smart. Her issues mostly lye within some misunderstanding of emotions and some conversations. She has all the words in the world, too many for her to fully understand. So she can misuse them at times.

I purchased your course, because the  issues I'm having as a parent are when there needs to be a discipline action, such as, telling her not to do something, or asking her to do a chore, or catching her with her flashlight reading at 10 at night. She's only in grade one. Lol, she needs her sleep. But telling her those things, just makes her mad. And then she might rant about how we shouldn't say those things, and she might not always make sense.  Then She'll go to sleep but continue to try to talk about her being mad that I took her flashlight the next morning even.
And she didn't act these ways for the most part all summer, but of course, change is tough, the pressure of grade one and longer days is tough, so this is how she'll react to those stresses.

I can't figure out how to help her understand these things, or that we're not 'mad' at her when we have to be 'parents' and that we still love her no matter what etc...and calm her better. Because I have no clue, and so I'll keep your purchase thanks, and  I would very much like your Comprehensive book.

Thanks for your time!

HI Mark,   I need to ask you something. My teen daughter and I  are very close. She turned 18 in Feb, All summer she only went out once with me. Before that we did thing daily enjoying our time together.She started staying up all night on the computer,yelling at the pets, taunting me and I lets just say it was not pleasant. We have a limit that the computers need to be turned off at 10pm.Well it was 1 am and she was on the computer.I had asked her earlier to draw me a pic of a wig she wanted for Halloween and at this point she was very mean to me and did not draw it.So Idid a goOgle image SEARCH ON THE character she wanted to be for Halloween to see what kind of wig she needed for her costume and I saw several of her drawings show up, They were disturbing,,a lot of sex and violence. I freaked out and told her they were unhealthy and I was turning off our wifi for the night,
         Then she freaked out not wanting the wifi off and grabbed me to stop me. I asked her to let go of me
She persisted to go after me so I called the cops. She is much more bigger than me. I managed to break free and shut down the internet.   We had this type of incident 1week eariler and she was totally out of control, The poliece came due to her aggression ~~she said she was out of control wanted help so she went to the hospital and she was set up within home counseling services.
           The following day she was to tour a Monossori school where it would comply with her IEP and sensory issues.Her new therapist came over prior to the school tour. My daughter and her ended up dropping her out of school and moving her to live with our neighbors. She is disabled and removed my guardianship and becaome a ward of the state. She told social services that I was over reacting by calling the cops to get her off the internet.Now she blocked all communications with me.

       My heart is broken. We went in on this house together and just recently moved.Now I am here alone and she is telling everyone I am nuts for calling the poliece
 DHS told the neighbors all about my finances. I am unable to pay the mortage now and feel I lost her.We had a vacation all planned but she refuses to amend things and just gives me this evil smirck.
     She plans on being gone for good and moved out, The neighbors said she wrote me off and they were getting a restraining order,,I am absolutely devastated. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you, Aspie MOM  ps She goes everywhere with this neighbor.Does their chores  Gets offline at 10pm  cleans her room…She left me with her dying cat and a horrible mess at this house I will take all month cleaning up.
Why does she resent me and is doing for the neighbor everything she was going to do here. I am devastated. I was a good mom and went thru a lot raising her alone.I feel all is lost.


Hi, my name is Logan and I'm looking for a therapist.  I have been diagnosed with ASD back in January and need help being more social and also with relationship issues.  My meltdowns seem to be getting worse and worse and I'm getting triggered to anger very quickly now and I don't know what to do and I am losing everything I have.  I don't want to lose my relationship.  If you could help, that would be great.



I'm contacting because I have a dilemma and was impressed by the level of information on your website. I was a gifted child who was utterly bored at school but did not have social problems made friends easily but preferred not to be around people because I was a gifted reader and would absorb myself in literature which obviously gave me a lot of knowledge very early on and that created a problem because I knew more than was acceptably normal for my age group.

My dilemma is this.
I'm 35 now and I'm seeing a marriage counsellor sexologist for my husbands intimacy disorder.
Upon recieving my life history she immediately said I'm looking at this Jo and I'm seeing Aspergers.
I had two things written down to indicate this.
At 8 I had the reading IQ of an eighteen year old. Same age I gave a class talk on Van Gogh. High school I was bored to death, however upon reading three thick textbooks on chemistry In one night I attempted an GCSE exam to prove a point. I came top out if the entire county.

However being a sponge for complex details I looked into Aspergers and I do not have problems in other areas. I was good at sports, computing, I'm a well known artist and I'm very creative, I don't suffer bouts of depression and I love to laugh. I can focus well and succeed in almost anything I put my mind to.

Immiedietly the sexologist said, you are midrange high functioning autism. Aspergers. My immediate reaction was, this may appear as Aspergers but I think it's more likely gifted..and natural love of learning.
She kept saying that we would look at other aspects I'm not so good at in life and I said politely there aren't any that I can identify. I'm a neat and tidy person. I work with people teaching empowerment and gnostic insight especially wisdom teaching from ancient texts. I'm not in co ordinated and read emotional signals in people very well. I'm very resilient in stressful situations.

 I did a speed reading test last night online. I'm reading at my very fastest with effort at 634 words per minute. Normally probably around 390 to 480 at a guess. Upon hearing this she said that is not gifted, that is Aspergers. Lack of knowledge is my out hate and I feel very frustrated by rapid labelling. It seems unreasonable to me. If I have Aspergers I would have no problem excepting it.

I understand why she may presume this however I read your website and I was impressed by the intelligence and good reasoning at not lumping it all together under one label.
Please can you help in diagnosis?
I currently have Skype sessions with our psychologist face to face for an hour at a time.
Do you do Skype sessions? if so I am very interested because I feel this is not Aspergers but giftedness, I may be wrong.

Another thing. My three year old us just like me, he's sociable, loves expressing love however, he is a sponge who happens to like Henry the vacuum cleaner. He likes machinery, understand how it works. This may look like acquisition of items however Henry the Hoover has a massive following amongst toddlers, I didn't Aquire anything as a child in physical form, I acquired knowledge.
This is very important to me that this is seen through an intelligent lens.


I am writing to you out of desperation for my 19 year old son who has not been officially diagnosed with very high functioning autism/Aspergers.  He said if he had this,he would want to end his life as he sees people that have it are mentally handicapped and that would not be acceptable to him.  He has had every trait since birth.  Speaking in full sentences at 10 months, high IQ, but stunted emotional and executive function growth,along with everything else.

My husband and I need help so that he can progress in life and be happy.  He is anxious,depressed,self-
loathing and argumentative.

Sits in his room all day with his computer.  No friends or social interaction.
This is breaking my heart and our family is broken.

No drugs or alcohol...yet.

Blames us for everything that went wrong in his life,then feels bad,and the self loathing appears.

Sleeps weird hours, has no schedule and dropped out of college because he could not handle it.

He is like a fragile egg, and his soul and heart are broken.

We live in Naples, Florida and not a ton of resources here.

He is currently doing neurofeedback..does this help?

He needs to accept himself....but he can't. That's the problem.

How can we help him?

He is going to therapy 2x a week not helping.

It's been like this for years.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...