Explaining the “Hidden Curriculum” to Children on the Autism Spectrum

Ronnie was a well-liked seventh-grader, despite his quirkiness. His classmates accepted him and were understanding of his Asperger’s diagnosis. One day Ronnie was talking with his classmates in the restroom before class when his friend Seth began cussing in anger about his C in Math. Ronnie picked up on the cussing and associated it with being mad. The bell rang and Ronnie went on to his next class. As he sat down, he realized that he left his social studies book in his locker. His teacher, Miss Sanders, would not let him go back to his locker, and immediately Ronnie got angry and began to swear. Miss Sanders sent Ronnie to the dean’s office, leaving Ronnie perplexed as to what he did wrong. He thought it was acceptable to cuss when he was angry about something. He didn’t understand the “hidden curriculum” – in this case, that what is acceptable around fellow classmates may not be acceptable around teachers.

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have difficulty understanding the “hidden curriculum” in school and community environments. The hidden curriculum refers to the set of routines, social rules, tasks, or actions that “typical” children readily understand and use. Often considered to be a matter of common sense, the hidden curriculum is almost never directly taught, nonetheless it is a significant aspect of everyday life.

The hidden curriculum covers a multitude of areas. Therefore, it is impossible to create a comprehensive list that applies to all children on the autism spectrum in all situations. The following is a brief list of hidden curriculum examples:
  • Acceptable slang that may be used with your friends may not be acceptable when interacting with grown-ups.
  • Do not argue with a policeman – even if you are right.
  • Do not ask friends to do things that will get them in trouble.
  • Do not ask to be invited to someone's party.
  • Do not correct someone's grammar when he or she is angry.
  • Do not draw violent scenes.
  • Do not pick flowers from someone's garden without permission, even you want to give them to someone.
  • Do not sit in a chair that someone else is sitting in.
  • Do not tell someone that his or her house is much dirtier than it should be.
  • Do not tell someone that he or she has bad breath.
  • Do not touch someone's hair even if you think it is pretty.
  • Do not try to do what actors do on television or the movies. These shows are not the same as real life.
  • It is absolutely impolite to interrupt someone when he or she is talking, unless it is an emergency.
  • Never break laws – no matter what your reason.
  • Not all people you are unfamiliar with are strangers you can’t trust. You may not know your bus driver or your police officer, but these are people who help you.
  • People are not always supposed to say what they are thinking.
  • People do not always want to know the honest truth when they ask you a question. For example, your best friend does not want to hear that she looks fat in a new dress she just bought for the high school dance.
  • Speak to teachers in a pleasant tone of voice because they will respond to you in a more positive manner. 
  • Teachers do not all have the same rules. One teacher may allow gum in the classroom, while the other may issue consequences for chewing gum.
  • Treat all authority figures with respect.
  • What may be acceptable at your house may not be acceptable at a friend’s house. For example, although it is acceptable to put your feet up on the table at your home, your friend’s mom may be upset if you do that in their home.
  • When a teacher gives you a warning, it means that she wants the behavior to stop and that most likely there will be a consequence if the behavior occurs again.
  • When a teacher tells another student to stop talking, it is not an appropriate time for you to start talking to your neighbor.
  • When the teacher is scolding another student, it is not the best time to ask the teacher a question.

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

Other examples of hidden curriculum would include being neat and punctual, completing work, conducting oneself courteously, cooperating, exercising restraint, keeping busy, showing allegiance to both teachers and classmates, and trying to do one’s best.

Since the hidden curriculum is not understood instinctively in the mind of a child with AS or HFA, parents and teachers must provide direct instruction to facilitate skill acquisition. For example, the parent can write one hidden curriculum item on a whiteboard each morning and introduce this item to her child as a first activity. Once the child understands the hidden curriculum item, he can be asked to indicate how it will impact him at home and/or school.

Here’s an example of this method:

  1. Write on the whiteboard, “You should look your teacher in the eyes when she is talking to you.”
  2. Why? Because it demonstrates respect, and it shows the teacher that you are listening.
  3. How will this impact you? You may feel uncomfortable at first since looking people in the eyes is sometimes difficult for you.
  4. Next, parent and child roleplay this scenario (i.e., the parent speaks directly to the child while the child maintains eye contact and nods his head to acknowledge that he understands what is being said).

In summary, the “hidden curriculum” is a set of important social skills that everyone knows, but no one is taught. This includes assumed rules, parent expectations, teacher expectations, idioms and metaphors, etc. Especially with younger kids, the hidden curriculum is often discussed in terms of social cues and particular mannerisms (e.g., understanding classroom order, knowing to wait their turn, understanding the difference between playground-appropriate language and classroom-appropriate language, etc.).

In this context, the hidden curriculum is made up of things that children just pick up on naturally. However, understanding the hidden curriculum is very difficult for children with a deficit in social skills, especially those on the autism spectrum. Thus, these skills must be taught.

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

==> 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 


Environmental Structuring and Support for Children on the Autism Spectrum

A variety of strategies are available to enhance the predictability of – and benefits to be gained – from the environmental setting. The security that comes from being able to anticipate and understand activities, schedules, and expectations significantly enhances autistic kids’ capacity to appropriately respond to various home, classroom, and community demands.

Establishing clear behavioral expectations and rules, following routines and schedules, and ensuring physical, environmental, cognitive, and attitudinal support are helpful in creating structure. Establishing and following clear behavioral expectations is one of the simplest and most effective means of establishing structure for children on the autism spectrum.

Kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) clearly benefit from environments that offer clearly stated examples of desired behaviors. It is extremely important that these rules and expectations be reviewed regularly and that these children have an opportunity to practice them in multiple settings and with multiple peers and grown-ups.

Another simple and effective method of providing structure for children with HFA is through routines and schedules. Building on their preference for predictability, order, and consistency, this structuring strategy helps these young people to respond and adapt more effectively to their ever-changing environment. Group and individual schedules, presented in written, pictorial, or combination formats, are especially useful in communicating the sequence of daily activities and in alerting AS and HFA kids to new activities and schedule changes.

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

Physical, environmental, cognitive, and attitudinal support means making available adequate resources to effectively sustain, manage, and supervise children with HFA in various settings, including classrooms and other school environments (e.g., play areas, on school buses, in home settings, in community areas like shopping malls, etc.). Paramount in providing these resources are grown-ups and peers who are knowledgeable about – and sensitive to – these “special needs” children and capable of supporting their needs.

On too many occasions, there are situations in which peers have bullied and provoked children with HFA to engage in unacceptable behaviors out of ignorance. Thus, a significant step in preparing supportive environments for children on the spectrum is to inform their teachers and classmates of the characteristics and nature of the disorder, their role in supporting kids with the disorder, and ensuring appropriate protection.

Why do HFA children need – and crave – structure?

Autistic kids’ fear of the unknown includes everything from a suspicious new vegetable to moving to a new town. These young people handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows them to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives (e.g., walking to school by themselves, paying for a purchase at the store, going to a sleep-away camp, etc.). Unpredictable changes (e.g., a best friend moving, a grandparent dying, a parent getting called away on an unexpected business trip, parents divorcing, etc.) erode this sense of safety and mastery and leave the youngster feeling anxious and less able to cope with the fluctuations of life. 
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Of course, some changes can't be avoided. But that's why we need to offer our “special needs” kids a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives – so they can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when they need to.

While helping HFA kids to feel safe and ready to take on new challenges and developmental tasks would be reason enough to offer them consistent structure and routines, it has another important developmental role as well: structure and routines teach these children how to constructively control themselves and their environments. In homes where there is no set time or space to do homework, children never learn how to sit themselves down to accomplish an unpleasant task. Children who come from chaotic homes where belongings aren’t put away never learn that life can run more smoothly if things are organized. Children who don’t develop basic self-care habits may find it hard to take care of themselves as grown-ups. Structure allows AS and HFA kids to internalize constructive habits.

What are some of the benefits of using routines for AS and HFA children?

1. HFA children learn the concept of "looking forward" to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule.

2. Over time, these young people learn to take a shower, brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders. Children love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence. Children who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to be defiant.

3. Routines eliminate power struggles, because the parent is not “bossing” her youngster around. A particular activity (e.g., brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to come to dinner, etc.) is simply what is expected at that particular time of day. The parent stops being the “bad guy,” and nagging is reduced significantly.
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

4. Routines help children cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. Everyone knows what comes next, they get fair warning for transitions, and nobody feels pushed around, or feels like mom and dad are being haphazard in their decision-making.

5. Schedules help moms and dads maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is an argument, moms and dads end up giving in – or giving up (e.g., save the homework for tomorrow, more TV, skip brushing teeth for tonight, and so on). With a routine, the parent is more likely to stick to healthy expectations for all family members, because that's just the way things are done in the household.

How can parents provide routine and structure for their HFA children?

Kids on the autism spectrum face tremendous challenges in focusing on tasks and completing them on time. Providing structure in your youngster's life can help decrease frustration for both of you. Your youngster may be so distracted that she doesn't hear your instructions, so creating a daily routine is essential. By keeping her environment neat, organized and predictable, you can help minimize the internal chaos that may keep your HFA youngster from thriving.

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

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Before bedtime, lay out the items you need in the morning (e.g., lay out clothes in the same spot on your youngster's dresser, and leave shoes, socks and coats by the door; help him pack his backpack for school so it's ready to go, etc.). The fewer things you leave to chance, the easier it is to get out the door on time.

2. Do daily tasks with your youngster (e.g., brush your teeth together at night, wash your face together in the morning, sit with your youngster to do homework, etc.). Your presence can help her focus and make tasks go faster.

3. Eat meals, wake up, go to bed, and take medication at the same time each day. Keeping your youngster's biological rhythms steady can help keep moods and focus in check.

4. Set a timer for tasks. Explain to your youngster how long the task should take and challenge him to complete it before the timer runs out. Break longer tasks down into manageable chunks of 5 to 10 minutes, taking a quick break to stretch or walk around before setting the timer again.

5. Write down your youngster’s daily schedule and post it in a clearly visible spot. You may need to plot-out the day in 30-minute or 15-minute increments, and include even seemingly mundane activities (e.g., brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.). Talk through the schedule with your youngster first thing in the morning so she knows what to expect for the day.

More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
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…


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...


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…


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…


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...


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...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Feb., 2016]

 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.


Dear Mark,
Thank you so much for your quick reply and assistance. I have successfully downloaded your ebook and, so far, I'm very much enjoying its content. I'm mum to a 9-year-old HFA girl who suffers from anxiety and depression as she has no friends at her school and feels she doesn't fit in. She already knows she is Aspergers (or HFA) as she asked me one day why she felt different from the rest ( she was fully aware of that) so I had to tell her the truth. Telling her helped her understand why she feels different but she still feels isolated, rejected by her peers and very lonely as she can't find anyone at her school who understands her.

 Both me and my husband are really worried about her and it breaks our hearts to see her suffer :( When I saw your website and your ebook I felt so happy as I really think this could be the solution my daughter needs. We really hope your ebook helps her. We'll keep you posted on how she goes.
Thanks again for your help. Have a nice day :)
Kind Regards,


Hi Mark,

Thanks for responding so quickly. My AS husband is so resistant to mending the marriage. And it seems clear that pursuing the subject of AS keeps him resistant and negative-minded towards the marriage. He doesnt see a way that things will get better especially since Ive broached the possibility he may have AS traits. I feel like we are an millisecond away from divorce. I don't believe he wants to work towards making it work. Every day is so difficult at this point.


Thank you for the link.  I’m an MFT Intern and was treating a couple where I came to suspect the husband has Aspergers.  I started seeing the wife initially and then they both started coming together. After 3-4 sessions, I realized his issues were beyond my scope of practice.  I have referred them out to a therapist in our area who specializes in spectrum disorders to assess the husband and also see them as a couple...if the husband is willing :) I will continue to see the wife.

I look forward to reading your eBook and referring my clients to your web site.



(I downloaded your book probably a year ago - so I had implemented what I had learned).
While I don't believe -anything- is one sided, I feel that I have something similar to a  PTSD
zig only by encountering the same exact problems without a shift of any kind - no matter what I try.
Family and friends can not understand how I have tolerated what I have not can understand how I have such patience.
I don't feel I have that much patience. Not any longer anyway.
It has been love for his tenderness and affection as well as his good intentions, and, my feeling terrible for how he gets himself into these horrible positions that have been the impetus for my trying (and trying).
I have had to face that Ian the caretaker repairer. I am sure I have some responsibility -other than being a victim- here. It's hated to see that when any sense of peace, normalcy or harmony has been continually threatened.

I reach out to you because no one, no book or website, no anything I've encountered has ever plain spoke so very accurately.


Do you think this will work for a 16yr old girl. She is undiagnosed because its been hard all her life to get a diagnosis. She is has spiralled out of control and become increasingly violent towards everyone in the last few months when she was put on medication. I have taken her off those medications and she calmed for a short time but still has these meltdowns now but is able to communicate again afterwards.

She has always had difficulties and everyone believes she is autistic  but we have been passed around and no help. She has criminal charges against her now because of this behaviour and she doesn't understand it and refuses to attend court.  We have lost a house we were renting because of this and living out of someone elses house now which makes me fearful she will hurt them as well.

Last year she was a part of Navy cadets which she loved but struggled in some areas but she would commit herself to practice. She also played in a youth orchestra, she wasn't great but the teacher felt it was important to her and didn't care that she wasn't perfect with it. She has written she doesn't understand why these things have been taken away from her and why she cant do them.  Her life now has become isolation and we are all scared of her. She will meltdown anywhere when she doesn't want to do something or run into strangers houses.



My son is 15, we are in the process of getting him tested for we believe he has HFA.  He is very angry and upset that we are doing this.  My husband and I believe that we are doing the right thing and are having a very difficult time trying to explain it to him.  Our home life has been very stressful trying to get him to do his homework, chores, etc.  Our story is just like all the other parents with children with HFA. 

Can I ask, are we doing the right thing by getting our son tested?  What can I tell my son the reason we are doing this in a way he can understand?


Hi Mark,

To be honest I sent this email to the local Autistic branch manager, Rather then re-hash it, I just I would send it to you, You can probably see where I am coming from?

To give you some back ground, we live in Cheshire, England.  As my son is 5 at the end of March. Ruben is in St. Peters Woolston primary, he has a twin sister Elena. His mum is Spanish. I think overall he is coping well in the Link club, 7.30am to School and Link club till 5.30 daily schedule. Somedays better than others, but as i said overall fine at the moment. He was in full-time nursery from the age of 14 months, those days typically were 7.30am to 5.30pm. He is a very hyper child. Wakes up regularly in the early hours. In the recent assessment they said he could easily pass for ADHD due his hyper. His speech about 12 months behind. He understands a wide range of Spanish. He has alot of sensory issues, gets very agitated in Supermarkets, enclosed areas etc. Likes being outside alot.

We have had a good meeting with the local Education Psychologist (who will be instrumental to decide Rubens education plan). I think the School are doing ok with Ruben, he is working in smaller groups. But time will tell. The school currently observe Ruben as a good class member and a good child.  I dont think he has many friends, he mentions a couple of boys, But he does try and mix around with the other children, but not so directly. They do have to manage his Fidgeting and movement in the class. I sometimes sense they doubt Ruben is on the Spectrum, which I think is great on the one hand that he is presenting himself in this way, however as parents, we know at home he can be very difficult to manage. There are days when he comes in from school and has a meltdown. We cannot visit places openly like we can with his twins sister, In fact as a family we have to adapt to what works for Ruben. We noticed at a party recently he was not really talking to any of the boys in his class.

My worries are that he doesnt seem to be learning as quick in class. We are struggling on key words at the moment. He is a bright boy, but if its something he isnt interested in he wont do it. He is very creative and seems to have got an interest now in building models in the class. At home its so difficult to concentrate like homework because i also feel that particularly in the week he doesnt have anymore mental capacity to learn. He wont pay attention, he is mentally spent. However he likes it when he eventually settles down to read to him.

I suppose what im asking is that the benefits for an early diagnosis are early intervention therapy. But as parents we are wondering what therapies will best suit our son? As i said he is verbal. catching up. I can have a conversation with him, where we ask each other questions (not 100% fluent but ok) etc. At the moment he doesnt seem to fussed on routines. He has alot of empathy, if his sister is upset, he will ask her whats wrong and he has a very good imagination in terms of drawing and building models. He is constantly asking me questions and has a good attitude to learn. The class teacher said that he recently built a set of weighing scales out of bits of card board, and explained to her how it works etc, Which seem to really stand out from his peers. In terms of his speech, he has a good range of vocabulary, his pronunciations are where he is struggling a bit. But equally he was explaining to me something, and emphasized - "Daddy, trust me on this"...He loves to visit Spain to see his mums side of the family.

Ive heard alot of ABA. But I'm not sure if this will work for Ruben, (Is this more for children that are not so verbal?) We have enrolled him in the NHS Speech therapy, which is a positive step. We have a course to go on as parents about sensory issues soon. Its just we want to do so much more, but what intervention is helpful and necessary? I am learning about Meltdowns and how to manage them.

I think social cues therapy would be very useful, but when im reading books, he understands if people are happy / angry / sad on the page. Behaviour management can be another problem, but this can largely affected by mood swings of anxiety possibly linked to school. He is generally a good natured boy. But very hard to manage when getting him ready in the morning and retuning home we can have a mad 60 mins or so, until he settles down a bit.

The thing is, I see so much potential in Ruben, its just how to harness this and keep all his development on track. I just dont want things / life to become to hard for him. At weekends as a family we just try and get out as much as possible. To soft play and other things geared for Children. Ruben is doing well at swimming lessons at penketh on Saturday tea times. I just feel at the end of the day if he could improve his speech and maybe have close friend or two, it would make all the difference...maybe its not as simple as that..When he is happy he's such a loving boy, you wouldn't know that there was any impairments etc,


Hi Mark

I just recently purchased your programme in the hope that it might help me understand and manage my 16 year old with aspergers. (undiagnosed). Our kids don't leave home to go to college and my son is completing his high school education at home.  This is not due to his aspergers but his on going health needs.  He has complex regional pain syndrome and chronic fatigue in conjunction with having anaphylaxis to multiple foods and asthma.

I have a lot of trouble motivating him to complete his work as not only does he find it very boring but he is always tired and would rather use what little energy he has to play games or watch tv.  He never asks for my help and refuses to liaise with the teachers at the school preferring to do everything on his own.  Is this a part of his aspergers or just being a stubborn teenager?   He is very private and rarely speaks unless there is something important to say.  His room is his haven and only leaves it to basically eat and do some chores.  Not at all a healthy lifestyle.

He also has little interest whatsoever in leaving the home for any occasion be it visiting a friend, shopping, visiting family etc.

I am very concerned that he will never have a job and leave home. He claims his health won't allow him to work full time but I also suspect he is feeling incapable of concentrating for any length of time.

He has no career ambition and no goals to achieve anything.  If I push too hard he just shuts down completely.


I am a little lost looking for resources.  I am an Executive Function Coach who has worked with a brilliant, high functioning Asperger’s young man for approximately 6 months.  He is finally WANTING to learn and improve even more.
I had worked in the Eclipse model with him previously but feel that is not exactly what he needs.  He is currently taking both HS and college classes with minimal challenge.  But.... this student is looking for more structure and learning on the following areas listed below.  I will be working with him but find it difficult to find resources that feel like a good fit for him and for me.
Can you provide any insight Mark?

I know this may be “over the top” but I am desperate and want to be able to address these effectively, as well.  It would help if he too, had a book/manual, etc.

I can’t thank you enough!
time management, skills of Independence and problem solving, motivational regulation, and communication skills. Additionally, he would like to learn the following:
How to remember tasks
•    How to identify/recognize tasks
•    How to remember to plan tasks
•    How to plan to plan tasks
•    How to check if there are any tasks
•    How to monitor progress in task completion
•    How to remember tasks such as meeting required deadlines (for activities, classes, accommodations)
•    How to accommodate changes in what tasks I do as I get older
How not to lose things such as:
•    Identification, social security cards, library cards, money, non-replaceable birth certificate
•    Electronics, watches, phones, headphones, calculators
•    Important papers (registration, syllabi)
•    Assignments
How to learn to do unfamiliar things such as:
•    Register vehicle
•    Sign a lease



I found your email online, I think, or it may have been in a magazine. I just can't remember, sorry. I've have difficulty with my memory due to having had a stroke. I would like to ask you a few questions, if I may, so I can learn and better understand Autism.

My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and later I hear it's Aspergers Syndrome, or Autism. I already have problems with my thought process, memory, comprehension, staying focused, and it's so confusing to hear different things. I just look at as being some form of Autism, and I  understand that it affects individual's differently. I have a background of working in mental health, but somewhat limited experience working with individuals diagnosed with Autism. I worry about my son all the time. He's currently 22 years old, never had a girlfriend or been on a date, wants to work but is way too anxious & nervous, receives SSI, has had his Learners Permit for 4 years and is too nervous to try and get his Drivers License, and so much more. Also, on top of everything, he has gynecomastia and desperately needs surgery. We are currently trying to get his insurance to approve and pay for his surgery. As my wife and I age, we worry about his future. He's very intelligent and physically capable of doing so many things, but his anxiety and depression are too overwhelming.

What can we do to help our son? He's interested in taking online classes and wants to get some type of degree. We tried the Vocational Rehabilitation program and it seemed to bring his self esteem way down. We thought they would help him in getting into a program where he could learn a valued skill, certificate, or degree. But instead, they wanted him to do the same things that they do when working with individuals whom have mental retardation (MR). I have nothing against people with MR, but that was not good for my son, or anyone else that is high functioning. I have help others in my past, but just feel so alone and lost when it comes to knowing what to do for my son.

I'm sorry if I'm rattling, I don't really know what to ask, or to do. I'm but hoping you will be able to help me or guide me in the right direction. I appreciate anything you can provide. Have a nice day and thanks so much for your time.


Dear Mr. Hutten,

I would appreciate any videos or resources you can share on Asperger's.

I have a 9 year old son who is really struggling to keep up with 4th grade. I had him on an IEP during pre-K. After speech therapy, occupational therapy and more, he was "released" from an IEP for kindergarten. I'm exhausted by the past few years, school struggles. He's extremely bright/smart!

I'm finding comfort with knowledge of what I'm dealing with now (along with ADHD).


Mark Hutton,

I emailed you a few months ago. I had found your information and was working through it. I have been trying to promote self reliance, confidence in my 33 year old son. This is a challenge due to our family history of dysfunction and my son's perspective of it. My son has always had problems as a child, but I never fully understood how to deal with Aspergers.

We started on the road working through issues, but I got interrupted, and was thinking he was starting to understand. He is not and I need help with him. I am very willing to do all I can to be supportive, and am realizing where I am contributing to the problem.

What would it take for you to be a personal coach?

I want someone who understands Aspergers and can relate to this situation. I have another son who is involved and is pushing for his older brother to get help. I have started the process 3 years ago by putting him through a preliminary education readiness program (MeadowBrook Education) and he got a lot of the concepts but is not maintaining them and keeps setting himself back to his comfort zone. He does not see himself as successful even when he is, panics and ends up making poor choices. He learns from them and is willing and wanting to support himself, but knows he likes to take the easy way out.

I am concerned with his thinking process and his inability to work thru the trauma our family went through.  Thank you for giving me  some information on where I can start.


I need help with the following issue: I just need to ask this question.My son lies constantly he doesn't want to do anything he very disrespectful and very rebellious.He doesn't want me to say anything to him.I took the phone away from him he searched and searched for it until he found it.Now he refuses to give it back.I took every piece of anything he owned except what he had on.This has been going on for 5 days past the 3 daylight.Do anyone have anything to suggest.


Hi there

This is a bit of a long shot but I live in the UK and came across your website.

I have a 5 year old boy and am at my wits end with his behavior at school. He is in reception class and has a problem with doing as he is told. He is very strong willed and defiant although he will do as he is told when he is the right mood at school and almost always at home. We do not have problems with him at home which would be considered to be anywhere out of the ordinary, he is a happy little boy.

At school, he refuses to go to his phonics lessons and when pushed, will have very angry, shouting, sometimes aggressive outbursts. It has got to the point where I go into the school and have to calm him down, before I gently but firmly, make his attend his lesson. When he shouts at school it is like nothing I have seen at home before, it is like looking at a different child and its very upsetting for me. I remain calm and explain to him that he has to go to his lessons and he is at school to learn. Eventually he will normally calm down and go to the lesson, actually seem to enjoy it and then be quite tearful and upset afterwards.

Obviously it can't go on that I keep going in to the school every time that there is this issue. I just don't know how to address it with him at home or make sure that he has the tools to be able to deal with his anger and frustration at school. If this was behavior he demonstrated at home, I would have somewhere to start, but as he doesn't do it with me, I feel I have nothing to work with.

Would you have any advice for me? I'd really appreciate it


Hi Mark

My 6 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with ASD and we've been struggling as family with the ever increasing meltdowns. I've watched your video on your website regarding the difference between tantrums and meltdowns and you mention that prevention is the optimum way of handling them, particularly noticing the 'silent seizure'.

I will be more observant of my daughter pre-meltdowns now, but off the top of my head, I feel her meltdowns are usually triggered by something - and it's usually (in my eyes) something very trivial. This morning's one was because we had made cubby-houses out of bedding, and her doona was a couple of centimeters different to her sisters. Or sometimes even a simple conversation can trigger one if I don't provide her with answers in the way she would like me to.

I would love to try your OPS program, but I thought I'd check first if it is based on the premise of the child having a silent seizure first, or whether it pertains to a whole range of triggers?


We, my husband (and I), would like to schedule a Skype session with you.

Chris lost his job several years back and only in the last year has he begun a venture wherein he travels to weekend shows to sell his ware (more on that later). The income is unpredictable.
Even though finances have been extraordinarily challenging, the marriage is hanging on by a thread and in dire need of support.
(Note: we do have insurance but have been unable to find anyone remotely qualified in the general vicinity).

On my end: It's not just that Chris has (ever) taken me out on a date, brought me flowers... no gifts at birthdays or Christmas ...
The never (ever) getting any project entirely done leaves everything in absolute avalanching shambles.
My sister has pointed out that Chris digs holes faster the I can fill them.

His cyclical self-sabotage overwhelms him, makes him even more frantic - causing him to do more of same. He knows this.

Pretty threatening. And terrifying.

In the last 7 (almost 8) years of marriage I have come to see the following:

He's near to completely unreasonable;
In denial/won't deal with something unless it has fallen into red alert;

No due diligence or considering of consequences;
Thinks that merely because he thinks something, it is true or correct;
Says things that make -0- sense in order to justify any/everything;

There is more, but there is just no shift. The same problems and behaviors are infinitely repeated.
In reasoning with him he may "get" something, see the bigger picture and even (after hours of conversation) comprehend the solution ....but 24 hours later.... he's back to the same exact behavior that led to the same results - no matter how mountingly overwhelming or devastating the consequences.

While he is loving and affectionate,
good natured and forgiving - he is frighteningly forgetful as well as extremely emotionally immature.

How might we please get a session with you and what is your fee please?
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest opportunity.


My granddaughter just turner 5 and is having a lot of trouble in school. Won't focus, won't join in with the class or play with others. Has out bursts that are uncontrollable, and is having difficulty accepting her younger brother, he is 18 months. My daughter is exhausted dealing with her and the school complaining everyday.  How can we if this is what we are dealing with.



I could use some advice on launching my son.

My son, Chris is going to be 21 in May this year.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s in December 2015.  He has been seeing a psychologist since last November prior to the testing.  He has seen many psychologists over the years growing up but was never diagnosed.
He attended college after graduating from high school but failed.  He left college and came home to live.  We explained to him that it was a privilege to live at home and expected him to get a job.  He applied for a few jobs but never followed up.  It was apparent to me that he doesn’t want to get a job.
He left the state and went to stay with his Dad.  He is now back with us but he is not getting a job or doing anything other than chores that we ask him to do.  He is very smart and capable of working.  When I asked him why he doesn’t he said he is afraid but won’t say why.

What can we do to motivate him to want to get a job?  He just plays video games, watches videos and reads magazines like Time, computer. Should we take away all of these privileges including the magazines?  In the past, when I have taken everything but reading he is fine with that and his behavior doesn’t change.


Thank you....
We immediately listened to both audios.
You hear me!!!  ...Made me cry.

I have been Chris' seeing eye person -looking out for the things he does/engages in or fails to do that clearly will (and have) lead him to certain disaster.
He listens, nods, I ask him to tell me what he thinks he's heard? He tells me his understanding. Then turns around and does the very thing that couldn't be more self-sabatoging.
He lost his job, the house he had (which became a small rental income when he moved in with me); his credit is shot and he's been avoiding creditors for three years now.

He expects eternal understanding from me when he does the unthinkable and is aghast otherwise.
He doesn't take care of himself . He hasn't been to a dentist in the 8 years we've been together. (Has very rancid breath).
He won't even floss his teeth.

He doesn't have any friends at all (nor none that I've ever known of), and I TRULY miss having friends as a couple (as I did on my last (17 year) marriage. I was very very social.

I have taken him to functions I've been invited to by my friends.... He's just been very awkward. He either eats all he possibly can (in an opportunistic manner) or talks (on and on and on) about fishing, boating - or in the last two years - bullets.
I can see my friends/the attendees shifting uneasily until they quickly make their exit. And then avoid him.
I'm ashamed to say, and I've never told him, but in truth he embarrasses me. I've no idea how (or if) I ought to tell people he's Aspergers....

I have been very very depressed.

I have told him that I feel like I am living in a PTSD state.
He related to the audios .... But what now?

We are in Thousand Oaks, CA. When/where are your workshops?


My son is 9 and has been diagnosed as having aspergers.  I split up with his dad when he was about 2 and even then my son would say his dad didn't love us, even though I tried to tell him otherwise. But his dad never really had alot to do with him he was too busy with friends and running around. Anyways every time his dad comes around now my son shuts down to his dad and has the worse attitude and meltdowns. My son will even say he doesn't want his dad around and that is why he is acting like that. And dad still doesn't do much when around!! Any suggestions???


Hello Mr. Hutten,
I have listened to many of your podcasts and was thrilled to see (dated last year though!) that you are offering help via Skype.  Is that still the case as my info. is old?  I sincerely hope so as I have needed this service for my 3 children as well as parenting, college and job questions.  I tried your Skype name but it didn't work and I am just hoping that if I enter a state that your name will pop up....
What is your fee and do what ins. do you accept?

HOPING AND PRAYNG that you are still doing this as I have tried multiple psychologists but unless they are familiar (through personal experience and not just "paper knowledge") ...they really don't understand what our families go through or need.

Hope to hear from you soon as I really could use your help, knowledge, advice and support.


See, my fiance' was just starting to unfold bits and pieces of himself, his life, childhood, habits, tendencies and so forth. The realization was just starting to click, and he was really not accepting of the idea what so ever. The whole reason the door was even rattled was my son, had recently been diagnosed, with ASD & ADHD. He favors more so towards Aspergers I believe, but there are sensory issues, amongst more I could go on and on about... (My Son that is.)
Well my  fiancé, even though he is not my son's biological father, couldn't help but see many, many similarities between himself and my son.. So, that is where it all began.
So my purchasing the book, and printing it, he kind of..  Well to put it nicely, went through the roof. Upset, because he at that point still was not onboard completely with accepting something may be different.
So in a nut shell, I'm hoping there is possibly some way I could get another copy of it, without having to repurchase it? If that's not the case, then I don't have a problem going in and buying it again, because I do believe at the point we are at with our relationship, and family dynamics...its declining rapidly, and taking me down with it. Between my fiancé and my son, both being on the spectrum, and so much alike it's dangerous.. But not any blood relation what so ever, and the jealously.. Whew.. You'd think itd be more likely from my 7 year old boy, not my 42 year old fiance.. Jealousy over ways of living from his upbringing to how my son's is. His parents were borderline corporeal, his twin brother is the poster child of everything resembling a perfect son, and jason was always the one who couldn't make the mark.. In trouble all the time..you know the routine I'm sure.. And in his time, Autism or Aspergers wasn't really heard of, so Jason basically had it "beat" out of him.. He was always the bad, trouble making kid.. And treated as such.
So that is where a good portion of his jealousy stems. Then as if that isn't enough to try and defuse .. He has a son, with another woman, who is now 3.. (Mind you, we've been together just over 4.5 yrs.) .....
And he absolutely hangs the moon and stars. (As any child should, in their parents eyes). But that throws another backwards monkey wrench into the spin cycle.... And I feel like I'm just getting the ever living life beat out of me. There is no winning. One way or another I'm upsetting the apple cart constantly.. I can't make one happy, without infuriating the other. I try with everything in me, but I must not be doing it correctly.
I've spent hours upon days doing research, and I have yet to find someone else in a similar situation. No one.
So, now that I may have written half of a novel and 1/3 of my life history to you.. Lol.. I really did just intend to ask for help on finding the book, but I'm also hoping there is some direction you could point us.. In getting some kind of help, advice, something? Or if that is something that you do? Because at this point, we aren't going to stay above water much longer. I love all three of them more than anything, and would do every single one of the hardest days over again, if it would make things easier for them, or make them happy.. It just gets so tiring, and hopeless when the very least they could acknowledge what it takes from me on a day to day basis. Or slightly understand it even.
I'm desperate for help, to save my family.. I know we are all strong enough to do it, we just aren't on the same team, or have the right equipment.
Thank you so very much, and again I apologize for "unloading" on you. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Hi Mark,

A friend of mine suggested I look into your work.  I have an out-of-control teenage daughter who will be 16 in April.  She has tested as a "gifted" student and had straight A's in advanced classes until about a year ago.  She has been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and has a medical condition (hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue) that also exacerbates the depression.  I, myself, am disabled with my health further declining due to the stress.  My husband (age 67, also has a heart condition) and I have exhausted all financial resources as a result of my health, and we are at wits end with our daughter who exhibits very strong will, defiance, zero self-esteem, some oppositional behavior, and increasing risk-taking behaviors with no consideration for her own safety or well-being.

Is your approach successful with depressed/anxious teens who are borderline suicidal at times?  Will it be too tough and push my daughter over the edge?  Does it involve "tough love" which we cannot really implement given my health?  By this, I mean, does it involve stripping down her room to the bare bones and putting everything in storage until she earns back her things or anything similar to this? 

I'm desperately trying to help her.


Hi Mark,

My husband and I have been experiencing some very troubling behavior from my son in the last couple of months which we thought were symptoms from a culmination of: inconsistent parenting from both,  anxiety, depression and recent transitions from mid to high school and ultimately to a home school resource campus setting.

My son had always gone to a highly capable program and did well until later years where he had bigger projects and didn't have the "breaking down to smaller" pieces skills in tackling research and essay assignments.

Aggressive behavior, verbal abuse, fixations with different topics, chronically researching a particular item on Internet or online shopping venues.  When one rage-ful episode escalated to massive destruction of all electronic equipment in our home along with dry wall and light pendants--we indeed called the police to escort him into the hospital for psychological evaluation and ultimately into an inpatient psychiatric unit at our Seattle children's hospital.

All of a sudden, one mental health professional after the other posed the question -- from the social worker who did the initial intake to the Psychiatrist and counselors in charge of his hospitalization -- "Have you ever had your child tested for Autism Spectrum?"  No where on our radar was Autism Spectrum. We've done a multitude of research on anxiety, adhd, depression, OCD, psychosis sociopathic or psycopathic behaviors --but not once did Autism come to mind. His psychologist, who he has been seeing for 5 weeks, didn't detect it though she has a brother with Autism.

He is discharged tomorrow after a week that consisted of three nights in a resort like new hospital, while waiting for a bed availability at Children's, (it had 24 hour supervision by an in-room nurse) and four nights in the Psych Unit. Their basic focus was to stabilize, teach coping skills and return to home. 

I am wracked with guilt because we were not approaching any of this with the filter of parenting an autistic child. We haven't gotten an official diagnosis as we have to schedule an out-patient evaluation upon his return. 

We were honestly looking for a long term treatment or therapeutic boarding school which would help him deal with anger and rage.  We don't know if he will be able to recover from this last week or if he feels at all responsible for what he did that resulted in us finally calling the police. The therapists are saying he could essentially teach the curriculum of the coping skills and anger management/escalation classes --because of his participation and thoughtful responses to the coaches' questions..

Without this having happened this past weekend, we would never have gone down the path of possible Autistic Spectrum Disorder. After reading your "what won't work"  section, I am haunted by the fact that our circuitous route lead to police involvement and an in-patient hospitalization.

Is there hope after all of this?  I am so scared about him having even more rage and anger and how that will present itself once back in our home.

Today we have a session with him and a schedule coach --who will help us with creating a structured routine at home.  We have today and tomorrow to spend time with him during his free time.  My question for you is--you could possibly consider answering --What kind of dialogue should we be having with him which help us with creating a new path for us at home.  (We've basically have allowed him to rule our house for the last couple of months so that we could avoid anything that could trigger an outburst or episode) 

Thank you so much for any sort of advice you could give us as we pursue to radically change our mind set and parenting focus with the new information we receive about our possibly ASD Teenager of 15 years old. (16 in a month).


 Hi Mark. My name is Kara and I have started a blog featuring my family’s experiences raising a child with RAD. Your blogger site has been a great help to me and I would like to get your permission to use your self-test information on my blog. I would, of course, reference your site with direct links. Thank you for your time!


Hello Mark,
How do I handle the yelling,cursing, and not doing homework when asked?  He is behind with work in school, not getting homework done, wants NO discussion about anything, has his own income from his part time job, owns his own pickup, pays for all its costs?  We try to take things away (tv, video games, computer access)..and although they do get taken away, you know you have to go through " the grizzly bear ROARING 2 inches from your face!!" I have had him here and there  with psychologists..still looking for one with EXPERIENCE with ASD kids and NOT ON PAPER.  INS,says we can travel to citied 2 hours away but they won't cover Telehealth Dr with ASD exp. done the roadfrom me!!HELP!!
Also have a 19 year old son on spectrum and 16 year old girl (probably on but not diagnosed)  no help from school with behavioral stuff despite IEPS x 2!! School psychologist won't do anything either!!
Yours sincerely! 


Good Morning,


I received your email through the ‘My Aspergers Child’ website and I’m desperate for help and direction.

I have a 20 year old so with Asperger’s … we live in Michigan (Ann Arbor area) and although he attends counselling with two therapists, I really think a group setting/therapy would be more beneficial (as he’s been going to therapy for years and he’s not getting any better… depressed, anxiety, scared of doing anything related to working, college, etc.).  And/or thinking some type of training program where he is with a group of other young adults within the Autism spectrum would be ideal.  He feels very alone and is often isolated. Both his Dad and I are desperate for answers/help as he constantly talks about just leaving and walking for the rest of his life.  He goes through severe bouts of depression where he suffers from panic attacks and high levels of anxiety, and again, the therapy he’s receiving is not helping at all!! 

Any help, direction would be very much appreciated.


Dear Mr. Hutten,

            My name is Kennedy Bryant and I attend school at Cohoes High School.  There I am in the science research program. I am currently researching the effects that Animal Assisted Therapy has on children with disabilities. I recently got interested in Therapy dogs and Asperger's syndrome. While researching I came across the webpage My Aspergers Child and was wondering if you had any sources that you referenced in Pet Therapy for Aspergers Kids. If so, it would be greatly appreciated if you could send me them or send me the citations and other information you think may be helpful. Thank you for you time and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Hello Mr. Hutten,

I have a 24-yr-old high functioning aspergers son. He stopped college lacking only about a year with a degree that will get him nowhere. He has just moved back home and is content to do nothing but play video games after sleeping in. My husband and I don't want to throw him on the street, but we can't bear his lifestyle. I am looking into counseling for us, but wondered if you have any suggestions? I saw that you do provide life coaching.


Hi, I'm a surgical pathologist who is attempting to make a late mid-life career switch to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.  It's going well academically but I keep having some problems with social cues and it is causing my supervising priest to question whether my process should continue.  A friend of mine who has an adult daughter with Asperger's says she thinks I'm on the spectrum.  I suspect she's right and it explains the types of problems I've had with my supervising priest.  I would be curious to see if even without an "official" diagnosis, if coaching via Skype could help.  At the very least, I recognize I'm quirky, and that has to be modulated some.  Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to provide.


Thank you Mark.  I appreciate all of the resources you have made available to support couples in dealing with this challenging situation.

My #1 problem at the moment is getting my husband to acknowledge that he is 'hard wired' differently and that Asperger's might be part of the reason.  There is a fair amount of mental illness in his family (mother, sister, possibly a niece), but he is highly functioning/ successful while the others aren't, so the suggestion that he bears any of these traits is likely to be quite offensive.  He doesn't seem to have any awareness that his way of interacting with the world is different than the way anyone else interacts with the world; i.e., it wouldn't be a 'relief' to finally have an explanation for why he's never felt he fit in.  In fact, he feels he's superior to most people, so if he does have any recognition of being different it's because he thinks everyone else is less intelligent, uninspired, and unenlightened.

Right now, while he has agreed and even suggested we go to counseling, he has also said he is not sure we have enough to 'rebuild' from and so I'm not sure he'd agree that saving the relationship is the main priority.  He feels we need to rebuild because he doesn't feel 'safe' with me (because any suggestion of unhappiness/ dissatisfaction with our marriage has been perceived as a direct criticism of his character) and because I don't intimately share his particular passions (music, art, literature), which he feels is the only way to truly connect to him.  My concern is he has crafted a very disciplined and determined life where every second of every day is a scheduled enrichment activity and this well-crafted life does not include me (or, frankly, any other people), and as such our life together has become that of 2 highly compatible roommates who occasionally do things socially outside the house.

I have often wondered if he is 'on the spectrum' but now that we are in counseling I have started to read more on the disorder and feel more strongly with every new resource that he definitely has some of the Asperger's traits.  I have joined a couple of support groups but any other suggestions you can make to get us started is greatly welcomed.


Effective Academic Accommodations for Students with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

The vast majority of students with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) receive their educational experiences predominantly in general education classrooms. Thus, general education teachers are primarily responsible for the education of these “special needs” students, although frequently with the support of special education teachers.

In many ways, students diagnosed with AS and HFA are well qualified to benefit from general classroom experiences. They typically have average to above average intellectual abilities, are motivated to be with their fellow classmates, and have good rote memory skills and other assets that bode well for their educational success. However, all too frequently, these young people have significant problems in academic performance, and some have learning disabilities. The reasons for these problems often are related to the social and communication deficits connected to AS and HFA.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

In addition to social and communication deficits, students on the autism spectrum exhibit:
  • concrete and literal thinking styles
  • difficulty applying skills and knowledge to solve problems 
  • difficulty attending to salient curricular cues
  • difficulty in comprehending abstract materials (e.g., metaphors, idioms)
  • difficulty in discerning relevant from irrelevant stimuli
  • difficulty understanding inferentially-based materials
  • inflexibility
  • obsessive and narrowly defined interests
  • poor organizational skills
  • poor problem-solving skills
  • problems with generalizing knowledge and skills

These challenges make it difficult for them to benefit from general education curricula and instructional systems without support and accommodations. But, with suitable support, most of these “special needs” students can be successful in school, and many are able to attend college and enjoy a variety of successful careers.

Studies of academic achievement in AS and HFA students reveal the following:
  • in spite of being highly verbal, there are significant difficulties in understanding the orally-presented messages of others and arriving at logical solutions to routine and real-life problems
  • mathematics scores are low, especially in solving equations and answering mathematical calculation problems
  • mean academic achievement scores are within the average range
  • strengths tend to be in comprehension of factual material, and in the areas of oral expression and reading recognition 
  • there are significant difficulties in the areas of problem-solving and language-based critical thinking
  • there is a relative weakness in comprehending verbally presented information
  • written language scores are significantly lower than oral expression scores

Many teachers fail to recognize the special academic needs of young people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, because they often give the impression that they understand more than they do. Thus, their ability to word-call without having the higher-order thinking and comprehension skills to understand what they read, parrot-like responses, pedantic style, and seemingly advanced vocabulary may actually mask the deficits of these students.

Academic modifications essential for AS and HFA students are those that increase structure and predictability and also address their multifaceted needs. Specifically, these accommodations take into account some of the manifestations that are like learning disabilities and gifted-like traits that are evident in this population. Appropriate modifications, include:

1.  priming
2.  classroom assignment modifications
3.  notetaking
4.  graphic organizers
5.  enrichment
6.  homework

We will look at each of these in turn:

1.    Priming—

Priming was developed to:
  • bring predictability to new tasks and thereby reduce stress and anxiety
  • familiarize AS and HFA students with academic material prior to its use in school
  • increase their academic success

The actual materials that are used in a lesson are shown to the student the day, the evening, or even the morning before the activity is to take place. Priming also may occur just prior to an activity. A parent, resource teacher, or trusted peer can serve as a primer.

It is generally recommended that the actual teaching materials be used in priming. However, in some cases, priming can consist of introducing an upcoming task using a list or a description of the activities, not the actual materials. Priming is most effective when it is built into the student's routine. It should be done in an environment that is relaxing and should be facilitated by a primer who is both patient and encouraging. Finally, priming sessions should be short, providing a brief overview of the day's tasks in 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Classroom Assignment Modifications—

The amount of reading the student with AS or HFA is expected to complete should be evaluated. Students on the autism spectrum who sometimes read slowly and can’t discern relevant from irrelevant information spend an inordinate amount of time concentrating on facts that will not be tested and are considered unimportant. Highlighted texts and study guides help these young people maximize their reading time. Teachers also should consider identifying the information the student is responsible to learn for an upcoming assignment or test.

Handwriting is a concern for many students with AS and HFA. Thus, teachers should offer these students several ways to demonstrate mastery, for example:
  • using the computer instead of a pen or pencil
  • giving verbal responses instead of written essays
  • creating a project rather than writing a report
  • completing a multiple-choice rather than a short-answer test
3. Note-taking—

Many students with AS and HFA have difficulty taking notes in class. Often, motor problems prevent them from getting important content onto paper. Also, some of these students have difficulty listening and writing at the same time. Depending on the amount of assistance they need, the teacher can provide for the student:
  • the opportunity to use outlining software
  • a skeletal outline that he or she can use to fill in details
  • a peer-constructed outline
  • a complete outline including the main idea and supporting details

4. Graphic Organizers—

Graphic organizers highlight important concepts and display the relationship between them. They provide abstract or implicit information in a concrete manner. Graphic organizers can be used before, during, or after AS/HFA students read a selection, either as an advanced organizer or as a measure of concept attainment.

Three commonly used graphic organizers are semantic maps, analogy graphic organizers, and timelines. The focal point of the semantic map is the key word or concept enclosed in a geometric figure (e.g., circle or square) or in a pictorial representation of the word or concept. Lines or arrows connect this central shape to other shapes. Words or information related to the central concept are written on the connecting lines or in the other shapes. As the map expands, the words become more specific and detailed. For AS and HFA students who are younger or who require additional cues, semantic maps can use pictures for the key words or concepts.

An analogy graphic organizer contains two concepts and their attributes. The teacher and student define how the two concepts are alike and how they differ, then draw a conclusion. Often the teacher has to assist the student in identifying attributes by presenting choices (either written or pictorial) from which he or she can select. This task can be completed individually, in small groups, or with an entire class.

Timelines provide benchmarks for completing tasks and thereby aid AS and HFA students in budgeting their time. Timelines consist of a list of steps needed to complete the task with affiliated due dates. This visual representation enables the student and teacher to monitor progress toward project completion. Ideally, teachers enlist the aid of moms and dads in developing and monitoring timelines to ensure student follow-through at home.

5. Enrichment—

Research has shown that a greater percentage of students with AS and HFA have IQs in the superior range than is found in the general population. Thus, these young people benefit from enrichment activities because they already have mastered age-appropriate academic content. Enrichment activities can consist of having them learn the same content in much more depth and detail than their “typical” peers, or introducing new topics that usually are presented to older students.

6. Homework—

Teachers and moms and dads should work together to determine whether homework should be assigned, and if so, how much. Because students with AS and HFA need structure, it is often best for the teacher to assign tasks that they can complete in the structured school environment.

If homework is assigned, an assignment notebook and a parent-teacher communication system will help moms and dads monitor their youngster's homework. In some cases, parents may have to model the task for their child, so teachers should ensure that the moms and dads understand their youngster's homework. To facilitate home-school communication, some schools have established a "homework line" that students and parents can call to hear an overview of assigned work. This system is ideal for students on the spectrum.

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


Behavioral, Emotional and Cognitive Traits of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Based on the challenges that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) present, it’s no surprise that kids and teens diagnosed with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have behavioral and emotional problems. These challenges are most often connected to social deficits associated with the disorder (e.g., when the youngster fails to take his turn in a playground game because he doesn't understand the social rules of an activity).

These challenges frequently involve feelings of stress, loss of control, or the inability to predict outcomes. Therefore, children with AS and HFA typically have behavior problems connected to their inability to function in a world they see as unpredictable and threatening. As a result, they may behave in ways that appear mean-spirited or malicious. But, this is an unfair assessment. While these “special needs” children do have behavioral difficulties, their problems are most often associated with their social ineptness, an obsessive interest in a particular topic, sensory sensitivities, and a defensive panic reaction (just to name a few).

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

The symptoms of AS and HFA can vary greatly from child to child depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for younger kids who have mild or less debilitating deficits. Indicators that require evaluation by an ASD professional include:
  • abnormally intense or focused interest
  • absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • clumsy, un-coordinated movements
  • excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
  • lack of empathy
  • naïve, inappropriate, or one-sided social interactions
  • no smiling or social responsiveness
  • odd postures
  • poor eye contact
  • poor non-verbal communication
  • preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • repetitive or unusual use of language

For many young people with AS and HFA, symptoms improve with age and behavioral treatment. During the teenage years, some young people on the autism spectrum may become depressed or experience behavioral problems, and their treatment may need some modification as they transition to adulthood. Some young adults on the spectrum continue to need services and supports as they get older, but depending on severity of the disorder, they may be able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.

A defining feature of AS and HFA is that children with the disorder generally experience normal intellectual and language development. However, given the diagnostic importance of this variable, surprisingly little is known about the cognitive abilities of these children. Some researchers have reported an uneven cognitive profile pattern on individualized IQ tests (e.g., Wechsler intelligence scales) in children with HFA, including a significantly higher Performance IQ when compared to Verbal IQ scores.

Subjects with HFA specifically obtained their highest scores on the Block Design subtest and their lowest scores on the Comprehension subtest of the Wechsler scales. Based on their Block Design performance, some have inferred that children with AS and HFA have relative strength on nonverbal concept-formation tasks, specifically those that require perceptual organization, spatial visualization, abstract conceptualization, and general intelligence. On the other hand, relatively poor performance has been reported in areas requiring an understanding of social mores and interpersonal situations, social judgment, common sense, and grasp of social conventionality.

In one of the few studies of cognitive abilities of kids and teens with AS, researchers assessed the cognitive profiles of 37 subjects, as measured by the Wechsler scales. The scores generally fell within the average range of abilities, although the IQs ranged from intellectually deficient to superior. The Verbal IQ and Performance IQ scores showed no significant differences.

Consistent with the findings of other studies, the study did reveal relatively high Block Design subtest scores. These findings suggest generally strong nonverbal reasoning ability and visual-motor spatial integration skill. The Coding subtest revealed relatively low scores, suggesting that many of the subjects had visual-motor coordination difficulties, were distractible, were disinterested in school-related tasks, and had visual memory weakness. The children also obtained relatively low scores on the Comprehension subtest, suggesting poor social judgment. However, this and other studies on this topic have generally failed to identify a specific cognitive profile for children diagnosed with AS and HFA.

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

Even though there are a number of deficits associated with AS and HFA, there are numerous positives as well. For example, most children and teens of the autism spectrum:
  • pay attention to detail, sometimes with painstaking perfection
  • are not very concerned about their external appearance in comparison to their “typical” peers, worrying less concerning hairstyles, brand names as well as other expensive and unimportant externals that most people worry about
  • have the ability to focus on tasks for a long period of time without needing supervision or incentive  
  • are not restricted to any social expectations that they have to meet
  • have a higher “fluid intelligence” (i.e., the ability to find meaning in confusion, solve new problems, and draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge) than “typical” kids
  • usually have a higher than average general IQ 
  • are honest to a fault 
  • rarely judge other people based on who is smarter, richer or fatter
  • are independent and unique thinkers
  • have strong rote skills (i.e., able to memorize large amounts of information)
  • are internally motivated (as opposed to being motivated by praise, money, acceptance, etc.) 
  • usually see through surface appearances so as to find out the other person’s real character
  • are more logical than emotional, spending a lot of time “computing” in their minds
  • are visual, three-dimensional thinkers, which lends itself to countless creative applications

In addition, young people with AS and HFA are often precocious in speaking and reading and tend to use sophisticated or formal language. Also, they are often passionately devoted to – and eager to expound on – topics of particular interest to them.

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

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