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A Crash Course for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Kids

"Our child was just diagnosed with high functioning autism. We have blamed ourselves for many of his behavioral issues, but now see there was something else going on. So instead of viewing myself as a failed parent, I need to see my role as my son's advocate. What should I be looking for in the way of expected obstacles/challenges to address as they come up?"

You just discovered that your child has Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA). Welcome to Club! You probably didn’t want to be here. But, don’t get discouraged. No one signs up for this membership.

Think of it like this: At least you know what the heck is going on now, which is 10 times better than parenting in the dark. Maybe up until this point, you blamed yourself for many of the emotional and behavioral issues your child experienced. You may have even viewed yourself as a “failure” or a “bad” parent because you couldn’t get your child to stop his negative attitude, tantrums and meltdowns. Well, let’s set the record straight.

The following general descriptions include all the most typical characteristics of AS and HFA (of course, variations occur from child to child):

1. Affective conditions: The social withdrawal and lack of facial expression in AS and HFA may give parents the impression that their child is depressed or lacks the ability to show affection. Distress, tantrums and meltdowns when away from familiar surroundings can give the impression that the child is simply misbehaving. And, excited talking about a grandiose, imaginary world might give the impression that the child is somewhat delusional. However, the full clinical picture and the early developmental history should clarify the diagnosis. The AS or HFA child is simply experiencing the symptoms of his or her disorder rather than being depressed, unaffectionate, defiant or delusional.

2. Experiences at school: The combination of school and communication deficits, and certain special skills gives an impression of marked eccentricity. The AS or HFA child may be mercilessly bullied at school, and as a result, becomes anxious and fearful. Autistic students who are more fortunate in the schools they attend may be accepted as strange “professors” and respected for their unusual abilities. More often than not though, AS and HFA children are labeled as “problem students” because they follow their own interests regardless of the teacher's instructions and the activities of the rest of the class. Many eventually become aware that they are different from their peers, especially as they approach adolescence. As a result, they may become overly-sensitive to criticism. They give the impression of fragile vulnerability and childishness, which some find infinitely touching – and others merely exasperating.

3. Lack of imaginative play: Imaginative pretend play does not occur at all in some children with the disorder, and in those who do have pretend play, it is confined to one or two themes, enacted without variation, over and over again. These may be quite elaborate, but are pursued repetitively and do not involve other kids unless the latter are willing to follow exactly the same pattern. It sometimes happens that the themes seen in this pseudo-pretend play continue as preoccupations in adult life, and form the main focus of an imaginary world.

4. Lack of interest in human company: During the first year of life, there may have been a lack of the normal interest and pleasure in human company that should be present from birth. Babbling may have been limited in quantity and quality. The AS or HFA youngster may not have drawn attention to things going on around her in order to share the interest with others. She may not have brought her toys to show to her parents or friends when she began to walk. In general, there is a lack of the intense urge to communicate in babble, gesture, movement, smiles, laughter, and eventually speech that characterizes the normal baby and toddler.

5. Motor coordination: Gross motor movements are clumsy and uncoordinated. Posture and gait appear odd. Most AS and HFA kids are poor at games involving motor skills, and sometimes the executive problems affect the ability to write or draw. Stereotyped movements of the body and limbs are also evident.

6. Non-verbal communication: Non-verbal aspects of communication are also affected. There may be little facial expression except with strong emotions (e.g., anger or distress). Vocal intonation tends to be monotonous and droning, or exaggerated. Gestures are limited, or else large and clumsy and inappropriate for the accompanying speech. Comprehension of others’ expressions and gestures is poor, and the AS or HFA child may misinterpret or ignore such non-verbal signs. At times he may earnestly gaze into another person's face, searching for the meaning that eludes him.

7. Over-valued ideas: The tendency found in AS and HFA children to sensitivity and over-generalization of the fact that they are criticized and made fun of may be mistaken for paranoid tendencies. Those who are pre-occupied with abstract theories or their own imaginary world may be said to have delusions. For example, one boy with AS was convinced that Batman would arrive one day and take him away as his assistant. No rational argument could persuade him otherwise. This type of belief could be called a delusion, but is probably better termed an “over-valued idea.” It does not have any specific diagnostic significance, since such intensely held ideas can be found in different psychiatric states.

8. Repetitive activities and resistance to change: Kids with Aspergers often enjoy spinning objects and watching them until the movement ceases, to a far greater extent than normal. They tend to become intensely attached to particular possessions and are very unhappy when away from familiar things and places.

9. Skills and interest: Young people with the disorder have certain skills as well as deficits. They have excellent rote memories and become intensely interested in one or two subjects (e.g., astronomy, geology, the history of the steam train, the genealogy of royalty, bus time-tables, prehistoric monsters, characters in a television series, etc.) to the exclusion of all else. They absorb every available fact concerning their chosen field and talk about it at length, whether or not the listener is interested, but have little grasp of the meaning of the facts they learn. They may also excel at board games needing a good rote memory (e.g., chess). However, some have specific learning problems affecting arithmetical skills, reading, or writing.

10. Speech: The AS or HFA youngster usually begins to speak at the age expected in “normal” kids; however, walking may be delayed. A full command of grammar is sooner or later acquired, but there may be difficulty in using pronouns correctly, with the substitution of the second or third for the first person forms. The content of speech is abnormal, tending to be pedantic and often consisting of lengthy speeches on favorite subjects. Sometimes a word or phrase is repeated over and over again in a stereotyped fashion. The youngster may invent some words. Subtle verbal jokes are not understood, though simple verbal humor may be appreciated.

So, there you go. You thought it was “bad parenting” on your part. Well now you know differently. These issues simply come with the territory. However, you do need to understand that you can NOT parent your AS or HFA child and your "neurotypical" (non-AS) child in the same way. The mind of your “special needs” child is wired differently.

Think of it like this: Let's say you have 2 children. One speaks English, and the other speaks French. You have learned to speak both languages. So, which language will you use when you are trying to get your point across to the French-speaking child? French, of course! But too many parents are speaking a foreign language to their AS and HFA kids, and then they wonder why they "don't get it."

It's not that your AS or HFA child "doesn't hear" you. Rather, he "doesn't understand" you. When you try to teach your child how to behave, you must know how he thinks and what language he understands. Don't speak "neurotypical" to an "Aspie."

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

Six Symptom Clusters of Asperger’s and HFA that May Warrant Medication

"We have generally been against trying medication, even to treat the worst symptoms of our autistic child, but is there a point at which the advantages of some form of drug treatment outweigh the disadvantages?"

To answer this question, we will need to look at six clusters of symptoms. They are a convenient way of talking about drug treatments for the common kinds of behaviors that hinder the lives of children and teens who have Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA).

These clusters are not comprehensive, but were chosen because they are common reasons to seek drug treatment for AS and HFA:

1. Inflexibility and Behavioral Rigidity: Symptoms of inflexibility or behavioral rigidity are often difficult to quantify, and yet often introduce some of the most disruptive chronic behaviors exhibited by children with AS and HFA. These can be manifest by minor differences in the environment (e.g., changes in location for certain activities), difficulties tolerating changes in routine, and changes to plans that have been previously laid out.

For some of these “special needs” kids, this inflexibility can lead to aggression, or to extremes of frustration and anxiety that thwart activities. Parents may find themselves “walking on eggshells” in an effort to circumvent any extreme reaction from their “fragile” child. Also, the AS or HFA child himself may articulate his anxiety over fears that things will not go according to plan, or that he will be forced to make changes that he can’t handle. Sometimes these behaviors are identified as “obsessive-compulsive” because of the child’s need for ritualized order or nonfunctional routine.

It is not known whether these symptoms are produced by disturbances in the same cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical circuitry that is believed to produce OCD. However, the model of obsessive-compulsive disorder has suggested that use of SRI agents can be useful in ameliorating this problem. Whether the effect of SRI medications on this symptom cluster is mediated by a general reduction in anxiety, or is specific for “needs for sameness” is not known. Reports from studies of alpha-adrenergic medications (e.g., clonidine, guanfacine) also suggest a decrease in these rigid behaviors.

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

2. Stereotypies and Perseveration: Stereotyped movements and repetitive behaviors are a common feature of AS and HFA. As with behavioral rigidity and inflexibility, similar models for stereotypy and obsessive-compulsive disorder have been proposed. Stereotypy also may be closely related to tic disorders in which repetitive behaviors emerge from impairment in dopaminergic and glutamaturgic systems.

The treatments for stereotyped movements and perseveration closely parallel those for behavioral inflexibility, and the two clusters are often grouped together in studies of treatment effectiveness. Thus, serotonin reuptake inhibitors and alpha-adrenergic agonists may be helpful. Also, the hypothesis that dopamine may play a role suggests that dopaminergic blocking agents should be added to the possibilities. Reports from studies of olanzapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone suggest this is warranted.

3. Hyperactivity and Inattention: Hyperactivity and inattention are common in AS and HFA kids, particularly in early childhood. Differential diagnostic considerations are vital, particularly in the context of AS and HFA. Hyperactivity and inattention are seen in a variety of other disorders (e.g., developmental receptive language disorders, anxiety, and depression). Therefore, the appearance of inattention or hyperactivity does not point exclusively to ADHD. The compatibility of the child and her school curriculum is particularly important when evaluating symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. There is a risk that a school program that is poorly matched to the child's needs (e.g., by over-estimating or under-estimating her abilities) may be frustrating, boring, or unrewarding. If the verbal or social demands exceed what she can manage, they may produce anxiety or other problems that mimic inattention or induce hyperactivity.

Virtually every variety of medication has been tried to reduce hyperactive behavior and increase attention. The best evidence at this point supports dopamine blocking agents, stimulants, alpha-adrenergic agonists, and naltrexone.

4. Anxiety: Young people with AS and HFA are particularly vulnerable to anxiety. This vulnerability may be an intrinsic feature of AS and HFA through a breakdown in circuitry related to extinguishing fear responses, a secondary consequence of their inability to make social judgments, or specific neurotransmitter system defects.

The social limitations of AS and HFA make it difficult for these “special needs” children to develop coping strategies for soothing themselves and containing difficult emotions. Limitations in their ability to grasp social cues and their highly rigid style act in concert to create repeated social errors. They are frequently victimized and teased by their peers and can’t mount effective socially adaptive responses.

Limitations in generalizing from one situation to another also contributes to repeating the same social mistakes. In addition, the lack of empathy severely limits skills for autonomous social problem-solving. For higher functioning kids on the autism spectrum, there is sufficient grasp of situations to recognize that others “get it” when they do not. For others, there is only the discomfort that comes from somatic responses that are disconnected from events and experience.

Several agents have been tried for treatment of anxiety. There is no reason to suspect that children with autism are less likely to respond to the medications used for anxiety in children without autism. Therefore, SRIs, buspirone, and alpha-adrenergic agonist medications (e.g., clonidine, guanfacine) all have been tried. The best evidence to date supports use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. (Note: Kids with AS and HFA may be more vulnerable to side effects and to exhibit unusual side effects.)

5. Depression: Depression seems to be common among teens and young adults with AS and HFA. Many of the same deficits that produce anxiety may conspire to generate depression. There is also good evidence that serotonin functions may be impaired in young people with AS and HFA. The basic circuitry related to frontal lobe functions in depression may be affected. In addition, deficits in social relationships and responses that permit one to compensate for disappointment and frustration may fuel a vulnerability to depression. There is some genetic evidence suggesting that depression and social anxiety are more common among first-degree relatives of autistic kids, even when accounting for the subsequent effects of stress.

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

The medications that are useful for depression in “typical” kids and teens should be considered for those with AS and HFA who display symptoms of depression. Since some features of depression and autism overlap, it is important to track that the changes in mood are a departure from baseline functioning. Therefore, the presence of social withdrawal in a child with AS or HFA should not be considered a symptom of depression unless there is an acute decline from that child's baseline level of functioning.

The core symptoms of depression should arise together. Therefore, the simultaneous appearance of symptoms (e.g., decreased energy, further withdrawal from interactions, irritability, loss of pleasure in activities, sadness, self-deprecating statements, sleep and appetite changes, etc.) would point to depression.

Children and teens on the autism spectrum who display affective and vocal monotony are at higher risk for having their remarks minimized. They can make suicidal statements in a manner that suggests an off-hand remark without emotional impact. When comments are made this way, parents may underestimate them. In young people with AS and HFA, the content of such comments may be more crucial than the emotional emphasis with which they are delivered.

Drugs that are useful for treatment of depression in children with AS and HFA are serotonin reuptake inhibitors. There also may be indications for considering tricyclic agents with appropriate monitoring of ECG, pulse, and blood pressure. There are no medications that have been shown to be particularly more beneficial for depressive symptoms in children with AS and HFA. Therefore, the decision as to which ones to use is determined by side effect profiles, previous experience, and responses to these medications in other family members.

6. Aggression: Aggression is seldom an isolated problem and is particularly complex in children with AS and HFA. It is important to understand that aggressive 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 aggressive behavior in kids on the spectrum. There are promising biologic models that suggest the behavior arises from alterations in dopaminergic reward mechanisms, and cognitive models suggesting that such acts are an outcome of conditioned learning. Tantrums and physical aggression are often responses to a variety of circumstances and occur in the context of diverse emotions.

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

It is useful to know the circumstances preceding and following aggressive outbursts before selecting a particular medication. For instance, when aggression 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 aggressive behavior.

Unfortunately, the request for drug treatment typically follows a crisis, and the press for a rapid, effective end to the behavior problems may not permit the gathering of much data or discussion. Nonetheless, it is NOT appropriate to “always” begin with one agent or another. Moving to a more “reliable” medication too quickly may mean that the child takes on cardiovascular, endocrinologic, and/or cognitive risks that may be otherwise avoided.

There are reports in support of using serotonin reuptake inhibitors, alpha-adrenergic agonists, beta-blocking agents, mood stabilizers, and neuroleptics for aggressive behavior. When a doctor has the luxury of time, the support of family, and collaboration with staff where the child is attending school, then a drug that is safer, but perhaps takes a longer time to work or is a little less likely to help, can be tried.

In addition to cognitive and behavioral interventions, many children and teens on the autism spectrum are helped by medications (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antipsychotics, stimulants, etc.) to treat the associated problems listed above. Experts agree that the earlier interventions are started, the better the outcome. With increased self-awareness and therapy, most kids and teens learn to cope with the challenges of AS and HFA.

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

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

Crucial Guidelines for Behavior Management: Effective Parenting of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"I need to techniques for dealing with the disruptive and challenging behavior or son on the spectrum has been exhibiting since he has been off school due to the coronavirus!!!"

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often exhibit different forms of challenging behavior. It is crucial that these behaviors are not seen as willful or malicious; instead, they should be viewed as connected to the child’s disorder and treated as such by means of thoughtful parenting techniques, rather than by inconsistent punishment or other disciplinary measures that imply the assumption of deliberate misbehavior.

Specific problem-solving techniques (usually following a verbal rule) may be taught for handling the requirements of frequently occurring, troublesome situations (e.g., involving novelty, intense social demands, frustration, etc.).

Here are some crucial concepts on how to approach behavioral management in the case of children with AS and HFA:

1. Use simple and clear messages. Communicate your expectations to your youngster in a straightforward manner. For children on the autism spectrum, this may require more than just telling them. You may need to use pictures, role playing, or gestures to be sure your youngster knows what she is working toward.

Explain as simply as possible what behaviors you want to see. Also, remember that consistency is key, so make sure that teachers, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, and other caretakers are all on board with your messages.

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

2. To understand your youngster's behavior, you have to understand the factors that affect it — especially his disorder. Thus, try to learn as much about the distinctive medical, behavioral, and psychological factors that affect your child’s development. Talk to other parents of AS and HFA children to help determine if your youngster's challenging behavior is typical or related to his individual challenges.

Sharing experiences will give you a way to measure your expectations and learn which behaviors are related to your youngster's diagnosis, and which are purely developmental. Also, talk to members of your youngster's care team. Read up on the disorder, and ask the doctor about anything you don't understand. In addition, consider joining an online support or advocacy group for parents of children with autism.

3. A list of frequent problematic behaviors (e.g., preservations, obsessions, interrupting, other disruptive behaviors) should be made and specific guidelines devised to deal with them whenever the behaviors arise. These guidelines should be discussed with the AS or HFA child in an explicit, rule-governed fashion, so that clear expectations are set and consistency across adults, settings and situations is maintained.

When listing the problematic behaviors, it is important that these are specified in a hierarchy of priorities, so that the parent and child concentrate on a small number of truly disruptive behaviors.

4. When faced with AS or HFA children who are aggressive and shouting, the parent should keep her face neutral and lower the volume and pitch of her voice. In most cases, these “special needs” children will quieten down to hear what the parent is saying if she remains remarkably calm in the eye of the storm.

5. Keep a behavior journal. Using a journal for recording problematic incidents can help parents to look back and see if there are any patterns or contributing factors. It can also be a good thing to look through with the AS or HFA child herself, talking about both the positives and negatives.

6. Help the child to make choices. There should not be an assumption that he makes informed decisions based on his own set of elaborate likes and dislikes. Rather, he should be helped to consider alternatives of action or choices, as well as their consequences (e.g., rewards and displeasure) and associated feelings. The need for such an artificial set of guidelines is a result of the child’s typical poor intuition and knowledge of self.

7. Encourage your child to establish and maintain friendships. Loneliness is one of the main causes for problematic behavior among AS and HFA children. Thus, try to encourage opportunities for socializing and making friends.

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

8. Encourage independence. It’s easy to do everything for your “special needs” child, including making decisions for her.  Often times, when parents give their child the chance to do more herself and to make her own decisions, behavior improves.

9. Children who have trouble learning respond very well to discipline and structure. But for this to work, moms and dads have to make discipline a priority and be consistent. Correcting children is about establishing standards (e.g., setting a morning routine, establishing dinnertime manners, etc.), and then teaching them how to meet those expectations. AS and HFA children crave this consistency. When they can predict what will happen next in their day, they feel confident and safe.

10. Be assertive, yet calm. Assertive, calm instructions and body language are important assets when dealing with problematic behavior.  Additional emotion from the parent into an already emotional situation only clouds judgments and causes greater confusion.

The most important thing for you to remember is that YOU know your youngster best. You are in the best position to help him overcome challenging behaviors simply by listening and responding on a level that works for him.

Overcoming challenging behavior in an AS or HFA youngster involves changes in parental responses, being prepared, modeling therapeutic principles taught during behavior modification therapy sessions, and being willing to advocate for the best solutions for your youngster.

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

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for July, 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.


Mr. Hutten,
I have watched and read a good chunk of the Living with an Asperger's Partner, and find it unbelievably helpful.  I know that I emailed previously and you were booked as far as your schedule, but if you have anything open up and could offer my husband and I some counseling we would be enormously grateful.

Thank you,


I have a daughter who is nearing three, We suspected that she had seizures, but her eeg and mri were normal. I still believe she has mild seizures, but that's not the point here. She has frequent meltdowns and severe separation anxiety. She obsesses about a specific food, and when we run out, it's major tantrum time. Her food obsession changes frequently so it's impossible to keep it in the house at all times. Most of the foods aren't healthy either. Do I give her another ice cream, or deal with the tantrum that is likely to ensue. I try to strike a balance between setting limits and understanding that she is different than other children and requires more understanding. She recently started occupational therapy. They said she had "lots of red flags" suggesting she was autistic, but the official diagnosis has to come from a doctor or a psychologist. In my heart I know she is autistic. She is very good at problem solving and very strong willed. She has boundless energy then crashes and just wants to rest for awhile. She has a hard time in social situations. She is finally warming up to a few friends outside of our immediate family, but she is not a "play with the group" type of child. I find her doing things or playing in very inefficient ways sometimes. If I try to change the system she has going, she gets upset. I've learned to let it be. Sorry for such a long message, but I'm wondering if your program can help? I'm constantly reading and researching something. I love to learn, especially when it comes to my child and what I can do for her. I work from home as a freelance writer, and there are days (like today) where I find it very difficult to work because she seems to need my attention constantly. I want her to be the best that she can be. I want to raise her with more understanding and love than I recieved growing up. I understand that I have to parent her differently than "normal children", but those waters can be very hard to navigate.



I've been reading and listening to your program for young adults with Aspergers. Our son is almost 21 and currently a student at University of Illinois at Urbana, majoring in Computer Science. He'll be a senior this Fall

He has always had the symptoms of AS but not diagnosed formally. He is very socially immature, can't make friends, prefers to be alone, was bullied and picked on during his primary school years. With some guidance from a psychologist, he was able to graduate from high school with honors and got into a very good college for the field he loves, computer science. But his social skills have not improved while in college.

He has been living on his own in an campus apt for the last 2 years.  He couldn't take living with a roommate. He spends most of his free time in the apt by himself. He seldom socializes as he can't fit in with the kids he likes and doesn't approve of the kids who do accept him.

He has gotten menial jobs on campus but this summer was his first internship at Enova. He was very excited and proud to land this internship. Ian doesn't know he has AS and so the employer didn't have any idea what to expect. Due to his behavior, Ian was fired after only 3 weeks of an 11 week internship. According to the supervisor, Ian wasn't a team player, wasn't empathetic, late to meetings, code was illegible. Ian is a brillliant coder but doesn't like to work in teams. All signs of AS

His supervisor brought him in one day and told Ian about his bad performance and of course Ian had no idea he was performing so badly. He had a meltdown in the office, probably cried and shut down. He was told to go home early and calm down and decide if he wanted to stay or not. Apparently, ian wanted to stay, but then he was 10 mins late for another meeting, and that's when he was fired.  It almost seems like he wanted to be fired.

He let us know he wanted to come home for the summer, but we told him to stay in his campus apt. We told him he had to find another job for the summer, but he's just sent out resumes and not done much else except playing around with a new keyboard, that Dad let him buy with our money

I'm not sure whether we should tell Ian he probably has AS, and to suggest he get tested and give him some websites or specialists to check out so he can work on workplace and social skills.  There are special programs geared towards integrating AS into IT jobs like the one Microsoft and SAP offers. I want him to figure out what he needs to do on his own, But I'm not sure he would know what to do next without some guidance from a therapist or mentor

So, I was wondering what could you offer Ian, as a Life Coach?  I just trying to figure out what we can do without enabling him even more.  Right now, we are paying for college, apt, food, clothes, anything he wants or needs. I think we need to wean him off of relying on us as a source of income to buy everything - so he tries harder to find and keep a job.


I was looking for help because of my aspergers son who is 15 years old. I recently did a no no in your book which is that you said aspergers kids need routine. I brook one of his routine/schedule/activity which was that I promised I would give his internet back but didn't because I saw it going so well that he blew up on me. Since then I've been dealing w/trust issues. I do see where I went wrong w/this but he doesn't seem to forgive me. We had a great bond prior to this where he would eat with me, watch tv, and everything seemed to be the best it could. After this incident, I noticed he views me differently now. As if I'm some lying person and questions everything I say. I do feel like I’m walking on egg shells now and he gives me attitude which I normally don't tolerate as I am that assertive parent but I feel like I lost all points with him.

I am desperately trying to go back to that place I was with him before. he would smile one minute with me and without me doing anything, he would flip the switch. He purposely tells me he knows something but won't tell me. In your book, I know you're saying that's them trying to get control.


I need some advice for my teen.
He is 14 and all of the problems listed are what we struggle with.
His defiance and disrespect has been really challenging.
He does not have common sense when making decisions and has struggled with friendships.
His plea for more independence and his defiance led me to allow him to
travel out of state to his grandparents and work with them for the summer.

After 5 days there he has accidentally lit a fire causing building damage to the family business while
experimenting with matches and gasoline.
He has never been in trouble before, and I have been a very protective mother as well an advocate for him.
He will have to deal with a consequence, and would like to know what you suggest?
Community service or Military camp?
I’m worn out and need some support as he approaches high school in August.
I fear he will have more freedom and get in trouble.

I have sent him to a small private school this past year, and hired multiple
life coach academic tutors as he responds better to them than his parents.

All of this is breaking our budget and I’m out of money and resources so I found you online.
Please help!


Hello Dr.Hutten! My son Hugh is almost eleven. For 9 month he has been a resident at Green Chimneys school in Brewster NY. His unusual behaviour started at age 4.5. His diagnosis within 5 years went from opp.def. disorder to not specified depressive disorder with anxiety as of last month. I suspect that he has Aspergers. The school gives me runaround and the reg. Psy nurse that makes all decisions tells me that they ruled Aspergers out without test.!  I don't know what I should do next. Please help. Sincerely Natasha


Hi Mark,

Thank you so much for your online resource like the e-book, audio and videos. My husband and I feel so confident that we can guide our son, a 13 year old boy with typical Asperger syndrome to the right direction. All of those strategies like the art of saying Yes, Art of saying No, turn on and turn off the intensity, 6 steps to face the unexpected issues work pretty well. 

Here I still need you suggestion to handle  the following specific situations. 

Two days ago, I drove my son to his music class. Of course, on the road he picked his favorite topic ( He always said he doesn't like his younger sister, he just wants a younger brother, not a younger sister. He treated her as we adopted her. He  wants to be the only child and I  should tell everyone I met he is my only child etc. My husband and I tried to avoid talking about his favorite topic, so we told him we don't want to talk about this topic. We treat your younger sister and you equally and so on. It seems it doesn't work. He continued to pick up this topic and tried to convince me(not my husband, he doesn't care my husband treat his younger sister well but he can't tolerate I am close to my daughter) to say that he is my only child. This time, when he talked about this topic in the car, I said " I don't want to talk about this topic and I have  repeated a lot of times that we treat you two equally and fairly. What I care is the progress you made recently, what's your plan for your future. You are smart and you have ability to be successful if you focus on developing yourself. Then he responded that he doesn't want to talk about his future and he will not go to the lesson. Finally he didn't take the lesson even though I drove him to the teacher's house. I don't want to argue with him and immediately I gave him consequence I will not talk to him for three days. My son loves to talk with me and to stay with me, but he also loves to repeat the above topic when he stays with me. Today is the second day since I have not talked to him, he feel so frustrated and he desperately want to speak with me. I told him I will not talk to him until tomorrow since I need one more day to calm down. 

Here is my question. I am not sure how to handle the above topic if he asked me again. Always saying that  I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS TOPIC seems it is not enough to prevent my son not to  mention this topic again.  Tomorrow evening I will put away my poker face and will talk to him again. Here is my thought--I will say, Hi son, I realized that you have the ability not to pick the topic about your younger sister. I am happy.  I don't like what your said two days ago. In our family, Dad and Mom treat your sister and you equally and fairly. Both of you are my kids and we love you two equally. Your past three days' behavior earned me to talk to you again and I don't want to talk with you about this topic again. If you choose to repeat this topic, I will not talk to you for another three days. Do you have any thought or suggestion for me to handle this situation? Please help. 


I'm trying to come up with a behavior contract for my teenage daughter. A month and a half ago she ran away to spend time with an overage boy. She had just gotten grounded for sluffing school and totally lying about trying to get her grades up before the end of the year (She failed 4 out of 8 classes). Anyway, I reported her as a runaway and to avoid being brought home she made false accusations of child abuse. (She did something very similar about a yr ago)  so cps got involved and the allegations didn't even lead to an investigation. I signed over temp custody under the belief that my daughter would b placed somewhere with counceling and supervision. After a month and a half of my daughter pretty much being on vacation at a group home with little supervision I took back custody and we are waiting for an appointment with a couselor in our area. In the mean time, I want to make sure she understands what she did wrong, why she's lost privileges and ensure she's not going to repeat the behavior. Any ideas or suggested websites with free resources would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Mark,

Thank you so very much.  I have been married for twenty years and it has been hell and a struggle for much of it.  We found a counselor that believes this is what we are dealing with.  I read your information on your video links and it is unbelievable how it fits the bill.  FINALLY, something to explain all the chaos and "weirdness" to name a few.  

I was diagnosed with cancer then an auto immune disease recently (past couple of years) and how he coped, took job two states away leaving me with three kids to care for was the breaking point for me.  
My concern is for my general health and well being, as it has always been about him and his needs all these years.  If there was anything reciprocal it seemed only deemed when it benefitted him to a degree. I feel terrible saying that as there is a kindness to him that I believe is what originally attracted me to him.  

I have two 15 year olds and a 12 year (who I believe has a case of Aspergers(milder than his dad as he has had interventions/therapies due to his expressive language issues and dyslexia-he has been incredibly stressful over the years but we are making headway and will continue to do so now that I know about Asperger's) 

I don't know if I want to break up this family, but it is so hard and my health.  I think my 15 year old is more developmentally ahead in many respects.  

Any thoughts is appreciated.  I know you are busy.  He hasn't been told by our marriage counselor (who is delightful) about his thoughts on my husband having Asperger's but he is going to be next week, I believe.  


Good afternoon Mark,

I have some questions for you that I'm hoping you'll be able to help me out with.  My very dear friend, has a 6 year-old boy who displays a lot of the problematic behaviors and issues associated with high functioning Aspergers.  She can't seem to pinpoint how to deal with a lot of these issues and is struggling to connect with her son and figure out how to best combat these issues and connect with him.  My family and I are the only ones that have interacted with her son on almost a daily basis since he was a baby, so this isn't a determination I came at lightly.  

He has been a very bright child since the age of 2, when he started reading on his own.  He has been able to teach himself not only how to read, but play the piano as well.  Yet, he struggles with all of the problems you outlined on your website: 
  • aggression
  • appearing to be "in one's own little world"
  • difficulty regulating social/emotional responses with anger
  • difficulty with transitions
  • excessive anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • odd verbal responses
  • preference for a set routine
  • problems sustaining simple conversations
  • tendency to avoid spontaneous social interactions
  • tendency to be perseverative or repetitive when conversing
  • tendency to over-focus on particular objects or subjects
  • tendency to show very weak skills in interactions

While I'm not an expert, I've realized these behaviors go in line with HFA, but because of the nature of the issue and sensitivity I have refrained from stating what his issue may be.  My friend values and trusts my opinion and knowledge in many areas, but I don't want to jeopardize our friendship in pointing out that her son may have HFA.  

One thing I must point out, is that my friend homeschool's her two boys.  So the issues that arise with her son that potentially has HFA aren't being recognized in a regular school setting.  Other friends and people he comes in contact with through church or play dates just consider him to be extremely bright and quirky.   

How can I best lay out this information to her, in a way that is sensitive and loving?  I have an idea, but wanted to know your thoughts.  I would truly appreciate any input and guidance that you can share with me.  I realize you are very busy, but I'm hoping you can help me, so that I can help my dear friend.


Mr. Hutten,
Your blog has defined problems between myself and my husband to a tee.  We are in Tampa, Florida and could use some serious counseling by someone who understands the Aspie/neurotypical marriage and unique challenges.  We have married eighteen years with many challenges along the way, but I have hit a wall and need some help to sustain the marriage.  Do you offer online counseling to couples?

Thank you so much,


Apologies in advance for this long note, but we have tried so many things and some web research led me to you. I just want to ask you if you think your approach can help before I invest in it (emotionally not financially; the money is not the point). I feel like we keep trying everything we can. I read, I educate myself. My husband and I even attended Total Transformation training sessions and we tried that. We don’t agree on everything, but we try hard to work together. We are at the end of our rope and we just want to help our son and heal this rift in our family.

My son is now 18. He has been incredibly challenging and oppositional since he was about 3 years old. We did both individual and group therapy as he was growing up. The diagnosis was ADHD and/or ODD. There is bipolar in my husband’s family, but we were told you couldn’t really diagnose that until they are older. We tried Adderall at one point when he was in 3rd or 4th grade, but it did not work. It actually slowed him down and made him apathetic and what I’d call “darker” in spirit. At that point, I started to think maybe it was bipolar and he also showed some Asperger’s qualities in terms of relationships/social skills.

He had 504s at school and we did lots of behavior modification through their programs. He stopped counseling when he was in 8th grade because he wasn’t trying, wasn’t working with the therapists and said he didn’t need to go. At his request, he went back to counseling right at the beginning of sophomore year. He said he was having panic attacks. He tried an antidepressant and that seemed to help. It “took the edge off” and he was more approachable. He went for about four months and then said he was fine and went off the antidepressant. He seemed to be coming around and was doing better on all counts: behavior, school, social skills, etc. We still had some incidents, but it felt like we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Going into his senior year, he started out with a 3.4 GPA and hopes of going on to college to become a doctor. He was hanging out with a good group of friends and seemed very happy.

But then he met a girl right before his 18th birthday in October of last year and it all started to crash. I’m not blaming her. She seemed nice enough, but there were no rules at her house and her mom worked two jobs and did not really look out for her. She was kind of on her own and my son started to as he said, “take care of her.” He would drive her to and from work, to school and everywhere she needed to go. He would buy food for her and even take care of her pets (food, paying for going to the vet). But he grew increasingly controlling with her. He spent all is his money and time with her. He started telling her what to wear and who she could talk to. He actually said he “owned” her at one point. They broke up and made up a few times over the past six months. In that time, he started breaking all the rules at home, staying out past curfew or all night saying he “fell asleep” at her house after driving her home from work. He became increasingly disrespectful and even aggressive in tone, words and gestures. His grades started to really slip.

We laid down the rules again and restated consequences in March – up to and including asking him to leave and go out own if he did not want to follow the house rules. We also said we would call the cops or a crisis unit if he threatened us. That seemed to backfire and he got worse. He became angrier and was verbally abusive. He also got physically abusive with me one night in April after I told him to stop badgering his girlfriend. I must admit that I gave his arm a little slap, which was my bad. But he was really going on and on about something, talking over her and not letting her speak. He grabbed my arms and pushed me against our kitchen cabinets. He never did anything like that again, but he has puffed up his chest with his father and “gotten in his face.”

After that incident with me, we told him he needed to see a therapist again if he wanted to continue to live in our home. He agreed. Of course, it takes so long to find someone and to get an appointment that he didn’t start going right away. Then he started skipping school or going in late and racking up detentions. He was disrespectful to one of his teachers and the school office staff. He started getting in trouble and was asked to leave school and stay off school property and not attend any events like graduation. He was failing two classes anyway – English and Phys Ed – and there was no way to pass. The school arranged for me to sign him up for online courses so he could get his diploma.

He and his girlfriend broke up the night before she was to graduate. He went to her house and destroyed things he had bought for her (clothes, stuffed animals and even her graduation gown). Of course she called the police and got a restraining order. Plus, since he entered her house and destroyed property, there are other more serious charges pending and we had to hire a lawyer.

He is in therapy and has been going two times a week since this all happened. I’m not sure if it is helping. He keeps to himself and it is very hard to talk to him. He pushes me away, not physically, but just saying “bye-bye” and shutting his bedroom door. He will not allow me to walk into his room. He gets up and stands in the doorway. He will not do the online courses, so he is not getting his high school diploma. At first he said he was and was having trouble posting work, but I’m pretty sure he was lying. He is paying us back and I told him we need to also set up a payment plan for his legal fees. He is going to his job, but that’s about all. Once in a while, he sees one or two of his old friends. He doesn’t seem to care about his future and says if we don’t want to pay for the lawyer he will go to jail.

FYI, his therapist says he has Borderline Personality Disorder and attachment issues. The descriptions ring true, but he did not suffer abuse and neglect as a child to the best of our knowledge. He did have quite a few caregivers in his early years because we moved and then he was asked to leave a few daycare centers for biting or behavior issues. We were not perfect parents, but we cared for him, we played with him and we loved him. We had lots of family time together. The advice on parenting these RAD kids is overwhelming and much of it is directed to younger kids, but it makes sense in an odd way and helps us understand where he is coming from even though it logically makes no sense to us. In fact, I found your site on a link from a site on RAD.

I share all of this because I want to ask you if you think you can help me.

My husband and I desperately want to understand what is going on with him and get on the same page with something we can do together to help him. Some plan, approach or tactics to help us get our son back, at least to the way he was before when we could talk to him and he would even listen sometimes!


Hi Mark,

First of all, I want to say how thrilled I am that I have stumbled onto your book. I have been frustrated in my 16 year marriage for at least the last ten. I have essentially given up on it.
My husband has not been diagnosed with Aspergers, but I am convinced the he is an Aspie. Everything that has been said on the videos has received a resounding “YES” from me. I am
in that limbo between accepting a dreary marriage and life or leaving my husband.
I can hardly wait to start reading or listening to it. 



Our son is 28 years old and as a child was diagnosed with Aspergers.  We did not receive much help from the medical profession.  While growing up, he had problems getting along with others at school and we had difficulties disciplining his bad behaviour and angry outbursts.  He is very intelligent and has a great interest in computers and electronics. 

Since graduating high school, he has taken a computer networking course at a community college but did not put this to use in the working world.  He has used marijuana heavily in the past which only complicated his life.  He has had problems getting along with family, friends, and coworkers and has gone through many different jobs, mostly working in the restaurant business doing kitchen work.   He has made a lot of bad decisions and doesn't seem to learn from his experiences.  He is not good with money and often has to borrow from us to make ends meet.  He is presently taking a university business course and hopes to start his own business.  I am not sure if this is a realistic goal for him.  He is not good managing finances and doesn't like to plan things out. 

He has moved in and out of our home several times.  While living with us, he could be very critical and unpleasant to live with.  For the sake of my sanity, we cannot allow him to move back.  He has a small apartment and if needed, we help him with the rent.  He just quit his summer( part time during the school year) job working in a restaurant and has plans to open a kiosk working with electronics in the mall.  He has no backup plan on how to support himself.  His credit is bad and I am sure he will be unable to get a loan to start a business.  He is angry with us because we are not supporting him in this venture.   I think it's a bad idea.

My question, is there some place where parents can learn how to deal with this kind of behaviour when the children are all grown up and haven't had the benefit of learning how to socialize and manage their symptoms when they were younger?  There is no way he would acknowledge that he has a problem or go for help.  We have tried several times.


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.

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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...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content