School-Work Problems in Children on the Autism Spectrum

“My 10-year-old son, TJ, is in the 5th grade and has high functioning autism. Every night we get into arguments over schoolwork that causes him to have huge temper tantrum. Two afternoons a week, he has other activities, and by the time we get home, doing his assignments is the last thing he feels like doing. The other three days, we argue about whether he should do his homework right after school or if he should have some time to relax and play first. When TJ finally sits down to study, he wants me there helping all the time. I do want to help him, but I know at some point he is going to need to be able to do it on his own, and I have other things I need to be doing. Also, most of the time he doesn’t even remember what assignments he’s supposed to be working on. I’m really confused about this issue and what my role is. Got any ideas?”

A major cause of anguish for children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) – and their parents – is the substandard completion of school work. These young people often have a negative reaction to the mere thought of completing assigned tasks. There are two explanations for this: (1) their degree of anxiety and mental fatigue during the school day, and (2) their cognitive profile.

1. Anxiety and Mental Fatigue—

Parents and teachers need to recognize the degree of anxiety experienced by HFA kids as the signs can become evident in their behavior and mood. The indicators of anxiety may not be noticeable at school, but the youngster may behave very differently at home. He may be quiet and obedient in the classroom, but may become intolerant and hostile immediately after he returns home.

School refusal or walking out of school can be a sign of unbearable anxiety. Other kids on the autism spectrum may express the signs of stress at school through episodes of extreme anger and explosive behavior (e.g., meltdowns). Others may simply “shut down” and become somewhat depressed.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kids with HFA and AS who are having problems learning the “social curriculum” and coping with the anxiety of school usually want a clear division between home and school. Their general view is "school is for work, and home is for fun." Thus, the prospect of interrupting their fun and relaxation at home with school work is unacceptable to them – and is a source of ongoing conflict.

2. Cognitive Profile—

Kids with HFA have an uncommon profile of cognitive skills that must be recognized and accommodated when it comes to school work. One feature of the profile is impaired executive function. The profile is similar to that of kids with ADD, for example:
  • a need for supervision, guidance, and determining what is relevant and redundant
  • an unusual profile on standardized tests of intelligence, especially with regard to verbal and visual intelligence
  • difficulty generating new ideas
  • difficulty planning, organizing and prioritizing
  • poor time perception and time management
  • poor working memory
  • tendency to be impulsive and inflexible when problem solving

Some kids on the spectrum are “verbally-oriented” and have a relative strength in reading, vocabulary and verbal concepts, while others are “visually-oriented” (a picture is worth a thousand words).

Tips for Parents and Teachers—

The following strategies are designed to minimize the impaired executive function, accommodate the profile of cognitive skills, and help HFA kids complete their school work assignments with less anxiety, both at home and school:

1. When it comes to school work, the HFA youngster may have difficulty getting started or knowing what to do first. Procrastination can be an issue, and the child’s mother or father may have to supervise the start of the school work.

2. Once the youngster has started his work, this is not the end of the supervision. The parent will also need to be available if the youngster requires assistance when he is confused and to ensure that he has chosen the appropriate learning strategy.

3. There can be a tendency for kids on the autism spectrum to have a closed mind to alternative strategies. A technique to show that there is more than one line of thought is to provide the youngster with a list of alternative strategies to solve the particular problem. The youngster may need to know there is a plan ‘B’.
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

4. If the assignment takes several days to complete, it is important that the educator regularly reviews the youngster’s rough drafts and progress, which also increases the likelihood that it will be completed on time.

5. The area where the youngster performs her school work must be conducive to concentration and learning. It’s helpful to have appropriate seating, lighting and removal of any distractions. The distractions can be visual (e.g., the presence of toys or television), which are a constant reminder of what the youngster would rather be doing, or auditory distraction (e.g., the noise from electrical appliances or the chatter of siblings). Ensure that the desk only has equipment relevant to the task. The child’s working environment must also be safe from curious brothers and sisters.

6. Teaching a youngster with HFA requires special skills and the mother or father is not expected to have those skills. As a parent, you are also more emotionally involved than a teacher, and it can be difficult for you to be objective and emotionally detached. One option is to hire a tutor to provide the skilled guidance and supervision.

7. Special consideration should be given to the youngster’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. If the youngster’s relative strength is in visual reasoning, then flow diagrams, mind maps, and demonstrations will enhance his understanding. If the child’s strength is in verbal skills, then written instructions and discussion using metaphors (especially metaphors associated with his special interest) will be helpful.

8. The use of a computer is helpful, especially for those kids who have problems with handwriting. Sometimes the mother or father can act as a secretary, typing the material for the youngster and proof reading his answers. School work can be a collaborative rather than solitary activity. Note: parents are not being over-protective here, they just know that without their involvement, the work would not be done.

9. Consider allowing the HFA youngster to complete her school work at school. It can be undertaken at lunchtime and before or after classes in their home class or the school library. However, the child will still require supervision and guidance from a teacher or assistant. In high school, some autistic teens have been able to graduate taking fewer subjects and the extra time available in the school day dedicated to school work.

10. One characteristic of kids on the spectrum is the difficulty explaining their reasoning using speech. For example, the youngster may provide the correct solution to a math problem, but not be able to use words to explain how she achieved the answer. Her cognitive strategies may be unconventional and intuitive rather than deductive. The parent or teacher may need to accept the child’s correct solution, even if the logic is somewhat unclear.

11. Kids with HFA and AS often enjoy having access to a computer and may be more able to understand the subject matter if it is presented on a computer screen. Material presented by a real person adds a social and linguistic dimension to the situation, which can increase the youngster’s confusion and anxiety. Educators should consider adapting the school work so that a considerable proportion of the work is conducted using a computer. Word processing facilities – especially graphics, grammar and spell check programs – are invaluable in improving the legibility and quality of the finished product.

12. Kids on the spectrum are notorious for their difficulty coping with frustration, criticism, and their emotions. They can become quite agitated when confused or when making a mistake. The parent or teacher will need to be available to model calmness and to help the youngster remain composed and logical.

13. A small digital recorder used for dictation can provide a record of the educator’s spoken instructions regarding what assignments are to be completed, and the youngster can add her own comments or personal memo to the recording to remind her of key information. 

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

14. If regular breaks are necessary to promote concentration, the work can be divided into segments to indicate how much work the youngster has to complete before he can take a momentary break. The usual mistake made by parents and teachers is to expect too much prolonged concentration.

15. A timer can be used to remind the youngster how much time is remaining to complete each section of school work. It is also important to ensure that time scheduled for the work does not coincide with the youngster’s favorite television program, for example. If it does, she may be able to record the show and watch it later.

16. A school work diary or planner can help the youngster remember which books to take home and the specific school work for each evening. Also, a diary (perhaps with stickers and other decorations) may make homework less unappealing to the youngster.

17. A daily school work timetable can be made by the mother or father with guidance from the educator to define the expected duration and content of each assignment. This can be extremely helpful if there are problems with the youngster’s allocation of time to each school work component. Sometimes the work can take hours when the teacher intended only several minutes on a specified task.

18. Lastly, if all these techniques are unsuccessful, consider allowing the HFA youngster to be exempted from doing school work. If the strategies outlined above are unsuccessful or unable to be implemented, then forget about school work. Sometimes this advice is a great relief to the youngster, his mother and father – and the educator!

In conclusion, here are some simple bullet points regarding schoolwork-related problems that parents and teachers will need to remember:
  • Be available for help (this doesn’t mean you must be there beside your child every moment).
  • Be consistent about what time of day the work will be done.
  • Be patient when your child makes the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe he needs to be taught using a different approach.
  • Be realistic in your expectations on how much time it will take. Remember, this is all new for a younger child, and she is just beginning to build her logic and knowledge base.
  • Don’t do problems or assignments FOR your child.
  • Have everything the youngster will need ready before he starts.
  • If the youngster has lots of work, ask her what she would like to start with. This small gesture helps the youngster gain some control over an activity she doesn't like.
  • If your child can’t do his homework at school, he might need to unwind and relax when he first comes home, instead of launching straight into work. 
  • If your child finds it difficult to do homework at home, check to see if he can do it at school instead.
  • If your child has more than one piece of homework, it may be useful to ask the teacher to either make sure your child has written down the homework in his diary – or write it in for him. 
  • Keep the homework-routine predictable and simple. 
  • Keep the work time as quiet as you can.
  • Remember that disorganization is a problem for most kids on the spectrum. Thus, the best assistance you can provide would be in the area of teaching organization skills.
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes, and when it dings, tell your youngster to take a quick break to stretch or get a drink of water.
  • Use a reward system (e.g., the completion of all assignments is rewarded with an extra 15 minutes of computer-game time later that evening).



Parents with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Part 1

Many parents with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience significant difficulties in parenting -- especially if one their children is also on the autism spectrum. Even though the challenges experienced by moms and dads on the spectrum are significant, these challenges are not well understood in the child welfare community. This is in part due to the fact that the AS or HFA parent is able to parent adequately on many fronts, yet he or she is invisibly "disabled" (i.e., the disorder is not readily apparent to the observer). 

Many AS and HFA parents are relatively high functioning in the workplace, but struggle raising their children due to social skills deficits. As any mother or father can tell you, parenting involves a great deal of social expertise, conflict-resolution skills, empathy, listening skills, stress-management, and effective disciplinary techniques -- just to name a few.

Proper parenting is a monumental task that involves (a) providing emotional, relational and financial support, (b) guidance, (c) nurturing, (d) teaching, (e) short and long-term planning. It is a challenge even for parents who have not been diagnosed with a disorder.

Problems in parenting are the result of some of the traits associated with AS and HFA (e.g., weak central coherence, poor cognitive shifting, lack of a theory of mind, etc.) -- not the result of poor parenting skills. While these parents do suffer from significant neurological deficits that can be mistaken as poor parenting, these deficits have more to do with how their brain is wired. They must not be viewed as "bad" parents, rather parents who struggle with a disorder that can affect their parenting abilities.

Most moms and dads with AS and HFA work very hard to understand their kids -- and are eager to parent in their kid’s best interests. But, due to the challenges associated with the disorder, they often fall short. This, in turn, can create a lot of guilt and frustration in the parent who may be viewing herself or himself as a "failure." 

Unfortunately, when these parents begin to experience significant parent-child conflict, they rarely seek outside assistance in the form of parent education. Instead, they may continue parenting in a rather immature and haphazard manner, which often results in their children parenting themselves and/or growing up too  quickly (i.e., they become little adults who appear much older than they are). 

Autistic parents who continue making the same parenting mistakes over and over do so because they lack insight into their disorder and how it impacts their role as a parent. To make matters even more difficult, many moms and dads on the spectrum have a youngster with similar profiles to their own and who are a huge challenge to them. 


Rett Syndrome and Asperger's in Girls

“What causes Rett syndrome, and is it a fairly common disorder that occurs alongside Asperger syndrome? Also, what are the treatment options?"

Rett syndrome is relatively rare, affecting almost exclusively females, one out of 10,000 to 15,000. After a period of normal development (usually between 6 and 18 months), autism-like symptoms begin to appear. The little girl's mental and social development regresses. For example, she no longer responds to her mom or dad and pulls away from any social contact. If she has been talking, she stops. She can’t control her feet, and she wrings her hands. Some of the problems associated with Rett syndrome can be treated. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help with problems of coordination, movement, and speech.

Scientists sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have discovered that a mutation in the sequence of a single gene can cause Rett syndrome. This discovery may help doctors slow or stop the progress of the syndrome. It may also lead to methods of screening for Rett syndrome, thus enabling doctors to start treating these kids much sooner, and improving the quality of life these kids experience.

Symptoms of Rett syndrome include:
  • child may have long fits of laughter
  • child may become tense and irritable as she gets older
  • child may cry or scream for long periods of time
  • no language skills
  • problems with hand movements
  • problems with muscles and coordination
  • slowed growth
  • symptoms usually don’t improve over time
  • trouble with breathing

The best options available to treat Rett syndrome include:
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Good nutrition
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy 
  • Speech therapy
  • Standard medical care and medication
  • Supportive services

Also, medication can treat some of the problems with movement and help control seizures.

Rett syndrome is a progressive, neurodevelopmental Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger's is also an Autism Spectrum Disorder related to development. While Rett syndrome symptoms usually center around the inability to perform motor functions, Asperger's symptoms have more to do with social skills deficits, as well as language and communication impairment. 


Helping Kids on the Autism Spectrum to “Fit-In” with Their Peer Group

"My 10 year old HF Autistic/Aspie doesn't have many friends, and when he's home he doesn't have any at all. He likes to be by himself playing video games with his online friends, which is very few as well. This has been the most difficult part of raising a child with autism. It is not made easier by teachers that damage fragile self-esteem and school boards and clubs that are exclusivist. I've found it to be heartbreaking. I often have to remind my son to talk about what other kids want to talk about and to play games others want to play. He often forgets this give-and-take aspect of friendships. He recently lost his best friend. The friend couldn't take the screaming, crying, yelling, controlling, bossiness and lack of reciprocity. My son takes things very literally and thinks with his heart. It is difficult for him to focus on more than one friend. He simply speaks on and on obsessively about his video games. I don't know what to do."

Young people with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) usually want to fit-in and have relationships with friends and classmates, but they just don’t know how to do so effectively. They lack an understanding of conventional social rules and often “appear” to lack empathy. In order to improve socialization, these “special needs” kids need to learn and focus on socialization from an “intellectual” standpoint. Things that come naturally for children without autism need concentration by those with it.

The ability to navigate everyday social interactions presents significant challenges for kids on the autism spectrum. Social situations that present difficulties can range from the fairly simple (e.g., engaging in a conversation with a peer) to the extremely complex (e.g., determining whether a peer who seems friendly is actually harmful in some way). 

Examples of important social skills to be taught to HFA children include (but are not limited to):
  • maintaining appropriate eye contact
  • decoding body language and facial expressions
  • demonstrating empathy
  • determining appropriate behavior for different social situations
  • determining appropriate topics for conversation
  • determining whether someone is trustworthy
  • identifying one's feelings
  • interacting with authority figures
  • learning how to begin and end conversations
  • maintaining appropriate personal space
  • making appropriate choices
  • recognizing the feelings of others
  • resolving conflicts
  • self-monitoring skills
  • social-perception skills
  • taking turns
  • understanding gestures
  • understanding community norms

Watch this video on teaching social skills: 

Here are some crucial strategies that parents and teachers can employ that will assist the child on the autism spectrum in finding – and maintaining – successful interpersonal relationships with others:

Tips for Parents:

1. Work with a speech pathologist that will evaluate and offer help with language. Even though your HFA youngster may speak perfectly, learning “social language” is often necessary. Learning eye contact from a speech pathologist, for example, is an important skill.

2. Work with a psychologist or counselor to teach and improve social skills. Therapies often teach children on the spectrum to recognize potential problem situations. In addition, these professionals teach and practice strategies with “special needs” children so they can handle most challenging situations.

3. Utilize role-play at home prior to any type of excursion. Role-play allows the child to image all of the various scenarios that could happen. Then, teach strategies for dealing with situations that are difficult.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

4. Reduce anxiety for your child whenever possible. Keep the rest of his life structured and organized, and ensure that the environment is a positive and rewarding one. This allows him to focus on social interactions without concern about other difficulties.

5. In school and other social situations, HFA children will perform best with a parent's aid. Find a friend for your child at school that he knows and can work with. Your youngster may eventually learn from the friend regarding “how to interact.”

6. Help your child get involved in sports and extracurricular activities. Through practice, kids and teens on the spectrum can learn to be socially positive.

7. Encourage socialization from a young age by bringing other kids into your home. With supervision, allow play dates to be teaching moments. For example, the parent can say something like, "See how Michael has his hand outstretched? That means he wants to say hello with a handshake. Shake his hand."

8. During the teenage years, dating is often difficult. Encourage adolescents to go out with friends and to date. It may take practice, but they will learn social skills with each outing.

9. Communicate with pictures. To teach HFA children to be social, incorporate picture stories into their daily lives. This is important for difficult subjects (e.g., sharing and communicating feelings). The stories should communicate how to handle the situation.

10. Use games or role-play to focus on the viewpoint of another person. This can include simply looking at pictures of children or adults interacting or working together or sharing some activity, and asking what is happening or what a given individual is doing, and what he may be thinking.

11. Use a video of a situation to illustrate behavior that is inappropriate in, for example, causing irritation to other children. Then discuss why. Also, make a video of the child himself and discuss where there are incidents of good social behaviors.

12. Provide direct advice about when and for how long your child may go on about a favorite topic, perhaps with the use of a signal by which to indicate when to stop (or not to start). If obsessive talking appears to mask some anxiety, seek to identify its source or teach general relaxation techniques. Also, provide positive feedback when your child is not talking incessantly about his given topic of interest.

13. Provide direct instruction of social rules or conventions (e.g., how to greet somebody, how to initiate a conversation, taking turns in a conversation, maintaining appropriate eye contact, when someone is joking, how to recognize how someone else is feeling, etc.).

14. Create a series of cartoon faces with clearly drawn expressions indicating anxiety, anger, sadness, surprise, etc. Then have your HFA child identify the various feelings and guess what caused them.

15. Model social skills for your child to observe, or view and discuss a video-tape of two people talking or playing, including reference to any non-verbal messages which can be discerned.

1. The establishment of a "buddy" system or a system where the HFA student is encouraged to observe how other students behave in particular situations is helpful.

2. Provide specific and structured activities for the “special needs” student that are to be shared with one or two selected classmates. These can range from some jobs to be completed in the school during break or lunch time, games involving turn-taking, or tasks or mini-projects to be completed on the computer.

3. Provide direct teaching of what to do (or what not to do) in certain challenging situations (e.g., when the teacher is irritated either with the HFA student – or with the entire group).

4. Provide a visual timetable plus bulletins of any innovations so there is no uncertainty about the day's routine.

5. Make use of the "Circles of Friends" approach designed to identify (social) difficulties, and to set targets and strategies by which other students in the class can be helpful and supportive, with the long term aim of increasing social integration and reducing anxiety.

6. In the classroom setting, instructions should be very precise with no opportunity to misunderstand what is expected. It may be necessary to follow-up group instructions with individual instructions rather than assuming that the HFA student has understood what is needed or can learn "incidentally" from watching what other students do.

7. In a group setting, adopt the “circle-time” strategy of limiting verbal contributions to whoever is in possession of some object (while ensuring that the object circulates fairly among the whole group).

8. Identify particular skills in the HFA student and invite him to offer some help to another student who is less advanced (e.g., with the use of the computer).

9. Help your HFA student to recognize his symptoms of distress with a "script" by which to try relaxation strategies, or have in place a system where it is acceptable for the student briefly to remove himself from the class as necessary.

10. Have the autistic student’s peers model social skills. A “buddy” can also be encouraged to be the partner of the autistic student in games, showing how to play and offering or seeking help if he is teased.

11. Have a regular time slot for support from an adult in terms of feedback concerning (social) behavior, discussing what is going well and less well, and why – and enabling the “special needs” student to express concerns or versions of events.

12. Encourage participation in school clubs or organized/structured activities during the lunchtime.

13. Allow some practice of talking at a reasonable volume and pace with an agreed signal to be given if it is too loud or fast, or tape-record the student’s speech so that he can evaluate the volume and pace himself.

14. Show the HFA or AS student – and his classmates – a hand signal that the classmates can use when they are tired of listening to him talk about his topic of interest. Also, agree to a later time and place for responding to the autistic student’s repeated questioning about a particular topic of interest.

15. A clarity and explicitness of rules in the classroom to minimize uncertainty and to provide the basis for tangible rewards should be implemented.

Having friends provides support and promotes mental health and well-being. Friendships are also very important for social and emotional development. Through friendships, kids learn how to relate to others. They develop social skills as they teach each other how to be good friends. Young people on the autism spectrum who have friends are more likely to be self-con๏ฌdent and perform better academically. When these “special needs” kids have difficulty making friends or keeping them, it often leads to feeling lonely and unhappy with themselves. Feeling rejected by others often leads to significant distress, too.

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

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

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


•    Anonymous said… A puppy or kitty it a frog whatever interests him. Don't try to change him.
•    Anonymous said… Are there social skills groups on your area?
•    Anonymous said… As a parent, this is the hardest part for me. It doesn't seem to bother my 15 year old, who perceives himself as having friends. I worry about what's going to happen when he's out of HS and has less social opportunities.
•    Anonymous said… Following...we're going through the same thing
•    Anonymous said… Get in touch with the national autistic society they have all the details of local support groups.
•    Anonymous said… He sounds just like my son.He is obsessed over his video games.
•    Anonymous said… I can so relate!
•    Anonymous said… I know it's hard to deal with my daughter has the same issues and yes the school is making things very hard and I am ready to get a lawyer and say the he'll with it.
•    Anonymous said… I think we all have to face reality that our asd kids reality will not ever be ours and accept that. aspies have organized groups now online etc and that will grow so that will have friendships of like minded people. For lower functioning kods....i just dont know. It will take the parents to develop a group or vision of what is needed and provide it.
•    Anonymous said… I understand ur frustration.
•    Anonymous said… I'm less worried about with my kids as I was the same. If they socialise or even go to clubs, great, but otherwise they need the head space to recover from the very social aspects of school. A few good friends is better than actives of acquaintances anyway.
•    Anonymous said… It is very difficult my 13 year old son says his xbox and online friends are his social life and when he has to go out of the house we are ruining is social life he will say some days he can be compliant some days he can be cross with us but mostly moans about when we going home etc ... the computer games are like thier way of escape and relaxing like us wanting to have that glass of wine or go 4 that walk whatever people do to relax .a balance is not always possible and every autistic person is different in how much they can cope with outside the computer world my son likes educational historical places so days out at places of interest can gage him for a while but the xbox will always be mentioned
•    Anonymous said… Just let him be himself. He's safe playing his games but maybe be his best friend and take him out just you and him for walks in nature. Maybe get him a pet to care for. Pets help the aspire child connect to feelings and it brings out something golden in these kids.
•    Anonymous said… Limiting the screen time, balancing it with a more neutral family occasion, then arranging a play date (at least try) would work a bit.
•    Anonymous said… My 7 year old wants a friend so bad. He has a sister that is 20 months older that really is his only and best friend. He is so social, but typically dominates conversation with what he is interested in.
•    Anonymous said… My boy is the same, I chose home schooling and I've never looked back, he has improved so much in the last two years and is now allowed to be himself.
•    Anonymous said… My son is 19 today. He's had one friend all his life. One. And he didn't even go to the same school. Somehow, when he hit 17, he started making more friends but I never worried about it. One was all he needed!
•    Anonymous said… So for all of those parents worried about their kids obsession it's video games, it is a serious problem for these teens. They get addicted to the virtual worlds they play in. They are much more sensitive and susceptible and we had to take our son completely off of it and it was very hard at first with his behavior getting aggressive but it is worth it.  ๐Ÿ˜‰
•    Anonymous said… So hard to let them do the computer and online games...yet you understand it is a part of them.
•    Anonymous said… That's my boy too!
•    Anonymous said… The behavior is so hard to deal with...i need a support group for parents. Can anyone direct me on how to find one?
•    Anonymous said… We have the same problem but the lifeline for us has been at the Comic book store where they run a Pokemon club, they're all the same and he fits right in! Try it  ๐Ÿ˜Š
•    Anonymous said… You Re not alone ! All my son wants to do.

Post your comment below…


The Struggles of Adolescence: Help for Young People on the Autism Spectrum

“My 18 y.o. with Asperger syndrome (high functioning) is on my last nerve. He has been on in-school detention all week. Now he’s getting into trouble there too and is about to receive an out-of-school suspension. He simply doesn’t care anymore, and honestly, I think he is trying to get kicked out of school. He comes home and goes straight to his room for the rest of the evening to play online gaming (he will come out occasionally to eat a snack, but won’t eat dinner with the rest of us). He’s rude and hateful to me and his younger brother. I am at my wits end. No idea where I went wrong with this child. He has no friends to speak of, seems depressed and moody all time, and has even said he wished he wasn’t alive. I really have doubts that he will make it in the adult world at this point. He has already said he will not go to college or trade school. And he has never had an interest in working a part-time job so far. Please help!”

First of all, there is much more going on here than simple rebellion or defiance. Your son’s misbehavior is a symptom of some underlying factor(s). For example, many teens spend the entire school day under duress from peer-rejection, teasing and bullying. So, when they return home, some will take their frustration out on a “soft target” (in your case, his younger brother perhaps) as a way to discharge negative emotions. Also, some teens on the autism spectrum would love nothing more than to get kicked out of school due to (a) the mismatch between their educator’s teaching style and their individual learning style (most autistic teens learn visually), or (b) an unfriendly classroom environment that bombards and overloads their senses (most autistic teens have sensory sensitivities, such as sensitivity to excess noise, crowded hallways, smells from the cafeteria, and so on). Thus, the root cause(s) of the “misbehavior” needs to be uncovered before behavioral change can happen.

Adolescence is the most difficult time for teenagers with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS). Young people on the spectrum typically become more isolated socially during a period when they crave friendships and acceptance more than ever. In the harsh world of middle and high school, they often face rejection, isolation and bullying. Meanwhile, school becomes more demanding in a period when they have to compete for college placements. So, who wouldn’t be acting-out under these circumstances?

Most autistic teenagers struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet. The causes of these struggles (e.g., social, communication and behavioral problems, sensory issues, etc.) can create the desire for isolation. They can easily drop into a lonely state of depression and/or anxiety, making the original problems much worse. Thus, helping the teen to boost his self-esteem and level of confidence is paramount.

So what can parents do to help their “special needs” adolescent? Below are some crucial tips for helping HFA and AS teens survive - and thrive - during the rough teenage years:

1. With or without an autism spectrum disorder, most teenagers become less willing to take a parent’s word or advice. Therefore, try to hook your teen up with other trustworthy adults. If you want him to learn or try to do something outside of his comfort zone (e.g., something other than playing video games all day), then arrange for the suggestion or information to come from a trusted adult other than you. Look for other good mentors (e.g., an uncle, scout or youth group leader, peer mentor, “Big Brother,” social skills group leader, coach or martial arts teacher, etc.).

2. Teenagers on the autism spectrum need developmentally-appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch your teen, not the calendar. Try to get inside his head. Also, be prepared to run out of patience. Create your own back-up plan for when this happens (e.g., YOU take a time-out).

3. View “misbehavior” as a signal of needs. Everything your teen does tells you something about what he needs.

4. There are going to be occasions when negative consequences become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.), but they should always be immediate, definite, and relevant. Teens with autism tend not to perceive cause-and-effect and are likely to have short memories, so prolonged consequences not only lose their impact, but also their effectiveness.

5. The “transition plan” (which needs to be part of your teen’s IEP) should address the skills that your teen needs to acquire while in high school, in order to be prepared for the kind of independent life he wants to lead after graduation. Many high schools are unfamiliar with transition planning. The more you know as a mom or dad, the more you will be able to ensure that a solid transition plan is written and carried out.

6. Although most teenagers with HFA/AS are more child-like than their “typical” peers, be prepared to tolerate and/or ignore considerable distancing, hostility, or acting-out – knowing that it won’t last forever. At the same time, set some firm limits, and keep a close eye on your teen’s anxiety level and depression.

7. List the behaviors that you feel are most deserving of attention. This is an important step, because some behaviors may need intervention or therapy in order to be eliminated rather than simple disciplinary tactics. Odd self-soothing behaviors are common in autistic teens with sensory processing issues, and they can be easily replaced with more appropriate ones.

8. Teach laundry and other self-care/home-care skills by small steps over time. Also, try to get your teenager to take an elective at school (e.g., cooking, personal finance, etc.).

9. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important source of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for your teenager.

10. Some teenagers on the spectrum adjust to high school with appropriate supports and accommodations. However, others just can’t handle a large, impersonal academic setting that exists in high school. You may need to hire an advocate to negotiate with the school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

11. Seek out social skills groups designed especially for teenagers with autism. Participating in such a group and being accepted by group leaders and peers is probably the most powerful way to alleviate your teenager’s potential despair at not fitting-in socially and not having any friends. The positive social experiences and new skills he learns will be assets for the rest of his life.

12. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to monitor your teenager’s progress, to ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out, and to modify it if necessary. Because teenagers on the spectrum can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in 4 short years of high school, these meetings are crucial. If your child is doing very well, the team can agree to skip a month, but be sure to reconvene to plan the transition to the following year.

13. Reading body language and understanding sweeping generalizations can be quite frustrating for autistic teens. Thus, they usually benefit from systematic social training in which they are given the chance to role play, study body cues and language, and practice interpreting new signals that may not have been evident in early childhood.

14. Not all teenagers on the spectrum are ready for a residential college experience right after high school. To decide, use the evidence of how your teen did at sleep-away camp or similar samplings of independence, and look carefully at executive function skills (e.g., organizational skills). As an alternative, community colleges offer a lot of flexibility (e.g., easy admission, low cost, remedial courses if necessary, the option of a light course load, the security of living at home, etc.). Some college disability offices are more successful than others at providing effective, individualized support. However, if your teenager is living at home, you may be able more easily to sense trouble, step in with help, or secure supports he needs to succeed.

15. Make sure thorough neuropsychological re-evaluations are performed every 3 years. This information and documentation may be critical in (a) securing appropriate services, (b) alternative school placements, (c) a good transition plan, (d) choosing an appropriate college or other post-secondary program, and (e) proving eligibility for services and benefits as a grown-up.

16. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for learning disabled teenagers, but may not realize your high-functioning autistic teen needs that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet his needs.

17. Look for opportunities for a sheltered, successful overnight stay away from home with no parent (e.g., long weekend visits to relatives, a week or two of a carefully chosen sleep-away camp, taking a course on a college campus, etc.).

18. Instill the essential habit of a daily shower and clean clothes. Peers, teachers, and future potential employers are very put-off by poor hygiene. If possible, put your teenager’s clothes on a well-organized shelf in the bathroom near the clothes hamper.

19. In adolescence, communication becomes complicated as teenagers invent words, signs, and body language to discreetly talk with a friend. For a youngster with HFA/AS who has been struggling just to understand common social cues, this change can be frustrating and incredibly difficult to understand. The best scenario is when language is "concrete and definite." Teenage conversations that use shortened terms or lingo are going to be very difficult for a young person on the spectrum.

20. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the HFA/AS teenager to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, calendars, etc.).

21. If your teenager seems like a good candidate for college, take him to visit colleges during the spring vacation weeks of the junior year of high school, or during the summers before junior and senior year. Visits reveal a lot about what environment your teenager will prefer. Also, purchase a large college guide to browse.

22. If you have not yet made a will and set up a special needs trust, do it now. Ask your lawyer about powers of attorney or other documents you may need once your teenager is no longer a minor. Few moms and dads assume guardianship of a young adult 18 or older, but it may be necessary and appropriate in some situations.

23. If you have not talked to your teenager about his disorder, you or someone else should do so (to the extent that he is ready to hear it). It’s tricky for teenagers on the spectrum – they so much want to be “normal” and strong and successful. A diagnosis can seem threatening or even totally unacceptable. In truth, however, adults on the spectrum who do best are those who know themselves well – both their own strengths (which point them toward finding their niche in the world) and their own blind spots (where they need to learn new skills or seek out specific kinds of help).

24. If both parents can agree about their HFA or AS teenager’s diagnosis, treatment, and rules, it will save a lot of family wear and tear. To get your spouse on the same page, attend autism conferences or classes together. When you hear the same information, you can discuss it and decide what will work best for your teenager and in your family. As you learn more about autism spectrum disorders, you may also come to better appreciate each other’s contributions to your youngster’s welfare. Attend team meetings at the school together, or alternate which parent attends. Also, seeing your teen’s therapist together (possibly without the youngster), or seeing a couples or family therapist may help you weather a tough time together.

25. Have realistic, modest goals for what your teenager or the family can accomplish in a given time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, for example.

26. Go with the flow of your youngster’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If your teenager only likes plain T shirts without collars or buttons, buy plain T shirts. If he likes familiar foods, or has a favorite restaurant, indulge him.

27. Multiple stressors during adolescence often bring on anxiety and even depression in teens on the spectrum. Stressors may include increased academic/abstract thinking and social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, and fears of the future. Anxious teenagers who do not get help may be at risk for school failure, acting-out, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide attempts.

28. Consider delaying graduation in order to ensure that transition services are actually provided under DOE. It may be hard to convince an academically gifted, college bound student to accept this route. However, it may be very helpful for autistic students who will need a lot of help with independent living skills and employment issues. Services need not be delivered within high school walls. Community college courses, adaptive driving lessons, and employment internships are just a few alternatives to consider.

29. Build and use any support networks you can (e.g., extended family, close friends, church/synagogue groups, an understanding school staff, etc.). If you don’t have a good network, consider individual or family therapy for a little support during a stormy, demanding life passage. When you have a demanding teenager, it’s good to be reminded once a week that your needs and feelings are valid and important, too!

30. Remember that teenagers with HFA/AS are relatively immature - both socially and emotionally - compared to “typical” teens of the same chronological age. Adjust your expectations for your teen, and make sure he has appropriate supports. 

31. Teenagers with HFA/AS are less prepared than “typical” teens for the new challenges of sexuality and romance. Many teens on the spectrum want a girl or boy friend, but are clueless about how to form and maintain a relationship. Autistic males may be at risk for accusations of harassment, and autistic females may be at risk for becoming victims. Teach appropriate rules. Look for supervised activities in which boys and girls can socialize safely together, supervised by a staff person who can coach appropriate social skills.

32. For a teenager with HFA/AS, friendships can be a struggle. Your youngster may not understand social cues, and may not know how to be someone's friend. He may feel the typical feelings of a first crush, but be uncertain on how to act on it. Social training can help these young people to understand social cues, slang, and meet other teens who feel similarly about how to deal with new friends. In these social trainings, teenagers can be taught how to listen, and how listening and reacting appropriately can lead to stronger bonds. Also, you should try to explicitly explain what the act of flirting is (e.g., by pointing it out on a TV show or movie).

33. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever. Regular routines of all kinds (e.g., familiar foods, rituals, vacations, etc.) are reassuring when the autistic teenager’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast. Keeping your teen’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He will know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.

34. Using your teenager’s special interests - both at home and at school - can generate positive responses in many situations. For instance, a 14-year-old's love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train-themed dinnerware - or even themed foods - can be used to entice the reluctant eater.

In conclusion, young people with HFA and AS bring their special flavor to adolescence. Some will not avoid interacting with others. They are eager to communicate (though often in a clumsy, in-your-face way). The level of their insight into their social skills deficits will then become the determining factor of their social success. If they are unaware of their shortcomings in gauging the social atmosphere and reading social cues, they may inadvertently come across as rude, insulting or boring. They may miss subtle criticism and sarcasm. As they develop better insight, they will become more motivated to learn, which had not come naturally and intuitively.

In the social development of HFA and AS teens who show some interest in peer interactions, social anxiety and resultant avoidance play an important role. Some of these young people get very nervous just with the thought of approaching others and may choose to avoid it at all costs. Their avoidance may appear as if they are not interested in others. It is important to differentiate this since anxiety can be treated much more easily than genuine lack of interest.

Regardless of the individual developmental route, most teens on the spectrum start realizing that they are not quite like others at some point during their adolescence. Once the teenager realizes that he has significant difficulties in conducting social relationships compared to his peers, he needs deal with this loss, just like dealing with any other loss. Understanding the thoughts, feelings and behavior of a teen on the spectrum is the necessary first step in helping him out and being there for him. 

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for April, 2017]

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.


After 3 years of frustrating school situations turning into home situations, I find myself at my wits end figuring out where to start. I started researching Asperger's without much direction. We came across a teacher for 2nd grade who used (the symptoms listed) to chastise and leave my son out of so many school activities making them so much harder than necessary and starting our snowball of an utter distaste for school all together (with the help of the principal...who is no longer there). (all the while coupled with enuresis both nocturnal and diurnal) I didn't think it could get worse but 3rd grade led to an even worse year and larger distaste for going to school all together and another teacher who made it her mission to be mean to him and she was not even his classroom teacher. After the horrible dealings with the school, I moved him to a different school in hopes for a change. Things are a bit better where he does not hate school but he really has no friends, he is not good at catching a ball so football, basketball, baseball are all hard for him and that's what boys do is play. We are not big into buying video games but I am thinking that might be the only "skill" he might be able to gain. Don't get me wrong, he loves art but has the I can't attitude with almost everything. He wants to learn to cook (and I am trying) but has a hard time trying to make ramen or mac and cheese, plus he has become very picky about foods. He wont wear jeans but wants to ride horses ( we can not really accommodate that but occasionally do let him go on a ride). He is picky about clothes. He does not like to follow any kind of routine (lacks hygiene etc unless its an argument). I have an alarm set for every 2 hours to remind him to go to the bathroom but can not do that at school. I am beginning to wonder if Asperger's and the enuresis are related. The school refused to test him stating that lower functioning kids needed access to those funds and he would be taking away from them because he is high functioning. It has lead I believe to a delay in his education which became apparent in 2nd grade to me. His 4th grade teacher now really works hard on one skill at a time for him to achieve before moving forward but writing is definitely difficult. After begin left behind at the other school and learning that I can't gets you out of doing work, he is struggling. he is in the GT program but cant do a science fair project, does not like to read any more, cant pick a hobby....the list goes on. I feel like I am failing as a parent and do not know where to turn. Both boys ( i have 2) were in therapy for a different reason and she quit seeing them suggesting that I take more parenting classes since they just enjoy misbehaving. Neither of them have officially be diagnosed with Asperger's although that is where my searching has led me. My second son was doing ok socially but I am seeing horrible tantrums with him, and many kids not wanting to be his friend -- things always have to be his way, he always has to win, he has started stealing little things and my husband is not really on board with much. We definitely work too much to have much one on one time with them but I am beginning to think that I need to quit my job and we need to restructure our parenting to start accommodating the possibility that these two will never be able to function alone in society, hold down good jobs, be responsible with money, know how to cook, etc unless we make some MAJOR life changes and I do not even know where to start. After all of that......


Dear Mark,

I recently discovered your blog and was wondering if you would be willing to share information about a survey for parents and family caregivers with your readers?  The survey is for parents and family caregivers of teens and young adults (ages 13-25) with a developmental disability, intellectual disability, or autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger's).

The survey asks about caregivers’ experiences and wellbeing. I'm a graduate student at Illinois Tech and my advisor, Dr. EJ Lee, and I hope that by learning more about the experiences of families during their youth’s transition to adulthood that we can help better inform the supports available. 

The survey takes 25-45 minutes to complete and twenty $30 gift cards will be raffled off for participants. The survey is open through April 15, 2017.

The survey link is:


Thank you in advance for your help! Please email me with any questions.

Thank you! 


Hello Mr Hutten

I have been looking at your website and videos and am hoping that some of your books etc would be able to help us with our son, Nathan. He is 6 and is - I think - high functioning autistic. He's been diagnosed, but nowadays they just rubber stamp kids with ASD, although the paediatrician said at our first meeting that he's clearly high functioning. He's very intelligent (his reading is amazing) and is advanced in maths. He's at a special school, at which he is doing well.

The problems we have are that although he has a good, wide vocabulary, he doesn't use it properly. He can't converse and has no interest in two-way conversation. It's almost impossible to engage him in anything he's not interested in, or for that matter anything you want him to do. For instance, he wouldn't pay attention long enough to learn a board game or for us to explain how something works. Sometimes he will launch into a great long diatribe 'at you' about a variety of subjects, observations, what people are doing, what's happening on a TV programme he's watching or a game he's playing, and he'll keep looking at you as if to say 'are you getting this?' but most of the time you can't even get an answer out of him as to what he wants for tea. It ends up being multiple choice, from which he picks one of the choices - which are very limited anyway! Either that or it's 'would you like a cake, yes or no?' to which he'll say 'yes' or 'no'. He's obsessed with electronic devices and always has been, which I don't think helps. He won't sit with us in the kitchen for family meals and eats only in the sitting room.

He's also very inflexible and has tantrums if things don't go his way - if we leave the park too soon for his liking, or if we can't go one day when he wants to. However, he can follow instructions (e.g. please pass me that camera', 'eat your apple please, it's nearly time for bed') and he's not particularly sensitive to sound, touch or other stimuli. He doesn't really stim, and he does have a sense of danger. Meltdowns are very rare, but tantrums aren't!

With this brief outline, I wondered which of your books/forums etc. would be best to address his problems, to get him to talk with us, increase his interactive attention span and improve his behaviour.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully gaining some success with your programmes.


Dear Mr. Hutten,

My name is Annabelle. I am a 17 year old student from Maryland, and I think my mother has ASD. The weight of living with a parent who has this disorder has come crashing down on me recently, and I'm absolutely desperate for a solution. I was incredibly disappointed to find that not many other people share my experiences, so not much research has been done in terms of support for parents with ASD, and more importantly the children and teenagers affected by problematic parenting.

I read your article, and so far it has been the only useful information I've found regarding my situation. I noticed it was written more than 10 years ago, and what little information I've found on the subject is just as old, so the reason for me contacting you is to ask what can I do? Are there support groups for people like me? Will my mother ever be the parent I need her to be, and if so how can it be done?

I feel stupid saying that I'm psychologically damaged as a result of my mother's parenting, but the reality of how bad it really is has gotten to me and I'm at the end of my rope. There are a million details I could send to you to help you better understand the situation, but the big picture is that I need help and I think that you're the only person who understands parents with ASD enough to give me the answers I need. None of the therapists I've had in the past have ever acknowledged that my mother is a problem, and the one I have currently realizes that there's something wrong with her, but she doesn't have the knowledge to help.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this, and if there's anyone I can contact to contribute to research on this topic please let me know.


Hello Mr Hutten,

I am having a problem with my son who is 25 years old.  He is currently unemployed  and frustrated with life. I think he is also depressed at times
 He went abroad at 18 and did not complete his education. Since then his life has not been the same. He sleeps ,lime and does nothing constructive. He claims he wants to be an athlete
but does not want to work hard for anything.He still lives at home  and expects everything to be given to him
He blames me for any failure he may have in life and is verbally abusive when i try to encourage him to change.
I am getting very uncomfortable being around him and  not sure what to do.

Presently I left the house for a couple days because I was beginning to feel afraid and stressed out.

Can you advise on this at all? Hope you can help.


Hello Mark,
My situation is complex in that my youngest son is 17.  He lives with his mother, brother and sister. His mother and I are divorced now 10 years. I cannot afford to live in the area where they are, forcing me to live with my mother 50 miles away. My son Alex is very distant towards me. He will never pick up my phone calls to speak to me. He will answer an occasionally text saying he's busy with his friends and can't talk. I travel up there on the weekends to see them but they all three are never around or do not wish to make any plans due to work and friends. Alex is my main concern because of his distant attitude. He also has fits of anger and if you try to discuss anything with him he will just either shutdown, storm off or just ignore you. There are many more details, but for now these are the main points. I need to talk to my son and try to bond with him, but I can't do this if he refuses to see or speak to me and it's been such a long time that I really don't know where or how to begin or what to say. By the way, I'm receiving no support from his mother as long as he listens to her, when the anger begins then I might get a phone call from her. I'm hoping your program will help me and any advice that you could offer.
Most grateful parent


Hi Mark
I am from England, UK and been watching your YouTube videos for a while now. I have been married for nearly 6 years now.

My husband is very intelligent, has excellent memory, insight and knowledge of many things and is fantastic with his hands. He can build and fix just about anything from cental heating to cars to boilers to computers. He is a dentist by trade and does well at his job.

During our engagement period, he would send me the most sweetest and caring messages, give me his time and clearly enjoy my company. There was no physical contact or sex before marriage due to cultural/religious reasons.

After marriage our honeymoon was pretty normal except we didnt manage intercourse. There was alot of physical contact but intercourse did not happen.

This became the main cause of friction. After almost 2 years and after seeing several therapists of sorts we managed intercourse (on the instruction of the therapist) and subsequently had a child. During pregnany i realised what a mess i was in. I felt trapped. I felt cheated and deceived. I felt my husband only managed penetration because the therapist said i had a right to ask for divorce if we went back the next day without managing it. It felt totally fake and horrible. And  a massive amount of bitterness had built up by this stage.

I spent many nights laying in bed feeling totally devasted, lonely, frustrated and dead. My husband would spend all night downstairs often falling asleep on the sofa till morning. Then he would get up and go to work. And then this would repeat.

I walked away several times, cried, screamed, begged. Its like i was just talking to a brick wall. He was empty. Hollow eyes. Often closed his eyes when I spoke. No response or very little. No words of comfort. No reassurance. No explanations. The only time he really seemed to stir was when i walked away back to my parents. He would come for me begging. Crying. And i went back each time.

There were some good moments but each was coloured by this huge elephant in the room.

He used to tell me how self sufficient he was and liked to be. He didnt need me in anyway not in the traditional sense of keeping the house and cooking or any sexual or emotional way ofcourse. He was very private. Told me he wished he could switch me on and off. Told me he keeps me at an arms length and doesnt let me in. I always felt something was majorly wrong, off, odd. But he kept saying he didnt know why the relationship was the way it was. My head felt like it was exploding.

2 years on from our child being born, as I was spending time away at my parents he told me he thought he had ADHD and booked to see the doctor. This was a shock to me but also a relief. Like we had crossed a major hurdle. Like i always knew there was something wrong and now finally we were putting it right. But the doctor put him.off from seeking an official diagnosis for many reasons and since then, a year and half later my husband is reluctant to even go.down that path. After speaking to.someone over the phone, it was suggested to me that more than ADHD my husband may have aspergers. This is when I found you and began reading more. I spoke to my husband about it but he is in mostly denial. He believes if he does have anything it is only a tiny part of this huge mess. Believes that its alot to do with my mood and my inability to be happy and cheerful with him.

We went to see a couples therapist and although that helped us talk whilst we were there and there has been some improvement, we always come back to this. She also was not keen on the label of aspergers or adhd. I just feel like no one understands.

I can literally count the number of times we have had sex in the last 5 and half years. I feel completely  lost, resentful and could say I hate my husband. Wish I had never married him. All I wanted my whole life was a man to be my roots and my wings. To carry me protect me want me need me be attracted to me have desire. I wanted a big family lots of kids. And I feel hes robbed me of it all. I cant even have any more kids because he cant perform the most natural thing between husband and wife. I feel i have no purpose. Im 33 and feel like im getting old to move on to divorce and try marriage for a second time. I feel broken for my child who at age 3 now, is on his own with no siblings. I feel he senses the bitterness and tension. I would hate for him to grow up seeing us like this and yet hate for him to not be in a home with a mum and dad. My husband loves him to bits and is very hands on and good to him. I think it would really effect my son if i walked away because he really loves his dad and spending time.with him. Yet im stuck and trapped. Ive put on so much weight, ive stopped getting 'dressed'. My eating habits are horrendous. I binge eat and comfort eat. My health is all over the place. My faith is down in the dumps. I cant look in the mirror anymore. I hate this life. What i thought i would be couldnt be any more different then what i am. 

But i wake up each day and give my love to my child. Teach him play with him give him the last bit of energy i have.   

What do I do? My husbands tells me he wants me to stay and that he doesnt want a divorce. Ofcourse theres nothing more i want than to make this work. But i cant live like this anymore. Its like i die a bit more each day.

Please is there any advice you can give? I wish I could attend one of your programs.

Thank you so much Mark, in advance. It feels good to let it all out to someone who I know is an expert. You dont know how much it means to me. Sorry for the very lengthy email and any errors in spelling etc.


Hello Mark, I have subscribed to your online parenting program.
Just to give you a brief histor, I have a 15 yr old daughter; that I adopted, from Vietnam, when she was 3 months old. I am a single parent. She grew up in Italy ( my Mom was Italian) and we moved to the US in 2012, when she was 11 yrs old.
That said, she is now fully fitting with the list of behavioral patterns you list:
Does your child often:
  • lose his temper
  • argue with adults
  • refuse to comply with rules and requests
  • deliberately annoy people
  • blame others for his mistakes and misbehavior

=> Is your child often:

  • touchy and easily annoyed by others
  • angry and resentful
  • spiteful and vindictive

After two years of back and forth in mood swings ( both hers and mine) and other unpleasant issues, I have recently been looking into a summer program , since she has stopped seeing the therapist. I am thinking she might  maybe find the support she needs to be a happier kid. 

The place I am looking into for one month this summer is:

I would really like your input on this idea, since I like your clean straight forward approach. I am trying to put in practice your guidelines,but I know it takes time. Since I am stressed now of her aggressive attitude,  I thought a break could be good for both of us.

Looking forward to your professional input!



I have become familiar with your website and will purchase your ebook, however, I am also looking for resources for my son such as Summer camps and or intensive programs that can help my son.  The issue is that he is high level and I fear sending him to a camp that may have teens who are far more severe on the spectrum.  My son Jay is 16.  He is failing school, he cares about nothing.  He has severe anxiety and depression, and traits of obsessive thinking are causing him anxiety and physical pain.  To the world, he appears normal until one gets to know him and his obsession with Russia, military, Hitler, tanks and other odd things.  He is attractive, but very short fused.   We have truly tried everything from therapy to psychiatry and meds and nothing works.   I feel like I am in a race to get him stable, healthy, and graduated from high school without much time left.   His biological mother emancipated herself from him, and my wife loves him but is not very nurturing towards him, so that presents a set of problems.   For myself, I tend to be overly accommodating, guilty, and enabling.  We now have a difficult teen and a unhealthy house.   The ebook may be a good place to start, but I know I am going to need much more.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Hi Mark,
My son is 15 years old and has HFA.  He is very smart, but only for what he finds interesting.  He is a freshman in high school and this is the first year I placed him in a general ed setting.  He has an IEP and also a para 1:1.

In the beginning of the school year his grades were great.  I basically micro-managed him at home and made sure all his work was done.  Homework counts as much as a test in his school.  This was the part that I could "control".  I did him an injustice by basically taking over because he would not know where or when to start any assignment.  I thought I would "help" him and then he would learn from that.  He just got more used to it.  He has told me that it is all my fault and that I should not have helped him from the start and now he can't change until the next school year.  This is a behavior he has which manifests from his having OCD,  His school counselor has told me to let go of the control over homework and that Ryan would see what the consequences would be.  So I did.  I let it go and now he is at risk of failing most of his classes.  He doesn't seem to care.  He has a little arrogance to him when he says that in school he is one of the smartest kids (the teachers are always telling him that he is so smart). The family has been in therapy because of all this.  It has taken a toll on me and it is affecting the rest of the family.  While in therapy, my family is "perfect" and agrees to everything and insures that they will support me and help me with tackling my son's behaviors.  Once home, everything goes back to the way it was.  They all "think" they are helping.  They seem to unintentionally sabotage my assertive parenting.  Although I've asked my husband to do the online sessions, he just says he looked it over.  I have two older daughters too.  They get annoyed at my son and I see them smirk when I use the "assertive parenting".  I am so emotionally done.  I seem to be micro-managing my family and how they should react to my son and then they get mad at me.  I feel the family is in crisis mode, but have already reached out for help and it's not working. I've tried all that I can.  I will continue to work with my son, but have detached myself from the rest of the family, especially my husband.

I cannot figure how to make "consequences" work with Ryan.  If I take it away for a day, he's ok with that and finds something else to do.  I can't possibly take everything away, if he didn't make his bed or put his clothes away.  He "jumps down my throat" as soon as I open my mouth.  He doesn't even wait for me to say anything, or even listen to my tone.  I've tried the "poker" face and calm talking and he's told me he hates my voice like that.  He argues every word with me and I don't know how to "consequence" that.  I've made lists, contracts and everything else suggested.  It works for a day or two and then no one looks at it.  It's hard to do it alone to make it work, but I can't change my husband. I understand that he is tired when he gets home from work.  He has a long commute and we are not young anymore.  We are both in our mid 50s.  My parents were already retired at that age and enjoying life. We are all on a short fuse.  I don't want to become a "therapy" junkie, but it seems to only help me because I can vent about my family.

Sorry this is so long, and not really sure what I am actually trying to ask you.  I know I am not following through, but I guess I "fell off the wagon".

P.S.  Ryan is not abusive in any way and pretty much is an "old soul".  He likes to play the guitar and learn songs.  He loves british rock, watching old tv sitcoms and british comedies.  He is very likeable and people find him interesting.  His disrespect is his answering back to me and my husband.  He does do this to his para too, but then is remorseful to her.  He has no filters and comes across as rude.  He definitely has the social emotional age of a 9-10 year old.


I am in a long term relationship with someone who has a son with an autism spectrum disorder, Aspergers.
We are about to move in together and he is 22 yrs old and a high school and jr college grad who still lives at home and is unemployed.
My questions are these:
He is physically affectionate with his Mom, to a level that actually makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable.
He hugs her and hangs on her back repeatedly, which increases in frequency when in larger groups. for example, he may do this 3 or 4 times in a 2hour period
From what I have read, this behavior is counter to most of the experiences of others, who say that their child shies away from physical expressions
I have not shared my uncomfortableness with her because I feel guilty about telling someone that your son hugs you too much for an adult, especially since he has this disorder.
I try to think this through but I cant shake the feeling that it is just over the line of inappropriate social behavior. I know it bothers me when I see it, but then I feel guilty about being bothered by it.
 Can you offer any suggestions? at my wits end


Hi Mark,
Thank you for all your work on behalf of ASD!
I enjoy your weekly info in my emails.
I probably am ADD but otherwise a neurotypical married 47 years to a man I was told was autistic in 2000 by Rhonda Milrad, a couple's therapist in Beverly Hills associated with SRI.  I had no idea that she was literally sincere. I thought autistic meant retarded & he's anything but...as a mechanical engineer.  Short of it is: do you know of any neurotypical wife married to ASD support groups around los angeles area, more specifically, Glendale to Monrovia, La Crescenta ( where I live) to Burbank, Ca.?
Seriously, I had a whole diatribe written to you of everything I've endured with this man thinking he was the biggest narcissist ever!!!!! Pretty sure my dad had same diagnosis as well as 2 of my husband's brothers & possibly 2 sisters.  But, I just appreciate the info you provided in the ebook though it is all I can download...not the movies๐Ÿ˜•.  My friend had me read The Rosie Project very recently then the Rosie Effect & I knew for sure I was married to someone w/ASD.  He has 2 nephews w/Aspergers so it's in the family.  Our son had ADHD but is totally different in a good way to my husband & neither of our daughters have it but 1 granddaughter is something on the spectrum but barely.
Anyway, any help with a support group for me would be tremendously helpful!
PS...My busband is 76 & I doubt he will buy into this or remember what Rhonda said because his pat answer to everything is: I'm fine, I like how I am, I don't need to change!!!
SO, I need the support group or a divorce!!!
Thanks for any help,


I am sure that you have a lot of parents emailing  you at their wit’s end.  I need some help  with my son.

  • He  is 11.5 years old
  • He is VERY smart  and very literal
  • He is Obsessed  with things,  right now  it’s Pokemon and it’s  him  wanting  the  Nintendo  Switch
  • He has been taken out of our home  for violence and placed in a group home
  • He physically attacks  my husband and I if he is told  no or doesn’t get his way  ( he missed  at  least 50 days before he was  removed about  3 weeks  ago)
  • He  has also  attacked  his  grandmother  that  is not in the  home,  but only lives  a few miles away
  • When he goes to school, he does well, he interacts (in his own way,  he is still  into himself )
  • He has spent 2, 1 week sessions at a psychiatric  hospital,  one in July of 2016 and another February 2017
  • He is currently on Pindolol and Lexapro
  • He is about 230 pounds,  probably 50 pounds were  gained since July 2016 when he was  placed on Abilify,  he was on this med until the February 2017 change to the Pindolol
  • He was just recently diagnosed with autism, testing was done Dec 27th 2016
  • He spent  2  weeks in November 2016 at detention before the  charges were dropped for  domestic violence, this was  before the autism diagnosis. The  next day he was supposed  to go to school, he pushed me down and I took  him  into the police,  they refused to do anything.
  • His violence was getting worse  and worse, he  was  hitting myself and my husband who is  disabled daily
  • CPS is involved and they filed  an abuse/neglect  petition to have him removed from the home an placed in this home where he is  now.  They tried to file  the petition as  delinquency, but  the  prosecutor would not do this  because of his  age and  diagnosis.
  • We are willing to go through  this abuse/neglect petition to get Joe help, but I need it to  be the  right  help! I can’t afford  to have him  gone for months and  not have things get better!  We need a plan in place for when he comes home, we need the rules and consequences set out, in  writing, and he needs to  know this  is coming.  
  • I need help with the rules and consequences that make sense!  Before he was placed  in this residential facility, he would react violently to anything that wasn’t his way,  we would call  the police, they would come which would normally calm things down, but the pattern would repeat.    For example, he would  promise to  go to school the  next day, then refuse in the morning, then act violently towards us,  we would call  the police, he would either calm down and stay home, or  they would take him  into school.  Next day,  same thing.  We are afraid  of him,  he started off  kicking a year ago, now, he will throw anything  he  gets his hands on, hit us with anything he can get  to.   Scream and yell that he is going to  kill  us.  He has  choked  me before.   The bruises are now gone,  since  he has  been out of the home for 3  weeks, but it  was  bad.
  • He is  perfect  at this home, he follows the rules, he is  doing  great with his  school  work. He  is  polite and respectful to the staff.
  • This makes us look like the problem  is  us and  it makes  it  feel like the  problem  is  us!
  • He will say, “ you only hurt the ones you love”

So,  I  am  going  to work through your system with my husband, but we I want to  know  what he should be getting at this place  he  is now.  He gets  a  hour a week  of counseling.  How  can we best  work  with them to make what we are working  on effective for  when he  comes home?   He knows we love him, he knows what he does is wrong, he  says he doesn’t want to do  it, yet, I don’t think the  behavior  will change  easily.   He doesn’t mind  the  separation as much as he should  in my mind, he is fine with living there.  He says he wants  to  come home, but that is mostly to have more  “stuff”.   It’s not that he  misses  us  that I can see.

So?  You have been doing  this longer than I have, I don’t even really know the  questions to ask at  this point!


We have three children ages 30, 28, 26.  Our two neurotypical kids, a son and a daughter, are married and each have two children and are functioning well with their parenting and employment and marriages.  We are so pleased and happy for them, and we love being grandparents!

I'm going to give you a little background about our son , but I'm not sure you want or need it, so I'll trust you will take it or leave it, and I'll mark my actual question below so that you can get straight to that if you prefer. And I trust you'll let me know what info is helpful, and what isn't in future.

Our son with Asperger's (28) went to a school/residential program at age 21 (at our insistence) and after some trepidation, got into the groove and learned a great deal over the last six years.  He graduated from their facility and though we didn't feel that he was ready for it, they helped him get an apartment and he lived on his own for eight months.

He had a job working at an auto parts store driving deliveries, until he started having anxiety attacks on the freeway.  After months of trying everything we all could think of, the store finally gave him the opportunity to stock shelves instead of driving.  That lasted for several months and then they started scheduling him to drive again.  End of the story is, he has moved home with the hopes that he can look for a job and an apartment closer to us and to his other family members.

His independent living experience started out well and declined to where his social life was nonexistent and he was living on energy drinks, ice-cream, tortillas and frozen pizza.  He's never been overly responsive on his phone and we could go for days trying to reach him to touch base and not hear anything back and wonder if he was well or alive or desperate for help.  We hoped that if he were a bit closer we could at least be close enough to know if he needed assistance or not.

How do we engage our son in a conversation about his future when it seems that he has no concept of what he wants, or believes that he can have or attain in his future?

Now that Brad has been home for about a month, he is less interested in finding a job, doesn't want to meet with the counselor at vocational rehab, doesn't want to drive, or look for an apartment.  He seems to be very frustrated and shuts down (eyes closed and unresponsive) when we bring up his moving to the next step, or figuring out what that next step is.  He is helpful with outside chores, feeding chickens, caring for the dog, mowing lawns, trimming, but isn't caring for his room or bathroom and doesn't follow-through when asked to take care of those things.  He sleeps a lot, watches movies, plays games, listens to reviews, occasionally picks up a book to read. He is amiable and pleasant most of the time and doesn't ever tantrum or meltdown.  He just recedes when he doesn't want to engage in a conversation about his life or goals.

Thank you for listening and for your help!


Dear Mr. Hutten,
Whilst trying to get answers to some of the riddles I face in trying to understand David (48 years old) I found your site on the internet.
As David hasn't had a formal diagnosis but displays many of the autistic traits mentioned I wanted to ask whether you feel that I might benefit from your expertise in this field. I have been employed to "look after" David on a probationary period of three months. Now half way through this period I am finding it an almost impossible task as he studiously avoids any conversation with me and resorts to writing notes if he has to. His mother passed away 18 months ago and he has only cousins who don't live close by. I would dearly like to be able to help him with his day to day life but have no idea where (or how ) to start. Am happy to pay for your assistance, but just wanted to be sure that dealing with an adult rather than a child would be within the parameters of your counseling.

Hi Mark,

I am desperate for help! I realize most of your advice revolves around teens, but my ODD daughter is 4, and I need help.

We are fostering-to-adopt my daughter and her infant baby sister. Kate came to live with us last March after an emergency removal from another foster home where there were several older foster children, of varying ages, who all came from various sexual abuse backgrounds. As you can imagine, it was discovered the kids were all perping on each other, and all of the kids were removed and separated in one night.

So, in comes Kate to my husband and I who have no other children. At first everything was perfect, but the more comfortable she got, the worse it became. Now, over a year later, we have gotten through the tantrums and battles of will, but we have one recurring issue: she repeatedly asks other children to pull their pants down so she can "see" their privates.

I demanded Kate be put into counseling when we discovered why the children were all removed, which she saw a very reputable sexual abuse forensic psychologist, who had her for weekly sessions over several months, before dismissing her feeling secure that Kate had never been "perped" on, but we would never know what she may have seen.

She has now been to a second counselor as well after these repeated behaviors who had the same opinion. My problem is- this keeps happening- pretty regularly. She has way more knowledge than a 4 year old should, and I don't know the appropriate way to react.

We have punished her, talked to her, explained to her, modeled appropriate behaviors, and set very clear expectations- nothing has worked. We model everything around safety and have explained that showing and/or looking at private parts is not safe for her or others and have drilled into her what to do if someone asks to look at/touch her private areas.

What can I do here? All of the research says that "correct and early intervention" can help young children of sexual abuse or early sexual knowledge go on to lead "normal" lives, but what do I do when two counselors have dismissed her saying that she's "fine" and doesn't need  counseling? What is the appropriate reaction my husband and I should have?

Please help!


Good Afternoon Mark,
My name is Mary and I have a son that is 19 years old. His name is Trey. He grew up in mostly a single parent home with grandparents assisting me in raising him and an absentee father. I am now married and Trey has a good relationship with his Stepfather. 
Trey has several issues going on. He was born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and is blind in one eye and slightly impaired in the other. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was 7 years old after having a neuro-psychological evaluation after we noticed him having difficulties in 2nd grade. As he entered puberty and adolescence he has developed some depression but also some very intense anxiety. He graduated in May of 2016 and wanted to develop an online video game. We knew that he was not ready and very immature to be entering adulthood and therefore told him he had a year to work on this game, and work on his own issues of anxiety and depression etc. He has been seeing a psychiatrist and getting some light medication to help him sleep however his anxiety runs rampant and he is terrified of taking anxiety medication or antidepressants.Needless to say an online video game was not launched and he is still having terrible and crippling anxiety when it comes to the outside world and getting a job etc. 
Trey has said he wants a job and has actually been working with a job coach through vocational rehab here in AL, but we are nearing the interview process and he is freaking out and I am not sure he is going to go or even be able to be around people with his social and overall anxiety. I was just reading about your book launching adult children with Aspergers and am very interested. I realize the techniques involve parents creating accountability and holding the kids accountable etc. My concern is using this on my son who has such tremendous anxiety, and some depression. At the beginning of this year when he was staying home and my parents were checking in on him, I was out of town, he admitted to trying to hang himself. He has mentioned suicide many times as well and I am afraid if I make his life to difficult that he may do it. 
The other issue is that he will not cooperate in taking the meds he probably needs. So I feel very caught in between a rock and a hard place in  launching this kid! 
I am considering more life insurance etc., to provide for him as I do not know what he is truly capable mentally, emotionally and physically. I feel like people in my area do not truly understand his issues or how to help me with him. 
Also, I should mention that my Dad and Trey's Papa just passed away in January unexpectedly and this was the only father Trey has ever known. So it is another layer of difficulty for him right now. 
Can you please give me your best advice as to how to help my son. He seems impossible, he is creating a situation where he refuses the help he needs and I feel like I am running out of options. 
I should note that intellectually Trey is highly intelligent. He has a very high IQ and I believe is pretty brilliant. He is the typical Asperger's kid that is unmotivated, messy, mouthy and difficult though. Also I should mention as I am sure you already know he can be manipulative and as he has gotten older it is harder to distinguish what is manipulation and what his real issues are.


He's very bright and does well in the public school academically, when he goes to  class, or stays in class,  but suffers from the usual social problems of an Aspergers child. His psychiatrist also does not think his intellect is being sufficiently challenged or developed by the public school curriculum., and because of this he gets frustrated and acts out negatively.  Threatening to harm himself and others.  He also has been diagnosed with ADHD and OHD. 

My son is a Chess King, Lego King, and can hold a conversation with an Adult, (always has been able to), but because of his "issues' he is failing at life. 

I am unable to keep a job, because of absence, leaving early, going in late, and I really want the best for my son.  WE currently live in GEorgia, but I am preparing to relocate to South Carolina, where hopefully, we can get additional assistance for him.

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