How to Reduce Behavior Problems that Result from the Symptoms of Asperger’s and HFA

“I knew there was something not quite right with my little boy very early on. But, as a mother at age 28 – so ecstatic to have my first child – I pushed my concern aside, withdrawing into denial. As a 3rd grade teacher, I felt confident that I had this parenting job down pat, and I didn't want unnecessary anxiety to spoil it. However, even though my son is the most important part of my life, my enthusiasm and optimism for motherhood has been replaced by fatigue and frustration. He is now 6 years old and about to start his 1st year of elementary school. He has become quit a handful. Meltdowns, aggressiveness, and lack of responsiveness to my attempts at discipline are making me feel like a bad mom. I guess I’m in the early stages of experiencing what it's like as the parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (high functioning). I know that this is just the beginning of our journey, but I have to wonder whether my son and I will ever form a close bond and whether he will ever be capable of making a friend. My question is, what can I do to help my little guy cope with all the challenges that he is destined to face throughout childhood?”

Parenting children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) obviously has its ups and downs. There are times when parents just want to crawl back into bed and put the covers up over their head (and occasionally they have to give in to that). But, they have to get right back up and push forward. Moms and dads should always keep their eye on the prize, which is their “special needs” child.

Raising your HFA son will indeed be a long journey, but you have many options and places to turn for help. Early intervention is paramount – and he’s only 6, so you have a lot of time to apply appropriate interventions. But, you have to get going right now, because time is of the essence. Get focused on what your mission is. Here’s how:

1. First of all, you are not alone in how you are feeling. Many moms and dads of “special needs” kids talk about feeling somewhat stressed, frustrated –  and even isolated. One mother of an Asperger’s child told me that when her son was diagnosed, some family members stopped asking about him, and he was left out of several birthday parties and other family gatherings.

2. Help other family members – especially siblings – cope by educating them about HFA and your son’s specific needs. Training family members about the disorder and how to effectively manage the symptoms has been shown to reduce family stress and improve the functioning of the child on the autism spectrum.

3. Your son may enjoy going out to eat, going to the local mall, attending a birthday party, and so on. But, it may become quite overwhelming for him to the point where he starts reacting to these unfamiliar surroundings and faces. He may become agitated simply because “the unfamiliar” gets to him, especially if there are a lot of foreign noises and smells. Thus, if the environment seems too “sensory-unfriendly” for your son, you may simply want to “bail out” and return home for a time-out.

4. Work closely with your son’s school. His curriculum will require a major focus on social skills. Deciding what your son needs to learn in school will depend on his unique features, level of intelligence, family setting, and need to function in the community. You and your son’s teachers will need to decide on the critical skills he needs to develop (by developing an Individualized Education Program), and then work together to teach him to use these skills in real-life settings.

5. When your son moves from one activity to another (e.g., waking up, going to school, moving from “play time” to “homework time,” etc.), it’s a prime opportunity for a meltdown. Many transitions erupt into meltdowns, because kids on the spectrum typically do not like change. Therefore, give your son time to adjust when change occurs. This is easier said than done when you are in a rush. But, your son does need more time. Prepare him for transitions as often as possible (e.g., “We’re leaving to go to the store in 10 minutes, so finish your game”).

6. Children on the spectrum should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. Early intervention using social-skills training and behavior modification techniques can yield good results. Educational and behavioral treatment helps with HFA-related symptoms (e.g., impaired social interaction, communication problems, repetitive behaviors, etc.), and can boost your son’s chances of being successful at school, both socially and academically. The following techniques should be employed to improve overall function and to help your son reach his full potential:
  • behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication
  • occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficits in coordination, muscle tone, and motor skills – and may also help your son to learn to process information from the senses in more manageable ways
  • speech therapy can help your son improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively

7. Protect your son from poor role-models as much as possible. Young people on the spectrum often copy behaviors without understanding why the other person did them. This “copy-cat behavior” is called echopraxia (i.e., the abnormal repetition of the actions of another person). This is similar to the echolalia (i.e., the echoing of words or phrases) many autistic kids engage in. Both forms of echoing may occur immediately, or in a delayed fashion. HFA kids who are spanked are more likely to hit others. Those who observe violent behavior at home, in school or in the community, as well as in movies or cartoons, may imitate the behavior.

8. Prepare your son for changes in routine. This may require only a reminder of the next event (e.g., "First dinner, then bath"), or you may need to use pictures to help with transitions (posted on a “to do” board).

9. Many kids on the autism spectrum tend to be perfectionistic and obsessive. The inability to do something correctly after several attempts can get the “meltdown engine” revving. Observation is your best tool for identifying “low frustration-tolerance” in your son. Watch and listen, whether your son is playing a board game with friends, doing homework, or trying to tie his shoes. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times, and look for patterns and connections.

10. In order to take the best care of your son, you will need to take care of you, too! So, plan time for breaks. One mother of an HFA daughter stated that she often felt exhausted, overwhelmed – and sometimes defeated. The situation also created some difficulties in her marriage. There are no quick fixes for resolving negative emotions, but parents can take measures to protect themselves so their child’s disorder does not get in the way of their physical and emotional health. Review your calendar weekly. In the midst of the appointments your son may have with therapists or other health care professionals, write in "appointments" for yourself and your relationships. Schedule regular dates with your spouse, other kids in the family, and close friends.

11. A meltdown may be your son’s only method of communicating a need or distress. Parents should look for the warning signs that come before meltdowns, for example:
  • stuttering or showing pressured speech
  • sensitivity to light
  • repeating words or phrases over and over
  • rapid heartbeat
  • rapid breathing
  • perseverating on one topic
  • pacing back in forth or in circles
  • muscle tension
  • increasing self-stimulatory behaviors
  • holding the head
  • headaches
  • flushed cheeks
  • extreme resistance to disengaging from a ritual or routine
  • difficulty answering questions
  • cold hands
  • being unusually sensitive to sound
  • becoming mute

Once parents can identify the warning signs of a meltdown, they may be able to adjust the situation to prevent it from escalating.

12. Learn to live with some stereotypic behavior. Many self-stimulatory and characteristic behaviors serve a purpose. While you may want to try to prevent some of the more peculiar behaviors, it is extremely difficult to eliminate fixations entirely. Eliminated behaviors are usually replaced by another self-stimulatory or unusual behavior – and the new behavior may or may not be more tolerable than the initial behavior. Diminishing the frequency, or limiting the expression of stereotypic behavior to certain times and places, are the most reasonable goals. These are best accomplished by some disregarding, redirecting, or providing another task to focus on. Substitution or training to reduce some peculiar behaviors can help your son to appear less different in the school or community. This involves adult intervention and requires detection of equally reinforcing alternate behaviors. Any behavior to be changed will need to be replaced with a behavior that is at least as pleasurable to your son.

13. “Signaling” is a common behavior modification strategy that you can use with your HFA son. Choose one specific trigger to work on, and then come up with a phrase or hand signal that will serve as an alert to your son that the trigger is present. This allows you to make him aware of the trigger subtly in social situations. Once you have alerted him, he will have the chance to self-correct. However, if you signal your son, but he doesn’t use the response the two of you had planned on, have him take a break from whatever is going on to come speak to you in a quiet place (away from an audience). This is where you step in and help him correct his behavior. Let him know that you gave him the “cue,” but he didn’t respond the way the two of you had discussed. Remind him of what you talked about, and let him know what the consequences will be if he doesn’t use the plan the next time you signal him.

14. Learn more about dietary changes. Diet changes are based on the idea that food allergies or an insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral can cause symptoms of HFA and AS to worsen. One diet that many parents have found helpful is a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet.

15. Get the support of family, friends, community agencies, and others who have shared similar experiences. Having a support network involves knowing ahead of time whom you can call for different types of support (and emergencies), including:
  • social support (e.g., a friend or colleague you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories)
  • practical support (e.g., a neighbor or close friend who will help you out in a pinch)
  • informational support (e.g., your son's doctor, teachers, therapists, or other caregivers you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his treatment)
  • emotional support (e.g., a close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you trust with your most personal feelings and concerns)

16. Develop a consistent structure and routine. Your son will thrive best in an environment where things are predictable. He probably has great difficulty with unexpected change and lack of structure. So, have a schedule that he follows every day, and do things in the same way. He may be able to cope with a free-time schedule, or he may need to be scheduled right down to the task of putting on clothing.

17. Your son may be hypersensitive to certain sounds, lighting conditions, skin sensations, tastes, textures, temperatures, and certain colors. Thus, beware of irritating sensations. The exact form of these hypersensitivities will vary over time, but your son may require your recognition of the problem and adjustments to limit his exposure to them.

18. Perhaps the best treatment for children with HFA and AS is “social skills training,” which is a form of behavior therapy used by therapists to help “special needs” kids who have difficulties relating to other people. The goals of this training include:
  •  how to act appropriately in the company of others in a variety of different situations
  • how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity
  • improving the child’s ability to function in everyday social situations
  • learning how to make "small talk" in social settings
  • learning to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions
  • teaching about the verbal - as well as nonverbal - behaviors involved in social interactions
  • the importance of good eye contact during a conversation
  • working on specific issues that interfere with school or daily living

19. Lastly, traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for your HFA son. Young people on the spectrum have difficulty appreciating the consequences of their actions. Therefore, punitive measures are apt to exacerbate the type of behavior the punishment is intended to reduce, while at the same time giving rise to distress in both you and your son.

There's no doubt that raising a youngster with HFA or AS is the ultimate parenting challenge. But, with the necessary support and ongoing training, parents can learn how to help their child cope with the challenges ahead.

More resources for parents of children and teens with HFA and AS:


How Your Child Tries to Make Sense of the Real World

In trying to understand how the world works, children on the autism spectrum attempt to make sense of the parent’s explanations, but sometimes are not able to fully - or even partially - grasp what the parent is trying to convey. As a result, the parent’s effort at intervening or providing instruction may fall short. Kid’s on the spectrum can only fully understand things for which they have a frame of reference (i.e., a picture or idea from other sources).

Here are the strategies your Asperger’s of High-Functioning Autistic child uses in an attempt to understand the real world:

==> More parent education and training can be found here...


Planning Ahead for the New School Year: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Spectrum

As the dog days of August draw near, you may be redirecting your attention from summer camps and family vacations to the return to school. Soon you will be restocking the supply of pencils, notebooks, calculators, backpacks – as well as doing some new clothes shopping.

Some of us as parents wait until the last minute and forget to address some of the most essential back-to-school preparations. The one nice thing about these preparations is they usually don’t cost anything. 

So, this is a good time to be looking ahead to a new school year. And as such, here are several articles to get you headed in the right direction with your Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autistic child:

  1. Back To School Preparations
  2. Behavioral Problems at School
  3. Homework Problems
  4. Poor School Attendance
  5. Back-to-School Separation Anxiety
  6. IEP and ARD Documents
  7. Back-to-School Quick Tip Sheet
  8. Children Who Refuse To Go To School
  9. Effective Academic Accommodations
  10. Adjusting to the School Environment
  11. Alleviating School-Related Stress
  12. Avoiding The Back To School Jitters
  13. Avoiding Back-to-School Meltdowns and Tantrums
  14. Poor Academic Performance and Behavioral Problems
  15. Working with Schools to Develop an IEP
  16. Preparing Your Child for Transition to Middle-School
  17. Helping Aspergers Students Transition To High School  

Here's to a great year!


Help for Meltdowns and Shutdowns in Kids on the Spectrum

Learn the "Behavioral Modification" SECRETS Used by Therapists Who Work in the Field of Autism Spectrum Disorders:

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parenting Children With Level 1 Autism - Support Group on FaceBook

Dear website visitors: For those of you who have a child diagnosed with Level 1 Autism (high-functioning autism, formerly called Asperger syndrome), please join our sister FaceBook support group. We just launched it! And we will be posting daily parenting tips for this special group of parents. 



Imposing Effective Consequences for Noncompliant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“I’m a single mom raising a son on the spectrum (high functioning autistic). He is 16 and a half years old. I get eye rolls from him on a daily basis, impatient ‘Duhs’ when I say something that is apparently just so obvious, and the insistence on having it his way, whether it’s a minor event (“I want 10 more minutes on this game”), or more major (“I’m not going to dad’s this weekend”). I think he was picking up some of this cocky attitude from a few other students in school who are known to be trouble makers. Some of it I chalk up to his strong-willed personality, and, of course, a lot of it has to be his disorder. So, because I passionately want him to grow up to be strong, but not obnoxious …confident, but not rude …and determined, but not defiant, I need some advice on how to use positive discipline with this child.”

Issuing consequences to an “out of line” adolescent with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) is likely to bring out the best and the worst in parents. They want to help their son or daughter make up for what's missing by increasing their love and attention, but these “special needs” adolescents can trigger unique frustrations in moms and dads.

Most adolescents go through foreseeable stages of development in the teen years. Parents know about when to expect what behavior - and how long it will last. When parents know that they don't have to weather this “challenging behavior” phase indefinitely, it helps them cope. But, with many ASD adolescents, the “challenging behavior” stage seems to go on forever, as does the aggravation for the parent.

Raising an autistic teen is a tough job. The joys and sorrows – as well as the ups and downs – are amplified. You cheer at each accomplishment, and you agonize about each new challenge.

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

Here are some important disciplinary strategies for adolescents on the autism spectrum:

1. Visual aids may help your adolescent see the reason behind your disciplinary techniques.  Make an “If/Then Chart” or a “Consequence Chart” that shows exactly what will happen if your adolescent engages in a particular behavioral problem – and why that specific discipline “fits the crime.” Always remember this major tenet: Adolescents on the spectrum thrive on structure and clear rules! Thus, posting a list of unacceptable behaviors and their consequences is very helpful.

2. Another visual aid that is needed is a “rewards chart.”  Equal importance should be placed on appropriate behavior (e.g., acknowledgement and praise, tangible rewards, etc.) to balance out the negative side of things.

3. View “disobedience” as a sign that your teen “needs” something. Every “misbehavior” an ASD adolescent engages in tells parents something about what he or she needs. For example, if your son becomes indignant when asked to do his homework while he is in the middle of playing video games, he is saying in essence, “I’m not prepared to make that transition right now.” Thus, what’s needed here is more structure, which could entail an “activities chart” that illustrates the exact time homework is to be started (and possibly an alarm that sounds 15 minutes prior to “homework time” as a reminder). In this way, there are no disappointing surprises.

4. Of course, there are occasions when consequences for poor choices become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.). But, with autistic teens, the consequences should always be (a) immediate, (b) specific, (c) relevant, and (d) short-term:
  • Immediate – A “special needs” teen is likely to have a short memory. So, a consequence issued later in the day for misbehavior that occurred earlier that morning will lose its effectiveness.
  • Specific – ASD teens are very fact-oriented and do not do well in ambiguous situations. Thus, parents must briefly explain in very concrete terms why the teen is receiving a particular consequence.
  • Relevant –  Adolescents on the autism spectrum may not be able to perceive cause-and-effect, thus the consequence must make sense to them. For example, withdrawing a privilege (such as loss of computer time) for being rude is not relevant to the infraction. Playing on the computer has nothing to do with rudeness. In this case, a more germane consequence would be to have the teen apologize to the offended party. (Note: I’m not saying that you should NEVER issue a consequence that doesn’t have a direct tie-in to the misbehavior in question, simply use the loose tie-in as a last resort. In the example above, if the teen refuses to apologize for being rude, then give him the option of (a) apologizing or (b) losing his favorite activity for a period of time. In this way, he has the choice to accept the lesser consequence - an apology, or the stiffer one - loss or privileges.)
  • Short-term – Prolonged consequences will lose their impact due to the fact that most teens on the spectrum have attentional difficulties. In other words, if they are grounded for 3 days, they may forget why they are being punished after the second day.

5. Positive consequences have been shown to be very effective in changing the inappropriate behavior patterns of autistic adolescents (e.g., praise, encouragement, positive reinforcement, etc.). For example, complimenting your adolescent for a responsible, cooperative, or compassionate act will tend to promote that behavior. Thus, catch your teenager doing things right MORE OFTEN than you catch him or her doing things wrong. Diligently search for these opportunities.


6. Keep a diary of your teen’s behavior with the goal of discovering patterns or triggers for misconduct. Recurring behavior may be indicative of the teen taking some gratification in receiving a desired response from the parent or teacher. For instance, the teen may discover that arguing with one of his classmates will result in his being removed from class, which is exactly what he wants.

In this case, the punishment for the misbehavior, or attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of the classmate, may not provide a solution. Instead, it would be best to look at the motivation for the misbehavior. A good question to ask is, “How can this teenager be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave it?”

7. Pick your battles carefully. You can’t possibly address every behavior problem that comes down the pike. Also, some behavior problems may need some form of therapy in order to be eliminated, rather than some form of discipline. So, learn to prioritize. Make a list of 3 or 4 behaviors that you feel are the most deserving of attention, and only work on those.

8. Some parents of a teen on the spectrum can become overprotective. They may make frequent excuses for his behavior, or they may not impose consequences for poor choices where most others agree it to be warranted. When this happens – regardless of the disorder – the balance of authority shifts. The teenager gains more and more control while being protected in a sheltered environment with little or no discipline.

The parent who does very little in the way of discipline, or who micromanages every aspect of the teen’s life is teaching some very artificial life lessons that will significantly hinder the teen in the real world. Knowing when, how, and how much to discipline the ASD teen is very challenging. You may be filled with worry for your teen and his future. But, you still need to find balance in your role as a parent and disciplinarian. There is a fine line between being an effective mother or father, and being perceived as pampering of the “special needs” teen.

9. Don't lower your standards of discipline simply because you have a “special needs” teen. Parents may be tempted to get lax and let their adolescent get by with behaviors they wouldn't tolerate from their other children. Just as with any other teen, adolescents on the autism spectrum need to know - early on - what behavior parents expect. Some moms and dads wait too long to start their “tough love” strategies for out-of-control teen behavior. Then, as their teen transitions to adulthood, parents wonder why their adult child is still playing video games in the basement rather than attending college or working somewhere.

10. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for imposing appropriate consequences – even when the child has a “disorder.” Behavior management is not about punishing or demoralizing your teenager. Rather, it's a way to lovingly set boundaries and communicate expectations. Imposing consequences is one of the most important ways you show your  teen that you love and care about him.

11. Help your adolescent build a sense of responsibility. Parents of “special needs” teens may be tempted to rush in and do things for them. But for these adolescents, the principle of "show them how to fish rather than give them a fish" applies all the more.

12. Adolescents on the spectrum tend to prefer being isolated. Thus, being sent to their room for a time-out can actually be a reward for misbehavior unless modified slightly (e.g., being sent to the room with no computer privileges).

Knowing the best way to impose consequences for misbehavior is not an easy task, particularly in light of some of the characteristics commonly associated with the ASD level 1 (e.g., the tendency to blame others rather than assume responsibility for behavior, the inability to perceive cause-and-effect, difficulty generalizing from one situation to another, having a short memory for misdeeds - but not for the consequences, and so on). Nevertheless, with patience, humor, and a sense of perspective, you can become your adolescent's supporter and advocate, even in your role of authority.

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

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


•    Anonymous said… After going to an all day training on the (neurotypical) teenage brain, I came to believe that typical teenage behavior/brain development is very, very similar to autistic behavior, so all the best techniques that you already use will be helpful. One tidbit I loved is learning that typical teens can't read facial expressions accurately and misread everything as anger, leading to defensiveness, so I tell our boys, "Your brain seems to be misinterpreting something you see on our (parent) faces that isn't there. We are surprised, not angry. Please try (that attitude in response) again." (Also, don't lift your eyebrows. Communicate as if you have Botox face. Every facial twitch can make them feel afraid of/react to misperceived perceived anger.) Teaching our own boys about the parts of their brain and how it changes (esp prefrontal cortex) has been helpful in our home. Logic helps them understand the emotion and to know that what they are experiencing is completely normal (brain and hormonal), so it takes some of the reaction away and allows everyone to respond. The more I learn about development at each stage, the better I can figure out the most effective tools to adapt for my kiddos. I can't find the specific seminar link right now but this link has some great tidbits.
•    Anonymous said… Ahhhh summer vacation is just barely a week old yet .. my kid has already spent 1 full day of boooooring with no electronics .. at my office doing tedious but simple tasks.
I don't have the patience to deal with the sass & non-listening for the entire summer. I already feel like a broken record. Thank goodness I have a boss that is ok with me bringing in my kid once in a while. I tell her that if she cannot behave for the other adults (like grandparents & sitters), then I have to watch her and the only way I can do that is if she comes to work. So no fun activities, or even "boring tv" or "boring sitting in the backyard reading" .. then she can tag along to work instead.
•    Anonymous said… Btw .. mine is 11.5 .. she has a "phone" - it doesn't have a phone but it had apps & internet & YouTube .. plus she has a d/s & a wiiu and we live super close o a library and within walking distance of a splash pad and a dollar store (so there's often cheap snacks/trinkets) ..  So a day at my office once in a while usually helps with the attitude for a while .. especially with the potential threat of all p.a. days sitting by the shredder  :p
•    Anonymous said… I have a nineteen year old who has Aspergers, he is wonderful, but his life is very difficult......in so many ways
•    Anonymous said… I have twin daughters on the spectrum (HFA) - they are 11 now but when they were younger they did this and then they would answer each other in quotes- as if it were normal. They still go line for line when they find dialogue that amuses them
•    Anonymous said… I think support forum is needed. I feel awfully stressed when my son is this way too
•    Anonymous said… I use my friends sons who are similar ages to my Aspie son as a guide to filter out normal behaviour versus classic Aspie behaviour. To be honest I have found that in the main my son is just going through typical teenager angsts, Similar to what you have described above. Most of my parenting comes from trial and error with him, although his behaviour is mostly typical teenager stuff, the style of discipline he responds to is very different from the other children who are not on the spectrum. I always set clear instructions and give fore-warnings, for example I will go up 30 mins before he is due to turn of the computer and remind him that his time is up soon etc. I never leave it 5 mins before as I know it will cause a meltdown as the transition that quickly is too much for him. Sometimes we have to modify our parenting. Speak to your DR to see if you have any parenting classes for ASD or support groups in your area to get advice etc.
•    Anonymous said… I would honestly tell him how what he says makes you feel/ why you are asking him to do/ not do something. I spell it out for every kid I teach. It tends to help them understand better what I am asking of them and why. Less confusion, less resentment, and much less attitude when the realize I'm not just being a buzz kill because I can. I also dangle a reward for good behaviour. So usually it's at the end of the day they get free time/ a game/ to do something they want if it's possible. Then they tend to stay in line because that reward is strongly desired and they know how to get it.  It has worked for me for students with a range of challenges. I do treat them all like they have choices and the ability to think for themselves. Lots of kids that have given me feedback say that I don't treat them like kids because they feel respected and equal in the conversation. I put things in terms they understand but I talk to them like I would another adult I was having problems with. Often they have logic and reasoning skills good enough to understand at least that part of my explanation.
•    Anonymous said… In all senses I feel for you as I do with what's comin for me! I have 2 NT children who are 21 and 1! And one gorgeous lil aspie who's 6 x
•    Anonymous said… Mine is 6 and like this! God help me  🙏🏼
•    Anonymous said… My 9 yr old is about the sameeeee way
•    Anonymous said… Social behavior is often mimicked without really being understood. It could be a way of communicating even if unappropriate. Perhaps he does not understand how hurtful sarcasm can be.
•    Anonymous said… That's my 18 year old son, except he is verbally abusive. His Dad was no help throughout all of this. He never thought anything was different with him. So he let him run wild at his house.....We had 60/40 time and when my son turned 18. His dad kicked him out because he wanted to stay more with me. Now he is 18 he thinks I can't tell him what to do. It got so bad I had him baker acted. That is involuntary mental hospitalization. He was there for 2 day and now on meds. I'm praying to God. Good luck. I would do strong counseling.
•    Anonymous said… We looked at it as a positive in that at least he was trying to socialize instead of crawling in his own little world
•    Anonymous said… When my aspie daughter has a meltdown, the best way to communicate is through writing down how you feel . I often message my daughter on her phone or tablet, whilst she's upstairs , hiding from the world (she didn't learn to read or write until she was 8 - so I find when she messages me back an amazing feat). It seems easier for her too, to express how she feels without confrontation. The messages always end with 'I love you' x We've sorted many problems out in this way and on some occasions she will come and talk when she's ready x
•    Anonymous said… When our son was in preschool he would often recite lines from television programs in an attempt to communicate with his peers.

Post your comment below…


Testimonials from parents who have worked Mark Hutten's program...

Here are just a few testimonials from parents who have worked the program entitled: Parenting Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

"I just have to let you know that I just started reading your ebook... I am in tears as I am reading. It is like you have been hanging out in our home, watching us. We are on our 4th therapist in a 3-year-period and not one of them have seemed to have a grasp on what we are dealing with, but your first few chapters have summed us up almost immediately. I had to stop and say thank you." -- M.J.

"I just want to say that these 3 weeks since I bought your program have been the best I have had in a while. My Aspie is doing great, no arguments, there is respect, and he is doing chores---Thank you! I feel so “in control” these days. I hope to keep it up. There is hope, I have followed the program, and I have noticed that just a few adjustments go a long way in the behaviour and anxiety-level of children with Aspergers. They cannot see you out of control." -- C.H.

"I just wanted to follow up to let you know that your program is spot-on! I am just starting Session 3 in your materials and using the suggestions in my household. Thank you so much for making this program so affordable and supportive for the parent!!! I think we will make it through the next four years in a much calmer household." -- D.B.

"I started using the language and skills suggested, and WOW what a difference it's making already! My child is being positive, kind and respectful to me. It's hard to change, but I'm convinced this is going to work for my family. I've learned that my actions have a direct effect on my child. Thank you so much for retraining me!!!" -- T.K.

"If there is anything we can do to "give back" please let us know. We do plan to "pay it forward" and steer parents to your program if they ask us how we managed to cope with our out-of-control child." -- G.J.

Will you be next?

Get started with these strategies today!

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Dealing with Severe Mood Swings in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“My son has autism (high functioning, age 11) and is referred by his doctor with the chief complaint of “severe mood swings, rule out bipolar disorder (BD).” In the past, he was treated for ADHD with stimulants with mixed results. I’m concerned about his “flipping out” whenever he is asked to do something he does not want to do. I have a history of depression and anxiety, and his dad had a drinking problem. There is no history of BD in his first- or second-degree relatives. Are my son’s rapid mood swings a sign of ADHD, autism, BD, or another disorder?”

It’s not uncommon for a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) to experience frequent mood swings (i.e., an emotional response that is poorly modulated and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response). Overwhelming emotions can take over, and the child will use some type of coping mechanism (at an unconscious level) to deal with them.

The trigger for a mood swing might be the result of a very minor incident (e.g., sensory sensitivity) or something much more upsetting (e.g., withdrawal of a privilege). Also, many mood swings last until the youngster is completely drained of his negative emotions.

The child’s mood swing may result in behavioral outbursts, destroying or throwing objects, aggression, anger and rage, self-injury, and problems that interfere with the child’s social interactions and relationships at home and school. These responses can occur in seconds to minutes or hours.

In my practice, the most frequently asked question by moms and dads is: “What do I do when my child can’t control his emotions?” When severe mood swings occur, the first response is to ensure the safety of all concerned.

Of course, mood swings are not planned, but instead are most often caused by elusive and puzzling environmental triggers. When the “shift in mood” happens, everyone in its path feels pain – especially the “special needs” boy or girl.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
Parents can expect their HFA or AS child to experience both minor and major mood swings over incidents that are part of daily life. Many parents have a hard time knowing how their child is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions. Let’s look at just a few…

When Your HFA or AS Child Experiences Severe Mood Swings:

1. Put safety first: Attempt to softly hold your son physically, unless he is one of those youngster that doesn’t like touch. Each HFA and AS youngster reacts to mood swings differently. Some will like to be held, others will want to be left alone. So, try holding your son gently if he will let you. If he becomes agitated, let go as long as no one will get hurt.

2. Don’t throw gas on the fire: Avoid threats in the heat of the moment. The moment you make unreasonable threats of punishments in hopes of scaring your son into compliance, you are not talking about the topic anymore. For example, if the parent says something like, “If you throw that again – you’re going to go to bed early tonight,” then the youngster may start to fight the early bedtime, and the original problem doesn’t get resolved – instead, now there are two problems.

3. Give a signal: Teach your son to respond to your "signal" (e.g., a hand motion) to stay composed. Give that signal as soon as he starts "fussing " about something.

4. This is not about you (the parent): As difficult as it may be in the heat of the moment, don’t take your son’s strong feelings personally. A parent may feel aggravated and personally attacked when the youngster explodes. Statements such as “I hate you” is not actually a personal statement. What your son is really saying is “I hate being out of control of my emotions.”

5.  Use distraction: As soon as you notice your son exhibiting the signs that his mood is about to take a turn for the worse, try to distract him. In order to be effective, the distraction has to be of interest to him (e.g., suggest to him "let's take a walk" or "let's play Pictionary").

6. Provide a “feelings vocabulary”: Teach your son to talk about how he feels. Give him a language to express his emotions. If he is too upset to talk or doesn't have the vocabulary to express his emotions, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation (e.g., "Do you feel angry… let down… afraid?"). When your son expresses the feelings behind his distress (e.g., anger, anxiety), suggest some other ways to look at the same event that may not be so anger- or anxiety-provoking. The thought "It's not fair" is a big anger-arouser for many young people on the spectrum. If that is the case with your son, ask him, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When he answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his feelings.

7. Catch the mood swing in its early phase: Slow down the process by saying, "O.K. We need a minute to think about this." If your son is gearing-up for an emotional vomit, you can slow things down by giving him some feedback (e.g., "I can see you're starting to get upset. Can we talk about it first?").

8. Think in terms of “limits” rather than “punishment”: Set limits that your son will find reassuring. A limit is not a punishment. Limits may help your son learn how to slow himself down. HFA and AS kids find the “setting of limits” very soothing. They need to know that the parent is in control – because they feel so out of control!

9. Pretend you are a mirror: Reflect your son’s emotional state. You could say something like, "I can see how annoyed you are. Can you tell me what made you feel this way?" (Note: "What" is always more important than "Why," because it asks for specifics. Your son will probably never know “why” he gets upset. And if you ask, he is likely to say, “I don’t know!!”).

10. Establish a “judge-free” zone: Let your son express his negative feelings without judging him. What would you do if every time you were angry or hurt, some tall scowling adult looked down on you and said, "Stop feeling that way," or "Don’t talk to me like that." Rather than calming down, you may decide to act-out your anger even more.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
11. Issue appropriate consequences: If your son refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about his distress and starts shouting or getting aggressive, impose appropriate consequences. Have these consequences in place to serve as a guideline (i.e., you have discussed them with your son beforehand and written them out for future reference). Armed with a list of consequences (which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges), you should encourage your son to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about his feelings rather than acting-out.

12. Don’t try to put a lid on it: As long as no one is going to get hurt, let the mood swing run its course. This is hard for parents to do – but it’s very crucial. An HFA or AS youngster who is full of raw emotions will not know how to manage them. But he may feel somewhat soothed by your calmer presence. Then, you get back to the business of “talking it out.” Talking things out (after things have calmed down a bit) teaches your son to use his words to deal with negative emotions rather than using physical aggression. However, don't extend your son’s emotional state with too much discussion. If he is feeling out of control or in a rage, too much talking will not help – in fact, it may prolong the problem.

13. YOU take a time-out (if safety is not an issue): Keep your emotions separate from your son’s behavior. While there are occasions when it is important to tell your son how you feel, entering into his emotional state with your own negative emotions will only worsen the problem. Take a deep breath, speak calmly, leave the room, and give yourself a few minutes to gather your thoughts.

14. Acknowledge the effect your son’s mood swings have on you: Many HFA and AS kids will calm down if the parent acknowledges their impact. For example, you can stop and say, "I've stopped the car (or "I’m off the phone"), and you have my full attention. What don't I understand?" Sometimes kids just need to vent to a listening ear.

15. Seek professional help: If you see a repeated, chronic pattern that you can't figure out, seek the help of a therapist. If your son’s destructive behavior escalates and becomes increasingly difficult to deal with, and if nothing works over a period of weeks or months, there may be an underlying issue that needs professional assistance.

HFA and AS kids guided toward responsible emotion-management are more likely to understand and manage unpredictable mood swings directly and non-aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying them. You can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing severe mood swings by adopting some of the parenting techniques listed above.

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


Anonymous said… Bipolar is over diagnosed in the Autistic population due to a severe overlap in symptoms/tendencies, and an adolescents' inability to self manage the hormones and sensory issues associated with Autism will not make this any easier. It is already a tumultuous time. I agree with the above, seek out care from someone with a Biomedical background before simply medicating (this is coming from Mama of a teen Aspie - but myself have been diagnosed with BD which is now being reassessed)
Anonymous said… Have him assessed for OCD. It had many traits and sub traits. I had no idea how to communicate with my sin for years without him"blowing up" , turns out the OCD thoughts were literally driving him crazy.
Anonymous said… In this article and many others it says to seek professional counseling. We have tried many counselors who claim to "specialize in autism, Asperger's," but really have no clue. How do you find a counselor that really deals with autism?
Anonymous said… WOW my son is 9 and he is getting angrier when I ask him to do things, homework. Chores sounds like you found such great help!!!!
Anonymous said… Your describing my son his 10. We've got our first appointment in three weeks with CD. Is your son like this at school aswell? Or is it mainly only directed at you?
Anonymous said… Don't let docs put him on SEI's though. Contact a company called Neuroscience. (I went through my chiropractor) and they will do a brain chemistry test to determine which levels are "off". Then they recommend supplements for him to take to correct it. My son had been on them for almost 2 years now. He is a completely different, confident and mostly calm teenager. I'm so grateful.
Anonymous said… It probably bores him and he doesn't see the point. That is what my son said to me once. Or he could be worried he won't do it right? Also at 9/10 hormones start kicking in. My son's OCD started flaring at 10.
Anonymous said… My son is 9 he gets so angry at me when I ask him nicely to do chores, homework, rinse off his plate, etc. I just don't understand it - it's getting worse. Aspergers is so challenging!!!  ❤ Your not alone!!!
Anonymous said… Sounds like PDA, my son has it too. Also 11yrs old. It's VERY tricky but try to get ways to work around the "order" you are giving. For example, if it's bath time, I wouldn't tell my son to go and bath... I wil give him an option so that it looks like it was "his choice" and he feels in control of the decision... I would just ask him...."what would it be tonight... bath or shower?" (I'm blessed to have both) Then he would choose, and that's what he sticks too. I sometimes do it with food as well. I will give him 2 options, and I would make sure one of the options is actually less desireable so that he unknowingly chooses what I actually wanted to give him. I will add that this method does not ALWAYS work... but then I would just improvise and use a reward technique or something. Good luck! Xoxoxo
* oh my, great timing for this article! Our 11 year-old had major meltdown, precipitated by our not using the right words, ie. notebook instead of binder, and more. He said, he was feeling physical pain over it, as stomach pain, then frustration grew until he was pulling his hair, screaming, and then head-butted wall. He ran to his room and cried it out for 5 minutes. I waited another 10 and knocked, He was all over it-- completely calm, open to discussing and compliant. As tho it never happened. Amazing. (I, on the other hand, am still upset!) We'll talk more today, about tips in this article to implement in hopes of avoiding another self injurious explosion. Thank you, Mark

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