Reasons Why Your ASD Child Gets So Stressed-Out at School

Kids with and Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) commonly experience anxiety. Estimates report that as many as 80% of kids on the spectrum have anxiety disorders such as specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. Physical complaints with no apparent medical basis is often an indicator of anxiety (e.g., stress in a social situation, a demanding school setting, sensory sensitivities, etc.).

Factors that can make existing anxiety even worse can include an introverted temperament, having highly anxious parents, high levels of family stress or conflict, and a family history of anxiety.

Signs of school anxiety in AS and HFA children include the following:

Behavioral Signs—
  • Abnormal failure or delay to complete everyday responsibilities
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Frequent lying
  • Nail biting
  • Pacing
  • Significant change in school or work performance
  • Trouble getting along with classmates and/or teachers

Cognitive Signs—
  • Anxious thoughts or feelings
  • Chronic worrying
  • Impaired concentration
  • Impaired speech (e.g., mumbling or stuttering)
  • Reduced or impaired judgment
  • Repetitive or unwanted thoughts
  • Trouble with remembering things (e.g., homework assignments or deadlines)
  • Unusual desire for social isolation

Emotional Signs—
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feelings of sadness and/or depression
  • Irritability
  • Less than normal patience
  • More frequent or extreme pessimistic attitude
  • Reduced or eliminated desire for activities once enjoyed or regularly done
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of isolation
  • Trouble coping with life’s issues

Physical Signs—
  • Chest pain with or without tachycardia
  • Clenched teeth 
  • Fatigue 
  • Flushed skin 
  • Getting sick more often than normal 
  • Headaches 
  • Heartburn or indigestion 
  • Involuntary twitching or shaking 
  • Irregular bowel movements 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Nausea 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Unusual changes in weight

Other signs include:
  • Shutdowns
  • Shadowing parents around the house
  • Severe tantrums when forced to go to school
  • Regressive behavior
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Nightmares
  • Meltdowns
  • Feeling unsafe staying in a room by themselves
  • Fear of being alone in the dark
  • Excessive worry about harm to themselves
  • Excessive shyness
  • Exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars
  • Clinging behavior

Let’s take a deeper look at all the things that can contribute to your AS or HFA child’s anxiety level:

1. There's a lot of pressure for students to learn more and more – and at younger ages than in past generations. For example, while a few decades ago, kindergarten was a time for learning letters, numbers, and basics, most kindergarteners today are expected to read. With test scores being heavily weighted and publicly known, schools are under great pressure to produce high test scores. That pressure gets passed on to the students, and no one feels that pressure more than a child on the autism spectrum.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

2. Just as it can be stressful to handle a heavy and challenging workload, some students experience stress from work that isn't difficult enough. Many children with AS and HFA have average to above-average IQs (sometimes into the “gifted” range), and can become easily bored and disengaged if the subject matter is not challenging enough. They may respond by acting-out or tuning-out in class, which leads to poor performance, masks the root of the problem, and perpetuates the difficulties.

3. Many of us have experienced test anxiety, regardless of whether or not we're prepared for exams. Unfortunately, greater levels of test anxiety hinder performance on exams. Due to the fact that the AS or HFA child already has an element of anxiety to contend with throughout the day, the added pressure of an exam may prove to be too much anxiety-overload, resulting in either a meltdown or shutdown.

4. With the overabundance of convenience food available these days - and the time constraints we all experience - the average youngster's diet has more sugar and less nutritious content than is recommended. This can lead to mood swings, lack of energy, and other negative effects that exacerbate the stress levels of “already-anxious” kids on the spectrum.

5. While most “typical” kids would say that their peers are one of their favorite aspects of school, peers can be a source of stress for students on the spectrum (e.g., due to being rejected, teased, and bullied). Concerns about not having any friends, not being in the same class with someone who actually is a friend, not being able to keep up with peers in one particular area or another (e.g., gym class), interpersonal conflicts, and peer pressure are a few of the very common ways kids with AS and HFA can be stressed by their social lives at school.

6. In an effort to give their “special needs” child an edge, or to provide the best possible developmental experiences, some parents enroll their child in too many extra-curricular activities. As the child becomes a teenager, school extracurricular activities become much more demanding. College admissions standards are also becoming increasingly competitive, making it difficult for a college-bound high school student to avoid over-scheduling himself. All of this adds up to stress-overload.

7. Many parents of children on the autism spectrum report that their child is not getting enough sleep to function well each day. As schedules get busier, even younger kids are finding themselves habitually sleep-deprived. This can affect health and cognitive functioning, both of which increase anxiety levels and impact school performance.

8. Noise pollution from school hallways, strange smells coming from the cafeteria, the buzz of florescent lighting, and other environmental stimuli have been shown to cause stress that impacts the AS or HFA child’s performance in school.

9. As you know, there are different styles of learning. Some students learn better by listening, others retain information more efficiently if they see the information written out, and still others prefer learning by doing. Students on the spectrum usually learn best through visual forms of instruction. If there's a mismatch in the child’s learning style and the teacher’s teaching style, this often leads to a stressful academic experience.

10. Due in part to the hectic schedules of parents, the sit-down family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule in many households. While there are other ways to connect as a family, many families find that they’re too busy to spend time together and have both the important discussions and the casual day recaps that can be so helpful for “special needs” kids in dealing with the stressful issues they face. Due to a lack of available family time, many parents are not as connected to their children - or knowledgeable about the issues they face - as they would like.
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

11. A good experience with a caring teacher can cause a lasting impression on an AS or HFA youngster's life – BUT so can a bad experience. While most teachers do their best to provide “special needs” students with a positive educational experience, some students are better suited for certain teaching styles and classroom types than others. If there is a mismatch between student and teacher, the student can form lasting negative feelings about school or his own abilities.

12. Many schools now have anti-bullying policies. Though bullying does still happen at many schools, help is generally more accessible than it was years ago. The bad news is that bullying has gone high-tech. Many kids use the Internet, cell phones and other media devices to bully HFA and AS kids, and this type of bullying often gets very aggressive. One reason is that bullies can be anonymous and enlist other bullies to make their target miserable. Another reason is that they don't have to face their targets, so it's easier to shed any empathy that they may otherwise feel.

What can be done to reduce school anxiety in AS and HFA children? Here are a few suggestions:

1. You may have tried to “reassure” your anxious child. But oftentimes, these reassurances sound “empty.” Saying something such as “It's going to be fine” is not likely to help a nervous AS or HFA youngster. When he begins to worry, you can use it as an opportunity to have more dialogue and find out what is making him so anxious. The more information you have, the better job you can do to help him feel more comfortable in the school environment. Thus, do a bit of an investigation to get to the root of the problem. For example, your child may become extremely anxious getting on the bus in the morning, during transitions, in the lunch room, during gym class, while taking a quiz or test …just to name a few. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest level of anxiety), your child is not at a level 10 all day. Most likely, there are only one or two situations that launch him to that level. Address those situations first.

2. Try to find out if your child is refusing to go to school due to real anxiety issues, or some other reason. Answers to the following questions may help to determine the motivation behind school-refusal:
  • What specific tangible rewards does your child pursue outside of school that cause her to miss school?
  • What specific social situations at school are avoided?
  • What specific school-related stimuli are provoking her concern about going to school?
  • What specific problematic behaviors are present in the morning before school?
  • What is her degree of anxiety or misbehavior upon entering school?
  • What is her academic and social status? (This would include a review of academic records, formal evaluation reports, attendance records, and IEP or 504 plans.)
  • What family disruption or conflict has occurred as a result of her school-refusal?
  • What comorbid conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, sensory sensitivities, etc.) occur with her school-refusal?
  • What are her specific forms of absenteeism, and how do these forms change daily?
  • Is her school-refusal relatively acute or chronic in nature? 
  • Is her refusal to attend school legitimate or understandable in some way (e.g., due to a school-based threat, bullying, inadequate school environment, etc.)?
  • Is she willing to attend school if you accompany her?
  • Is she willing to attend school if incentives are provided for attendance?
  • How did her school-refusal develop over time?
  • Have recent or traumatic home or school events influenced her school-refusal?
  • Are there any non-school situations where anxiety or attention-seeking behavior occurs?
  • Are symptoms of school-refusal evident on weekends and holidays?

3. Put a picture of you, the parent, in your youngster's notebook, or place a special note in his lunch box (e.g., “Mommy loves you”). These “little things” aren’t so little, and will help your child feel more comfortable at school (especially if he is coping with separation anxiety).
==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

4. Discuss the daily plans with your child so that everyone is informed and knows what to expect. Make sure your youngster is aware of everything, including who will be at the bus stop or who will be picking her up at school (this is especially important if you carpool).

5. Emphasize the positives of school. Frequently discuss how much fun school can be and all the new friends your child can meet. If your AS or HFA youngster has an older sibling in school, have that sister or brother talk to your “special needs” child about recess and all the fun that is had during the school day.

6. Meet with the school guidance counselor. This visit will make you and your child more relaxed about school. If you keep your youngster’s anxiety in the open with the counselor, he or she will likely check in on your child more often.

7. Lastly, if your youngster’s anxiety continues to grow, or you feel you can’t help her resolve her fears about school, it is time to see the doctor. Your doctor can consult with you and the entire family in order to decide if a therapist is needed.

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


•    Anonymous said… Even with the IEP it's still about conforming.
•    Anonymous said… Great article. My daughter has always shown signs of anxiety, but it ballooned once she started high school and resulted in severe depression, cognitive decline, and school refusal. It was not until age 16 that she was diagnosed with Asperger's. Her diagnosis came as both a surprise and a relief to us. She flew under the radar for so long, developing her own coping strategies along the way... but it finally became too much for her to handle. It has helped her and us to have a better understanding of her behaviour and sensory triggers. She is now back in school but on a reduced schedule of 2 in-school classes and 1 online class this semester. Our school has been very helpful and accommodating. She knows it will take her longer to complete high school with this schedule and she's fine with that. We still have our daily challenges but, with the right medication and removing the pressure to attend a full day of school, we've seen a positive change.
•    Anonymous said… I am done with school systems. After my son being bullied and called a loser by the school psychologist, that was the last straw. My ASD Spectrum son is 16. I dropped him out and homeschooling him. He'll take the Hi-Set (new GED) and go at his own pace until he's ready to take the Hi-Set.
•    Anonymous said… I am raising a child who is struggling in school.She doesn't have servers but has learning disabilities. You are right, it might look good on paper but the schools don't understand anxiety or learning pace.
•    Anonymous said… I am so sorry your son was bullied. No one deserves that.
•    Anonymous said… I can only speak from my own experience. The schools in our area really have nothing for Aspergers kids. My son is expected to be neurotypical and this has caused so much heartache for us. Inclusion without real support is rough. My hope is that there are schools out there who have more than what we've been given.
•    Anonymous said… Inclusion without support is not has been my experience that schools think they're being inclusive when really they are working towards integration...trying to make a neurodiverse student indistinguishable from their peers...the pressure to conform causes significant anxiety... this was one reason we recently moved schools...there are good schools out there striving for a truly inclusive culture... we are feeling positive about our new's small and has a great part time program
•    Anonymous said… It is a real shame that schools don't work with kids with aspergers the way they should. Oh they go through the motions but they don't seem to do all that they can! It is very difficult for kids to sit in a classroom for a whole period and concentrate on the that so hard to understand!
•    Anonymous said… my son gets stressed out at school feeling hes being bullied because other kids are trying to tell him what hes supose to do, then they ignor his requests knowing he will loose it and will get into trouble when they tell the teacher, all innocent, that he was yelling at them.
•    Anonymous said… my son is in first grade and I'm exhausted. We changed schools to give him something better. Looking ahead is hard. The thought of middle school worries me as well.
•    Anonymous said… We are in elementary school have problems with it too. I am very worried about middle school.
•    Anonymous said… You can ask for a IEP Which gives aspergers children a easier time. my son also has aspergers and makes his school day rough but he has learned to cope thank goodness also do you have any charter schools in your area they are also more prepared and willing to work with aspergers children.

Post your comment below…

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Sept., 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.


Would you recommend this program to friends or family?

I wholeheartedly recommend this programme to EVERY parent. I am a single-parent and have found my son's out of control behaviour completely overwhelming.  I wish I'd learnt these strategies when my son was younger.  It's really worth sticking through and following Mark's advise to the letter. I was on the verge of a breakdown at home and unable to cope with my son's outbursts.  My son had punched holes in walls, broken furniture, stolen from me, and was physically intimidating i.e. not letting me leave the house by blocking me.

It's not all plain sailing and I've had a few setbacks, e.g. there was a huge backlash after I started initiating the discipline. However,  I stuck it out and it really paid off. The  intensity of my son's tempers have mellowed and are less frequent. He's started a new sport, is sleeping at night time (I now switch off the internet and night and he must give me his mobile before he goes to bed). We are eating together all the time and life is getting back to normal. 

Did you get a timely response to your emails?


What was the most helpful feature of Online Parent Support? 

I think the phrasing of how to approach situations also Mark correctly anticipated potential reactions to changes I was implementing and how to deal with those.

What was the least helpful? 
Nothing - everything was really helpful.

Additional Comments:

I wish the CD was available in downloadable format. I live in Europe and can't purchase it.


Hello Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to put your parenting programme together. I wanted to let you know that your advice and strategies have had a positive and transformative impact on our home life.

More importantly, I think it's benefited my son as he's learning boundaries and how to behave especially around women.  One of my biggest fears is that he'd grow up to a man who abuses his wife and family.  

I've submitted feedback on the feedback page which you are welcome to use (without identifying me).

I only wish I could buy the CD ( I'm in Europe) -  it would be great if this was downloadable so I could listen to it in the car.

Keep up the good work!
Many thanks and God bless



MARK!! I have just started reading!! OMG I can't believe it! Thank you so so so so so much! I am going to Staples to buy some paper (mine is always recycled and crappy!  - autism is expensive! lol) I am so very thankful to you!! Thank you so much! Seriously, thank you. I love your info and subscribe to your info and am excited when I get new info! Thanks again! Wish me luck with my son! He started Gr. 3 today. He knows he has autism and we think he knows what that means at a basic level, but we are wanting him to be as informed and involved as he can be. I am 45 and my husband ( very good daddy) is 47 and we know that we are not long for this world - he will need to know how to live his own life and we are (obv) terrified. Your articles help us feel like we/he is going to be ok.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mark. Seriously. If you ever come to Canada, let me know - you can stay with us!!!

xoxoxoxo Blessings,



Thanks Mark!

I've been reading your FB posts and really appreciating them.

Our 5 yo son w/ AS/HFA started kindergarten last week and he's really struggling w/ unprovoked aggression towards his peers. Then when adult educational staff intervene, he has subsequent aggression towards them and some times he has meltdowns.  Some aggression is in response to predictable triggers (e.g., asked to do writing which evokes anxiety and embarrassment, bumped by other kid while waiting in line) and some aggression towards kids is seemingly out the blue.  When asked why, he says "I don't know."  My sense is that he is overwhelmed by anxiety and sensory processing challenges related to new environment.  We had IEP place before school started but doesn't seem to adequate based upon response first 2 weeks.

Where do you recommend that I start looking in the materials you sent for ideas about how to help him?


Good evening Mark!
Let me start by saying my name is Hope Cook and im the manager of the Crystal Coast Autism Center,Inc in Morehead city nc. I was wondering if you go to places and talk to parents,teachers ect. About Autism? The reason why im asking is because we are a small city but we have surrounding counties. There is a lot of teachers and parents that are in need of learning more about autism. I watch your video and it was very inspiring. I would love to see if I can have you come and talk to you the parents and teachers of Carteret County and surrounding counties. How much would it cost if you could do this? I am extremely interested in learning more. I have a 13 year old son that is on the Spectrum. It's extremely hard I am a single mother and I tried to learn as much as possible. I really think your videos and what you would have to say would be a tremendous help to a lot of people in Carteret County and surrounding counties. Please consider this and get back with me as soon as you can. Thank you for all you do! I look forward to hearing from you.


Your articles are amazing. I am the nana to a 19-year-old girl. She was diagnosed at around 5 years old and now is being tested for autism. Since my first text to you, it has been awful.  In the last couple months they have had to call the police to let them take her to the hospital several times.She seems to be calm there like their is nothing major and just keeps it in but will explod soon after being released. She makes a plan to herself and when she voices it and they say no it all starts. Her screams don't sound right and are scary and I fear for the families life at times because she is so aggressive and makes so many threats. It is very disturbing to see she her thrown things and hit her mama repeatedly and her daddy it goes between hitting biting slapping and throwing things.   They have a upstairs and I fear she may push someone down them.  We fear for them and the other little children. It is majorly affecting her 14-year-old brother who had a panic attack and had to go to the ER because of her. He has lived in this stuff for many a year. Maybe had she been handled differently younger as some of your stuff has been placed out there to read maybe it would have helped her I don't know. She has such serious meltdowns we're just at a loss and and the parents are totally exhausted. Removing the 14-year-old for a while to go to the grandmas and really do not know what's going to happen with Hailee. She seems to be a different person with friends but with her family especially her mom is very bad she supposedly test is only like a 12-year-old but is 19 and thinks she is an adult and anything can set her off She has ran away several times threaten to kill the family and herself and already packed a bag please just give me some hopeful and helpful information as a grandma I ended up going for counseling but I am at a loss. I am a Christian and I do trust God for his guidance 100% but I would like to have some information to read on and stuff you say I really really admire you and thank you for how you can help me and encourage me waiting for your response thank you Gail. Also she has guys she talks with and one particularly has had a hold on her. He lives out of town and that is a answer to prayer.  She wants a boyfriend and she is in a dangerous place. He is aggressively talking and very bad .  He says he will come get her.  Fearful if she did he would abuse her.   Just another area of scarienes. Thanks again.  I do pray Mark you do handle these text but how do you handle so many or you just have certain things you say for a situation.  Sorry just desperate and


last four years have been brutal. 5 grade with bulling, then a private school which ended in as refusal as they did not understand how to deal with our son and treated him more as will full.
The third school understood and tried to help which lead to the district supporting him being moved to a school for kids with learning disabilities.
This worked for a while and we thought it was the solution as the staff seemed in tune with autism.
Anders did well in the beginning but then started having issues with a kid then another one and after a third one he was done.
He spend a lot of time talking to teachers and the schools director but it was mostly a one way conversation. He demanded an action which was difficult for them to do and at the end he simply refused to go to school.
Now in response to the strategies we have been unable to make anything work and at them moment he is forcing me (his dad) out of our home but throwing fits and banging on walls and doors until my wife asks me to go somewhere else which means i am at the moment sitting in a parking lot writing to you. all whiles she has to deal with my aspergers son (Anders) and 12 year old twins and all the house work.
something has to change
 my wife and i no longer possess the energy to do it.
we are working with the school district, wrap around services, phycologists, aba team, ucsf specialists.
given all of the special help we are unable to function and Anders rejects the help by hiding or going crazy yelling and screaming.
i am currently with out job and find it hard to focus on getting one with all this going on.
my wife is stressed out and i am feeling more and more panic coming on inside if me.


I have two adopted children ages 9 and 10.  The eldest has been diagnosed with RAD and I believe he has SAD (Separation Anxiety Disorder) too.  He started school just before his 5th birthday having spent two terms at playschool and seemed ok, the odd day of resistance but nothing that registered as being abnormal.  But once he entered a more formal educational setting in Year 1 (England) the problems began.  He would refuse to listen in lessons preferring to be under the tables.  He was constantly in trouble, found it difficult to maintain friendships and was bullied.  We moved schools hoping a smaller school would be better but the problems continued until eventually he refused to even go to school or stay there if I had managed to get him through the door.  After many meetings with teachers, the head of school,  the post adoption service we gave up and at the end of Yr 2 we decided Home Education was the only option.  Clearly a school setting was not for him.  We have since removed our daughter too who  is also showing signs of attachment disorder.

My main difficulty is that we are now in our 4th year of Home Education and every day is a struggle to get him to learn anything.  He has been assessed for Autism and ADHD neither of which he has but the refusal to learn continues.  He says “if he does his learning then he will have to grow up and that means leaving Mummy”.  No amount of reassurance will change his mind.  He is an avid reader and learns a lot this way but won’t do anything formal. He disrupts his sisters learning time too.  He wakes me most nights with nightmares about us being separated in some way and follows me around the house which makes me feel a little smothered at times.  If he cannot be with me he bothers his sister and if she doesn’t want him around he hurts her.  The rejection is too much.  Even spending time with my husband so I can have some ‘me time’ is difficult for him.

I practice Therapeutic Parenting technicques and the bond between us has grown but I would not say it is secure although in the last few weeks he has started saying that he knows I care about him and always will so I feel we have made some progress.  While his sister was still at school I facilitated a year of regression to infancy and he had two years of playtherapy to help him explore his rather chaotic past.  My husband and I have in the last 10 months lost both remaining parents to cancer so the children are both grieving this loss on top of previous loss through adoption.

This is a brief synopsis of the last 7 years.  I have joined your mailing list as I have found some of the techniques on your website very useful.  Any words of advice you can offer would be gratefully recieved.  I admit I am struggling. 


You describe my partner completely. Unfortunately, he is now my ex partner as he ended our relationship only 4 weeks ago. I am devastated, not only because I am still very much in love with him but also because I have only just discovered that he has the condition.

Frank is a 48 year old man and has never been diagnosed. His marriage of 20 years ended 5 years ago and I am the only partner he has had since. His ex-wife (whom I know) became depressed and this is the official reason the marriage broke down.

Now Frank has finished our relationship of 18 months because he realises he cannot stop hurting me, unintentionally. And yes, I was hurt... because I too was unaware of the reasons behind his, often strange, behaviour. Now I understand it so much better but am at a loss as to what to do.

We ended nicely, as in nobody is angry. He is a very mild-mannered man and I am a kind NT woman. However, he says he is now totally ‘empty’. I have not seen or heard him in two weeks and it’s causing me a great deal of pain. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way forward?

Please realise that my love for him has always been, right from the beginning, genuine and committed. I have never given up on ‘us’. He tried to end our relationship twice before already but I convinced him not to.


Mr. Hutten,

I stumbled onto your site today in the early a.m. because I have chronic insomnia, and have been a collector of expert information for my son for nearly nineteen years.  Our stumbling block is that we have a young man with severe anxiety, depression, irritability, and self-loathing.  We have NEVER made him feel badly for his meltdowns and have always been positive about his diagnosis and all of the hard work that put into speech therapy, etc., when he was a young man.  We have always praised his desired behaviors and tended to re-direct and not draw attention to undesirable behaviors.

He was home-schooled from third grade as we started witnessing the effect that some minor bullying was having on him.  We had a team of professionals who studied him in a typical school setting and advised us, due to his extreme anxiety, and the bullying, that he would learn more effectively outside a typical classroom.  For a very long time, we attended classes and social events put on by our homeschool community.  When he was around age 12, he started refusing to participate and became very irritable.  He loathes his autism diagnosis and feels that he will never fit into society and that he is going to kill himself once something happens to his immediate family.

As you know, typical therapies do not work with an autism diagnosis.  When he was young, I was able to implement social stories and games and things to improve his life.  Now he refuses to accept his autism, doesn't want to talk about it or have any services or therapy to help him cope.  He says that autism, ocd and adhd, are all excuses for the idiot that he is.  He say he can't trust anybody, including us, because it makes him feel vulnerable. And, that he absolutely does not want or need friends  This is impacting every area in his life that needs to be improved on.  For example, he is diabetic and will not comply with the testing an insulin management when he eats.  He also has avoidant/restrictive eating disorder and we had to quit therapy because his behavior was so bad.  (The feeding clinic basically asked us to manage his treatment via email.)  His blood sugar is not being managed completely because as his parents, we do have to get some sleep and he is a night owl.  He says he deserves to die and he doesn't care about himself or how diabetes can impact his health and energy levels.

My question, how do I get him over this hump?  I have recently found a doctorate level therapist that only sees children with autism but we are stuck waiting until his SSI/Medicare kicks in because she doesn't take medicaid.  We also are now registered in our state for priority services here at home and in the community.  He doesn't want that either even though we are proceeding despite his refusal.   He graduated in May and is extremely bright, but refuses that notion too.  Have you had any young adult patients that are this difficult?  He has been through several therapists and pediatric psychiatrists that have patients with autism, and they can't seem to sort anything out.

Obviously, I could go on and on about our son and his difficulties. Any ideas you may have to get past this would be appreciated.


Good Evening,
I am in desperate need of some help with my 7 year old son. We are in the process of getting him diagnosed and it's a LONG process, but I am for sure after all the research and everything I have read, that he has Asperger's. His tantrums/meltdowns are escalating as well as disruptive behaviors in class. I am at my wits end and am wondering what I can do? What classes can I take? I was reading about do I sign up? I am feeling like a failure of a mom because I have lost my patience and have run out of tricks.
Please Help!


I read so much wonderful and thorough information on these topics but have such a hard time finding the help that we need (in Southern California) because our son's case is so very complicated. . If you have time to read this and have any suggestions, thank you and God bless.
At this point we are just finally trying to find a college or career counselor or life coach for my 15 years old son who is very smart but struggles with many issues. He was diagnosed in third grade by a neuropsychiatrist with: Asperger's Syndrome, auditory processing disorder, cognitive disorder, learning disabilities, ADD, and depressive symptoms. He appears COMPLETELY typical and the school district does not understand him even with his IEP. We have tried a charter and a private school and are back at the public school. No one understands him and they are basically pushing him through the system. He has so much potential and it's so sad.  We have tried so many things and he has several interests but he has such a hard time with so many different things that nothing has stuck. He is artistic and has an aptitude for several different things, i.e. golf, surfing, drawing. He starts all these things but doesn't get anywhere bc of his executive functioning issues. He is currently taking lessons to fly and the teacher is very impressed with his instincts but there is so much other work to becoming a pilot I'm not sure that will come to fruition. I am trying to find a life or career or college coach that understands his issues but am having a VERY difficult time finding one. He gets excited about the thoughts of a future but has no motivation bc it's all been so difficult. He hardly has friends and he plays computer and watches videos as much as we try to keep him involved. I simply want to find the right path and friends and direction for him so he can have a successful and happy life. I need to find someone who can help me hone in on his interests and aptitudes so we can figure out what the next step should be.
We live in Ventura County about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. I know I should be able to find some help here but I have not.  Any input or advice or referral would be appreciated.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope to hear back.


Hi Mark,

We had multiple communications among the board and Green Hope high school, there is no solution and impossible for Jeffrey to switch back to his old high school. They requested us to take care of Jeffrey's mental health firstly. I agree Jeffrey has mental problems.

 Fortunately, a small charter high school (Triangle Math and Science) offered to accept Jeffrey. We even consider this high school last year and we think this school will fit Jeffrey very well. 

Now Jeffrey's mindset is still to go back to Enloe high or Panther Creek and he wants to move back to our old property. My husband and I declined his request because we worry about he will get worse since he no longer can go back to the old high school even though he moves back to our old property.  We try to make a deal with him we can rent an apartment for him if he tries to go to Triangle Math and Science since he insists to move out of our new property.  Even though my husband is now homeschooling him, we are very stressful because my husband must work to afford the family.

Mark, do you have any suggestions on how to persuade Jeffrey to try the new high school Triangle Math and Science.

I am waiting for your responses ASAP.


do you have recommendations for a child that is now an adult who was not told of his diagnosis by his parents until 30 (when it was suggested to them and they admitted it had been previously diagnosed) and instead was told he was simply violent and had anger management issues due to ADHD?

How do you go about helping an adult with this? Suffering from problems in the workplace now (being continually let go due to social abnormalities), but is likely gifted so he did not struggle in school. The child was physically and mentally abused by the parents his whole childhood. The parents attempted to take the grandchild from him accusing him falsely in court of physical violence that did not actually occur as his outbursts are actually only verbally abusive and self destructive. Are there grounds to press charges for child abuse by the time you are 30 and figuring these things out on your own?

Thank you,
A wife that will stick by her husband through everything and simply wants to help

P.S. What are signs I should be looking for in my step daughter and my own son for similar situations? Both learn quickly and school is no problem. I believe my step daughter's acting out is due to the custody situation as it has been difficult, and she has bounced around A LOT as grandparents and aunts tried to keep her from her father by keeping her with her drug addict mother (who they supported for sometime but since they cut off support she is now homeless and has been completely absent for a year).


my son has A diagnosis of aspergers and has a iep and is in the tenth grade. (We have emailed before.)School only began on August 30th and yesterday and today  he walked out of class and yesterday he went to the jrotc room (junior military cadets) and helped out  he is apart of that program and likes it.  He used to walk out last year and go to the bathroom and just sit there and they would look for him and always know where to find him but obviously walking out of class isn't allowed. This year he is in regular classes per his request and they aren't going to be as leniant on him. So now he is not allowed out of class and walked out today and he says how he hates the school and wants to switch to the alternative school  he thinks it will be easier there but he wouldn't be able to do jrotc. I spoke with the principal there and it's more for kids who are credit deficinit. I guess what I am asking is. What advice would you give me to encourage him to not walk out of class and how do I encourage him enough to want to stay at the high school he is hard to get thru sometimes and   normally if he gets in trouble he isn't allowed his Xbox for that day  I tell him if u have a good day you get ur privileges so it's more of a positive affect.  I am not sure if u think when negative things happen at school what should be the consequences at home.


Hi Mark,

First I want to thank you for your eBook as it has been helpful and insightful.  I just realized that my husband of 21 years has Aspergers and I’m still trying to process all this information.  The way you described what the wife is feeling is right on point.  I basically ran out of the house after we dropped my last son off at college, I couldn’t catch my breath and looking at the future with my husband was just unbearable.  Of course he thinks I’ve lost my mind and can’t understand what I’m going thru. To make matters worse my father is in the hospital and we are not sure if he’s going to make it and all my husband wants to know is when I’m coming home, cause I’m disrupting his life.  I have been emailing him lots of information regarding Aspergers and I think he’s now accepting that he does have “bit” of Aspergers.  I sent him a quiz and he said he was borderline. I’ve asked him to find us a Therapist in Phoenix who specializes in this area for couples.  I know this would be a huge step for him to do this on his own and already he’s saying that “I don’t want to feel like a dog and perform to get a treat”.  I texted back “ If you care enough about me- PLEASE do this”.  Which leads me to ask you…… Can you recommend anyone in Phoenix who might be able to help us?  I’m not sure my husband will do this and I really want to make my marriage work.

Thank you again
God Bless!


My husband of almost 1 year is the (undiagnosed) Aspergers.

One of our current main issues is that when he has and 'incident' (he disputes the fact that it should be identified as a meltdown)
which involves extremely loud animated talking (he says he is not yelling) and 'language', he does not understand my reaction because
he is not hurting me.

My reaction to the incidents is to feel extreme anxiety and withdrawal. My chest hurts and I feel like I may have a heart attack. The following day
or two I feel like I may cry at any moment for no reason and I shut him out. He is infuriated that it takes me a couple of days or longer
to feel comfortable with him. He says he feels like I am punishing him. For some reason I feel the need to retreat to my 'bubble' where I
try to restore my sense of calm and peace. I don't believe I am intentionally punishing him, but obviously I am.

My question is: what recommendation do you give for people like me who are 'too sensitive' when being involved in these
'incidents'?  We have been trying to locate a counselor and have not been successful as yet.


Dear Mark Hutten,

I came upon your article on Parenting Teens with RAD after searching for some research on RAD which I am sure you know Is hard to find since it is a newly understood trauma.  My husband and I are struggling to parent our 18 year old son with multi-diagnosis including RAD.
He fits your classic description, has been in 5 different residential treatment environments and now that he is 18, he will need to decide if he wants anything to do with help therapeutically.  He walked out of his last Therapeutic boarding school this past June on his last day of High School.  He wants to live with us but fights us on every rule and boundary and is very abusive.  He does not want to do any work but wants to find others who he can depend on. We have had him leave 2 times already he is a great manipulator.

The questions I am looking for answers are:

When do parents decide that the home provides too much enabling and old trauma or shame…..and putting their child on the street would be better for them to  learn life’s lessons and start to do the work?

Where do these young adults go who have no life skills and have mental health issues?

Are there any resources or books that you can direct me too?     

What is your support group about and how does one get involved?


    My granddaughter is 13 with Asperger’s Syndrome – High Functioning Autism.  She has made some really offputting social errors about which I cannot be specific as she cannot accurately report them.  She projects blame onto others.  She is always trying to get attention, even to the point of creating drama.  She thinks that she can sing but does not have a pleasant singing voice.  She has lost parts in plays because of her inability to sing but still thinks that her voice is fine.  She does have some artistic ability but will not accept any criticism from instructors and will not attend art classes.
     Things at home are pretty bad with a chaotic room, inability to use time well enough to leave for school on time, and meltdowns.  Also, she does not turn in assignments.  Any coaching of ways to solve the problem of turning in assignments is met with “I can’t do that.”
    You know that any help is appreciated.



A Message of Hope: What Might My High-Functioning Autistic Child’s Life Be Like as An Adult?

“I am interested in what happens to children with Level 1 Autism as they mature and become adults. We have concerns for our 12 y.o. son regarding his ability to function in the real world when he gets older. Are the prospects mostly encouraging for these special needs kids? Are there areas of life that they are bound to struggle in? Is there anything we can do now that will put our son on the path to success? What might his life be like as an adult?”

The prognosis is mixed for children with Level 1 Autism (high-functioning autism) and Asperger’s, but mostly encouraging I would say. The long-term outcomes for your son will depend on the severity of his symptoms, baseline IQ, ability to communicate, and the interventions and support he receives. Early intervention is crucial in the potential normal functioning of kids on the autism spectrum.

If your son has a supportive family (which I’m sure he does), retains a reasonable sense of self-esteem, and becomes relatively well-educated, he stands a good chance of getting into solid relationships, finding a good job, and having a relatively normal life.

Kids on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum may need special attention when it comes to education due to the fact that they typically have social and behavioral difficulties in the school environment. However, they can learn to manage their differences with appropriate interventions.

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

Since most children with high-functioning autism have normal or high IQs, they often receive a standard education – and may even excel in their area of interest. Due to this normal to above-normal intellect and the ability to stay in the mainstream school-setting, many go on to college and eventually procure gainful employment.

Circumstances become a bit more problematic during adolescence. The years from 14 to 18 are the most difficult time. In the teenage world where everyone feels insecure, adolescents that appear different are voted off the island. Teens on the spectrum become more socially isolated during a period when they crave friendships and inclusion more than ever. 
In the cruel 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. In addition, issues of sexuality and a desire for independence from parents create even more problems.

Teens on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum often have problems with social interactions (both social and romantic), self-care, attention span, and organization. Rejection from the peer-group that some teens on the spectrum experience can be traumatic. Many will experience anxiety and/or depression.

Anxiety often stems from a preoccupation over possible violations of routines and rituals, from concern with failing in social encounters, and being placed in a situation without a clear schedule or expectations. As a result, stress may manifest as aggressive or oppositional behavior, hyperactivity, inattention, reliance on obsessions, and withdrawal.

Depression often occurs because the teen has difficulty forming meaningful friendships and fails to engage others socially. Mood disorders may appear during the teenage years as well. It’s not uncommon for these “special needs” teens to remain at home after they grow into early adulthood.

Once the “special needs” teenager has weathered the storms associated with adolescence, things tend to get a bit easier in life. By the time they reach their mid to late 20’s, many are able to work independently, get married, and raise a family.

Adults on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum are commonly gainfully employed in mainstream jobs, but may need moral support and encouragement to live an independent life. Because they typically have narrow but obsessive and intense interest in some fields, they often excel in what they like to do (e.g., engineering, computer science, mathematics, music, sciences, and so on).

Adults on the spectrum have been known to make great intellectual contributions, for example, in computer science, mathematics, and physics. The deficits associated with the disorder can be debilitating, but many people on the spectrum experience positive outcomes, especially those who are able to excel in areas less dependent on social interaction (e.g., architectural drafting, computer programming, librarian, scientist, etc.).

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

Additional dynamics that may occur in adults on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum include the following:

On a not-so-positive note --
  • These individuals often suffer difficulties in communication, language, and social interaction typical of Autistic Disorder, as well as repetitive behaviors and narrow interests. Abstract language concepts, (e.g., irony and humor) may well be beyond the comprehension of these individuals.
  • Certain symptoms (e.g., inability to maintain eye contact during conversation) can make job interviews and establishing friendships difficult, as some people often misinterpret the behavior as dishonesty or a lack of interest. 
  • Actions that result from a lack of understanding of non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, facial expression, etc.) can leave people with the impression that adults on the spectrum are self-absorbed and selfish. 
  • Steady employment can be a challenge to some adults on the spectrum. While they are very often extremely bright, focused, and talented employees, the social aspects of the workplace can be their undoing. Workplace camaraderie can be unfamiliar territory for those with social interaction difficulties, the small talk and humor beyond their grasp.
  • Co-workers who are not aware of the difficulties faced by those on the spectrum may see them as odd due to behavioral symptoms, or too serious, aloof, or arrogant because of the social awkwardness that accompanies the disorder. These misunderstandings can breed resentments among co-workers, causing dismissals by employers in order to keep peace in the workplace. 
  • Even the most mildly affected people on the spectrum face challenges in managing their disorder. They are statistically more prone to depression than occurs in the general population. Low self-esteem and loneliness are common. Affordable resources to address these issues can be hard to find, especially in light of the fact that less severe symptoms can make applications for medical and psychological assistance less likely to be approved. 
  • Adults on the spectrum can fall between the cracks of today's safety net of ASD resources and services, because their symptoms may be seen as too mild to qualify them for the support received by more severely affected individuals.

On a positive note --
  • Adults on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum are known for their ability to focus on tasks for long period of times without the need for supervision. At times, they may hyper-focus on a task to the exclusion of everything else, but this is the attribute that makes them extremely productive.
  • Due to the fact that they don’t mind being alone, adults on the spectrum are often willing to engage in solitary work that others dislike, which puts them in the position of making remarkable contributions in the workplace.
  • They are able to understand various levels of meanings of words and ideas and can form connections that others miss.
  • Many of these individuals are good at recognizing patterns and in classifying things. Because they are comfortable with order, precision and categorization, they tend to be successful in following rules, allocating resources, and solving complex problems.
  • Most are determined, and when they set their minds to something, they can typically be trusted to follow through.
  • They are very good at noting and recalling details, which is useful in a job that requires knowledge of facts, details, and memory. They are often exceptional at the recall of details forgotten or disregarded by others.
  • They have a higher level of “fluid intelligence” (i.e., ability to find meaning in confusion, solve new problems, draw inferences, and understand the relationships of various concepts - independent of acquiring knowledge) than “typical” people.
  • To say that individuals on the autism spectrum are detailed oriented is an understatement. Despite the issues surrounding a weak “central coherence” (in which they may fail to see “the big picture”), it is this “weakness” that enables them to focus intensely on details.

All of the positives above can make the high-functioning autistic individual a very productive and valued employee.

Many adults on the spectrum are able to blend into society as well as anyone, learning to manage their disorder to build successful and independent lives. Many find their niche in society quite nicely, with satisfying careers, successful marriages, fulfilling friendships, and active social lives.
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:


•    Anonymous said… A lot of anxiety and depression issues .
•    Anonymous said… As a mom of an autistic daughter, I do worry!
•    Anonymous said… As a parent of 2 Aspies now adults, the future can be good. Both are in full employment, live in their own homes and one is married with a baby. In the teen years concentrate on life skills which include social interactions. Stretch them into uncomfortable situations, let them have casual jobs as teens, a job made them more responsible And they had to practise self control. Limit digital recreations and get them into an after school activity that they enyoy. Try not avoid. It is hard work and there were times that were tough but we all made it.
•    Anonymous said… As my daughter get's older this is a constant question. Thank You.
•    Anonymous said… At age 12 I had the same concerns for my son... I didn't think he would be able to hold a job, let alone live on his own. Fast forward to now, he's almost 17, incredible grades in school and he is headed towards a career in math and science - he will be able to go to any university he wants with his grades, he's learning to drive and he is holding a part time job. Oh! And he has an amazing little group of friends that understand that his brain works differently and that his quirkiness can be a lot of fun. He is fiercely loyal, and empathetic when he understands what is happening in situations. I wouldn't change him for the world.
•    Anonymous said… Great question!! My husband and I wonder the same with our 10yo son.
•    Anonymous said… I am 52, diagnosed late in life and teach at secondary level, and am married and raised two children. I still experience certain difficulties such as anxiety, and problems with processing some ideas and emotions quickly. For parents, it is a balance between worrying too much and letting your own anxiety about them cloud your judgement of their potential in life. I know this because my children are also on the spectrum, and I want to prove to them that they can live satisfying lives and hold down jobs etc.
•    Anonymous said… I have a few cousins who are Autistic with varying degrees of difficulty in different areas. All of them live away from home, three went to University, two are married, one is a Father. It's natural to worry about your children as long as that worry never limits them.
•    Anonymous said… I have a son 11 I wonder the same
•    Anonymous said… I think people over think and worry too much. Just remember, there are generations of people out there who never knew as kids they have HFA or apsergers, and many who still don't know, because it wasn't something we knew about when we were kids. They do pretty well in the grand scheme of things, living independently, running their own homes, holding down jobs, even having families of their own. Granted, things could have been easier, and perhaps more of their potential reached, had they got the right help and support when young. But it's not all doom and gloom.
•    Anonymous said… I'm a level 1 autistic. Doctorate degree. 30 year marriage. Beautiful son on the honors track. Good job. You can expect all these things for him. My partner helps me with the tough stuff (I don't drive right now; he helps to keep me on time / schedule when I don't have a clock or calendar right in front of me; reminds me of priorities when there's a lot of things happening at once). But yes, a good life.
•    Anonymous said… My aspie is 24 and about to graduate from a major university. He has come a long way and we are so proud of him. Never stop supporting and believing. Depression was huge his Sr yr of high school. We got through. He stayed home and worked until he was ready to go to college. He joined a fraternity and made more friends than he had ever had. It has been a great experience for him. This next transition will be huge. Work and living on his own.
•    Anonymous said… My son is now nearly 20. The thing he most struggles with is self regulation in all areas of his life. The emotional/mental strain of 'pretending to be normal'. He has part time work and a post school qualification and a very active social life.
•    Anonymous said… this is the group I find very helpful posts on.

•    Anonymous said… My daughter has moderate ADHD and Aspergers. I was very worried how she would make a living after she got out of High School. After Graduation she decided to start streaming as she played video games and it was a huge hit! She now does it as her profession, like making $400 dollars a Day profession! I never made that much working a normal job and she is very happy doing what she is doing. There are loads of kids her age in their 18-30 range who do this for a living. Almost all of them have some kind of issue like ADHD,Aspergers, speech impediments and more but they support each other. There is seems to be no competition between them. They donate money to each other when one person needs it, like their computer breaks or if VR equipment, isn’t working. It all functions like a healthy community. I tell other parents, don’t get on your kids for playing video games because it could be their job in the future. No one was more thrilled and astounded about this turn of events in her life than me but I’m so very grateful too!

Post your comment below…

Sensory Meltdowns in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“Why is my autistic (high functioning) son so sooo sensitive to certain clothing? He refuses to wear jeans and doesn’t like certain shoes and socks. I’ve made the mistake of forcing him to wear some of these things in the past, which resulted in a HUGE meltdown. He will react to certain clothing in the same way someone might react to accidently smashing their thumb with a hammer while trying to drive a nail. He also has a very very limited diet because he will gag on certain foods (e.g., anything green). And he has a startle response whenever a loud unexpected noise occurs (e.g., the blender). Any suggestions on how to work around these problems?”

Sensory meltdowns are not uncommon for children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS). A sensory meltdown is a reaction to feeling overwhelmed due to one or more of the senses becoming overloaded with too much information. The ruckus of an amusement park, the hustle and bustle of a back-to-school shopping trip, or the noise and chaos of a crowded school hallway can result in more sensory information than the child can process at one time.

Examples of sensory issues and intolerance in the HFA or AS child include the following:
  • unable to listen to someone speak or carry on a conversation in noisy or busy places
  • overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
  • may walk around acting deaf because he has had to tune out the excessive noise
  • may prefer certain textures of clothing (e.g., soft, loose cotton)
  • may be overwhelmed with new clothing that his body hasn’t become accustomed to
  • hypersensitive to certain visual stimuli (e.g., fluorescent lights) 
  • fearful of surprise touch or crowds
  • extreme response to sudden, high-pitched, loud, or metallic noises (e.g., flushing toilets, clanking silverware, echoing noises in a school gym)
  • fear of climbing or falling, even when there is no real danger
  • doesn’t like his feet to be off the ground
  • difficulty tolerating certain textures, colors, or tastes of food
  • avoids hugs and cuddling, even with parents
  • startle response when touched 
  • doesn’t enjoy a game of tag
  • avoids standing in close proximity to others

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

Difficulty with Prediction and Anticipation—

For a non-autistic child, unexpected stimuli are relatively predictable and anticipated. For example, the child may expect a loud noise when seeing someone using a hammer, but not when a pillow falls on the floor. He may anticipate a hug when his grandmother is approaching him with open arms. When his mom starts the vacuum cleaner, the noise may surprise him, but he quickly adapts to it. In other words, for the “typical” child, the world is reasonably predictable – particularly in the near future punctuated only by brief surprises.

On the other hand, the HFA or AS child has difficulty with prediction and anticipation. To her, a loving hug from grandpa may feel like a shocking squeeze, the ring of a door bell may sound deafening, and the first-time taste of spicy food may feel like fire on the roof of the mouth. The child’s weak predictive ability makes many daily events very stressful, which often contributes to a high level of anxiety.

Poor Adaptive Adjustment—

Poor adaptive adjustment also contributes to the HFA or AS child’s hyper-sensitivity to “constant” stimuli (i.e., stimuli that is not a sudden surprise, such as background noise in an airplane, florescent lighting in the classroom, skin pressure from clothes, etc.). The non-autistic child adapts to such stimuli because she can predict their persistence, and as a result, she is able to ignore the stimuli. This “adapting and ignoring” skill helps the “typical” child to label background stimulations as “unimportant.”

Conversely, the child on the autism spectrum has difficulty adapting and ignoring. An obnoxious background noise (e.g., noisy school cafeteria) is stressful throughout the entire lunch period. He simply does not have the ability to protect himself from painful environmental stimuli (i.e., shutting it out of consciousness).

It may seem as though your HFA son plans to “misbehave” simply to get on your nerves, but that's probably giving him too much credit. Young people on the spectrum usually don't have evil plans to frustrate or embarrass their parent. Sensory meltdowns often look like tantrums, but there is a major difference between the two.

Identifying a Meltdown—

Meltdowns are triggered by a fight-or-flight response, which releases adrenaline into the blood stream, creating heightened anxiety and causing the HFA or AS youngster to switch to an instinctual survival mode. Meltdowns are (a) often triggered by transitions (e.g., going from class to class, change in topic, change in teachers, etc.), novel situations, or sudden change; (b) time-limited; (c) often caused by sensory or mental overload, sometime in conjunction with each other; (d) a reaction to severe stress, although the stress may not be readily apparent to the parent or teacher; and (e) associated with cognitive dysfunction and perceptual distortion.

Warning signs of an imminent meltdown may include stuttering or showing pressured speech, repeating words or phrases over and over, perseverating on one topic, pacing back in forth or in circles, self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., flapping hands), extreme resistance to disengaging from a ritual or routine, difficulty answering questions (cognitive breakdown), and becoming mute.

Tips for Managing Sensory Meltdowns—

1. You will need to consider the level of “sensory pollution” in your HFA son’s environment (e.g., several conversations in the same room, plus ceiling fans blowing, plus florescent lights buzzing, plus people moving around).  Understanding the way your son experiences the world will help you to respect his attempts to survive in a “sensory-unfriendly” world. If you understand how he experiences the world and how he interprets what he sees, hears, feels, etc., you can create a sensory-friendly environment in accordance with his perceptual abilities and deficits.

2. The visually-based program entitled “How Does Your Engine Run: The Alert Program for Self-Regulation,” seems particularly well-suited to the needs of young people on the autism spectrum. The program was designed to help “special needs” kids recognize their sensory needs, and teaches them to recognize their level of alertness and compare it to task demands. If the two do not match, the youngster (after completing a series of lessons) is taught to adjust his arousal level to match task demands. To accomplish this, there are a variety of interventions grouped into 5 categories: aural, movement, oral, touch, and visual.

3. Certain colors used on the walls can set the tone for alertness (e.g., red, orange, yellow). Try to minimize these colors in the home (especially in your son’s bedroom). Earthy, neutral tones are best for reducing over-stimulation. Also, accents of purple, blue, or green can be calming.

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

4. When your son has a sensory meltdown at home, there are several items that may bring immediate comfort, thus breaking the sensory-overload cycle before it gathers enough steam to turn in to a meltdown. For example:
  • favorite video or song
  • massage seat
  • body sock
  • chamomile tea 
  • deep hugs
  • sandwiching between two body pillows
  • ear, hand or foot massage
  • giant exercise ball for sitting and bouncing
  • handheld massage ball
  • heating pad 
  • lavender essential oil or chamomile essential oil
  • massage jet for the bathtub 
  • mini-trampoline
  • rocking chair
  • swing
  • slide
  • climbing structure
  • silly putty
  • play dough 
  • weighted blanket or vest
  • wooden foot massager

5. When you and your son are out and about, carry a portable “sensory toolkit” for situations that may cause sensory-overload.  Items in the toolkit could include the following:
  • a stuffed animal
  • baseball cap or wide-brimmed hat
  • change of clothes (e.g., long-sleeved t-shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants, etc.)
  • chewy snacks (e.g., beef jerky, raisins)
  • hand lotion
  • ice-cold juice box with a straw
  • lip balm
  • soft fabric (e.g., velour) for rubbing on hands
  • soundproof headphones
  • squeeze ball 
  • sunglasses

6. HFA and AS kids need an environment where they can retreat to when feeling over-stimulated and ready to have a meltdown. Thus, allow your son to have his own sensory-friendly area – one with decreased sensations, comfortable seating (e.g., bean bag chair, large floor pillows), noise-canceling headphones, picture books, etc.).

7. When creating a sensory-friendly environment, consider the following senses: visual, vestibular (i.e., balance), touch and pressure, taste, proprioceptive (i.e., space), olfactory (i.e., smell), and auditory. The questions parents should ask themselves when trying to create a sensory-friendly environment include the following:
  • Are curtains, carpets and furnishings patterned?
  • Are there any smells from indoors that can cause distress (e.g., cleaning products, perfumed products, foods)?
  • Are there any smells from outside that permeate through the walls, windows or doors?
  • Are there items to provide different feelings on the skin (e.g., sand or water)?
  • Are there items to provide pressure if needed (e.g., wooden massagers)?
  • Are there opportunities for swinging, to balance on beams or boards, or to bounce or climb?
  • Are there regular external sounds (e.g., traffic, dog barking)?
  • Are there regular internal sounds (e.g., clocks ticking, refrigerators humming)?
  • Is it possible to reduce external sounds from permeating to the inside?
  • Is there a way of reducing unwanted sounds inside the home?
  • Is there an area that provides for different textures to be felt or stroked?
  • What colors are the walls?
  • What is the lighting like in the rooms, both natural and artificial?

8. As much as possible, try to “optimize” your home environment to meet the specific sensory needs of your HFA son. For example:
  • Allow him to wear sunglasses outside or carry them with him whenever he goes out in public.
  • Avoid using strong scented candles or air fresheners.
  • Avoid wearing perfume or colognes.
  • Consider diffused lighting to reduce glares.
  • Consider using carpets in rooms to help reduce noise intensity.
  • Don’t force your son to eat something or threaten to keep him at the dinner table.
  • Eliminate any lights that flicker.
  • Give your son earplugs to take with him when he is out in public to cope with any unexpected auditory stressors.
  • Keep television and radio noise at a low level.
  • Limit the number of objects or materials hanging on walls.
  • Make use of natural lighting as much as possible.
  • Make a variety of sensory toys and activities accessible in your home (e.g., stress balls, chew toys, sand box, boxes of different types of fabric, vibrating toys, exercise balls, etc.).
  • Only use soft clothing or textures your son prefers. 
  • Remove all tags from clothing.
  • Use odor-free cleaning products.
  • Use visual schedules and other decor that remain in predictable, consistent places.
  • Warn your son before using a machine that makes loud noises (e.g., vacuum cleaner or blender).
  • Watch for distracting glares light fixtures may cast on windows and televisions.

There are infinite possibilities when it comes to constructing a more sensory-friendly environment in your home. Include your son in the planning, decision making, and creation process. His sensory needs could involve the reduction of stimuli -- or an increase of stimulation -- depending on the situation.

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

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...