Avoiding Homework-related Meltdowns: 27 Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“My 11 y.o. child with high functioning autism is very smart, but still struggles with school assignments. There are homework battles, tantrums and meltdowns every night in our house. What can I do to help?”

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) impact the way kids are able to process and understand information. They have a developmental disorder that often creates difficulty with writing, speaking, listening, thinking, spelling, or doing math problems. Many young people on the autism spectrum also have comorbid disorders (e.g., ADHD).

Parents and teachers must understand that children on the spectrum need to be taught differently and need some accommodations to enhance the learning environment. Parents can follow the tips below to create a well-rounded learning atmosphere for the successful completion of homework assignments:

1. At the start of the school year:
  • talk with your child’s educator about your role in helping with homework (e.g., some educators want the parent to monitor homework closely, while others want the parent to simply check to make sure the assignment is completed on time)
  • ask the educator about any guidelines that kids are expected to follow as they complete homework
  • ask about the kinds of assignments that will be given and the purposes for the assignments

2. Know that the educator wants to help you and your “special needs” youngster, even if the two of you disagree about something. When you have a legitimate complaint, rather than going to the principal, give the educator a chance to work out the problem with you and your youngster.

3. Attend school activities as often as possible (e.g., plays, parent-teacher conferences, concerts, open houses, sports events, etc.).

4. If possible, volunteer to help in your youngster's classroom or at special events.

5. Get to know some of your youngster's classmates and their parents so you can build a support network for you and your youngster (this shows your youngster that his home and school are a team!).
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

6. If the educator has made it known that children are to do homework on their own, limit your involvement to just making sure that supplies are provided. Too much parental assistance can make your child dependent and takes away from the value of homework as a way for him or her to become independent and responsible.

7. After your youngster has read the homework instructions, ask him to tell you in his own words what the assignment is about (some schools have homework hotlines or websites you can access for assignments in case your youngster misplaced a paper or was absent on the day it was given).

8. Schools have a responsibility to keep parents informed about students’ performance and behavior. Therefore, parents have a right to confront the teacher if they don't find out until report-card time that their youngster is having difficulties. Conversely, you may discover that a problem exists before the educator does. In this case, alert the educator so you can work together to solve the problem in its early stages.

9. Sometimes a child's version of what's going on isn't the same as the educator's version (e.g., your youngster may tell you that her teacher never explains assignments so that she can understand them, but the educator may assert that your youngster isn't paying attention when assignments are given). Thus, check with the educator regarding your child's complaints about homework to make sure everyone is on the same page.

10. To reinforce good study habits at home, you can help your youngster manage time to complete assignments. For example, if he has a history report due in two weeks, discuss all the steps he needs to take to complete it on time, such as: 
  • selecting a topic
  • doing the research by looking up books and other materials on the topic and taking notes
  • figuring out what questions to discuss
  • drafting an outline
  • writing a rough draft
  • revising and completing the final draft

In addition, encourage your youngster to make a chart that shows how much time he expects to spend on each step.

11. “Special needs” kids need reassurance from the people whose opinions they value most—their parents. "You've done a great job" or "Good first draft of your book report!" can go a long way toward inspiring your youngster to complete assignments.

12. HFA kids also need to know when they haven't done their best work. But, be sure to make criticism constructive. For example, “Your educator will understand your ideas better if you use your best handwriting.” Then praise your child when she finishes a neat version. 
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

13. Help your youngster make a homework schedule and put it in a place where she will see it often. Writing out assignments will get her used to the idea of keeping track of what's due and when. Also, provide homework folders so your youngster can tuck her assignments for safekeeping in order to help her to stay organized.

14. Some public libraries have homework centers with tutors and other kinds of one-on-one support. Make use of these services as needed.

15. Some homework assignments will be of no interest to your youngster. Educators simply don't have time to tailor assignments to the individual needs of each youngster. But, most educators welcome feedback and want to assign homework that children can complete successfully. Most educators try to structure assignments so that a wide range of children will find them interesting (e.g., they may offer options for different approaches to the same topic, give extra assignments to those who want more of a challenge, or give specialized assignments to those who are having trouble with a particular subject).

16. After the educator returns completed homework, read the comments to see if your youngster has done the assignment acceptably.

17. While you will want to limit the amount of time your HFA youngster spends playing video games, you should also look for television programs that relate to what your youngster is studying in school (e.g., programs on history, science, dramatizations of children’s literature, etc.). Also, try to watch these educational shows with your youngster, discuss them, and encourage follow-up activities (e.g., reading, a trip to the museum, etc.). 

18. Your youngster's homework area doesn't have to be elaborate. A desk in the bedroom, the kitchen table, or a corner of the family room is adequate. The area should be fairly quiet and have good lighting. Your youngster may want to decorate a special area for homework (e.g., some favorite artwork taped to the walls, a brightly colored container to hold pencils, a plant, etc.). Also, some kids work well with quiet background music.

19. What about supplies? Here’s is a good list of things to have on hand (keep these items together in one place):

•    almanac
•    calculator
•    dictionary
•    erasers
•    glue
•    index cards
•    maps
•    paper clips
•    paste
•    pencil sharpener
•    pencils
•    pens
•    ruler
•    scissors
•    stapler
•    tape
•    thesaurus
•    writing paper

20. Ask your youngster's educator to explain school policy about the use of computers for assignments. Computers are great learning and homework tools. Your youngster can use his computer for writing reports, getting information through Internet resource sites, and for communicating with educators and classmates about homework assignments. In most schools, educators post information about assignments on their own websites. Some have an electronic bulletin board on which children can post questions for the educator or others to answer. If you don’t have a computer in the home, many schools may offer after-school programs that allow students to use the school computers. Also, most public libraries have computers.
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

21. Show your child the value of being a “life-long learner.” Let her see you: writing reports, letters, e-mails and lists; using math to balance your checkbook or to measure for new carpeting; reading newspapers, books and eBooks – and any other things that require thought and effort. Also, tell your youngster about what you do at work. 

22. Help your youngster to use daily routines to support the skills she is learning at school. For example:
  • teach her to play word and math games
  • help her to look up information about things in which she is interested, such as musicians, athletes, cars, space travel
  • talk with her about what she sees and hears as the two of you visit a zoo or museum, walk through the neighborhood, or go shopping

In other words, try to turn everyday experiences into learning opportunities so that your child will view “education” as a fun activity.

23. The best homework schedule is one that works for both the parent and child. What works well in one family may not work in another. For example, one youngster may do homework best after diner, while another may do best in the afternoon or after an hour of play. However, it’s best not to let your youngster leave homework to do just before bedtime.

24. Your youngster's outside activities (e.g., sports or music lessons) may mean that you need a flexible homework schedule. However, if there isn't enough time to finish homework, your youngster may need to drop an outside activity.

25. Talk with your youngster about how to take a quiz or test. Be sure he understands how important it is to carefully read the instructions, keep track of the time, and avoid spending too much time on any one question.

26. Watch for aggravation in your child. If your youngster shows signs of becoming aggravated or confused about a particular assignment, let her take a break. Encourage her and let her see that you know she can do the work. Also, work out a way to lessen her frustration. For example: Is the homework often too hard? Does your youngster need to make up a lot of work because of absences? Does your youngster need extra support beyond what home and school can give her (e.g., a mentor program)?

27. Lastly, talk to the educator about any concerns you may have. You may want to contact him or her if:
  • neither you nor your youngster can understand the purpose of the assignments
  • the assignments are too hard or too easy
  • the homework is assigned in uneven amounts (e.g., no homework is given on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but on Thursday four assignments are made that are due the next day)
  • the instructions are unclear
  • you can't provide needed supplies or materials
  • you can't seem to help your youngster get organized to finish the assignments
  • your youngster has missed school and needs to make up assignments
  • your youngster refuses to do her assignments, even though you've tried hard to get her to do them

By helping your youngster with homework assignments, you can help him or her learn important lessons about discipline and responsibility. Parents are in a unique position to help their youngster make connections between homework and the "real world," and thus bring meaning (and hopefully some enjoyment) to the academic experience.
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
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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.

Click here for the full article...


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

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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."

Click here to read the full article…


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

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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.

Click here for the full article...

The Most Difficult Trait that Children with ASD Must Endure

Neurocognitive disorders affect cognitive abilities (e.g., learning, memory, perception, and problem solving). The DSM-5 defines six key domains of cognitive function: social cognition, perceptual-motor function, learning and memory, language, executive function, and complex attention.

Mind-blindness, the opposite of empathy, is a cognitive disorder in which the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is unable to predict the mental states of others (i.e., their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, desires, behaviors, intentions, and so on).

It’s not necessarily caused by an inability to imagine an answer, but is often due to an inability to gather enough information to decipher which of the many possible answers is correct. This is referred to as an empathetic cognitive deficit.

Empathy is usually divided into two major components: (1) cognitive empathy is the ability to understand another's perspective or mental state, and (2) affective empathy is the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental states. Cognitive and affective empathy are also independent from one another (e.g., you may not be very good at understanding another person’s perspective, but you may be very good at empathizing with others). Children on the autism spectrum have deficits in both cognitive and affective empathy.

Cognitive empathy can be subdivided into three categories: (1) tactical or strategic empathy, which is the deliberate use of perspective-taking to achieve certain desired ends; (2) perspective-taking, which is the tendency to spontaneously adopt another person’s psychological perspectives; and (3) fantasy, which is the tendency to identify with fictional characters.

Affective empathy can be subdivided into two categories: (1) personal distress, which is possessing feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another's suffering; and (2) empathic concern, which is having compassion for others in response to their suffering.

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

Mind-blindness is a state where the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs has not been developed or lost in the HFA child. Imagine living with a disorder in which you can’t perceive or interpret the behavior of others – the needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons of other people are a total mystery for you. No wonder why a child on the autism spectrum often views the world as a very confusing and frightening place.

The social and cognitive impairments seen in HFA children can be attributed to mind-blindness. The abnormal behavior of these young people includes a lack of reciprocity, difficulty empathizing with others, being totally withdrawn from social settings, not being able to make eye contact, and having no desire to interact with other people (i.e., social detachment).

Behavioral manifestations that can occur in children with HFA due to mind-blindness include the following:
  • lack of empathy for others and their emotions
  • difficulty with inferential thinking and problem solving (e.g., completing a multi-step task that is novel)
  • impaired reading comprehension (e.g., difficulty understanding characters in stories, why they do or do not do something)
  • lack of awareness that they can say something that will hurt someone's feelings or that an apology would make the person feel better
  • lack of awareness that others have intentions or viewpoints different from their own
  • when engaging in off-topic conversation, they don’t realize the listener is having great difficulty following the conversation
  • lack of awareness that others have thoughts, beliefs, and desires that influence their behavior
  • preference for factual reading materials rather than fiction
  • tendency to view the world in black-and-white terms

Children without an Autism Spectrum Disorder (i.e., neurotypicals) naturally have the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs. This is called mentalizing. Neurotypical kids can explain and predict others' behavior in terms of their presumed thoughts and feelings.

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

For example, you may observe me in my woodshop bent over a tool chest pulling out and putting back tools. You would make sense of this behavior by mentalizing (i.e., automatically recognizing that I am looking for a particular tool that I believe is in one of the drawers of my tool chest). Without mentalizing, you may come up with an odd interpretation of what I was doing (e.g., perhaps sorting my tools by size, weight or color – or enjoying the sound of clanking tools, etc.).

Mind-blindness theory suggests that the milestones of the normal development of mentalizing are absent in kids on the spectrum. Specifically, they fail to understand make-believe play, fail to point at or show objects of interest (both signs of shared attention), and fail to follow another person's gaze.

To simplify, think of mind-blindness as a condition in which you can’t imagine what another person may be thinking of feeling. Possibly, the most difficult aspect of HFA is this subtle but devastating deficit in human social insight.

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

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Oct., 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.


My grandaughter has ashbergers/autism. She is being tested for autism. The last year she has escalated continuously. Very aggressive. Has run away twice. Beats on her parents pulls hair and calls them hurtful names.  Her outbursts are awful. Screaming throwing things breaking things biting parents. Police have come so many things. Some time they take her to hospital then too a behavior place. Nothing is helping or changing.  The house has so much stress and anxiety in it.  Her brother is 14 and has some issues but he has lived with her doing stuff for years. But she is so bad and has threatened to kill them several time and the 14 year old had to go to emergency room with panic attack and anxiety cause she was coming home from hospital.  The cell phone and social media is the demon. She has had very bad contacts to the point of having restraining order on him. Was saying he was coming to get her. I am scared for my daughter and family. Please if you have some insight I would appreciate it. I am so scared for them all.


I am a Mum from the uk with two boys both diagnosed with autism not Asperger. My eldest also has ADHD and challenging behaviour and is under a psychiatry and psychology team. Would this program be suitable for my eldest child as I am at my wits end. He now refuses to go to school and when I do manage to get him there is goes into meltdown and I have to take him home. Although he is nine years old his mentality is that of a much younger child which makes him unable to express his emotion except through swearing and physical meltdowns and physical aggression towards myself and other. Meltdowns occur throughout the day and be because I looked at him or spoke to him. He is a very complex boy and I find it very hard to predict what might trigger him into a meltdown.


I found your website today and am interested in your program for my son. I finally have a answer for my son's behavior issues at that he presented from birth. He was always a very difficult child - angry, argumentative, biting, hitting. He started out as a very cranky "colicky" baby even though he was breast fed. We had a very successful nursing relationship for one year. The first mean thing he ever did he was 4 months old when he bit his older brother and then he turned to biting other children and it only got worse from there.

I'm writing today because my son is now 37 years old, and at least towards me, he still presents as an ODD teen. As you can imagine our relationship is a disaster. In addition to his serious acting out he became a drug addicted older teen after his father's death. After juvenile hall & foster homes I sent him to a 1 year long live in drug rehab center where he finally got clean, graduated from high school and has been clean ever since - 20 years now. As far as I know (he is married & doesn't live with me) he does not have a drug or alcohol problem.

Will your program be useful to he & I to get our relationship on track at his age? At this point in a relationship with him I feel disrespected, dismissed and belittled. Although I want a relationship with my son, I cannot continue a relationship with him feeling like this. I am desperate. I lost my oldest son to PTSD suicide after he returned home from his 3rd tour in Iraq in 2009. I don't want to lose another child.

I am 100% clear I cannot change another adult's behavior or make them willing to be in a healthy relationship with me or anybody else. Nor am I trying to control my son.In order for me to continue in a relationship with my son I have to be treated with the respect that is appropriate for one's loving Mother.

I am asking you believe your program can help ME change MY behavior  so that I might interrupt the negative relationship dance I am in with my son and by doing so, this may in turn influence his behavior in our our relationship to a more positive place.


Hi Mark,

I have a 6 yr old son who will be 7 on halloween this year who has been diagnosed with high functioning ASD.  He is struggling in school this year more so then ever before having frequent outbursts.  We have been trying to work with the school to identify interventions that will help lessen the behaviors as well as identify what might be proceeding his outbursts however have come up empty handed thus far with limited information to go off before things get out of control.  We received an email today from the special education teacher not his regular classroom teacher with the following.

My son and i typically review his day and highlight the positive and review what we could try to do differently.  We do this to encourage reflection, build on identifying feelings, and build conversation skills.  Today he was trying to say that he had a bad day because other kids were calling him names and when he tried to tell the teacher she would not listen to him.  He also told me that they made him a cool down corner, which i learned he interpreted as actual "cool" down not calm down as well as very uncomfortable ( i suppose is soliciting more negative sensory stimuli then helpful).  

I feel that i am working with professionals that are interpreting his behaviors as defiant and engage in a power struggle with negative consequences like loss of recess or lunch dentition which has no impact or influence on his behaviors.  I have tried to educate and provide suggestions of what has worked at home however it seems they will take the simplest thing and apply it minimally thinking it will work with no success and then revert back to interventions that work for neurotypical children. 


We have four boys, with our eldest the challenge.  He benefits from all the traits you list - smart, socially challenged, underperforming, increasingly disobedient and unhappy, and so on.   We have, perhaps mistakenly, avoided having him tested - it has been clear he is different since he was small. But it was all manageable.  Now it is not, and it is tearing our family apart.  He is refusing to go to school on any day he has a test or assignment due; he sneaks out to use the computers downstairs in our condos common area; he swears at us and calls me names; he threatens to hurt himself, or kill himself.  And so on.

We are wondering what to do, as we live in Bangkok, Thailand, and there are no suitable schools for really dealing with a child like this.  The teachers see it as a discipline problem, and have very limited understanding of his challenges. Could you tell me, are there any great schools in the States, where we could consider moving?  A place that has a fantastic reputation for taking particularly bright kids, not too far on the spectrum, great with math and writing, who just is starting to avoid doing his work, pushing back against his parents any time anything is required of him?  We would consider moving back home, if this were a good option.


Our 11-yr-old daughter (or will be on the 24th) was diagnosed, through her school, when she was 4/5 years old with Asperger's. Needless to say, it's been a long road for my husband and me. We have wonderful support at the school she attends, but life has been tough.

Without telling you our whole life story, we were married 18-years with no kids, and then we adopted Lydia. We took her straight home from the hospital. She is our only child.

Over a year ago, while she was in a very safe home environement for daycare, she learned the word, "penis." She actually was asked to leave the daycare because she would not stop saying it. She quickly learned to say, "Peanuts" so she wouldn't get in trouble. She is very clever in rhyming her words, and she has found this technique often with other words too.

She's in 5th grade, and this week she looked up "penis" on a school computer, and was caught. The school did not allow her to go on the field trip that same day with the rest of her class, as a consequence. We thought that was fair. However, on her way to the daycare that same day (on the bus), she used a pen and put it between her legs to make other kids laugh and said, "this is my penis." The other kids wrote some ugly words and drew a picture on a piece of paper. It was Lydia's pen/paper, so now the teachers are investigating who was involved. I don't doubt that the information Lydia gave me is incorrect. She is normally honest with me, because I confront her in such a way, that I already know the details.

With a little history, today she was suspended from the daycare for two days. I get it. School and daycares have to protect ALL of the kids, and they can't allow this kind of behavior tolerated.

Main question: How do we direct her mind away from "Penis?" She is so obsessed with this topic, it's driving me crazy.

What do we do with Lydia? She smirks a lot when she's in trouble, and yet, she can cry and act upset too. I say, "act" because sometimes I really think she is acting... it's a little too dramatic, and she can turn it off on a dime.

Is anything I'm telling you common with other Asperger's kids? It's always a challenge to pinpoint what is a "normal" fifth grade girl tendencies, and what is an exception (if it should be) labeled as Asperger's and then we should extend a little more grace.

Lydia is stimulated by sexual things. She started her period one week before her 10th birthday, so that is another dynamic to add to her hormones and puberty. I feel like she's a tiger in a kitten body. How do we control her desires, feelings, emotions? She has never been sexually abused, but she has always been curious.

I know you don't have all the answers, but it sure does feel good to vent and ask someone these questions and express my concerns.

In August Lydia started piano lessons. It's been fun seeing someone who has a natural passion for music learning how to play songs. She obviously has a long way to go, but we're trying to channel some of her energy.

We love her dearly, and only want the very best for our precious daughter. We are believer's in Jesus Christ, and we are confident that God created this human with a purpose and that He has a perfect design and plan for her life.


Hi, I am a paraprofessional,  recently started (about 2 weeks) working with a 5 year old boy. He hasn't been diagnosed as autistic. However he is receiving ABA in a center.

The boy is non compliant in his task, even if the therapist tries to cheer him up, reinforce him. Nothing works. He will keep saying or doing what he wants. Like when non compliant he is either singing or repeat the words/rhymes he learnt or stimming (sometimes high).

He has 4 ABA sessions and still not much help. (Reason: there are more adults in the room as Mother/Sister, Nanny, Therapist and me. All giving him instructions (recently started to attend) may be reason of non compliance.)

Recently, i came to know he was never been exposed to nurseries or any socialism. He was confined to a room, with TV watching all day, and whatever he wants were within the reach.

The boy overweighs at 5. He reflects laziness to completes his task. he walks but difficult to walk a little. He cannot run/jump/climb maybe due to his weight.

This is the insight, as i could gather this much data. His mother is not ready to share anything but expects me to deliver the results.

I will appreciate, if you can share your experience/knowledge to increase my insight on the subject.


Hi Mark, Your book is saving my mental & physical health!!

I need your advice about my boyfriend who will be seeing a Neurologist/Psychiatrist the end of this month. My boyfriend Brendan 'seems like' he is not open to considering AS/ASD or is simply disinterested in thinking about it. His uncle was diagnosed with ASD  a few years back. So it seems as if there is a stigma about it. I suspect his genius, computer engineer father might also be ASD from the stories I've heard. They are a Chinese American family so I'm not sure how their family's culture impacts their acceptance of this diagnosis. Although Brendan's mother has told me stories about Brendan's childhood and teenage years that fit so much with the info I've read through you ASD book on teenagers.

I will be with Brendan while he is meeting the Neurologist. The appointment is initially to address past concussions that Brendan suffered while skateboarding.  Is there anyway that I can gently suggest that he be accessed for AS/ASD? I don't want him to become defensive or put on the spot.  Brendan is 41, I am 10 years older. (And no my father was not Aspergers/HFA :))  It seems like Brendan has a lot of problems taking care of himself. Your book has helped me understand why.

He has a job at Trader Joes (grocery store), he's an extremely hard worker but he must constantly self medicate with alcohol to get through his day. At this point his body is addicted to the alcohol. I believe he uses it to cover his AS and allow him to be more social.  Just a bit of backstory---Brendan was a professional skateboarder for 20 years. He had a unique style that no one could imitate.  He broke 52 bones in his body at different times. His left knee 3 times. His pain threshold is so high that many times he didn't know he had broken anything. He now has arthritis in the knee and it pops out of place quite often and he ends up having to leave work.  I'm telling you this because I think it would be a good idea if Brendan were assessed so that he could at least have access to some possible services and also job accommodation.

Mark, thank you so very, very much again for your book. I'm a University Librarian and have access to a plethora of books about AS/APD and your book has been by far the best I have encountered!!


Hello, I am writing today due to the fact that I am doing a project about Asperger's Syndrome and after looking over your website after much research thought that somebody from the facility would be able to help.

I am a second year psychology student from Liverpool Hope University and at the moment we are focusing on clinical psychology. We are looking to see how psychological treatments can affect the quality of those with those in my case living with Asperger's Syndrome.

I was just writing to know that if somebody would be able to help me and just answering a couple of questions as I need a professional to help me within my research.
I would be very grateful if somebody would be able to help me. I look forward to a response.


Hi Mark

My wife and I have been struggling with our older son (14) who we believe has AS (I have it as well). We have gone through many of the suggested strategies for young people who are wired like him, but at the moment we are in a crisis, and the atmosphere in the house is becoming toxic and having a bad effect on all of us, including our younger son.

We are now working with the school and the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team), but I'm not sure how much progress we're making. While he is doing ok at school, he is struggling with relationships, experimenting with cannabis and generally trying to control the house.

Tonight we're trying a behavioural contract, but again we're not sure whether it will make much difference, as it's hard to think of any sanctions he will accept of rewards that we can give him.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts regarding this.


Dear Mark,

Thank you so much for taking your time to help us parents with Asperger kids.  I was glad that I found your website because we are lost concerning our Asperger daughter. 

My 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with Asperger this Summer.  She always has a problem making friends.  Throughout her sixth grade, she was being bullied badly, but she would not tell us about it.  She was never a talker.  When she had a bad day, she would withdraw to herself even more.  I found out about the bullying because of the bruises on her arm or leg. I questioned her about it.  She would tell me that so and so kicked me or hit me.  I was furious and met with the principle.  I found out that this Christian school did not want to deal with bullies.  I transferred my child to a smaller Christian school this year and shared her Asperger syndrome with the principle and teachers so that they are aware of her situation.

My concern now is how to help her interact with us at home and at a group setting.  She would ignore us when we asked her about her day at school.  She only talks when she needs to.  She loved to attend the youth group at our church.  Once she gets there, she would go off to another room by herself.  The youth leader was concern about her and want to know how to help her.  The teachers tell me that she does not eat her lunch and goes off and pace by herself.  Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


Dr. Hutten
I am an INFJ with Aspergers. Recently diagnosed within the last month or so. I am 45 years old have two NT children and a NT wife and another daughter who has high functioning autism. My largest concern at this time is my relationship with my spouse and overcoming what I once believed to be anger management problems, and now know were actually Asperger's meltdowns. I have known for many years that these outbursts were not "me" and have been beating myself up with guilt and shame for years. The meltdowns with my spouse involve cursing and yelling occasionally name-calling. In most cases I am able to leave the situation and find a quiet place. 

At this point my wife has separated and is living with my in-laws with my children.  She doesn't feel I will ever be able to avoid these meltdowns.  She's a wonderful person who is looking out for herself and my children and I want to find a method to make her feel confident in my ability to manage my outbursts. I have purchased your program and look forward to implementing many of the strategies.  Late to the game but much relieved to have a diagnosis that explains so much about my mental health.  I am a social worker for a government agency, I am well liked by my coworkers, boss and claimants. In 15 years I have only had one or two meltdowns at work. The one was induced by jackhammering. At home the meltdowns occur several times a week. I've been reading multiple strategies teachers coping with children with Asperger's hoping to find techniques to stop these meltdowns. I have study meditation and in the past, as well as multiple relaxation techniques. Unfortunately the triggers bypass the Logical mind. Thank you for listening to my story and thank you for your program.


Hi Mark,

I have been reading bits about your offering and interested in finding out more however we are in the midst of our daughter (6.5years) undergoing testing for ASD Aspergers; ADHD, and other things to find out what's going on with her and gain a clearer picture. She was getting treated for anxiety through a child psychologist as she is highly anxious in some situations but it doesn't seem to be helping. Our Pediatrician (after observing her in the classroom and playground - both of which had 2 very different ob's) feels she needs to undergo the ADOS testing. We are so new to this and I don't want to jump the gun to buy your books in case we are not even dealing with ASD as we don't know yet.

Are you in Australia or abroad?

We don't even know if Ados tests will give us a clearer picture/diagnosis.  We would rather it be anxiety but we would rather know for sure what we are dealing with.

In a nutshell - would it be best to wait before coming on board with your products so that we are channelling our reading in the most relative area. We are very time poor as she also has encopresis which sparked this whole behavioural investigation.


Thank you very much for your welcoming message Mark, I truly appreciate it.  I will be reaching out to you, as I do have questions etc.  My son is 17 and high functioning Asperger's.  There are many groups in Orange County Calif., however, I've found they're not for us.  I've found that most people still want to fit the square peg into a round hole and not accept that people on the spectrum are different, and each individual case is different and for the most part, do not wish to fit into that round hole.  Which I feel is a good thing.  
I don't want my son to be a sheep following what is the so-called norm, I want him to make friends yes, but on his terms, but of course in accordance with social expectations and boundaries.  Which then makes it even more difficult for him to want to put himself into a social situation to attempt to make friends.  Which is my quandary.  His fear of rejection, no matter how much I reassure him etc, his fear of rejection prevents him from taking the risk of trying to make new friends, yet he is lonely and he does get depressed at times (which is heartbreaking for me to see).  I'm trying to get him to attend a teen church group, but he is on the fence about it for now.  What's a loving supportive Mom to do? 
I could go on and on, but I'm sure you've heard this story in varying ways, hundreds of times by now.  But any words of advice or recommendations, would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you for taking the time to listen.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Have a wonderful day!


I have been looking on the internet for help for my daughter as she has little time to look for resources.  I was impressed with some of your articles, sent her the info and want to get your advice.

Stacie and Andy pastor a large church in California and have 3 children:  Caedmon 11; Sammy 9 (adopted at 1 ½ from Ethiopia) ; and Karis 4.

After continual pursuit of answers for Caedmon’s behavior and lack of social skills, etc.,  Caedmon was finally tested and given a diagnosis of high functioning autism with ADHD and mood disorder.  He is a ‘negative’ child most of the time.  He is on a med (?) for anxiety.  He is becoming more physically aggressive in his behavior with younger children at school as well as his sister and brother.  (Strangle hold on brother; pushing down steps, etc.)   He is clever kid but is resistant to any help in that he sees no ‘need’ and has little empathy.  He is extremely picky about what he eats and will sneek granola bars, sugar drinks, etc. whenever possible. 

He is being bullied at school (which he likely aggravates) and then comes home to bully his brother and sister and other younger children.

They have a wonderful family counselor, a child psychiatrist, and have in the last few months gotten approved for  ABA therapy after school which Caedmon is not pleased about.  He asks ‘if the terrorist’ is coming today and declares everyone is just out to ruin his life.  He is a big, strong 11 year old and we are concerned about what to do next. His main ‘consequences’ at this time are removal of screen time, ipad, etc. – extra chores – no football on TV and ‘reasoning’ with him. 

My daughter is an early childhood educator, who has stayed home with the children.  Her husband is very supportive and ‘in the game.’  They are trying to avoid just throwing drugs at him and but  are finding it hard to get help that makes a difference.  He has long case studies that go way back….just trying to give  you a quick summary.
Is there hope for something better as they approach the teen years, which we have heard will only get worse.

Is there a point at which you remove him from the home and seek a ‘boot camp’?  Is there such a thing to  help train him?

Do you have connections with people in San Jose, CA that you could refer them to ….here again how do you prioritize what really helps and what is affordable?

Are you available to just talk with the parents on the phone and be able to better evaluate where they are? 

Thank-you for taking time to read this and offer your insights.


Dear Mr. Hutten,
I have tried unsuccessfully to find a life coach for my 24 3/4 year old son. He has Aspergers, ADHD,  chronic back pain and chronic foot pain making it difficult for him to stand for any significant length of time. He just had rhizotomy treatments which have improved the pain significantly. The plan is to start weaning him off pain medicine over the next couple of months. His doctor felt it would be cruel to start this process as we were just getting ready to go on vacation. He has never abused his medication. However, he has lived with back pain ruling his life for ten years. Now he needs help refocusing his life, setting goals and actually following his through on the steps needed to achieve them. He says he knows he needs a college degree to get a good job, but I can’t even get him to shower or maintain his room or perform simple household chores to contribute to family life. Will you please give me some info about life coaching as mentioned in your book? I got the impression that you provide these services yourself sometimes.  I would be very interested in your help and advice. We have tried a system of rewards there was no real effect on his behavior. I love my son but I’m losing hope that he will ever be independent and at his age, he will not be covered under our health insurance much longer. I am looking forward to hearing from you.


Mr. Hutten,

I’ve enjoyed listening some of your videos and podcasts in regards Aspergers. I’ve been married for almost 15 years with a man much older than me that happens to have Aspergers. He has never been diagnosed, but the more I learn about this condition, the more I’m certain he has it. It is the only explanation I can find to his uncaring and confused behavior. I am burnt out, depressed, frustrated, and I’ve lost my identity during all these years. I want to thank you for explaining this condition to the world, since  the community I live (family, friends, church) would never understand the strains and sufferings I have to experience every day. I can’t divorce because of my religion and family, but I’m so exhausted and stressed that sometimes I dream about dead. Feel free to contact me if you ever want to hear my story. 

Halloween Precautions for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Do you want to avoid trick-or-treat tantrums and meltdowns?

All kids eagerly anticipate Halloween. It is their night out on the town. They may spend hours planning their costumes, mapping out their trick-or-treat routes, and devising new ways to sort and ration their bag of goodies at the end of trick-or-treating.

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) might see this special day differently. The bright and colorful costumes become too much for the eyes, or the decorative outfits are too itchy or obstruct movement. The smell of candles might be repulsive. The noises and flashing lights at the local “haunted house” go beyond an innocent scare, causing some AS and HFA children actual physical discomfort.

Halloween can be fun and exciting, but it can also be very frightening. For example, some AS and HFA children see a clown and think it’s the funniest, greatest thing. Others will look at that clown and think that it’s horrifying. Halloween is the same kind of phenomenon – even more so.

Parents will do well to follow these tips on having a positive Halloween experience for their AS and HFA trick-or-treaters:

1. Bobbing for apples is a popular Halloween activity; however, your youngster may not want to bob for apples. Rather than forcing him or berating him, have your child participate in a way that he is comfortable with (e.g., putting the apples in a bucket). This way, he is still part of the activity, but it’s a comfortable fit.

2. Adapt the party activities. Rather than diving into the slimy insides of gourds to carve pumpkins, decorate them with stickers or paint. Many children on the autism spectrum do not like the usual Halloween events. Some of the typical party fare (e.g., “guess what is in this bowl while blindfolded”) can cause sensory overload – so plan accordingly.

3. Avoid lectures and criticism during this special (and perhaps stressful) day. Focus instead on simple, factual statements of any problem behavior and the consequence (e.g., "Michael, don't walk into the road. Stay on the sidewalk, or we will go home."). Be prepared to act on your consequence if your youngster does not comply. It may be inconvenient, but it is important to follow through on consequences to improve your youngster's compliance in the future.

4. Consider time-outs for any misbehavior. This might mean returning home briefly (5 to 10 min.) before attempting another launch into the treat-gathering experience.

5. Keep it fun. Ignore minor inappropriate behaviors and focus on the most important problem behaviors.

6. Monitor your youngster throughout the Halloween festivities, and try to end the holiday celebrations before he has a meltdown. If you notice he is getting cranky or tense, it’s time to head home. Ending on a high note is crucial to AS and HFA kids’ self-confidence and sense that they had a positive experience.

7. Plan a special activity for AFTER trick-or-treating (e.g., a favorite snack or an age-appropriate movie). Before you begin trick-or-treating, tell your youngster about your plans. Remind her when it is time to go home to engage in this fun activity that is waiting. This may reduce the possibility of a tantrum or meltdown.

8. Kids on the autism spectrum do better when they know what to expect. So read a book about trick-or-treating, and practice at home before the big night. Using “pre-task rehearsal” to teach AS and HFA children acceptable behaviors on the trick-or-treat routes, during parties, etc., is smart parenting. Also, make sure to talk about the holiday and how some things are different on Halloween – and why (e.g., taking candy from strangers).

9. Set a time limit for trick-or-treating, and plan your route ahead of time. Tell your youngster what to expect, how long the journey will last, where you are going, and when you plan to return home.

10. Test the costume, and take your child’s sensitivities into account. Have your child try on his costume to make sure the outfits aren’t too itchy, tight or stiff, and that he can move easily in it. If he doesn’t like having things touch his face, don’t include make-up or a mask. If he is physically uncomfortable, he won’t have fun trick-or-treating, and you risk putting him in meltdown-mode.

11. Trick-or-treating simply may not work for some children on the spectrum. In this case, pick what works for your family. If it’s not trick-or-treating, tell your youngster you are celebrating by decorating pumpkins or jumping in the leaves – or make it about celebrating fall with apple-picking and a hayride (last year, we stayed home and made candy apples – the evening worked out just fine!).

12. Try to reward appropriate behavior and apply consequences to problem behavior as soon as it happens and as consistently as possible. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to keep up with impulsive “special needs” kids, but if you fall behind, your interventions will be less successful and may not help at all.

With a little preparation and planning, AS and HFA children with sensory difficulties can have a positive and memorable Halloween experience. Good luck - and have fun!

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

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

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

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

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Imagine What It's Like To Live With High-Functioning Autism

Many kids with HFA want to have friends, but they simply don't know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others' emotions, or read facial expressions and body language. As a result, they may be teased and often feel like social outcasts. The unwanted social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression. And there's more...

  • Anonymous said... Good explanation. 
  • Anonymous said... Nice video of some of the simple basics. I would love to see every school do a performance for the children to explain what autism is, isn't. We all know it's there, bring it out and be proud of being you should be the message taught. If you teach pride, ignorance doesn't hurt you as much. Unfortunately, schools I've dealt with state that parents are more opposed to their children becoming targets and want them to fly under the radar. Have we not noticed sight out of mind didn't work...next?
  • Anonymous said... Sometimes I feel like I need to carry a pamphlet on Apraxia so I do not have to explain it over and over again to new people! Lol

Please post your comment below…

The Lonely Child on the Autism Spectrum

Kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are more likely to be lonely than “typical” kids. Research shows that they face considerable challenges in making and keeping friends. When a youngster comes home and says, "no one likes me" or "everyone hates me," it can be hard for a mother or father to tell the difference between "temporary exclusion" versus "ongoing rejection." 

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

Moodiness and Depression in Teens with Asperger's and HFA

“How should I handle my teenage son’s emotional instability? Specifically, how can I tell the difference between 'normal' moodiness that occurs in adolescence and depression? My son seems to have significantly more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’. He’s usually very grouchy and pretty much stays to himself. Is this typical for teens with level 1 autism? Should I be concerned? What can I do to help?”

Moodiness and depression are common among teens in general. And young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are at even greater risk for these comorbid conditions. Teens on the autism spectrum have a “developmental disorder,” which means that their emotional age is significantly younger than their chronological age.

For example, the teenager may be 16-years-old, but still have the social skills of a 9-year-old. This dilemma causes problems for the teen due to the fact that he or she experiences great difficulty in relating to same-age peers, which in turn may result in rejection from the peer group – and this contributes largely to the AS or HFA teen’s lack of self-esteem and depression.

In addition, cognitive control systems lag behind emotional development making it hard for AS and HFA teens to cope with their emotions. Furthermore, beyond the biological factors, a lot of other changes are occurring during adolescence (e.g., experiencing first loves and breakups, butting heads with parents, start of high school, etc.). No wonder some teens on the spectrum struggle through this time in their life.

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

Unfortunately, other complicating factors are at play during the teenage years:

Difficulty with transitions— Largely due to the uneasy transition toward adulthood, most teens on the spectrum experience an increase in anxiety. It is during this time that they are dangling between the dependency of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It can feel intimidating to prepare to leave high school, head off to college, or into the job market. All these factors induce more mood swings and anxiety in AS and HFA teens.

Peer-rejection— Many teens on the spectrum are deliberately excluded from social relationships among their age group. As a result, they often choose to isolate themselves, which makes a bad problem worse. A teenager who feels rejected often spends too much time playing video games and on social networking sites, thus losing touch with peers even more. Teens who are ostracized by their peers also tend to underachieve academically.

Poor social skills— Most young people with AS and HFA experience social skills deficits. As a result, interactions with peers become very unpleasant. The more they “fail” in connecting with peers, the more they isolate. They want to “fit-in” and be accepted, but simply haven’t figured out the social politics needed to find and keep friends.

Low self-esteem— Peer-group rejection results in a decline in their self-image, a state of despair, behavioral difficulties, loneliness and seclusion.

So as a parent, how do you know when to wait out the moods – and when to worry? The truth is that it's difficult to know, because every teenager is different. Rapid physiological changes are occurring during adolescence. Therefore, a degree of vacillation between "ups" and "downs" can be expected. However, there is big difference between teenage mood swings and genuine depression. The major symptoms of depression may include:
  • changes in appetite
  • episodes of moping and crying
  • fatigue
  • loss of enthusiasm or interest in favorite activities
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mood swings that seem out of proportion to the circumstances
  • negative self-concept
  • outbursts of anger 
  • painful thoughts that manifest themselves in relentless introspection
  • persistent anxiety
  • persistent sadness
  • poor school performance
  • sense of hopelessness
  • withdrawal and isolation

If an AS or HFA teenager is suffering from depression, parents can expect to see the following symptoms unfold in three successive stages:
  1. Inability to concentrate, withdrawal from friends, impulsive acts, and declining academic performance
  2. Acts of aggression, rapid mood swings, loss of friends, mild rebellion, and sudden changes in personality
  3. Overt rebellion, extreme fatigue, giving away prized possessions, expressions of hopelessness, and suicidal threats or gestures

Other common symptoms of depression in adolescents include: eating or sleeping too much, feeling extremely sensitive, feeling misunderstood, feeling negative and worthless, poor attendance at school, self-harm, and using recreational drugs or alcohol.

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

Symptoms caused by depression can vary from child to child. To discover the type of depression your AS or HFA teenager has, your physician may add one or more “specifiers.” A specifier simply means that your teen has depression with specific features, for example:
  • Seasonal pattern: depression related to changes in seasons and reduced exposure to sunlight
  • Mixed features: simultaneous depression and mania, which includes elevated self-esteem, talking too much, and increased energy
  • Melancholic features: severe depression with lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure and associated with early morning awakening, major changes in appetite, feelings of guilt, agitation or sluggishness, and worsened mood in the morning 
  • Catatonia: depression that includes motor activity that involves either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or fixed and inflexible posture
  • Atypical features: depression that includes the ability to temporarily be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, sensitivity to rejection, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and excessive need for sleep
  • Anxious distress: depression with unusual restlessness or worry about possible events or loss of control


1. Psychotherapy: Different types of psychotherapy can be effective for depression in AS and HFA teens (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). Psychotherapy can help your teen:
  • regain a sense of satisfaction and control in his or her life
  • ease depression symptoms (e.g., hopelessness and anger)
  • learn to set realistic goals for his or her life
  • identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
  • identify issues that contribute to his or her depression
  • change behaviors that make depression worse
  • find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • explore relationships and experiences
  • develop positive interactions with peers
  • develop the ability to tolerate and accept distress using healthier behaviors
  • adjust to a crisis or other current difficulty

2. Alternative Therapies: Therapies other than face-to-face office sessions are available and can be highly effective for teens on the autism spectrum (e.g., as a computer program, by online sessions, or using videos or workbooks). These can be guided by a therapist or be totally independent.

3. Social Skills Training: Teens on the autism spectrum experience depression largely due to their awkwardness in interpersonal relationships. Thus, social skills training is perhaps the best method for combating depression in these young people. A major goal of social skills training is teaching AS and HFA teens:
  • how to understand verbal and nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions
  • how to make "small talk" in social settings
  • the importance of good eye contact during a conversation
  • how to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions
  • how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity
  • how to interpret social signals so that they can determine how to act appropriately in the company of others in a variety of different situations

Social skills training assumes that when “special needs” teens improve their social skills and change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. The AS or HFA teen learns to change his or her social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions.

4. Medication: Many types of antidepressants are available, including:
  • Atypical antidepressants (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL, Remeron, Trintellix)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Parnate, Nardil, Marplan, Emsam)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, Zoloft, Viibryd)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, Khedezla, Fetzima)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Pamelor, Surmontil, Norpramin, Vivactil)

Other medications can be added to an antidepressant to enhance antidepressant effects. Your physician may recommend combining two antidepressants or adding medications (e.g., mood stabilizers or antipsychotics). Anti-anxiety and stimulant medications can also be added for short-term use.

Other things that parents can do to combat moodiness and depression in their AS or HFA teenager include: encouraging physical activity; praising the youngster's skills; promoting participation in organized activities; reminding your youngster that you care by listening, showing interest in his or her problems, and respecting his or her feelings; and setting aside time each day to talk to your youngster (this step is crucial in preventing further isolation, withdrawal, and progressive depression).

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

Become an Expert in Helping your ASD Child Cope with “Out-of-Control” Emotions

How to Reduce Meltdowns, Tantrums, Low-Frustration Tolerance, School-Related Behavior Problems, Aggression, Social-Skills Deficits, and much more...

==> Crucial Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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...