Social Skills Training for Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

This post will provide some crucial guidelines for how parents and educators can teach social skills to children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) at home and in the classroom.

These “special needs” children often have difficulty saying what they mean, planning and controlling what they do, noticing and interpreting facial expression and body language, understanding what someone has told them, and accurately perceiving what other people do, say, or demonstrate.

Fortunately, they have a patient and supportive adult like you. The ideas presented below will show you how to support them as they struggle to show the new behavior, and how to focus on progress rather than perfection.

Social skills are those self-management, problem-solving, peer-relations, decision making, and communication abilities that allow the AS or HFA youngster to initiate and maintain positive social relationships with others. Deficits in social behavior interfere with learning, teaching, and the classroom atmosphere. Social competence is linked to peer-acceptance, teacher-acceptance, inclusion success, and post-school success.

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

Displaying poor social skills is THE #1 factor involved in the “odd” behavior that gets AS and HFA children rejected and bullied by peers. Young people on the autism spectrum often fail socially because they have difficulty monitoring and controlling their behavior when unexpected situations occur. They may misread social cues given off by others. They may view the positive social interactions of others as threatening. And they may not even notice when a peer rejects, teases, or bullies them.

Why AS and HFA Is Largely a Disorder of Social Skills

Depending on the child’s specific needs, a good “social skills training” program can include any of the following:
  • ability to respond to a given environment in a manner that produces, maintains, and enhances positive interpersonal relations
  • acceptable ways to resolve conflict with others 
  • accepting the consequences of one's behavior
  • approaching others in socially acceptable ways
  • appropriate classroom behavior
  • asking for permission rather than acting
  • attending to task
  • awareness of own and other's feelings
  • being able to predict how others might feel in a situation and understanding that others might not feel as you do
  • better ways to handle frustration and anger 
  • coping with negative feelings
  • counting to 10 before reacting
  • dealing with stress
  • distracting oneself to a pleasurable task
  • following directions
  • handling teasing and taunting
  • how to make and keep friends 
  • learning an internal dialog to cool oneself down and reflect upon the best course of action
  • listening
  • manners and positive interaction with others 
  • positive, non-aggressive choices when faced with conflict
  • seeking attention properly
  • seeking the assistance of the teacher or conflict resolution team
  • sharing toys and materials
  • using words instead of physical contact
  • what to do when you make mistakes
  • work habits and academic survival skills

How to Teach Social Skills to AS and HFA Children—

You will do well to teach social skills just like you teach academics. Assess the level of the AS or HFA child, prepare the materials, introduce the material, model it, have him or her practice it, and provide feedback. If you purchase a social skills curriculum, simply follow the directions in the kit (it should include an assessment device, lessons, and activities). If you're developing your own curriculum and devising lessons, follow the tips below.

How to teach social skills to one specific child:

1. By way of an assessment, select the AS or HFA child who needs training in certain skills.

2. Task analyze the target behavior(s). Task analysis will help to teach complex behaviors by breaking down a task into smaller objectives. Applicable replacement behaviors are usually taught when the student displays inappropriate behavior in specific environments. AS and HFA students respond well in learning new goal behaviors when they're broken down into individual steps.

3. Determine what behavior to modify or replace by observing the AS or HFA student in a variety of situations. Expose the child to a variety of environments to reveal where the behavior occurs most frequently and why he or she feels the need to engage in negative behaviors in that situation. Examples of target behaviors may include:
  • accepting "no" for an answer
  • accepting praise from others
  • accepting responsibility for one's own behavior
  • accepting the consequences administered by the teacher
  • apologizing for wrong doing
  • asking permission
  • asking questions appropriately
  • avoiding fighting with others
  • complimenting others
  • compromising on issues
  • cooperating with peers
  • coping with aggression from other
  • coping with taunts
  • coping with verbal or physical threats
  • dealing better with anger
  • dealing with frustration
  • dealing with losing
  • following directions
  • greeting others 
  • initiating a conversation with others
  • interrupting others appropriately
  • joining a group activity already in progress
  • listening
  • making a mistake in an appropriate manner without yelling or physical aggression
  • making friends
  • respecting the opinions of others
  • saying please and thank you
  • seeking attention in an appropriate manner
  • showing sportsmanship
  • understanding the feelings of others and accepting them as valid
  • waiting one's turn

4. Speak directly with the child to get a better idea of what is important in his or her life and why the behavior is occurring. This can give a lot of insight as to what the child is trying to communicate by using negative behaviors.

5. Determine an appropriate replacement behavior and decide when it should apply. Make clear the focus and purpose of the positive behavior. The behavior should promote acceptable choices in the classroom.

6. Break the appropriate behavior or task down into small and clear objectives. This encourages quicker success instead of teaching the entire task at once. Move on to the next task as the child masters each one.

7. Determine where, and under what conditions, the child should practice the behavior. Specify the expected amount of change before moving on to the next objective. Make sure each objective is measurable.

8. Discuss and model the replacement behavior with the child. Practice the appropriate behavior or smaller objectives of the behavior in the appropriate environment.

9. Use positive reinforcements. AS and HFA students who are learning to apply appropriate behaviors may display the action more frequently if they receive a tangible reward each time they behave appropriately.

Teaching social skills to a group of students:

1. Create groups of 3-5 youngsters with similar skill deficits (smaller groups give the participants a chance to observe others, practice with peers, and receive feedback).

2. Try to meet early in the day so that the participants are attentive and have the whole day to practice what they learn in the lesson.

3. Introduce the program to the participants, and describe why and how it will benefit them.

4. Identify the behaviors that you will reward during lessons (e.g., raising hands when wanting to ask a question, one child speaks at a time, paying attention, etc.). These selected behaviors will need to be taught in the initial lesson.

5. Teach the easy-to-learn skills first to ensure success and reinforcement.

6. Teach to the higher-functioning children in the group first. Have them demonstrate the new behaviors, and then reward them. Have the lower-functioning children demonstrate the behaviors after the leaders do so.

7. Have the child self-monitor and self-assess in order to build internal motivation and control.

8. Have the participants practice through homework assignments, review sessions, and assignments to real life settings.

9. Make sure your lessons are interesting and fun so that the participants look forward to the lessons.

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

10. Monitor the child’s behavior outside of the lessons. Keep track of the behavior for IEP documentation.

11. Promote generalization to different settings and circumstances by (a) having the child submit self-report forms for each class period, (b) meeting with the child to discuss performance throughout school or home life, (c) practicing in different settings and under various conditions, and (d) prompting and coaching the child in naturally occurring situations.

12. Recognize and reward proper behavior in everyday school situations.

13. When you see a good situation for a child to display a "new" behavior, prompt its use with cues or hints.

As a side note, remember that AS and HFA children generally display negative behaviors to communicate thoughts or feelings – not because they are purposely trying to be defiant. Also, as with the teaching of academics, begin with the prerequisite skills and then move on to the more advanced ones. Your social skills training program should be comprised of the skills that are most important to classroom etiquette and the AS or HFA child’s social needs.

Lastly, understand that while the teaching of social skills may consume a lot of time during the school day, over the weeks and months ahead, you will likely gain back lost time as the “special needs” child displays more acceptable behavior.

==> More crucial parenting techniques to teach social skills to kids on the spectrum can be found here...

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

Examples of Schedules for Kids with ASD Level 1


I have a 5 yr old son who has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and i need help on making a daily schedule or routine that will help us both. i am at a loss. can anyone help me, please. i would love examples of schedules.


A daily schedule benefits ASD or High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) children by providing the structured environment that is critical to their sense of security and mastery. If you spend any time in a kindergarten or elementary school, you will marvel at the teacher's ability to organize the kids' day.

When you understand the nature of attachment in older kids on the autism spectrum, you realize that shared communication and goals replace the attachment patterns of younger ones. The daily schedule communicates the family's shared goals and allows kids to contribute to their accomplishment. Each time the child follows the schedule, he has a small, but cumulative experience of mastery of his environment.

Follow these simple steps to create a daily schedule for your family:

Step 1 - Analyze Your Day—

Do a simple, but consistent time study. The easiest way to do this is to print a daily calendar. Note what each family member is doing at each time of the day. Look for the problem times, and think about how the schedule can be structured to eliminate problems related to behavior, stress, fatigue, hunger, and disorganization.

Step 2 - Brainstorm What You Want—

Less confusion in the morning, homework done by dinner, kids in bed by a certain hour, family play time, relaxation, a clean house - this is the time to think about what you want in your family life. Focus on a balance of activity and rest for your family. Take an honest look at both parents' and kids' needs.

Step 3 - Write It Down—

Get a poster board and a marker, and write it down for all to see. Post it in the kitchen, and tell your Asperger's or HFA youngster that you will now be following it. You're likely to get some opposition, so you'll need to stand firm.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

Step 4 - Follow the Schedule for a Week—

Check the schedule often, and let it guide your days for at least one week. Instruct the kids to check the schedule and follow it. If you must remind them, do so. But, your goal is for the kids to learn to take responsibility for their part of the schedule.

Step 5 - Tweak the Schedule—

After the first week, take a look at what is working and how the schedule needs changing. Make changes in the schedule, and write it on a new poster. Continue to follow your daily family schedule until it is second nature. In a few weeks, you'll marvel at how this simple tool has changed your family life for the better.

Here is just one of many examples of schedules for children on the spectrum:


7:30 - 8:15 a.m. - Jacob and mom prepare for breakfast.

8:15 - 8:45 a.m. - Breakfast and clean-up: As Jacob finishes breakfast, he reads books or listens to music until free play begins.


8:45 - 9:00 a.m. – Sharing time: Conversation and sharing time; music, movement, or rhythms; finger-plays.

9:00 - 10:00 a.m. - Free play: Jacob selects from one of the interest areas: art, blocks, library corner, table toys, house corner, sand and water.

10:00 - 10:15 a.m. - Clean-up: Jacob puts away toys and materials; as he finishes, he selects a book to read.

10:15 - 10:30 a.m. - Story time (the length of story time should vary with the age of your youngster).

10:30 - 10:50 a.m. - Snack and preparation to go outdoors.

10:50 - 11:45 a.m. - Outdoor play: Jacob selects from climbing activities, wheel toys, balls, hoops, sand and water play, woodworking, gardening, and child-initiated games.

11:45 - 12:00 noon - Quiet time: Jacob selects a book or listen to tapes.


12:00 - 12:45 p.m. - Prepare for lunch, eat lunch, clean up: As Jacob finishes lunch, he goes to the bathroom and then read books on his bed in preparation for nap time.

12:45 - 1:00 p.m. - Quiet activity prior to nap: Story, song by parent, quiet music, or story record.

1:00 - 3:00 p.m. - Nap time: As Jacob awakens, he reads books or plays quiet games such as puzzles or lotto on their cots (kids who do not sleep or who awaken early are taken into another room for free play with books, table toys, and other quiet activities).


3:00 - 3:30 p.m. - Snack and preparation to go outdoors.

3:30 - 4:30 p.m. - Outdoor play: Jacob selects from climbing activities, wheel toys, balls, hoops, sand and water play, woodworking, gardening, and youngster-initiated games.

4:30 - 5:15 p.m. - Free play: Jacob selects from art (activity requiring minimal clean-up time), blocks, house corner, library corner, and table toys.

5:15 - 6:00 p.m. - Clean-up: After snack, mom plans quiet activities such as table toys; songs, finger-plays, or music; stories; and coloring (older kids might help you prepare materials for the next day).

Schedules are particularly helpful in cases where the Asperger's or HFA child is exhibiting oppositional behavior (see video below).


•    Anonymous said... If he attends school, this will be part of his routine.. Wake up same time in the morning, put clothes on, eat breakfast, brush teeth, comb hair, go to school. After school, you need to get him in an activity so he can be around other kids his age in a "Social" enviroment examples: Gymnastics, T-Ball, Soccer.. When he gets home get a snack, do homework, "playtime" or "Practice", dinner, bath, bedtime.. Life is busy and most can't stay on a such schedules, but let him know several times the day before what activities y'all have for the next day.. Remind in the morning, after school, before bed.. Also remind him of the activites y'all have planned that day, even if it it's going to the store... It is best to try to slowly change his routine without him knowing so he can get used to change.... but start off with a certain schedule.. Good Luck.. My son was diagnosed 2 years ago when he was 10 he is now 12 and theses are things I did for him without knowing he had asbergers.. Today you wouldn't know he had it because he is very social... Get play dates, get him in to sports even if doesn't want to, push him, push push him, becaus the end result is worth it...

•    Anonymous said... Good ideas!! Yes, routine routine routine. Also make sure that if there's a major change try to let him know ahead of time. In a perfect world we can predict changes but obviously that doesn't happen, particularly in school. Have safety nets (people) set up in place so that if a sudden, unexpected change happens and a meltdown occurs that he has support to help him through it. The more you can tell teachers and staff members at school about his needs, his "triggers" the better off he is. After awhile it gets to be second hand nature for everyone, and it does get better!!
•    Anonymous said... I break the schedule down into parts and put the visual schedules up near the areas where he needs to complete the tasks. Ex. the "get out of the house" schedule to go to school is by the door; the bathroom bedtime routine is in the bathroom. This gives the visual schedules a context. You can try googling it for some ideas too on what they can look like. I modeled mine after the ones that are in my son's schools. Weekends were the hardest for us until we sat down at the breakfast table that morning and made a visual schedule for that day as well. So long as we keep to the routine, we do far better. I've heard that there are also some apps to help with this, though I have not explored them yet. I find that when we have this structure, he is also a bit more adaptive if we need to make a slight change. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said... give him a lot of small chores to help you and often say after we do this then you can do that. Give him pockrts of free time, ask nim how he wants to use it.Use a list for yourself but not for him. he will get the list in his brain in a short time. Thru the day 3-5 times say we only have 8 or 10 or 12 things left to do possibly the momentum of the number lowering will trigger him to offer assistance or cooperation try to schedule music video games and tv time and steer these away from overstimulating pumping excess choices to nature or animal stuff.
•    Anonymous said... Mine is a bit different than Kim Cohen's, but still very very visual.... One way I know is to put a laminated sign by his breakfast spot that shows him combing hair and brushing teeth in the bathroom. Then in the bathroom another sign shows him in his room getting clothes on. Then in his room it shows him grabbing his backpack and coat and setting it by the door. Our key to success is NO downtime in the am. If he gets started playing and then has to stop to head to school - it's no good. If he's "off track" you can prompt him by asking him what he should be doing right now rather than telling him. Always put it on him so he learns it's HIS responsibility. In the PM, you can make your routine more time oriented. 3-315 snack. 3:15 to 3:30 computer time. 3:30 - 4:00 free choice or quiet reading. Etc, Etc. Good luck!!!
•    Anonymous said... First, dear Mother of your As kiddo. Don't forget to breathe. My daughter changes drastically when there is ANY transition that deviates from her normal day to day routines. I agree with the parents comments above. Posting "to do" lists is good. I let my daughter decide what order to do her morning before school things on a numbered list. I find that even in school, this helps her fourth grade teacher see that visual cues help. Mostly, touching my daughter physically, on her elbow seem to be her most responsive spot, and asking, "can I ask you something?" instead of giving commands from across the room works great so I don't escalate in frustration as she really is not capable at times to "hear me". Also, LOTS of activities that allow rocking, swinging, being "squished" by pillows or rolled up tight in a favorite blanket...having time to decompress with their fave activity right after school. Allowing them to pick friends when they are ready but encourage them by becoming acquainted with Moms and other kiddos who your child "clicks" well with. Best of my prayers and compassion. Please feel free to send me a private message anytime.
•    Anonymous said... The picture check list in each room is what I use with my seven yr old and it seems to work really well with him ex. In the bathroom his check list is get a bath, brush teeth, and put dirty clothes in hamper and I let him mark off his progress as he completes them. He seems to like marking off the tasks as he completes them I think it gives him a sense of accomplishment. I use the my magnetic responsibility chart made my Melissa & Doug it has been a Hugh help for both Him and me. :)

Post your comment below…

How to Be a Rotten Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum: General Strategies for Failure

==> Click here for specific parenting strategies to modify your child's behavioral problems, tantrums, and meltdowns...

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

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.

Click here to read the full article…


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.

Click here to read the full article…


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.

Click here
to read the full article...


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

Click here for the full article...
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...

Why Teenagers on the Spectrum Can Be Moody and Depressed

Obsessions in High-Functioning Autistic Children

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for April and May, 2018]

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.


Hi Mark Thank you for helping me some years ago with my teen She is happily married now with 2 beautiful baby girls. And she thanks me often for not quitting on her.Your teaching was a big part of my not giving up and keeping on keeping on !


I found your website today as I was educating myself about this disorder.  I have a 13 YO daughter who has been diagnosed with ODD.  We have been fighting depression and anxiety for 3 years now and thought I had it under control till about 8-12 months ago.  She has gotten horribly worse.  She refuses to accept responsibility for her actions and blames everyone else when she gets punished.  She has now gotten to the point of complete disobedience.  My mother picked her up from school yesterday and she tried to run away from her.  She had to call the sheriffs office to get her back under control.  The sheriff office had to escort her to the ER to have a mental evaluation.  My daugher says all she wants is to live with her mother.  I cannot allow that to happen.  I have custody for a reason.  My daughters couselor, my daughter & I last night came to an agreement that she would be allowed to go to her mothers for a month to give time for all of this to calm down.  I get a phone call today from her school.  She was given instructions by her sub math teacher and refused to obey.  The teacher asked her to leave the room and go to the office.  She again refused.  She had to be taken out of the classroom by the school resource officer.  I am like many of the people on the site that are at their "wits end".  I was diagnosed with cancer a month ago I had surgery to get the tumor out.  My daughter is killing me right now as the stress she has on me is not helping my health.  My health is bad as I am now depressed as my frustration is overwhelming.  I love my daughter more than anything and I and her need as much help as possible.  I dont want to get her involved with the juvenile system or long term residential treatment but I am running out of options.  Any help you can give me would be appreciated!!!!!


I have a very out of control teen.. lying, cursing, stole his brothers money, threatening, etc, etc.  I literally just asked if his brother could have a turn on the video games when he had finished up his round, etc or however much he needed. I told him he could get back on games after his brother had quick turn as he had to go to bed much earlier. He started screaming in my face right away. I suggested a time out and he told me “F your time out you bleeping bleep!  So how do I respond to this??  Of course I responded completely wrong. I went after it, and I calmly stated that that talk Is not tolerated and there was no need for it, and I do not talk to him likeethat, etc, but he kept saying awful things so I started saying some back which I know I shouldn’t have. He flat out refuses to go to therapy, so we started this program.  Home life is great, both parents, 3 siblings.. no economic issues, .. school is tough I know, he is very bright in a scholarship school (his choice).. other than that, I have no idea. He has always been tough so in his personality for sure.. thanks a lot.


I started looking up aspergers because our grandson was diagnosed when he was 12.  His mother being a single parent could not control him anymore so she chose to let her older sister take him into her home and work with him.  Since he has been kicked out of school for saying inappropriate things to girls.  He is doing online classes and she find him watching porn and not doing his schooling. 
Now the boy turns 18 on May 16 2018 and she wants to kick him out in the streets.  It is not the boys fault.  He did not get the right aspergers guidance that he needed to succeed in life in the real world.  He lacks in social skills, he argues, and is defiant.

How can she just kick him out of the house?  Is that legal or abandonment?  He lives in Michigan. He is in his Junior year of school because he was held back a year.  He needs to graduate to get a job.
We do not have the means to let him live with us.  We are very concerned for him.  We do not want him to go to prison for his actions.
We do not know who to contact to help him and the family to be able to understand him and help him.
What agencies do I contact for help.  We are clueless.
Are their life coaches that help with Aspergers.  Is it covered under insurance?
Please guide us to people that can help us and the child to get him going in the right direction in life.  Needed immediate attention since May 16, 2018 is real soon.


Good morning
I am emailing about my 15 year old daughter with Aspergers syndrome. She recently got her learners permit and I am attempting to teach her to drive. Needless to say it is a challenge. She cannot take instruction which is typical for her but dangerous when driving.  And she can become so anxious she has the equivalent of panic attacks. She then has behaviors like being unable to distinguish the gas from the brake pedals.
My strategy so far has been to stick to an empty mall parking lot or my subdivision so that it is the same familiar loop in an effort to minimize distractions. I only have one car so she practices with the same car while with me.
Am I better off to pay for someone to teach her so it is a neutral party? I am a divorced single mom so I am trying to minimize costs. She also practices with her dad so I cannot ensure an entirely consistent environment but want to do my best.


Dear Mr. Hutten,

Is this you with the Asperger YouTubes? I love them.

I am a psych NP in the Army who works at the RTF in Ft Gordon (alcohol rehab).

A year ago I had three incredibly awkward and strange dates with an off fellow who is also another Army major (pharmacist). At the end of the third date, which was a horrible memory (he thought I was texting mean things about him), a thought entered my head all of a sudden. “Oh my God, he’s an Aspie!” Boom.

From then on I tried to see things as he might see them, be very concrete in my communication and after awkward “dialogue” (his words) a week later (in the car in a parking lot at his insistence), I assured him I liked him and meant no harm, the 4th date was so beautiful! We are now married.

I have never ever told him I think he has Aspergers. I have Aspie traits too, by the way, except I’m highly empathic and I do not believe I have mind blindness; kind of the opposite. But I can relate to him and I can see things with his lens or I try to.

Should I tell him? Do I let it go? My perception that he has it helps me not get upset with him and is a great tool in my toolbox when we have issues. I try to see from his way.  Do I tell him? So far I’ve kept this thought to myself although I think he may know that I know. Or he may not know.

He’s a good man with a warm heart and I love him and hurt that he doesn’t see how others perceive him as odd or arrogant and then they ostracize him. I see it. I don’t know if I should just be a wife and forget the side of me that wants to diagnose. He’s deployed and I saw how he interacted with other Soldiers. Breaks my heart cause they don’t get him; and then he shuts down and it’s a perpetual cycle.


Hello Mark,

I realise that offering support for everyone who buys your book must be an onerous task - so I'll keep this as brief as possible.

I am AS and my estranged wife is NT.
Unfortunately we separated just 6 months before I realised the cause of our difficulties and my diagnosis was confirmed.
I feel very strongly that, with my new found self-knowledge - I can improve on many of the issues that caused our separation.
I have sent her a copy of your ebook with the message that I would like us to try some of your suggestions.
But there has been no response.

Do you have an email that you can send reluctant wives in this situation? Really just with the message that your book is worth reading; what is the worst that can happen by engaging with some of your ideas; you may be able to answer some of her misgivings; etc? I feel at this moment that she may need more support/encouragement than I do.

She has been a wonderful wife but certainly has suffered during our 24 year marriage and raising 2 good kids - which I greatly regret. It would be a real shame if I couldnt interest her in at least exploring some of your ideas.


To Mark
Please can you kindly tell me how I sign up for the "out of control" children page and advice.
Have a child of 8 - diagnosed Autistic Traits, from a London hospital. Extremely defiant, and head strong. At Present, he is very very obsessed with the Nintendo (Humoungous aggressive meltdowns when I am trying to persuade to come off). Then he says " I   n  e e d   something else to watch. I n e e d  technology.  So will then want to be on the dvd player for   s o m e time.  Then he asks for the laptop  for some time.  Only child.  Myself and him are  currently renting a ground floor flat.  He is SO   LOUD and swearing (every other word),,,,  :(.  He is due to start a new school soon,  we moved, but Is SO Rebellious at night time aswell.  He just cant be bothered to sleep:(.  He just wants to watch..  Previous neighbourhood complained about him being so loud:(.  We are now in rented, I am concerned we may not be able to renew, as the neighbours here hear him pretty much all the time,,,,,
I also need to work,  and it is a LOUD battleground,,,,

On a totally different note  - do u mind me asking a bit of advice possibly on parenting after Divorce. .. Have always lived some distance from the father,  I have offered in the past since Separation, to possibly Move nearer to the father.  He didn't really take us up on it.  Now we are due to start school  in a different area,, I feel the urge to maybe ask him 1 more time possibly, to see if we could move nearer (wont be easy - private renting again).  He is completely adamant that there are no issues.... "Everyone has traits of Autism....." Doesn't address any of his issues,, apart from bit of delayed toileting,,, Not very complimentary of me... But because as a single parent, I need to work   - Although we are on Completely different pages with his needs, He also refuses me to try for another more assessments, and I seriously believe he may have add/adhd,, poss odd/and or ocd,,,,, Is it still worthwhile do u think trying to live nearer,,, so work possibilities due to him hopefully seeing son regularly eg 1 day per week, may be slightly increased.  He is always q stressy...... Thinks sons problem may be down to my parenting etc etc,,,,,,:(.  Son also increasingly scared of heights eg refusing to go on escalators and using stairs.  always wanting a lift... So, I try wherever to accommodate this....
So sorry for such a lengthy email at this point.
Any thoughts greatly appreciated....


I am living with an adult brother who’s I raised since he was 14. He is 53, I am 57. He is high functioning, highly intelligent and an alien, government conspiracist about everything in the world. He is a hoarder, passive/aggressive, controlling and everyone needs to do things his way especially me.

I sold my house 15 years ago and moved. I thought it was the house I didn’t like but certainly wrong.

He has absolutely destroyed my house and hangs out with a millennial hippie crowd that goes to Moon Tribes and Burning Man.  He works as a videographer taping conspiracy conferences.

For the past eight years he has had a perpetual bevy of coach surfers living in my house on his childhood mattress, he even has his sheets from the sixties.

I have to clean the house when he is out and sneak things to the trash.  I have deco furniture from the 1920’s that he has destroyed.  While on an extended trip he had hippies in my room.  All of my clothes just disappeared, they were clean and folded on my bed.  We are talking $10k in clothes.  In my closet buried beneath 10 tents from the hippies was a gigantic vinyl bag of hippie clothes and intermingled in it were some of my missing clothes, it was like Christmas.  I collect vintage luggage, which was buried in the entryway and magic happened, I had purchased a Norwegian snow hat at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City and it was in there along with sentimental scarfs and a brocade vintage wrap.

Sorry that I am going on and on about fashion but I have no one to talk to and this is a miracle.  He picks up furniture of the street, mattresses are stood up against the wall, my couch is vertical against the wall in my office that I have a French door to from my room where Veda the culprit of all things lost had been for a year playin electronic music.

Okay, I googled support groups for people living with adults with Asperger’s, same thing on Facebook book and finally found a link to you.  I need therapy or group support. I am in Long Beach, California.  I have secondary insurance which I believe is Windstone or Windstar (separate words or together).


I am contacting  confidential on  behalf  of  family  who  has  internal  problem with  16  years  old
 and  I need  advice  in  situation  describe  below :
The  16  years  old :
Obsessively playing violent video games, watching violent movies.
Threatening and bullying others
Thee same issues keep coming back over and over again (a sort of boomerang effect).
•    Swearing and name calling
pushing, slapping a constant refusal to do as been asked contribute to the household or participate in normal family activities
Emotional blackmail
Belittling parents in front of friends/other family members/public.
Ability for empathy and compassion is not present
He  found  out and  announced it the Law is always on the child's side, through legislation in Child Protection, but there is nothing to protect parents from children who abuse their parents,
Repeated offences of violence suffer in silence and  never received Remove all privileges, rights to mobiles computers, video games.
He  said ( the  abusers ) will ring social services to claim somebody have hit him, and the Law comes down on his side every time.
This behaviour goes on without resolving it.
He’s aggressive and flies off the handle about everything and constantly hiding his
violent  behavior from the public.
Pretending  Naturally, he was extremely remorseful  it’s his pattern.
Energy  drainer
Never thanks anyone
Messy in dress and home
Claim to much
Never  tell the  true
Totally undependable
Conduct disorders
He's only defending himself.
He will accept no authority from anyone.
If he doesn't like what you have to say, he'll simply leave - if he cannot escape, he will lash out with violence and
aggressive behavior will get worse.
When he's calm, that he gets sometimes so mad sometimes that he feels rage and feels like he's going to snap.
He has ''antisocial personality,'' who is driven by utterly selfish motives.
To avoid punishment, get something they want or make excuses for themselves poorly supervised Troubled Personality Types and How They Lie ANTISOCIAL Tells lies that manipulate in a cold way.
The burden of proof is upon the oppressed to identify what they would like to replace their oppressor with.
Once he receive comfort, he reject his parents again—and so the cycle repeats itself.
His  defend phony illness or injuries,
Controlling his environment and everyone in it.
Become dominant
 Constantly Throws Tantrums
Hits, Grabs, Bites, Acts Bossy, and Everything Else That Embarrasses You
Whines From the Moment He Wakes Up
Acts Defiant and Always Negotiates
Complains of Being Bored
Talks Rudely to Adults and Is Mean to Peers
Controls Your Life.
Playing the victim card
Blaming others: If your child is constantly blaming others for things that go wrong
They constantly brag about your kid and find ways to excuse their bad behavior.
Will have a tantrum if challenged, criticized, or told something he dislike.
Never shows much empathy or warmth towards others.
Overly dominant, aggressive, and boundary-pushing with other people.
Non stop researching  information about his  rights so he can be prepared  in case he has to prepare his defense  and lies .
Always  playing victims  and pretending he  has a panic attacks .
And  works  like a  switch in the public  he is suddenly well behavior.
It is unsafe for others to have him to that much power .
Family seem scared of him  they are afraid he can snap  on them and never want to tell anybody from  outside so they covering his  dangerous  behavior behind  the close door and unfortunately, because these activities occur behind the scenes, it can be difficult to prove that these events are actually occurring.
He does not respect others and place his own needs first and foremost.
He avoids responsibility by “forgetting " never responsible for his actions.
 He  has no faults, it is everyone around him who has faults and they must be punished for those faults.
He  is always the innocent victim of your unreasonable expectations.
Believes that deadlines are for everyone but them.
He does things on their own time schedule and be damned anyone who expects differently from him.
Everybody has  to meet his needs.
They care for you the way they care for a favorite chair.
You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.
Always has negative attitudes especially at home behind the closed doorsHe  said in case  he has to defend  himself he complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others .
but outside appears to comply or act appropriately, but actually behave negatively and passively resist.
Difficult time getting along with others.
Appear enthusiastic to carry out others requests, but he purposely performs in a manner that is not useful and sometimes even damaging.
Intentional avoidance of responsibility.
Some behaviors that may be used to avoid responsibility include:
o    Procrastination—to delay or postpone needlessly and intentionally
o    Deliberate inefficiency—purposefully performing in an incompetent manner
o    Forgetfulness
•    Feelings of resentfulness towards others
•    Stubbornness
•    Argumentative, sulky, and hostile, especially toward authority figures
•    Easily offended
•    Resentful of useful suggestions from others
•    Blames others
•    Chronically impatient
•    Unexpressed anger or hostility
It is a prolonged pattern of negative and repeated behaviors .
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
Sarcasm, Critical and “Off-Color” Jokes
tendency to blame others for own failures.
Always expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate
He gives you unclear information, withholds information that you don’t “need” , or gives you too little or too much information.
With too little, you are left shaky and uncertain, realizing after he leaves that he didn’t really answer your question, or in fact made the situation look worse than you thought.
Always overreact .
Thank you and waiting for your advice .
Family friend


Hello Mr. Hutten,

I found you online after countless searches on resources for people in my situation. My partner has Aspergers. I know he does bc I have been searching for "what is wrong with him" for years. I first thought it was his Germanness. Then maybe general anger and anxiety issues. I was reading a post about different supplements to combat anger issues when a poster mentioned that his anger, caused by his general aspergers, greatly reduced after taking glutamine. Up until that point I never considered Aspergers. I read everything about it in the weeks after and it fits perfectly. I took a test online with him....playfully and it came out that  he had Aspergers. I know that isn't conclusive but I have absolutley no doubt he has it.

The thing though is that he just dismissed it... he just said "hmm"... and went back to watching tv. This made me so mad and over the weeks, whenever he did something clearly "autistic" I would get upset internally that he wasn't mitigating it. He can't mitigate something he doesn't acknowledge.... it's that lack if acknowledgement that really gets me upset.

He's angry, brash, has the shortest temper and is incredibley unable to be self sufficient. He has a very hard time keeping a job. If he doesn't agree with his boss, it becomes a battle. He lacks self awareness, humility and, of course, empathy.

I want to believe that if he would just acknowledge his Aspergers, he's be motivated to improve. I don't expect him to do a 180 degree change.... I just want some acknowledgement that I am not insane. I've read so many stories about couples in our situation that were able to grow together.... I want that bc I love him.

He says the most insulting things and misunderstands things and never ever ever apologises.

I don't even know what my question to you should be. I just need some sort of direction on how to approach this with him without starting WWIII.


I recently listened to your three part series on living with a husband who has aspergers.  It was very insightful and I finally felt relief as I could pinpoint what has been occurring in my relationship with my boyfriend of 5 years.  I always assumed that my boyfriend was just socially awkward, but I am fairly certain that he has mild Aspergers.  He fits into most of the criteria. Although it has given me relief knowing that his awkward behavior is likely do to a condition, I don't know how to bring the topic up to him.  I am afraid that if I mention "Asperger" he will automatically shut down and say I'm attacking him.  Do you have any suggestions for how to suggest to him that he may have this condition in a loving way? I'm at a loss and don't know what to do!


We are great grandparents of a little boy who will be six in a few weeks and just one year ago he was finally diagnosed with Asbergers/autism syndrome/special needs child at his preschool and then his now kindergarten school. Late coming but finally found out what we suspected. His parents are not educating themselves but we are and will help them and most especially him as much as we can. They refused to believe he has problems and did for several years beginning at age two or before,
We are his primary caregivers while his parents work or cannot take care of him. He is in a good school struggles a lot with social issues is "smart" we are told over and over and is making progress. We simply need to know all we can. I may take a while to read and listen but we will definitely take the time. He has a terrible diet, his mother does not cook and they eat fast foods o pre prepared things. We do it differently here which helps him somewhat.
 I will let you know of his progress, we  (I) love seeing it from other caregivers and parents and others who care so much for these kids, the success in small measured pieces.


I actually think it’s far too late
for my partner and myself.
We’re about to separate as he says he’s now fed up with him being labeled
as controlling, moody, unemotional despite him being diagnosed 18 months
ago. We came back early from a well needed weekend away because he could not stop himself from being moody and irritated by me.
He now thinks he may only be able to dip in and out of relationships as he
does with his whole family despite them all being close and having the usual contact with each other and will not under any circumstances go to a
counselor. I think he may be correct  as this is all he does/has ever done with is family, previous marriage and relationships.
He saw a specialist adult physician/psychiatrist for his diagnosis of high functioning Asperger
diagnosis who recommended CBT through his team but having been 2-3 times he
feels it’s unhelpful and doesn’t see the point.
Having had a follow up appointment with the specialist 6 months ago who recommended upping his
antidepressants and seeing the psychologist more regularly he’s upped the
dose but not seen her again.
She had asked to see us together but it's as if he’s in denial that she may help. I
think he might be finding the counselling and CBT tough as its probably touching a raw spot. He’s very clever and
thinks he knows himself better than anyone and that nobody can know him better and nobody can help.
We’re at crisis point as I don’t think I should live like this anymore.
Any suggestions?


Mark, I have a 25 year-old daughter on the spectrum who is currently living on her own.   She struggles with many of the issues you outline in your articles: overall health, planning, initiating, follow through.  She returned home after (but not finishing) college and we came to a point where it made sense for her to live on her own.  She’s supporting herself by providing care for a 9 year-old with special needs – somewhat of a live-in situation. She’s made great progress since moving out and I’d like to continue to help her gain her confidence and independence.  To that end I’d like to schedule a phone call with you to understand more of your coaching services.


Dear Mark,
Like many other parents trying to seek solutions I went online and found you. After having looked at numerous blogs, websites, and most recently your website I’m quite assured our son, perhaps my husband has Aspergers.
I’d like to focus on my son as I’m heartbroken for him. He often has good intentions to navigate difficult group decisions in our family but it always goes badly. The interpersonal navigation of problem solving, regular communication goes badly. This results in him feeling ‘demonized’ ‘always the bad guy’’always wrong’.
I see he’s very justice oriented, wanting to make sure the right thing is communicated, problem solved... but due to his monotone way of communicating, the intensity of his communication, the tightness of how he communicates - it’s often offensive to us resulting in a high level of frustration for him which makes him feel marginalized.
When he was a young boy he’d line up his cars over and over again, he hated hugs, he focused on fulfilling his duty (like walking to school and not saying hi to peers along the way), softly repeating each line of movie lines, but we didn’t see this was unique.
Now hes an adult and we see how it affects his relationships here at home. He’s very high functioning, you’d never know he’s struggling or frustrated with those outside our household, he’s a very successful young man with his jobs, with school and even with professional relationships.  I have a feeling his peer relationships are difficult but he doesn’t talk about it.
In conclusion, I see this is getting to him, not knowing why he’s struggling and going through such challenges. We want to tell him that we think he might have Aspergers but he’s never been diagnosed and secondly I’m not sure how this news might affect him. I actually think it might come as a big relief to him knowing we can educate him, give him some tools for the journey.

I need help. What do I do? My heart breaks for our son. We love him so very much but see such struggle. He even broke down last week saying this is the primary reason he’s not going out with someone at the moment.
On the outside he’s handsome, he’s successful yet such inner struggle.
I’m looking for direction on what to do next. If you have books? Blogs? Videos? I’ll do as much as I can to help our son.

Thank you for your post I found online.


Our son Rio is 16. ASD, ADHD,  non-compliance disorder,  depression, anxiety etc etc. We managed OK until he turned 14 then things really got bad.  No amount of assertive parenting,  clear boundaries & staying calm has helped. The underlying aggression has been a constant. The meltdowns are infrequent but result in extreme property damage (1000s of dollars worth that will take him years to repay)  police being called,  nights in hospital, occasional weeks in psych wards.
Last week, (after returning from a family weekend camping trip! )he had a massive meltdown after I said no to buying him alcohol. He was taken away.. Again.. by police & paramedics to hospital for observation. In the morning when they rang for me to collect him I said no.  He can't come back.  Enough is enough. I can not handle anymore of this abuse.  I have a husband,  another child & myself to consider. We deserve a peaceful life.

I haven't turned my back on him & will support him when he can be civil & behaves non aggressively.


Hello Mark,
I'm wondering if you'd please be able to give me some advice concerning a temporary situation where I am staying...The Landlord I believe, has Aspergers, and I believe, a Conduct Disorder.
I'm only residing here for a short time--less than six weeks--today she came in and placed a birthday cake for someone--I believe she was intentionally hiding it downstairs--and when I
returned the cake had been taken and so had my new italian shawl that was on my bed. 
She had earlier lied to my friends about me and they of course didn't believe it owing to its outrage.  Please, do you have any advice on the best way to approach her to get it back. 
Mark, I'm actually a therapist myself, transitioning to Victoria from another province when this
happened.  I'd be extremely grateful for any advice you can offer on how to approach this woman.  Thank you for your consideration.


Hi, Yesterday I bought your e-book on AS/NT relationships.  I am engaged to an AS man who I have known since I was 17 and dated at that time.  I always knew I loved him even with his "quirkiness".  Fast forward 40 years and we have re-connected after having been married to other people.  I have been extremely frustrated with his lack of empathy and will try some of your suggestions.  I would truly like us to see a counselor who specializes in AS/NT relationships in the Orlando area.  He also has an office in Wheeling, WVA and I also have property in Western PA, so even perhaps someone in those areas as well.  I am a little nervous about bringing up the subject that I believe he is an AS guy, but I would like to talk to a therapist about this as well.  Any suggestions??


Hi Mr. Hutten,
My 11yr old son, John, has Asperger's disorder. After years of struggling in the local school system, we sent him to an excellent school for children with Asperger's, ADHD etc... We used all of the resources we could to get a lawyer to help us get the school district to help us pay for this new school and transportation. He started to really thrive and up until yesterday, had a great school year. I thought my prayers were finally answered. The school was wonderful, 4:1 student teacher ratio, highly trained staff, serene setting and protocol in place to help a kid leave the room to deal with a meltdown. He was thriving and catching up academically and they all loved him. Yesterday, he came home and told me that he had a massive meltdown in school and, from his description, he may be asked to leave the school. He had a few minor meltdowns in school this year but nothing like this and we are all devastated, especially John. The school usually communicates an issue right away but we have heard nothing from them. Considering that he tells me that hit his teachers and "broke a computer", which I am completely appalled by, I can guess that it is pretty bad now. I can't blame them.

He always feels remorse and great shame after losing his temper but he is overwhelmed now and says that he "doesn't even know how to help himself". This is what used to happen in the old school. I am at a loss. John is a sweet, bright, funny child. He has always been a tiny kid (not even on the growth chart due to being severely premature), but is recently starting to grow. He does not throw these tantrums to gain something, he just has so much trouble self regulating when he feels frustrated or overwhelmed. He is currently on 2 medications through a psychiatrist at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York Hospital Westchester and I will be speaking with her today.

Do you have any suggestions for a family in our situation?


My 25yr old son has meltdowns somewhat regular basis.  I never know until I hear him slam something, complain about environmental noise or neighbors he hasn't met! He's not paranoid but can be perceived that way because we don't understand why he would think everyone hates him or talking about him.
So today I showed him quote that said:
"Tell the negative committee meeting in your brain to shut up and sit down". He cracked up laughing.


We see each other n he takes me out at least 2 to 3 times a month we are intimate he says he wants to be left alone . We have no communication when we are together he says he wants to enjoy his time with me not to talk about problems.
We own a restaurant together but for 33 years I never came here very rarely because when I would come with the kids he would get upset n nervous he said he needed to concentrate on the business
Years passed by n now my kids are men n they are all working here .
N now I decided to work here as well which makes him nervous I come here 5 times a week .
He comes here at 7 am sits on the front table n just looks st the walls or reads by himself! He spends all day in the restaurant just sitting down n talking to whoever customer starts conversation.
All his conversations are about food n all started when we where getting sued by the dishwashers for overtime. He would come home with headaches n was very mean n verbally abusive to me n my sons . Would tell him that he can talk to me but not to take it out on me that I understood the restaurant meant a lot to him but that all I really cared about was him that it was ok if we lost everything that we would just start all over n have each other . He kept on being verbally abusive n very quiet n cold he even hit my middle child that was 27 years old at the time .
So I told him crying one night when he was yelling at me n telling me there was nothing for me to smile about.( I was waiting up for him like I always did ) that he was like a devil that why was he torturing me when all I’ve done is love him to leave me alone and leave . He left a few weeks later . He has never told my kids he loves them . I use to get the live word out of him . I was so caught up bringing up the kids I didn’t realize what was going on I thought he was just being a good husband n father . Our sex life had always been amazing. Even now when we are together it’s amazing.
He says we don’t get along . I told him the argument were always because he would ignore me n though the restaurant was more important. And sometimes when we go out he has a way of talking to woman that seems like flirting but I don’t think he does it on purpose he would look at me like a little kid wounded when I would tell him he had been inappropriate n it was lack of respect towards me .the reason why I’m reaching out to you is because our biggest problem is lack of communication I know . But at the same time he blames me for everything n even says things that are not true n he swears by it . He has developed a paranoia towards me that he sometimes won’t even go near me . He is like a little scared child . He has episodes when he screams n one day in the car even was hitting his head on the side window n screaming his lungs out .
I want to help my husband Mark .
I really think he needs help for him to understand what’s going on with him . That it’s not my fault .
He doesn’t want to go to a doctor he is too proud .
But he tortures  my kids in the restaurant he has no filter .
I try to go out with my friends n keep busy doing things I like but it’s very hard because my heart is not in any of it .



One of the hallmarks of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is the child's tendency to be obsessed with particular topics. In this video, we will look at: primary obsessions, secondary interests, and how to use your child’s obsession to your advantage.

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Click here to become an expert in helping your Asperger's or High-Functioning Autistic child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, resistance to change, shutdowns, meltdowns, and much more...

Help for Behavioral Problems in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Our Granddaughter is a high functioning autistic child and is totally unruly and seems to want to control everything and everyone. I don't want to give into her but need some suggestions because it is bothering us. The whole family revolves around her and her wants. It even influences her sister (both are 9) - and the sister imitates this terrible behavior. What to do???"

Here are some ideas for both High-Functioning Autistic children...

You need to understand what your granddaughter  is thinking, how she interprets what is going on, and how her deficits cause problems before you can begin any intervention strategy. Do not rush into action until you have collected enough information and analyzed what is going on. If you do not know the reasons behind the behavior, you may very likely do the wrong thing. If you know what is going on, you can help things go better.

Realizing that your granddaughter will not be a good observer of her behavior is your first step. The High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) youngster often does not know what to do in a situation. She does not know the appropriate behavior because she doesn't understand how the world works. Or, if she knows a better solution, she cannot use it because she becomes "stuck."

Not knowing what to do - or being unable to do what is appropriate - results in anxiety that leads to additional ineffective and inappropriate actions. Behavior associated with HFA is often a result of this anxiety, which leads to difficulty moving on and letting go of an issue and "getting stuck" on something. This is rigidity, and it is the most common reason for behavioral problems. You must deal with rigidity and replace it with flexibility early on in your plan to help your granddaughter. Flexibility is a skill that can be taught, and you will make this a major part of your efforts to help her.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
Reasons for Rigidity—
  • A misunderstanding or misinterpretation of another's action.
  • A violation of a rule or ritual – changing something from the way it is supposed to be. Someone is violating a rule and this is unacceptable to the youngster.
  • Anxiety about a current or upcoming event, no matter how trivial it might appear to you.
  • Immediate gratification of a need.
  • Lack of knowledge about how something is done. By not knowing how the world works with regard to specific situations and events, the youngster will act inappropriately instead.
  • Other internal issues, such as sensory, inattention (ADHD), oppositional tendency (ODD), or other psychiatric issues may also be causes of behavior.
  • The need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity, often something difficult or undesirable. Often, if your youngster cannot be perfect, she does not want to engage in an activity.
  • The need to control a situation.
  • The need to engage in or continue a preferred activity, usually an obsessive action or fantasy.
  • Transitioning from one activity to another. This is usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he is finished with it.

Note: Attention-getting is very rarely seen. It should not be considered as a reason for rigidity until all of the above reasons have been considered and eliminated.

Understanding your youngster involves knowing the associated traits and how they manifest themselves in everyday behaviors. How does your youngster or adolescent see the world, think about matters, and react to what is going on around her or him?
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The following reasons will help you understand behavior patterns:

Not Understanding How the World Works—

Your HFA granddaughter has a neuro-cognitive disorder that affects many areas of functioning. This includes a difficulty with the basic understanding of the rules of society, especially if they are not obvious. Life has many of these rules. Some are written, some are spoken, and some are learned through observation and intuition. Your youngster only knows what has been directly taught to her through books, movies, TV shows, the Internet, and explicit instructions. She is not able to sit in a room, observe what is happening, and understand social cues, implied directions, or how to "read between the lines," and as she is growing up, she does not learn how to do this. Instead, she learns facts. She does not "take in" what is happening around her that involves the rest of the world, only what directly impacts her.

Many of the conversations she has had have generally been about knowledge and facts, not about feelings, opinions, and interactions. As a result, she does not really know how the world works and what one is supposed to do in various situations. This can apply to even the smallest situations you might take for granted. Not knowing the unspoken rules of situations causes anxiety and upset. This leads to many of the behavioral issues that appear as the HFA youngster tries to impose her own sense of order on a world she doesn't understand.

The HFA child creates his own set of rules for everyday functioning to keep things from changing and thereby minimize his anxiety. Sometimes, he just makes up the rules when it is convenient. Other times, he attempts to make them up by looking for patterns, rules, or the logic of a situation to make it less chaotic for him and more predictable and understandable. If there are no rules for an event or situation, he will create them from his own experiences based on what he has read, seen, or heard. He will often have a great deal of information to use in reaching his conclusions and forming his opinions and feelings. As a result, some of his conclusions are correct and some are wrong.

He will rarely consider someone else's point of view if he does not consider them to be an "expert." The fewer people he sees as experts, the more behavioral difficulty you will see. He might consider teachers and others to be experts, but his moms and dads will rarely be seen as such. Therefore, he will argue with you about your opinions if different from his own. He thinks that his opinion is as good as yours, so he chooses his. This represents his rigid thinking. He finds it difficult to be flexible and consider alternate views, especially if he has already reached a conclusion. New ideas can be difficult to accept ("I'd rather do it the way I've always done it"). Being forced to think differently can cause a lot of anxiety.

You must never overestimate your HFA granddaughter's understanding of a situation because of her high intellectual ability or her other strengths. She is a girl who needs to figure out how the world works. She needs a road map and the set of instructions, one example at a time.

Frames of Reference—

In trying to understand how the world works, your youngster tries to make sense of your explanations, but sometimes is not able to do this. As a result, your effort at intervening falls short. This can occur because your explanation has no meaning. Each child on the autism spectrum can only understand things for which they have a frame of reference, meaning they have a picture or idea about this from other sources or from prior discussions. They cannot understand what you will tell them without this frame of reference. For example, when I asked a teenage boy if he missed his mom and dad when he was at overnight camp for a week, he replied that it was not all that long. When I asked him again if he missed them, he said he could e-mail them whenever he wanted. After my third attempt to get an answer he finally said to me, "I can't answer that question. Since I have never missed anyone before, I have nothing against which I can compare my feelings to know what missing feels like."

Preferred and Non-preferred Activities—

For all people on the autism spectrum, life tends to be divided into two categories – preferred and non-preferred activities. Preferred activities are those things he engages in frequently and with great intensity. He seeks them out without any external motivation. However, not all of his preferred activities are equal. Some are much more highly desired and prized. An activity that is lower on the list can never be used as a motivator for one that is higher. For example, you cannot get him to substitute his video game playing by offering a food reward if the game playing is higher on his list.

Any activity that is not preferred can be considered non-preferred. They are less desirable and many are avoided. The lower they are on the list of desirability, the more he will resist or avoid doing them. Sometimes an activity or task becomes non-preferred because it is made to compete with one that is much more highly valued. For example, taking a bath could be enjoyable, but if your youngster is reading, and reading is higher on his list, he will resist or throw a tantrum.

Preferred and non-preferred activities are always problem areas. Your youngster or teen will always want to engage in preferred activities even when you have something more important for him to do. He does not want to end preferred activities and your attempts to have him end them can produce upset of one kind or another. On the other hand, trying to get him to do non-preferred activities, such as interacting socially, can also be difficult. If many non-preferred elements are combined together, the problem can become a nightmare, such as with homework.

The HFA youngster rarely has activities he just likes. He tends to either love or hate an activity. The middle ground is usually missing. Teaching a middle ground or shades of gray can be a goal and will be discussed later. Also, as you try to teach him something new, you will encounter resistance because you are asking him to do something that's not a preferred activity. But, as he outgrows younger interests, he will need to learn new ones in order to have some common interests with his peers. He needs to experience new things to see if he likes them, but may not want to do this just because you're asking him to do something new. He already has his list of preferred interests and will rarely see the need for anything new. Quite often, his preferred list will include computer or video games. However, the more he is on the computer or the more he plays video games, the less available he is to be in the real world and learn something new. Most likely, you will have to control his access to preferred activities if new ones are to be introduced.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors and Anxiety—

Obsessive-compulsive issues, also referred to as rituals, rigidity, perseverations, rules, or black-and-white thinking, originate in the HFA child's difficulty understanding the world around him. This creates anxiety, the underlying cause for his obsessive-compulsive behaviors. You will see anxiety in many different ways, depending on how your youngster manifests it. Some kids will show it in obvious ways, such as crying, hiding under furniture, or clinging to you. Others show it by trying to control the situation and bossing people around. Some may hit or throw a tantrum. Some may act silly. No matter how your youngster displays his anxiety, you need to recognize that it is there and not assume it is due to some other cause such as attention seeking or just plain misbehavior.

Anxiety can occur for the smallest reason. Don't judge anxiety-producing situations by your own reaction to an event. Your youngster will be much more sensitive to situations than you will be, and often there will be no logical reason for his anxiety. Something that you would be anxious about causes no anxiety in your youngster, while a small event causes him to be quite anxious. When events change, he never knows what is going to come next and he becomes confused and upset, leading to some form of inappropriate behavior.

Your youngster's first reaction is to try to reduce or eliminate his anxiety. He must do something, and one of the most effective means is to take all changes, uncertainty, and variability out of the equation. This can be accomplished by obsessions. If everything is done a certain way, if there is a definite and unbreakable rule for every event, and if everyone does as he wishes, everything will be fine. Anxiety is then diminished or reduced, and no upset, tantrums, or meltdowns occur.

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to do this in the real world. Nevertheless, anxiety needs to be dealt with in some manner. This is the first order of business in planning for many interventions. If you move ahead before this has been settled, it will continue to be a significant interfering factor. Let's look at some examples of this.

Jake, age seventeen, won't leave the house because he wants to have his nails in a certain condition. This condition requires many hours of grooming that interfere with sleeping, eating, and doing just about anything else. This is obsessive-compulsive behavior. Any attempt to get him to leave the house or stop his nail maintenance causes anxiety and is rarely successful.

Anytime Michael, age eleven, hears an answer that he does not like, he becomes upset. If he asks a question or makes a request and the other person's response is not what he expected, he starts to argue with them, often acting out physically. He must have certain answers that are to his liking. This is rigidity in thought and it is also obsessive-compulsive.

Each of these cases has a cognitive and a behavioral component, and both must be considered. Each youngster must learn to get "unstuck" or let go of an issue and move on. They also need to learn how to change their thinking so that it doesn't become a problem to begin with.

Behavioral Manifestations of Anxiety—
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed and having difficulty calming down.
  • Creating their own set of rules for doing something.
  • Demanding unrealistic perfection in their handwriting, or wanting to avoid doing any writing.
  • Demonstrating unusual fears, anxiety, tantrums, and showing resistance to directions from others.
  • Displaying a good deal of silly behaviors because they are anxious or do not know what to do in a situation.
  • Eating a narrow range of foods.
  • Having a narrow range of interests, and becoming fixated on certain topics and/or routines.
  • Having trouble playing and socializing well with peers or avoiding socializing altogether. They prefer to be alone because others do not do things exactly as they do.
  • Insisting on having things and/or events occur in a certain way.
  • Intensely disliking loud noises and crowds.
  • Lecturing others or engaging in a monologue rather than having a reciprocal conversation.
  • Preferring to do the same things over and over.
  • Reacting poorly to new events, transitions, or changes.
  • Remaining in a fantasy world a good deal of the time and appearing unaware of events around them.
  • Tending to conserve energy and put forth the least effort they can, except with highly preferred activities.
  • Wanting things to go their way, when they want them to, no matter what anyone else may want. They may argue, throw a tantrum, ignore you, growl, refuse to yield, etc.

The obsessive-compulsive approach to life results in the narrow range of interests and insistence on set routines typical of an HFA youngster. However, it usually starts as a cognitive (i.e., thinking) issue before it becomes a behavioral one. Cognitive issues, such as the inability to take someone else's perspective (i.e., mindblindness) and the lack of cognitive flexibility (i.e., black-and-white thinking), cause many of the behaviors we see. We know there is a cognitive element by looking at the youngster's behaviors. There is always some distress, anxiety, or obsession manifested in every inappropriate behavior.

The youngster's cognitive difficulties lead to inaccurate interpretations and understanding of the world. How someone interprets a situation determines how he will respond to it. Many times the interpretation of an event is either not an accurate one or not one that leads to positive or prosocial actions. If the event can be reinterpreted for him, it might lead to a more productive outcome. In doing this, we must first try to understand how the individual interprets a situation. All of the individual's behaviors are filtered through his perception of the way the world works.

Questions to Ask about Your Youngster's Behavior—

To help you determine the reasons why your youngster acts the way she or he does, you should ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Because a situation was one way the first time, does she feel it has to be that way always? (Being rule bound.)
  2. Does he need to be taught a better way to deal with a problem? (He does not understand the way the world works.)
  3. Does she see only two choices to a situation rather than many options? (Black-and-white thinking.)
  4. Has he made a rule that can't be followed? (He sees only one way to solve a problem. He cannot see alternatives.)
  5. Is she blaming you for something that is beyond your control? (She feels that you must solve the problem for her even when it involves issues you have no control over.)
  6. Is he exaggerating the importance of an event? There are no small events, everything that goes wrong is a catastrophe. (Black-and-white thinking.)
  7. Is she expecting perfection in herself? (Black-and-white thinking.)
  8. Is she misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true? (Misinterpretation.)
  9. Is he stuck on an idea and can't let it go? (He does not know how to let go and move on when there is a problem.)

==> More methods for dealing with the behavioral problems associated with ASD can be found here...

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

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


•    Anonymous said… a good article for information
•    Anonymous said… A really wonderful insightful article! Adding it to my collection to refer back to. You can never be to supportive or have to much information.
•    Anonymous said… Be firm and everyone help controllIng her behavior. It helps
•    Anonymous said… Don't judge. If one of your grandchildren needed a wheelchair and the other didn't would you complain about the child in the wheelchair needing to be pushed everywhere? Needing adaptations in the house? I'm guessing not.
Perhaps look at a local autism charity to see if they run grandparent classes, sounds like you need some help coming to terms with this and understanding what's going on.
•    Anonymous said… good article
•    Anonymous said… Great article
•    Anonymous said… Hello! This is my life!!
•    Anonymous said… Her sisters need to see her being held accountable for her actions even if it means she has to miss out on priveledges they enjoy. Having a posted "family Rules" w/ rules/consequences and following through may help. Teaching them that their sister has strengths and "weaknesses" just like they do may help. It takes a lot of stamina! Both parents should be ready for teamwork. Alone time with each child is beneficial. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… Huh, that's weird. I have two 9 year olds one of them aspie. I have questions for the grandparents. First of all, how much actual quality time have you spent with your autistic grand daughter? How often have you engaged in discussion and really listened to her parents regarding the autism? How much respite have you provided and actually came through with for the parents? Also, what is going on with you and your perceptions in needing to see the child with autism as controlling rather than dealing with a neurological difference? I ask because in my situation the answers to those questions are "very little", "very little", "none" and "ignorance". It takes a village to raise an child on the spectrum and every single day I am asking where that village is.
•    Anonymous said… I also find that publicly calling them out on their behavior only creates a power struggle. Privacy seems to work better. Hope this helps.
•    Anonymous said… I live this with my 18 year old. But because you can't see a physical problem doesn't mean there isn't one. My daughter often says the most out landish things before speaking. But they are trying to figure out where they fit in, how, and what is their role/job in this world. Be supportive but choose which battle you are willing to fight. It may not end up quite the way you hope!
•    Anonymous said… Ignorance ...... Educate yourself so you understand not to judge
•    Anonymous said… Make her feel 'safe'. Boundaries make children feel safe but children need to know you love them. all children push to see how far they can go ...they're testing their safety. Always explain why you have rules or do something. Feeling 'safe' is important for anyone but more so for autistic.
•    Anonymous said… My 15 year old daughter has Aspergers and I've learned that her need to control everything is not about controlling everyone around her. It's about her trying to make sense of a world she doesn't understand and doesn't feel like she fits into. It's about coping and trying to create a comfort zone so she doesn't become so overwhelmed that she melts down, which is also often looked upon as bad behavior.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is controlling. Because she feels so out of control inside, that she tries to control what is outside of her. It is not because she is bad, but because it is a way to cope
•    Anonymous said… my son has aspergers as well I'm not implying anything I know about there outburst. And its hard on us. We try everything we can to make him fee safe. And we pick our battles. I'm sorry if I offended any body
•    Anonymous said… My son was talking inappropriate and was warned. He continued and lost his phone. He then attacked him dad and put holes in the walls and doors. Then hit sister. She called the Police scared. Why is his impulse control so poor he is 14!
•    Anonymous said… The grandparents are ignorant because they dont live with the child 24/7 and if they actually knew the child completely they would understand!! Have dealt with grandparents like this and what will happen is your grandkids just wont be around you if you cant accept them and let the parents do their job.
•    Anonymous said… U have to keep giving lots of love & support even if it revolves around that child for the time being it's very hard but very important that U listen to the child to understand how he/she feels & progress From there! Xx
•    Anonymous said… With any ASD child it's not about changing then it's about us as parents/grandparents to change the way we act/approach them. Unruly? Maybe that's her way of interacting or maybe there's other factors going on like sensory issues. She may have so many things going through her head that's she's trying to process like surroundings, smells, noise that she actually cannot hear you. My one tip is keep language simple. Get the Tony Attworth book, I'll find mine and look for the name.
•    Anonymous said… You are not the parent. Please learn all that you can about Asperger's and autism before you spend a second judging your grandchild or the way her parents are raising her.
•    Anonymous said... I sympathize. It's always been so difficult for me to know where to draw the line. Will say a prayer for you both♥
•    Anonymous said... Is anyone in the uk? Do you know of anywhere I can go for support?
•    Anonymous said... Mine 10 year old son is exactly the same also. And I try really hard not to give in. But my Ex his farther just give him whatever he wants.
•    Anonymous said... My 10 year old son is the same and we are at loss as how to deal with it to.
•    Anonymous said... My 18 yr old twins (especially since "Mom I'm an adult now) are the can't give in to everything or you'll have you know.....I pick my battles.....Foul language at home ...(Only used to push my buttons)....I ignore.....
•    Anonymous said... my daughter is the exact same way
•    Anonymous said... my family complained about my son acting this way too, finally I explained to them they are witnessing the disability. these kids see everything in black and white (rigidity), they are not able to be flexible so they come off as demanding and controlling cuz they simply can not help themselves. with alot of patience, there are ways of re-directing instead of simply tolerating it (there are good articles on this website). and the siblings without the disability can be held accountable and taught tolerance of the disability, but I realize that is easier said than done. good luck.
•    Anonymous said... There is a support group near me. I think you could find your local one via your doctor or specialist or just google and see if you get anything ?
•    Anonymous said... We have the same issue with my 14 yr old . We walk on eggshells around her and don't try to punish her because I know what will come if I try that .. She is mean to us and her famous line is always .. What I didn't do anything wrong.

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