How to Change Unwanted Behavior in Young People on the Autism Spectrum

“It is very frustrating not being able to change or modify the rigid behaviors that my son exhibits, for example, picky eating, rudeness to others, lack of motivation …just to name a few. Is there anything that can be done to help him be more open to change and flexibility?”

Most kids with High-Functioning Autism struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet, which can cause any of these issues:
  • behavioral problems
  • communication problems
  • desire for isolation
  • lack of incentive
  • sensory issues 
  • social problems
  • dropping into a state of depression, thus making the original problems that much worse

Social skills and living skills therapy may be the most popular areas of concentration when treating kids and teens (and even adults) with High-Functioning Autism. These therapies are widely available and do bring about effective progress in most cases.

Providing incentive is the key to improving your youngster’s circumstances. Actually, incentive is a factor anytime you are seeking to modify anyone’s unwanted behaviors. Incentive in itself is definitely an old concept, but using incentive in a new way will create the wanted result for your “special needs” son.

Old Incentive—

As moms and dads, we often use “set motivators” to achieve the behavior we feel is appropriate. The concentration has been placed on the behavior, which sets a negative tone to the process of change. You can’t blame a youngster for reacting negatively to a negative tone.
  • Punishment: “If you don’t do ______, then you will get ______!” We have all used this at one time or another, and over the course of time, it has proven to be an ineffective motivator.
  • Rewards or bribery: “If you do ______ today, I’ll buy you a ______.” We’re guilty of this one too. This probably creates more confusion and greed than incentive over time.

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

New Incentive—

Motivators should be positive. It feels good to see your youngster happily learning or cooperating in desired behaviors. Motivators that appeal to the individual boy or girl should be used for maximum results. Incentive is definitely personal. What motivates one youngster will not work for every youngster.
  • Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is “catching” a child doing something you want them to do and rewarding it. The youngster gets attention and reward as positive reinforcement for doing the right thing and will focus on repeating that behavior. Positive reinforcement works because it gives kids positive goals to work towards instead of only focusing on negative consequences to avoid. Positive reinforcement fulfills strong basic psychological needs of every boy and girl, as well as setting a more positive and healthy tone for the parent-child relationship.
  • Routines: Keeping your youngster’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He’ll know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.
  • Special Interests: Using your youngster’s special interests both at home and at school can generate positive responses in all situations. For example, your youngster’s love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train themed dinnerware or even themed foods may be used to entice the reluctant eater.

By practicing positive reinforcement, establishing solid and consistent routines, and identifying special interests, you should be able to implement a social skills and living skills “parenting-plan” that will get the results that so desperately desire.

==> Are you experiencing a lot of behavior problems with your child on the autism spectrum? Get more solutions right here...


Anonymous said... Another thing to keep in mind is patience Rome was not built in a day : ) . It might take 21 days to eat that piece of brocoli or 2 years to master those social skills. Hang on to the picture in your mind of the finish line not the starting spot : )

Anonymous said... My 9 year old son has just been diagnosed with Aspergers is diet associated with it? That would explain why its so hard to get him to eat what is good for him

Anonymous said... I think it's the food texture or something that they seem to only prefer certain foods, which in my case, it's not very much. The older he gets though the more he tries and actually likes. He is 12.

Anonymous said... My son, who is 10, just tried a hamburger for the first time a few weeks ago. He had three bites before he decided he was done. I was so thrilled. It was such a major accomplishment for him! I know he probably wont touch another one for a very long time. But thats ok because he tried something new!!! Just keep showing him all of the good things you enjoy and he will decide when he is ready to try it.

Anonymous said... Couldn't agree anymore. I also literally "laughed out loud" when you said how thrilled you got, one of those "been there done that!!" I love those moments!!! :)

Anonymous said... I wanted to do the happy dance!! Every day is a struggle with food around here. I almost whooped out loud when he ate that burger! =)

Anonymous said… You will be able to work with it as they get older. Once they are old enough to understand that we all have certain norms to conform to, my son at least, has started to see the value in modifying his behavior. It's not perfect but who is! I love my son and he's found others who feel the same way along his path.

Anonymous said… Yes Bianca... very familiar. i've just read the article . very good read. and i think for us, we have to set a common strict routine he follows at both houses. i feel he needs that stability n consistency. he's a good, very intelligent kids, but unfortunately with bad habits we need to change. we have to work closely together for his sake.

Anonymous said… We deal with the exact same thing!

Anonymous said… Oh I hear you load and clear... My son is almost 15 and we deal with it every day!!!

Anonymous said… My son is going on 13. Only recently has the word Aspergers been mentioned regarding his 'issues'. All in all though, he is not an extreme case. So it's hard to actually "diagnose". But what I want to share it that all through the years of speech therapy for Apraxia, we never treated him any different than we would any other child. He had the same responsibilities, demands, chores, and punishments as his brother. The biggest difference was how we presented it to him. He needed to understand the logic of why he was being asked. And the logic behind the punishments - letting him know upfront what his punishment would be if he did not do something. This goes with behaviour of all sorts. From what I understand, these children have to be taught to think and feel like we do. "taught" is the key word here. They will not 'feel' it like we do, but they can be taught. Reinforce everything you ask them to do and follow through. It takes a lot of time, but time will reward you. I sometimes have to ask him, was that the correct way to behave, speak, act? He'll hang his head and say no... So than I ask, what was the better way. He'll answer, I'll confirm, and we'll practice it the proper way. I hope this little bit helps.

Anonymous said… My son is 3 and a half and everything is no these day's, putting our foot down is met with a violent outburst that doesn't stop until something distracts him if we get angry it only makes him worse. He is still young and our first so we're still getting to grips with parenting let alone parenting an aspergers child but sometimes (we'll most times) he's hitting, kicking us we don't know what to do, he won't stop and will chase us down if we try to get away, will not stay in his room, couldn't care less about taking things away he just keeps going and we're at a total loss on how to deal with it.

Anonymous said… I knew we were making progress using the Masgutova Method when once I had to change what we were doing and he let out a huge sigh, thought about it and then said ok.

Anonymous said… i feel very much the same way. I too have more than 1 under the same roof. Definitely 3 maybe 4. My 10 yr old sounds very much like your daughter with the mood swings and the foul mouth. She too used to be so quiet and easy going ( maybe that was a sign) but she's undergoing many tests at the moment because she has many difficulties dealing with everyday routines and socially. My question is; how do we manage a home with so many different needs. How do we make sure all their needs are being met and nobody is left behind. I feel like I'm not doing a good job at this anymore!

Anonymous said… Familiar?

Anonymous said…  hmm sounds like my 15 yr daughter not flexible at all, very rude to others, picking eating seems to eat the same thing all the time, lack of motivation. I have a 18 yr son who also has it but he actually got better with age but my daughter it has been a total nightmare. The rigid behaviors, the complusive behaviors the other morning instead of getting dress for school she emptys her dresser drawers and starts to refold each one in a certain way and piles it on her bed. But she never finish because I told her she had to stop go get dress if she has time before the bus comes she can finish but this is something she can do on the weekends or no school day. So frustrating and the she takes 3 outfits to the bathroom to get dressed and leaves them all the bathroom floor and her room was a big mess. So she thinks she is doing something good like organizing but instead she made things worst a bigger mess. Then you add bipolar into the mix you got one moody child like walking on egg shells or riding a roller coaster ride. I dread after school time as it is the worst time for her. She will walk in good mood then boom 5 min later better watch out. The mouth on her and the swearing, rude and disrespectful. She use to be this sweet little girl now you don't know who she going to be next. She is in the hate my mom and dad. She tells me I am kick the F out tells me I am dead, etc She has in home therapist and crisis worker too. If it wasn't for working out the gym I don't know how I would deal with my daily stress. 3 bipolars under one roof, daughter, son and husband. Then add both of them with PDD-nos, anxiety, adhd. I didn't think I would have to go thru this with her. I went thru this with my son for many years but as he got older he got better he was very aggressive when he was younger. Been inpatient 11 times from ages 7 to 11 half. My daughter had 2 inpatients this year never been in the hospital before that. But they seem to hold together there and would never show there behaviors there. They know how to play them and how to get out of there if they behave they can go home. These kids are not dumb they are smart in so many other ways.

Anonymous said... You have to put your foot down. Yes they have certain issues but you have to make it clear that certain behavior will not be tolerated. They good things is many times they are so rule orentied that my son now all I have to do is talk sternly or give him a very stern NO. But we have been very strick with him for 2-3 years now. He is 8. Just because they have "issues" don't mean you excuse disrespect. As far as the food with my son if he doesn't way what we serve him he doesn't eat. It sounds harsh but he eats his dinner. It's not going to kill him

Anonymous said... Some things we should insist upon, but I believe it's important to pick our battles. After all many of our kids have issues with self esteem so punishing them all day long can cause even more damage. Disrespectful behavior and behavior that is self harming or harming to others of course should not be tolerated. Positive reinforcement can work wonders.


Taste Aversions in Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Why does my HFA daughter adamantly refuse to eat any new foods? Her diet is severely limited and she literally becomes ill (or does a great job a faking it) if I force her to eat something not on her VERY small list of favorites.”

“Taste aversions” can occur both consciously and unconsciously. In many cases, children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may be completely unaware of the underlying reasons for their dislike of a type of food.

Taste aversions are a great example of some of the fundamental mechanics of classical conditioning. The previously neutral stimulus (e.g., green beans) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (e.g., dislike of the color green), which leads to an unconditioned response (feeling ill). After this one-time pairing, the previously neutral stimulus (in this example, green beans) is now a conditioned stimulus that elicits a conditioned response (avoiding green beans as well as any other green colored food).

Because of their sensitivity to smell, temperature, taste and texture, kids with Aspergers and HFA are often "picky" eaters. Some even develop strong fetishes, for example:
  • they like to suck on pens, pencils or clothing
  • they only like beige-colored foods
  • they only like foods with creamy textures
  • they only like foods with a very sour or very spicy taste

Aspergers and HFA kids also sometimes have issues with developing gastric problems (e.g., acid reflux, hiccups, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation). They are susceptible to celiac disease, which is caused by poor absorption of certain nutrients. The danger is that celiac disease damages the digestive system. These young people often suffer from Dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes skin rashes and tissue damage in the intestine. It has also been shown that gluten can aggravate behavioral symptoms in those kids who are sensitive to these foods.

It becomes a real challenge for moms and dads to make sure their “special needs” child gets proper nutrition. One trick that has worked for some parents is to change the texture of a despised food. If your youngster will not eat peas, try serving pea soup. If she refuses orange juice, try orange slices. Most therapists believe that the less you indulge food fetishes, the less entrenched they become. If a youngster creates a rule that "no foods can touch on my plate," it can easily become a lifelong rule if mom or dad fail to intervene.

One promising food therapy is the "Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet" or GFCF diet. The theory behind it is that a youngster with Aspergers or HFA can’t digest casein (found in dairy) or gluten (found in grains). It is true that undigested molecules of these substances frequently show up in their urine samples. These amino acid chains (called peptides) affect neurological function and can worsen a youngster's symptoms. Peptides may have an opiate effect on some kids.

Parents can begin the diet by first eliminating either the casein or the gluten food group. No gluten means avoiding the following (just to name a few):
  • all kinds of flour
  • barley
  • biscuits
  • bread
  • cakes
  • cereals
  • croutons
  • donuts
  • food starch
  • oats
  • pasta
  • pie
  • pizza
  • pretzels
  • rye

Parents can substitute gluten-free products. Next, eliminate all dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, goat's milk, goat cheese, ice cream, yogurt, most margarines, puddings, etc.). If parents eliminate the dairy group, they may have to give their youngster calcium supplements. They also need to cut out "trigger foods" (e.g., chocolate, food colorings, caffeine, or peanut butter).

Many mothers and fathers believe that the GFCF diet really helps their kids. In one survey of over 2000 parents who tried it, most saw significant improvement – and five reported "miracles."

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

Research into diet and vitamin therapy for kids with Aspergers and HFA is very sketchy at this point. Nevertheless, many parents try them. One scientific study of alternative therapies found that over half of all parents of Aspergers kids have tried diets, herbs or vitamin therapy – and 72% felt they were worthwhile. Many mothers and fathers swear by the GFCF diet. Other parents prefer the Feingold diet or megavitamin therapy.

Parents can buy supplements of herbs and vitamins specifically made for young people on the spectrum. Such supplements often include calcium, fish oil, omega -3 -6 or -9, vitamin B-6, HNI enzymes and DMG or dimethylglycine. If parents use these diets and therapies, they should keep written records of how often their youngster experiences temper tantrums or exhibits other behaviors. In this way, parents can tell if the therapy is working.

There have been a few scientific studies of the GFCF diet. In a study of 15 ASD kids (2 – 15 years of age), there was no difference between the kids who followed the diet and those who did not. However, researchers at the Loma Linda Medical Institute in California concluded that the diet was mostly helpful and improved nonverbal cognition, but that more double blind studies are needed.

Many moms and dads have tried the GFCF or Feingold diets and found that they were not worth the effort. These diets make it extremely hard to buy regular groceries or to eat in restaurants. If there are siblings involved, parents end up cooking different meals for them. Also, trying to stick to the diets may cause parental burnout, which then causes the disadvantages to outweigh the advantages.

 ==> Is your child a picky eater? Click here for more ideas...

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


•    Anonymous said... For my kiddo, it's a sensory thing..... Mashed potatoes, peas, peanut butter etc. all have a thick, somewhat sticky texture that makes her wretch. Having that history makes her reluctant to even taste things like pudding, custard or soups with a thicker texture..... If it LOOKS like it might have the wrong texture, it's not gonna happen.
•    Anonymous said... Forcing is counterproductive .... Sometimes " planting the seed" and wording or demonstrating the benefits are a slower but more lasting lesson at home we have the rule of at least touching or smelling the food and if I feel there is a strong possibility he will like it, I ask that he just lick or put some on his tongue - always with the promise that a genuine dislike will be accepted that time. There are definite things he will still not and probably never eat but this approach has increased his diet greatly.
•    Anonymous said... Give him time, and don't force the issue if he truly dislikes something. I learned that the hard way and cleaned up alot of messes because of it. My son was the same way for most of his childhood but in the last year (he's about to turn 13) he has grown out of alot of it. He still refuses to eat certain things (bananas being at the top of the list) but he will now at least try to eat a cooked potato or carrot in very small quantities where before they would trigger immediate gag reflexes and he is also finally eating at a healthy level.
•    Anonymous said... Hang in there. Texture smell & taste can be overwhelming 2aspie kids. I have always introduced different food 2my daughter w/the attitude 'try 1bite, the worst that will happen is u dont like it!'
•    Anonymous said... How True!
•    Anonymous said... I have come to understand that this is the ONE thing my child feels he is in control of. If you try to change it he gets very upset. He will sometimes eat other foods, but when it comes right down to it, this is the way he wants it (same foods, limited menu), because he is in control of it. We will work on change in that area once we are comfortable with the progress we're making in other areas. One step at a time.
•    Anonymous said... My 5 year old is the same way. I've gotten him to try maybe 2 things since he was diagnosed a year ago. I think my son will eat maybe 5 things that is it! So I do a lot of vitamins to give him what he needs
•    Anonymous said... My son is the same way! I have tried to introduce new things to him, but he refuses to go out of his comfort zone of having only 10 things that he will actually eat. He always has to smell everything too. I have noticed, that he will find something he really likes, such as a plain ketchup sandwich, and eat it for weeks, then he goes to something else. I have to make him a separate meal every night, because he refuses to eat anything we are having.
•    Anonymous said... Same problem here.
•    Anonymous said... sometimes she will try it sometimes she wont. When she does like it i usually have 2remind her she liked it last time & 2try it again. I let her decide 2try it, but i keep presenting different things all the time. Slowly we have expanded her diet! Just keep encouraging her 2try!
•    Anonymous said... That is one battle I don't fight.
•    Anonymous said... The food thing is the one immovable object with my son. He does everything else I ask. If he could do it (eat more foods) I know he would as he loves to make me happy.
•    Anonymous said... We have been SO lucky with our son, he loves his veggies... but only raw. He really hates cooked veg. My hunch is that this is two fold. We have a garden that we let the boys just run free and munch whatever they want from there, so it gets to be "their idea". That has seemed to help the older one relate to what is on his plate a little better. Also, we tend to do food in courses. It's just easier to get the boys to sit down and plop a few bowls of cut carrots, celery, broccoli etc. and dip and let them graze on that first (again, their choice as to what they eat), then we tend to serve the meat/protein next and the starches last.
•    Anonymous said... We start oral ot this week, i wonder how its going to go for my 6 yod who has spd. Has anyone here done the oral ot?
•    Anonymous said... Why? Sensory issues, smell, texture and the way it feels in the mouth or hands, taste, the way it looks, there's a lot going on with sensory and food and why and what we eat.
•    Anonymous said... Wow! I'm so glad I'm not the only one! My son is 8 and JUST decided he would take 1 no thank you bite, of what we are eating as a family, but he has to try it... He smells everything, and most things he tries will instantly make him gag. He puts ranch on EVERYTHING. He does willingly try it because he knows we expect him to and its ok if he gags, just drink it down quick with water.

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5 Online Autism Support Resources For Parents

Raising a child with autism can be a tough but rewarding job. As a parent of a child with autism, you know that teaching certain basic tasks can become challenging, and sometimes, it’s easy to get frustrated with a lack of progress or understanding on your child’s part. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone, and there are online resources available specifically for parents of autistic children.

These five websites are run by professionals and parents alike and provide support groups, information on the condition, as well as learning tools and other helpful resources. You don’t have to take this journey alone! There are thousands of parents just like you connecting every day that can offer tips, guidance, and support. 

1. Supportiv

When the days become overwhelming and you find yourself full of frustration, sometimes you just need to vent and get it all out. But where do you vent without facing judgment? After all, being a parent of an autistic child carries with it certain (if not unreasonable) expectations like extreme patience. Let’s be honest; we’re all human, and sometimes, things get the better of us.

Supportiv is an online chat and mental health site where you can connect and chat anonymously about pretty much anything that’s on your mind. If you don’t want to turn to friends and family with your frustrations, this option can offer a perfect alternative.

Everything is completely anonymous, and the chat rooms are moderated so you won’t have to worry about facing judgment or cruelty from anyone online. Stressed? Overwhelmed? Tired? Tell us all about it at Supportiv! Connect with others who feel the same way, share stories, and find the support you’re looking for with this growing online community. You can also take a look at the blog for further resources on mental health.

2. AutismBeacon

This autism resource site was started by a parent of an autistic child, so it’s already coming from a place of empathy and understanding. You’ll find resources on sensitive subjects such as bullying and sexuality that are often avoided in other spaces because of their controversial nature; but these are topics that still need to be addressed, even with an autistic child.

The site provides resources for advocacy, awareness, treatment, and more. If you’re a new parent of an autistic child or someone who’s been looking for a larger, more information-rich autism awareness community, you’ve found it! Visit http://autismbeacon.com/home for more information.

3. Autism Speaks

For new parents confused about what autism is, how it affects daily life, and what options are available, there’s Autism Speaks. This website is designed to provide parents with support via an Autism response team to help answer all of your questions, information on providers and treatment options, and even info on autism-friendly events in your area.

This hub of information and resources needs to be in your Bookmarks, as it’s one of the most comprehensive and information-rich sites available on autism. Autism Speaks is an organization that’s dedicated to helping everyday people, parents, educators, and more, better understand autism and eliminate the stigma surrounding the condition.

4. AutismNOW

Autism Now is another awesome online resource for all things related to ASD. With a focus on early detection, early intervention, transitioning, community involvement, and more, Autism Now aims to cover the entire spectrum of obstacles and challenges that come with being a parent of an autistic child.

You can find fact sheets, information on programs, treatment, and providers, an online support community, and more at https://www.autismspeaks.org/. The organization also operates an autism call center in case you have any questions about your child’s condition and how to handle certain obstacles that accompany it.

You can also sign up for one of Autism Now’s webinars on the subject of ASD and navigating its obstacles. You can never learn too much about your child’s condition, after all.


TACA, or The Autism Community In Action, is an organization dedicated to providing support, education, and hope to families living with autism (according to the organization’s own mission statement). With a powerful set of core values and an online community that’s home to thousands of parents, caregivers, and educators, TACA is a must-have resource for families with autistic children.

From online programs and webinars to mentor programs, scholarships, outreach, and more, TACA covers pretty much any obstacles you might encounter during your journey. You don’t have to do it alone; TACA is here to help. Visit https://tacanow.org/ today and take advantage of the site’s many resources.


Luckily for us, the web is home to thousands of resources for parents of autistic children, their caregivers, and educators. The more information we can get out there about ASD and treatment, support, and caregiving options, the more we’ll understand autism and how to navigate it as parents. Don’t wait! Check out one of these five resources today. 


Parenting Kids with Both ADD and ASD

"My son was originally diagnosed with ADD (age 4), but now they say he has 'high functioning' autism and ADD (age 6). What is the main difference between these two conditions, and is it possible to have both?"

Most kids don’t receive a diagnosis of ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), until after age 5 or 6 (around the time they start public school). Usually, they are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as preschoolers. Part of the reason for this is that pediatricians routinely screen kids for ADD – but not for autism.

Another reason is that an HFA kid's social impairment becomes more evident once he or she starts school. Finally, pediatricians are reluctant to label a youngster as "autistic." It is okay - and even a badge of honor - to have a “hyperactive” youngster, but it is another thing entirely to have an “autistic” youngster.

Pediatricians make their diagnoses based on the kid's behaviors. Since kids with ADD and HFA share similar behaviors, the two can appear to overlap. However, there is a fundamental difference between these two disorders. HFA kids lack what pediatricians call "social reciprocity" or Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is "the capacity to understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, motivations and desires that are different from our own."
Kids with ADD have a Theory of Mind and understand other people's motives and expectations. They also make appropriate eye contact and understand social cues, body language and hidden agendas in social interactions. HFA kids don’t!

Kids with ADD respond to behavioral modification. With HFA, the disorder is the behavior. Both kinds of kids can tantrum, talk too loud and too much, and have problems modulating their behaviors and making friends. Both are “social failures” to one degree or another – but for different reasons.

The youngster with ADD knows what to do – but forgets to do it. HFA kids don’t know what to do. They don’t understand that relationships are two-sided. If the youngster talks on and on in an un-modulated voice about his particular interest, he simply doesn’t understand that he is boring his friend and showing disinterest in his friend's side of the conversation. On the other hand, the youngster with ADD can’t control himself from dominating the conversation.

An HFA youngster can appear unfocused, forgetful and disorganized like a youngster with ADD, but there is a difference. The ADD youngster is easily distracted, whereas the HFA kid has no "filter." The child sees everything in his environment as equally important (e.g., his teacher's dangling earring is as important as what she writes on the blackboard).

The HFA child doesn’t understand that he doesn’t have to memorize the entire textbook for the next test. He doesn’t "get" such rules. Kids on the spectrum tend to get anxious and stuck about small things and can’t see the "big picture." On the other hand, kids with ADD are not detailed-oriented. The ADD youngster understands the rules – but lacks the self-control to follow them. The HFA child doesn’t understand the rules.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The unfocused ADD youngster is "nowhere," but the highly-focused HFA “fantasy" youngster is somewhere else. "Fantasy kids" retreat into a world of their own making, a world where everything goes the way they want it to. They play video games for hours or retreat into books and music. Their daydreaming and fantasizing resembles the behaviors of non-hyperactive kids with ADD.

Obsessive-compulsive kids with autism live a world they create from rules and rituals. Like ADD kids, they appear preoccupied and distracted – but for different reasons. They appear distracted because they are always thinking about their "rules" (e.g., Did I tie my shoelaces right? Did I brush my teeth for 3 minutes?).

Some researchers estimate that 60% to 70% of HFA kids also have ADD, which is considered a common comorbidity of HFA. Other researchers say that the two disorders can’t exist together. Still others insist pediatricians have it all wrong - and that the two disorders are the same. The real problem is that there is no hard science. No one knows exactly how slight imperfections in brain structure and chemistry cause such problems.

For this reason, getting the right diagnosis for a youngster who exhibits behavior problems may take years of trial and error. Diagnosis is based on observation of behaviors that are similar for a myriad of disorders. The tragedy is that the youngster often doesn’t receive the correct medications, educational strategies, and behavioral modification techniques that could help him function on a higher level. He falls farther behind his peer group and loses ground when he could be getting appropriate treatments.

Psychiatry has made great strides in helping kids manage mental disorders, particularly moderate conditions, but the system of diagnosis is still years behind other branches of medicine. On an individual level, for many parents with children on the spectrum, the experience can be exhausting.  

==> Has your child been diagnosed with both ADHD and autism spectrum disorder?  Then you will want to borrow from these parenting strategies that address this combination...

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

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


•    Anonymous said... Add is part of asd. That's why so many kids are diagnosed w add before they get an actual diagnosis of high functioning or aspergers (my daughter was finally diagnosed w aspergers after about 3 years of an add diagnosis)
•    Anonymous said... ADD/ADHD and ASD are not the same. They are each mutually exclusive disorders, yet they can also be comorbid. I have two with ASD, yet neither of them have ADD/ADHD.
•    Anonymous said... I fought for my son to not have the ADD label because when I saw the test a lot of the questions they asked where his asd. My paediatrician said I had to take out the asd and answer the questions but it is not that black and white. I agree with Michelle if they can sit and concentrate they are not ADD.
•    Anonymous said... I personally believe that ADD/ADHD has been overdiagnosed for many years and now it seems that many PCP's/Pediatricians are diagnosing Asperger's without doing any Psychological testing leading to it now being overdiagnosed as well. These are not even Developmental Pediatricians who do not have the credentials and training to diagnose ASD.
•    Anonymous said... In kinder the school said my son was autistic. Since he was very verbal, I thought he was just ADHD. Now, I know he is aspergers and so much more of his sensory issues make sense now.
•    Anonymous said... My 11 yr old had adhd first and now aspergers
•    Anonymous said... My 4 (almost 5) year old dr says he is hyperactive disorder but does not have the attention defecit. His preschool is suspecting aspergers but his dr doesn't want to do any testing for that until after we start medicating him. He too will snap right to attention if the subject interest or benefits him.
•    Anonymous said... My son can concentrate but only to a certain point before he gets unfocused. It's hard for him. He was initially dx AHDD and later ASD with AHDD. AHDD came at age of 5 and ASD at age of 12 after multiple problems with school, bullying and behaviors which interfered with his school and life. He still takes meds for concentration and mood stabilizers for some of the mood swings. I have to say it has been a challenging road. But once you figure out what to do for them it gets a little easier. My son is now 17 and soon graduating high school. In some parts he acts his age and in others he acts like he is 12. I try to focus his attention on becoming an adult and college, but he needs a lot of hand holding. I do believe the two disorders exists amongst themselves. He is no longer hyper but surely very forgetful and unorganized.
•    Anonymous said... My son has a duel diagnosis of ADHD and Aspergers.
•    Anonymous said... My son has Asperger's and ADD diagnoses but I don't agree with the ADD. He is definitely able to concentrate for hours if it's something he likes to do and we have tried medicines in the past for attention problems and they made little to no difference for him.
•    Anonymous said... my son has been diagnosed as adhd at about 5. around 8 years old Aspergers was noted and he was officially diagnosed as having both.
•    Anonymous said... My son the same Maria. He has adhd and aspergers.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with high functioning Aspergers when he was 4. This year, now he is five, they said he also has ADD. I was told ADD typically always comes with AS. I don't exactly know what my opinion on that is. Yes, my son has trouble consentrating and likes to move around a lot. And that is something I work with him on. I don't know if he really needs that extra label and I do know I am not going to medicate him just to do so.....listen to your intuition. Unfortunately, you will have to do the research as the medical field is highly uninformed (IMO).
•    Anonymous said... Personally I think they over diagnose add. But the 2 are very similar. Except those with add, cannot concentrate on anything, whereas those with Aspergers can concentrate on something they are interested in.
•    Anonymous said... Since our children are around the same age, mine will be six soon, and they have the same diagnosis, feel free to message me and we can talk more.
•    Anonymous said... The two are very different, very very different. The best person to ask is someone who specializes in this. Your child's doctor or specialist will be able to explain to you what the differences are in relation to your child. All aspergers/autism is different so it's impossible to guess what your child is like in that respect. It's possible to have both and my son has many friends who have both. ADD doesn't usually have social issues, sensory issues, and so many other typical ASD issues.
•    Anonymous said... Without sounding like I'm accusing anyone, because I'm not, I think many ASD kids get misdiagnosed with ADD because they are so hard to discipline that they can sometimes just be wild little things. ASD kids don't pay social penalties for anything so they lack a lot of self discipline that NT people learn very early. And traditional discipline doesn't always work. I know if I send my son to the corner he just makes up stories and reads them to the floor and he loves doing that.
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed with ADHD at 7. Typical ADHD meds only made his problems worse, and it wasn't until I saw a checklist of Asperger traits that it clicked "that is him!" Now, at 10, he finally has an "accurate" diagnosis. Beth Ann, I understand where you're coming from. My son is very high functioning and can appear neurotypical in many settings. He even fools me sometimes, until something happens to remind me that no, I'm not dealing with a "typical" child here. That is THE hardest thing for me as his mom.
•    Anonymous said… My oldest wasn't dx'd till 3rd grade but he also has add. We just thought he was immature and a little eccentric as an only child. He hit all the normal milestones. We realized it was something more but bounced a lot of letters around. After some research by his psych and us we all agreed on aspergers. But what do I do with a kid who appears neurotypical and not the full blown vs of autism?
•    Anonymous said… After it took myself, 2 nurses and the doctor to pin my 3 year old son down for a strep test and him coming up with a bloody mouth would she finally have a consultation with me about aspergers. He has major sensory issues. at his last dental cleaning it took 5 of us to hold him down. after his diagnosis, he is in pt, ot and speech. it has only been a month but am starting to see a little improvement.

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Managing “Fixations” in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

"How much should we allow our daughter [high functioning] to play video games? She would spend most of her time doing this if we let her. My husband and I are divided on this issue, which has caused a riff between us."

If you are the mom or dad of a youngster with ASD level 1 [High-Functioning Autism], you may have heard your youngster exclaim, "But I can't live without it!" on more than one occasion. You may also notice that the book bag you just saw him pack is suddenly filled with a few more Harry Potter books. Or perhaps that suitcase for the trip to grandma's house has a Gameboy in it, when he promised he would leave it at home this time.

Fixations or perseverations with certain topics or objects, ranging from books, video games, or trains to history, movies, or any number of other subjects, are a classic symptom of ASD. In addition to impairments in social functioning, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual lists as a characteristic of the disorder restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
  • apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
  • encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
  • persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  • stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

What's the harm? Well... while these fixations must be understood and accepted as part of the disorder, they are also coping mechanisms that kids with ASD use to escape social anxiety. For example, video games are a very common interest among children with the disorder. Although the virtual world and these games can be a great place for kids to practice social skills, make friends, and have fun, the interest in video games can quickly become an unhealthy and even dangerous obsession.

For kids who get bullied all day at school or feel ostracized and out of place in their everyday lives, it's soothing to come home and play video games for hours. In the safe haven of online gaming, children on the spectrum can isolate themselves from real-life people and the complexities of face-to-face interactions. However, the social setting in online gaming or chat rooms is unrealistic and far more predictable than real-life social situations. While social conversations in real life are highly complex and unpredictable, online gamers share a common and simple language for communicating.

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

Since most online interaction occurs through typing, there is time to think about a response, and the response can be given in symbols and phrases without regard for facial expressions or nonverbal cues. In addition, curse words, rude remarks, and hurtful jokes may be considered socially acceptable online, but they will not be welcome responses in the real world. This disjunction between socially acceptable interactions in the virtual world and the real world can be terribly confusing to kids with High-Functioning Autism who already struggle to understand basic social conventions.

Moms and dads of a youngster on the autism spectrum are thus faced with a dilemma: Do we limit our youngster's time spent doing the activities that interest her most and run the risk that she will withdraw even more, or do we allow her unfettered access to things like video games and science fiction/fantasy books and movies despite the obvious social repercussions?

According to many experts, it's important for moms and dads to find the balance between accepting their youngster's unique interests, and encouraging their youngster to develop social skills and additional interests that might take him outside of his comfort zone. By granting unlimited access to video games and other fixations, moms and dads offer their kids nothing more than a quick fix.

The perseveration may be a convenient coping skill for facing the hardship of a long, difficult day at school, but it will not be the healthiest path into adulthood. Kids with Autism need to be challenged to explore other interests and find healthier coping skills. It's easy to use video games and other antisocial outlets to cope, but easier isn't usually better.

If young people with ASD aren't encouraged and helped to develop social skills and independent living skills, there will be a direct impact on how many friends they have, and how successful they are in school and on the job later in life. They may be soothed in the short term, but that deep underlying desire to make friends will remain a source of constant dissatisfaction and further isolation.

Addressing fixations is difficult for moms and dads. On one hand, video games and other interests encourage more social interaction than kids with ASD would ordinarily have. On the other hand, it's NOT the kind of social interaction that prepares them for life. Moms and dads should encourage their youngster to develop interpersonal skills “off” of the computer, and set limits around how often the child uses or talks about his or her fixations.

Moms and dads should offer incentives to their youngster to balance his or her time spent focused on the fixation and time spent doing social activities. For example, if a youngster is passionate about video games, the mother could agree to allow the youngster a certain amount of time to play each week in exchange for the youngster's participation in an after-school activity.

Parents need to learn how to negotiate their youngster's fixations and find the appropriate balance. For example, if a youngster wants to take the entire series of Harry Potter books on an experiential learning trip, parents can explain that the books are too heavy and the youngster will be permitted to choose only one favorite book.

In this way, the parent acknowledges how important the particular interest is to the youngster and offers him a choice in the process, while setting clear and fair limits and ensuring the child will still get the social interaction he needs out of the program. Similarly, if a youngster insists on taking his portable video game or DVD player to summer camp, moms and dads can reach a compromise (e.g., “You can take it and use it on your way to the campsite, but when you arrive, the camp director will hold onto it for you).

When children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism have a clear structure around when they can engage in their particular interest, they are more willing to accept rules limiting its use. At some of the schools that specialize in “special needs” students, the kids are allowed to read their favorite book at designated times, but they are not permitted to bring the book to meals. In this way, the children learn that their interests are perfectly acceptable when explored in socially appropriate ways, places, and times.

The fixations and perseverations of kids on the autism spectrum fulfill a need in their lives that will likely never disappear completely. However, their usefulness in real life is extremely limited. Everyone needs an occasional break from the rigors of daily life, but kids with the disorder depend on their mother and father to set limits around these fixations and offer guidance in navigating the complex social world around them. By making a plan and following through with it, you accept your youngster for the unique being he or she is, while providing the child with the tools needed to live up to his or her full potential.

==> Need more tips on how to handle your child's fixations and obsessions? You'll find more than you'll need right here...


•    Anonymous said... Funny because I had this conversation with my 8 year old son's psychologist recently. He said as a clinician he knows his answer should be "yes" to limit the video games, but he also said that because my son doesn't just play video games, he researches videos about how to defeat levels and finds parody videos about video games (also his biggest game he loves is Minecraft) that the game he plays most and all his research are somewhat educational. He pointed out that if it wasn't that, it would most likely be something else. We do take time away for the rest of a day if he is acting up horribly or not getting schoolwork done. If we don't have anything going on, we let him play. If there are things, he is limited and given several warnings in advance so he can prepare himself to change gears and not have a meltdown over it.
•    Anonymous said... Garek loves Midievil 2......but since he is way ahead in his schoolwork, pulling down As and Bs, and researching .....ok....obsessing about world history......meh.....not a concern
•    Anonymous said... It causes a big riff between the two of us too....but I would limit her playing time for an hour or take the game away for an hour or so if she shows anger, frustration or just being aggressive to it.
•    Anonymous said... My AS son is 13 and gets roughly one hour of video game time each day during the week, right after school. This gives him a break between school and homework which he desperately needs. During the weekend, he may get more time, depending on what's going on in general. My son has a few really good friends in our neighborhood and he loves to be outdoors so as the weather gets better, he spends more and more time outside, which is great. Hope you guys can find a happy medium.
•    Anonymous said... My son loves history as well. Especially about the different wars. We limit video games a lot in our house. If we don't they become an obsession. He has chores around the house that earn his game times.
•    Anonymous said... My son plays video games more than he should. However, living in a small place with no known kids his age in the neighborhood it makes it hard to do much else. Our son does do some reading as well as schoolwork so we feel that some time is ok.
•    Anonymous said... we have same problem

•    Anonymous said... I agree once my lil guy is off the darn thing he becomes so creative and interested in other things
•    Anonymous said... I don't always agree with the 2 hour a day rule when it comes to Aspie kids. It also can help them with social issues, and helps them in reacting to challenging situations without melting down. My son does get more then the generic two hour a day rule suggested by All doctors. That two hours isn't just video game time, they also mean screen time period.
•    Anonymous said... We allow 1.5 hours per day using a timer. Breaks in between. The visual red yellow green light timer from Amazon is what works best for us. We enforce it religiously.
•    Anonymous said... We are in the same boat. During the summer ours plays a lot more but we have him In activities like springboard diving whi h he loves. I use the tablet to help enforce rules. We take computer and tablet time away when he acts out.
•    Anonymous said... We have set a two hour time period where our lad is allowed to play. It turns off when the time is up. He likes having a specific time and often finds himself having so much fun doing other things that he doesn't bother anymore.
•    Anonymous said... We saw a specialist yesterday with our 8 year old. She said to limit to no more than 2 hours a day.
•    Anonymous said... We use an egg timer......and take one, two, three hour breaks.......not while eating, finish priorities first, etc

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Bereavement Problems in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"We lost my father-in-law 2 years ago due to a virus. My 12-year-old son with autism [high functioning] was totally devastated. It is not helped by the fact that, before the schools closed, he was spending the time before school and after school at his Grandma’s house and is reminded of Granddad’s absence by his empty chair. Due to the fact that I have to work full time, my sons have spent much of their time from Monday to Friday with their grandparents, so it is like their second home - they even have their own bedrooms there! I am finding it very difficult to help him come to terms with Granddad’s death. He is OK most of the time, but will then fall into a black mood and will overreact to the slightest incident and go into a meltdown. Do you have any advice on what I can do to help him?"

As you know, High-Functioning Autism (Asperger's) is a neurobiological disorder. Kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with transitions, social interaction, and responses to social situations. With regard to the emotional aspects of death and grief, your son may react, as you have seen, by getting upset or angry. These reactions occur because he doesn’t fully understand what has happened and why it happened, and due to his ASD, doesn’t know how to ask for help in handling the death of his grandfather. Many people without the disorder react to a death with anger and despair, too.

Many kids with ASD feel that if a beloved relative dies, a “rule” has been broken (i.e., good people should not die), and they feel very hurt. So, when it happens, the child feels betrayed. This can lead to anger and outbursts. In addition, any unexpected event is particularly difficult. You son finds it hard to grieve and doesn’t know how to handle his feelings of despair and sadness. He may not be able to express his grief through tears or talking.

Even if your son can’t ask for help, it is definitely called for in this situation. Patience, understanding, and support on your part are required. Be sensitive to his need to talk if he exhibits one, and don’t put up barriers to it, such as telling him he’s too young to understand what happened. If he doesn’t show a need to discuss the death, you should open a discussion anyway. It may be wise to ask a counselor or psychologist to talk with him, too.

Kids and teens with ASD have average or higher levels of intelligence and will appreciate honest, simple explanations about death and grief. Explain that birth is the beginning of life, and death is the end of life, and that when someone dies, we feel bad because we loved the person, didn’t want him to die, and we will miss him. Don’t tell him his grandfather “went to sleep,” “went away,” “got sick,” that only old people die, or that the death was “God’s will.” All of these are open to misinterpretations, such as “If I go to sleep when I’m sick, will I die?” Or, “Will God make me die?” At his age, your son is able to understand that death is irreversible and that he will die eventually, but he needs reassurance that he will most likely live a long time.

Some questions your son asks may seem insensitive, for example, “Are you going to die, Mom?” He may show curiosity about dead animals or ask about what happens physically to dead things. These questions may seem gruesome, but they are a way of learning about death. Children should not be made to feel guilty or embarrassed about their curiosity.

Your son may feel that the death of his grandfather, who was a good person, was unfair. This is the time to gently explain that many things that happen in life are not fair and that we should try to help each other cope when unfair things happen. Perhaps, discussing some nice things to do for his grandmother would help him feel needed. Many of the kids respond very well to being needed by others.

Your son will need a lot of time to accept this death and may react with anger at unexpected times. Be understanding. Time will help ease the pain. Use books to help him understand and provide a good model of acceptable behavior for him. Also, keeping a journal of his thoughts about his grandfather may help.

Moms and dads should be aware of normal childhood responses to a death in the family, as well as signs when a youngster is having difficulty coping with grief. It is normal during the weeks following the death for some kids to feel immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member may “come back” someday. However, long-term denial of the death or avoidance of grief can be emotionally unhealthy and can later lead to more severe problems.

Once kids accept the death, they are likely to display their feelings of sadness on and off over a long period of time, and often at unexpected moments. The surviving relatives should spend as much time as possible with the youngster, making it clear that the youngster has permission to show his feelings openly or freely.

The person who has died was essential to the stability of the youngster's world, and anger is a natural reaction. The anger may be revealed in boisterous play, nightmares, irritability, or a variety of other behaviors. Often the youngster will show anger towards the surviving family members.

Kids who are having serious problems with grief and loss may show one or more of these signs:
  • acting much younger for an extended period
  • an extended period of depression in which the youngster loses interest in daily activities and events
  • excessively imitating the dead person
  • inability to sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • prolonged fear of being alone
  • repeated statements of wanting to join the dead person
  • sharp drop in school performance
  • refusal to attend school
  • withdrawal from friends

If these signs persist, professional help may be needed. A child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional that specializes in ASD can help children accept the death of a loved one and assist parents in helping children through the mourning process. 


==> Has your child on the autism spectrum been experiencing a lot of sadness lately? If so, here are a bunch of suggestions to assist in the matter...
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

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


ASD Teen Goes Crazy Over Women’s Feet

"My teenage son [with ASD] goes crazy when he sees women’s feet. He likes to touch them. I can’t go out anywhere because I always have this problem. When I try to stop him, he turns violent and tries to hit me or hits himself. What can I do to help him?"

Teens with Aspergers and high-functioning autism have a difficult time understanding sexual feelings and appropriate actions regarding sexual activities. Many times, the sexual interests of people with ASD at your son’s age, are one-sided, not reciprocal, as it is when he touches the feet of women he doesn’t know.

As you have seen, this results in some terribly difficult situations. Your son is unable to understand the rules that govern this type of behavior; he only knows that he must (as far as he is concerned) touch those feet! He misunderstands the situation and acts too intense and very inappropriately. His frustration when you try to stop him results in violence.

If all sense of proportion is lost, a fetish/obsession like his can lead to a criminal offense. A lack of concern for others can result in an assault that is damaging. People with ASD often lack insight into the feelings of others and deny responsibility for their actions; this is an inability to see inappropriate behavior as others see it.
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This situation is very serious because of the potential for arrest and prosecution. Sit him down and explain to him very graphically how the women feel when he approaches them and touches them. He must understand that they are terrified, don’t know what to do, and upset because this type of behavior in public is illegal. Tell him he could be arrested and put in jail. Repeat this – over and over.

Adults on the spectrum who have average or above IQs, report a high frequency of obsessions and compulsions that are intrusive, upsetting, and overwhelming.

People with ASD tend to be obsessive about their interests, so it’s no surprise that a lot of them are obsessed with sex. Reports have been made regarding these obsessions, but they haven’t been studied much. Sexual obsessions are more commonly reported by people on the spectrum who also were diagnosed with OCD. Compulsions occupied at least one to three hours per day in 26%, and 56% reported anxiety if prevented from performing their rituals.

It’s difficult to determine if your son’s behavior is distinct as a sexually offensive behavior or one that is a manifestation of ASD, or both. The two are merged. He will continue this behavior unless intensive treatment is provided. His insight and ability to stop is extremely limited and you are not able to control him at his age and size.

Your son may well need professional counseling support. Consult with a psychotherapist familiar with both sexually offending behaviors and pervasive developmental disorders. Family psychotherapy and careful supervision are warranted.

The therapist may recommend that he participate in group social skills training and group treatment for adolescents with sexually offending behaviors and pervasive developmental disabilities. A therapeutic, highly structured and supervised educational program would seem necessary.

Individuals with ASD who have obsessive-compulsive symptoms may benefit from standard treatments for OCD such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors as well as cognitive and behavioral therapies. Serotonergic drugs can reduce obsessions, although finding the right drug may take time and, once found, its effect may be partial and temporary. Also as ever; be mindful of any side effects.

==> Are you parenting a teenager on the spectrum who is struggling to cope? Then these articles will help you, the parent, to help your teen...

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

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


Anonymous said... This is a great article and very helpful. As an educator of children with Asperger's, I am always looking for innovative techniques to teach social skills. I think one of the first steps is for parents to recognize that problem solving skills that may come naturally to some, need to be taught and broken down for those with Asperger's. It can be a challenge, put with practice and consistent support, skills can be taught, retained, and generalized. 

Anonymous said... I have read that giving them free access to whatever causes the stim will eventually cause them to get tired of it. if you know a million ladies who need a foot massage you might be able to wear him out. Sorry it's causing you huge problems.

Anonymous said... It might also be the start of a passion for selling shoes, sandals, everything for feet. Girls love their feet & shoes we need people passionate to work in businesses to cater for that. The passion just needs a bit of direction & channeling. Best wishes.  

Anonymous said… There are many ways to embrace a foot fetish, and I'm sure he'll find a way to channel that passion, cuz it's life long. I also pray that someday he will find a woman who understands.

Anonymous said… Me too!! Because There are not that many good women out there and I hope he doesn't end up with the wrong one. :( He has autism and foot fetish just like ms, So I'll pray for him.

Anonymous said… I have an 30 year son with severe foot fetish and will get violent if you don't let him touch your feet .

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...