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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query defiant teen. Sort by date Show all posts

High-Functioning Autistic Teens and Oppositional Defiance

“I have a 14-year-old son with high functioning autism who behaves in a way that mystifies me...I cannot do anything right, according to him. I had never heard of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and after reading the symptoms, I think that he should be seeing a doctor about possibly having this disorder. I have noticed symptoms like the ones mentioned in him since he was very young.  I have tried to talk to him about it and he has told me that he feels out of control at times with his temper, especially when it comes to people of authority. I have learned to not talk about anything he might turn on. I e-mail him across the house and have learned to speak to him in his language. Is it possible for a child to have both disorders? What action should parents take in these cases?”

Many parents have difficulty recognizing the difference between a strong-willed, emotional teen with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Aspergers’ (AS) and one with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Clearly, there's a range between the usual independence-seeking behavior of teens and out-of-control defiant behavior. It's normal to exhibit oppositional behaviors at certain stages of an adolescent’s development. However, your teen’s issue may be more serious if his behaviors:
  • Have lasted at least six months
  • Are persistent
  • Are clearly disruptive to the family or school environment

The following are behaviors associated with ODD:
  • Tantrums
  • Spiteful or vindictive behavior
  • Refusal to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Deliberate annoyance of other people
  • Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Argumentativeness with parents, teachers and other authority figures
  • Anger and resentment
  • Aggressiveness toward siblings and peers
  • Acting touchy and easily annoyed
  • Academic problems

Oppositional defiant behavior often occurs along with other behavioral or mental health problems, such as autism spectrum disorders, depression, ADHD, and anxiety. The symptoms of defiant behavior may be difficult to distinguish from those of other behavioral or mental health problems. It's important to diagnose and treat any co-occurring disorders, because they can create or worsen irritability and defiance if left untreated.

Stressful changes that disrupt an HFA or AS teen's sense of consistency increase the risk of disruptive behavior. However, though these changes may help explain disrespectful or oppositional behavior, they don't excuse it.

If your HFA or AS teen has signs and symptoms common to ODD, make an appointment with your physician. After an initial evaluation, the physician may refer you to a mental health professional who can help make a diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for your teen.

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

Here's some information to help you prepare for an appointment:
  1. Write down your family's key personal information (e.g., factors that you suspect may have contributed to changes in your teen's behavior).
  2. Make a list of stressors that your teen or close family members have recently experienced.
  3. Write down the signs and symptoms your teen has been experiencing – and for how long.
  4. Take a trusted family member or friend with you to the appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed.
  5. Make a list of your teen's key medical information (e.g., any physical or mental health conditions that he has been diagnosed with).
  6. Write down the names of any medications your teen is taking (include any over-the-counter medications).
  7. Write down questions to ask the physician in advance so that you can make the most of your appointment.

Questions to ask the doctor if your HFA or AS teen is referred to a mental health provider include:
  1. What treatment approach do you recommend?
  2. What factors do you think might be contributing to my teenager’s issues?
  3. What else can I and my family do to help my teenager?
  4. Should he be screened for any other mental health problems?
  5. Should I tell his teachers about this diagnosis?
  6. Is this condition likely temporary or chronic?
  7. Is my teen at increased risk of any long-term complications from this condition?
  8. Do you recommend family therapy?
  9. Do you recommend any changes at home or school to encourage my teen’s recovery?
  10. What do you believe is causing his symptoms?
  11. Are there any other possible causes?

Being ready to answer the physician's questions may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. You should be prepared to answer the following questions from your physician:
  1. What are your teen's symptoms?
  2. When did you first notice these symptoms?
  3. How would you describe your teen's home and family life?
  4. How often over the last six months has your teen been touchy, easily annoyed or deliberately annoying to others?
  5. How often over the last six months has your teen been spiteful or vindictive, or blamed others for his own mistakes?
  6. How often over the last six months has your teen been angry or lost his temper?
  7. How often over the last six months has your teen argued with you or his teachers?
  8. How often has he refused to follow through with your rules or requests?
  9. How have you been handling your teen's disruptive behavior?
  10. How do you typically discipline your teen?
  11. Have your teen's teachers reported similar symptoms?
  12. Has your teen been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  13. Do any particular situations seem to trigger defiant behavior in your teen?


Treating oppositional defiant behavior (whether or not your teen has a formal diagnosis of ODD) involves several types of psychotherapy and parent-education training. The cornerstones of treatment for oppositional defiance usually include:

1. Social skills training: Your teen may benefit from therapy that will help him learn how to interact more positively and effectively with peers.

2. Parent training: A mental health provider with experience treating oppositional behavior may help you develop skills that will allow you to parent in a way that's more positive and less frustrating for you and your teen. In some cases, your teen may participate in this type of training with you, so that everyone in your family develops shared goals for how to handle problems. As part of parent training, you may learn how to:
  • Remain calm and unemotional in the face of opposition.
  • Recognize and praise your teen's good behaviors and positive characteristics.
  • Offer acceptable choices to your teen, giving him a certain amount of control.
  • Limit consequences to those that can be consistently reinforced and last for a limited amount of time.
  • Establish a schedule for the family that includes specific meals that will be eaten at home together, and specific activities one or both parents will do with the teen.
  • Avoid power struggles.
3. Individual and family therapy: Individual counseling for your teen may help him learn to manage anger and express his feelings more healthfully. Family counseling may help improve your communication and relationships, and help members of your family learn how to work together.

4. Cognitive problem solving training: This type of therapy is aimed at helping your teen identify and change through patterns that are leading to behavior problems. Research shows that an approach called collaborative problem solving — in which you and your teen work together to come up with solutions that work for both of you — is highly effective at improving oppositional-related problems.

Although some parent-management techniques may seem like common sense, learning to use them in the face of opposition isn't easy, especially if there are other stressors at home. Learning these skills will require consistent practice and patience. Most important in treatment is for you to show consistent, unconditional love and acceptance of your HFA or AS teen — even during difficult and disruptive situations. Don't be too hard on yourself. This process can be tough for even the most patient mom or dad.


Parenting Strategies—

At home, you can begin chipping away at problem behaviors in your HFA or AS teen by practicing the following:
  • Develop a united front. Work with your partner/spouse to ensure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.
  • Set up a routine. Develop a consistent daily schedule for your teen. Asking your teen to help develop that routine can be helpful.
  • Set limits and enforce consistent reasonable consequences.
  • Recognize and praise your teen's positive behaviors. Be as specific as possible (e.g., "I really liked the way you helped pick up your room tonight").
  • Pick your battles carefully. Avoid power struggles. Almost everything can turn into a power struggle — if you let it.
  • Model the behavior you want your teen to exhibit.
  • Build in time together. Develop a consistent weekly schedule that involves you and teen being together.
  • Assign your teen a household chore that's essential and that won't get done unless he does it. Initially, it's important to set your teen up for success with tasks that are relatively easy to achieve, then gradually blend in more important and challenging expectations.
  • Take care of yourself. Counseling can provide an outlet for your own mental health concerns that could interfere with the successful management of your teen's defiant behavior. If you're depressed or anxious, that could lead to disengagement from your teen, which can trigger or worsen oppositional behaviors. Let go of things that you or your teen did in the past. Start each day with a fresh outlook and a clean slate. Learn ways to calm yourself, and take time for yourself. Develop outside interests, get some exercise, and spend some time away from your teen to restore your energy.
  • Remind yourself that your teen’s defiance is most likely a temporary inconvenience rather than a permanent catastrophe.

At first, your teen is not likely to be cooperative or appreciate your changed response to his behavior. Setbacks and relapses are normal, so be prepared with a plan to manage those times. In fact, behavior often temporarily worsens when new limits and expectations are set. However, with persistence and consistency, the initial hard work will pay off with improved behavior.

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


•    Anonymous said… Absolutely possible! My daughter has High Functioning Autism and ODD. We have found that by changing how we approach certain triggers, we can avoid the ODD eruptions. If she does blow up, we've also learned that it is not the time to push her or try to persuade her unless it is a safety issue. she can only have a learning experience once she has calmed down.
•    Anonymous said… Following. Yes please which meds have been given and which worked best in your situations
•    Anonymous said… I am exhausted! What meds have helped? I have a 17 year old with Aspergers and a suspected ODD diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said… I believe it to be under the umbrella... ocd and add/odd are subcharacteristics of HFA and Aspergers. My son was orignianlly diagnosed ODD/OCD/Major Depression (missing the BIGGER picture for a couple of years until finding a doctor who knew what Aspergers looked like). Once medicated (this took time to find right fit), years of counselling and finding something he enjoyed and was good at, much of the ODD symptomology extinguished. It's understandable how one would be oppositional when his/her life is so "out of control"- anger, fear, frustration all leads to a normal brain to want to gain control over his/her environment; couple that with the angst of teenage years for the neurotypical as well and you have a big mess. Most difficult years for me and mine were ages 11 to 16. Again, medication helped tremendously; in addition to, all of the other components to a comprehensive plan (counselling, family support). I point to the medication because if one is crawling out of his/her own skin...behavior modification will not work. My son is 31 today, still medicated and is successful and happy (gainfully employed, lives on his own, is delightful). It's a long hard road, but worth the pain.
•    Anonymous said… I do think it is unfortunate to label a particular behaviour as a disorder. We have had occasions over the years when my son has dug his heels in and refused to do as expected of him. He quite logically explains that he is unable to comply with our expectations at times when he doesn't feel in control of a situation and feels over-anxious. He is 19 now and recently started playing guitar. A family friend helps run a folk club and invited us to go along. I was amazed the first time that Oliver got up when invited and performed in front of everybody. He attended again on the next meeting and again performed. My friend had arranged to pick up us again a couple of weeks later and I was so looking forward to this but Oliver made it clear that he wan't going to go this time. I was disappointed but nothing would persuade him. AFTER the event when I was able to talk to Oliver calmly he explained that he just hadn't felt ready with his new song but would go again in the future when he felt better prepared. We have been a couple of times since. The real problem over the years was always my own frustration with his decisions when they interfered with my own plans but if I stayed objective and calm we could in due course talk things over together. I could help Oliver understand my disappointment when things didn't go as planned and Oliver would help me see how difficult it was for him to do things if he was over-tired, unprepared, stressed or just having a bad day.
•    Anonymous said… I have looked at PDA and although there are similarities with ODD and PDA, our son is definitely ODD and both of these diagnoses can operate in ASD. We have been on our journey for more than five years and with therapy, medication and great support we've made incredible accomplishments with our son. It is as many have said though...very exhausting.
•    Anonymous said… PDA strategies are ery different to strategies for ODD. Reducing demands and providing an anxiety free environment is ideal. Anxiety free isnt possible but a happier calm child has a better chance of learning strategies to deal with demands.
•    Anonymous said… I was that child...tho they did not have a label for it back then. I would recommend to be respectful and ackowledge his feelings but at the same time dont walk on egg shells. Use "i" statements like "i need u to..." and avoid labels like "youre" this and that etc. At the same time clear boundaries and expectations and a consistant reward and consequence system. Another huge thing is the consequence having something to do with the action and not being a punishment. I know this wouldve helped if my parents had known better. but i got a lot of name calling from my parents and was made fun of by kids at school as well as my parents. It cannot have been easy for them and they mustve gotten some relief out of letting off some steam. A psychiatrist even recommended that they slap me (yes a westwood, ma psychiatrist who is still practising). I would say that has been the most detrimental thing to my aspergers and ODD and would not recommend it.
•    Anonymous said… I've never heard of ODD but it sounds like my daughter might have this. Thanks for mentioning it.
•    Anonymous said… My aspie gas O.D.D. & believe, it's a challenge!!!!
•    Anonymous said… My daughter was dx with ODD 10 years ago and it never sat right with me, after researching PDA I believe she has that
•    Anonymous said… My son has Asperger's and O.D.D. We are also questioning P.D.A. but CAMHS aren't keen on giving it as a diagnosis. Worth reading about it though. My son is 15, not hit puberty yet and it's really hard going most of the time x
•    Anonymous said… My son has both its very difficult and trying  😣
•    Anonymous said… My son is 14 and is diagnosed ODD, Aspergers and Mixed Mood/Anxiety. His first diagnosis was ODD aged 9.
•    Anonymous said… My son is on seraquel, Prozac and trazadone ..he's 18 and doing much much better, hang in there!
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed when he was 4 with ASD ADHD and odd its a real challenge to say the least..
•    Anonymous said… My sons defiance seems to come from anxiety. Wanting to gain/regain control because he frequently feels powerless or vulnerable. Not sure if he has ODD but giving him explanations about why things need to be done and helping him find ways to feel more in control and powerful sometimes has really helped. The more I push the more he pushes back. You have to bend and manoeuvre. Tiring and time consuming but works for us.
•    Anonymous said… Not only possible..very likely, Autism always pairs with another disorder from what I have been told through the many hospitals and psychiatrists we have seen, my son who is 18 now was diagnosed with both way back when, it's a long hard struggle and a lot of work, do the testing for diagnosing ..stay strong friend!
•    Anonymous said… ODD and Aspergers combined have been the most challenging diagnoses I have ever encountered! I am worn out as a parent. Meds have helped but it has been a tough journey.
•    Anonymous said… Our 11 year old is on the Spectrum as high functining (aka Aspergers) with multiple diagnoses, one being ODD. We have him in therapy and he's learning how to manage it. It is definitely exhausting, but very treatable. Hang in there...if you can find a support group for'll find that helps.
•    Anonymous said… Our son was diagnosed at age12 with high function autism. He is now 15 and I strongly feel he also has ODD.
•    Anonymous said… Please research PDA. People with ASD with Demand avoidance behaviours usually have Pathological Demand Avoidance. If they dont have ASD then they probably have ODD. PDA is part of the Autism spectrum.
•    Anonymous said… Ugh, what do you do when this keeps on into adulthood?
•    Anonymous said… Vincent my 4 yr old seems to have ODD. I'm not sure if it is a symptom of Autism or a standing disorder in him. I was told, I needed to verify if he was indeed not Autistic because ODD can be a symptom of Autism. Not sure how I feel about my developmentally delayed child possibly being diagnosed as Autistic when I am not even sure if I believe he is, and know in my heart that he could be due to how he is AND his delays. I'd hate for him to be misdiagnosed whem he very well may just have ODD. So, If I were you I would research and speak to multiple professionals about weather or not this is a symptom of or an actual disorder for your individual child.
•    Anonymous said… We have tried several meds throughout the years (Clonodine, Intuniv, Prozac etc)! What worked the best for my child was Seroquel.
•    Anonymous said… Yes our son was diagnosed with Aspergers and ODD at 15, although he had these symptoms for years...The medicine Lamictal has really helped!

Post your comment below…

40 Tips for Parenting Defiant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting teenagers is hard enough...right? But throw "Asperger Syndrome" (high-functioning autism) into the equation, and now you really got a mountain to climb. Do not despair!

Here you will find 40 ways to effectively parent, nurture, and discipline your defiant teen with an autism spectrum disorder:

1. Writing Assignments - Education sometimes alters unwanted “autism-related” behavior. Examples include:
  • learning about a particular culture, religion or disability in order to develop understanding or tolerance
  • researching the long-term effects of smoking or drug usage
  • talking with teen parents to learn what sacrifices they have made

Such an assignment should include considerable thinking, learning, and dialogue with moms and dads, rather than simply writing a certain number of words without much independent thought.

2. Tolerating Behavior - When establishing a relationship or dealing with multiple behaviors, it may be necessary to tolerate some behaviors temporarily. This is a purposeful, thought-out choice on the part of the mother/father based on:
  • age and developmental level of teen involved
  • current situation
  • priorities
  • relationship
  • specific treatment issues
  • values

This is not to be confused with passivity, avoiding conflict, letting the youngster "do whatever he wants," inconsistently enforcing expectations or other methods that don't work.

3. Temporarily Removing One or More Privileges - It is not meaningful or realistic to "remove all privileges." This generally leads to resentment towards the parent and a lack of understanding or personal responsibility. When this technique is chosen:
  • it must be made clear to the adolescent exactly which privilege(s) will be removed
  • why it is being removed
  • exactly how it will be handled
  • for what time period

If there is something they can do to get the privilege(s) reinstated sooner, that should also be clearly explained. Note: this requires more thought and explanation than simply saying, "You’re grounded."

4. Teaching Interactions - Effective parenting of teens with high-functioning autism (HFA) and Aspergers requires frequent interactions. Situations, both dramatic and mundane, present themselves continually. Moms and dads, who recognize the golden opportunities in routine living tasks, capitalize upon them by turning them into teaching interactions, build solid relationships, have fewer behavior problems, and receive daily rewards. Problems = teachable moments. Teaching interactions can take several forms such as:
  • teaching a concept (e.g., negotiation)
  • processing dynamics (e.g., "Have you noticed that when someone doesn't fulfill their responsibility, others become resentful?")
  • demonstrating a skill

The point is that on-duty moms and dads should always be interacting with their teens, and the nature of those interactions is teaching; rather than:
  • becoming friends with the teen
  • criticizing
  • doing things for the teen
  • judging
  • lecturing
  • punishing

5. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever, if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kinds—familiar foods, rituals, vacations—are reassuring when the adolescent’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

6. Teaching Alternatives - A good way to teach the teenager personal responsibility is to spend time brainstorming together about all the possible responses, and predicting the reactions to each response. Instead of telling them what to do and what not to do (which can elicit dependency or oppositional responses), it is useful to spend time exploring different options. For example, instead of saying, "Don't say that to your father" …it is better to say something like, "That's one way you could handle it. How do you think he would respond to that?" … "Is that the response you want from him?" … "How else might you phrase that idea?" …etc. If they have trouble coming up with alternatives, you can help out by saying, "Do you want to know what some other people have tried?"

7. Establish verbal codes or gestures to convey that one or both parties need a time out: a chance to cool down before continuing a difficult discussion at a later time.

8. Substitution - It is never enough to tell teens what they can't do or what behaviors they must stop doing. We must always add what they CAN do instead. Some examples might be ideas such as, "You cannot hit your classmate when you are angry, but you can go for a brisk walk, write in your journal, talk about how you feel, etc." The goal is to replace or substitute an unacceptable behavior with one that is acceptable and still meets the same need. The message should always be, "Your needs and feelings are normal and okay and we are here to help you express them in ways that will allow you to be successful and responsible."

9. Go with the flow of your youngster’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If your adolescent only likes plain T shirts without collars or buttons, buy plain T shirts. If your kid likes familiar foods, or has a favorite restaurant, indulge her.

10. Shaping - Shaping behaviors is an approach that breaks skills down into steps and rewards small movements in the right direction. For example, if you are trying to teach the skill of greeting a visitor, you would ultimately want your teenager to go through the following series of behaviors:
  • stop what they are doing
  • stand up
  • look at the visitor
  • walk over to them
  • make eye contact
  • smile
  • say "hello"
  • extend your right hand to shake
  • say “my name is ___”

To ask for all of that from someone who has never done it before, or who is shy, is asking too much. So at first they would be rewarded if they momentarily stopped what they were doing when someone new cam in. After a few times they would need to stop what they were doing, stand up and look in the direction of the visitor in order to be praised, and so on. In other words new skills are not all or nothing but are a series of steps to be learned.

11. Sequencing - Desirable behaviors can be used as motivating for less desirable ones. For example, "You may watch one hour of approved TV as soon as your book report is satisfactorily completed" –or- "You may make that phone call as soon as you have finished cleaning up the kitchen." This type of statement helps the mother/father avoid power struggles because they did not say, "no." It puts the struggle and control back with the youngster, where it belongs. They can then choose whether or not they will watch TV today and when (within limits). A version of this can be re-stated calmly and compassionately as often as necessary while your teenager struggles with his choice.

12. Have realistic, modest goals for what the adolescent or the family can accomplish in a give time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

13. Some adolescents on the autism spectrum adjust o.k. to middle/high school with appropriate supports and accommodations, Others, however, just cannot handle a large, impersonal high school. You may need to hire an advocate or lawyer to negotiate with your school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

14. Role Playing/Rehearsing - This technique can be used to practice for an upcoming situation that may be difficult, foreign or anxiety producing or to re-create a situation that already occurred to experience alternative responses. Examples should include role-playing a situation in which the teen was angry and became physically or emotionally abusive, or one in which they demanded or sulked instead of negotiating. The purpose of the role-play is to practice more acceptable styles of self-expression while still making their intended point. Practicing of this sort will make the desired responses more likely in future similar situations. Role playing can also be used to practice saying something that is difficult or anticipating a variety of responses in order to reduce anxiety.

15. If you can afford it, you may prefer to pay private school tuition rather than paying a lawyer to negotiate with a financially strapped or resistant school system. However, a private school may not be the best choice. Some families move to a community with a better high school. Residential schools may be worth considering for some. The right fit can build tremendous confidence for the adolescent, give the parents a break, and prepare everyone for the independence of the post high school years.

16. Role Modeling - Most of what kids learn from grown-ups comes from simply observing. All moms and dads are role models to their kids and need to be very conscious of their own behavior. Kids are astute observers of how we treat them, how we relate to each other and how we take care of ourselves.

17. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the adolescent to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, or calendars). E-mail may become a new option.

18. Your Teen's Rights - Food, clothing, therapy, medical attention, education, spiritual activities are NEVER withheld as a consequence. Privileges (e.g., television, telephone, radio, some activities, free time, visiting with friends, hobbies, walking around the grounds, etc.) may be temporarily withheld as logical consequences and can be powerful incentives for some adolescents.

19. Teens on the spectrum need structure, down time, soothing activities, and preparation for transitions.

20. Rewarding/Reinforcing - Rewarding positive behavior is the best way to ensure its continuation. A common error in parenting is to spend so much time and energy dealing with crises and negative behaviors that kids who are being responsible can either get "lost" or are tempted to act less responsible to become part of the action. Rewards can take many forms from simple a comment: "I noticed that you..." or "I really appreciated it when you..." to special time and attention or more concrete things such as a special treat or privilege. For every negative interaction the teen experiences, it takes four positive interaction to overcome the effects. Moms and dads need to be very deliberate about maintaining at least a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions every day with every teenager.

21. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for intellectually challenged adolescents, but may not realize our teens need that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet our teenagers' needs.

22. Requesting - When there is a good relationship between the mother/father and youngster, a simple request to do, or stop doing, something or a re-stating of the expectations is often enough. If over-used, however, it may become less effective, may be experienced by the HFA of Aspergers youngster as overly controlling, or can slow the process of responsible growth and decision-making skills. Example: "We don't use that type of language here, could you please find a different word?"

23. Make sure thorough neuropsychiatric re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, transition plans, choosing an appropriate college or other post secondary program, and proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.

24. Refocus - A defiant teen may be asked to spend time thinking about something (e.g., a recent run-away or self mutilation) and express their feelings and thoughts in some way. This could be writing, poetry, drawing, etc. Whatever format is used, it then needs to be processed with the adolescent. They can then be assisted in identifying early clues and practicing alternative responses. The purpose of this type of activity is to encourage thinking, self-awareness, communication, and planning for different choices in the future.

25. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to (a) monitor your adolescent’s progress and (b) ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out (and to modify it if necessary). Because adolescents can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in four short years of high school, these meetings are critical.

26. Side by side conversations (e.g., walking, in the car) may be more comfortable for the adolescent than talking face to face.

27. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the adolescent.

28. Redirecting - Commonly used with younger defiant kids or those with short attention spans, this technique simply stops one behavior by substituting another or diverting the attention of the Aspergers teen or group to a different subject or activity.

29. Teach laundry and other self-care/home care skills by small steps over time. Try to get the adolescent to take an elective such as cooking or personal finance at the high school.

30. Pre-Teaching - It is easier to prevent negative behaviors than to deal with them after they occur. A very effective tool is to pre-teach behavior prior to an event or potentially vulnerable situation. This involves talking with the person or group in detail about what will be happening, why, and what their role and expected behaviors will be. Pre-teaching reduces anxiety, clarifies expectations, builds confidence, sets up success, and can add to the fun of anticipating an event.

31. Physical Proximity - Sometimes a defiant adolescent who is beginning to become anxious, irritable or overly active will be calmed down by eye contact, a special "look" or signal, moving next to them or a reassuring hand on the arm or shoulder. Along with physical proximity it is important to be calm and reassuring.

32. Observing and Commenting - A mother/father may choose to comment on a behavior in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way to bring it to the attention of the youngster. This may be new information for the teen to think about. What they choose to do with that feedback will provide further opportunities for discussion and teaching. For example, "I notice you tend to be critical of others when they are taking about a success" –or- "You seem to only break the rules when you are in a group" etc.

33. Tell your adolescent just what s/he needs to know – one message at a time – concisely.

34. Natural Consequences - Sometimes consequences occur through the natural course of events (e.g., a teen coming home late from school and missing a phone call from a friend). If the natural course of events makes an impact by teaching a lesson, moms and dads need not intervene further. They can be sympathetic to the teen's plight (this must be genuine however, and never patronizing or sarcastic).

35. Logical Consequences - Logical consequences may be necessary when no natural one occurs, or when the natural one is insufficient to make a change in future behavior. An example would be a defiant teen causing a disturbance at an event, not being allowed to attend the next one.

36. Ignoring Behavior - Moms and dads may consciously decide to ignore certain behaviors of their defiant adolescent at times in an effort to extinguish the behavior by not reacting to it. The behavior may be inconsequential, may be designed just to "get a reaction," or may be masking another, more important, issue which is what really needs attention. Ignoring a behavior should not stop communication or relationship building. It is a specific behavior that is being ignored, not the person. Examples might include using certain words, attempts to provoke or annoy moms and dads, making personal comment to or about moms and dads, saying "I won't" or "you can't make me," etc.

37. Encouraging/Coaching - Encouragement, praise, and coaching are all effective ways to make pro-social behaviors more likely and more frequent. The stronger the relationship between mother/father and a given youngster, the more powerful this method becomes.

38. Consequences - Consequences may be used to discourage unacceptable behavior of defiant adolescents. Usually this will occur after other techniques have been tried unsuccessfully. Discipline should not be confused with punishment; nor should they ever be given in anger. They should be applied consistently. That means that the behavior disciplined today, will again be disciplined next week. Also, behavior disciplined for one teen will not be allowed for others. This consistency lowers anxiety by making the environment predictable. Remember:
  • A mother/father who is angry with their son or daughter should calm down before deciding a consequence, and if applicable, should consult with the other parent before doing so.
  • Consequences are given to help teenagers establish boundaries.
  • Consequences are more effective when discussed matter-of-factly from a caring and controlled point of view.
  • Consequences should be clearly explained, related to the behavior, and completed as soon as possible.
  • Moms and dads should regularly discuss the effectiveness of consequences for the specific teen and should always support each other in the positive discipline process.

39. Active Listening - Some “autism-related” behaviors are bids for attention or expressions of frustration at not feeling understood. Moms and dads can reduce problem behaviors when each defiant youngster feels genuinely cared about, understood, and paid attention to. Active listening is hard work and takes energy and practice. It cannot be done when thinking about or attending to other things, or when distractions occur. Active listening need not last a long time, but attention must be focused completely on the teen and the message must be communicated back to them in the listeners own words in a way that lets them know they really were heard. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, respect for personal space, and choices of words are all important in communicating the desired message. It may take two or three attempts to really understand the message, and that is okay, as long as it is finally understood accurately and that is clearly demonstrated. A few brief exchanges of this sort for each youngster every day are necessary.

40. Patience – Your HFA/Aspergers teen has this thing called “mindblindness.” In other words, he may not understand some of the social norms that other children and teens learn automatically. Thus, be able to distinguish between “misbehavior” (which is intentional) and “autism-related” behavior (which is never intentional).

==> Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

Poor "People Skills" in Teens on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips for helping my depressed teenager with ASD to develop some people skills in order to find a few friends that he can relate to?"

The rules of social engagement are unwritten. If an adult makes a “social mistake” (e.g., saying “thank you sir” to a woman who happens to look like a man), it may result in an awkward moment or some embarrassment.

For teens though, social mistakes can have profound and disastrous consequences. If they “fail” socially, they can be ostracized from their peer-group, have difficulty making new friends, and feel a sense of general isolation from everybody.

Many teens with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) do not know how to engage with their friends and classmates. They are simply not interested in the current fads or topics of conversation among their peer-group. As a result, they may experience teasing, bullying, and rejection from peers – and may feel isolated to the point of experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

Here are some symptoms to look for in your HFA or AS youngster’s behavior when he or she is “failing” socially:
  • Behaviors are causing the teen to get into conflicts at school
  • Disengagement from friends and classmates
  • Increase in anger and/or frustration
  • Is so socially anxious that the teen starts refusing to go to school or skips classes
  • Poor academic performance
  • Preference for isolation at home and school
  • Seems genuinely depressed
  • Sickness (e.g., frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.)

The HFA or AS teen needs to decide for himself when he will work on his poor people skills. It can be tough for parents to sit back and watch their “special needs” teen struggle in the social arena, but they should try to let things play out on their own time. To charge-in and assert to the autistic teen that he “needs to work harder on developing some friendship skills” will only add to his low self-esteem and sense of being an “odd ball.”

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Oftentimes, teens on the autism spectrum are not in a headspace where they are ready to make changes (but when they get older, many of them start to feel differently). Here are some reasons why your HFA or AS teen may not be up for addressing his social skills deficits:
  • He may recognize he has some social problems, but is ashamed of them. He would rather try to hide them and save face even if that means losing out in the present.
  • He may realize he has some things he needs to work on, but doesn't feel they are a priority at the moment. Plus, “trying to change” would be too much work.
  • He may not see himself as awkward, just different. At the moment, he doesn't think there is anything wrong.
  • He may fully believe the messages that his insecurities are telling him, and he may not think there is any hope of improving (e.g., “You either have it or you don't.” “There's no way I can just talk to other people and then ask them to hang out.” “I'm just bad with people.”)
  • So far in life, his lack of social skills may not have cost him enough (e.g., a 16-year-old boy who doesn't need a lot of friends and who is content to spend his free time on the computer is not losing much by being ostracized from his peer-group). As a young adult, he may realize he needs better people skills in order to get a job or find a girlfriend, and then be motivated to do something about it.
  • Many HFA and AS teenagers – and even young adults – are somewhat unaware of the fact that they have social issues. They know on some level, but for the most part, they are perfectly content to stay at home all the time and play video games.
  • Like most teenagers, the teen on the autism spectrum may have the attitude that his mom and dad don't really know what they're talking about – especially when it comes to his social life. He may think his mom and dad simply don't understand what he is going through. Even if parents tell him they went through the exact same thing at his age, he may still think they are clueless. 
  • Most teenagers, autistic or not, don't like to think that they fail to measure-up in their parents’ eyes. Even if they have no problem with their poor people skills, they may still feel like they are disappointing their parents and be reluctant to bring the topic into the open or accept the parents’ help.
  • As with most teens, the autistic teen may be particularly unenthused about the idea of accepting help or criticism from his mom or dad. Also, if the teen views his mom or dad as the authoritarian, “impossible-to-please” parent, he will be even less likely to welcome parental assistance.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

In any event, what can parents do to help their socially awkward HFA or AS teen? Here are some tips:

1. Don't give your HFA or AS teen the impression that your opinion of him is conditional on how socially successful he is.

2. Encourage your teen to hang out with peers outside of school or through extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, music, etc.).

3. Encourage your teen to engage in online support groups and chat sites for young people on the autism spectrum. Here’s is a good place to start:

4. Engage your youngster in an activity or program where there are adult mentors to help him increase his self-esteem and build self-confidence. Research reveals that having just one activity in a youngster’s life where he feels successful will result in a higher sense of self-esteem and a greater ability to negotiate a variety of social situations.

5. If it is painfully obvious that your teen is really suffering due to his social skills deficits (e.g., feels lonely, depressed, suicidal, etc.), you don’t have to sit back and stay completely silent. Bring up the topic once. Odds are good he won't be very open to accepting help. If he isn’t, don't take it personally. That is his choice. In any event, don't keep bringing it up in an attempt to nag him into addressing the issue.

Pick a moment when you have time to speak, and your teen is in a decent mood. Tactfully mention that you've noticed that he seems to be having some trouble with __________ (fill in the blank with the problem in question), and that if there is anything you can do to help, you are there for him. Again, he may deny that there is a problem or want the conversation to be over. But even if he gives that response, you can still lay out some options for him.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

6. If there is a relative or family friend your teen may be more open to talking to, mention that person’s name. Maybe your teen will be more open to chatting with his uncle who he looks up to, for example.

7. If your HFA or AS teen agrees to see a therapist, it's important to be patient and let things play-out between them. A common mistake many moms and dads make is they expect the professional to quickly and cost-effectively “fix” their youngster.

8. Let your teen know that if he ever wants to brainstorm some ideas or hear some suggestions, you are there to help.

9. Parents should not feel that they have “failed” somehow because their “special needs” youngster is awkward, or because they didn't step in earlier. You may be prone to feeling guilty or blaming yourself if your teenager is going through a tough time. The fact is that most HFA and AS teens are simply emotionally immature compared to their “typical” peers. After all, they have a “developmental disorder.”

10. Point your teen to some resources (e.g., books, videos, CDs, etc.) that discuss self-help strategies for people looking to develop interpersonal skills.

11. Reduce ambiguity in your youngster’s life by addressing his concerns and helping him understand what to expect on a daily basis so you can help lessen his anxiety.

12. Tell your teen that if he ever just wants to vent to someone about some social problems he is having, you are more than willing to listen in a non-judgmental way and be his sounding board and/or advocate.

13. Tell your teen that if he ever wants to talk to a therapist or look into a social skills training group, you will help make that happen. Also, point out that you don't view professional help as a big deal, just an option people have if they want some outside advice and support.

14. While the HFA or AS youngster may have some real social weaknesses, in other ways he may be different from the norm in a way that is perfectly valid. Those differences may be tied to social skills deficits, but parents need to distinguish between true deficits and normal variations in personality. For instance, there's nothing wrong with being a bit reserved, being uncomfortable in certain social situations, having a unique hobby, having an odd sense of humor, preferring to spend time alone, etc. Thus, parents should not come across like they are rejecting their teen’s core self.

15. With older teenagers on the autism spectrum, parents don't have a lot of ability to further influence their social development – they are almost adults. However, with younger teens, parents still have the authority to enroll them in a social skills training group or insist they see a counselor. A 13-year-old may not like it, but he still recognizes his mom and dad are allowed to make him go to things. But, if parents try to do that with a 19-year-old, he will likely resist any form of treatment or intervention.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

We have just talked about some things that parents can do to help their socially awkward HFA or AS teen. Next, let’s look a few things to avoid doing:
  • If you have already tried to help your youngster with his social awkwardness, but he shot you down, try to avoid feeling slighted or resentful. Don’t take it personally. He will take a hard look at himself and the changes that may need to happen when the timing is right.
  • If you were socially awkward as a teen, some of your own baggage may come up as you witness your teen struggling. You may frantically want to help him avoid some of the social blunders you made. But, he will need to learn from his own mistakes rather than from yours.
  • Avoid the urge to “force” your teenager to try to improve his social skills, even if his deficits are making him unhappy. 
  • Try to avoid feeling disappointed in your youngster. Maybe you were somewhat popular in school and can't really understand how your teen seems to be having the opposite experience you did. Maybe you always hoped he would be a great trumpet player or football player, and you can't help but roll your eyes when he spends a Sunday afternoon playing “childish” video games in his bedroom (i.e., games that much younger children might play).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for your HFA or AS teen. It's only natural that you want to make his pain go away, but that attitude often results in over-protective parenting that tends to make a bad problem worse (e.g., doing too much for your teen to the point where he never learns to do things for himself).
  • Try not to get angry with your teen for not realizing he has a problem, or not wanting to do anything about it. True, the problem seems so obvious to you, but your teen doesn’t see things the same way. For instance, he may tell you that it is impossible for him to make friends. His logic and explanations may not make sense to you, but he still seems to believe them.

It takes time for teens on the spectrum to improve their social skills. If your teen does start working through his issues, don't feel like he is dragging his feet or not working hard enough if he doesn't transform over a period of a few weeks. In addition, give him space to change at his own pace. Maybe he will be eager about making some changes for a few months, but then get distracted by other things for a while.

In any event, don't make your teen feel monitored, or that your approval is connected to his rate of progress. For instance, you go to a family cookout and your teen doesn’t feel like mingling with other family members, but you watch him to see if his ability to socialize has improved. As mentioned before, give your HFA or AS teen the impression that you accept him for who he is – unconditionally! Of course, you will be delighted for him and share in his success if he makes some positive changes. But if he doesn't, you're O.K. with that too.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Fostering Self-Acceptance in Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Most teenagers with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience frequent social failure and rejection by peers. Because social encounters are seldom reinforcing (rewarding), these young people often avoid social interaction.

Over time, they may develop negative attitudes about themselves and others. The poor self-esteem that may result makes it difficult to continue attempts at social interaction. As a result, the cycle continues. Therefore, social skills interventions are greatly needed – especially in the form of fostering self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance refers to a global affirmation of self. When an AS or HFA teen is self-accepting, he is able to embrace ALL facets of himself – not just the positive parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. The teen can recognize his weaknesses and limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with his ability to fully accept himself. Furthermore, behavior clearly reflects feelings of self-acceptance For example, a teenager with high self-acceptance will be able to:
  • tolerate frustration
  • take pride in her accomplishments
  • offer assistance to others
  • handle positive and negative emotions
  • attempt new tasks and challenges
  • assume responsibility
  • act independently
  • accept mistakes as a path to learning and growth

Conversely, a teen with low self-acceptance will:
  • put down her own talents and abilities
  • feel, or pretend to feel, emotionally indifferent
  • feel unloved and unwanted
  • blame others for her own shortcomings
  • be unable to tolerate a normal level of frustration
  • be easily influenced
  • avoid trying new things

Moms and dads – more than anyone else – can promote their AS or HFA teen’s self-acceptance. It isn’t a difficult thing to do. If fact, you probably do it without even realizing that your words and actions have great impact on how your teen feels about herself.

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

Here are 30 crucial strategies to use that will help your “special needs” teen develop self-acceptance:

1. As much as possible, let your teen settle his own disputes between siblings, friends, and classmates.

2. Be supportive during a conflict. If, for example, your AS or HFA teenager is in the middle of a conflict at school, listen to her side of the story without being judgmental (even if you think she is at fault).  For example, say something such as, “I can understand why you think you’re a better choice for class president, and I’m sorry that you feel you have to point out Courtney’s shortcomings rather than concentrate on what makes you the better candidate.” The conflict may seem trivial to you, but to your teen, it could be a major source of strife in her life.  By developing the habit of supporting your teenager through the good and the bad, you will be laying a strong foundation for open communication when bigger problems arise.  Knowing that she has a parent to lean on who loves and accepts her will help build your teen’s self-acceptance over time.

3. Encourage your teen to exercise! Being active and fit helps him feel good about himself. He will relieve stress, and be healthier, too!

4. Encourage your teen to try new things, and to give herself credit. Urge her to experiment with different activities to help her get in touch with her talents. Then tell her that she should take pride in her new skills. One Asperger’s teenager signed up for track and found out that he was pretty fast! The positive thoughts associated with this discovery became good opinions of himself, and added up to high self-acceptance.

5. Encourage your teenager to ask for what she wants assertively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that she will get it. Reinforce her for asking – and avoid anticipating her wants.

6. Encourage your teenager to behave toward himself the way he would like his friends to behave toward him.

7. Encourage your teenager to develop hobbies and interests which give her pleasure and which she can pursue independently.

8. Help your AS or HFA teenager develop “tease tolerance” by pointing out that some teasing can’t hurt. Help him learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk (e.g., “names can never hurt me” … “teasing has no power over me” … “if I can avoid reacting to this teasing, then I’m building emotional muscles”).

9. Help your teen learn to focus on her strengths by pointing out to her all the things she can do well.

10. Help your teen to aim for effort rather than perfection. Some AS and HFA teens – especially those with OCD – get held back by their own pressure to be perfect. They lose out because they don't try (“If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all”).

11. Help your teen to edit those thoughts that make him feel inferior (e.g., "That guy is so much better at basketball. I should just stop playing.”). Does your teen often compare himself with others and come up feeling less accomplished or less talented? Teach him to notice his negative, self-destructive thoughts.

12. Help your teen to focus on what goes well for her. Is she so used to focusing on her problems that they are all she can see? Say to her, “The next time you catch yourself dwelling on problems or complaints about yourself, find something positive to counter it.” Also, have your teen write down three good things about herself each day, or three things that went well that day because of her effort.

13. Help your teen to notice the critical things he says to himself. A harsh inner voice just tears you down. If your teen is in the habit of thinking self-critically, help him to re-train himself by re-wording negative, unkind thoughts into more helpful feedback.

14. Help your teen to recognize what she can change – and what she can't. If she realizes that she is unhappy with something about herself that she CAN change (e.g., getting to a healthy weight), help her to start today. If it's something she CANNOT change (e.g., her height), help her to work on accepting it. Obsessing about her "flaws" will skew her opinion of herself and lower her self-acceptance.

15. Help your teen to set goals. Ask him to think about what he would like to accomplish. Then help him make a plan for how to do it. Encourage him to stick with the plan and keep track of the progress. Urge your teen to train his inner voice to remind him of what he is accomplishing (e.g., I've been following my workout plan every day for 30 minutes. I feel good that I have kept my promise to myself. I know I can keep it up.").

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

16. Help your teen to view mistakes as learning opportunities. Teach her to accept that she will make mistakes. We all do. It’s part of learning. If, for example, your teen has the thought, "I always screw things up," remind her that she doesn’t ALWAYS make mistakes, just in this specific situation. What can she do differently next time?

17. Help your teenager to think in terms of alternative options and possibilities rather than depending on only one option for satisfaction. Whenever your teen thinks there is only one thing which can satisfy her, she limits her potential for being satisfied! The more you help your teenager realize that there are many options in every situation, the more you increase her potential for satisfaction.

18. Include your teen in everyday family decisions, and implement some of her suggestions. For example, what does she think about the new chairs you’re considering for the dining room table? AS and HFA teens love nothing better than to be treated like competent adults, and they’re usually flattered anytime that you invite them into the adult world.

19. Laugh with your teenager – and encourage her to laugh at herself. A young person who takes herself too seriously is undoubtedly decreasing her enjoyment in life. A good sense of humor and the ability to make light of life are important ingredients for increasing self-acceptance and overall enjoyment.

20. Let your teen know that he creates – and is responsible for – any feeling he experiences. Similarly, he is not responsible for others’ feelings.

21. Let your teen know that you are still interested in what is going on in his life, even though he’s a “big boy” now. Teens like to be self-sufficient and want their parent to believe that they have everything under control. But that doesn’t mean that the parent doesn’t need to keep the lines of communication open and flowing. So, when the parent asks questions, he or she should try to formulate them so that they require more than a “yes” or “no” answer (e.g., instead of asking, “How is history class going?” … ask, “What are you currently studying in history?”).

22. Sometimes it’s necessary to constructively criticize your teen’s behavior and choices. However, when the criticism is directed to him as a person, it can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. Therefore, learn to use “I statements” rather than “You statements” when giving criticism (e.g., “I would like you to keep your clothes in your closet – not lying all over the bedroom floor” … rather than saying, “Why are you such a slob? Can’t you get more organized?”).

23. Teach your teen the importance of helping others. For example, he can help clean up the neighborhood, participate in a walkathon for a good cause, tutor a classmate who's having trouble, or volunteer his time in some other way. When your teen can see that what he does makes a difference, it builds his positive opinion of himself and makes him feel good. That's self-acceptance.

24. Teach your teen to accept compliments. When self-acceptance is low, it's easy for young people to overlook the good things others say about them. They don't believe it when someone says a nice thing. Instead, they may think something like, “Yeah, but I'm not all that great…” and then brush off the compliment. Instead, encourage your teen to accept a compliment, appreciate it, and take it seriously. Also, teach her to give sincere compliments to others.

25. Teach your teen to change his “demands” to “preferences.” Point out that there is no reason he must get everything he wants – and that he need not feel angry either. Encourage him to work against anger by setting a good example and by reinforcing him when he displays “appropriate irritation” rather than “anger.”

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

26. Teach your teen to remind himself that everyone excels at different things. Help her to focus on what she does well, and cheer on others for their success. Self-talk such as, "He's a great football player, but I'm a better chess player” helps your teen accept himself and make the best of the situation.

27. Teach your teen to take pride in her opinions and ideas. Tell her that she need not be afraid to voice them. If someone disagrees with her, it's not a reflection on her worth or her intelligence. That person just sees things differently.

28. Teens remember positive statements that their parent says to them. They store them up and “replay” these statements to themselves. Thus, practice giving your teen words of encouragement throughout each day.

29. Use what is called “descriptive praise” to let your teen know when he is doing something well. Develop the habit of looking for situations in which your teen is doing a good job or displaying a skill (e.g., “I really like the way you straightened up the garage. You put each thing in its place”).

30. What you think determines how you feel – and how you feel determines how you behave. Thus, it’s important to teach your teen to be positive about how she “talks to herself” (e.g., “I can get this problem if I just keep trying” … “It’s OK that I didn’t get an ‘A’ on the test today” … “I tried my best, I can’t win them all”).

The primary aspect of AS and HFA that characterizes it as autistic is the problem of human connectedness. The term most commonly used to describe this core weakness of human connection is “reciprocity.” This refers to the teenager’s ability to engage other people in a way that makes others feel connected or not. In social conversation with a teenager with AS and HFA, eye contact is often poor, fleeting, or absent. These “special needs” teenagers may not be able to read subtle gestures and facial changes or to interpret subtleties in language (e.g., irony or sarcasm). They do not read or respond as most people do to small changes in body posture or to gestures. They seem either distant, stiff, or in other ways unconnected.

AS and HFA teenagers not only seem disconnected, but in some cases uninterested in being in relationships with others. They may generally have very little interest in the feelings, experiences, other human qualities, or possibilities of others and, hence, lack demonstrated empathy. They do not seem to derive pleasure from engaging others, learning about them, talking with them, or sharing experiences. In the many cases where the symptoms are milder, the teen may wish to connect with others, but simply does not know how. She may have feelings for others, but can’t seem to mobilize the demonstration of those feelings.

The good news is that parents (and teachers) can assist in these challenges by helping their AS or HFA teen to develop a set of social skills. And as mentioned above, the most important skill to possess in this endeavor is called “self-acceptance.” With self-acceptance, the teen capitalizes on his strengths rather than trying to “fix” his weaknesses, yet he accepts his weaknesses for what they are.

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

How To Discipline Rebellious Aspergers and HFA Teens

Disciplining a teenager with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is likely to bring out the best and the worst in a parent. Moms and dads try to help their “special needs” teenager make up for what's missing by increasing their love and attention, but he or she often triggers special frustrations in parents.

Most teens go through predictable stages of development in adolescence. You know about when to expect what behavior and how long it will last. Knowing you don't have to weather this “difficult behavior” indefinitely helps you cope. But with many teens on the autism spectrum, stages seem to go on forever, as do the frustrations in both the teenager and the parent.

Parenting an Aspergers or HFA son or daughter is a tough job. The ups and downs and joys and sorrows are magnified. You rejoice at each accomplishment, and you worry about each new challenge.

Here are some important tips for disciplining the special needs teen:

1. Aspergers and HFA teenagers need developmentally-appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch the teen, not the calendar. Try to get inside his head.

2. Be prepared to run out of patience.

3. Be sure to change your standards. Before a child is even born, moms and dads imagine what his life will be like (e.g., piano lessons, baseball, graduating from college, marriage, etc.). Even with a “typical” teen, you have to reconcile these dreams with reality as he grows up. With a teen on the autism spectrum, this is a bigger task. You learn to live in the present. The milestones of your teen's life are less defined and the future less predictable (though he may surprise you). In the meantime, set your standards for your teen at an appropriate level.

4. Don't compare your “special needs” child to other “typical” children. Your Aspergers or HFA teen is special. Comparing her to others of the same age is not fair.

5. Don't focus on the disorder. Instead, practice positive parenting to the highest degree that you can without shortchanging other members of the family. Feeling loved and valued from positive parenting helps a teen cope with the lack of a particular skill.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

6. Visual aids may help your teenager see the reason for the consequence.  Make an “if/then chart” or a “discipline chart” that shows exactly what will happen if the teenager engages in a particular behavior.  Another visual aid that comes in handy is a “rewards chart.”  Equal importance should be placed on good behavior, including lots of praise and tangible rewards, to balance out the negativity.

7. View “misbehavior” as a signal of needs. Everything teenagers do tells you something about what they need. This principle is particularly true with Aspergers and HFA teenagers.


8. There are occasions when negative consequences become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.), but they should always be immediate, definite, and relevant. Teens on the spectrum tend not to perceive cause and effect and are likely to have short memories, so prolonged consequences not only lose their impact, but also their effectiveness. Taking away the teen’s favorite activity for being rude to his mother or father, for example, is not relevant to the infraction. The focus for the teen, then, becomes the lost privilege and his anger at his mom or dad – not what he did to incur the consequence in the first place. A more appropriate consequence might be for the mother or father to respond, "I won't listen to that kind of talk," and walk away.

9. Teens with Aspergers and HFA thrive on structure and clear rules. Thus, posting a list of unacceptable behaviors and their consequences can be very helpful.

10. These young people tend to enjoy being isolated, because it is less stressful for them and they do not have to socialize with others. For these teens, being sent to their bedrooms for a time-out can actually be a positive experience unless modified slightly (e.g., being sent to the bedroom with no computer privileges).

11. Reset your anger buttons. Your "special needs" teen will do some things that exasperate you.

12. Remember that discipline literally means "teach" – not "punish." Negative punishments rarely change unwanted behavior permanently. They only stop the behavior in that particular time and setting. Positive consequences, on the other hand, have been shown to be far more effective in changing inappropriate behavior patterns. Aspergers and HFA teens respond well to praise, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Complimenting the teenager for a responsible, cooperative, or compassionate act will tend to promote that behavior.

13. Moms and dads should list the behaviors that they feel are most deserving of attention. This is an important step because some behaviors may need intervention or therapy in order to be eliminated rather than simple disciplinary tactics. Odd self-soothing behaviors are common in young people with sensory processing issues, and they can be easily replaced with more appropriate ones.

14. Give your teen choices. Initially, you may have to guide your teen into making a choice, but just the ability to make a choice helps the teen feel important. Present the choices in the teen's language. The more you use this tip, the more you will learn about your teen's abilities and preferences.

15. Help your teen build a sense of responsibility. There is a natural tendency to want to rush in and do things for a “special needs” teen. For these teenagers, the principle of "show them how to fish rather than give them a fish" applies all the more. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies being given responsibility gives the teen a sense of value and raises his self-esteem.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

16. Know that “different” doesn't mean “lesser.” In a teenager's mind, being different means being substandard. This feeling may be more of a problem for “typical” teens than for Aspergers and HFA teens. Most teenagers measure their self-worth by how they believe others perceive them. Be sure your teen's siblings don't fall into this "different equals inferior" trap. This is why the term "special needs" is not only socially correct, but it's a positive term, not a value judgment. In reality, all teenagers could wear this label.

17. Know that “different” doesn't mean “unable.” While it is true you have to change your expectations of an Aspergers or HFA teen, you don't have to lower your standards of discipline. It's tempting to get lax and let your teenager get by with behaviors you wouldn't tolerate from your other kids. Your teen needs to know, early on, what behavior you expect. Many moms and dads wait too long to start behavior training. It's much harder to redirect a 130 pound young man than a 50 pound boy. Like all teenagers, the Aspergers or HFA teen must be taught to adjust to family routines, to obey, and to manage his behavior.

18. Moms and dads need to be in agreement when applying discipline to any teenager, but especially for teens on the spectrum. If one parent thinks grounding is the appropriate punishment, while the other feels that time-outs will be more effective, this will be confusing for the teenager.

The Struggles in Adolescence for Teens on the Autism Spectrum 

Disciplining a teenager with Aspergers or HFA is not an easy task, particularly in light of some of the characteristics commonly associated with the disorder (e.g., a short memory for misdeeds but not for the consequences, the inability to perceive cause and effect and to generalize from one situation to another, the tendency to blame others rather than assume responsibility for behavior, etc.). Nonetheless, with patience, humor, and a sense of perspective, moms and dads can become their teen's ally, even in their role of authority.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

Imposing Effective Consequences for Noncompliant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information on effective discipline can be found here: 

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

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


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

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My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

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…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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to read the full article...

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

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...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content