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Meltdowns vs. Shutdowns and How Parents Should Respond

"Are shutdowns actually avoidance behavior, in other words, the child is simply trying to get out of doing something uncomfortable? And how is it different than a meltdown? I'm not sure exactly where to draw the line between intentional and involuntary acts with my 10 y.o. (high-functioning) son."

When it comes to dealing with a child who has High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS), there aren't too many differences between meltdowns and shutdowns. Both are extreme reactions to everyday stimuli. Both tend to be the result of long-term unresolved issues rather than the more obvious triggers, and both are almost completely out-of-the-control of the youngster rather than being used as a means to an end (which would be either a tantrum or emotional blackmail).

Some kids on the autism spectrum are more prone to meltdowns while others lean more towards the shutdown reaction. It's possible to do both, but this depends greatly on the root cause of the problem. There's a personality component to the reaction with HFA kids who are more sure of themselves or more fiercely independent leaning towards meltdowns rather than shutdowns, but again there's a wide variance depending upon the feelings brought on by the trigger. Some events can make even the most confident youngster on the spectrum doubt himself or herself.

What exactly is a shutdown?

While a meltdown could be described as rage against a situation, a shutdown tends to be more of a retreat. Behaviors which manifest during a shutdown include:
  • rolling oneself into a ball or fetal position
  • crawling under objects
  • lying face down or completely under the covers on a bed
  • gaze avoidance tends to increase significantly
  • conversation may be non-existent

As with meltdowns, in a shutdown situation, the youngster may act irrationally or dangerously. Unlike a meltdown however, the harmful activities are almost always directed at oneself. The youngster may attempt self-harm - and may even be suicidal in some cases. He or she may be more likely to take reckless risks (e.g., attempting to jump out of a bedroom window).

What causes a shutdown?

As with meltdowns, the cause of a shutdown tends to be cumulative, and the trigger may bear little resemblance to the actual problem. The real problems associated with shutdowns tend to lean towards depression, loneliness, poor self-image and poor self-worth.

In younger children, a shutdown may be triggered because of a simple breakfast issue (e.g.,  they were given something they don't like). In this case, the cause may actually have nothing to do with breakfast at all, but rather it may be symptomatic of the youngster's frustration at not being able to make himself understood.

What does a shutdown look like in adults on the autism spectrum?

In grown-ups, shutdowns can result from extreme events (e.g., losing a job, marriage break-up, etc.), but they can also have very small triggers, which simply remind the person of a larger pain (e.g., a small incident at work can provoke some long-term insecurities and cause a retreat).

A shutdown will move some form of emotional pain to the center of the adult's focus, and he or she may start contemplating "what if" and "if only" scenarios. These thoughts are always counter-productive, because you can't change the past, and they usually only make the person feel entrapped by events. During a shutdown, the adult may collapse into a heap and will generally not have any contact with anyone.

What can be done?

Think of the fight-or-flight response. When a child shuts down, he is in flight mode. In other words, the child is trying to protect himself/herself from real or imagined harm. So, your objective as a parent is to think in terms of assuring the child that he or she is not in harm's way. Here are a few tips to achieve this objective:

1. Children on the autism spectrum often shut down as a result of being teased, rejected or bullied by others (e.g., siblings, peers, etc.). Thus, it's very important to counter any negative messages your son is receiving from others. If those negative messages are coming from teachers or other family members, then you may need to get involved yourself.

2. Unlike meltdowns (where it's best to leave the youngster alone - but in a safe place), it's generally helpful to talk in a soothing voice during a shutdown. Just make sure that you're careful what you say - and keep things positive. The only thing to remember when soothing your son during a shutdown is that you're still dealing with a child on the autism spectrum. Don't try to force eye contact, and don't touch him without either being invited to do so - or being cautious to see the reaction first.

3.  Send him a text message (assuming he has a cell phone) voicing your concern. In this way, you are less likely to elicit an immediate and defensive reaction. The advantage of a text message is that it allows stepping away from the situation and invites reflection and thought.  

4. When your son is in shutdown mode, don’t talk directly to him. When possible, let him overhear you expressing your concern (in a non-critical and non-judgmental way) to someone else (e.g., a spouse). In this way, you are giving your son a chance to understand your concern with no immediate response called for on his part. Your son is more likely to hear your words as concern rather than an attempt to control. You are giving him an opening to talk when he is ready.

5. When your son shuts down, sometimes the best thing you can do is whisper, because it is so different from what he normally hears. If you get down at his level and whisper, then he has to pay closer attention to what you're saying in order to hear you. He will be very curious as to what you're saying (e.g., "I see you're upset. I want you to know that I'm here to listen to you when you're ready to talk. In the meantime, you are safe and nobody is going to hurt you.").

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


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

Parents’ Comments:

•    Anonymous said... my son has shutdowns more than meltdowns i never knew there was more than one kind... thanks for the post makes sence now weve been told to grab and hold him when hes trying to hurt himself since it can get serious. he still managed to bang his head good last one we had. does anyone else see a kid that doesnt remember what happened in a shutdown? ours claims he cant remember its what led us to the therapist saying something is wrong... they said aspergers. he was missdiagnosed for years
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is also more prone to shutdown more than meltdown as she has such a beautiful and caring nature. She has now learnt that rather than going through the frustration of trying to explain herself verbally, it's much easier for her to draw a picture or act it out (the arts, both visual and performing, are a life long obsession) and she asks for visual cues when she can't understand whats being explained to her, or she simply says "I don't understand, can you please show me another way?" So she is basically overcoming her difficulties her own way to avoid frustration.
•    Anonymous said... My 4-year-old is just like this. I hadn't read anything about shutdowns before, but this is exactly what he does when he is distressed (hides under the bed, curls up on the floor, etc.).
•    Anonymous said... My 8 yr old has meltdowns at home, but he will shutdown at school, so that's when I get a phone call to come and get him.
•    Anonymous said... I don't know what's worse. My 5 year old has the mother of all meltdowns. It's so hard. However I'm sure that it feels helpless when your child goes into shutdown mode.
•    Anonymous said... Thank you so much for sharing this!
•    Anonymous said... I had not read about shutdowns before either - this is so so helpful!
•    Anonymous said... I must admit I hadn't realised shutdown was a thing, my son has meltdowns, but they are few and far between just now, he seems to have switched to shut downs instead. His self harming behaviour is not present during shutdowns, just meltdowns. I would rather deal with a shut down, but after reading this I realise I still have a lot to do :) Thank you x
•    Unknown said... Thank you so much for this information. Both my husband and son were diagnosed with HFA. I am learning much about the issue surrounding the disorder, and through mistakes and life experience. I hope this article helps others as well.
•    Upside Down Cake said... I can tell you shut downs are pretty horrible. When I have one I can't even talk. People around me will think I'm being rude but I'm not, I literally have no control. For me I normally get them with too much stimulation but they can be the result of a build up of stress. I also have partial shut downs which can last for days and leave me needing my bed the whole time. I find these partial shut downs are caused but stress and I can face going out or having contact in any form with the outside world. It is nice tho if there is a calm caring person around to make tea and give sympathy. During these partial shut downs I am totally drain and I suffer with a lot of pains, my arms go numb too xx
•    Multiple Me's said... My aspie had a total shutdown for 6 months in school and his teacher never communicated that to me. He was then placed in a gifted class and struggled to catch up. Meltdowns and shutdowns were his entire life until he was diagnosed with a new mood disorder and treated. Once I put him in online school, he became a different boy and started articulating what had happened in his mind for 2 years. The poor child was in such pain, yet at 12 yrs was able to finally start talking and so intuitively it was shocking. That was when we finally got the ASD (aspie) diagnosis. His schooling caught up, straight A's for two years, advanced classes, and even high school math credit in 8th grade. We're able to work through meltdowns and shutdowns quickly now because we both look for triggers and work them out. I wish I had this article when he was a toddler and either started his violent meltdowns or seemed secretive and stoic and wouldn't cry or talk. He still doesn't cry, even when hurt, so I know he continues to escape.

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Meltdowns and Punishment: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"I know parents shouldn't punish a child for having a meltdown, but how do I know when it's a meltdown versus flat out bad attitude?"

One of the most important things for parents to realize is that a meltdown is a trait of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's. Because meltdowns can often look like tantrums, it's sometimes difficult to know what course of action to take.

To make matters worse, a particular behavior may be meltdown-related on one occasion, but a simple tantrum on another occasion (e.g., the child may have a tantrum over a certain food item because it tastes "yucky," yet he or she acts-out in the same way over another food item due to a gustatory (i.e., taste) sensitivity.

Children on the autism spectrum can avoid tantrums - but not meltdowns. The best parents can do is try to reduce the damage. Punishing a child for a meltdown is like punishing someone for swearing when they hit their thumb with a hammer. It won't do any good whatsoever and can only serve to increase the distance between you and your child. 

In addition, meltdowns aren't wholly caused by the current scenario, but are usually the result of an overwhelming number of other issues. The one that "causes" the meltdown is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Unless you're a mind reader, you won't necessarily know what the other factors are, and your child may not be able to fully communicate the problem.

A meltdown is a condition where the HFA or Asperger's child temporarily loses control due to emotional responses to environmental factors (e.g., sensory sensitivities, anxiety, social frustration, etc.). It generally appears that the child has lost control over a single and specific issue; however, this is very rarely the case. Usually, the problem is an accumulation of a number of irritations which could span a fairly long period of time, particularly given the strong long-term memory that kids on the autism spectrum are known to have.

In addition, the problems may seem hidden due to the following:
  • Kids on the autism spectrum don't tend to give a lot of clues that they are irritated.
  • Often times, the child's grievances are aired as part of his or her normal conversation and may be interpreted by parents as part of his or her standard whining.
  • Some things that annoy HFA and Asperger's kids would not be considered annoying to other kids, which makes parents less likely to pick up on a potential problem.
  • Their facial expressions very often will not convey frustration.
  • Their vocal tones will often remain flat - even when they are highly agitated.

Some children on the spectrum describe the meltdown as a red or grey band across the eyes. There is a loss of control and a feeling of being a powerless observer outside the body. This can be dangerous as the child may strike out, particularly if the instigator is nearby or if the HFA child is taunted during a meltdown.

Sometimes, depression is the only outward visible sign of a meltdown. At other times, depression results when the child leaves his or her meltdown-state and confronts the results of the meltdown. The depression is a result of guilt over abusive or violent behavior, which may result in a shutdown (e.g., the child curls up into a fetal position and hides from the world).

Sometimes, the best thing that parents can do is to train themselves to recognize the triggers to a meltdown before the meltdown happens - and take steps to avoid it. Once the child reaches an age where he or she can understand "meltdown triggers," parents can work on explaining the situation.

One way to do this is to discreetly videotape a meltdown and allow the child to watch it after he or she has calmed down (kids on the spectrum are very visual and learn best from images and videos). You could then discuss the incident, explain why it isn't socially acceptable, and give the child some alternatives.

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


The 3 Interventions to Prevent Meltdowns in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Mark, You refer to 'meltdowns' quite frequently in your articles. Is it not similar to a tantrum... if not, what can be done to prevent them?"

A meltdown is not identical to a tantrum (although there is an overlap on occasion). From a biological standpoint, a meltdown is an emotional outburst wherein the higher brain functions are unable to stop the emotional expression of the lower (i.e., emotional and physical) brain functions. 
Kids who have neurological disorders are more prone to meltdowns than others (although anyone experiencing brain damage can suffer from meltdowns too).

From a psychological standpoint, there may be several goals to a meltdown, which may or may not be the "rewards" that are consciously desired by the youngster. To many parents and teachers, these goals may seem irrational, inappropriate, and sometimes criminal. 
To kids familiar with - or trained to recognize - the psychological causes of such behavior, however, there are clear emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biochemical correlates to meltdowns.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The three major interventions that are usually most effective in preventing a meltdown from manifesting in children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) include (1) managing emotions, (2) a sensory diet to maintain optimal sensory regulation, and (3) visual supports.

1. Managing emotions:

Most often, the youngster's feelings are way too big for the situation. Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction. CBT is one example of an effective therapy for managing emotions.

2. Sensory diet:

Children with High-Functioning Autism usually do not have sensory systems that regulate automatically; rather, they must discover how to keep themselves regulated. This is most often accomplished by employing a sensory diet.

Just as a youngster needs food throughout the course of the day, he needs sensory input – and opportunities for getting away from stimulation – spread out over the whole day. A “sensory diet” is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input an autistic child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. In the same way that you may soak in a hot tub to relax, kids on the autism spectrum need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities, too.

Each ASD youngster has a unique set of sensory needs. Generally, a youngster whose nervous system is causing him to be hyperactive needs more calming input, while the youngster who is more under-active or sluggish needs more arousing input.

The effects of a sensory diet are usually immediate and cumulative. Activities that perk up your youngster - or calm him down - are not only effective in the moment, but they actually help to restructure your youngster’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to:
(a) handle transitions with less stress,
(b) limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors,
(c) regulate his alertness,
(d) increase his attention span, and
(e) tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging.

3. Visual supports:

 “A picture is worth a thousand words” is the absolute truth. Although each child on the autism spectrum has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered to be her “first language.” Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are often used successfully with many ASD children. 
Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities shown on the visual schedule helps the child to have smooth transitions, thus keeping a meltdown from gathering momentum. For the best results, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until the child's behavior unravels to pull them out.
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

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


Anonymous said… Meltdowns are not always "temper tantrums." I am a certified Aspie and my meltdowns usually have nothing to do with temper to anger. Meltdowns are the result of overstimulation in some area. It could be related to sensory issues such as a certain noise, or certain colored lights, or it could be a reaction to an emotionally charged situation (we don't understand emotions so when emotions are high it is unnerving and we can't handle it). I recently wrote about a meltdown on my own blog The Christian Aspie. It is a first hand account, through the eyes of an Aspie. It is horrible to experience. There is a lot of anxiety and stress, an out of control feeling. I have had milder meltdowns when people lie to me. I have also had rather serious meltdowns when I have just been overloaded in one way or another (usually sensory related). The thing to remember is that 1. We can't help it. Sometimes I have to stomp or flap my hands to release the pressure. 2. There is nothing you can do about it except to try to get the person into a sensory friendly (low sensory input - low lights, muted sound, isolated, etc) area.

Anonymous said… I think a lot of it is semantics. The closest term to describe a 'Meltdown', is a severe temper tantrum, altho a temper tantrum in a 'normal' child is generally caused by a child that is simply not getting his way and has learned that if he pitches a big enough fit, he will get his way. No Aspie or Aspie parent wants that perception to be used to describe an Aspie meltdown. I think there is also a big difference between a 'meltdown' and a 'shutdown', depending on how the aspie deals with the anxiety and often overwhelming experience of trying to navigate the 'normal' world. Some aspies INternalalize their feelings and emotions, and some EXternalize them. An internal 'meltdown' I would describe more as a 'shutdown'. They may be just as devastating to the child, but don't have the same outward effect on those around them, as a full-blown 'meltdown' can have. Especially if it happens in public. In my opinion, the term 'meltdown' has become way overused by some parents to describe anytime their child, aspie or not, cries or doesn't behave perfectly. I often want to tell these parents, "you apparently have never seen a real meltdown". In our experience, Mark Hutton described a meltdown perfectly, and I think the overuse, and misuse of the term minimizes what Aspies and their caregivers deal with daily. Thank you Mark for clarifying this. 

Anonymous said... A meltdown can be very subtle. Essentially they are overwhelmed with emotion or sensory input. Early on this can be expressed as irritability (early in the meltdown). It can go into a tantrum/screaming fit or just as easily into what I call a shutdown (retreating somewhere "safe" and trying to block the world out).

Anonymous said... A meltdown is NOT the same as a tantrum. A meltdown is involuntary, it is not under the child's control, and it is usually due to sensory overload, something important getting changed unexpectedly, or some kind of "straw that broke the camel's back," when somebody's been under chronic stress and there's a final incident that they just can't take anymore. Good ways to avoid one are to tell a child in advance if something in their plans or schedule is getting changed--not waiting until the last minute. Figure out what kind of environmental/sensory stresses cause them sensory overload, and avoid those, or make sure they have a way to escape if they need to.

Anonymous said... I found my meltdowns used to occur mostly in social situations that were noisy -- too much noise, too many people talking, too much input. I have learned to handle them by staying to the side of a room, so it is not all around me and occasionally having a time out (from the noise) where I would go outside or to the bathroom & just breath and calm down. But them I am over 50 and have had many years to figure out what works. It is not a tantrum which, as I understand it, comes from anger and not having ones own way; it seems to be a sensory overload which explodes.

Anonymous said... Tantrums are typically from not getting their own way. Meltdowns or at least with my son are usually because he got overwhelmed with something and doesn't know how to properly express it to me. Kudos for finding something that works for you!

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ASD Panic Attacks Disguised As Meltdowns

Your child is majorly upset over something - but is it a meltdown, shutdown, tantrum, or full-blown panic attack?

As a parent of a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you know that your child is capable of having a meltdown occasionally. We’ll describe a meltdown as “an over-reaction to environmental stimuli designed to give HFA children a sense of control when they feel that their world is out-of-control.” 

Let’s also make the distinction between a meltdown and a temper tantrum. We’ll describe tantrums as “normal acting-out behaviors designed to help children assert their independence as they learn they are separate beings from their parents.”

Having defined meltdowns and tantrums, parents need to know that there are times when their “acting-out” HFA children are having neither a meltdown nor a tantrum; rather, they are in the throes of a legitimate panic attack. Let’s describe panic attacks as “periods of intense fear and apprehension that are of sudden onset and of variable duration of hours to days.” Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, may reach a peak within 10 minutes, but may continue for much longer if the child had the attack triggered by a situation from which he or she is not able to escape. 

In panic attacks that are triggered by a situation from which the HFA child desires to escape, he or she may make frantic efforts to escape, which are often violent – especially if parents attempt to contain the child. Often, the child suffering from panic attacks will experience significant “anticipatory anxiety” in situations where attacks have previously occurred (e.g., a child having a panic attack after the neighbor’s dog jumps up on him, resulting in the child fearing ALL dogs in ALL situations after the initial incident).


Experiencing a panic attack is one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences in a child’s life and may take days to initially recover from (unlike meltdowns, which usually only last a few minutes to a few hours). Repeated panic attacks are considered a symptom of panic disorder. 

Children with HFA are prone to anxiety, which in extreme situations can lead to panic attacks. Panic attacks are a terrifying experience where the body reacts as if it is in immense danger, in a situation where most children would not be afraid. A small number of HFA children will go on to develop panic disorder, whereby panic attacks are intense and occur frequently. If left untreated, panic disorder can be a debilitating condition, severely restricting the quality of life for the youngster.

In between attacks, the affected child often feels intense anxiety, worrying when and where the next one will strike. Panic attacks are accompanied by the unpleasant physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., heart palpitations, hyperventilation, muscle pain, dizziness, sweating) along with the fear that the attack will lead to death or a total loss of control.

HFA children suffering from panic attacks need to be taught that the physical symptoms they experience with an attack are just extreme versions of normal bodily responses to danger. For example:
  • Pupils dilate for more acute vision, and this can cause difficulty with bright lights or vision distortion.
  • Blood is diverted away from non-essential areas including the stomach, brain and hands, resulting in digestive problems, dizziness and tingling or numbness in the hands.
  • Adrenaline being released into the blood stream causes the heart to beat faster and the breathing rate to increase in order to supply major muscles with more oxygen.
  • Sometimes it may appear that the walls are folding in, or in extreme cases, inanimate objects may appear to move.

During an attack, the affected child can become convinced that the symptoms are caused by a major health problem (e.g., heart attack, brain tumor) or that he or she is going crazy. This fear causes more adrenaline to be released. Thus, a worsening cycle can be generated.

Panic attacks can be accompanied by other conditions (e.g., depression), or they can give rise to the development of phobias. If, for example, the HFA child has a panic attack during his first day of school, and then associates panic attacks with “the classroom,” he or she may refuse to go to school. Some of these children’s lives become very restricted, and they avoid normal, everyday activities. Some may even refuse to leave the house unless they are accompanied by a parent (i.e., agoraphobia).


There are a number of treatments for panic attacks, with research showing cognitive behavioral therapy to be the best practice. Some parents may choose to combine a number of treatment options for their child, for example:

1. Relaxation techniques/meditation: These can be useful to reduce acute anxiety or to help the child cope during a panic attack. There are numerous books, CDs and DVDs which can help the child learn these techniques. 

2. Medication: Some of the anti-anxiety drugs are very potent and some produce severe side effects in some kids. While medication can give short term relief to the symptoms, it is important that other strategies are used as well, including counseling and learning more about the condition.

3. Diet and exercise: Physical fitness and a good balanced diet are essential for emotional well being. Many young people find that doing something physical helps reduced the “keyed up” feelings often associated with anxiety. For some children, high caffeine drinks and chocolate can act as a trigger to panic attacks, probably because caffeine can cause bodily changes (e.g.,  increase in heart rate), which can be misinterpreted as the start of a panic attack. The fear this causes can then trigger a real panic attack.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

4. Complementary therapies: Some parents report that the use of herbs, vitamins, and homeopathy have been effective with their child when either used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.

5. Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is very effective for treating panic attacks. It teaches affected children how to identify their anxiety and how to change anxiety-generating thoughts. The underlying belief with CBT is this: It is not so much “events” that are a cause of anxiety, but what the child “thinks” about the events.

6. Parental instruction: Teach your child to avoid fighting the panic. When experiencing a panic attack, affected children need to remember the following: It does not matter if they feel frightened, unreal or unsteady, because these feelings are just an exaggeration of normal bodily reactions. The feelings are unpleasant and frightening, but not dangerous. Teach your child to face the symptoms and not run from them. Tell your child to not add to his or her panic with scary thoughts about what is happening or where it might lead. Instruct your child to allow time to pass, and for the fear to fade away. He or she can use one or all of the following positive statements:
  • “I can be anxious and still deal with the situation.”
  • “I’ll just let my body do its thing. This will pass.” 
  • “This anxiety won’t hurt me, even if it doesn't feel good”.
  • “This feeling isn't comfortable or pleasant, but I can accept it.”

Symptoms of panic attacks include the following:
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • chills or hot flushes
  • depersonalization (i.e., being detached from oneself)
  • derealization (i.e., feelings of unreality)
  • fear of dying
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • feeling of choking
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • paresthesias (i.e., numbness or tingling sensations)
  • sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking

Many children being treated for panic attacks begin to experience “limited symptom attacks” (i.e., fewer than four bodily symptoms listed above being experienced). It is not unusual for the affected child to experience only one or two symptoms at a time (e.g., vibrations in the legs, shortness of breath, an intense wave of heat traveling up the body).

Some symptoms are sufficiently different from any normal sensation such that they clearly indicate panic disorder. Panic disorder does not require four or more symptoms listed above to all be present at the same time.

Pure “causeless” panic and the racing heart beat that panic causes are quite sufficient to indicate a panic attack. But, with proper treatment and parental-coaching/encouragement, affected children can go on to live very normal lives.


COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for April, 2017]

Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.


After 3 years of frustrating school situations turning into home situations, I find myself at my wits end figuring out where to start. I started researching Asperger's without much direction. We came across a teacher for 2nd grade who used (the symptoms listed) to chastise and leave my son out of so many school activities making them so much harder than necessary and starting our snowball of an utter distaste for school all together (with the help of the principal...who is no longer there). (all the while coupled with enuresis both nocturnal and diurnal) I didn't think it could get worse but 3rd grade led to an even worse year and larger distaste for going to school all together and another teacher who made it her mission to be mean to him and she was not even his classroom teacher. After the horrible dealings with the school, I moved him to a different school in hopes for a change. Things are a bit better where he does not hate school but he really has no friends, he is not good at catching a ball so football, basketball, baseball are all hard for him and that's what boys do is play. We are not big into buying video games but I am thinking that might be the only "skill" he might be able to gain. Don't get me wrong, he loves art but has the I can't attitude with almost everything. He wants to learn to cook (and I am trying) but has a hard time trying to make ramen or mac and cheese, plus he has become very picky about foods. He wont wear jeans but wants to ride horses ( we can not really accommodate that but occasionally do let him go on a ride). He is picky about clothes. He does not like to follow any kind of routine (lacks hygiene etc unless its an argument). I have an alarm set for every 2 hours to remind him to go to the bathroom but can not do that at school. I am beginning to wonder if Asperger's and the enuresis are related. The school refused to test him stating that lower functioning kids needed access to those funds and he would be taking away from them because he is high functioning. It has lead I believe to a delay in his education which became apparent in 2nd grade to me. His 4th grade teacher now really works hard on one skill at a time for him to achieve before moving forward but writing is definitely difficult. After begin left behind at the other school and learning that I can't gets you out of doing work, he is struggling. he is in the GT program but cant do a science fair project, does not like to read any more, cant pick a hobby....the list goes on. I feel like I am failing as a parent and do not know where to turn. Both boys ( i have 2) were in therapy for a different reason and she quit seeing them suggesting that I take more parenting classes since they just enjoy misbehaving. Neither of them have officially be diagnosed with Asperger's although that is where my searching has led me. My second son was doing ok socially but I am seeing horrible tantrums with him, and many kids not wanting to be his friend -- things always have to be his way, he always has to win, he has started stealing little things and my husband is not really on board with much. We definitely work too much to have much one on one time with them but I am beginning to think that I need to quit my job and we need to restructure our parenting to start accommodating the possibility that these two will never be able to function alone in society, hold down good jobs, be responsible with money, know how to cook, etc unless we make some MAJOR life changes and I do not even know where to start. After all of that......


Dear Mark,

I recently discovered your blog and was wondering if you would be willing to share information about a survey for parents and family caregivers with your readers?  The survey is for parents and family caregivers of teens and young adults (ages 13-25) with a developmental disability, intellectual disability, or autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger's).

The survey asks about caregivers’ experiences and wellbeing. I'm a graduate student at Illinois Tech and my advisor, Dr. EJ Lee, and I hope that by learning more about the experiences of families during their youth’s transition to adulthood that we can help better inform the supports available. 

The survey takes 25-45 minutes to complete and twenty $30 gift cards will be raffled off for participants. The survey is open through April 15, 2017.

The survey link is:

Thank you in advance for your help! Please email me with any questions.

Thank you! 


Hello Mr Hutten

I have been looking at your website and videos and am hoping that some of your books etc would be able to help us with our son, Nathan. He is 6 and is - I think - high functioning autistic. He's been diagnosed, but nowadays they just rubber stamp kids with ASD, although the paediatrician said at our first meeting that he's clearly high functioning. He's very intelligent (his reading is amazing) and is advanced in maths. He's at a special school, at which he is doing well.

The problems we have are that although he has a good, wide vocabulary, he doesn't use it properly. He can't converse and has no interest in two-way conversation. It's almost impossible to engage him in anything he's not interested in, or for that matter anything you want him to do. For instance, he wouldn't pay attention long enough to learn a board game or for us to explain how something works. Sometimes he will launch into a great long diatribe 'at you' about a variety of subjects, observations, what people are doing, what's happening on a TV programme he's watching or a game he's playing, and he'll keep looking at you as if to say 'are you getting this?' but most of the time you can't even get an answer out of him as to what he wants for tea. It ends up being multiple choice, from which he picks one of the choices - which are very limited anyway! Either that or it's 'would you like a cake, yes or no?' to which he'll say 'yes' or 'no'. He's obsessed with electronic devices and always has been, which I don't think helps. He won't sit with us in the kitchen for family meals and eats only in the sitting room.

He's also very inflexible and has tantrums if things don't go his way - if we leave the park too soon for his liking, or if we can't go one day when he wants to. However, he can follow instructions (e.g. please pass me that camera', 'eat your apple please, it's nearly time for bed') and he's not particularly sensitive to sound, touch or other stimuli. He doesn't really stim, and he does have a sense of danger. Meltdowns are very rare, but tantrums aren't!

With this brief outline, I wondered which of your books/forums etc. would be best to address his problems, to get him to talk with us, increase his interactive attention span and improve his behaviour.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully gaining some success with your programmes.


Dear Mr. Hutten,

My name is Annabelle. I am a 17 year old student from Maryland, and I think my mother has ASD. The weight of living with a parent who has this disorder has come crashing down on me recently, and I'm absolutely desperate for a solution. I was incredibly disappointed to find that not many other people share my experiences, so not much research has been done in terms of support for parents with ASD, and more importantly the children and teenagers affected by problematic parenting.

I read your article, and so far it has been the only useful information I've found regarding my situation. I noticed it was written more than 10 years ago, and what little information I've found on the subject is just as old, so the reason for me contacting you is to ask what can I do? Are there support groups for people like me? Will my mother ever be the parent I need her to be, and if so how can it be done?

I feel stupid saying that I'm psychologically damaged as a result of my mother's parenting, but the reality of how bad it really is has gotten to me and I'm at the end of my rope. There are a million details I could send to you to help you better understand the situation, but the big picture is that I need help and I think that you're the only person who understands parents with ASD enough to give me the answers I need. None of the therapists I've had in the past have ever acknowledged that my mother is a problem, and the one I have currently realizes that there's something wrong with her, but she doesn't have the knowledge to help.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this, and if there's anyone I can contact to contribute to research on this topic please let me know.


Hello Mr Hutten,

I am having a problem with my son who is 25 years old.  He is currently unemployed  and frustrated with life. I think he is also depressed at times
 He went abroad at 18 and did not complete his education. Since then his life has not been the same. He sleeps ,lime and does nothing constructive. He claims he wants to be an athlete
but does not want to work hard for anything.He still lives at home  and expects everything to be given to him
He blames me for any failure he may have in life and is verbally abusive when i try to encourage him to change.
I am getting very uncomfortable being around him and  not sure what to do.

Presently I left the house for a couple days because I was beginning to feel afraid and stressed out.

Can you advise on this at all? Hope you can help.


Hello Mark,
My situation is complex in that my youngest son is 17.  He lives with his mother, brother and sister. His mother and I are divorced now 10 years. I cannot afford to live in the area where they are, forcing me to live with my mother 50 miles away. My son Alex is very distant towards me. He will never pick up my phone calls to speak to me. He will answer an occasionally text saying he's busy with his friends and can't talk. I travel up there on the weekends to see them but they all three are never around or do not wish to make any plans due to work and friends. Alex is my main concern because of his distant attitude. He also has fits of anger and if you try to discuss anything with him he will just either shutdown, storm off or just ignore you. There are many more details, but for now these are the main points. I need to talk to my son and try to bond with him, but I can't do this if he refuses to see or speak to me and it's been such a long time that I really don't know where or how to begin or what to say. By the way, I'm receiving no support from his mother as long as he listens to her, when the anger begins then I might get a phone call from her. I'm hoping your program will help me and any advice that you could offer.
Most grateful parent


Hi Mark
I am from England, UK and been watching your YouTube videos for a while now. I have been married for nearly 6 years now.

My husband is very intelligent, has excellent memory, insight and knowledge of many things and is fantastic with his hands. He can build and fix just about anything from cental heating to cars to boilers to computers. He is a dentist by trade and does well at his job.

During our engagement period, he would send me the most sweetest and caring messages, give me his time and clearly enjoy my company. There was no physical contact or sex before marriage due to cultural/religious reasons.

After marriage our honeymoon was pretty normal except we didnt manage intercourse. There was alot of physical contact but intercourse did not happen.

This became the main cause of friction. After almost 2 years and after seeing several therapists of sorts we managed intercourse (on the instruction of the therapist) and subsequently had a child. During pregnany i realised what a mess i was in. I felt trapped. I felt cheated and deceived. I felt my husband only managed penetration because the therapist said i had a right to ask for divorce if we went back the next day without managing it. It felt totally fake and horrible. And  a massive amount of bitterness had built up by this stage.

I spent many nights laying in bed feeling totally devasted, lonely, frustrated and dead. My husband would spend all night downstairs often falling asleep on the sofa till morning. Then he would get up and go to work. And then this would repeat.

I walked away several times, cried, screamed, begged. Its like i was just talking to a brick wall. He was empty. Hollow eyes. Often closed his eyes when I spoke. No response or very little. No words of comfort. No reassurance. No explanations. The only time he really seemed to stir was when i walked away back to my parents. He would come for me begging. Crying. And i went back each time.

There were some good moments but each was coloured by this huge elephant in the room.

He used to tell me how self sufficient he was and liked to be. He didnt need me in anyway not in the traditional sense of keeping the house and cooking or any sexual or emotional way ofcourse. He was very private. Told me he wished he could switch me on and off. Told me he keeps me at an arms length and doesnt let me in. I always felt something was majorly wrong, off, odd. But he kept saying he didnt know why the relationship was the way it was. My head felt like it was exploding.

2 years on from our child being born, as I was spending time away at my parents he told me he thought he had ADHD and booked to see the doctor. This was a shock to me but also a relief. Like we had crossed a major hurdle. Like i always knew there was something wrong and now finally we were putting it right. But the doctor put from seeking an official diagnosis for many reasons and since then, a year and half later my husband is reluctant to even go.down that path. After speaking to.someone over the phone, it was suggested to me that more than ADHD my husband may have aspergers. This is when I found you and began reading more. I spoke to my husband about it but he is in mostly denial. He believes if he does have anything it is only a tiny part of this huge mess. Believes that its alot to do with my mood and my inability to be happy and cheerful with him.

We went to see a couples therapist and although that helped us talk whilst we were there and there has been some improvement, we always come back to this. She also was not keen on the label of aspergers or adhd. I just feel like no one understands.

I can literally count the number of times we have had sex in the last 5 and half years. I feel completely  lost, resentful and could say I hate my husband. Wish I had never married him. All I wanted my whole life was a man to be my roots and my wings. To carry me protect me want me need me be attracted to me have desire. I wanted a big family lots of kids. And I feel hes robbed me of it all. I cant even have any more kids because he cant perform the most natural thing between husband and wife. I feel i have no purpose. Im 33 and feel like im getting old to move on to divorce and try marriage for a second time. I feel broken for my child who at age 3 now, is on his own with no siblings. I feel he senses the bitterness and tension. I would hate for him to grow up seeing us like this and yet hate for him to not be in a home with a mum and dad. My husband loves him to bits and is very hands on and good to him. I think it would really effect my son if i walked away because he really loves his dad and spending time.with him. Yet im stuck and trapped. Ive put on so much weight, ive stopped getting 'dressed'. My eating habits are horrendous. I binge eat and comfort eat. My health is all over the place. My faith is down in the dumps. I cant look in the mirror anymore. I hate this life. What i thought i would be couldnt be any more different then what i am. 

But i wake up each day and give my love to my child. Teach him play with him give him the last bit of energy i have.   

What do I do? My husbands tells me he wants me to stay and that he doesnt want a divorce. Ofcourse theres nothing more i want than to make this work. But i cant live like this anymore. Its like i die a bit more each day.

Please is there any advice you can give? I wish I could attend one of your programs.

Thank you so much Mark, in advance. It feels good to let it all out to someone who I know is an expert. You dont know how much it means to me. Sorry for the very lengthy email and any errors in spelling etc.


Hello Mark, I have subscribed to your online parenting program.
Just to give you a brief histor, I have a 15 yr old daughter; that I adopted, from Vietnam, when she was 3 months old. I am a single parent. She grew up in Italy ( my Mom was Italian) and we moved to the US in 2012, when she was 11 yrs old.
That said, she is now fully fitting with the list of behavioral patterns you list:
Does your child often:
  • lose his temper
  • argue with adults
  • refuse to comply with rules and requests
  • deliberately annoy people
  • blame others for his mistakes and misbehavior

=> Is your child often:

  • touchy and easily annoyed by others
  • angry and resentful
  • spiteful and vindictive

After two years of back and forth in mood swings ( both hers and mine) and other unpleasant issues, I have recently been looking into a summer program , since she has stopped seeing the therapist. I am thinking she might  maybe find the support she needs to be a happier kid. 

The place I am looking into for one month this summer is:

I would really like your input on this idea, since I like your clean straight forward approach. I am trying to put in practice your guidelines,but I know it takes time. Since I am stressed now of her aggressive attitude,  I thought a break could be good for both of us.

Looking forward to your professional input!



I have become familiar with your website and will purchase your ebook, however, I am also looking for resources for my son such as Summer camps and or intensive programs that can help my son.  The issue is that he is high level and I fear sending him to a camp that may have teens who are far more severe on the spectrum.  My son Jay is 16.  He is failing school, he cares about nothing.  He has severe anxiety and depression, and traits of obsessive thinking are causing him anxiety and physical pain.  To the world, he appears normal until one gets to know him and his obsession with Russia, military, Hitler, tanks and other odd things.  He is attractive, but very short fused.   We have truly tried everything from therapy to psychiatry and meds and nothing works.   I feel like I am in a race to get him stable, healthy, and graduated from high school without much time left.   His biological mother emancipated herself from him, and my wife loves him but is not very nurturing towards him, so that presents a set of problems.   For myself, I tend to be overly accommodating, guilty, and enabling.  We now have a difficult teen and a unhealthy house.   The ebook may be a good place to start, but I know I am going to need much more.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Hi Mark,
My son is 15 years old and has HFA.  He is very smart, but only for what he finds interesting.  He is a freshman in high school and this is the first year I placed him in a general ed setting.  He has an IEP and also a para 1:1.

In the beginning of the school year his grades were great.  I basically micro-managed him at home and made sure all his work was done.  Homework counts as much as a test in his school.  This was the part that I could "control".  I did him an injustice by basically taking over because he would not know where or when to start any assignment.  I thought I would "help" him and then he would learn from that.  He just got more used to it.  He has told me that it is all my fault and that I should not have helped him from the start and now he can't change until the next school year.  This is a behavior he has which manifests from his having OCD,  His school counselor has told me to let go of the control over homework and that Ryan would see what the consequences would be.  So I did.  I let it go and now he is at risk of failing most of his classes.  He doesn't seem to care.  He has a little arrogance to him when he says that in school he is one of the smartest kids (the teachers are always telling him that he is so smart). The family has been in therapy because of all this.  It has taken a toll on me and it is affecting the rest of the family.  While in therapy, my family is "perfect" and agrees to everything and insures that they will support me and help me with tackling my son's behaviors.  Once home, everything goes back to the way it was.  They all "think" they are helping.  They seem to unintentionally sabotage my assertive parenting.  Although I've asked my husband to do the online sessions, he just says he looked it over.  I have two older daughters too.  They get annoyed at my son and I see them smirk when I use the "assertive parenting".  I am so emotionally done.  I seem to be micro-managing my family and how they should react to my son and then they get mad at me.  I feel the family is in crisis mode, but have already reached out for help and it's not working. I've tried all that I can.  I will continue to work with my son, but have detached myself from the rest of the family, especially my husband.

I cannot figure how to make "consequences" work with Ryan.  If I take it away for a day, he's ok with that and finds something else to do.  I can't possibly take everything away, if he didn't make his bed or put his clothes away.  He "jumps down my throat" as soon as I open my mouth.  He doesn't even wait for me to say anything, or even listen to my tone.  I've tried the "poker" face and calm talking and he's told me he hates my voice like that.  He argues every word with me and I don't know how to "consequence" that.  I've made lists, contracts and everything else suggested.  It works for a day or two and then no one looks at it.  It's hard to do it alone to make it work, but I can't change my husband. I understand that he is tired when he gets home from work.  He has a long commute and we are not young anymore.  We are both in our mid 50s.  My parents were already retired at that age and enjoying life. We are all on a short fuse.  I don't want to become a "therapy" junkie, but it seems to only help me because I can vent about my family.

Sorry this is so long, and not really sure what I am actually trying to ask you.  I know I am not following through, but I guess I "fell off the wagon".

P.S.  Ryan is not abusive in any way and pretty much is an "old soul".  He likes to play the guitar and learn songs.  He loves british rock, watching old tv sitcoms and british comedies.  He is very likeable and people find him interesting.  His disrespect is his answering back to me and my husband.  He does do this to his para too, but then is remorseful to her.  He has no filters and comes across as rude.  He definitely has the social emotional age of a 9-10 year old.


I am in a long term relationship with someone who has a son with an autism spectrum disorder, Aspergers.
We are about to move in together and he is 22 yrs old and a high school and jr college grad who still lives at home and is unemployed.
My questions are these:
He is physically affectionate with his Mom, to a level that actually makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable.
He hugs her and hangs on her back repeatedly, which increases in frequency when in larger groups. for example, he may do this 3 or 4 times in a 2hour period
From what I have read, this behavior is counter to most of the experiences of others, who say that their child shies away from physical expressions
I have not shared my uncomfortableness with her because I feel guilty about telling someone that your son hugs you too much for an adult, especially since he has this disorder.
I try to think this through but I cant shake the feeling that it is just over the line of inappropriate social behavior. I know it bothers me when I see it, but then I feel guilty about being bothered by it.
 Can you offer any suggestions? at my wits end


Hi Mark,
Thank you for all your work on behalf of ASD!
I enjoy your weekly info in my emails.
I probably am ADD but otherwise a neurotypical married 47 years to a man I was told was autistic in 2000 by Rhonda Milrad, a couple's therapist in Beverly Hills associated with SRI.  I had no idea that she was literally sincere. I thought autistic meant retarded & he's anything a mechanical engineer.  Short of it is: do you know of any neurotypical wife married to ASD support groups around los angeles area, more specifically, Glendale to Monrovia, La Crescenta ( where I live) to Burbank, Ca.?
Seriously, I had a whole diatribe written to you of everything I've endured with this man thinking he was the biggest narcissist ever!!!!! Pretty sure my dad had same diagnosis as well as 2 of my husband's brothers & possibly 2 sisters.  But, I just appreciate the info you provided in the ebook though it is all I can download...not the movies😕.  My friend had me read The Rosie Project very recently then the Rosie Effect & I knew for sure I was married to someone w/ASD.  He has 2 nephews w/Aspergers so it's in the family.  Our son had ADHD but is totally different in a good way to my husband & neither of our daughters have it but 1 granddaughter is something on the spectrum but barely.
Anyway, any help with a support group for me would be tremendously helpful!
PS...My busband is 76 & I doubt he will buy into this or remember what Rhonda said because his pat answer to everything is: I'm fine, I like how I am, I don't need to change!!!
SO, I need the support group or a divorce!!!
Thanks for any help,


I am sure that you have a lot of parents emailing  you at their wit’s end.  I need some help  with my son.

  • He  is 11.5 years old
  • He is VERY smart  and very literal
  • He is Obsessed  with things,  right now  it’s Pokemon and it’s  him  wanting  the  Nintendo  Switch
  • He has been taken out of our home  for violence and placed in a group home
  • He physically attacks  my husband and I if he is told  no or doesn’t get his way  ( he missed  at  least 50 days before he was  removed about  3 weeks  ago)
  • He  has also  attacked  his  grandmother  that  is not in the  home,  but only lives  a few miles away
  • When he goes to school, he does well, he interacts (in his own way,  he is still  into himself )
  • He has spent 2, 1 week sessions at a psychiatric  hospital,  one in July of 2016 and another February 2017
  • He is currently on Pindolol and Lexapro
  • He is about 230 pounds,  probably 50 pounds were  gained since July 2016 when he was  placed on Abilify,  he was on this med until the February 2017 change to the Pindolol
  • He was just recently diagnosed with autism, testing was done Dec 27th 2016
  • He spent  2  weeks in November 2016 at detention before the  charges were dropped for  domestic violence, this was  before the autism diagnosis. The  next day he was supposed  to go to school, he pushed me down and I took  him  into the police,  they refused to do anything.
  • His violence was getting worse  and worse, he  was  hitting myself and my husband who is  disabled daily
  • CPS is involved and they filed  an abuse/neglect  petition to have him removed from the home an placed in this home where he is  now.  They tried to file  the petition as  delinquency, but  the  prosecutor would not do this  because of his  age and  diagnosis.
  • We are willing to go through  this abuse/neglect petition to get Joe help, but I need it to  be the  right  help! I can’t afford  to have him  gone for months and  not have things get better!  We need a plan in place for when he comes home, we need the rules and consequences set out, in  writing, and he needs to  know this  is coming.  
  • I need help with the rules and consequences that make sense!  Before he was placed  in this residential facility, he would react violently to anything that wasn’t his way,  we would call  the police, they would come which would normally calm things down, but the pattern would repeat.    For example, he would  promise to  go to school the  next day, then refuse in the morning, then act violently towards us,  we would call  the police, he would either calm down and stay home, or  they would take him  into school.  Next day,  same thing.  We are afraid  of him,  he started off  kicking a year ago, now, he will throw anything  he  gets his hands on, hit us with anything he can get  to.   Scream and yell that he is going to  kill  us.  He has  choked  me before.   The bruises are now gone,  since  he has  been out of the home for 3  weeks, but it  was  bad.
  • He is  perfect  at this home, he follows the rules, he is  doing  great with his  school  work. He  is  polite and respectful to the staff.
  • This makes us look like the problem  is  us and  it makes  it  feel like the  problem  is  us!
  • He will say, “ you only hurt the ones you love”

So,  I  am  going  to work through your system with my husband, but we I want to  know  what he should be getting at this place  he  is now.  He gets  a  hour a week  of counseling.  How  can we best  work  with them to make what we are working  on effective for  when he  comes home?   He knows we love him, he knows what he does is wrong, he  says he doesn’t want to do  it, yet, I don’t think the  behavior  will change  easily.   He doesn’t mind  the  separation as much as he should  in my mind, he is fine with living there.  He says he wants  to  come home, but that is mostly to have more  “stuff”.   It’s not that he  misses  us  that I can see.

So?  You have been doing  this longer than I have, I don’t even really know the  questions to ask at  this point!


We have three children ages 30, 28, 26.  Our two neurotypical kids, a son and a daughter, are married and each have two children and are functioning well with their parenting and employment and marriages.  We are so pleased and happy for them, and we love being grandparents!

I'm going to give you a little background about our son , but I'm not sure you want or need it, so I'll trust you will take it or leave it, and I'll mark my actual question below so that you can get straight to that if you prefer. And I trust you'll let me know what info is helpful, and what isn't in future.

Our son with Asperger's (28) went to a school/residential program at age 21 (at our insistence) and after some trepidation, got into the groove and learned a great deal over the last six years.  He graduated from their facility and though we didn't feel that he was ready for it, they helped him get an apartment and he lived on his own for eight months.

He had a job working at an auto parts store driving deliveries, until he started having anxiety attacks on the freeway.  After months of trying everything we all could think of, the store finally gave him the opportunity to stock shelves instead of driving.  That lasted for several months and then they started scheduling him to drive again.  End of the story is, he has moved home with the hopes that he can look for a job and an apartment closer to us and to his other family members.

His independent living experience started out well and declined to where his social life was nonexistent and he was living on energy drinks, ice-cream, tortillas and frozen pizza.  He's never been overly responsive on his phone and we could go for days trying to reach him to touch base and not hear anything back and wonder if he was well or alive or desperate for help.  We hoped that if he were a bit closer we could at least be close enough to know if he needed assistance or not.

How do we engage our son in a conversation about his future when it seems that he has no concept of what he wants, or believes that he can have or attain in his future?

Now that Brad has been home for about a month, he is less interested in finding a job, doesn't want to meet with the counselor at vocational rehab, doesn't want to drive, or look for an apartment.  He seems to be very frustrated and shuts down (eyes closed and unresponsive) when we bring up his moving to the next step, or figuring out what that next step is.  He is helpful with outside chores, feeding chickens, caring for the dog, mowing lawns, trimming, but isn't caring for his room or bathroom and doesn't follow-through when asked to take care of those things.  He sleeps a lot, watches movies, plays games, listens to reviews, occasionally picks up a book to read. He is amiable and pleasant most of the time and doesn't ever tantrum or meltdown.  He just recedes when he doesn't want to engage in a conversation about his life or goals.

Thank you for listening and for your help!


Dear Mr. Hutten,
Whilst trying to get answers to some of the riddles I face in trying to understand David (48 years old) I found your site on the internet.
As David hasn't had a formal diagnosis but displays many of the autistic traits mentioned I wanted to ask whether you feel that I might benefit from your expertise in this field. I have been employed to "look after" David on a probationary period of three months. Now half way through this period I am finding it an almost impossible task as he studiously avoids any conversation with me and resorts to writing notes if he has to. His mother passed away 18 months ago and he has only cousins who don't live close by. I would dearly like to be able to help him with his day to day life but have no idea where (or how ) to start. Am happy to pay for your assistance, but just wanted to be sure that dealing with an adult rather than a child would be within the parameters of your counseling.

Hi Mark,

I am desperate for help! I realize most of your advice revolves around teens, but my ODD daughter is 4, and I need help.

We are fostering-to-adopt my daughter and her infant baby sister. Kate came to live with us last March after an emergency removal from another foster home where there were several older foster children, of varying ages, who all came from various sexual abuse backgrounds. As you can imagine, it was discovered the kids were all perping on each other, and all of the kids were removed and separated in one night.

So, in comes Kate to my husband and I who have no other children. At first everything was perfect, but the more comfortable she got, the worse it became. Now, over a year later, we have gotten through the tantrums and battles of will, but we have one recurring issue: she repeatedly asks other children to pull their pants down so she can "see" their privates.

I demanded Kate be put into counseling when we discovered why the children were all removed, which she saw a very reputable sexual abuse forensic psychologist, who had her for weekly sessions over several months, before dismissing her feeling secure that Kate had never been "perped" on, but we would never know what she may have seen.

She has now been to a second counselor as well after these repeated behaviors who had the same opinion. My problem is- this keeps happening- pretty regularly. She has way more knowledge than a 4 year old should, and I don't know the appropriate way to react.

We have punished her, talked to her, explained to her, modeled appropriate behaviors, and set very clear expectations- nothing has worked. We model everything around safety and have explained that showing and/or looking at private parts is not safe for her or others and have drilled into her what to do if someone asks to look at/touch her private areas.

What can I do here? All of the research says that "correct and early intervention" can help young children of sexual abuse or early sexual knowledge go on to lead "normal" lives, but what do I do when two counselors have dismissed her saying that she's "fine" and doesn't need  counseling? What is the appropriate reaction my husband and I should have?

Please help!


Good Afternoon Mark,
My name is Mary and I have a son that is 19 years old. His name is Trey. He grew up in mostly a single parent home with grandparents assisting me in raising him and an absentee father. I am now married and Trey has a good relationship with his Stepfather. 
Trey has several issues going on. He was born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and is blind in one eye and slightly impaired in the other. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was 7 years old after having a neuro-psychological evaluation after we noticed him having difficulties in 2nd grade. As he entered puberty and adolescence he has developed some depression but also some very intense anxiety. He graduated in May of 2016 and wanted to develop an online video game. We knew that he was not ready and very immature to be entering adulthood and therefore told him he had a year to work on this game, and work on his own issues of anxiety and depression etc. He has been seeing a psychiatrist and getting some light medication to help him sleep however his anxiety runs rampant and he is terrified of taking anxiety medication or antidepressants.Needless to say an online video game was not launched and he is still having terrible and crippling anxiety when it comes to the outside world and getting a job etc. 
Trey has said he wants a job and has actually been working with a job coach through vocational rehab here in AL, but we are nearing the interview process and he is freaking out and I am not sure he is going to go or even be able to be around people with his social and overall anxiety. I was just reading about your book launching adult children with Aspergers and am very interested. I realize the techniques involve parents creating accountability and holding the kids accountable etc. My concern is using this on my son who has such tremendous anxiety, and some depression. At the beginning of this year when he was staying home and my parents were checking in on him, I was out of town, he admitted to trying to hang himself. He has mentioned suicide many times as well and I am afraid if I make his life to difficult that he may do it. 
The other issue is that he will not cooperate in taking the meds he probably needs. So I feel very caught in between a rock and a hard place in  launching this kid! 
I am considering more life insurance etc., to provide for him as I do not know what he is truly capable mentally, emotionally and physically. I feel like people in my area do not truly understand his issues or how to help me with him. 
Also, I should mention that my Dad and Trey's Papa just passed away in January unexpectedly and this was the only father Trey has ever known. So it is another layer of difficulty for him right now. 
Can you please give me your best advice as to how to help my son. He seems impossible, he is creating a situation where he refuses the help he needs and I feel like I am running out of options. 
I should note that intellectually Trey is highly intelligent. He has a very high IQ and I believe is pretty brilliant. He is the typical Asperger's kid that is unmotivated, messy, mouthy and difficult though. Also I should mention as I am sure you already know he can be manipulative and as he has gotten older it is harder to distinguish what is manipulation and what his real issues are.


He's very bright and does well in the public school academically, when he goes to  class, or stays in class,  but suffers from the usual social problems of an Aspergers child. His psychiatrist also does not think his intellect is being sufficiently challenged or developed by the public school curriculum., and because of this he gets frustrated and acts out negatively.  Threatening to harm himself and others.  He also has been diagnosed with ADHD and OHD. 

My son is a Chess King, Lego King, and can hold a conversation with an Adult, (always has been able to), but because of his "issues' he is failing at life. 

I am unable to keep a job, because of absence, leaving early, going in late, and I really want the best for my son.  WE currently live in GEorgia, but I am preparing to relocate to South Carolina, where hopefully, we can get additional assistance for him.

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