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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query problematic behavior. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query problematic behavior. Sort by date Show all posts

The Use of “Structure” to Reduce Problematic Behavior in Kids with AS and HFA

"Any methods for preventing problem behaviors in an out of control child with an autism spectrum disorder? Please help with advice!"

For many children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), problematic behaviors are common. The term “problematic behavior” is a controversial one, but it’s intended to suggest that certain behaviors present a “problem” for parents, siblings, peers, teachers, therapists, etc. This helps to prevent internalizing the cause of the behaviors and blaming the “special needs” child.

This is a very important concept in AS and HFA, because it’s unlikely that any behavior which causes difficulties for parents and others is intended vindictively or maliciously. There is usually some other, unidentified, cause that provokes problematic behavior. Young people on the autism spectrum derive no enjoyment by being a problem to others.

Most problematic behaviors occur in the presence of parents and siblings (probably because AS and HFA children feel more comfortable simply being themselves when around familiar people). If such behavior is a problem for therapists and other professionals (which it is), then it can certainly be a challenge for moms, dads and siblings. Thus, it’s crucial that problematic behaviors are dealt with in way that (a) helps the entire family to cope more effectively, and (b) allows the “special needs” child to develop social skills and emotion management.

Low-frustration tolerance is one of the most common problems in young people on the autism spectrum. They often appear to go into a state of anger, rage, anxiety, or fear for no reason. All children get frustrated and then act-out from time to time, but this problem is more of a challenge for moms and dads of autistic children. These children may seem inconsolable during the episode of frustration, the episode often lasts a long time, and the resolution that typically accompanies the end of feeling frustrated rarely occurs.

Low-frustration tolerance is just one example of problematic behavior. Similar episodes of panic, anxiety, anger, and aggression may be seen all through childhood, the teenage years, and even into adulthood (e.g., yelling, crying, resisting contact with others, pushing others away, refusing to respond to interaction, using others as objects, refusing to comply with daily tasks, etc.). These behaviors are “problematic” in the sense that they cause disruption (e.g., to a classroom engaged in a lesson, a family outing or event, etc.).

Children and teens with AS and HFA often rely on rituals, routines and structure, which helps define the world in terms of consistent rules and explanations. Consistency helps these young people to function more comfortably in a world that would otherwise be perceived as confusing, chaotic and hostile. Most kids on the autism spectrum find their own strategies for imposing structure and maintaining consistency. Without this structure, they would be totally overwhelmed and unable to function …they would be unable to understand the behavior of others …and the information they receive through their senses would be nearly impossible to bring together into a purposeful whole.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

When structure and consistency are disrupted in the AS or HFA child’s life, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again – thus launching him or her into “problematic” behaviors as a response. This disruption of structure can be obvious (e.g., getting up at an unusual hour, having a collection of objects disturbed, not being able to engage in a favorite activity, being made to go a different way to school, etc.) …or it may be hidden (e.g., sensory sensitivities, subtle changes in the environment which the youngster is used to, etc.). Many of these “triggers” may be out of the control of the child. Thus, it’s important to remember that low-frustration tolerance and similar behaviors are not cases of “misbehavior” necessarily, rather they may simply be natural reactions to various unwanted stimuli.

"Structure-Dependent" Thinking in Kids with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 


How parents can begin to reduce problematic behaviors in their AS or HFA child:

1. At the time of the inappropriate behavior, be sure to limit your talking to “stating the rule and consequence.” Lengthy debates, explanations and arguments should be avoided at this time. Also, ignore complaints from your youngster. Further discussion about the rule and consequence can be done at a later time when things have calmed down.

2. Avoid anger and over-reaction to your child’s problematic behavior. Don’t let your emotions take control. Refrain from demanding or shouting. Stay calm! You’re “over-reacting” will through “gas on the fire.”

3. Establish family rules and put them in writing. Rules should be (a) specific, (b) easy to understand, (c) achievable, (d) age-appropriate, and (e) consistent. Rules should be discussed and decided upon ahead of time in mutual collaboration between the mom and dad without the youngster present. Then, after the rules have been agreed upon, they should be explained to the youngster in simple, concrete terms.

4. Help your youngster use problem-solving skills in order to make a plan for changing behavior in the future. For example, if the behavior involves difficulties getting along with peers, help your youngster learn appropriate communication and conflict resolutions skills.

5. Listen to your youngster’s point of view about a particular rule. When appropriate, consider making changes to the rule based on your youngster’s reasoning. This doesn’t mean you are “giving in” to your youngster’s demands, rather it means that (at times) you will negotiate with your youngster on a rule and reach a compromise.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

6. Make your expectations very clear. For example, let your child know that (a) she WILL be required to perform certain tasks (e.g., completing homework, cleaning her bedroom, getting ready for school on time, etc.), and (b) there WILL be consequences for not completing such tasks.

7. Set up routines for daily living that are consistent and predictable (e.g., morning, mealtime, and bedtime routines). Your youngster will learn many things from these routines (e.g., how to take care of herself, how to interact with others, discovering that life runs more smoothly if things are organized and predictable, etc.).

8. Simply ignore some behaviors (e.g., whining and complaining).

9. Structuring your youngster’s environment. Determine what activities he will engage in and how he will fill his time. Also, be available physically and mentally to provide appropriate monitoring and supervision.

10. Try to anticipate problem situations (e.g., don’t let your youngster get into a situation where he becomes overly tired, hungry, or bored).

11. Use distraction techniques. If your youngster is acting-out, distraction with something of interest can focus her on more positive behaviors.

12. Use rewards to increase appropriate behavior. When it comes to children on the autism spectrum, it’s usually better to reward desirable behaviors than to discipline undesirable ones. Also, it’s best to provide the reward immediately after the desired behavior has occurred.

AS and HFA Kids Want Structure 


Note: While providing structure and consistency are important skills for you to use with your AS or HFA child, it’s also important to be aware of the importance of allowing her some independence and autonomy. As often as is appropriate, allow your child to have opportunities to make her own choices and decisions, respect her choices and decisions, and allow natural “real-world” consequences to occur (when safety is not an issue, of course).

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

Managing Disruptive Behavior in Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

“We've been going in circles with our high functioning (autistic) 8 y.o. and his disruptive behavior – hitting, kicking, throwing things, just to name a few. We have tried all that we know to try. It's been difficult when he acts out, not respecting us or his siblings. It impacts the entire family! Do you have any ideas of how to handle disruptive behavior of this kind?”

One of the biggest obstacles a parent faces is managing disruptive behavior in the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Whether the child is refusing to eat what was prepared, or throwing tantrum on the way to school, the parent can find herself at a loss for an effective way to respond.

If you are at your wits end, the ABC method can provide a roadmap to a calmer, more reliable way to manage problematic behaviors. This method also offers a chance to help the AS or HFA child to gain the developmental skills he needs to regulate his own behavior.

The ABC Method of Behavior Management

To understand and respond successfully to misbehavior, parents have to think about what came before it – and what comes after it. Here are the 3 crucial features to any given behavior:
  • Antecedent: This is the preceding factor (or trigger) that makes a behavior more or less likely to occur. Learning and anticipating the antecedent is a very helpful tool in preventing problematic behavior.
  • Behavior: This, of course, is the specific action the parent is trying to discourage - or encourage - as the case may be.
  • Consequence: This refers to the result that logically and naturally follows a behavior. The consequence affects the likelihood of a behavior recurring, whether it’s positive or negative. Also, the more immediate the consequence, the more influential it is.

Identifying “target behaviors” is the first step in a good behavior-management plan. These behaviors need to be (a) specific (so both parent and child are clear on what is expected), (b) observable, and (c) measurable (so parent and child can agree whether or not the behavior happened). An example of poorly defined behavior is “acting-out,” or “being mean.” An example of well-defined behavior is “completing homework” (good) “pushing your sister” (bad).

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


Antecedents come in many forms. Some are wonderful tools that assist the parent in managing misbehavior before it begins as well as bolstering appropriate behavior, while others facilitate misbehavior. Let’s look at each of these in turn…

Antecedents that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Providing countdowns for transitions: As often as possible, the parent should prepare her AS or HFA child for an upcoming transition. For example, let the child know when there are 15 minutes remaining …then 10 minutes …then 5 before he must come to dinner or start his homework. Note: Making the transition at the stated time is just as important as issuing the countdown.

2. Making expectations clear: Parents will get better cooperation if they and their youngster are clear on what is expected. Its best to sit down with the child and present the information verbally – and then put it in writing and post it in a prominent location. Even the child “should know” what is expected, explaining expectations at the outset of a task will help avoid misunderstandings down the line.

3. Letting children have a choice: As the child grows up, it’s crucial she has a say in her own scheduling. Giving a structured choice can help her feel empowered and encourage her to become more self-regulating (e.g., “Do you want to pick up your dirty clothes before or after dinner?”).

4. Being aware of the situation: Parents need to consider and manage both emotional and environmental factors. For example, anxiety, hunger, fatigue, or distractions can all make it much more difficult for the youngster to effectively manage his behavior.

5. Adjusting the environment: Examples of adjusting the environment are (a) removing distractions such as video screens and toys when it’s time to do homework, (b) providing a snack, (c) establishing an organized space for the child to work, and (d) making sure to schedule some breaks.

Antecedents that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Initiating transitions without warnings: A transition is hard for a child with AS or HFA – especially in the middle of something he is enjoying. Providing a warning gives the youngster the opportunity to find a good stopping place for an activity and makes the transition less stressful.

2. Shouting instructions out from a distance: It’s helpful to give the child important instructions face-to-face. A parent’s request that is yelled from a distance is less likely to be understood and remembered.

3. Assuming expectations are comprehended: Parents should not assume that their child automatically knows what is expected of him. The expectation needs to be spelled out! Demands change from circumstance to circumstance, and when the youngster is unsure of what he is supposed to be doing, he’s more likely to engage in problematic behavior.

4. Giving too many instructions at once: If parents deliver a series of instructions or ask a lot of questions, it limits the likelihood that the child will hear, answer questions, remember the tasks, and do what she has been instructed to do.

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


Not all consequences are created equal. Some have the potential to do more harm than good, while others are an exceptional way to create structure and help AS and HFA children understand the difference between unacceptable and acceptable behaviors. As a mother or father, having a good understanding of how to consistently and intelligently employ consequences can make a huge difference in outcomes.

Consequences that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Being clear and concrete when using time-outs: Parents should establish which behaviors will result in a time-out. When the AS or HFA youngster exhibits that behavior, the corresponding time-out needs to be relatively brief and immediately follow the misbehavior. If a time-out was delivered for not complying with a task, once it ends, the youngster needs to be instructed to complete the original task. In this way, he or she won’t begin to see time-outs as an escape method. During the time-out, parents should not talk to their youngster until he or she is ending the time-out. It should end once the youngster has been calm and quiet for a brief amount of time so that he or she learns to associate the end of time-out with this desired behavior.

2. Staying consistent: If parents arbitrarily issue time-outs when they are feeling aggravated, it will undermine the behavior-management system and make it harder for the youngster to connect behaviors to consequences.

3. Using active ignoring: Ignoring is used for minor misbehaviors and involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when the youngster starts to misbehave. With this method, parents pick their battles carefully and save their energy for the larger issues that need to be addressed (e.g., verbal or physical aggression). As parents ignore, they wait for appropriate behavior to resume. Then they should give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. By withholding attention until positive behavior is exhibited, parents are teaching their youngster what behavior gets acknowledged and praised.

4. Using positive attention for positive behaviors: When parents give their youngster positive reinforcement for behaving appropriately, it helps maintain that ongoing good behavior. Positive attention improves self-esteem and enhances the quality of the parent-child relationship. Positive attention to “brave behavior” can also help alleviate anxiety, as well as help the child become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.

5. Using reward menus: A reward is a tangible way to give your youngster positive feedback for desired behaviors. It’s something that is earned, an acknowledgement that the child is doing something that’s difficult for him. A reward is most effective as a motivator when the youngster can choose from a variety of things (e.g., a special treat, extra time on the computer, etc.). This reduces the possibility of a reward losing its allure over time. Also, the reward needs to be linked to specific behaviors – and always delivered consistently.

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

Consequences that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Using positive consequences for negative behaviors: This reinforces the behavior you are trying to eliminate. For example, if your youngster procrastinates instead of putting on her shoes or pouring milk for her cereal, in frustration, you do it for her, you have just increased the likelihood that she will procrastinate again in the future.

2. Giving negative attention: Negative attention actually increases bad behavior over time (e.g., raising your voice, threatening to issue a consequence, etc.). Also, reacting to misbehavior with criticism or yelling negatively affects your youngster’s self-esteem. Kids value attention from their parents so much that any attention — negative or positive — is better than none.

3. Using disproportionate consequences: As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you understandably get perturbed from time to time. You may even have become so frustrated at a particular behavior that you said or did something that you felt guilty about later. This is normal and to be expected.  But, keep in mind that issuing a massive consequence – especially out of anger – that is not in proportion to the misbehavior is demoralizing for kids, and they may even give up trying to behave well.

4. Delaying consequences: Effective consequences are immediate. Every minute that passes after a behavior, your youngster is less likely to link his misbehavior to the consequence. As a result, you end up punishing for the sake of punishing, which makes it much less likely that the misbehavior will change.

Though kids with AS and HFA are found to have neurologically and developmental related symptoms over time, the primary problem is behavior. Moms and dads need an arsenal of coping methods to reduce the behavioral problems at home. By utilizing the suggestions listed above, such problems can be reduced to a more manageable - and livable - level.

==> More parenting strategies for dealing with behavioral problems in children and teens on the autism spectrum...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Value of a “Behavior Log”: Help for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Problematic emotional reactions and behaviors (e.g., aggression, meltdowns, self-injury, etc.) are common in kids and teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). In many cases, medical conditions may cause or exacerbate maladaptive behaviors. Recognition and treatment of these conditions may eliminate the need for medications (e.g., in the case of an acute onset of aggressive or self-injurious behavior, the source of pain can be identified and treated).

Some of the sources of physical discomfort that may cause or exacerbate maladaptive behaviors in AS and HFA children include the following:
  • allergic rhinitis (allergic inflammation of the nasal airways)
  • colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon)
  • constipation
  • dental abscess
  • esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • fractures
  • gastritis (inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach)
  • headaches
  • otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal)
  • otitis media (middle ear infection)
  • pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat)
  • sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
  • urinary tract infection

Additional sources of maladaptive behaviors may include the following:

1. A chronic illness or low-grade infection could make your child irritable.

2. A mismatch between behavioral expectations and cognitive ability of the youngster is often responsible for disruptive behavior. Adjustment of expectations is the most appropriate intervention. A functional analysis of behavior (completed by a behavior specialist in the settings in which the problems occur) will identify factors in the environment that exacerbate or maintain the maladaptive behavior. An intervention using behavioral techniques and environmental manipulations can then be formulated and tested.

3. Being hungry, tired, or thirsty can make your youngster cranky.

4. Changes in routine often impact behavior (e.g., parents going through divorce, a health crisis, a job change, a move, etc.).

5. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. If your youngster has trouble undoing buttons or zippers, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks at school can add tremendous stress. Also, when a child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes can be stressful.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and HFA

6. Environmental factors often precipitate challenging behaviors (e.g., fluorescent lighting, foul smells, a room that is too cool or too warm, crowded hallways, etc.).

7. Look for possible sources of pain (e.g., teeth, reflux, gut, broken bones, cuts and splinters, infections, abscesses, sprains, bruises, etc.). Any behaviors that seem to be localized might indicate pain.

8. Maybe your child has no friends at school, so recess is particularly tough for him.

9. Obstructive sleep apnea can contribute to behavioral problems and may be amenable to weight reduction, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or continuous positive airway pressure.

10.  Poor sleep or coming down with a cold could easily explain unusual behavior.

11.  Some behaviors (especially those that seem particularly odd or abrupt) may be due to seizures.

12.  Negative emotions (e.g., sorrow, anger, fear, anxiety, etc.) can have an impact on behavior.

13.  Flushed cheeks or diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food may indicate an allergy, which can in turn create behavioral issues. Try to identify any food allergies or sensitivities that might be bothering your youngster.

14.  When behavioral problems appear to be related to menstrual cycles in a teenage girl on the autism spectrum, use of an analgesic or oral or injectable contraceptive can be helpful.

15.  Your youngster may respond with disruptive behavior if he’s being overwhelmed by too much sensory information.

Many of the behaviors that kids with AS and HFA exhibit do not make obvious sense, because they don’t seem to serve any clear purpose (e.g., an unusual attachment to inanimate objects such as rubber bands and tooth pics). But parents and teachers should assume that “strange” behaviors like this do make some sense to the child. He or she is sending coded messages about things that are important to him or her. The trick is to break the code so that the messages can be “read.”

Behaviors That Should Not Be Punished Because They Are Part of the Disorder 

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Here’s an effective way to begin to “read” the coded messages:

Start recording problematic behaviors (e.g., emotional outbursts). Does the child act-out when fluorescent lights are turned on in the kitchen? Is the child more likely to have outbursts during recess at school? What time do these events most often happen?

Most problematic behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as one might suddenly feel thirsty as he or she walks past a lemonade stand, there are “triggering events” in the AS and HFA child’s day that trigger difficult behaviors. Thus, it is helpful to use a behavior log to try to identify these trigger events for some of the child’s most difficult behaviors. Rather than looking at the behavior as “bad,” parents and teachers should look for how the context or environment is out of synch with the youngster.

A behavior log is useful in both the home and educational environment where the parent and teacher can monitor the behavior of AS or HFA child. The log allows the observer to identify some specific behavior demonstrated by the child and proceed to consider the best ways to correct any inappropriate behavior. Also, the log allows a monitoring of behavior of the child over a certain time frame before taking action on or against her (i.e., punishment) so that the right experience can be developed between disciplinarian and child.

A behavior log may contain any or all of the following: 
  • Child’s name
  • Period of monitoring 
  • Date of observation 
  • Time of observation 
  • Behavior observed 
  • Description of the specific disruptive incident
  • What was happening prior to the disruption
  • Actions taken to resolve the problematic behavior
  • Comments (e.g., possible interventions that were not used that may have helped the child to calm down, steps to take in the future to help avoid the problematic behavior, steps taken that seemed to have some positive effect, steps taken that seemed to worsen the situation, etc.).

From the above recorded information, the parent and/or teacher needs to study the "behavior trend" carefully before making any conclusions or recommendations. If insufficient data is collected, more observation should be made instead jumping to a hasty solution. This type of study is usually long-term (3-4 months) with a careful eye for details.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Finding Hidden Meaning Behind Problematic Behaviors in Kids with Asperger's and HFA

"Question: How to know what triggers my son's (high functioning autistic) difficult behavior? Thanks in advance!"

Many parents of children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have discovered that some of their youngster’s behaviors make no obvious sense and do not serve any clear purpose. But when AS and HFA children engage in “odd” or confusing behavior, they are also sending the parent hidden clues about things that are important to them. Thus, it’s the parent’s job is to break the code so she can interpret the clues.

By becoming more like a “detective,” parents can begin to notice coded messages they didn’t see before, and as a result, find more effective ways to help their “special needs” youngster. Becoming a good detective also helps parents respond more carefully to peculiar behaviors so they don’t unintentionally reinforce or reward them.

Parents of AS and HFA children can begin to develop “investigator skills” by recording problematic behaviors, similar to how Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees. For example: 
  • Is the child attempting to avoid a demanding task?
  • What activities or interactions take place just prior to the problematic behavior? 
  • Does the same thing often happen first?
  • What time do these events most often happen?
  • Are there any settings where the behavior does not occur?
  • In what settings is the behavior observed? 
  • Is the behavior problem associated with certain social or environmental conditions? 
  • What usually happens immediately after the behavior? 
  • Who is present when the behavior occurs?

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

Most difficult behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as you might suddenly feel thirsty as you walk past a lemonade stand, there are “triggers” in your youngster’s life that elicit certain behaviors. Use a diary to try to identify these triggers for your youngster’s most challenging behaviors. Instead of getting upset with your child when he or she acts-out, look for how the context is out of synch with him or her. View the incident as an opportunity to learn more about your child.

Here is a good example of items to list in your diary:

Behavioral Investigation—

Date: ______
  1. Describe the behavior of concern: _______________
  2. How can I tell the behavior is about to start? _______________
  3. How intense is the behavior? _______________
  4. How long does it last? _______________
  5. How often does the behavior occur? _______________
  6. What behavior(s) might serve the same function for my child that is appropriate within the social/environmental context? _______________
  7. What conditions are most likely to precipitate (“set-off”) the behavior? _______________
  8. What does my child get or avoid? _______________
  9. What is happening when the behavior occurs? _______________
  10. What is the likely function (intent) of the behavior (i.e., why do I think my child behaves this way)? _______________
  11. What usually happens after the behavior? _______________
  12. When/where is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  13. With whom is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  14. What other information might contribute to creating an effective behavioral intervention plan (e.g., under what conditions does the behavior not occur)? _______________

Cognitive, Behavioral, and Moral Inflexibility in Kids on the Autism Spectrum 

Here are some crucial things to consider when doing your investigation:

1. As with any child, being hungry, thirsty, or tired can make your youngster grouchy. A chronic illness or low-grade infection can cause behavioral issues as well. Try to discover any – and all – possible sources of pain (e.g., abscesses, broken bones, bruises, cuts and splinters, gut, infections, acid reflux, sprains, teeth, etc.).

2. Consider sensory and emotional regulation. Your youngster’s sensory experiences are very different from the “typical” child. He is likely easily overwhelmed by information coming in through the senses (e.g., loud noises) and isn’t getting enough input from the senses responsible for self-awareness and regulation. We all know about the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. But there are two additional senses that are important to understand: the vestibular sense (controls balance) and proprioception (the sense of one’s body in space). In many AS and HFA children, some of the information from these senses is too little, too much, or distorted –  leading to feelings of anxiety, physical pain, or disengagement. As a result, the child may “act-out” behaviorally as a way to cope.

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

3. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. For example, as anyone who has ever been picked last for a team knows, gym class can be nerve-wracking. If your youngster has trouble undoing zippers or buttons, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks or locker room changes can add tremendous pressure. Also, if the child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes is anxiety-producing. These issues often influence “acting-out” behaviors that, unfortunately, may result in the child receiving some form of punishment.

4. Peer-rejection is a big contributor to difficult behaviors. For example, maybe your son realizes he has no friends, so recess time is particularly tough for him. Also, do some investigation to see if bullying or teasing is an issue.

5. Attention-span difficulties can influence behavior, resulting in unwarranted punishment from teachers. For example, your youngster may “tune-out” during class because the teacher or the subject matter isn’t engaging enough. Talk with your child’s teacher if this appears to be an issue.

6. Some problematic behaviors, especially those that seem abrupt or particularly odd, may be due to seizures. If you think this could be an issue, keep a very careful record of what you observe. Also, see if your youngster’s teacher has similar observations.

7. Changes in home-life can contribute to behavior problems (e.g., health crisis, job change, move, new sibling, mom and dad going through a divorce, etc.). Often times, well-meaning parents think their “special needs” child is handling everything fine, so there is no reason to be concerned. But if parents are stressed about something, chances are their youngster will be, too – especially if she is powerless to do anything about it.

8. Try to identify any food sensitivities or allergies that could be troubling your youngster. Look for the signs of a problem in this area (e.g., red/flushed cheeks or ears, diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food, etc.). Food sensitivity is often one of the biggest contributors to “mysterious” and sudden changes in behavior.

In summary, rather than viewing your child’s behavior as “misbehavior,” look attentively for the clues that he or she is sending by conducting your own investigation. With a little good detective work, parents can narrow down exactly what initiates certain unwanted behaviors. Then, once the problem has been identified, parents are in a much better position to employ effective prevention and intervention strategies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help for the Easily Agitated Child on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents

“My son with high functioning autism will get so upset and frustrated to the point of meltdown. He becomes very aggressive and there is no calming him down or discussing things with him once he has crossed this line. And to make matters worse, there is no rhyme or reason to his explosions. What upsets him to no end one day doesn’t seem to bother him on another day. This makes it very hard to predict what’s coming. Help!”

Due to the associated symptoms, kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) are more likely to become agitated than “typical” kids. There are numerous issues related to the disorder that may contribute to your son’s distress, for example:
  • Difficulty handling changes to the daily routine
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired communicating skills
  • Strong reliance on fixed routines
  • Over-sensitivity to stimuli through the five senses 
  • Stress in the environment
  • Tendency to be clumsy
  • Difficulty identifying, understanding, and describing his emotions
  • Tendency to misinterpret or misunderstand gestures and facial expressions
  • Trouble interacting with others  
  • Underlying behavioral, developmental, or health conditions (e.g., ADHD)

Also, your son may be more likely to become agitated if you react too strongly to his behavior or give in to his demands.

All kids get frustrated and act-out from time to time, and there is no reason why young people on the autism spectrum should refrain from this stage of development. But how do you know whether or not an agitated child's behavior is "normal"? When the behavior escalates to the point of violence, is it still just simple agitation, or are there deeper issues that need to be looked at?

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Agitation and resultant “problematic behavior” (i.e., the child’s way of coping with distress) are very common problems in HFA and AS. The child may appear to go into a state of rage or anxiety for no apparent reason (e.g., screaming, crying, resisting contact with others, pushing others away, etc.).

Parents often have great difficulty calming their HFA or AS child once he or she has reached the boiling point. The youngster may seem inconsolable, and the episode can last a long time – and can even involve of more aggressive behaviors (e.g., hitting, biting, pinching, etc.). Also, the “emotional release” that typically accompanies the end of “throwing a fit” for non-autistic kids rarely occurs in the HFA or AS child. Similar episodes of anxiety and anger may be seen all through childhood, adolescence – and even into adulthood.

Paying attention to the things that trigger your son’s frustration can help you act before his emotions escalate beyond the point where he can control them. Identifying the cause of the behavior is very important. There is ALWAYS some “yet-to-be-unidentified” trigger that brings on difficult behavior.

As with such behavior in all young people, there are a number of possible causes. There may be underlying reasons (e.g., feeling upset, anxious or angry), and immediate triggers (e.g., being told to do something). But with kids on the autism spectrum, problematic behavior is usually directed by frustration and agitation.

Disruption of Routine and Structure—

As with most children on the autism spectrum, your son most likely relies heavily on ritualistic behaviors and structure. Structure is a method that helps him to define the world in terms of set rules and explanations, which in turn helps him function. Most kids on the spectrum find their own methods of imposing structure and maintaining consistency. They need this structure because the world is confusing to them; the world is complex and almost impossible to understand. The information your son receives through his senses is no doubt overwhelming and hard to bring together into a strong whole. Also, if he has a learning disability, it makes it especially hard to apply cognitive skills to all these areas at once.

When some form of structure or routine is disrupted, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again (e.g., feeling homesick, losing a comforting toy when feeling alone, starting a new school year, etc.). This disruption of structure may be obvious to you (e.g., having a collection of objects disturbed, being made to go a different way to school, getting up at an unusual hour), or it may be hidden (e.g., subtle changes in the environment which the youngster is used to). Some of these triggers may be out of the control of your son, and some may be avoidable.

Problems with Communication—

Most children on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding others and communicating with them. Thus, frustration, anger and anxiety often build-up. Also, their problematic behaviors often directly serve as a form of communication (i.e., they may act-out because a particular need is not being met, but they don’t know how to use their words to get what they need). Natural tantrums (e.g., in response to changes in routine, or requests to do something the child does not want to do) may well become usual over-reactions in the eyes of parents.

When to Seek Help from a Professional—

HFA and AS children who continue to act-out their frustration in destructive ways after the age of 4 usually need outside help learning to deal with their negative emotions. Problematic behaviors that continue (or start) during the school years may be a sign of other issues (e.g., learning difficulties, social skills deficits, etc.).

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Talk with a health professional if difficult behavior frequently lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than 3 times a day, or is more aggressive. This may indicate that your son has an underlying medical, emotional, or social problem that needs attention. These are not considered normal child tantrums. Problematic behaviors can include biting, hair pulling, head-banging or inflicting self-injury, hitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, throwing or breaking things, etc.

It's especially important to seek outside assistance if:
  • Your son’s outbursts occur more than 3 times a day
  • They frequently last longer than 15 minutes
  • He hurts himself, other people, or objects when he is agitated
  • His behavior does not improve after 4 years of age
  • You have serious concerns about his destructive behavior
  • You have problems handling his behavior
  • You have concerns that you might accidently hurt your son when trying to hold him back or calm him down
  • You need help with learning to cope with your own feelings during his outbursts

This is where support is needed both in the form of direct interventions related to the behaviors, and in advising and helping you manage episodes in ways that can be applied at home. These difficulties can be improved slowly through education and other interventions.

In the meantime, you can help by making an effort to manage the environment so that your son is more comfortable (e.g., providing structure, avoiding distracting information when engaging in tasks, allowing personal space where necessary, etc.). When your son acts-out, this is his way of trying to communicate his needs. Therefore, the cause of the behavior (i.e., an unmet need) must first be identified before teaching and developing other means of communicating.

Think like this: “My child is behaving badly. So, he is trying to tell me something through his behavior, because he hasn’t learned to use his words yet. What might he need in this moment? How can we use this episode as a learning opportunity? And how can I help my child find the words to describe what’s going on as an alternative to acting-out his feelings?”

==> Crucial information on how to help your child deal with frustration...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASD and School Behavior Problems


Mark, I have a daughter age 6 who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (unspecified) at age two. She received intensive therapy, 40 hours plus, per week utilizing various techniques. She is now 6. She is extremely friendly to even strangers, her IQ is 133… she is great with the exception of some behavioral problems. She is in first grade and is getting in trouble and being punished regularly for things such a marking on things she should not mark on, refusing to write. I need help.


You need to have a functional behavior assessment performed (go to and type “functional behavior assessment” in the search box for more on this).

Consider the following scenarios: A child with an ASD has a behavior meltdown, in the school hall way. He begins to scream and hit other child. A grown-up is able to redirect the child and thus eliminate the behavior. Afterward, the team meets to discuss behavioral approaches for the future and to try to find out what led to this behavioral incident. As the team discusses potential reasons for the behavior, they discover that the child has been the victim of intense bullying and teasing. In response, the team questions what they can do in the future to eliminate behavioral difficulties. The issue of dealing with the bullies is never discussed.

Another child has a history of behavioral challenges that were minimal during elementary school, but have intensified in middle school. The team realizes that middle school presents special challenges because of changing classes and working with multiple staff.

Accommodations are discussed that may assist the child in making numerous transitions throughout the school day. Despite these efforts, behavior incidents continue to occur. The behaviors are most likely to occur in the cafeteria or in hallways, which are incredibly noisy. It is suggested that in the future, in-school suspension be considered when there is a behavioral challenge. This is the approach used with other child, and the school has a strong zero-tolerance policy. The child is warned repeatedly. Despite these warnings, behaviors continue and actually escalate, resulting in removal from the educational setting.

Responding to Problematic Behavior—

When a youngster with ASD engages in problematic behavior, a typical response includes trying to identify what is going on within the youngster that leads to this behavior crisis. Questions are asked, such as, “Why is he exhibiting this behavior?” “Why is she hitting others?” or “What will stop this behavior?” All too often, this last question keeps us focused on consequence procedures that are child specific. However, simply focusing on the child as the sole source of the behavior provides limited insight into potential solutions and problems. In these situations, there are multiple issues to consider.

First, the federal law guiding special education services, the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), requires special procedures and safeguards to be used when considering discipline for child with disabilities. These IDEIA provisions regarding discipline were designed to ensure that kids with disabilities maintain their ability to receive an appropriate education, even though the symptoms of their disability may include behaviors that require interventions. These provisions consider the amount of time a child may be removed from class or school due to behavior, and require the school team to analyze whether the behavior is related to the child’s disability. This process is called manifestation determination. If the behavior is determined to be due to the disability, the law requires that a functional behavior assessment be conducted that results in an individually designed behavior support plan. This plan should use positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports to address the behavior and teach alternative ways of responding.

When conducting a functional behavior assessment, professionals and family members examine setting events or triggers that may increase the probability of these behaviors. These setting events may not be readily apparent. For example, a child with ASD is ill, has had a difficult morning ride on the bus or has not slept. These conditions will increase the likelihood that a behavior incident will occur. For most of us, stresses in life, changes in morning routines or skipping our morning coffee may set us up to be moody and agitated. These are setting events. Setting events that we often do not consider are related to the culture of the school. Schools that struggle with bullying, high rates of suspension or expulsion, or even high staff turnover may be settings that promote problematic behaviors. If this is the case, then schools should take a systematic approach in creating a school culture that is responsive to child and staff.

Best Comment:

Well, I guess it’s time for me to tell our school administration about my son. I initially wanted to wait on this as I was trying to grasp what Aspergers was, make sure he really has this and really understand it. I feel I have the tools to do this now, two diagnoses from two professionals, a neurologist and a psychologist and after the two incidents that happened at school, I must say something.

First incident: I received a call from the school that my son was doubled over in pain in the office because he said his stomach hurt. I arrived at the school to pick him up in the office. The secretary said that he was in the bathroom (I told her to encourage him to go over the phone as he has had this problem/ his 8 yrs of life) Well, I waited and waited and waited...I told her he was taking too long. I then decided to knock on the bathroom door. He was not there. I walked over to his classroom and looked into the window and there he was! I went back into the office and told them that he was in his classroom. The office called him back so I could assess the situation. He now felt fine and wanted to stay at school. He loves school and could have easily pretended he was sick or just come home but that is not how he is. The office had no clue their student went m.i.a on him and if they had looked him in the eye and told him to make sure he came back and check on him after 3 min he would have been back. In his mind, he was ok and went back or just forgot and had his mind on one idea.

Second incident: My son was called into the office (he never gets called to the office!) because he spelled out loud an inappropriate word at school. The note said that he said the F word for which he does NOT know nor ever heard. I was in shock, tears, you know it! They said he heard this from a kid at camp over the summer. I asked him what he said. He said "mom, I spelled Sucker" When he went to the office, the administrator asked him to spell what he spelled out on the playground and the admin said he spelled it with a F. My son told me that spelling that with an F is NOT a word and does NOT make sense. I know in my heart that the admin heard it wrong. An F and an F sound alike when said out loud. What really bothered me was that the admin thought my son was lying or changing his stories in the office. When he said to the admin, I did not spell that, I spelled sucker. the admin said "you know what you spelled!" that is just wrong and then after being questioned my son started to get confused and cry and told the admin...uuhh I forget, which he does! It was not the admins fault. I blame myself. They need to know my so does not lie. He is a truth teller! I told my son that he has a detention for spelling sucker and that is not a good word. I’m hurt and angry because now he has been exposed to the F word because the admin. Thought that is what he said. It’s so unfair! I did not bring up Aspergers etc when I was in the office crying and trying to make sense of all this. I did not want to use that as an excuse. I called for the impromptu meeting in the office, they did not.

My son is also going through testing for an auditory processing disorder (on Wed) and other language issues. His speech is unclear at times, slurs words (may have been why the admin thought he used an F) and had a hard time expressing himself at times. The school does not know this. The only teachers that know of his diagnosis are his current teacher, teacher from last year and the music teacher. I will now be setting up an appointment with the administration.

My son told me that he did hear the word sucker from a kid at camp and that the boy did not get into trouble for it but he somehow knew it was bad. He said "Mom, it is a bad word to say and that is why I SPELLED it!" From the mind of a child with Aspergers. Thank you, God that he did not say the F word even though the guy in admin thought so. I know what he said...they can believe what they want.

I wrote a letter stating that for the record, my son did not spell what they thought he spelled, but I stand by the school 100% and YES, he should have a 20 min. detention for spelling the word SUCKER.I do not allow that word in our home and as a matter of fact the word Stupid is a bad word in our home. Stating the facts and supporting the school at the same time, shows the school I’m not a crazy parent without a brain.

My son attends a private school that we love! The admin who heard him wrong, is an amazing individual. I respect him but I think his "hearing aid" needed to be turned up that day! Ahhhh, I need to laugh.

Thanks for listening, my eyes are swollen! ( :

Medical Treatment for the Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism

“What medications are used to treat the symptoms of high functioning autism? Which ones have the best track record? And, what are the side effects of these medications?”

There are several medications used to treat the symptoms associated with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS). Medications may be considered for problematic behaviors in these children and teens, for example:
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • compulsions
  • depression
  • destructive behavior, or other disruptive behaviors
  • hyperactivity
  • inattention
  • irritability
  • mood lability
  • obsessions
  • perseveration
  • repetitive behaviors
  • self-injurious behavior
  • sleep disturbance
  • stereotypic movements

After medical causes and environmental factors have been ruled out, a trial of medication may be considered if the behavioral symptoms cause significant impairment in functioning and are responsive to behavioral interventions. In some cases, the diagnosis of a comorbid disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, etc.) can be made reasonably, and the child can be treated with medications.

Modifications of diagnostic criteria may be necessary to account for clinical presentations of psychiatric conditions in children with developmental disabilities, and certain tools (e.g., behavior checklists, structured interviews) may be helpful. In other cases, therapists opt to target specific problematic behaviors or symptom-clusters in the absence of a clear comorbid psychiatric diagnosis.

Approximately 45% of kids and teens (and up to 75% of grown-ups) with HFA and AS are treated with psychotropic medication. Older age, lower adaptive skills and social competence, and higher levels of problematic behavior are associated with the likelihood of medication use.

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


Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotic agents, stimulants, and α-adrenergic agonist antihypertensive agents are the most commonly prescribed classes of medications for kids on the autism spectrum. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of the SSRIs fluoxetine and fluvoxamine in the treatment of repetitive and other problematic behaviors in young people with HFA and AS. Studies of these and other SSRIs have shown improvements in target symptoms, for example:
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • aspects of social interaction and language
  • depressive symptoms
  • difficulty with transitions
  • irritability
  • meltdowns
  • repetitive behaviors
  • shutdowns
  • tantrums

Potential side-effects of SSRIs include – but are not limited to – the following: 
  • abdominal discomfort
  • agitation
  • apathy
  • behavioral activation
  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • hypomania or mania
  • nausea
  • sexual dysfunction
  • sleep difficulties
  • suicidal ideation


Risperidone has become the first medication for the symptomatic treatment of irritability, aggressive behavior, deliberate self-injury, and tantrums in kids and teens with HFA and AS. Controlled studies have confirmed the short-term effectiveness of risperidone for these disruptive behaviors.

Potential side-effects include – but are not limited to – the following:
  • excessive appetite
  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • dyslipidemia
  • extrapyramidal symptoms
  • hematologic abnormalities
  • hyperprolactinemia
  • insulin resistance
  • neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • QTc prolongation
  • sedation
  • seizures
  • tardive dyskinesia
  • urinary retention
  • weight gain


Recent studies of methylphenidate have demonstrated improvement in hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention in kids with HFA and AS. Methylphenidate is effective in some of these young people, but the response rate is lower than that in kids with ADHD, adverse effects are more frequent, and it is unclear whether the results can be generalized to other stimulants.

Potential side-effects of stimulant medications include – but are not limited to – the following:
  • abdominal discomfort
  • appetite reduction
  • delayed sleep onset
  • exacerbation of tics
  • increased anxiety
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • inhibition of growth
  • irritability
  • jitteriness
  • repetitive behaviors

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


Studies have documented modest benefits of clonidine in reducing hyperarousal symptoms (e.g., hyperactivity, irritability, outbursts, impulsivity, and repetitive behaviors) in young people on the autism spectrum.

Potential side-effects include – but are not limited to – the following:
  • constipation
  • decreased blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • irritability
  • sedation


Studies have suggested that atomoxetine may be effective for ADHD–like symptoms in kids and teens on the spectrum. Appetite suppression, dizziness, fatigue, liver injury, mood swings, nausea, and suicidal ideation are among the potential side-effects of atomoxetine.


Studies suggest that sleep disorders affect 50 to 70 million individuals in the U.S. Sleep disorders exist whenever a lower quality of sleep results in impaired functioning or extreme lethargy. Difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep are very common in young people on the spectrum, affecting about 15-25% of this population.

A large study revealed several of melatonin’s sleep-enhancing benefits. Reviewing 15 studies of sleep in healthy individuals, researchers noted that melatonin significantly reduced sleep latency (i.e., the amount of time needed to fall asleep), while boosting sleep efficiency (i.e., the percentage of time in bed spent asleep) and increasing total sleep duration. Studies demonstrate an important characteristic of melatonin: the hormone exerts its hypnotic (i.e., sleep-inducing) and sedative (i.e., anxiety-relieving) effects, regardless of dosage time.

Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin is a noteworthy hormone that works both as a sleep aid and a potent antioxidant/immune booster. Also, melatonin is a natural sleeping pill that shifts the body clock into the desired direction. When taken between 3:00 and 6:00 PM, melatonin tricks the body into thinking that dusk comes sooner. Thus, AS and HFA kids become sleepy earlier, helping them fall asleep at 10:00 or 11:00 PM, rather than tossing and turning all night.

Potential side-effects include – but are not limited to – the following:
  • abdominal discomfort
  • confusion
  • daytime sleepiness 
  • dizziness 
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • mild anxiety
  • short-lasting feelings of depression

In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with other medications, including:  
  • birth control pills
  • blood-thinning medications (i.e., anticoagulants) 
  • diabetes medications
  • medications that suppress the immune system (i.e., immunosuppressants)

It will be important for future research to address the need for more rigorous evaluation of safety and effectiveness of medication for kids and teens on the spectrum. When medications are used, baseline data regarding behaviors and somatic complaints should be collected, informed consent should be obtained, potential benefits and side-effects should be explained, and potential strategies for dealing with treatment failure or partial response should be reviewed. Also, it is important to have some quantifiable means of assessing the effectiveness of the medication and to obtain input from a variety of sources (e.g., moms and dads, educators, therapists, etc).

Consistent use of validated, treatment-sensitive rating scales and medication side-effect scales is necessary. A wide variety of outcome measures have been used in research studies and in clinical practice to measure problematic behavior treatment effects (e.g., Nisonger Child Behavior Rating Form, Clinical Global Impression Scale, and Aberrant Behavior Checklist).

Click here for references…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crucial Guidelines for Behavior Management: Effective Parenting of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"I need to techniques for dealing with the disruptive and challenging behavior or son on the spectrum has been exhibiting since he has been off school due to the coronavirus!!!"

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often exhibit different forms of challenging behavior. It is crucial that these behaviors are not seen as willful or malicious; instead, they should be viewed as connected to the child’s disorder and treated as such by means of thoughtful parenting techniques, rather than by inconsistent punishment or other disciplinary measures that imply the assumption of deliberate misbehavior.

Specific problem-solving techniques (usually following a verbal rule) may be taught for handling the requirements of frequently occurring, troublesome situations (e.g., involving novelty, intense social demands, frustration, etc.).

Here are some crucial concepts on how to approach behavioral management in the case of children with AS and HFA:

1. Use simple and clear messages. Communicate your expectations to your youngster in a straightforward manner. For children on the autism spectrum, this may require more than just telling them. You may need to use pictures, role playing, or gestures to be sure your youngster knows what she is working toward.

Explain as simply as possible what behaviors you want to see. Also, remember that consistency is key, so make sure that teachers, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, and other caretakers are all on board with your messages.

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

2. To understand your youngster's behavior, you have to understand the factors that affect it — especially his disorder. Thus, try to learn as much about the distinctive medical, behavioral, and psychological factors that affect your child’s development. Talk to other parents of AS and HFA children to help determine if your youngster's challenging behavior is typical or related to his individual challenges.

Sharing experiences will give you a way to measure your expectations and learn which behaviors are related to your youngster's diagnosis, and which are purely developmental. Also, talk to members of your youngster's care team. Read up on the disorder, and ask the doctor about anything you don't understand. In addition, consider joining an online support or advocacy group for parents of children with autism.

3. A list of frequent problematic behaviors (e.g., preservations, obsessions, interrupting, other disruptive behaviors) should be made and specific guidelines devised to deal with them whenever the behaviors arise. These guidelines should be discussed with the AS or HFA child in an explicit, rule-governed fashion, so that clear expectations are set and consistency across adults, settings and situations is maintained.

When listing the problematic behaviors, it is important that these are specified in a hierarchy of priorities, so that the parent and child concentrate on a small number of truly disruptive behaviors.

4. When faced with AS or HFA children who are aggressive and shouting, the parent should keep her face neutral and lower the volume and pitch of her voice. In most cases, these “special needs” children will quieten down to hear what the parent is saying if she remains remarkably calm in the eye of the storm.

5. Keep a behavior journal. Using a journal for recording problematic incidents can help parents to look back and see if there are any patterns or contributing factors. It can also be a good thing to look through with the AS or HFA child herself, talking about both the positives and negatives.

6. Help the child to make choices. There should not be an assumption that he makes informed decisions based on his own set of elaborate likes and dislikes. Rather, he should be helped to consider alternatives of action or choices, as well as their consequences (e.g., rewards and displeasure) and associated feelings. The need for such an artificial set of guidelines is a result of the child’s typical poor intuition and knowledge of self.

7. Encourage your child to establish and maintain friendships. Loneliness is one of the main causes for problematic behavior among AS and HFA children. Thus, try to encourage opportunities for socializing and making friends.

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

8. Encourage independence. It’s easy to do everything for your “special needs” child, including making decisions for her.  Often times, when parents give their child the chance to do more herself and to make her own decisions, behavior improves.

9. Children who have trouble learning respond very well to discipline and structure. But for this to work, moms and dads have to make discipline a priority and be consistent. Correcting children is about establishing standards (e.g., setting a morning routine, establishing dinnertime manners, etc.), and then teaching them how to meet those expectations. AS and HFA children crave this consistency. When they can predict what will happen next in their day, they feel confident and safe.

10. Be assertive, yet calm. Assertive, calm instructions and body language are important assets when dealing with problematic behavior.  Additional emotion from the parent into an already emotional situation only clouds judgments and causes greater confusion.

The most important thing for you to remember is that YOU know your youngster best. You are in the best position to help him overcome challenging behaviors simply by listening and responding on a level that works for him.

Overcoming challenging behavior in an AS or HFA youngster involves changes in parental responses, being prepared, modeling therapeutic principles taught during behavior modification therapy sessions, and being willing to advocate for the best solutions for your youngster.

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

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

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

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

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

Investigating and Resolving "Problem Behavior" in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

If you have a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) who exhibits problematic behavior, you have probably felt like an investigator, searching for clues and seeking hidden motivations. You may have come up with some quick and easy explanations for your youngster's behavioral issues (e.g., ones offered by parents at the park, your mother-in-law, and even by behavioral experts), but your youngster often has something completely different up his sleeve. Operating according to the easiest explanation will often make matters worse.

Even though there are explanations for your AS or HFA youngster's “bad” behavior that take some of the fault from him, the effects of the behavior are unfortunate and must be addressed. For example, your youngster may push one of his friends or break a toy because of autism-related challenges not under his control, but he still has to face the consequences associated with this behavior. A full understanding of the situation can help you come up with some consequences that are appropriate and not so punitive as to remove all possibility of improvement. And the best way to come to a full understanding is through good detective work.

One way to be a good detective is to observe behavior by using a functional behavioral assessment (i.e., observing your youngster and noting everything that happens before, during, and after problem behaviors). With a few weeks of observation, you can often uncover the things that provoke your youngster (e.g., the itchy sweater he is wearing, the long wait in the gym after the bus drop-off, the breeze coming through a classroom window, etc.).


Here’s is an example of a functional behavioral assessment:

Student’s name
: Ricky

Issue: Ricky had difficulty transitioning from resource room to physical education class

Location: The resource room

People involved: Resource teacher and classmates

Antecedent (i.e., what occurred before the incident): Resource teacher states, “It’s time for everyone to put their drawing materials away and get ready to go to the gym.”

  • Behavior #1 (i.e., what occurred during the incident): Ricky continued to draw in his art notebook. He glanced at classmates who had moved to the doorway.
  • Consequence #1 (i.e., what resulted at this stage of events): Resource teacher talked with the students for about one minute. She looked at Ricky and told him to put his pencil down and to get in line.
  • Behavior #2: Ricky turned his back to the teacher and threw his pencil on the floor.
  • Consequence #2: Teacher approached Ricky and told him to pick up the pencil.
  • Behavior #3: Ricky got up and picked up the pencil and took it to the art supplies drawer. Then he ran to the front of the classroom and climbed under the teacher’s desk.
  • Consequence #3: Teacher bent down to be at eye level with Ricky under the table and told him he was wasting everyone’s gym time, and that he needed to come out from under the desk and get in line.
  • Behavior #4: Ricky reached out his hand.
  • Consequence #4: Teacher took Ricky’s hand and led him to the end of the line.
  • Behavior #5: Ricky waved goodbye and smiled to his teacher and walked with the others to the gym.
  • Consequence #5: Teacher smiled, waved back and stated, “I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

Hypothesis (i.e., best guess as to why the behavior occurs based on the assumption that other antecedents, behaviors and consequences showed a similar pattern): Ricky was seeking attention from his resource teacher

Goal (i.e., corrective action plan): Teach Ricky a more appropriate way to seek his teacher’s attention

Objectives (i.e., potential strategies used to accomplish the goal):
  • allow Ricky to ask a classmate to walk next to him on the way to gym
  • allow Ricky to be “line-leader”
  • allow Ricky to be the "timer" who pushes the two-minute warning buzzer
  • post Ricky’s name on the "hard workers of the week" bulletin board
  • praise Ricky for a specific work-related behavior or academic response just before asking students to line up for gym time

Although the example above involved problematic behavior at school, the same method can be applied by parents for behavior at home. The more you learn about your youngster’s disorder and his unique quirkiness, the better you will be able to discover the true motive behind the behavior and apply appropriate discipline (or leniency if warranted).

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

More Structure Equals Less Behavioral Problems 

Here is a personal example of applying functional behavioral analysis (see if you can identify the antecedent, behavior, and consequence):

One of my child clients with High-Functioning Autism was experiencing meltdowns pretty much daily whenever he was in special education class, which he attended for one hour each morning for writing practice since his penmanship was poor. As most people know who work with children on the autism spectrum, they tend to have poor writing abilities due to fine motor skills deficits.

I was asked by Michael's parents to go to the school and sit in the classroom to investigate.  Here is what I observed:

Michael entered the classroom and took his seat, which was in the rear of the room nearest the door that led to the hallway. As he began to practice writing, he would get frustrated and erase what he had written repeatedly to the point where he wore several holes in the paper. At that point, he picked up his paper, tore it into tiny pieces and threw it on the floor. This resulted in the teacher escorting Michael to another room where he was isolated from the other students for a period of time.

To make a long story short, on the day of my investigation, I took my seat in the very back of the classroom behind Michael. I immediately noticed that since we were sitting near the exit, most of the hallway noise was very audible. I also knew that based on personal experience, many children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's have hearing sensitivities. As I sat there, I had the thought that it would be difficult for even me to concentrate with the hustle and bustle right on the other side of the door. So purely on a hunch, we moved Michael to the front of the room furthest away from the door. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Michael was able to stay focused on his writing at that point and was not making as many mistakes, thus reducing his frustration-level.

So the hypothesis was this: Michael was unconsciously distracted by the noises in the hallway, which contributed to his frequent writing mistakes and frequent erasing. This in turn resulted in the writing paper being torn, which was the tipping-point for Michael to slip into a total state of frustration.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism
Obviously, the corrective action was to move Michael to an area of the classroom that was less noisy and distracting. It also appeared to help that he was near the teacher and could receive frequent one-on-one assistance.

As a mother or father, you will need to develop a trained eye for your AS or HFA child, as well as an intuitive understanding of what makes him tic. Your youngster needs you to read all the hidden cues. He also needs to follow his own instincts, which may be telling him that something's too difficult, too uncomfortable, etc. Your youngster has no choice but to follow his instincts. Knowing this can help you be more empathetic and skilled in addressing difficult behavior.

Not all hidden cues are worth following. When you're investigating your youngster's confusing behavior, red herrings may show up (e.g., his eagerness to end a stressful situation by accepting blame even when it’s not his fault, your preconceived notions of “whodunit,” another youngster's self-protecting accusations, another adult's spin on the situation, etc.). If it feels to you like something is awry, chances are it is. Keep an open mind even in the face of seemingly “solid evidence,” and allow for the possibility that things may not be what they seem. Your intuition is still worth following – all “evidence” to the contrary.

Of course, there will be times when you have developed a wonderful hypothesis based on a good-faith investigation, but for some reason it just doesn’t pan-out (e.g., there is a missing piece of the puzzle that would make the picture so much clearer and turn your guesswork into certainty – if you could just find it; the strategies that have always worked in the past don't get the job done this time; the explanation you've developed through your intuition is not what is really going on, etc.). Always keep an eye out for that “missing link,” even if you seem to have resolved the situation to an acceptable degree. That little bit of extra information can resolve things more completely, and can help you prevent a particular problem behavior from occurring again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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