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Amazing Parenting Tricks for Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum

Amazing or not, raising a child with Aspergers or high functioning autism (HFA) will take a few "tricks of the trade" that you wouldn't need to have "up your sleeve" were you raising a "typical" child. If you are at your wits end - and need a few fresh ideas in dealing with behavioral issues, then take notes:

1. When it comes to getting your youngster to do chores, consider the "hiring a substitute" method. Your child may choose to hire someone to do his chore (e.g., by paying a wage of $1.00 he has saved from an allowance), or mutually agree to trade chores with a sibling.

2. Have your child rehearse new behaviors. In addition to telling your child the correct way to do something, have him/her rehearse it (e.g., dealing with bullies, not slamming the door when entering a room, walking through the house rather than running).

3. Ignore behavior that will not harm your son or daughter (e.g., bad habits, bad language, arguing with a sibling). It's hard to do nothing, but this lack of attention takes away the very audience your youngster is seeking.

4. Most children on the autism spectrum have trouble with transitions. Discuss in advance what is expected. Give plenty of warnings. Have the youngster repeat out loud the terms he just agreed to. Some kids need to negotiate for that "can I have one more minute?" A little extra patience on the parent’s part may help avoid a useless meltdown.

5. Parents can be decisive. Some parents have always been indecisive about what course of action to try with their child. They jump from one parenting technique to the other without giving any one technique enough time to be effective, or they try a new parenting technique once and then give up in frustration because it didn’t work. Some parents will say, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works with this kid.” What I usually see is parents floating from one parenting tool to another without sticking with one particular tool for a significant period of time.

6. Parents can practice humility. When you are wrong, quickly admit this to your child. This will model (a) making amends and (b) that it’s safe to make mistakes. “Admitting your mistakes” teaches your child to respect others.

7. Parents can use ‘reverse’ psychology. For example, “That’s not like you …you’re able to do much better.” This line works because your kid will live up – or down – to your expectations.

8. Parents can use humor to deal with family-stress. For example: Instead of reacting to your kid's temper tantrum, start singing, “The hills are alive with sound of music…”

9. Post a list of jobs that need to be done, such as washing the car, weeding the garden, etc. Let your child choose a "work detail" as a way to "make up" for rule violations.

10. Remember that Aspergers and HFA kids want structure. Most of them are actually starved for structure – it helps them feel safe.

11. Sometimes (depending on the child’s temperament), one of the worst things a parent of an autistic child can say is, "If you do that one more time, you'll be disciplined." You may find that your youngster will be irresistibly drawn to do just that, at once -- whether because you've set an impulse in motion, because he can't deal with the stress of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or because he gets stuck on what you've said. Instead of specifying “one more time,” try saying, "I have a number of times in my head, and you're not going to know what that number is. But when you hit that number, you will get a punishment." This gives your youngster a few extra chances if he seems to be trying without going back on a threat, and  it gives him a little comfort zone to know that he can slip-up once or twice. Some children will dislike the uncertainty of this approach, and for them, this might not be the best strategy. But if certainty is more pressure than your youngster can handle, this trick may be helpful in most cases.

12. Tell your youngster your predictions regarding the negative outcomes of his poor choices (use labels when needed). For example: “If you continue to steal, people will call you a ‘thief’, and when things come up missing, they will blame you.” -- or -- "If you continue to lie, people will call you a ‘liar’, and even if you tell them the truth, they won't believe you." When your predictions come true, your child will begin to trust your judgment.

13. The life of a youngster on the spectrum can often be overwhelming. The treatment for his over-reaction is to defuse the situation, not inflame it. When tempers flare, allow everyone to cool off. Remember, the parent may have to cool off as well. Serious discussion can only occur during times of composure. Remember: “bad” behavior usually occurs because the child is spinning out of control, not because he is evil.

14. Think of your youngster as a train with an “anxiety speedometer.” When that speedometer reaches 70 mph, it’s going to take a long time to stop that train. The goal is to keep your child from coming anywhere close to 70 mph. Now, imagine you enter the room when the youngster is at an anxiety level of 50 mph. For your child, the stress of the current situation is getting to him. What can you do to slow that train down before it gathers momentum? Laugh, divert, distract, negotiate, or anything else you can think of – and the speedometer comes down to 30 mph (assuming you have cleverly disguised your intervention).

15. Tie what you 'want' to what he 'needs' (e.g., "When you come home from school on time, then you can have a friend over").

16. When behavior starts turning ugly, redirect to a positive direction rather than criticizing the “misbehavior” (e.g., if your youngster is fighting with a sibling, then suggest a new activity like having a snack, rather than handing out a consequence).

17. Do not shield your youngster from the results of her choices unless it puts her in danger. For example:
  • Child doesn’t go to bed on time >>> she gets up and goes to school anyway even though she’s tired and sleepy
  • Child doesn’t study for her math test >>> she fails
  • Child doesn’t maintain her bicycle >>> it falls apart and she walks thereafter

18. Consequences can be by parental design. For example:
  • Child leaves her toiletries in disarray throughout the bathroom each school morning >>> after forewarning is ignored, parent confiscates all items for a period of time (technique works with clothes and toys as well)

19. Parents can rearrange space. Try creative solutions. For example:
  •  If school notes and homework are misplaced, assign a special table or counter for materials
  • If chores are forgotten, post a chart with who does what when

20. Parents can use adjustment. Here are several ways to adjust:
  • Realize the same discipline may not work in all situations because of the unique features of the disorder.
  • Try to blend a combination of several parenting tools to create a more effective discipline.
  • Don’t believe it when your child seems unaffected by discipline. Kids on the spectrum often pretend discipline doesn’t bother them. Continue to be persistent with your planned discipline, and consider yourself successful by keeping your parenting plan in place. When a child pretends a discipline doesn’t bother him, parents often give up on a discipline, which reinforces the child’s disobedience. Remember, you can only control your actions, not your child’s reactions.

Lying or Wishful Thinking: Which One Is Your Youngster Doing?

So, you have just caught your child lying to you! Now comes a consequence, right? But wait a minute! Was he really lying, or was it a trait of his or her disorder?

Children with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA) may puzzle their moms and dads by (a) the quantity and poor quality of their lying and (b) the fact that traditional disciplinary strategies don't seem to change the behavior. For these special needs kids, it may be helpful to think less in terms of “lying” and more in terms of "wishful thinking" (i.e., they often say what they would like to be true, rather than what is clearly and objectively true). This may happen for several reasons:

1. Some Aspergers and HFA children can't predict cause and effect. Your youngster throws a ball and breaks a window. His culpability in the act seems clear-cut to you. But a youngster who has trouble with cause-and-effect thinking may not be able to make the connection between throwing a ball and breaking a window. In his mind, if he didn't intend to do it, he didn't do it.

2. Some children on the autism spectrum don't distinguish between fantasy and reality. What is objective to you may be subjective to your youngster. If one truth is as good as another, your youngster may select the one that seems, in his mind, to best suit the occasion.

3. Some of these children don't know what's true. Kids who behave impulsively may not have a clear awareness of what they have done. Kids who have trouble with language processing may not have understood what was asked or expected. Kids with sensory differences may know only what they feel.

4. Some know that the truth may make you (the parent) angry, and they want to please you. If a youngster has done something wrong -- whether due to impulsivity, compulsive behavior, self-protective behavior, language processing problems, motor planning problems, or other causes related to disability -- he may try to make it right by telling you what he thinks will make you happy.

5. Some children are just trying to get in the conversation. Children with limited life experience or limited vocabulary may want to have something to say - but no true contribution to make. Coming up with a story, however fanciful or false, may seem like the only way to participate.

6. Many of these kids are stressed. If you know that your youngster can't think calmly and clearly when stress levels are high, don't be surprised if you see lots of crazy, stubborn lying in that situation.

7. Most Aspergers and HFA children are telling “their” truth. They often experience the world very, very differently than their mother or father, but that does not make their experience false. If your youngster stubbornly, desperately clings to a declaration that you feel is untrue -- water's too hot, work is too hard, an object can't be found -- ask yourself if it might be only untrue to you.

If your youngster has legitimate special needs that may lead him to tell “wishful thinking” instead of the truth, think carefully before giving consequences for lying. It's important for children to know that they should tell the truth, sure, but if the lying is not deliberate, stiff consequences will teach nothing. When your child engages in “lying behavior,” ask yourself if he is doing so with malice and intent. If not, try these techniques for putting more truth in “wishing”:
  1. Accept remorse as genuine.
  2. Be clear and even-tempered in your expectations.
  3. If the wishful thinking in question requires a response, give a brief, judgment-free time-out.
  4. Leave your youngster unsupervised as little as possible, so you always know the score.
  5. Make sure you have your youngster's attention when you ask a question.
  6. Make sure you tell more truth than fiction yourself.
  7. Respect your youngster's reality, and be open to compromise.
  8. Stay as unemotional as possible when getting to the truth of a situation.
  9. Take "I don't know" as an honest answer.
  10. Tell your youngster what you think happened instead of demanding an explanation.

How can I tell if my child is lying – or simply using wishful thinking?

If you pay careful attention to your youngster's behavior, it will help you tell if he or she is lying. Here’s how:

1. Look at the youngster's facial expression. Kids who are telling the truth have relaxed faces that usually show an emotion that matches what the youngster is saying. If a youngster is lying, however, his face may show anxiety caused by knowing that he is telling a lie.

2. Listen carefully to what the youngster is saying. Stories that are false may contain inconsistencies or elements that don't make sense. The story or parts of it may not sound believable. If you suspect a youngster is lying, ask the youngster to repeat what he just told you. Truthful stories told twice in a row will generally be the same, but stories that contain lies may change dramatically or contain accounts that cannot both be true.

3. Decide whether the youngster's story sounds rehearsed or spontaneous. Kids who are telling the truth will usually tell it "off the cuff"(i.e., the story will sound like a fresh recounting of an actual event). A lie, on the other hand, may sound stilted or rehearsed. Some kids may even repeat the exact same phrases when telling a rehearsed story the second time.

4. Watch your youngster's body language. A youngster who is lying is more likely to appear nervous, defensive or scared. Look for hunched shoulders, a stiff body or face, repeatedly touching the nose or mouth and avoiding eye contact. While some kids are anxious when speaking to grown-ups no matter what they say, kids who can speak comfortably to adults normally, but who are nervous when telling a particular story, may be lying.

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 Defiant Teens on the Autism Spectrum - Audio Course

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teen 
Hello Parents,

If you (a) have an Aspergers or High-Functioning Autistic teenager and (b) are having issues with his/her behavior at the moment, I have an audio course that I would like for you to listen to. This course is actually a recording of the "Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens" workshop that I did recently in the Indianapolis area. You can download this audio course and either burn a CD, or load it onto your iPod. Have fun with it ...and expect great things to happen with your "out of control" teen when you implement the crafty techniques I'll show you :)

Check it out…


Mark Hutten, M.A.

How to Stop Confusing Your Child: 10 Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Every child has a "blind spot" in learning and understanding things. Many kids don't "get" algebra, for example. This is a challenge that the child can usually overcome at some point (e.g., with the help of a tutor). However, in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), the "blind spot" happens to be reading social cues – and it is permanent (called mind-blindness). This blind spot is right there in their face, every day (e.g., dealing with parents, teachers, peers, etc.).

There are certain effects that make language vivid and engaging, fun to use, and interesting to listen to (e.g., figures of speech, sarcasm, body language, tone of voice, etc.). But these effects can stand like sturdy roadblocks between the messages we try to give our kids and their ability to receive them.

Aspergers and HFA kids with language processing problems, developmental delays, and other special needs can have genuine difficulty understanding the nuances and subtexts of language. If your youngster reacts to something you've said in a way that surprises you (e.g., ignoring, overreacting, defying, misunderstanding, panicking, giving you that "deer in the headlights" look, etc.), then consider the following:

1. If your message is anything other than simple and straightforward, pare it down and try again. You may be surprised at how much more cooperative your youngster is when he actually knows what you want.

2. Just as you wouldn't talk to a 3-year-old the same way you'd talk to a 13-year-old and expect the same degree of comprehension, you can't talk to an Aspergers or HFA youngster with delayed language, social or emotional skills in a way that would be appropriate for his chronological age.

3. It's natural to try to add more and more explanation when you feel that your son or daughter doesn't understand what you're saying, but if language is the problem in the first place, adding more language probably isn't going to help.

4. Instead of trying to “tip” your Aspie to your meaning with tone of voice, body language and wordplay, use simple repetitive phrases that are easy to understand. If you want your youngster to do something, start by saying "I need you to ..." If you're talking about feelings, say "I feel ..."

5. Without an awareness of the way tone of voice and body language can change the meaning of words, your youngster may misinterpret your intention or your level of urgency.

6. You may be inflating your statements for humor or out of anger, but your youngster may think you really mean it. He may:
  • accuse you of overreacting
  • panic or overreact
  • not know what to make of what you've said
  • think you're being cruel

7. What seems friendly and harmless to you may seem threatening and confusing to a youngster on the autism spectrum who does not understand that you don't really mean it – or even why you would say a thing you don't mean.

8. If you use an expression your youngster is not familiar with, or if he doesn't understand that words can be used in ways that have nothing to do with their literal meaning, then your statement may seem silly, annoying or incomprehensible.

9. If your youngster is unable to pick up cues from your tone of voice, he may take what you say at face value (i.e., the exact opposite of your meaning).

10. Children on the spectrum can learn to not take things literally, but they don't seem able to let go of one meaning (they need to store both). Thus, expose your youngster to as many “silly phrases” as possible (e.g., “that opened up a can of worms” … “that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back” … “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” …etc.). Explain what each of these phrases mean. Learning them early can save confusion and embarrassment later.

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

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for 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.

Click here
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