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The Strengths of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism possess a combination of strengths and difficulties. 

This video focuses on the strengths:

Most Aspergers children:
  • can stick to routines…
  • are able to forgive others…
  • are accepting of others…
  • are gentle…
  • are honest…
  • are not bullies, con artists, or social manipulators…
  • are not inclined to steal…
  • are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves…
  • are smart, they study hard, and they respect authority…
  • are talented…
  • can make amazingly loyal friends...
  • don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, or age...
  • don’t launch unprovoked attacks, verbal or otherwise…
  • don't play head games, and don’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses…
  • enjoy their own company, and can spend time alone…
  • have a child-like innocence, an exceptional memory, and have no interest in harming others…
  • notice fine details that others miss…
  • prefer talking about significant things that will enhance their knowledge-base, rather than engaging in chit chat…
  • will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong…

Teaching Self-Care Skills to Aspergers and HFA Kids

"How can I teach my 5-year-old daughter with High-Functioning Autism some basic self-care skills like brushing her teeth, taking a bath, getting dressed for school, etc.? Currently she insists that I help her with everything. Help!"

There are two main ways to teach self-care skills:

1. Backward chaining: This starts at the last step and works through the activity to the first step. For example, once your daughter has brushed her teeth with your help, move backwards through each step slowly (“You just brushed and rinsed your teeth. Before that, we turned on the water. Before that, we put toothpaste on your toothbrush. Before that, we got your toothbrush and toothpaste from the drawer.”).

2. Forward chaining: This teaches a skill in small steps from the first step of the activity through to the last step. For example, “To get dressed in the morning, first you put on your underwear and socks, then put on your pants, then your shirt, then…” (and so on).

Whichever you decide to use for your daughter, make sure the activity is broken down into the smallest steps possible.

You may also want to use prompts to help your daughter learn self-care skills. For example, if you are trying to teach her to wash her hands, you could use theses prompts in the following order:
  • Gestural: mime washing your hands next to your daughter while she washes her own hands
  • Physical: hold her hands and wash your hands together
  • Verbal: say "wash your hands" or show her a ‘wash hands’ symbol, which you can leave above the sink as a prompt for next time

It is important to remove the prompts as quickly as possible, which can be more easily done by providing rewards when your daughter does a step correctly (e.g., when she washes her hands when prompted, she gets a small reward immediately afterwards). Give your daughter the reward directly after the desired behavior so that she makes the connection between the two – and make sure the reward is meaningful to her.

You may find that you need to leave physical reminders (e.g., symbols, written lists) of each activity in the appropriate room. For example, describe all the different steps for brushing teeth in the bathroom – and the same thing for getting dressed in the bedroom. You can download free symbols from


•    Anonymous said… Don't just brush it off. Mine is a tween and is still learning to brush her hair. For things that cause extra sensory issues for her .. Brushing hair & teeth, washing her hair, bathing and changing daily (or when socks are wet). Don't just relax and let it slide all of the time .. Believe me. Puberty is starting for us.. and if they don't have these skills by time that starts... It's gross. I am a bit of a germaphobe and some days I wish I had done more when she was younger because I feel like there are some things she should be able to do. If she doesn't pick up after herself in the bathroom before she hits puberty, she won't instantly start when she does.
•    Anonymous said… Great questions, because kids do need to learn to be as capable as possible and not overly dependent on parents or others, even though our first instinct is sometime to protect and "help". Dr. Temple Grandin and I just wrote "The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults". It introduces readers to 8 real individuals (and their families) on the spectrum and uses actual examples from their lives of how to put successful strategies in place to maximize a sense of hope and mastery in our kids. We also discuss how to avoid common obstacles such as lack of motivation, anxiety, lack of confidence, and (particularly in boys) vulnerability to becoming stuck in endless online games. Teaching skills to kids on the spectrum often requires customized approaches that work well with their unique ways of processing information and "lovingly push" and stretch them without overwhelming them. Our hope is it helps families with just the kinds of questions you are raising. Best wishes to you and your family.
•    Anonymous said… I have a 15 year old just sits in shower and will not brush teeth. Also has to wear what we call sponge Bob's at night. My 8 year old is following his footsteps. Need to find some way to entice them to care about hygiene.
•    Anonymous said… I have the exact same issue. We use a basic chart with everything he needs to do. Obviously i still need to help however it's not a fight to get him to do it. Our psychologist actually made one for him at the age of 4. We have high functioning ASD too. The best way to look at it is some need it like we need a calander and eventually they get it. You can get apps aswell which are great but we have issues with over stimulation on the ipad. Our hand made visual charts work best. Hope you work something out.
•    Anonymous said… It will come slowly but surely, o.t helped my little boy learn to dress and undress with clothes the correct way around etc, he.was.7 then, it was better a third party for this one with different ideas and not the pressure of rushing in the mornings. Cleaning teeth... he is now 9 and still gags if he tries to do this himself but little steps we will get there. Botty wipes help with toilet time. But he is off the scale reading, has finished the whole school reading scheme, learnt to read music with ease in 12 weeks. Good luck and don't worry too much it will come at some point! X
•    Anonymous said… She's 5!!!!! Autism or not kids need help sometimes and they say you should help kids brush their teeth till around 7/8
•    Anonymous said… Time and patience. It took my daughter until she was 11 to be able to do it all herself and now I don't have any interactions with her on it unless she asks for assistance which is rare we worked on it tho constantly from the usual ages 3,5,7,8 etc... We never stopped but eventually she took over and hasn't stopped amazing me since

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Helping Aspergers Students Cope with Recess

"My son’s teacher told me that he gets nervous and often goes into a meltdown at recess time. During recess, the students usually either go to the gym or outside for 'free-time' recreation. How can I help him deal with this transition and the unstructured nature of 'free-time', thus avoiding a meltdown?"

Recess is a time when students traditionally run-off their stress, but this transition can be very challenging for a student with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism. Students are given instructions, rules and a timetable to guide them through the rest of the day, but recess is rather unstructured, and it can be difficult for Aspergers students to know what to do during this time. Playgrounds are also often noisy and crowded places, with lots of children running around screaming and talking loudly. This can be daunting for a special needs youngster who is not aware of the "hidden" social rules of recess.

Here are some suggestions that may help your son overcome his difficulties with recess:

1. Some playgrounds have buddy benches for kids who are having difficulty making friends, or having a hard day. Decorations or signs should distinguish a buddy bench from other benches in the playground. Other kids are appointed as buddies and given a badge to wear to indicate who they are. Their job is to keep an eye out for anyone sitting on the buddy bench who feels sad or lonely and needs someone to cheer them up. A buddy can chat to them on the bench, or invite them to play a game. Having a number of kids share the buddy role will ensure that any youngster using the buddy bench socializes with different kids and does not become too reliant on one peer.

2. Some schools use break time to teach social skills to Aspergers kids, which can be done by using approaches such as circle of friends. The four main goals of this approach are to: (1) create a support network for the Aspergers youngster; (2) provide the youngster with encouragement and recognition for any achievements and progress; (3) work with the youngster to identify difficulties and devise practical ideas to help deal with these difficulties; and (4) help to put these ideas into practice. Your son might benefit from his school adopting such an approach.

3. Long periods of time in the playground may also challenge your son. Perhaps the school could agree that he only has to play on the playground for the first half of the period – and if he is successful during this time, he could be rewarded with quiet time in the library or time on the computer? This would need to be structured so your son knows what the activity is and where to go.

4. Setting up a number of different playground games that everyone moves around will bring some structure to recess, as well as reducing boredom from playing one game for the whole playground time. There are a number of websites suggesting playground games, many of which have video clips which you could watch with your son so she knows what to expect in different games. Your son could also have some tasks to do during recess (e.g., handing out basketballs, picking up trash on the playground, etc.), which would add further structure to his recess time. However, take care that this is not seen as a form of discipline and does not set him apart from his classmates too much.

5. Relaxation techniques could also help your son to recognize and reduce his anxiety before it becomes overwhelming. Techniques might include:
  • breathing deeply
  • counting to ten
  • jumping on a trampoline
  • kicking a ball
  • punching a punching bag
  • stretching
There are a number of books that help Aspergers kids learn how to identify stress and teach relaxation techniques.

6. Your son could indicate his nervousness to the teacher by using a help card or a visual stress scale (e.g., traffic light scale, thermometer, 1-5 scale, etc.). Stress scales can be used as a secret code between the student and his teacher, which might be useful if your son does not want to draw attention from his classmates. If your son indicates that he is at the high end of the stress scale, there should be a quiet place that he can go to calm down (e.g., in the library). He may also want to cut-out external noise by listening to music.

7. Your son might find school recess especially difficult because one-to-one "staff monitors" often take their own breaks at this time. However, if your son no longer needs support in certain lessons, but is experiencing high anxiety during break times, it’s possible that the hours could be restructured so that his monitor is with him during recess. Check with school officials to see what can be done.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns


•    Anonymous said... A school administrator with a child on the spectrum said to me "We are not required to teach socialization in school." This statement was a relief, because the school didn't balk at his IEP stating recess & lunch would be in a quiet environment with one or two peers of his choosing.
•    Anonymous said... I was going to say the exact same thing. Your son does not have to be forced to participate in recess. They can absolutely set up something else for him. Do not be afraid to be assertive with the school with your child's needs.
•    Anonymous said... My son was also allowed a quiet zone for recess and lunch.
•    Anonymous said... why are the school not providing him with a safe zone? my son was allowed in the library during break or on the sofa in the main reception area, where staff could supervise him while still having their own break
•    Anonymous said... Yes, quiet zone is a must, and he should also be allowed to go there during class if it gets too much for him. My girl wouldn't be able to attend school at all unless she had this safe zone to go to.

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content