Poor "People Skills" in Teens on the Autism Spectrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Aug., 2016]

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


Hi Mark,

I read your Ebook Living with an Aspergers Partner and truly believe God used you to rescue me! I am a relatively newlywed (since November 2014) and many behaviors of my husband now start to make sense...


Hi Mark: We're going through your e-book and there's a lot of helpful material here. Do you have any advice on how to help a teen accept the diagnosis? Our 14-year-old daughter, who's been struggling for about 2 years, is currently in the mental hospital for a severe self-harming compulsion, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. She says she would rather kill herself than accept the diagnosis that she has Asperger's, which is quite recent after many professionals missed it. She has a very hard time with acceptance. Help appreciated, thanks.


Hi Mark,

Thank you for sending the links.

Our daughter is actually 22 years old. I haven't looked at any of the information yet. I wish we would have fond this earlier. But no time like the present. 

She has improved in many ways, but we still have set backs in her behaviors. I know my husband and I need to change how we respond to her and continue to enable her negative behaviors when they do come up. Presently we are helping her financially and therefore we still have a great influence in her life.

She did complete college, but recently got a DUI and has been in 3 abusive relationships. My husband and I have married 32 years and honestly we have a very good relationship even with everything we have gone through we still maintain our closeness. I say this because it has been very shocking and disturbing regarding all the choices and situations our daughter has gotten herself into. 

I have so many questions. I know I need to look at the information in the program first.

Some friends of are swear by the help this has given them. We are hopeful.

Thank you,

Hello Mark my name is Ashley. My wife and I recently got married and I'm afraid our marriage is going to fall apart due to our different parenting skills. Our son is 9 and we are in the process of getting him tested for aspergers. My wife really seems to think that is what he has, even if that is the case. I am the one who needs some guidance in how to react to his outburst and trantrums. I do get very overwhelmed easily when he gets like that and I do not know how to react or respond to it. I don't know how to respond to his name calling, his hitting the walls and throwing things and speaking disrespectfully and I do understand that is not what he is trying to do, he just doesn't know how to express himself. So I guess what I am trying to ask is if there is any kind of tips or guidance you could give me to help me provide better understanding for him I would greatly appreciate it.


I have a HFA 34 year old son informally diagnosed at 33. His behavior is beginning to make sense now, instead of blaming it on his abuse of medication, predominantly Xanax. Now he is on no medication and his behavior is turbulent, distorted thinking, and I would like to know if there is an intensive residential program that he can attend to help him, hopefully near or in Florida.


I have a son with high functioning Asperger’s who is twenty years old now.  He graduated high school with honor chords for his high GPA and has had several jobs since he was 17 working in fast food, a pet store, a meat market, retail cashier, and even a cookie factory.  He has worked close to full time when he worked at the cookie factory but after time his performance started to fail, he had some medication changes, he did not follow the wean schedule and quit his medication cold turkey, became depressed and anxious and had suicidal ideations.  He went to three weeks of outpatient group therapy to get his medications straightened out.  He left the cookie factory job that paid far better than minimum wage due to this.  He was not happy with the staff relations and the work environment and claims he just can’t do it.  He got a different job as a retail cashier where is still works.  He has spiraled into depression again this past spring twice,  once with the ideation he wanted to drown himself, and finally with attempting to hang himself unsuccessfully.  This lead to partial hospitalization, his mom (we are divorced) checked him out after my son said he was “okay”.  He never allowed me to visit him.  He has become isolated living with his mom in her basement having everything provided for him.  Now mom is asking two and half years after child support ended, for child support to be re-instated on the basis of his disability and inability to be self supporting.  He is capable in my mind, I think he needs some coaching and support, but he is not talking with me because I am the tough love parent who has high expectations and expects responsibility and he just wants it all to be handled for him.  If the courts decide to continue child support this is just enabling the cycle of dependency.

He is obviously not stupid.  He has a driver’s license, a job, cooks, cleans, takes care of himself, pays for his own cell phone, car insurance, gas, small amount toward rent, and for his pet care supplies.  Since his depression, my relationship as a father with him has been strained due to him not wanting to see me or explain what happened or his feelings.  I have avoided talking about this elephant in the living room and tried to redirect him toward work and providing some opportunities for recreation out of the house.  At this point, our family is at a crossroads, my son and his mom want to be dependent and have me just pay child support for life and resign themselves that this is as good as it gets all the while I have no input or influence on my son’s life because he chooses not to see me.  If I read your book, which I am sure will resonate with my feelings that he has far more potential, how can it it be useful if I can’t communicate or he won’t listen to me?  His mom is helping him apply for SSI and seeing if his depression and anxiety diagnosis is enough to get him some government benefits to supplement the 12-15 hours per week he works.  She is also taking me to court which is pending to see if she can reinstate child support.

My son did attend a video graphic design course at a community college for about six months and then quit.  He hated school.  He took a year off school and worked 30 plus hours a week at the cookie factory until his depression episode.   Earlier in high school he had wanted to be a vet tech so we checked out the schools.  The primary school is private for profit and costs $25K per year for a minimum of two years for a basic vet tech but they typically recommend the four year degree.  A vet tech gets paid $25-35K per year.  There are no scholarships, limited financial aid, and I have no where near enough saved to afford that.  He would have huge debt and a job that has to high an opportunity cost.  So we bagged that idea.  He likes art and draws furry human animals hybrids and even wrote a comic.  He shared the story with me and apparently did not like the constructive criticism.  His confidence and output with producing the artwork to go with the story is low so he is trying to find someone to help with the drawings to see if he could get it published.  He looked into art school but the cost is even higher the demands and talent at the program are as well.  He attended a short summer month long comic book writing class and was discouraged to see how much competition there is and how good others his age are at it.  So he is doing this as a side hobby.

Looking at the outline of the chapters in your book it seems like it shows the pathway to success and independence through attaining gainful employment through education.  I have tried to encourage my son to other jobs that pay better but may not be his favorite thing to do.  I am trying to get him to think outside the box expanding his experience.  I told him with the extra money he is making he could buy the things he wants that he does like but he may have to put up with a job that is less than ideal to get it.  He may network with people in these jobs and find a better job.  He is resistive to suggestion and change and criticism and is fiercely wanting to be independent in his decision to be dependent.  Mom is supportive of this, although clearly the financial drain is affecting her as she is seeking money from me to pay for it.  She is currently receiving child support and government benefits for my disabled daughter who has a cognitive disability that is 18.   Mom does not work much outside of being a caretaker for the two kids, so she has a vested interest in continuing this dependent cycle as it would mean she would have to work again if it ended.  Unless child support and the purse strings are cut with my son, I can’t see what would motivate him to improve his situation.

This book appears driven toward parents not the autistic individual so I couldn’t just give a copy to my son.  Without consistent parental agreement I don’t know if it would be successful to follow through with natural consequences.  We as parents disagree on parenting strategies and finances.  My son seems to have decided to not involve me in his life right now because I give him stress about money, work, and college.  I am not sure how I can overcome that.


Hi Mark,

I’m sorry for the unsolicited email - my wife and I believe we are identifying some Aspergers traits in our 4 and a half yr old daughter.   I just read a lot of commentary on www.social-skills-emotion-management.com.  I hope you are still advising / in practice – I don’t know how old the website is?

My main question is whether your e-book has applications for parents of a 4 yr old where any aspergers is on the mild end?

Symptoms identified
•         Social awkwardness and difficulty in continuing dialogue and a ‘flow’ with kids (and adults, but this is less worrying)
•         Strong desire for/repetition of favorite tv shows/movies

I found these social problems listed in the article on your ebook and they resonated a little:
•         “Some children and teens with Aspergers learn that they have to ask a question to start a conversation, but then, instead of listening to the answer, they ask question after question, in effect drilling their peers and making them feel uncomfortable.
•    Their difficulties reading social cues cause them to irritate peers. Difficulties in reading social cues range from (a) trouble understanding the zones of personal space, causing them to stand too close to others, to (b) a lack of basic conversation skills.
•    They have passions, certain things that they focus on, but they may have a hard time talking about anything else, which is often annoying to peers.”

Not that I have seen this yet, but this last one struck most fear into me:
•         They may not understand social banter, and so they become easy targets for bullying and teasing

•         She really is otherwise a very normal and very happy girl!!!
•         She IS perceptive to others’ emotions e.g. she is very quick to notice when she is annoying me a little and so will continue and laugh and laugh – it’s adorable.  E.g.2 she knows when kids are upset and can empathasize – just may not know how to physically and socially respond to it
•         High skill of writing for her age and hand-eye coordination

Thank you very much!


Dear Mark

I have revisited the Aspergers research I did 5 or 6 years ago when my daughter was 13.
She is very high functioning and has refused to read the books I got for her, or tobelieve she is in any way Aspergers.
As my 3rd child, I recognised that things I had taken for granted with the other 2, I had to explain to Rosalind.
I would have sought professional advice if she had been willing. I was also conscious of her being labelled.
However, now she is dating, and at 19, I still feel she has a long way to go socially.
She does imitate but still dresses very androgynously, and I feel there will be more issues to address.

If you have any resources for young adults, particularly girls, I would appreciate this information.
I haven't been able to find any suitable organisations in Western Australia the past.


please ask you a question that is weighing heavily on my heart.
9yrs old Aspie - my beautiful Anna got totally overwhelmed at the airport,  just a few days ago. Sensory overload and extreme anxiety lead to us walking away from a weekend break...even the pleading of the pilot himself didnt help (she was too far gone).

She has been on 3 flights in her life and they were pretty much perfect, thats why it didnt cross my mind to look into any form of sedation and contacting the airline beforehand.

We are due a well deserved holiday in Morocco in about a month time....what would you reccomend please..so we do finally board that plane?
As some fears dissappear. ..new ones come in :-(.
Many thanks if you do find the time to get back to me. LUCIE


Not sure that my 21 year old grandson has aspergers he has never been diagnosed but my daughter, his mom, an RN thinks he has it. He was living with me before at age 17 and I pretty well forced him to go to an appointment drove for an hour and he refused to go in or talk to anyone. He even refuses to go to a medical doctor. He has a job 20 hours a week at a supermarket but he says he hates it and  gets short of breath tight chest, chest pain very painful almost ever day he goes to work says it lasts about an hour before he calms down. Sounds like a panic attack to me. We want to help him so much, me and my wife as well, he just moved in a month ago and we need help. I like what I read so far of your work, but need an audio book , a physical cd not something I have to down load, I don't know how to do it. After him telling me about the panic attack, read where it might be another diagnosis. Any information or help or advice would be much appreciated.


I have attached a letter that shows my son's great progress since we started learning from your course last year. I have finished the course.

We are ready to try to get a diagnosis, but I am not sure how to proceed.
This is a scary step for me because I don't want to undo what we have going by having a diagnosis and my son interpreting it wrong.
I believe he is ready for it and needs help.

I believe he has symptoms of Aspergers but that also birth trauma and childhood trauma may be factors. I have informally and formally tested him for learning disabilities as I have indicated in my letter.

I am not able to decide how thorough we need to be at this point. We don't seem to need financial support, but don't have money to spare for education if he goes that direction.

The most concern I have is that he needs support for paranoia thinking.

Could you read my letter and maybe point me in the right direction?
You have a lot more material for me to go over, I am working through them.


Hi Mark,
You asked me what questions I have:

What do you think is the best way to tell my husband of my concerns/suspicion that he has Aspergers?

In your opinion, do you think I have valid concerns?

I really would like somebody to talk with as I feel completely alone. My husband is not interested in "counseling". Do you have a recommendation for me as I cannot leave the apartment by myself, and have limited financial resources.

He is highly intelligent and sometimes seems almost "normal" and other times completely shuts down and absolutely refuses to talk with me. He will leave for hours at a time and when he returns is completely non-responsive. He will turn his back to me and completely ignore me no matter how kind I am or how much "space" I give him.
In times like these it seems only the passage of time and a written message from me will snap him out of it. He then acts as if everything is normal with no apology or explanation for his bizarre, seemingly cruel/callous behavior.

My husband was born in China and is Chinese by race, however lived in Australia for 20 years and became an Australian citizen. He is completely bilingual. We now live in New York. In the beginning I often attributed some strange behaviors to cultural differences, or the fact that he was a bachelor for 47 years before marrying me (I was 40 years old-and also my first marriage). I am also dealing with an MS diagnosis and use a wheelchair most of the time. My family and support group is all in Seattle, Washington – we moved to New York for his work. Less than a month after I arrived, he was fired. However, I do believe this is the first time he has been fired--he does have an amazing resume and is excellent in his work in the financial industry. He has yet to earn an income since February 2015. My small contribution from my disability income is insufficient and we live mostly off his savings. This added stress is not helping!

He can be very personable and extremely charming, however he has absolutely no adult friends, and not one representative of his came to our our beautiful wedding! I accepted this because his surviving father and brother live in China and he is also estranged from them! He told me most of his associates were business people from New York and he did not want to invite them to Seattle.

I don't believe he has told any members of his immediate or extended family (with whom he is not close and has disparaging things to say about) that we are married and he rarely if ever will put on his wedding ring. He claims it is too "heavy". At first it was too "irritating/scratchy" so I had it specially smoothed. I also purchased a thinner, lighter completely smooth second gold band as an alternative, however the inscription on the inside was also too "scratchy"--I also had this inscription smoothed down! I took this extremely personally and believed he was simply not proud to be my husband, but I now think perhaps the textures and weight really do bother him.

He continually berates me for dropping crumbs on the floor, and two massive meltdowns occurred because I dropped some food crumbs on our bed, and another time spilt some bright colored liquid on our bed soon after he had changed our sheets. I immediately spent 20 minutes successfully cleaning it up, apologizing and begging forgiveness, however he left me alone for five days (he would sneak in at night and climb into bed with his back facing me) and absolutely refused to talk with me or even greet me with "Hello." He finally sent me a text saying that he was no longer mad at me and I had wanted to "live as a single for a few days" because he was mentally and physically "exhausted". I try to talk with him about this afterward and he literally curled up in a fetal position in his office chair refusing to look at me. He finds it very difficult to give me eye contact, and often simply refuses to do so.

The sweet-sticky-liquid-spilling-on-the-bed meltdown, occurred minutes after we had spent an increasingly rare, fun day together, I found it impossible to comprehend what was occurring. Because I am in a wheelchair, I do require extra assistance in that he has to do the laundry (our apartment complex laundry is inaccessible) and he often will cook dinner. Although I try and hire a housekeeper, he either thinks it is unnecessary or that we cannot afford the expense. This extra work on his part is his default excuse for why he feels justified in treating me the way he does.

He has certain ticks like clearing his throat over and over, slapping his leg, clicking his fingers, and even repeating certain phrases.
He is definitely obsessed with his "interest" he loves politics and history and spends hours engrossed on his phone and becomes angry if I dare interrupt him and try and have a conversation.

We met online and and mostly communicated via text and email and very few phone conversations. Move to Seattle and moved and my parents home with me for three months before we were married. I am a Christian and he is too, so we did not "consummate" our marriage until after the wedding. This is a whole different topic!


my 4 yo son has features of aspergers and has many talents - but gets very upset when writing , painting, or playing piano for example when he makes a slight 'error" . For example, he is painting a beautiful watercolor and colors mix accidentally- - he howls and doesn't want to finish. Or he plays the piano and plays the wrong note - cannot finish the song. He writes very meticulously but if one stroke is out of place in the slightest he cries like there is no tomorrow . It is a shame be he could do - and does- all of the above so well but his obsession with effect ion stops him from really progressing . This seems to be more evident now than even 6 mos ago as he is growing in awareness of what is wrong vs right execution of the above tasks.


The main question I have is who to go to for an accurate diagnosis. And help. And is Craig paranoid or is it something else? How can we help him thru the trauma he has gone thru? That we all went thru.

He is having major problems with paranoia. Anxiety for sure. Anger. I understand that paranoia may not be specifically linked to Aspergers. He's had trauma. I am not sure how to find a helpful diagnosis.

For instance. This happened last night.

He has been wanting to start college, he has been talking to school counselors but never follows through. His brother is going to the university. He decided to try to help Craig. So he put him on an introductory course for getting ready for college. Made it into 11 weeks. Same course he had to take.

I think Craig got confused after getting a good start. He is excited about it. But last night I believe he felt overwhelmed with getting home from work and then trying to do the homework. He was tired but calm. We went over the next part that was like a class assignment so his brother had us all participate. He was not able to answer the questions very fast and I think he got confused and frustrated. But he did a great job answering. It will take him a bit to figure out what the routine is. His brother did well and was patient. Later I mentioned that it would be easier on me if we developed a house rule list so I don't have to ask when he will be doing something. That frustrated him and I believe he felt threatened and overwhelmed and maybe feeling forced to do the work the way I wanted him to. He misunderstood me but I did not explain it right.

He became very irritable and started pacing. We have worked on this issue before and he told me what I could say to help him calm. He cussed at me and demanded to know where his personal item was that I had removed from his truck. We were cleaning out his truck and his brother asked him about it. A knife that he is not to have with him always. He uses it sometimes for work but his brother told him never to carry it with him. I gave it to his brother at the time. His brother told me it would have been better if Craig voluntarily gave it up. But there was no issue at the time about it.

Craig cannot have any weapon like items in his truck because we have a neighbor who has threatened us. And we don't want any cause for harm.

So I calmly told him that was an unacceptable way to speak to me. I was actually calm. It was just him and me. Craig and I also have a deal that when he gets like this it is best to do some emotional tapping. I was hesitant because I didn't want to trigger anything. But I told him I thought he needed to tap this out. I asked him if I could help. I was firm but not emotional. He allowed me to do the tapping on his chest and was quiet. He told me before that the tapping "shakes everything up and then it settles down in the right place". I didn't think I was getting anywhere until I asked him to help. All of a sudden he sighed and calmed. I reminded him to do some positive thinking and left. I found it works better that way.

So in the morning he got himself up and out before I got up later. He's been being very responsible about getting to work earlier to set up. I have an app that I can check on him and he is fine with that.  I remind him that this is for everyone, me too, To behave like adults.

Since I did not see him. I wanted to see if he worked it through. I knew he hadn't because he would not answer the phone when I called. When he called me back he said he still wanted his knife back. We talked about how he had "blasted me" last night and that it hurt. His voice calmed with that realization and I could tell he was calm again. In the past if I didn't follow through he may have stayed angry at work and may have acted out before he processed it. I was trying to help him process it sooner.

We worked this solution out when we were going thru the educational course. It usually works, but many times I have had to back off and let him take the consequences.

HIS PARANOIA comes in to play when he responded to the discussion I had with him last night that it seems he feels overwhelmed and threatened and needed protection. Then he starts talking about how he has reason to need to be protected and becomes very emotional that all these people are after him and want to kill him. That came out last night and is why I decided to do the taping. He said nothing about the real threat he was feeling about being overwhelmed and frustrated about the course. I asked him if anything happened that day and he said no. He gets this way when he's seen his father or the neighbor acts up. The people he say are out to get him usually are people of authority. He believes they are after him. But he cannot see them. There is not any evidence that the people he says are against him are really against him. But he won't address the ones that are a threat to him. Some of the issues In the past he has worked through and now sees that they were not as he thought. But he is not letting this go.

IS that paranoia that he feels someone is after him? He has in the past heard voices he knew weren't there. He also gets this way when he eats too much sugar and other foods. He has been increasing sugar and other foods due to workers bringing in food.


Dear Mark

I have just read your ebook and my heart breaks that I did not understand this disorder before nor how it presents in seemingly normal adults.

As I read your words, often my eyes filled with tears as my heart was breaking. Although I see the hope there is through understanding it also takes two to be committed to work together.

I would like to write you in more detail what has occurred and see if you think it might indeed be the case my partner's here to for unexplainable behaviour and choices is due to this condition. I know not how best to proceed and would welcome more guidance on how to open the subject to him especially as of events last week that made me move out. I love him very much and am deeply sadden plus distraught to think had I known earlier my approach would of been so different. The marriage counsellor was sort of helpful but not really.


I'm praying you can help.  My eight year old high functioning, Aspergers with CD and auditory processing disorder, grandson is my heart.  His mom(my daughter) is ready to give him up to a home because he hits her, throws toys at her and has little patience with his three year old brother who is extremely agressive himself.  The police have been called twice on my grandson.  I feel a lot of it is from his home life.  His mother is bi-polar, her boyfriend (soon to be ex) screams and cusses at her and the kids.  My grandson is fine at school and with me.  He gets ABA three times a week, which he hates and now my daughter has him on Clonadine three times a day which just makes him tired.  I try to tell my daughter and his ABA therapist that they need to pay attention to his triggers, hunger (wants to eat all the time), tired or just had a bad day.  They ignore the triggers and then wonder why he's blowing up, cussing and hitting.  I do not condone this, but I see both sides of him and the teachers were shocked during his IEP that he is explosive at home.  The staff and the teachers love him.  My daughter says I have blinders on where he is concerned.  Perhaps she is right, bit I will never give up on him.


Hi Mark,
Thank you for your email. I have been working on a letter to send to my partner. I am really struggling with it and realize it is too long plus I am having trouble getting to the tricky part of introducing AS as an explanation for why we have been having so many issues...all unresolved and now here we are separated. I have somehow got caught up in the details /acts of transgressions...not helpful! 

Please can you spare the time to read through and guide me how to be more succinct ... get to the salient point? I want us to not give up on each other prematurely especially as there is a likelihood that more is involved which is preventing us from understanding each other which is not either of our faults. It just is, and we need to be both humble and wise to find our way through this. There is so much good in each of us and the gift of a loving relationship is not something to squander...building it to sustain is worthwhile even at our age, 60!

It seems to me in this country it is too easy for people to give up...a throw away society not just of goods but lives too.. I hope you can help me...

Hi there.
I live in the UK. I have a 13 year old son who has asbergers. He is a very anxious child and his main problem is fitting in at school. He also clashes a lot with his siblings and can get extremely angry and frustrated.
However, a big difficulty he faces is that he overthinks things, thinks about things much more deeply and way above his age.  For example, he gets very emotional and cries at the thought of having to grow up and marry because he doesn't want to leave me or his father. If we are not feeling well he panics and worries about the future when we die.
He doesn't like to go out and play with anyone, visit a relative for example, because he is worried that he is getting less close to me and his dad if he is not near us. His bad thoughts mainly come at night when he goes to bed.
I have been watching some of your YouTube clips and was wondering if you could tell me how I can help him?


I wanted to thank you. I came across your website today and it has given me hope!
My boyfriend has aspergers and a lot of the things you describe have occurred in our relationship.
I met him whilst he was in the early stages of leaving his wife. He can't see past his old life even though he is now divorced. Could we ever live together as a blended family and what would your advice be?
We've been together two years. Our relationship ends every other week because we think differently. We are going to work on the program to save our relationship.
Thanks for your help


Hello Mark,

I really hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I really need you advice,  I’m a grandmother living in Scotland and landed on your page when I did a search because I know nothing about Asperger’s.  My granddaughter has just turned 13 this July 4th and lives in Northern Ireland with my son and his partner.  Morgan looks and acts much older than her age and asked me if she could spend the summer holidays with me.  This is the first time she’s actually came for a visit as any other time she’s suggested coming to stay.. its fell through and so I was pleased and looking forward to spending time with me.

To give you some background on her, she had always caused her parents concern running off and not doing as she is told, I say she’s pig headed and spoilt does what she want and know my son and his partner fight constantly about ways of chastising her as Kelly her mum tends to shout the odds only to laugh off her bad behaviour and give in rather than seeing her punishment through.   

Over this last year she has been getting into trouble at the new grammar school she’s attending, and has also started getting bullied, by girls a few years older than herself.  It got a bit out of hand and her parents discovered she was self-harming by cutting herself.  The girls were calling her names and ganging up on her at the bus station and the bullying was reported by boys who called her parents to let them know they had witnessed it.  The school is a good 40 minutes away and Morgan has always told her mum things were fine in school, whenever she’s asked.  But she never asked her how things were outside the school and Morgan didn’t inform her otherwise.  Things got out of hand and in the end Morgan rag dolled one of the girls by the hair, which resulted in her being spoken to by the police then her parents told the police about the abusive messages Morgan had received from the girls through social media and its developed into a serious investigate although the school seem unwilling to help as Morgan hasn’t been formally diagnosed as having Asperger’s as there is a 2 year waiting list.

To cut a long story short, she was told by a CALMS counsellor I think this is what their called, she is showing traits of Asperger’s and now I think her mum in particular is making excuses by labelling her with this form of autism as an excuse for bad behaviour.   I’ve read over you online list and find she may have some of the traits but is not showing too many of them.

I’m 60 and Asperger’s is new to me, but I can tell you I had a rough 2 weeks with her while she was here holiday and I would really like to know more about Asperger’s.    I know what it’s like having to fight for testing, my youngest son was diagnosed with dyslexia and I had to fight the primary school to get him assessed.  Morgan’s dad Darren also showed signs of things being wrong and I fought to have him assessed but he was due to leave school at 16 when and the school let him down, he had problems in school and was often suspended for being the class clown.  I always said it was to cover up his not knowing things and acting the clown got him put out the classroom.  I could also say I may have some of the traits of Asperger’s myself after reading the list, and relate to many in your list. 

While Morgan was here she refused to do anything I asked, refused to eat anything but fast food telling me my food was awful and she didn’t eat this or didn’t like that.  She was constantly on the phone organising things behind my back even when I told her I needed a few days rest after travelling back as I was diagnosed with M.E.  6 yrs ago and was exhausted with the constant battles to get her to conform.  I can honestly say I was stressed out by all the bad behaviour, ie swearing at me and saying things to purposely upset me, I know I shouldn’t take it to heart but with her not being my own kid it was really hard keeping her in check and she told me repeatedly she didn’t have to do as I say.  I don’t want to paint a bad picture of her but I really need to understand if this is how people with Asperger’s behave or is this an act she is putting on??  I need to know how to handle difficult situations in the future, because I lost my temper with her a few times but she really pushed the right buttons and told her I never took this cheek from your dad and his brothers and I’m not taking it off you.   I have a rule in my house and everyone who stays is told the same “my house, my rules, and if you don’t want to abide with them don’t come back”.

It didn’t help when she was constantly calling her parent to complain about every little thing and she wasn’t truthful with the actual way things transpired.  She tells her parents her version and it’s not always the truth.  She also looked me in the eye and sniggers when you tell her off hoping for a reaction.

So as much as I sympathise with her parents they really need to get on the same page on how they deal with things.  Darren has told me because he works offshore Kelly tends to shout the odds, confiscates her phone and then half an hour later she’s handed it back and she laughs it off.  She’s not her friend she’s first and foremost her parent and she needs to act like one and not reward bad behaviour.  She is constantly making excuses that her daughter has Asperger’s and a diagnosis is going to take approximately 2 yrs due to obtain due to the long waiting list and how CALMS are trying to push this through quicker.  I asked her what she’ll do, if the test show she doesn’t have it and she couldn’t answer me.   I later found out Kelly contacted my daughter in law here in the UK to find out how Morgan was with her and Irene told her she was ok with her and Stuart but she also told her that she gave be a bad time and the way she spoke to me was outrageous, and Kelly made excuses saying how important her make-up was to her and it’s her comforter for going through difficulties.  Irene works as a support worker and informed me Kelly is in denial.

Could you please tell me if this sounds like someone with Asperger’s or is this down right bad behaviour, people are so quick to label their kids these day as a way of explaining their rude comments, she also spends up to 4 hours putting on make-up to go to the beach.  I really don’t agree with this obsession to wear or purchase make-up as she spent over £140 of birthday money on the stuff.  She lies about little things and blames other people when she gets into trouble, nobody is allowed to suggest or organise days out when Morgan’s around and she has everyone running around after her.. doing her bidding.  No amount of talking to her or trying to get reason with her works, she sulks when she doesn’t get her own way.   I really want to be able to connect with my granddaughter but know nothing about it.. Kelly has a rotor made up which she follows, as I believe people with Asperger like to be organised. 

Kelly tells me if you want her to do something to give her plenty of notice and a time to be ready.  On the day we were flying her home I told her Morgan she had to be up and ready to leave the house by 1:30 as she was staying with her aunt Irene and uncle Stuart the night before.. she didn’t back chat or give them derogatory remarks unlike me and we had to be in the airport 2 hours before our flight.  When I called over to pick Morgan and her cousin up she was in the shower and it was 1:15 they had been up all night on their phones and when I told her she had to hurry up and get her hair and clothes on it so we could leave it led to an altercation and refused to be rushed by me.

I hope you can give me some advice as I’m really in the dark here, and when I returned home from taking her back to Northern Ireland I ended up in bed ill for over 2 weeks ill.   Friends said I look dreadful and stressed out and my face broke out  in eczema… this is the first outbreak in many years.   I love my granddaughter and if she has Asperger’s then I want to understand what It is and how I best cope with difficult situations.  I don’t want to be arguing with her over every little task, she’s doesn’t communicate her problems or worries and keeps things to herself so when asking her things, she answers by asking why do you want to know that or she says she’s fine.  I told her if this was the way she was going to behave then I wouldn’t have her back and I’m beating myself up for saying such a spiteful thing. 

But It’s been a rough 2 years for me and my siblings we lost our mum on Christmas day 2014 and our dad passed suddenly on boxing day 2015 after spending Christmas day with him and my sister and brother in law, plus I separated 9 years ago leaving an abusive marriage after 32 years once my 3 sons had grown, and my ex has been upsetting me and causing endless problems,  so it probably wasn’t the best time to have Morgan and her brother Cameron stay for 2 weeks… but I didn’t have the heart to tell them no. 

Thank you for reading over my letter and hope you didn’t find it too long but I’ve really tried to give you an quick rundown of the situation so you could hopefully give me your honest opinion.  I truly look forward to hearing from you and understand if it takes a while.


My daughter is 19 only diagnosed last year with Asperger's, ADD passive attentive
and she has huge anxiety and depression and has self harm issues, when she has made a social 
mistake and someone will belittle her..... She says she is sick of feeling like
"shit" all the time ... She is on fluoxetine 20mg and concerta (Ritalin) each day..
She is really hard to motivate to help herself by exercise or trying to change
her mood to be less down. She sees a psychologist about each month, 
and psychiatrist every 6 months and is studying Childcare course at a college
My question is .. Is there other medications that can help with the anxiety more
And is there any you could recommend.. Or therapy to help her with self esteem 
and make her feel like she belongs in this world. I would love to help her more
but I think I've tried most things ... It would make me feel less anxious myself
if I know she could be just a little bit happy ..


Hello Mark
I've just dicovered your website and have watched the workshop clips as well as your video promoting your ebook.
I feel confident that you may be able to help us, especially as we both know we love eachother and have actually realised that we derail our relationship often because of our inability to understand our differnces.  And yes, you have probably guessed that it's me who has reached the place of desperation and heading toward depression.  Tears come often.


Zachary is my 19 year old (close to 20) grandson.  I really don't know much about Asperger and how to cope/help my grandson.  Right now, he lives with me because my daughter can't handle it at his age.  After a few weeks she'll let him come home.  This has been an ongoing occurrence all of his life.

 I found your website by accident and can't believe what I'm reading...right on with everything.  Zach is extremely smart but so lazy.

The most shocking is he has pitted myself and my daughter against each other.  How blind we are.  My daughter's life is constant turmoil and now so is mine.

Hi, I am dating a man that has a young adult man (20) with asperger’s.  I have tried to tell him that he treats him like a 10 yr. old child and he did listen to me and I sent this link to him and he has read the book that was suggested.  His son is in his junior year in college.  A private college near home so he can come home every weekend.  I am concerned for two reasons.  One, I am concerned about his child ever becoming independent; two, I don’t want to “raise” any more children.  I know that sounds selfish of me in one way but I am 61 and so is he and I truly don’t want to raise any more children.  He has just made him move out of his house into an apartment over the garage at house.  When he gets a break from college he thinks he can do what he wants..video games, video games, video games.  His father has told him he needs to get a job during the holidays.  He made him get a job last summer and he did.  His father told him he could go back to that job…working at movie theater.  His son told him he couldn’t go back to his previous job..that just would be uncomfortable.  Plus he gets aggravated with his dad every time he mentions he needs to get a job over Christmas break, which is a month.  He is working with a catering service but that is only once a week maybe, if that often. He is extremely lazy, never cleaning his place.  I haven’t seen it yet but his dad told me it is a disaster. 

I cooked dinner for the three of us the other night and his dad told him to eat his porkchops like you would your small child.  I have tried to get him to be more aggressive with him in helping him to be more independent and he did for a while. He kicked him out of his house because he left such a mess everywhere, but just to the apartment over the garage and his dad still pays for all of his expenses…ALL of them.  He will not have a college loan to pay back because his dad is paying for his college.  When we are out he calls his son constantly to see what he is doing and if he needs anything.  I think now, since I have told him he shouldn’t be calling him all the time to see how things are going, that he hides to call him…so I won’t say anything.

The son does well in college and lives on campus during the week but his dad takes care of everything. I think his dad feels sorry for him because his mother died unexpectedly when the son was 13.

I guess what I am asking, do you think it will ever change?  I know I don’t want to be in a long term relationship with things the way they are right now.  It is none of my business what goes on between he and his son but I don’t know if I want to be a part of it.  I get upset with the man I’m dating because it doesn’t seem like he will ever take the iniative to ever work towards him becoming independent.


Dear Mark.  I have lived with my aspie partner for 16 years and have done everything in my power to make it work.  He has done nothing. we have had the conversations and i have given direction. he had a to do list and i did all the stuff about letting it go. I  was me that went to counseling. It was me who spoke to the doctor and it was me who ended up on antidepressants.  He did nothing.
And now I resent the effort I have made with very little in return.  I am 64 years of age and  have had enough. How about helping us to explain to our partners that we cannot live with them any more?  To do this without feeling guilty about it.  My partner has has my devotion for 16 and has trampled all over it.  I have been struggling with trying to work up the courage for the conversation to tell him to leave. I did and the very next day we were told that the period of illness he has had was a heart attack!  We now are completely unable to discuss this problem for fear of putting him under to much stress and exacerbating his condition.  I call it the 'elephant in the room'  Its there but we mustn't mention it.  I did briefly but It made matters worse.  So now I am trapped! I dont know what to do or where to turn.  I dont think my family will ever understand and his children, who have always been very cool towards me, would now freeze over.  And  I wouldn't blame them.  Even I think I am wicked to even think about it. I am sure this is outside your field of interest but I needed to say it.


Mr. Hutten

My son, Curtis, 17 years old, Aspergers/Anxiety diagnosis, 5’ 10”  102 lbs. !     and has a severe issue with his diet.     He eats only a few items, and that list is dwindling,  he was on Zyprexa, which helped him maintain a little weight,  he refuses to take any medication due to his inablility to swallow the medicine with a liquid.   Curtis will eat a specific certain food, for example (Tyson popcorn chicken) for months, and then abruptly refuses to eat that food ever again “they changed the taste, and I can’t eat it”    We have tried the trick routine,  change to another  product without telling him,  but he can always tell.   His taste sensitivity is really heightened.   He also has issues with clothing/tactile, but that is not health related, and we work around that.   We have discussed a feeding tube as a last resort with his doctor, and we are almost at that point.  Curtis absolutely is against a feeding tube.   Curtis gets very angry when discussing his diet restrictions,  our last conversation he expressed that it wasn’t him,  don’t blame him,  blame “his body”  and get a doctor to fix it.

So I am writing you to ask if you have any suggestions on how to handle this severe diet restriction,   it may sound crazy,  but do you know if hypnosis is a possible solution ?  grasping at straws here.


Dear Mr. Hutten:

I am writing to ask your advice.  I have been researching various sites for my child.  She is nearly adopted (it will happen in the next 6 months), and has a horrible past.  She was daily abused by her father sexually until age 3, daily abused by her mother until age 6.  As such, she has PTSD from abuse. I am aware her twin was deceased in-utero due to the mother’s use of drugs and alcohol.  As such, my child has a propensity to want to control everything, since her life was so out of control most times.  This control search is in every aspect of her life - where she will refuse to brush her teeth, wash her body, eat, and do school work.  Strangely, while one of her previous counselors told me she does not have any kind of Autism or Autism spectrum (she is said to be too smart…?) - most of her temper tantrums and meltdowns appear to echo Aspergers.  Just today I noticed what you spoke of in a video as “silent seizures” slightly along with her clear behavior of refusal (erasing holes in math papers).  She is now homeschooled due to her refusal behavior in the classroom and aggressive behavior with other kids - but I find it so very difficult to educate her at home.  Can you help me?

I am a university professor of Anthropology working in the area of indigenous land rights, and this child is more difficult for me to figure out than any work prior.  Please help me.


Hi Mark, 
The summer is over and my son goes back to school. Currently, Jeffrey is in 8th grade. We had a peaceful summer except for a few times minor issues. The strategy you taught us work very well.
Today is his 3rd day in the school, he started to worry about his high school selection because we gave him heads up that he need decide which local high school he wants to attend. In this December, the school system will start to assign the high school to the students. But he doesn't like the base high school. So we plan to look for the schools in the local area and even consider move to the the new house if he decides. However, He wants to move out of the state or let us home school him in the high school. I don't know why he wants that way. I can say so far he did pretty well in his middle school. And we think he will be OK in high school.  It's not east for our family to settle down and we think this is good place for us to raise him.
Tonight he asked me to get into his room and force me to make decision.
I put the strategy you taught us, put on  the poker face, told him the reason why we can't move and the fact we have no ability to homeschool him.   He started to meltdown.
I run out of the house and stay outside to send you the email for help.
It seems he has the endless requirements from the parents.
Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

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