Anxiety, Shutdown & Consequences: More Of Your Questions Answered

Since 2012, we've been helping people with Asperger's & their families through our courses, communities and workshops. Through this work we often get asked MANY questions.

Here are the answers to more of your burning questions.

As always, we'll be answering this from our own personal experiences of living with Asperger's, helping thousands of families, and understanding the latest science.

Why do they shut down so much?

First let's define what "shut down" means in this case. In this case, we call shut down "Defense Mode", the state in which someone with Asperger's is withdrawn, avoidant and reclusive. They want to spend time in their room doing nothing but, as an example, playing video games all day, only coming out to go to the bathroom or eat.

So here's the short version of why they are doing that:  Everything seems like a threat to them. And until they learn how to feel safe & secure in their body and the world, nothing will change.

When in Defense Mode, it can feel like your entire body is on fire and on high alert all the time. Turning down that metaphorical heat by allowing your body to process sensations without resistance is also a great way.

How do I help them with their anxiety?

There are a few things that will help with anxiety issues.

#1) Involve a competent therapist or psychiatrist. You'll want to find one who is skilled at getting to the root of the anxiety issues. This means not just talking about what makes them anxious. Anxiety isn't something that is cognitive, so CBT therapy isn't your best bet.

We recommend going the route of a more body based approach, such as a Somatic Experiencing practitioner.

On the topic of meds: Medication isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can be a great benefit to people with Asperger's. Consider talking to your therapist or psychiatrist about it.

#2) Understand the root of anxiety. Anxiety at its core is just lack of trust in one's self, circumstances & environment. Specifically lack of trust in ones own ability to "handle it". Once you understand that, all you need to do is work on building that trust back up.

The way you build trust is through a series of risk-mitigated assumption tests. For example, If I have anxiety about what will happen if I try a cucumber, I might buy one and smell it. If I am really anxious about it, I may have a pleasant scent near by to mitigate any risk that I take by smelling the cucumber.

Anxiety also has to do with the feelings in your body, and lack of trust in those. (See the first question for more on that)

#3) Use short term solutions that work for you. Things that have worked for us include Bach Flower Essences, meditation, thinking of things we are grateful for and making sure to have a healthy diet. (If you'd like the complete list of everything that has worked for us, get our "Here's What Works" book.)

For more help with anxiety, follow our trust building process and practice "Being With It".

What can I do to reduce fighting & arguments in the house?

Anger & frustration usually generates when what "should be" does not equal what is. For example: The computer "should be" loading... but it isn't. Or your child "should be" doing their homework... but they aren't.

Add in Defense Mode and a lack of a shared language (two people have different definitions for the same word), and you often get a lack of understanding that contributes to a sense of frustration over what "should" happen.

So here's what to do.

#1) Be there to listen. As Ann from our AE+ support group & community says:


That also means practicing Deep Listening and having a solid Foundation of Communication already established. If you don't said foundation, it's never too late to start building it!

#2) Don't escalate. Remember that having an argument takes 2 people. If one person is yelling, it is your job to decide to take a calm approach. Don't yell back. Maintain your ground and help the other person feel safe. They are in an emotionally vulnerable place. Remember, it isn't personal.

If you are having trouble managing your own reaction, it's not your fault. We've helped hundreds of families Get unstuck and out of a place where they feel they need to react. Learning to 'be with it' can help you maintain your calm.

#3) Create a shared language. This is a bit deeper than most people usually go. If fighting is a result of anger, and anger is a result of frustration, and frustration is a result of a breakdown in what "should be", then having a shared understanding of the expected result is the best place to start.

Pick a list of words that you think need definitions, and CO-CREATE those definitions with all other people that you usually have fights with. Come up with a shared understanding of what those words mean. This alone will reduce fighting at least 50%.

What is the best consequence for punishing someone with Aspergers?

It's time to get out of the paradigm of punishment and reward. The research shows that consequences (and rewards) can actually cause unintended harm to kids. It has to do with the concept of Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivation.

Essentially, do you want your child to be motivated to clean their room, do their chores, and be a generally decent human being because they get a reward or fear a punishment? Or do you want them to do all of those things because it is the right thing to do?

Instead of basing your parenting off of the reward/punishment paradigm, start with love, trust & belief. Then add in a little bit of natural consequences (and make sure to align your Influence Circles too!)

Kid eats the cake you have set out even though you told them not to? The reward/punishment paradigm would say to take away their computer games or something equally not connected at all.

Instead, explain to them WHY you told them that, and then have them help you in baking a new cake (and cleaning the dishes created from that process!).

Not only do they learn that there are real, actual consequences for their actions, but you don't put them deeper into Defense Mode while doing it.

Barbara Coloroso has a great book called "Kids are worth it" that touches a lot more on this subject.

 How do I help my child if they don’t want to succeed?

Let's make a distinction between not wanting to succeed and being so utterly terrified of the world and success that you avoid anything to do with success. People with Asperger's do the latter. It's important to remember that they DO want to succeed, they are just scared. (Here are 9 more important things to remember)

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "I sure would love to fail today!".

If you are in a situation where your child is afraid of life & success, then they are most likely in Defense Mode. Focus on building trust and getting them out of Defense Mode FIRST, and you'll be surprised at the results you see after.


 Is homeschooling or online school a good option for people with Aspergers?

It depends. It can be a good option for some kids, and a horrible option for others. We've had thousands of customers & clients that have seen great results from homeschooling, and thousands more that have said it didn't work due to the family dynamic.

The best thing to do would be to join AE+ and ask our group-mind of thousands of parents & people with Asperger's about your specific situation. They'll be able to share their unique experiences.

 What do I do if my kid is a picky eater?

Cook with them. I was one of the pickiest eaters in the world until I started to learn to cook. Picky eating usually comes as a result of not feeling in control when it comes to food. So the way that you usually regain control is by being extremely selective about what you eat.

When you begin to cook the food you eat from beginning to end, you have more control over the entire process and begin to trust food more.

I learned to cook from watching Cutthroat Kitchen on the Food Network. It is a great way to learn more about food in a VERY entertaining format, and I highly suggest watching it.

If you'd like to learn our entire picky eating process, read our overview article here.

Want more? We answer questions every single day inside of AE+. Join for just $1 for the first month.

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About Asperger Experts

Asperger Experts is a transformational media company based out of Seattle, Washington that enlivens, empowers and educates people with Asperger's, their families, and the communities in which they live.

It was created in 2012 and is staffed by parents, people with Asperger's, and professionals dedicated to serving and assisting others through sharing knowledge and building communities.

The core of our work focuses on planning, producing and distributing highly transformational courses, as well as creating and managing online communities for people with Asperger’s and their parents.

Our courses are all created by us, drawing from our first hand experience having either lived with Asperger’s, or raised someone on the spectrum.

Our communities are filled with parents, people with Asperger’s, teachers, therapists and others who have had direct and personal experience with life on the spectrum.

We believe in taking our own life experiences and sharing them with the world, and are fortunate to reach over a quarter million people each day with our live videos, courses, workshops, articles and videos.

Thank you for supporting us and our work. We literally couldn't do this without you.

Comments? Questions?