The 9 most important things to remember when raising someone with Asperger’s

You read a book. Or listen to a doctor or therapist and think “That’s a great idea!”… but when it is time to finally IMPLEMENT that advice, you easily forget to actually use your new found wisdom.

Sound familiar? It’s something I’ve done time and time again.  So as a reminder, here are the top 9 things to remember when raising someone with Asperger’s. You might want to print this one out and hang it somewhere to remind you. If you’d like more reminders, inspiration, and hope, you can join our email list here.

#1 – It’s Not Personal

This is an essential mindset to always have. Kids WANT to do their best (adults do too). Nobody wakes up in the morning and goes “I’d sure like to have a horrible day! How can I make that happen?”

So when someone attacks you (verbally or physically), or does something that seems to be in spite, always remember. They are hurting inside. They aren’t doing it because they want to be mean to you, they are doing it because they are suffering.

As someone from our AE+ support group says:


#2 – “Bad” behavior is a cry for help

ALL behavior is some form of communication. It’s how we show what is going on inside our mind & body. We show that we love someone through a certain set of behaviors such as hugging, kissing, etc.

Kids also show how they are doing emotionally through behaviors. When a “bad” behavior happens, it is a cry for help. They aren’t feeling like they are being heard enough. They feel scared. They are frustrated and don’t know how to continue. Etc.

Your job is to look BEHIND the behavior, and notice what is really going on. Train yourself to see beyond the behavior and look at what might have caused it.

As one of our AE+ members says:


#3 – Getting them out of Defense Mode makes EVERYTHING else easier

I liken Defense Mode to going everywhere with a bag of bricks and a blindfold. You can technically still do everything in life, it will just be a lot harder.

Once you get someone with Asperger’s out of Defense Mode, it makes everything else they do & learn a lot easier. And it makes your job easier as well, because they are finally receptive and not so avoidant.

Here’s some examples of what actually happens once you are out of Defense Mode:




#4 – Don’t focus solely on teaching social skills (sensory stuff is more important)

This goes with #3. If you solely focus on teaching executive functioning and social skills, then you miss the most effective part of helping someone with Asperger’s.

Teaching someone with Asperger’s how to “be with” their emotions, and deal with sensation will not only set them up for an amazing life, but will help them to switch from “Protect” to “Connect” so they are able to learn social skills on their own.

This video succinctly explains this concept using the “Sensory Funnel”:

#5 – Diagnosis doesn’t matter as much as solutions and actual help

That’s not to say that getting diagnosed doesn’t help. It absolutely does. It opens up tons of doors for government and school services, and allows you to finally name the issues. But then what?


If you had to choose between focusing all of your effort on pursuing a diagnosis, or working with your child to build love & trust, always choose the latter. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to find the “right” diagnosis before you shift your attention to actually helping your child. Do both.

#6 – Choose your battles

You can’t fix it all. And you certainly can’t fix it all at the same time. So by sheer necessity, you’ll need to pick your battles, or you will get extremely exhausted and overwhelmed.

One of our AE+ members suggests using the “3 buckets” method:


#7 – Put on your own oxygen mask first

“Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Why? Because you’ll suffocate if you don’t. In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others (including your kids).

Here are some simple things to do that you can immediate add to your daily routine of self care (or, if you don’t have a daily self care routine, here’s how to start):

#8 – Parents need to do just as much work as the kids

It’s not all about the kids needing to change. There is lots of research  to show that the way parents behave influences the way children behave. In other words: If the kid has issues, the parent needs to do work just as much as the kid does.

What can you, as the parent do to better yourself so that you better your kid?

#9 – It’s never too late. There is always hope.

Here at Asperger Experts, we believe in the transformative power of neuroplasticity. Simply put, neuroplasticity is the brains ability to change and adapt. Previously this was thought to end at the age of 5, but there’s new science that shows that the brain can actually adapt and change all throughout life.

To you, this means that someone with Asperger’s can ALWAYS learn new skills, habits, beliefs and ways of being. That never goes away.


Want more reminders? Join us as a member of AE+ and get access to a 24/7 online parent support network.


70 thoughts on “The 9 most important things to remember when raising someone with Asperger’s

  1. My son is 10. He was diagnosed with ASD/ Asperger’s at age 7. He is super smart. He makes mostly A’s in school, but he struggles with the social aspect. He does not know how to read social situations and respond appropriately. He feels like no body likes him. He feels like he is bullied and picked on at school. He says that he would rather die than go to school. I have the opportunity to home school him, but I have mixed feelings about it. I do not want him to be miserable and hate life. Some people say he is just making stuff up to get his way. What do you think?

    1. Don’t listen to what others are telling you, he is not making stuff up to get his way. Listen to what he is telling you, sympathize with him and let him know you are there for him and will do everything you can to help him. Don’t let the school setting push your child over the edge, pull him out. The bullying is real and impacting him emotionally which will eventually impact his entire outlook on life (the fact he is telling you he would rather die is a very scary and real thing) and he may experience total shutdown, as our child did at the age of 10. I would give it a try and see if he becomes a happier child. If he does then it was the right thing, You have nothing to lose by trying home schooling…you could lose years if you don’t try to find the right educational setting for him now. He is still communicating show him you are listening (not just tell him) Let him know what the next step is if he has problems with home schooling. Homeschooling did not work with our child and I believe it was simply because he was in total shutdown before we attempted it. Our child is intelligent, was 2 years ahead in math and science and his reading comprehension was a the high school level before his breakdown, which I believe was mostly due to situations at school. My advice is to homeschool before it is too late. There’s always a chance that he will be able to return to a traditional school once he matures. We just found a Montessori school and farm that is finally bringing our child back to the happy child we knew was in there, after almost 3 years of total shut down. Give everything you can a try and move on until you find what will work for him.

      1. I agree! My son with Aspergers was being bullied in high school, and DID try to take his life. Please believe him, and if he WANTS to be home schooled, DO IT! For your child’s sake!! I told my son that college will be better, most kids don’t get bullied in college…I was right, he is now very happy, and enjoying college very much! He also counsels kids who were/are victims of bullying. So proud of him!

    2. If he was diagnosed, it sounds like the recommended approach is to make the child feel safe. So perhaps homeschooling is the way to go. If you are uncertain about homeschooling, check local listings to find homeschool groups. There is bound to be one group that has info for homeschooling aspies

    3. First of all do not listen to other people! Family, friend or acquaintance. YOU know your child. If you can homeschool him I recommend doing so. We moved to Florida last year and changed schools three times. We have to provide and fight and sacrifice until we find the right environment. Norhing will be perfect. And they have to figure out life. But if he is saying he hates it there are circumstances that will tear him down. Check state funds. If available look for private schools. Or Charter schools that cater to his likes. My daughters school has a Thespian troupe, math and science program. She loves it there. After school has a game design program. She LOVEs that. If you are unsuccessful then try virtual school or home. But you have to get him active socially in other settings. Interests. Etc. My daughter is great at dance. Beginning was tough but I would not let her quit because she was good and it built her confidance. With dance I never let her give up. If a day was overwhelming I would take her home or sit out to decompress. But never quit. Now she is in the Civic Ballet Nutcracker this year. So proud! Our children have to learn how to cope. But if bullied and miserable they will shut down. They also have to feel safe. Also, Find games ideas online that help with “What would you do”scenarious. Have the family act out. Charades. Etc. Self help books. Many books at libraries on Aspergers. Always listen to your gut. No matter. And dont worry about others. Do right by your son. Hope rhis helps!

    4. My son is an 11yo Aspie who hates school and also says he wishes he were dead. He asks why God made him this way all the time. I can’t get him out of defense mode and I feel like I’m just about at my wits end. I finally took him out to home school him three weeks ago and now he wants to go back to that “hell hole” as he calls it. Now I don’t know what to do. He wants so badly to be around other kids (he’s in a special ed class mostly Aspie’s), but it’s the other kids that he ends up exploding on. I don’t know what to do. It would be so much easier without the anger…

    5. I have twin boys both with adhd,one with asperger’s,the other has ODD. I am sure that A would have been worse had he not been a twin as his brother B is very outgoing and social. In first grade before A’s diagnosis of ASD,he complained about a kid that was bullying him. His brother said he was a friend. A hated school, had meltdowns trying to get there, ended up being sent to court by the school district for tardiness even. After the diagnosis, I reached out to the mom of the boy who was bullying A. It turns out she was going to contact me as her son was telling her what A was telling me. He said A was bullying him even though he tried to he friends, he hated school, etc. We had a play date with all 3 boys. As we talked we realized that both boys were trying to be friends and with poor social understanding took the other as a bully. They already had an ASD diagnosis and that prompted me to get A tested. They ended up being friends after his therapist was able to talk to the boys so they would understand what was going on. He’s in 5th grade now, we still have some issues, but he does have friends.

  2. I am a Single parent to a 14 yrs. old son who has Aspergers. Very recently, my 4 yrs old daughter was also diagnosed with Aspergers. Acquiring the necessary services for them, the IEPs, and the doctor’s visits can be tedious. Not to mention the amount of time you spend just advocating in an educational or public setting. A lot has changed. But the one constant in all of it is when I look at my children, I don’t see their diagnosis. I see two kids that are the best parts of me. So no matter what our struggle is, I always make sure they know that.

  3. My son is 18 and wrote a book for his Senior Project about having Asperger’s. He talks about growing up and all of the challenges he faced and how he was able to overcome some of those obstacles. We live in WA state and he is also a part of the Do-It Scholar program at U of W . Have you heard of the program? It’s a program for college bound students with disabilities and helps them advocate and learn about college life. I would like to give you the link to Amazon for his book as well as the Seattle Times article that just featured the Do-It program. I don’t see anywhere I can message you. Please advise. Thanks! Love your page.

  4. My son was diagnosed with Aspergers at 12 he is now 26.
    It’s been a long hard road but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    My sons school years were horrible , other kids didn’t understand , teachers didn’t understand . My son was badly bullied everyday from the age of 5 until about the age of 15.
    What happened at 15 ? The school changed headmasters …the new head was enlightened and was very pro active , believing in inclusion of special needs not exclusion . He began a educational program in school about Autism in general and got the kids involved in fund raising and awareness. That man made my sons final year at school the happiest he had ever had .
    This confidence boost I firmly believe helped my son to be the man he is today.
    My son is a civil servant , he has his own car, has a long term relationship and 2 children of his own.
    It wasn’t easy , lots of peaks and troughs but I believe education in mainstream schools about all the facets of autism is key . People are predisposed to be suspicious of what they don’t understand

  5. My son is 20 and completely shutdown. His dad and I tried and we’re still trying to get him out of defense mode but it’s very difficult. He refuses to communicate in any way and refuses any kind of help. He is going further and further away from us and it really is sad. Please let me know your thoughts.

    1. I have an 18 that from age 16 was doing the same thing. I had to become more engaged with him. He liked video games I had to play video games with him and I would have him explain how to play the games to me then after some time playing games we would engage in conversation through baby steps which did help reduce defense mode and reopen doors of communication. There are struggle times but i look to what hes interested in and use his interests as engaging tools to keep connected. Now with my 7 yr old I am applying those same techniques and its been a big help. Prayers for you all.

  6. What exactly is Defense Mode, and what exactly do you do for it? What specific things should a parent do to help the child?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *