Where do I start? and other questions answered

We’re fortunate enough to make a living helping people with Asperger’s and their families. We’ve been doing this since 2012, and have gotten a LOT of questions.

(Over 43,000 questions so far… but who’s counting?)

So here are the answers to the most common questions we get. Figured I would save you some time googling and looking through our materials.

Without further ado, lets get started!

Where do I start? What do I focus on?

Not social skills. Seriously. Everyone (including a lot of therapists and doctors) thinks that Asperger’s just means lack of social skills. You and I know better. For someone with Asperger’s, learning social skills is a SIDE EFFECT of what we call “getting them out of Defense Mode”.

Once they are out, they will start to pick up social skills on their own.

We once had a 23 year old client client who we were working with for a few months when she told us this amazing story:

After her most recent session with us, she ended up going to a Chili’s for dinner with her family. As she usually did, she got the crayons to color with, and stayed silent, in her own world. Then she looked up and asked her father “So dad, how was your day?”.

Everyone stopped and looked at her. And then she realized that she has started a social conversation, and asked about someone else’s day. Without any social skills training. She just spontaneously did it. And she did it because she had started to get out of Defense Mode.

The point being, start with getting out of Defense Mode. THEN you can move to teaching social skills and everything else.

You have a few options to learn about Defense Mode:

Attend our free “Out of Defense Mode” webinar.

Buy our “Deep Into Defense Mode” course here.

Join us for a live, weekend workshop on Defense Mode. Dates & Locations are here.

Do they need to be on meds?

Obviously, I am not a doctor, and we have no doctors on staff here at AE, but here’s our philosophy on medication:

Medication in general is a great stepping stool. Take Tylenol as an example. Tylenol is amazing at making it so you don’t feel pain as much. Does it do anything to resolve the source of that pain? Absolutely not! Does it make it easier for you to focus on finding the source and fixing the problem, instead of focusing on the pain? Absolutely!

Same thing goes with medication that may help with Asperger’s symptoms. Let’s be clear though: There is no medication to help with Asperger’s. There ARE meds that can help with focusing, anxiety, depression, etc. But again, we see those as stepping stones. By all means take an anxiety medication so that you can feel safe enough to work through your anxiety issues with a therapist.

In our opinion, once you have gotten to the point where you have resolved enough of your anxiety issues, it may be time to talk with your doctor about slowly getting off of certain meds.

Where do I go for help & services? Which types of help work best?

Without sounding biased, this website is a great resource! But other than this website, here’s what we recommend:

Tackling Asperger’s in an effective way requires a team. You’ll generally need a competent therapist or psychiatrist, someone from the school that is onboard, and a giant support network for yourself (AE+ offers such a support network with thousands of parents all sharing stories and best practices)

The National Autism Network has a great directory of providers, listed by geographic region.

The best information we’ve found always just comes from talking with other parents to get referrals, advice & help. The specific services you need may vary based on your child’s specific needs.

As far as which types of help work best, here’s our opinion: Anything that is body/somatic centric is, in our opinion (having lived with Asperger’s), the most effective. That means things like Somatic Experiencing Therapy. We haven’t found much good out of traditional Asperger’s therapies like ABA.

Here’s our thoughts on ABA:

How do I get my kid to…?

Short answer: You don’t. Get implies control & force. A much better, easier, and more effective way is to lay a foundation of love & trust. Then you don’t need to force your child to do anything. They clearly see why it is in their best interest to do what you’ve invited them to… and then do it.

As someone from our Asperger’s/Autism Parent Support Network (part of AE+) said:


For more on taking this different approach, learn Deep Listening from this video:

What do I do when they get angry?

First off: Back off. Assuming they are not hurting themselves, the environment or other people, give them space. Obviously, that changes if they become a danger or a threat. Then please take appropriate action.

After they have calmed down, REALLY focus on doing what the “Super Soul Sunday” video up there ^ says. Then focus on getting them out of Defense Mode.

How do I tell them they have Aspergers?

The how is easy. Just tell them how you arrived at that conclusion and what Asperger’s is. What a lot of our members struggle with is the “When”.

If they have not expressed an interest in knowing why they are different, then there’s no need to tell them yet. Same goes if their life is still relatively good. If, however, they are beginning to notice that they are different, having struggles in school, and asking you about those struggles, then I would tell them.

Why don’t they want to take a shower/do hygiene?

It’s not necessarily that they don’t WANT to take a shower, brush their teeth, comb their hair, etc. They may just have higher priorities. People with Asperger’s are generally always operating at a state where they are slightly stressed (or very stressed). This state continues until you get them out of Defense Mode.

What happens in this state is that their priority list is already 80% full with just managing the day and getting by. They simply don’t have the emotional availability to do everything they would like to. So certain things that are higher priority TO THEM get done, while things they would like to eventually do, but simply aren’t as high of a priority do not.

In order to help them move hygiene up the priority ladder, you’ll need to do 2 things:

  1. Help them feel safe, secure & loved at home as much as possible. This is their place to calm down, let off some steam, and process the events of the day. The more you do this, the more capacity they will have for more items in their mental priority list.
  2. Teach them, using a complete logical path statement, why taking a shower is a high priority. That means explaining to them, in a complete way, logically what will happen if they don’t… and why they should.

Why do they play video games so much? (or obsess about other special interests)

When I was growing up, I was EXTREMELY into video games. I played them for every waking hour I could. Sound familiar?

I did it for a few reasons:

  1. It was fun.
  2. It allowed me to relax, and be entertained in an environment that I had complete control in.
  3. It allowed me to socialize with others in a safe way.

The biggest reason was simply that it afforded me the opportunity to screw up without any social repercussions. If I was on an online game and said something awkward, I could just make a new character and no one was the wiser.

Here’s the complete story:

How do I get the school to understand?

Getting the school staff to understand can be one of the most frustrating things about raising a kid with Asperger’s. Especially when they aren’t trained properly. It sucks. A lot.

However, there are some things you can do right now to help:

1) Work WITH the teachers & staff, instead of against. This means leveling with them on THEIR perspective of dealing with more than 1 kid. Show them why helping your kid in an appropriate way will make their life easier.

2) Send them our materials. Specifically, this page is a great page to send to them. (It shares our big picture philosophy on Asperger’s). In addition, we have a “Give this to teachers” audio that is specifically designed for this purpose. It comes with our School Success course.

3) Last resort: Look for another school or homeschool. There are times when you have done all you can to attempt to educate the school staff. If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to consider looking for another school, or exploring alternative schooling options like homeschooling or unschooling. (Our AE+ members are always happy to give advice about specific schools and types of schooling that has worked for their kids)

What does this mean for their future? Will they have a full life? Is there a chance that they will have a normal life?

This means their future will be awesome! A lot of people with Asperger’s act like adults already, and they are just waiting for their body to catch up. I was that way. The good news is they won’t be burdened by the rules of society, and will forge their own path. The bad news is that they won’t be burdened by the rules of society… and will forge their own path.

Your job is to let go of all of your expectations for what they “should” be doing, and simply love & support them through their journey. We’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of people, and there is absolutely nothing stopping people with Asperger’s from achieving a full & normal life.

It is never too late. There is ALWAYS hope.

Here’s the story of one parent who lost hope that his daughter (who is in her mid 20’s) would ever move out of the house, get a job, or live on her own…. until it happened:

What did I do to make this happen?

Absolutely nothing. Let’s clear this up right now: Asperger’s is not a bad thing. It is the equivalent to being left-handed. You need to make some adjustments to what is common in life, but that doesn’t mean you are broken or bad.

Yes, there are difficulties. But there are difficulties with anything. Asperger’s just has its own set of difficulties.

On the topic of what actually causes Asperger’s/Autism: In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter. Here at AE, we focus on helping people with Asperger’s and their families learn to use their unique gifts, perspectives and abilities, and get out of Defense Mode.

We don’t focus on what caused it… because frankly it doesn’t matter.

Why doesn’t it matter? A few reasons:

1. Even if we found the source of the “issue”, it would be like curing people of being left handed. There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing to cure.

2. Even if we found the cause of Autism, it won’t generate a magic pill that people can take to make them non-autistic. Every single person out there living with Asperger’s and Autism still has to learn to live their life.

On the other hand, that DOES NOT mean you shouldn’t focus on making life better for someone with Asperger’s. By all means help them with their anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, etc. We’ll be here supporting you through that journey. Just know there is nothing morally wrong with the person, so there is nothing to fix.

In short: Accept them for who they are, and help them overcome their challenges.

Want more? Want to ask the Asperger Experts team your questions? Get help from thousands of other parents? Get access to a private, moderated Minecraft server? Join AE+.

18 thoughts on “Where do I start? and other questions answered

  1. Your site is being very helpfull to me. My 9 years old son has just been diagnosed Asperger. I live in France, where there is not much info about asperger. The teacher kept telling me she had no problem with my kid when I told her about it. Sure , he is kind of very respectfull of “law”. I’m glad I ‘m good enough at English so I can understand your videos. Thank you so much.

  2. My son is in the 3rd grade. His current diagnosis is ADHD “with autism traits”, but I think it is aspergers, and my sister-in-law who is a pediatric nurse agrees with me. In truth, I think that I am an aspie too, but was never properly diagnosed. My boy isn’t doing well in school now because he interrupts his teacher to talk about video games and pokemon. Today when she redirected him he got upset and started banging his head on the wall. When he gets nervous, or eats dairy, he has irritable bowel attacks. He has been seeing a therapist for his anxiety and will soon start physical therapy to try to improve his motor skills. He absolutely freaked out last time I took him to the dentist and they have referred us to a different clinic. He doesn’t play with other kids at recess, I’m told that he walks the same pattern around the playground over and over again. He says he is “in his head.”
    I am gluten free and have attempted to remove gluten from his diet but he is a very picky eater and freaks out over any changes.
    He experiences sensory overload and sometimes uses earplugs or headphones to dampen sound. When he was small he needed to wear sunglasses most of the time.
    It can be so hard to get through to him, he just zones out whenever we are talking, or starts talking about video games.
    He doesn’t even play the games that much, he watches videos and reads reference books about them. He sits up at night reading reference books about video games and pokemon.
    He reads well above his grade level. But he can’t ever find his homework to turn it in.
    He is so smart and full of ideas… I just don’t know what the next step is to make sure that he succeeds in life and the school doesn’t just decide he’s a problem.

  3. Hi im a single mum of 2 teenage girls,14 and 15 years old..My 15 year old is yet to be fully diagnosed but she has mild aspergers.Shes always had trouble going to school,and getting into a routine.She is very bright and a lovely girl.She has not been to school atall in 3 years and has locked herself away from the world,and doesnt get out the house,instead she stays in her room and watches her anime.I as her mum and best maybe only friend at the moment,am the only one she will look in the eyes when she talks.I am at a loss,as i feel she has no future,we are not even able to get her to homeschool,or get into a propper routine.she rathers stay awake all night and sleep most the day.I am sincerely worried about her,she says if she ever lives alone,she will die of hunger,and i of course would never let that happen.The school and i tried to be a little pushy in the beginning to get her to school,but have since backed off..All i can do as her mum is be there for her,but i just dont know how to help her..im not working,as im trying to get her life on track,but shes just not interested.do i just let her grow up as an adult,with social issues and no real life or futyre??please help..i dont know exactly what im doin..im depressed and feel like the worlds worst mum xx cyn xx

  4. Hi. My 15yr old son has Autism. He hasnt attended school for 6months. He has started a job placement which has no time limit, working with animals, which is his thing, but like everything else in his life , he is starting to pull back from it, to opt out , he does like iand its only 2 mornings a wk at min, but if he is tired he refuses to go. I dont want him to lose this placement, have you any ideas on what way I should deal with this? I have been very literal in my explanations to him, but I know if he is tired again on a work day there isxa very good chance he wont go. Also, he is on anti-depressants, but still gets very low, wanting to kill himself, kill everyone else, says lifes too hard, he is on the highest dose for his age, he attends a phychologist and phychiatrist so we are being helped but he still presents in these ways. I feel helpless, at times, dont know how much more I can take, it hurts so much to watch him struggle through life! In his eyes life is one big waste of time and its only a matter of time untill he takes his own life! Do you have any suggestions please. ?

  5. I’m 70 year old Aspie, son of an Aspie mother (deceased), grandson of an Aspie grandmother, father of 5 Aspie children (46 to 26 yo), father-in-law of an Aspie daughter-in-law and grandfather of 6 (and possibly 10) Aspie grandchildren, aged 24 to 2 yo.

    So with FIVE generations of Aspies in my family — two of which generations were never vaccinated as children ( the vaccines didn’t exist back then) — I am VERY hard to convince that autism is caused by any vaccine or other any non-genetically-transmitted cause. Add to this the fact that most of us also have Neurofibromatosis Type 2 — almost always co-existent with Autism — and my scepticism increases dramatically.

    What I am impressed by is recent research showing the effect on synapses along neurons in the brains of both neurotypical children and autistic children: the number of synapses in autistic children are 3-5 times more numerous than those in neurotypical children.

    This is due to regular “culling” of excess synapses in neurotypical children by a naturally-occurring substance in their bodies, keeping the number to a manageable level.

    This substance either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t function properly, in autistic children, leading to excessive numbers of synapses throughout the nervous system.

    This phenomenon suggests plausible explanations for sensory/neural overload, meltdowns, hypersensitivity to sound, light, touch, taste, smell and neurofibromatosis type1 — they even look like NF1 tumors and skin tags. It also offers a plausible explanation of why the vagus nerve is so often “fried” in Aspies.

    You can see images of both types of neurons here: http://goo.gl/dqDPWU

    Aspies crave certainty. Uncertainty creates unbearable stress. So understanding the conditions we’re born with is important for reducing uncertainty and stress.

  6. I have a son(12yrs) with aspergers and it hard to get him to sleep by him self . How can we get him to do this

  7. Amazing info. I am so glad to find this site or fb page. Great info that seems workable. I’m excited to began many of the suggestions. Thanks

  8. Thank you I have enjoyed reading all of this info I am 63and my grandson is 11I have raised since he was 6mons old I have tried and tried to get answers to get him help it wasn’t until Oct that he got the Autism spectrum disorder of aspergers he was in an children’s a Autism behavior until from Oct to March of this yr then he came home he seemed better not so many meltdowns but now it seems he has gone back to this defence mode u talk about my patience I’d not what it use to b I guess what I’m saying am I doing more harm keeping him at home or should I let him go to a place where he can b handle better I look I love him but I want wants best for him Thank u for listening to me

  9. I am so glad I saw this site! I am from England and everything that has been talked about sitting playing video games, not socialising, not going out at all, not wanting to shower, just everything is my son of 15. I have got support for him now. He has not attended school for 18 months as his anxiety levels just hit the roof. The whole bus journey and noise of everyday school just sent him into complete meltdown. He is now being home schooled and really doing well. The problem I have is he has changed his day to going to bed around 1pm and gets up about 12 hrs later. He says that he does this because its quiet and he can avoid people. He doesn’t eat meals, just snacks as he says it wastes time to cook! He interacts on his ps4. Be says he is happy. We lead a quiet life at home just me, his younger sister who also has autism and 2 dogs who they both prefer to people. I feel a bit happier after watching the videos that explain things from my sons point of view. One question though. Do I continue to let him do nightshift as his way of avoiding people or do I just accept that it makes him happy and let him continue. Would really appreciate some advice on this. Thank you

  10. I believe my long time roommate has this condition… studied and looked and know him…. the temper, the emotion and lack of social skills and more…all fit… however… at 55 and NOT open to accepting such a thing, is there ANY way to deal more effectively with his temper and frustrations?

    I DO think that in ways though, he has learned that even if his behavior is upsetting to others, he HAS noted that it is also a way to manipulate others…. but I would still say that most of his behavior is core and difficult to say the least…. his anger is raw and frustrations overwhelming……

    He is also ULTRA sensitive to critique or suggestion that there might be anything going on with him that needs to be dealt with…… he rejects critique and avoids social things… but his spin is that he hates others and they are all stupid.. a defense thing I know, but still a long time coping mech he has developed for avoiding people and uncomfortable situations……

    Ideas welcome on how I might find a way to at the least, accept he has some things that if dealt with productively, could offer him a better life…… and better for those around him as well……

    Thank you for your time and I hope you might be able to help me deal more effectively with him……

  11. Hello there…. thank-you for all you share! I am married to a man w AS for 15 years. He has not been diagnosed… my evaluation through research and close family member’s suggestion. My husband and I have separated a few times, but currently are back together. I have more understanding into why and what my husband goes through. I love him…and I know some things he can’t help. I’m learning how to talk about things and how to get him to help me more without major resistance. My big question is…. I would like for us to see someone professionally….to help further w our marriage. I feel I’m alone in this…. and would like someone else to offer suggestions and guidance. I can’t be the one constantly suggesting or explaining… Would love the help of a third party …. Is this a good idea? Any suggestions on books? Your time is greatly appreciated! ~sonja

  12. Thankyou very, very much for all this wonderful information. I have a 10 yr old son who was diagnosed at 8 yrs , i didnt know anyone who could tell me the answers to ways of helping him. You are now my hero , thanks again.

  13. My grad son is violent to his sister hitting pinching punching .Is this because he knows he is different.

  14. I love your site. I have taught third grade for 20 years and have had asberger kids over the years and have learned to love them. I have a student now who has many of the classic asberger symptoms and struggles daily. It takes nonstop effort from me to keep him going and motivated and to talk him down when he starts to escalate. He is smart and funny and I have grown to love his quirkiness. The problem? His mom. She refuses to see what is right in front of her and even asks, “Why does it have to be called a syndrome?” I worry about his future but as a teacher I can only do so much. There is only about a month left of the school year and then he will move on. My heart breaks for him because I know there is so much support out there that could be making his life, and gets, better.

  15. I love this site. My son who is 33 was diagnosed as having some characteristics of Aspergers well before anyone knew anything about it. I had to research it and educate the schools myself. So much has happened since then and when you have a child who does not display obvious differences until a stressful situation occurs, it is very hard for people to understand. The explanations on this site are spot on and great to remind those of us who have lived through the childhood aspects and still deal with them as adults what the person who has Aspergers is thinking and feeling. I loved the tale of Caitlin. My son was and is, so smart. He learned to read at age 2. He graduated college and went on to get his Master’s Degree. Finally after 6 long years of trying to get that full-time job and move out of the house again, he has done it. It is an entry level job and doesn’t pay much or challenge in his mind, much but it is a start. Hang in there families and friends. With time and patience and tons of hard work, things will progress and get better, even though you may have to go through a lot of hard setbacks.

  16. This is very helpful. My son was diagnosed with autism the latter part of his third grade.reading this is very much like my son. He’s now in 8th grade. Doing ok. I’m going to have my husband read this.thank you


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