Getting someone with Asperger’s to do something

You cannot get anyone with Asperger’s to do anything they don’t want to do.

Read that again.

We get parents every single day emailing us, and when you boil down the message, they are all saying “How do I get my son/daughter to do x”

Where x is watch our videos, stop complaining, do something with their life, clean up after themselves, clean themselves, etc.

The answer:

You are asking the wrong question. You can’t get anyone to do anything, and if you continue to impose your will on someone else, you will just be met with more and more and more resistance.

So, how do you cause someone with Asperger’s to get their act together, if you can’t get them to do anything?

Well, let’s go through this as someone with Asperger’s would. Logically.

In order to do something, anything, you need to have some motivation to do it. Even simple things such as taking a step, eating, talking, etc require some motivation.

Therefore, since a fairly large portion of the world does things each day (barring any serious mental or physical issues), we can say that they also have some motivation.

People also have motivation for further things, such as what they want to do in life that they currently are not.

This doesn’t need to be big dreams. It could be as simple as “Go see the movie that is coming out on Friday”

Most of those “further” things tend to require a certain skillset, as well as certain expectations. Things like being hygenic, having stable finances, being able to communicate, and so forth.

So, rather than attempting to force your will on someone (like “getting them to” do something), if you work with the natural motivations that are there, the side effect of that is that they will comply with the basic skills and expectations required of them.

In other words, instead of trying to get someone with AS to take a shower, make friends, and do something with their life, find out what they are ALREADY motivated to do. (yes, they are motivated to do things, it may just not be the things you personally like…. such as playing video games).

Anyway, you find out what they are ALREADY motivated to do, and you help them get more into that. Yes, even if someone likes to play video games, if you help them get more into that, they might want to join a group of friends and play together. Which means…. they will be practicing social skills!

And if their hobby costs a bit of money to maintain… suddenly they will have all the motivation in the world to get a job.

To summarize: Instead of forcing your will ON them, see what they are already motivated to do, and go FROM that.

269 thoughts on “Getting someone with Asperger’s to do something

  1. Hi. Well i’m only commenting due to many people having issues with their children with aspergers. I can honestly say its difficult due to the fact I was diagnosed two years ago in my junior year of high school to which i have to do a fifth year. My mother had always had difficulties with me being that I was very defensive over little things an could snap at any moment. This situation got worse in elementary school when we had moved homes multiple times and this is before I was diagnosed mind you. School and home can be both extremely dangerous to our learning if not given help. Over the years I closed myself off due to the fact that I was highly depressed an was mainly disliked by other children. Even with family I was wary, as I had become so used to the negative comments that I basically blocked everyone out. Being as supportive as you can even if its unwanted. Everyone is different you need to take into account that not everyone is willing to listen.

  2. My son has only recently been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome following getting himself into trouble and ending up in prison for 2 years. It was not recognised through his school years, he was just a loner who struggled with school work. I think he has done what he did for attention. He is now really struggling in prison and there doesn’t seem to be any help anywhere so as he doesn’t reoffend again. He is so depressed, has self harmed and says he would do worse given the chance!
    Can anyone help me in finding some kind of counsellor to try and help my son !!

  3. I’m a parent of a teenager son recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my NT head around the idea that he “can’t help” what I see as his being unbelievably lazy, impulsive, destructive, dishonest, selfish, and manipulative. It’s incredibly frustrating. I feel like now I’m standing back, enabling his horrible behavior, letting him just do whatever the hell he wants, when he wants, all in the name of using his natural aptitudes/interests to “try to get him to do ________”. I feel like I should tattoo across my forehead “I promise he was raised to KNOW better” and across my back “I’m really sorry.” Does anyone have any advice to help me understand AS better? It literally feels like a grieving process right now.

    1. Hi Kelly
      I have just come out of a long-term relationship with an AS man and I feel exactly the same. He fitted your exact description. It is very hard to come to the conclusion that a person “can’t help” it. I am very much grieving due to the lack of understanding, connection, behaviours etc. It is very hard indeed.

    2. Hi Kelly, I feel your pain and totally understand How you feel you are grieving. You ARE grieving ….many things. The son you thought you would have, the parenting relationship you hoped to have, dreams for his future etc. As well, Parenting An AS teen can be challenging and frustrating in ways most NT parents cannot understand. My now 18 yr old son was diagnosed when he was in grade 4. It was before Christmas and I honestly felt like someone had died. I went through a grieving process and got through it slowly. At different milestones (other NT kids getting drivers licences, dating, jobs etc) I would grieve a bit again. Other parents of NT kids would go on and on about their child’s accomplishments and it would hurt to hear it because it Would be a reminder that my son was not at those milestones. I got through it by crying, praying, reading a lot about the subject and talking it through with counselling and friends. My husband ( who I think also may have a touch of mild Aspergers 🙂 would not accept the diagnosis initially. It caused a great deal of stress and conflict in the home because he would “expect” certain NT behaviours from our son and when he wasn’t complying he would sometimes judge him as lazy or mean etc and this damaged their relationship. After my husband and I got parenting counselling to get on the same page and parent with consistent, positive, boundaries and consequences things got much better. Education about AS, Compassion& understanding with firm boundaries were key for us and following through on reasonable consequences. You are not a bad mom,you’re doing the best you can with what you knew in the moment and your kid is most likely a great kid- trapped in a confusing package of Aspergers and being a teen on top of it. My biggest advice is don’t try to do this alone. Get AS education & counselling support for yourself and then see what your son needs by way of supports etc. Most Autism societies offer free supports. It’s hard to fight the daily uphill battle of getting your AS kid to comply and sometimes the temptation is to just let go and let them do whatever they want but finding a happy balance somewhere in the middle is usually better. Also keep in mind you are going through all the typical teen issues as well at this time – even without AS Parenting a teen can make you feel crazy LOL

      There are lots of websites and YouTube videos on AS teens and parenting them that can help. One is called Aspergers Experts done by an adult with AS & I found it very helpful in getting a first person feel for what they go through.

      Hang in there. You are a hero even though you may not feel like it right now. All the best as you journey with your AS teen.

  4. My 18 year old son ( with AS) is in the beginning of his first year of private University. He has already let us know that college is horrible, there is nothing to do for fun, and his classes ( esp. Chemistry and calculus) give work EVERY DAY! ( what a surprise) . He said he is probably going to fail, because he cannot figure out how to get into the online chemistry tutorial, and after being there a month, has yet to do laundry. Whenever I try to offer advise or encouragement, I am met with rude comments like ” I don’t need your advice, don’t bother texting me”. It is so hurtful, but I know he is overwhelmed- he is already planning to come home next semester and live at home while he goes to the local state school. I feel this would be a big blow to his self esteem and confidence for living independently. I am so frustrated! This is from a kid who already had 27 hours of AP credit when he went to school. How can he be having that hard if a time?! Any advice appreciated!

    1. Hello. Like your son, i’m also eighteen and I also have aspergers – granted high functioning.
      But I think I get where your son is coming from and maybe I can help shed some light?
      The first thing I can say is that becoming frustrated won’t help anyone. Personally I find myself feeding off of frustration which is a huge hindrance and often leaves me verbally lashing out at others even when my intentions otherwise would be far from that – or in other words it’s just as painful in a sense to verbally lash out as to be the recipient of such a lash out.

      The second thing is to try considering this from his perspective. Naturally I don’t know either of you, so I’ll share some of mine and what helped me – I had a very similar problem to his and in my case what came of it was just messy.

      The problem I had in school was, like his, a math class that gave assignments every day. These assignments were, generally twenty or more questions and for each assignment we were given two days to complete it. On top of this I had hard work from my AP English class, and then following was all the work from all of my other classes.

      So you would assume that the Math and English would be easy, the math because we had two days to complete the assignments and the English because it’s just what I’m good at. But that wasn’t the case, I’m slow at math and always have been, it would take me almost a full day to complete the math assignment and then that night to do the english leaving my other work on the wayside.
      It wasn’t that I didn’t understand either subject, it was just that I was slow with math, and in the English classes the way they asked us to do our work (taking notes as we read instead of after the reading) threw me off terribly.
      Naturally I ended up very behind in both Math and English with iffy scores in my other classes. By that time I had already conceded to failing and I didn’t want help.

      I didn’t want help because I didn’t need the work explained, I understood how to do it and it made me angry and frustrated when others asked if I needed help because I understood the concepts being taught. In short it was overwhelming, frustrating, and severely disheartening.

      My problem wasn’t with the work itself but with the pace. There were too many assignments being thrown at me and it just got to a point where I gave up like, as you’re describing he is.
      It did hurt, it was a blow. But not so much as forcing myself to stay up all night trying to read a very complex book and take complex notes on said reading after having spent my whole day with Math.

      I did need help, but it wasn’t with what everyone thought it was with and I had no idea how to ask for that help.
      What I needed help with was getting a conference with the teachers, I was too nervous around them to ask – just like your son hasn’t asked his teacher for help in getting onto the online chemistry tutorial.
      What it took was my mom getting in touch with the teachers. We talked about my difficulties and my mom (because in that moment i was having a panic attack at being surrounded by teachers) told them the problem I was having. Basically in the end they decided that what would help was a 504 plan (which, if you don’t have those where you are, is basically the same plan as other students, but slowed to a more manageable pace).

      In my case, though they were too slow in getting the plan set up, and I started having severe panic attacks at the thought of going to school and bad paranoia about getting behind and constantly worrying that I was forgetting assignments.

      But I don’t know, perhaps they’ll actually get on it with your son and get him the help he needs? If anything it’s worth a shot to try.

      But with your comment on how he can be having such a hard time, I can honestly say that it’s really easy to.
      Anyways I hope that I wrote this coherently, and that it offers any little bit of help.

      1. My son is now a 5th year senior in college and has AS. It was difficult the first year as it is with any teen going to school. We tried to equip him with everything he needed such as quarters and easy gel packs for the laundry and were quick to offer helpful solutions to his difficult math class by encouraging him to speak with the professor and/or get a tutor. One other thing we did was to have him register with the student disabilities department at the school. They met with him and decided what his needs would be. His motor skills are not the best for writing but he can type better than most so they made sure that all of his teachers allowed him to use a laptop in class as some teachers did not allow it. They also allowed him to take exams in the disability office so he had more time to write his answers. Also, he was able to register for classes before the school general population so he had a better choice of classes and teachers. At one point he called us helicopter parents which we thought was amusing. He wants to do everything himself and has a hard time taking any advice. My husband and I often struggle with the question of are we enabling or are we preparing him for the future. I wonder how far your child is from home? One thing that helped our situation was that he was an hour from home so he would come home on the weekends which helped with the laundry and being more comfortable at school. His independence was intact but he could still come home. One other thing is that we were not expecting a 4 year graduate. The classes are demanding and difficult. I would suggest allowing your son to take 3 to 4 classes a semester. It may take longer to graduate but isn’t the goal finishing?? I have seen tremendous growth and maturity with my son over the last 5 college years and am very proud of him. It is not easy and we have many moments where he has wanted to give up. I don’t think they totally understand that graduating college is a tremendous achievement. Keep trying and encouraging your son. Speak calmly and confidently.

    2. You have set your son up for failure. At least you recognize he is overwhelmed. He needs support. He knows he doesn’t fit in; very difficult to make friends or get positive feedback from his peers because he presents differently. Of course he did well in his high school classes; most aspires are brilliant in some areas, he probably had a nice support system among teachers and peers because they grew up together; and he had you/family to support him (including doing the laundry, getting food, etc.) Tell him you made a huge mistake and you are looking at ways to help him be more independent at home, while he continues his studies at the state school.

  5. Okay but here’s where I’m having my issues – there are simple tasks he needs to conduct that he simply will not do. He’s 21 and we live together. Things like getting out of bed before noon every day. Cleaning up after himself so that all our roommates won’t be mad at him. He threw a tantrum at me around 9:30 this morning because I wanted to drive him to the post office to pick up his passport, for a trip abroad that I am paying for fully. It’s frustrating how selfish he is. I’m the demon because I’m trying to make him do things and yet these are all things that shouldn’t even be my responsibility that I’m helping him out with. I honestly don’t know what to do. Yesterday he complained that he didn’t want to eat cheap food anymore, so I’m taking him to the grocery store today–or so I thought til he threw another hissy fit. We need to get his passport but every time I try to talk to him he throws a tantrum. I have outright told him “these are tasks that we need to do FOR YOU” and that just lead to squirming and flailing and saying that I’m putting too much pressure on him. Literally I am doing most of the work, he just needs to be physically present.

    1. I completely understand what you are going through. I have the same problem with my ageing father and trying to care and help him and Mum, he is getting impossible. We can not discuss anything now without a tantrum, there is no reasoning with him. Mum and Dad have retired, and he just makes Mum and my life miserable at times. Luckily I live in my own home. He is seeing a counsellor for aspergers, but he does not like going, and thinks he does not need to go, and complains.
      I can not offer advice, only heartfelt sympathy, I have tired for nearly 30 years (I’m 41) to get through to him and little success and lots of failure I am afraid. Mum and me have the same problems, and as he gets older the harder it becomes, he is getting more stubborn and difficult, and then can’t remember. Aspergers and him losing his memory, make life even harder, and very upsetting.
      I hope things go well for you in the future.

    2. It will never change – trust me. I am 40 years into such a relationship – and not as severe as your’s seems to be. Get out while you can. Get out or you will be doing EVERYTHING for the rest of your life.

  6. My 19 year old gave 1800. To his “girlfriend” he misses social cues im not even sure if he gets concept of how much money that was…when I try to talk to him about it ,he gets angry….HELP

  7. I’m NT, I used to invite or suggest my aspie friend I know for many years for variety of activities.

    80% of time, his answer is no.
    (harsh, unfriendly no)

    Even the 20% of time when he says yes, I don’t see him enthusiastic.
    When he joined me, often, if not always, he seems uncomfortable and nervous.
    His awkwardness is more than usual.

    As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to have a good time when your company displays such discomfort and I sometimes feel even guilty seeing him so unpleasant on the activity I genuinely wished we would enjoy it together.

    …When he have said no to my invitation, I asked him the reasons few times.
    (Not to pressure him, purely wanted to know his reasons)

    Then, almost always he had the expression that he never think of the reasons (of him being said no) and his answers were somewhat valid but often very vague and rational.

    Then I realized he say no to my invitation not because he had specific reason, he said no predominantly because doing a thing out of his routeeen is unpleasant for him.

    Now, I only do thing he is comfortable with…which is less than three variety.
    …but I don’t have a choice, do I?

    To add this difficulties, occasionally he withdrawn. stop contact me for months without much reasons.

    This sense of nothing to grow or un-boundable is overwhelmingly hard.
    (Which he seems have no idea)

    As NT, I have tried “enough” to be his friend.
    Now, I started to realized, it’s extreamly difficult to be with aspie who doesn’t have much desire to built a frindship with others.

    I have gain knowledge of him, his asperger characteristics, his fears and interests.
    But I don’t want to try anymore, why do I want to?

    I’ll try to spend more times with my NT friends this summer who hear me, who see me, who want to hang out and share good and bad time mutually.

    1. I completely feel your pain. I also have a good friend that has asperger syndrome and it is a challenge to have him hangout. But there are things that I learned to do. Ask him questions which always make things easier. For instance I ask ahead of time if he would be comfortable going to a certain functions he would be direct on what he is able to do and what he won’t do. Plus right now I’m giving him goals to set to build a better friendship which includes keeping in touch once a week which he is trying to do but it takes effort. Plus I also have to respect and accept that he needs plenty of space and has a routine he follows. I learned to be a good friend to him as best as I could but also I have to make my ow life and strive cause you will become depressed and forget about yourself and that shouldn’t be the case. Care for your friend but also remember yourself to.

  8. Hello, I read all the blogs, this is the first time I do this I have a son that is now 17yrs old he went from full time student in HS to 1/2 day program and finally refusing school all together. In HS he would call me that someone said something but in reality he was having anxiety attacks. Well after going to get evaluated he has AS, I tried to get him to go to the counseling sessions that were offered he refused. For about a year he was obsessed with video games all day most of the night he would just sit there and sit there and he didn’t want to have a conversation, we couldn’t get him to go anywhere with us. Then one day he just stop playing we kept encouraging him to do something he enjoys so he started working out he got some weights and he does this everyday but some days he can’t go to sleep thinking that tomorrow he is going to be working on Arms or Chest and it will be too hard, so I stay up with him and I have to go to work the next morning because he is mad that he can’t sleep. And he just moves with obsessions he continues the weights but Sports he is a fan of Spurs so every time they play he has to watch it and if that channel is not working he goes from 0-100 with anger and breaks things now we have moved on to Baseball and really this is what I am writing about I have always been there for him and we love him a lot but lately a something new his temper and I get scared how do I handle this? I feel really sad for all of us I really want to help him but I want him to understand that I may have to call the police if he does not control his anger over not seeing a game.

    1. Does he take any medication??? My 22 year old AS son has had ans has anger issues. In his teen years they put him on Risperidone in a very small dose which helped out immensely. It allowed him to keep calmer and allowed him to be able to make better decision than just lashing out. In his later teen years he started tot take Zoloft in small doses which helps enhance his mood. We were not big on taking any medication but were at wits end. I am not sure if you son will agree to take the meds and believe my son does not like to take them but deep down I believe he knows that they help him. Good luck.


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