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4 Year Old with Aspergers

My four year old son has been recently diagnosed with Aspergers. It has been extremely tough. He is so angry all the time and I feel like a horrible parent. I am working on getting him into counseling here as soon as possible. He sees a psych once a month and we have applied for the developmental preschool, its just a waiting game right now until we can get more evaluations for that. Does anyone have a child with Aspergers? We are fighting to figure out what type of discipline works best for him, and so far, we haven't found anything. I feel like I am going to loose my mind, LOL

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Try cafemom.com. They have a lot of groups there and I know there are some on aspergers. Moms talk with each other and help each other. There is usually at least 1 who has been thru what is happening to you. My email ____@____.com

I have a friend from high school who has two children with Aspergers. I have lost contact with her but, if you would like, I can try to find her! I believe that she started a support group for families with Aspergers. Last time I heard, she was living in Iowa but, she may have a lot of good information for you?! Just let me know! My e-mail is ____@____.com Just let me know if you want me to try to get the two of you in contact with one another!

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Hey J.!

We have a child with Asperger, and age 4 was quite a challange. It seems that a child with such good verbal skills on the surface should be able to be "reasoned" with, but they cant be.

For our daughter, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and vision therapy were all very helpful to bring her skills up, and for kids with AS, they really seem to already have the skills, then get in trouble because they don't really perform as well as we think that they should (given how smart they are) so they are always in trouble, or anticiapting being in trouble.

One area that we dont think about is automaticity and sequencing. These kinds of skills can be very poor, meaning, they may have brushed thier teeth just fine one day, but the whole sequence of actions is not automatic to them and it takes a lot of concentration, often beyone thier maturity and frustration levels, to do it again independently. Instead of just brushing thier teeth like they did yesterday, they have a melt down, or break something, or lay down on the floor and wipe the past on themselves...etc. Visual schedules can help them with these simple tasks. Get a polarid camera, and take a picture of each step, then put them in order in a flip type (4x6) photo album or use notebook rings to bind them so that he can flip through each step as he goes. Break it down into the smallest steps you can, take out the paste, take of the cap, put the brush in one hand, the tube in the other, squeeze, etc. I know it seems small, but if you give him several of these for the simple sequences, he may hve more energy to behave later on the big things.

If he has sensory problems, find something that he can do to self soothe. Water or soap, bubble baths, or a small tub full of corn meal to play in may help him deal with frustration.

Another suggestion is to tell him what you want him to do, instead of what you want him to stop doing. This works, and espeically for our kids, they really cannot turn around what you just said and do the opposite. Say, put your feet on the floor, not stop jumping, and they can do it. Be concrete, use no ephamisms at all, no "in a pickle" or "on the ball" etc. Say EXACTLY what you mean, and explain this to anyone who deals with him on a regular basis. Avoid the people who wont listen (and there will be a few!)

Our dughter is 16 now, and doing OK. We had the most luck with Developmental Pediatricians, with psychiatrists as our treating physician. Pharmaciticals worked for her to alieviate some of the symptoms. These will change every few years, so don't get comfortable with how he is, it changes as they grow. Anxiety, depression, agression, attention, mood disorders, OCD, handwriting difficulties (dysgraphia), preopreception (knowing where your body is in relation to the rest of the world- dyspraxia) and speech and language delays (even though they have big vocabularies) are common. Just like any other illness, it is standard to treat the symptoms that you see, and sometimes medication works well, sometimes therapy works, and for some symptoms, he will need both.

Once he is in school, his social deficit and inablity to get the "main idea" will be very challenging. Start now by looking for a social language social skills group to practice social skills and make sure that every teacher realizes that he does not understand as much as he seems to.

Read, read, read! Start with Tony Atwood, and move on to anything you can find. As he ages, go to www.wrighslaw.com and learn about IDEA and section 504, you will need to lean to advocate for him at school.

good luck!


2 moms found this helpful

That must be hard...did the doctors who diagnosed your son not give you any information about groups of parents who have children with Asperger's? My good friend has three sons with Asperger's and has had to change a lot of things about her life and has found that the only way she copes is speaking to other parents like her. I know that the big thing she did was to change their diet by cutting out dairy and wheat. She said that it was night and day in regards to their behaviour. There are quite a few studies about it and I don't know if you would want to try something like this. I wish I could help!

My almost-5-yr-old has high functioning autism (which, to be honest, I'm not sure what the difference is). We started with a chart with him and after a while we didn't even need the chart. We also have used a voice scale with him because he seems to not have been euipped with an "inside voice." That has worked as well. Sometimes things take extra explaining, but he can usually calm down pretty quickly. As with any discipline, just be consistent so you don't send mixed messages. I wish you the best of luck.

A lot of people have had success with 1-2-3 Magic, but my smart 4yo started manipulating it so it's no longer effective. Timeouts don't work for us either. Our social worker gave me a book "The Explosive Child" to read, and it was right on for us. You basically pick your battles and work with your child to help him figure out what he's frustrated/angry about, and stop before meltdown starts.
I wish I would've read this sooner - I've read so many parenting books before this, and nothing ever seemed to fit my son's moodiness/temper. He's only been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and is receiving therapy, and we have seen great improvements. Feel free to email me if you have any questions! Good luck!

My prayers shall be with you
Heres a site of interst:

I have a friend from high school who has two children with Aspergers. I have lost contact with her but, if you would like, I can try to find her! I believe that she started a support group for families with Aspergers. Last time I heard, she was living in Iowa but, she may have a lot of good information for you?! Just let me know! My e-mail is ____@____.com Just let me know if you want me to try to get the two of you in contact with one another!


You've gotten some good advice, but don't blame all behaviors on Asperger's syndrome. I have known 2 individuals with Asperger's, one family, one friend of family, now grown, and they never had any behavior problems like you mentioned.

Research the Asperger's websites and get books from the library. There is so much more information out now than 20 years ago.

Hi J.-

I've been there! My son, now ten years old, was dx'd with Aspergers' Syndrome when he was four. What I have learned in the past six years is mutual respect starting with the parent as well as positive reinforcement works best. Believe me, I've tried it all...time outs, yelling, spanking, removal of privledges, etc. For my son, anyway, this just reinforced his difficult behavior. Things that I have done is had tally charts where after he does something appropriate (like right now we're working on not talking back or arguing when I make a request) he earns a tally. We predetermine how many tallies he needs to earn something special....a trip to the movies, going on a family day trip, etc. I tailor the reinforcer to his interests to keep the motivation up. A variation on this is keeping a bean jar....each time he makes a good choice, beans go in the jar and when the jar is full we enjoy some special outing that he enjoys. I dont' take away tallies or beans (I used to and boy did that send us into a tailspin) but remind my son that when he is acting in a disrespectful manner, no beans or tallies are being earned.

I know that your son is younger that mine, but as my son grew up, I really stressed to him that he is in charge of his behavior. He will try to tell me that he "can't help" screaming, hitting his sister, backtalking, etc....I just remind him that he is an intelligent young man who is capable of making good choices and I have seen him make good choices many times.

Good luck to you as you travel the special ed maze....getting him into a developmental preschool is an excellent start. My son really benefitted from that. Also, if there are social skills groups in your area, check those out. There's also lots of funding available through your county. You need to make lots of calls and be very persistent, but I promise you, it's well worth the headache.

Take care of yourself too....

A little about me:

I am 38 and have been married for 15 years. I work full-time and have a son (age 10) and a daughter (age 8) In my spare time, I like to read, garden, and spend time with my family.

Hi J.,

I used to care for a child with Aspergers and so I have some experience on that level and I am still friends with the family. I am also a Shaklee Distributor (Shaklee is a leading Health and Wellness Company)and I have seen incredible results using natural nutrition and supplementation (without the side-effects that often accompany medications). I would be happy to provide nutritional information and resources if you are intested. I can also connect you with a natural alternatives doctor - she is wonderful and offers a free consultation.


Tammy Mutter

I can't even imagine what you are going through. My sister-in-law has a daughter that was diagnosed with autism. That was a number of years ago. My niece was diagnosed early and I know that they got help through a program called ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). My niece responded very well to the program and my sister-in-law loved it. They used something called social stories to help my niece understand what to do and to communicate with her. It also helped her communicate with others so she wasn't as frustrated and angry. There is a web site online about social stories, but I don't know what it is. I also have used social stories with students in my class that have been diagnosed with either aspergers or autism. Wish I could be of more help.
Best wishes for you and your 4 year old.

Try cafemom.com. They have a lot of groups there and I know there are some on aspergers. Moms talk with each other and help each other. There is usually at least 1 who has been thru what is happening to you. My email ____@____.com

Hi J.- I know you much be having an awful time and I am so sorry. Although I am just now pregnant with my first child, I am a teacher and was a personal aide to a 'wild child' that was diagnosed with aspergers. I had no idea of what to do and neither did anyone else- so the teacher and I came up with our own way of doing things. You didn't mention if he can speak or not... but I'm going to guess not. You may want to start using pictures for things that he wants, where to go, etc. There is a program called PECS, maybe you could find a special ed teacher in your area that would know about it. The one thing I really stressed with my student was consistency. You MUST be consistant when saying "no, that hurts people", and usually isolation helps to calm them down. Do not allow any harmful acts- to themselves or others, and maybe stimulation is a problem too. There are specific brushes to use to brush the child's arms and legs to soothe them as well as just having things they can touch. (A board with cotton balls glued on, velcro, just different textures.) I don't know if this will help, but don't be afraid to do your own research and rest assured that by starting the assessments/evaluations now, you are really doing what is best for your child.

Dear J.,
I did some research on the internet about Asbergers. I found that some have been helped naturally by giving suppliments the body lacks and also avoiding certain foods that one is highly allergic to. I would suggest visiting a reputable chiropracter that deals with nutition also.
I did not answer your question but I hope that what I mentioned will help ease his anger. I just want you to know that there are other alternatives. I hope it helps.

L. J

Dear J., my heart really goes out to you. I looked on google to see what Aspergers is. I had no idea and you must be tied in knots. What I found is to find the best body scan clinic and physician in you local area. I am sure you have already done that. As I write I said a prayer for you so keep in Gods care and talk to Him constantly. Love and Prayers for you and your husband.

i don't have a child w/ aspergers, but i used to work with several kids diagnosed w/ aspergers. i recommend reading some books on the topic, maybe one that your child's psych could refer. there is more info out there once you start looking. if you can, look in the psyciatric/phsycology section in addition to the parenting sections at bookstores (or in libraries, in the medical).
discipline is hard w/ aspergers! i fully understand what you mean about 'going to lose your mind' b/c i felt that way at times just working all day with this disorder.
one thing i can suggest is to use a method that involves visual & verbal cues, like a chart that either records good or negative behavior. and to have a set schedule throughout the day, so he knows what to expect next.
hopefully you can see a counselor soon & get into the developmental pre-k, that would help your family & your son.


IT is okay to be frustrated and it sounds like your trying all you can right now...and that is waht matters. Martha gave alot of advice that I would have. I have worked with kids who also have aspergers and other disabilites in thier home and also as a teacher in school. If you'd like to email someone personally about questions or suggestions feel free to send me a message and I'll give you my email. Not saying that I know everything by any means but I do have some experience and willing to help!

You are lucky to have a diagnosis so early. My son was 10. He has also been diagnosed bipolar. Every child is different but for us kindness works best. When he gets angry we validate his feelings, (I can see you are very upset right now), then normalize his feelings (its OK to be upset about that, I would be upset too), then help him find a way to work through his frustration (we tried hitting a pillow, drawing pictures, etc.) Sometimes nothing works except allowng him to go full cycle. When he calms down you can talk about better ways of handling things. Also look into sensory integration therapy. When you get to the end of your rope (and you will) remember your struggles are 1/10 of what he has to go through every day. Read everything you can get your hands on. Stay in touch with other parents, join a support group. You have to become his advocate in the school system. People are more aware of Autism now but 7 years ago we couldn't even get a diagnosis. I knew what my son had when he was 7 but I got alot of bad advice from pediatricians and therapists. You know your child better than anyone. Go with your instincts.
This disorder can be exhausting. Don't forget your other child. He well need extra attention.
Good luck, you are in my prayers.

Having a son with Aspergers DOES NOT mean that you are horrible parent. You have done NOTHING to cause it. He may be angry because he cannot get his frustrations out any other way. I have a son with severe Autism but he is very passive and doesnt get angry too often, but when he does, I talk to him very calmly and ask him what is wrong and ask him to tell me/show me what he is feeling. Counseling is a good idea and so is the preschool. Maybe then he can feel like he is not alone. Maybe keep a pad of paper handy so he can draw what he is feeling. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to help him. Be vigilant and never give up. It does get very frustrating at times, but you seem to be on the right track. i wish you all the best.

Hi J.-- I have a 15 year old son who was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 4, as well. I am also a counselor in private practice specializing in kids with autism spectrum disorders, and have been an advocate for many parents within the schools. It really, really is scary and overwhelming at first, because there is so much information out there and yet you are dealing with these challenging behaviors on a daily basis. Take a deep breath, give yourself a break (and more credit for doing the best you can at this moment). The suggestion to start reading Tony Attwood is a good one....also go to Tonyattwood.com to find many other resources, suggestions and links. He is more or less the world's Asperger "guru". There is a lot that can be done for your son in counseling...if you want to personally email me, we can talk, but I want to let you know I am offering my help without any expectations of making you a "client"!

In terms of my own son, I found that time-outs actually did work rather well for him; the problem is, kids with Asperger's often learn "cause and effect" quite slowly, so you have to be persistent; also, each child is different, although they share traits in common. They tend to be very poor and identifying their own emotional states, especially more subtle ones. They have an either harder time identifying the emotional states of others, or being able to "get inside someone's head" and figure out what they might be thinking and why (empathy, more or less). This is called a lack of "Theory of Mind". Over time, this is a skill that (while most of us pick it up with subtle non-verbal cues) the Asperger child can learn much as you would learn a foreign language. It takes time and needs to be closely related to what is going on at the time. At 4, the best teachable moments for your son will be in one on one play with you or another adult caregiver. Again, if you want to email me, I will tell you about the curriculum I learned (and then taught) and the Mandel School of Social Work at CWRU called Responsive Teaching (or go to responsiveteaching.org). The strategies used in RT can enhance development in the areas of cognition, communication, and social-emotional development, and are really quite effective.

The thing I found that has worked best in general with my son (to this day) is to use access to his "special interest" as an incentive and, if necessary, to withdraw the privilege as a consequence. His special interests have of course evolved over time, but they are always intense and exclusive. Initially it was trains, cars, trucks, and construction equipment. Fascination with reading (always non-fiction, explanatory) books about these topics. Then it moved into flags, countries, geography, and history. His knowledge is astronomical. Maps were another big one at around the same time. Now he is into playing his guitar and rock music in general, and shows the same dictionary-like knowledge of musicians, bands, etc. He does not read fantasy at all, but will make up bands, historical characters, fictional maps, etc. Behavior incentive plans work well for a lot of kids, but with my son the only thing that was motivating was/is the special interest, so using charts, etc, did not work well for us. I worked with him T a lot on identifying his feelings, teaching him healthy ways to deal with them, and constantly pointing out how/why others react the way they do and explaining basic social rules for him (over and over). The Asperger's individual does not mean to be oppositional and not follow rules, he or she just often truly does not understand why a rule is the way it is; "our" world often makes less sense to them than theirs does to us!
Use of visual cues, as other people said (visual schedules, reminders of what to do and not do, feeling faces to identify feelings) are extremely helpful. I actually have about 100 basic photos that I laminate and give to parents to use at home. I know this is a lot, and I could say more...especially about how tough anger is for these kids to manage, and how easily they melt down (and ways to avoid and manage melt-downs). if you are interested, email me...it will be ok. I promise. My son is doing really well now, and is no longer on an IEP...he has always been in a mainstreamed classroom.


Dear J., I have been working with special needs children for many years and especially those with autism. The biggest thing for you to remember is be consistant! When disciplining make sure that your response is the same every time. I know it can be very hard but consistancy is the key.It may help to have photos of what you want him to do, then a photo of a "reward" once he does it. It is often called a "first-then" board. Show him the prefered photo and then the reward, saying "first we do.........Then we have......!
It shouldn't take too long (trys)before he will understand.

I bit about me....I am a 58 year old Mom and Grandmother

J., try calling/emailing: Milestones Organization, 3246 Desota Ave, Cleveland, OH 44118, ###-###-####, www.milestones.org. They provide support and training for parents, families, caregivers, and teachers of kids and adults w/autism. They have an annual conference in June every year in Cleveland, too. A great resource. Call and they'll give you their best help. The founders have children with autism.

You aren't a horrible parent, J.!!
I have a 2 year old with Autism and I know exactly how you feel. So often we feel like we could do MORE with our children due to the challenges they present, but please, remember if you're doing all you can, then you're doing all you can!! One can only do so much, and the rest is up to a higher power.

If you need a support group in the area, I would recommend checking out Families with ASD-

I also have a playgroup for children with Autism-

Just remember, YOU ARE NOT alone!! :)

You will be in my prayers! I have a 10 year old who was diagnosised with aspergers (only at that time they said borderline because they didn't diagnosis it until a child reaches puberty!!!)at age 5.
We still struggle with the anger issues on a daily basis.
Time out doesn't seem to work very well with him, but when he gets angry he is supposed to draw in deep breath and think of something beautiful and count to ten. Visual reminders that behavior is incorrect were suggested. He wore one of those bracelets on his arm and he was supposed to focus on it when he started getting angry, take it off or whatever and turn it in hands.
We have a hand signal we use, which is great if he is looking at you. I would tap my wrist with my other index finger indicating he needed to focus on the bracelet for a minute.
He picked a lake with butterflies for his something beautiful to think about.
If he isn't looking at me I clear my throat.
The biggest problem we had/have is getting the teachers, etc., to use the same signals. They need to be consistant, everyone on the same page.
It does get better!

I have a child who has PDD-NOS. The only reason he was not given the asperger's diagnosis is that he had delayed speech at the age of 3. He is now 10 and I have done many things to help him that I could not put all in this email. I have a journal where I have documented everything we have done for him. I have read many books that I could recommend just to understand how the diagnosis doesn't matter but identifying those skills that he needs additional help in. I don't have time to tell you everything right now. I am leaving tomorrow morning to go on a trip. If you are interested in talking please email me back to my address and I will give you my phone number to talk. I will not be home until Tuesday. Good luck to you.


Hi. I feel you completely. My son is 6 1/2 years old. He has asperger's syndrome/high functioning autism. Each child is so different. For my son, we do a variety of things. He is so smart that sometimes, he outsmarts me and himself! What development preschool are you trying to get him into? My son went to one in Wayne township. It was excellent. At the time, he was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder. Since then, he has been diagnosed with aspergers. He does get angry and it is hard to know what to do sometimes because I am clueless as to why he is so angry. But as another previous poster stated, he may be overwhelmed or maybe he wasn't able to verbalize something and he so he just gets angry.
One thing that really helped my son at this age was techniques called brushing and joint compression. He had an occupational therapist at dev. preschool who taught me how to do it. He still has his brush in a special place for those times he thinks he might need it. It helps just knowing he has it somewhere and he knows exactly where if he ever needs it.
I have also learned to allow him to express himself exactly how he is feeling. For example, if something doesn't go right, I talk him through it and ask him a zillion questions and then get to what happened and we talk about how it made him feel. Now, he will just look at me and sometimes, yell it, "that makes me angry!!". I know under most "normal" situations, we aren't supposed to allow our kids to talk like that, but it helps him get it out and so I allow it. I have seen major improvements over the past couple of years. I am a very non"traditional" parent and I am very open with my children but I also explain that we can't always talk like that with other people. Unfortunetly, I have found that my son will be struggling with something at daycare or school and will wait until he gets home or in the car to tell me about it. So, then I have to address it the next day with the teacher, but I have him there so he knows its okay to talk with them too. They tell me that he doesn't show much emotion with them, so we are working on that.

Sorry this is long and drawn out. If you ever need to talk, feel free to message me.

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