Specific Parenting Techniques for Children and Teens with ASD Level 1

The 6 Stages of Parenting a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Raising a child with autism presents unique challenges and opportunities for growth. The journey unfolds in distinct stages, each with its own set of emotions, experiences, and adjustments. Understanding these stages not only helps parents navigate the complexities of raising a child with autism but also fosters resilience, empowering them to face the journey with greater clarity and confidence.

The Initial Stage: Shock and Denial---

When a parent first learns about their child's autism diagnosis, they may experience a range of intense emotions, including shock, disbelief, and denial. Processing the diagnosis and coming to terms with the reality of the situation can be overwhelming. Parents may feel a deep sense of uncertainty about the future and may struggle to comprehend what it means to have a child with autism. It's a time of immense adjustment and often involves seeking out information and support from professionals, support groups, and other parents in similar situations.

The Advocacy Stage: Seeking Information and Resources---

 As parents begin to accept their child's diagnosis, they often enter a stage of intense advocacy. This involves seeking out information about autism, its causes, treatments, therapies, and educational options. They may attend conferences, read books, and connect with experts to gain a comprehensive understanding of their child's condition. During this stage, parents often become fierce advocates for their child's rights, working to ensure that their child has access to the support and resources they need to thrive. They may also become actively involved in autism awareness and advocacy initiatives within their communities.

The Adjustment Stage: Adapting to New Realities---

As parents become more knowledgeable about autism and its impact on their child, they enter a stage of adjustment. This involves making practical changes to accommodate their child's unique needs, such as creating a structured routine, modifying the home environment, and exploring different therapeutic interventions. It also entails adapting expectations and goals for their child's development, emphasizing their strengths and finding ways to support their challenges. This stage can be both emotionally and logistically demanding as parents navigate the day-to-day realities of raising a child with autism.

The Acceptance Stage: Embracing Unconditional Love---

Over time, parents often reach a stage of acceptance, where they come to embrace their child's unique qualities and appreciate the profound love and connection they share. They develop a deeper understanding of their child's strengths and challenges and cultivate a sense of unconditional acceptance. This stage involves finding joy in the small victories, celebrating progress, and fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion for their child within their family and community.

The Empowerment Stage: Building a Support Network---

In this stage, parents focus on building a strong support network that includes professionals, friends, and family members who can offer guidance, empathy, and practical assistance. They may also seek out respite care options, self-care strategies, and opportunities for connecting with other families raising children with autism. This stage is about recognizing the importance of self-care and creating a sustainable network of support to help prevent burnout and nurture their own well-being, which is crucial in the journey of parenting a child with autism.

The Growth Stage: Finding Purpose and Meaning---

Despite the challenges of raising a child with autism, many parents ultimately experience a sense of personal growth and fulfillment. They may discover new passions, advocate for systemic change, or engage in efforts to promote greater understanding and acceptance of autism within society. This stage is about finding purpose and meaning in the journey of parenting a child with autism, inspiring parents to recognize the unique gifts and perspectives that their child brings to their lives.

In conclusion, the journey of parenting a child with autism encompasses a range of stages, each with its own complexities and transformations. By acknowledging and understanding these stages, parents can navigate the path with greater resilience, empathy, and hope. This understanding provides a reassuring support system, ultimately fostering a nurturing environment in which their child can thrive.



Depression and Suicide Threats in Teens on the Autism Spectrum

"Can teenagers with ASD Level 1 (high functioning autism) become so depressed that they become a risk for suicide?"

Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’. Research reveals a 50% demonstration of what we call “suicidal ideation” (i.e., talking about killing yourself) with High-Functioning Autistic teens (ASD level 1).

When we look at the cases of teens on the autism spectrum who have attempted suicide or talk about committing suicide, the main issues usually revolve around self-esteem and social isolation. Thus, the parents and teachers should be as supportive as possible.

Here are 25 tips to show parents how to be supportive of a suicidal teenager:

1. A teenager who you feel is “high risk” for suicide should never be left alone, if even for a moment. Keep talking to that person, and stay with him or her.

2. Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.

3. Ask if they have a plan. If so, take them seriously and move quickly to get help. Remove anything that would help them carry out their plan – guns, drugs, alcohol, knives, etc.

4. Depression in one youngster can cause stress or anxiety in other family members, so make sure “healthy” kids are not ignored. Siblings may need special individual attention or professional help of their own to handle their feelings about the situation. 
5. Don’t act shocked.

6. Don’t ask “why.” This encourages defensiveness.

7. Don’t bait the suicidal. Don’t say, “I think you’re just bluffing. I don’t believe you.”

8. Don’t be afraid to talk with him about suicide. Talking about it does not make it worse, but better. Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.

9. Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Get support.

10. Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your youngster’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

11. Don’t tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to “protect” the other kids. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your kids to ask questions and share their feelings.

12. Don’t try to talk teens out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.

13. Encourage your adolescent to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your adolescent’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.

14. Get the emotional support you need. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. The important thing is to talk about how your teen’s depression is affecting you, rather than bottling up your emotions.

15. In order to help a depressed teen, you need to stay healthy and positive yourself, so don’t ignore your own needs. The stress of the situation can affect your own moods and emotions, so cultivate your well–being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy. 
16. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your adolescent to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.

17. It can be easy to blame yourself or another family member for your teen’s depression, but it only adds to an already stressful situation. Furthermore, depression is normally caused by a number of factors, so it’s unlikely—except in the case of abuse or neglect—that any loved one is “responsible”.

18. Just like you would if your youngster had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen. Encourage your adolescent to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed teens realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

19. Let depressed adolescents know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (adolescents don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

20. Living with a depressed adolescent can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your youngster is not being difficult on purpose. Your teen is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding.

21. Make sure you take any threat of suicide seriously. Of all the people who have committed suicide, 80% have given some kind of warning.

22. Make sure your adolescent is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your youngster takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.

23. Offer hope that alternatives are available.

24. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your adolescent begins to talk. The important thing is that your youngster is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

25. You could very well be that voice of hope to someone you love. Most times a suicidal person needs someone close to them to be a voice of hope. 
Because of the very real danger of suicide, ASD teens who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior. The warning signs include:
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for good
  • Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out”
  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)
  • Talking or joking about committing suicide
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide

Follow-up Question:

"My son Avi is 14 years old. He was diagnosed with ASD at age 9 and since then, has been attending a special ed class within a regular school. He’s generally happy in the class, he has a great teacher and a peer group with whom he can identify and feel comfortable. He is the middle of 7 children. Recently, his 16 year old brother, with whom Avi usually has a fairly good relationship, got frustrated with Avi and told him that if he didn’t change (stop talking incessantly about Pokemon, have better attitude to homework, etc) that he’d never get anywhere in life. Avi sometimes has extreme reactions, but this time his reaction had a new and scary aspect. He lay down on the floor, crawl up the stairs towards his bedroom, breathing heavily and growling “I’m no good, I’ll never amount to anything, I might as well be dead”, and then he climbed on his bed and tried to climb out of the window, as if to jump out. I managed to calm him down, it took about an hour, he took a bath, went to bed and never mentioned it again. I’m not sure if he would have jumped, or if he was “play-acting” the role of a suicidal person (he’s very imaginative) but it was very frightening. My question is: Avi is a fragile personality without resources to deal with a simple insult. How can I speak to him about suicide, when he’s calm, and give him the TOOLS he needs to deal with insults, as I’m sure this won't be the last time that someone insults or offends him?"


First of all, I’m very sure he was play-acting and has no intention of committing suicide.

Secondly, he obviously looks up to his older brother and values his opinion (otherwise, he wouldn’t have over-reacted like this). So you may want to have a conversation with your older son that he needs to be careful what he says to his younger brother.

Thirdly, what we are dealing with here is a child with very low self-esteem. I think this is the core issue. Children with ASD have a much harder time with their self-esteem. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. Expressive and comprehensive communication has a direct impact on a child’s self-esteem. These are areas that do not come easily to children on the autism spectrum.
2. The expectations of siblings and the all-too-frequent bullying interactions from many peers can leave an ASD child feeling devastated.
3. The visits to doctors, or speech therapists, or OTs, the testing, and the stream of interventions that we try with them can easily leave them feeling like they're under the microscope, a specimen that warrants investigation, a person who needs fixing.
4. They often perceive the constant correction of their behaviors and their social interactions as criticism
5. Understanding subtle jokes and participating in human interplay, actions natural to their neurotypical peers, further increase their feelings of 'not fitting in' and erode their self-esteem.

Here's how you can play an important role in promoting healthy self-esteem in your son:

1. As parents, we must believe in our children’s value ourselves before we can ever change their minds. These children know when we're faking our compliments or arbitrarily handing out encouragement because the therapy book says we should give 5 positive comments to each correction. 

2. Be a positive role model. If you're excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your son may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your son will have a great role model.

3. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your son's self-esteem. Give hugs and tell him you're proud of them. Pop a note in your son's lunchbox that reads, "I think you're terrific!" Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Children can tell whether something comes from the heart.
==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

4. Believing in your son involves empathy, walking in their shoes, rather than sympathy; no one wants to be felt sorry for. Each child is a gift, with his own special qualities. We just need to look for these special gifts, tune into the child with our hearts, and bring their essence out.

5. Create a safe, loving home environment. Children who don't feel safe or are abused at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem.

6. Empower your son to be himself, perfectly okay with who and how he is. Do this by loving him for who he is now, today, not who you think he should become someday. 

7. Encourage your son to share his thoughts and feelings; this is so important and often sheds new light on existing situations. 

8. Explain the disorder to your son when he is able to understand his disorder. Who are we really kidding, other than ourselves, when we pretend a child does not have the autism label, or we try to camouflage it? Who are we hurting? It's the child who is hurt in the long run.

9. Give positive, accurate feedback. Statements like, "You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn't yell at him or hit him" acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages him to make the right choice again next time.

10. Go to conferences, read books, research and share information that takes into consideration the many sensory, social, behavioral and communication challenges faced by your child. Armed with this understanding of how the disability affects him, you and others can better find ways to help him fit in. 

11. Help your son become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both children.

12. Identify and redirect your son's inaccurate beliefs. It's important for you to identify your son’s irrational beliefs about himself, whether they're about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping children set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to children.

13. Keep your son’s life manageable, refraining from overwhelming him with so many activities that he becomes too challenged physically and mentally to succeed at anything. Like most people, children with ASD feel better about themselves when they're balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 
==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

14. Provide choices to your son frequently so he understands that he has a say in his own life -- and even let him be in charge sometimes. 

15. Since children on the spectrum are often very picky eaters and gravitate towards junk food, it's important to try supplementing their diet. Also, provide regular physical activity, when possible, to relieve stress and clear his mind. 

16. Watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect your son’s self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively - but swiftly. 

17. Watch what you say. Kids on the spectrum are very sensitive to their parent’s words. Remember to praise your son not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your son doesn't make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, "Well, next time you'll work harder and make it." Instead, try "Well, you didn't make the team, but I'm really proud of the effort you put into it." Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.

18. Lastly, when we say, "You are great!" to your son often enough, he, too, will believe it and feel valued for who he truly is.


More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

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The Importance of Positive Reinforcement: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

In this post, we'll discuss the importance of positive reinforcement when interacting with ASD children:

Many autistic children may not respond well to negative reinforcement techniques. Negative reinforcement includes punishment or the removal of something unpleasant. It can be counterproductive and lead to increased anxiety and stress in these children.

On the other hand, positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding desired behaviors. This technique has shown to be more effective when working with autistic children. By providing praise, tokens, or other rewards, we can encourage positive behaviors and motivate them to develop new skills.

To create a positive environment, it's important to establish clear expectations and rules. Keep the instructions simple and provide visual cues or social stories to support understanding. This will help autistic children feel safe and more willing to engage in learning activities.

When implementing positive reinforcement, it's crucial to identify the specific behaviors you want to encourage. Break down tasks into smaller, achievable steps and provide immediate reinforcement when the child displays the desired behavior. Be consistent and gradually fade out the reinforcement as the behavior becomes more consistent.

Autistic children often have unique interests and preferences. Utilize these interests to reinforce positive behaviors. For example, if a child loves dinosaurs, you can reward them with dinosaur toys or related activities. By aligning the reinforcement with their interests, you enhance their motivation and enjoyment.

Autistic children can easily become overstimulated by too much sensory input. When providing positive reinforcement, ensure that the environment remains calm and free from overwhelming distractions. This will help the child focus on the desired behavior and facilitate a positive learning experience.

Positive reinforcement not only promotes desired behaviors but also aids in emotional regulation. By acknowledging and rewarding appropriate emotional responses, we can help autistic children develop effective coping strategies and improve their overall well-being.

To ensure the effectiveness of positive reinforcement, it's essential to monitor the child's progress. Regularly assess whether the chosen strategies are yielding the desired outcomes. Be flexible and open to adjusting the reinforcement techniques based on the child's needs and progress.

As the child progresses, celebrate their achievements and milestones. Recognize the efforts they put into their development. This not only boosts their confidence but also reinforces the positive behaviors they have learned, creating a cycle of continuous improvement.


Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:



The 11 stages that parents go through when they first learn about their child's ASD diagnosis:

Let's explore the different stages that parents may go through when they first learn about their child's developmental disorder:

1.    One of the initial stages a parent of an autistic child goes through is shock and denial. When they receive the diagnosis, it can be overwhelming and hard to accept. It is important for us to understand that these emotions are a natural response.

2.    After the shock wears off, parents often experience feelings of anger and guilt. They may blame themselves or others for their child's condition.

3.    Grief and loss are common emotions experienced by parents of autistic children. They may mourn the loss of the dreams and expectations they had for their child's future.

4.    Once parents have processed the initial emotions, they often embark on a journey of education and awareness. They immerse themselves in understanding autism, its causes, and available treatments.

5.    Acceptance and adjustment mark a significant milestone for parents of autistic children. They come to terms with their child's unique needs and abilities, and begin to adjust their expectations accordingly.

6.    Navigating the challenges of raising an autistic child requires a robust support network. During this stage, parents can actively seek out other families, therapists, and organizations that can offer guidance and understanding.

7.    Many parents of autistic children become passionate advocates for change. They strive to improve the lives of their children and others in the autism community.

8.    Caring for an autistic child often requires a delicate balancing act. Parents now may have to juggle various therapies, school routines, and personal commitments.

9.    Autism affects not only the individuals diagnosed, but also their families and relationships. During this stage, parents focus on nurturing their relationships with their other children, partners, and other family members.

10.    As parents journey through the stages of raising an autistic child, they often undergo significant self-reflection and personal growth. They discover strengths they never knew they had and become advocates for their child's happiness and success.

11.    Parenting an autistic child is a journey filled with ups and downs, but it is also a journey of immense love, joy, and growth. During this stage, parents celebrate their role and the incredible bond they have with their child.

Raising an autistic child presents unique challenges that parents must overcome. From sensory sensitivities to communication difficulties, parents face obstacles every day. Every milestone achieved by an autistic child is a cause for celebration. By understanding these stages, you can come to terms with this unique and special journey. Best of luck!

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

What to do when your ASD preteen begins to ask questions about sex:

"My son [12 y.o. with ASD] has been asking questions about sex. He has a rather warped notion regarding how to interact with girls. I want to teach him about appropriate sexual behavior – but how? He takes things SO literally!"

Everyone wants to be loved. Kids seek love from their parents, and eventually they will seek love from their peers. Kids with ASD (high-functioning autism) want to feel love and affection just like everyone else, but they are hampered by their inability to form solid relationships. 

Building a strong parent-child bond early in life will help teach your ASD youngster about relationships, love and the closeness necessary to form intimate bonds. There will be more work to do later, as you’re realizing now.

Sexuality should be openly discussed at the appropriate level at all ages. Once your youngster hits puberty, it’s time to talk about sexual behavior. Talk, talk and talk some more. Having a clear path of communication with your son will enable you to have conversations about important life lessons. Make sure you respect his needs for adjusted communication given his developmental disorder.

Talking while walking for example, or while driving through town, will give him a chance to voice his thoughts without having to maintain eye contact. Plus, he may be more willing to open up about his true thoughts and feelings when he knows you are not focusing solely on him.

Young people on the autism spectrum like to have the facts. No cutesy stories, no made-up names, and definitely no personal details. Stick to clear, concise facts using proper terminology. Have him make a list of the facts. In addition, have him make a list of do’s and don’ts in relation to sexual behavior. This will appeal to his need for order/structure. 

Here are some suggestions to start a list of do’s and don’ts:
  • I should not touch a person’s face, hair, or body without permission. 
  • I should not touch my own body in public. Touching myself is private. 
  • I should stand a foot away from another person. People need their space.

Your preteen is going through major physical and emotional changes. He may find it difficult to cope with these changes and how they relate to all areas of life. His body and hygiene, friendships and dating, maturity and behavior will all be affected by becoming an adult. With your guidance, he can make these changes and approach adulthood well educated on the subject of sexuality and proper sexual behavior.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

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