Household Rules for Teens with Asperger's Syndrome (AS)

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • A few weeks back, my son decided to walk home from school instead of taking the bus. It is about a one mile walk, not so far that walking is out of the question. However, when the clock reached 3:30 P.M. and he wasn't home yet, his sister and father, who were at home, started panicking. They hadn't received a phonecall or a text and he wasn't answering his phone. The bus should have dropped him off at 3:00 P.M. so he was "missing" for a half an hour. As my daughter started out to her car to look for him, he showed up.


    Later that night we had a discussion and I stated the rule, "Whenever you are not where we think you are, you must call or text your mother or father - since we thought you were on the bus and you were not, you should have called to let us know." I thought it was self-explanatory but gave other examples anyway, such as if you are at a friend's house and then go to a different house. He said he understood. We ended the discussion but continued to remind him of the rule when he left the house.

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    All was good...until the following Saturday when he was volunteering at a local event, just a few blocks away from our house. Some of his friends from school were also volunteering and when their job was done, they decided to stay awhile. My son came home, left his jacket on the chair, grabbed a few dollars to get something to eat, and left the house again to join his friends. The problem was, he never bothered to come in to the other room and let us know that he had come home and was again leaving. We noticed the jacket, but he was nowhere to be found. Concerned, I called and he answered and told me what had happened. Later, when I asked him why he didn't tell us, he said, "But you said to do that if you didn't know where I was. You did know where I was so I didn't think I needed to."


    It can be frustrating to set rules for Aspies. Every situation is new and different, for example, my son gets the rule that when he chooses to walk home from school, he should let us know. But when confronted with a different situation, which we, as parents, saw as an extension to the same rule, he saw it as a completely different situation.


    When setting rules for teen Aspies, keep the following ideas in mind:


    • Make the rule as simple as you can, so that it fits numerous situations. Give examples of how this rule applied to different situations.
    • Have the rule "make sense." Aspies are logical, linear thinking and might have a hard time following instructions that don't make sense to them. If necessary, explain the reasoning behind the rule so your Aspie understands why you have created a rule.
    • When your son reaches the age of leaving the house without parental or adult supervision, ask for specifics. Where will he be? What will he be doing? Who will he be with? What time does he expect to be home? Let him know that if  the answers to these questions change, he should let you know (but be careful, he might send you texts if another person shows up or if he changes activities.) Give examples; such as he did expect to be home at 7:00 P.M. but now wants to come home at 9:00 P.M. or that he was at Johnny's house but now him and Johnny are going to go to Rob's house.
    • Set up rewards for following rules. If your teen has a special interest, something special, such as spending extra time interacting with the interest or an outing to further explore the interest, can be great motivators.

    Teens with AS frequently follow rules to a tee. They are sticklers for doing things right. Often when a rule is not followed, it is because they didn't understand the rule, it didn't make sense or they didn't apply a previous rule to a new situation. Before doling out punishment or becoming angry, take the time to talk with your teen and find out why he didn't follow the rule. You might be surprised to find he thought he was following a rule or that he just didn't see the connection. If this is the case, as it was in our situation, further discuss the rules to make sure your teen can apply it to many different situations. 


Published On: October 19, 2011