Areas of Control and High Functioning Autism

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To revisit an old story:

“Plop….plop….plop….” went the rocks Bobby tossed over.

Bobby is 11 years old now.  When he was two, one of his favorite activities was the stone drop.


My parents had a house right on the bay.  They gave Bobby a life jacket, a little blue wagon and walked him around with which he would collect stones.  He would take the stones back to my parent’s house, line them up and push them in the water

It wasn’t a race.  He enjoyed watching each one hit the water.  He enjoyed watching the splash and the subsequent ripple effect.  He could drop the stones all day long.

It was later explained to me that this was a control behavior.  Bobby enjoyed tossing the rocks into the water.  He liked seeing the splash HE WAS MAKING.  He liked seeing the ripple HE MADE.

Like all kids, Bobby is still testing control, or testing limits.  He’s older now, so he tests the results of “not making his bed” or “not putting his laundry away.”  And of course, he learns from those mistakes by losing screen time.

When I look at the limits Catelyn is testing, I realize she is at a different spot.  With High Functioning Autism (HFA), Catelyn is not always aware of her emotions.  Her behavior and reactions can be “out of control.”  With all of her sensory issues, her body feels out of control.

She compensates by trying to control different areas of her life.

But what can she control?  She needs help in a different way.

High Functioning Autism and Control

“Catelyn sit up and stop glaring.”

Some at the patio table cautiously looked to the end of the table where Catelyn sat.  Others looked down at their hands or their plates.

Catelyn sat slouched in her chair with her arms crossed across her chest.  Her brow furrowed.  Her lips pressed together.

“No one brought a dessert I like.” She said very matter of factly.

My husband and I had invited a few families over for a summer BBQ.  There was a lot of food, sides and desserts.

But not one thing Catelyn liked.

And EVERYBODY knew it.

“Catelyn, you are being rude.  You need to go to your room.”

“Fine.  There is nothing for me to eat here anyway.”


With HFA, Catelyn lacks social skills and the ability to read the emotions or behaviors of others.



Catelyn has a hard time controlling her emotions.  She doesn’t hear her rudeness at times.  Her curt replies.

It can be very frustrating as a parent to try to point out as a warning that she “has a tone.” Regardless of location, she may start to cry, sometimes rather loudly.  Her voice turns into a siren – A high-pitched squeal of “IIIIIII’MMMMM NNOOOOOOOOTTTT” will emerge.

And heaven forbid if you mention she is causing a scene.  She sees no scene.  She sees no other people, and the same siren wail will emerge again.

It doesn’t stop at home.  This lack of self-awareness and extreme emotional response can cross all relationships – with teachers, coaches, friends and family.

To help Catelyn with self-awareness, we did the following exercise.  What could Catelyn control?  What can’t she control?

Here is how Catelyn completed her picture:


Catelyn is a visual learner.  She gets very frustrated if you try to teach her with words.  Using visuals helps her to learn in a school setting, and also for personal growth!

Taking the time to look at these ideas helps Catelyn.  She is not in touch with her emotions and lacks social awareness.  Seeing on paper helps her to realize that she can’t always control what is happening around her, but she can definitely control her response to it!




19 thoughts on “Areas of Control and High Functioning Autism

    1. I’m a visual learner myself. The kids ask me their math questions all the time when they need help on their homework. I tell them, “I don’t hear you. Please just let me see it.” Then I can help.

  1. I would NOT want to be in your house when she’s 13/14/15 😧 I barely survived the screaming, door slamming rudeness of my NT daughters. Then it will be my turn to find the funny memes. You guys are getting a head start on how to work it out though & that’s great!

    1. Yes, I often joke that Cate is 9 going on 30. She’s tough! We are trying – hoping to help us all in those years!

  2. Learning the difference between what we can and cannot control is a crucial lesson for us all. Her chart shows she is ahead of a lot of adults In this area!

    1. I like to think anything is possible. I never thought my son would have achieved some of the things he did. But I have hope which carries me through the things he can’t do or things professionals tell me he may never do. We can keep trying! Hope and believe anything is possible.

    1. Me too – I have a few things on my mind now and it’s easier to just realize they are out of my control. Instead, I need to focus on how I am going to handle them. Good exercise.

  3. Never got any good at learning how to accept things I cannot change, and I am in my warly 4o’s! She is miles ahead of me if shw grasps this evil lesson!

    1. I think it is good for her to realize she controls her own behavior and reactions. She is definitely still working on applying it, though!

  4. Hi Shatorium Maddox actually I have a son that have autism nonverbal,not aware of danger but very smart,bright. Very handsome shows lots of love like his mother have two daughters very smart and bright just awesome. And awesome family I love dearly a blessing and more.

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