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Dan, MA/MRC, Professional Counselor, Educator
Category: Autism
Satisfied Customers: 288
Experience:  Prof. counselor, 27 year exper. autism spectrum disorders. 16 years as Spec. Edu . Lic Ed. Consultant Masters
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What is the relationship between Asperger's and stealing?

Customer Question

What is the relationship between Asperger's and stealing? Can you reccommend resouces for learning how to work with this. This is in reference to a 21 year old male.
Thank you.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Autism
Expert:  Dan, MA/MRC replied 6 years ago.

Good afternoon. My name is ***** ***** I have served people (children, teens, adults) with Aspergers Disorder for the past twenty seven years. Prior to ability to diagnose in the USA, I worked on two masters degrees that allowed me to research in European literature, theory and practice. My masters are in Special Education and Individual and Social Rehabilitation. I am a Kennedy Scholar, and this is my vocation.

I very much would like to assist you with an answer to your question. I will do the best I can, but perhaps through clarification and teaching me the circumstances, I may best serve you. We will get to that in a moment.

Stealing and Aspergers Disorder are not uncommon in terms of a diagnosis and behavior relationship. The reason for these "isms" run a very wide range. There is a behavior called hording, and a part of the hording can be stealing to collect certain items. Silverware, coins, photos, money....these can all be items that are horded.

In speaking with many people with this behavior, it provides a sense of calm and security. The treatment has been both through discrete trial methodology for adults, as well as helping the person to find calm without the hording. I put them in charge, and ask them to make a personal social rule. Once done, the horded goods are returned, and the behavior most often stops.

There also is just the very human aspect of stealing. It is similar to not telling the truth (aka lying) which people with Aspergers are not immune from. If it is ascertained that the root is not hording, but just stealing, then I am much more direct, not about personal rules, but about both societal rules of conduct, consequences, I am not emotional at all in the delivery, quite the opposite.These are the rules, and if you break them, these are the consequences. Cut and dry. Although there may be something that the person may have that leads to the behavior, I start in this event with the behavior itself. I have been told by some individuals that "it is due to their disorder" yet they cannot provide any further information than that, and as a forensic interviewer, I often see the non-conscious cues of this being a falsehood. As such, I will not play games, as in real life, which by the twenties, someone is a part of, the consequences for stealing can be quite severe.

If there is an underlying problem, without the stealing, that need still must be filled, and it is easier to identify and deal with through counseling and therapy.

There is also a third reason that I have come across, though it usually is not confined to just stealing. It involves testing boundaries and limits to see a) where they are and b) to find some sort of comfort in knowing such limits. Again, this is more of a counseling or therapy treatment issue.

I do not know the circumstances, and if you are the parent, I know that for most,it is difficult to state that one's child is stealing. I do know that if the clinical counselor or therapist is well-skilled, the behavior should be impacted within two to six sessions, depending on how ingrained the behavior is. If you see no change after two months, I would wonder seriously about what type of therapy is being used, and how an assessment of the behavior was conducted.

If the person is legally his or her own guardian, of course this cannot be disclosed to even the parents without a release of information. If the person feels this is important, and you are paying for the treatment, I would ask for the release of information as to continue supporting it, you need to know what is transpiring. I have had parents do this, and often we can come to some sort of mutually agreeable feedback loop. There may be specifics the person does not want to disclose, but may be open to what in general has been done in therapy.

I do not know of anyone who has not been able to stop stealing, regardless of the cause. This is not to say that I know all people, or every situation, however this has been my experience with many hundreds (thousands) of people I have served.

I hope this may provide an answer to your question, and perhaps you know what might be the causation of the stealing, and can put what I have written into that context. If this is helpful, and does answer the question, I would greatly appreciate your accepting this answer. If this leads to further questions, I will be here, and you can always, should you choose, write to me directly through this forum.

I wish you the best, ***** ***** that this person can correct with assistance this behavior.



Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Dan,

Thank you for your response. I was hoping it would be more specific to Asperger's Syndrome and or have a more comprehensive way of dealing with the issue. I was also hoping for some srudies/literature to read.

Thank you,


Expert:  Dan, MA/MRC replied 6 years ago.

Good morning! I hope this finds you well.

This morning early,I searched for any studies that including not only hording, but stealing as an aspect of the hording process. I did find several papers on it, as well as tons of anecdotal information.

The information I gave you I was actually surprised had even made it to print. Normally, clinics serve people so far removed from the community, that the more atypical behaviors do not make it to the data. I only know of this after serving thousands of people.

One would just be a personality quirk, two to three, odd, but it has been many more so it to me has significance. Below I will paste the information from a bulletin where a psch paper/journal actually calls for it to be added to the diagnostic criteria under OCD, and the obsessive and compulsive traits are well known in the diagnostic criteria for AD. interesting research.

Thank you again, and I hope this is helpful to you,


Would not paste. Will include links to several articles. Thank you!

Dan, MA/MRC and other Autism Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi DAn,

I will accept your answer, but it is not what I was hoping for. He is not hoarding. He is stealing money for cigarettes and immediate gratification. I have been firm in conveying that stealing is wrong. He denies that he is doing it. MAking him pay the money back is difficult --as he denies he took it. How do I help him be accountable? I have been getting conflicting reports in how to address it from his home and therapist. I have not caught him in the act, so I am told to not accuse or confront. He continues to steal and I do not know what to do.



Expert:  Dan, MA/MRC replied 6 years ago.

Dear Theresa:

Thank you so much for clarifying the question. The first version was a bit vague, and as such I sent more general material.

This type of stealing I have found no connection with AD, but rather, people and their traits as a human being. If you were told not to confront him, does that mean that the therapist is indeed working on stealing? It sounds a little convoluted. The therapist cannot tell you what to do, and then not tell you why or for what reason. That is partial disclosure it would seem.

I do not support the removal of natural consequences unless someone is completely psychotic, and therefore truly does have no liability for their actions. So much of therapy for Aspergers Disorder is based on the instilling of how the world works, including consequences. It would seem that the therapist is not working with the grain of Aspergers. To remove the consequence is to reinforce the maladaptive behavior.

I would suggest, as the therapist has already asked you to modify your response, to call him and ask him, in general, if a person has a disorder that prevents the natural learning of behavior and consequences by observation of others, why would removal of the consquence be of any benefit whatsoever to the person in therapy?

I understand your question, and your upset, however it seems that the answer lies in coming to an understanding with the therapist. If s/he does not understand this basic concept of autism spectrum disorders, I seriously would question the viability of the work being done.

If s/he still urges you not to confront, I would also strongly suggest asking "why not?". There is no clear rationale here.

Thank you again, and thank you once more for clarifying the situation.