Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Rage-Control for Children on the Autism Spectrum: Advice for Parents and Teachers

Rage-Control for Children on the Autism Spectrum: Advice for Parents—

All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to act-out our anger in the form of rage. Thus, it is possible to identify the rage signs in a child with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism. For example, you may detect a certain look in the eye, the tone of voice, or the tightness in the body. Parents need to help their youngster observe these signs right at the onset of rage. Once the child can identify the early signs, he or she can also learn to diffuse it by such methods as walking away or taking deep, vigorous breaths.

Teach your Aspergers child to respond to your "signal" (e.g., your hand motion) to stay calm. Give that signal as soon as he or she starts "stewing" about something. If your child is too young for such self-control techniques, use distraction as soon as you notice him or her exhibiting a rage sign. A distraction, in order to be effective, has to be of interest to the youngster (e.g., suggest to your youngster, "Let's ride a bike" or, "Let's play a game").

It’s important to teach Aspergers kids to talk about how they feel. Give them a language to express their feelings. For example, ask them how they feel. If they are too angry to talk or don't have the vocabulary to express their feelings, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation. For example, "Do you feel embarrassed?" "Humiliated?" "Let down?" or, "Is your pride hurt?" When your Aspergers child expresses the feeling behind his or her rage, such as embarrassment or humiliation, suggest some other ways to look at the same event that might not be embarrassing or humiliating.

The thought, "It's not fair," is a big rage-arouser for many Aspergers kids. If that is the case, ask them, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When your child answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his or her feelings.

If the Aspergers child refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about his or her rage and starts yelling, stomping or breaking an object, impose appropriate consequences. It's better to have these consequences in place to serve as a guideline. That means that you have discussed them with your child beforehand and have written them out for future reference. Armed with a list of consequences (which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges or charging the child a "penalty"), moms and dads should encourage their child to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about the rage rather than acting it out.

How about your own rage in response to your Aspergers child's rage? You can set an example of “rage control” for your youngster. No teaching technique is as effective as a parent "modeling" for the youngster with his or her own example.

One thing that makes many moms and dads angry is to see their own child challenging their authority and defying them. Sometimes, it may appear so, but that may not be the intention of the child. For example, he or she may be too unhappy to be told “no” because he or she wants it so badly. Of course, you shouldn't give in to the wishes of the child, but try to understand what might really be the intention behind the behavior.

Some Aspergers kids get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act-out in rage to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that this may be the case, it's helpful to say to your child, "Everyone makes mistakes. I am okay with it. Don't feel so bad about it."

Rage-Control for Children on the Autism Spectrum: Advice for Teachers—

Aspergers kids, who in rage lash out at others, should be often reminded of such consequences as going to the Principal's office, being detained and losing privileges at home. If the rage outbursts occur in relation to classmates and you didn't observe the whole interaction from the very beginning, it's better to impose a penalty on all parties involved.

Some Aspergers kids get angry because they don't have appropriate peer-interaction skills. For example, some don't know how to join in a conversation or a game. They abruptly try to get in. When resisted or rejected by peers, they explode. Teaching appropriate social skills can go a long way to avoid such negative encounters. We can establish a culture that reduces rage and teaches tolerance. For example, we can set a personal example for Aspergers kids that "big people" do apologize and it's graceful to loose and try again.

Rage is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

1. The Emotional State of Rage. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of provocations that young Aspergers kids face daily in classroom interactions:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking the kid's property or invading their space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that Aspergers kids do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.
  • Physical assault, which involves one child doing something to another child, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.

2. Expression of Rage. The second component of rage is its expression. Some Aspergers kids vent or express rage through crying, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still others express rage with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some Aspergers kids express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Others express rage through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Educators can use child guidance strategies to help Aspergers kids express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. Aspergers kids develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some Aspergers kids have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for educators is to encourage Aspergers kids to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express them in positive and effective ways before they escalate into rage.

3. An Understanding of Rage. The third component of the rage experience is understanding--interpreting and evaluating--the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of rage is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because the Aspergers kid's ability to reflect on their rage is somewhat limited, they need guidance from educators and moms and dads in understanding and managing their feelings.

Understanding and managing rage:

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds Aspergers kid's gradual development of the understanding of rage (Lewis & Saarni, 1985):

1. Memory. Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young Aspergers kids to better remember aspects of rage-arousing interactions. Aspergers kids who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after educators help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that educators may have to remind some Aspergers kids, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

2. Language. Talking about emotions helps young Aspergers kids understand their feelings (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Educators can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings, because Aspergers kid's families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

3. Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors. Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young Aspergers kids provides a base for early childhood educators who can develop strategies to nurture the  emerging ability to regulate the expression of rage.

Guiding the expressions of rage:

Educators can help Aspergers kids deal with rage by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The ideas described below can help these young people understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and non-aggressive so they don’t escalate into rage outbursts:

1. Create a Safe Emotional Climate. A healthy environment permits Aspergers kids to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame rage. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

2. Model Responsible Rage-management. Aspergers kids have an impaired ability to understand emotion when grown-ups have anger issues themselves (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Grown-ups who are most effective in helping Aspergers kids model responsible rage-management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing them in direct and non-aggressive ways.

3. Help Aspergers kids Develop Self-Regulatory Skills. Educators do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the Aspergers kids in their classroom have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As these kids get older, grown-ups can gradually transfer control of the self to the children, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

4. Encourage Aspergers kids to Label Feelings of Rage. Educators and moms and dads can help young Aspergers kids produce a label for their rage by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe it. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

5. Encourage Aspergers kids to Talk About Rage-Arousing Interactions. Aspergers kids better understand rage and other emotions when grown-ups explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When Aspergers kids are embroiled in a rage-arousing interaction, educators can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

6. Use Books and Stories about Rage to Help Aspergers kids Understand and Manage Rage. Well-presented stories about rage and other emotions validate the kid's feelings and give information about rage (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger, because some stories teach irresponsible “rage-management.”

7. Communicate with other moms and dads. Some of the same strategies employed to talk with moms and dads about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping Aspergers kids learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label rage can be included in a newsletter to moms and dads.

Aspergers kids guided toward responsible rage-management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non-aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger-control (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Educators can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing rage by adopting positive guidance strategies.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Autism Spectrum


Hello Everyone: I have been a member of this website for about a son is 5 years old and has a diagnosis of Hypoplasia of the Corpus Callosum, Aspergers and Sensory Processing Disorder. The reason I am writing all of you is because my neighbor has come to me for advice. She has a 10 year old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes meds....not sure what??....anyway, she was recently told by the school that they thought her son had Aspergers and she should talk to her Pediatrician. She came to me because she knows about my son and his "issues" and she asked my was hard but I said Yes, I too think he has Aspergers. I urged her to get an evaluation but I don't know where to start because her son is much older and getting a later diagnosis. So, my questions are........what resources are helpful for this age group to get started on this journey? What websites, books, etc. can you recommend for her? She is VERY overwhelmed right now......which I can imagine because I have been there and I am sure you can relate too! Thank you in advance for any help or advice you can offer!!!!!

1 comment:

Concerned parent said...

In the USA, schools conduct the evaluation on an educational basis, it is the law. Being that the school suggested an evaluation, they should pay for it. A medical diagnosis is different than an educational diagnosis. Tell your neighbor to approach the school administration and request a full psycho-educational evaluation immediately or they will have a complete independent evaluation conducted at the district's expense.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers 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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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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 child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s 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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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers 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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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

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 Aspergers 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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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content