Aspergers and high-functioning autistic kids with disruptive behavior need a higher level of supervision than other "typical" kids of the same age. However, supervision does not always have to be by the parent. In fact, because defiant behavior is often directed primarily at parents and teachers, parents may find that alternative caregivers, such as competent babysitters or aides, are able to develop good relationships with the youngster that provide social learning for the youngster and valuable respite for moms and dads.
Find ways to maintain a positive relationship with your Aspergers youngster. Pay attention to his good qualities and find joy in the moments of closeness. We naturally avoid people who cause us anxiety and are angered when they hurt us. But, we love our kids and that drives us forward to seek healing for them and for us. You need an outlet for your own feelings, so seek out support to help you cope. Many moms and dads also find that they need support to maintain a healthy, supportive marriage in difficult situations.
Get a plan and stick with it. Learn all you can about how to effectively manage your Aspergers youngster's behavior. Find what works for you, and then use those strategies in a consistent and structured way. Routines and clear expectations for behavior benefit all kids. They are vital to the healthy development of the disruptive youngster.
Respite and parent support are important because moms and dads need to be in control of their own emotions during difficult episodes with the Aspergers youngster. These kids enjoy making you mad, and they are good at it. Moms and dads need to maintain an emotionally neutral stance when giving instructions or consequences to the disruptive youngster. This skill doesn't come naturally and must be practiced and perfected over time. If moms and dads don't learn to control their own emotions when disciplining the youngster, the result is often violence and escalation of the disorder.
In working with disruptive Aspergers kids, I like to keep in mind the model I learned from Assertiveness Training. When a youngster has a need or desire to communicate, he may present it in one of three ways:
1. Unassertive (passive) communication - I lose, you win.
2. Aggressive communication - I win, you lose.
3. Assertive communication - I win, you win.
It may seem odd that the best thing to do to help disruptive Aspergers kids is the same thing you do to help shy kids, teach assertiveness! Of course you are coming at it from a different angle. The first step in changing the pattern of disruptive behavior in your youngster is to develop a sense of empathy. Observe and discuss with your youngster the emotions of others to help him understand how people feel when they are treated badly. TV and books are useful tools for teaching your youngster to recognize the feelings of others. Treat your youngster with empathy and respect, and he will learn to treat others in the same way.
An ideal opportunity to teach your Aspergers youngster how to handle angry feelings is when you and your spouse have an argument. Your youngster can learn principles of listening well, remaining calm, cooling off, and negotiating a solution by your example. Do you and your spouse often lose control emotionally? Name-calling, hateful words, and, of course, physical aggression by parents are directly modeled by disruptive kids.
Harsh physical punishment and abuse also lead to an aggressive pattern of externalizing painful emotions. Aggression in Aspergers kids is related to Oppositional Defiant and Conduct Disorders. These disorders set the stage for many long years of delinquency, substance abuse, poor relationships, and maladaptation in young adulthood. The destructive cycle is only stopped by learning self-control, a lesson best learned in childhood.
Aspergers kids need to understand the difference between right and wrong. A healthy sense of guilt when they do wrong is a good thing. Feeling "shame" rather than "guilt", however, is associated with disruptive behavior. What is the difference between shame and guilt, and why is it important? Probably because guilt is focused more on the transgression than the self, guilt seems to motivate restitution, confession, and apologizing rather than avoidance. Now you know why experts say condemn the behavior, not the youngster. It's a delicate balance for moms and dads, but an important one. In the same vein, parents should be realistic in their praise of the youngster. As kids reach the elementary years, they need to have an accurate perception of their abilities and relationships. Some interesting current research suggests that kids who have an unrealistically positive perception of themselves are more disruptive.
Aspergers kids do model aggressive behavior from TV, movies, and games. This has been demonstrated convincingly in the research. If your youngster has a problem with disruptive behavior, you should definitely limit or eliminate his viewing of this type of programming now.
My Aspergers Child: Help for Parents with Disruptive Aspergers Children & Teens