Many moms and dads recognize that their Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child has a problem with anger management. They feel their child needs to develop anger management skills, or needs to find some kind of anger management counseling that will help them get along better in life -- in school, at work, with a parent, with siblings, and others. In some cases, professionals may have diagnosed the Aspergers child with a “conduct disorder”, or “oppositional defiant disorder”.
Types of Anger—
The natural response to fear is to fight it or avoid it. When confronted with fear, animals and humans both go into “fight or flight”, “violence or silence”, or “gun or run”. They engage in the conflict, or they withdraw. Though many moms and dads may equate “child anger management” with the “fight-violence-gun,” uncontrollable rage, parents must also recognize that anger may be “turned inwards” in the “flight-silence-run” mode, which can often times be as dangerous, if not more so, than expressed anger.
Generally, anger falls into three main categories: 1) Fight, 2) Flight, or 3) Pretend to be “Flighting”, while finding indirect ways to Fight. Most Aspergers children with anger management problems will go to either extreme of fight or flight. They tend to become aggressive, mean, and hostile, or they withdraw into themselves and become extremely silent, silently stubborn, and depressed.
“The Fighters”: Child Anger Turned to Aggression—
“The fighters” are pretty simple to recognize. They are aggressive. Many times, the characteristics of Aspergers children with anger management problems are included in the professional diagnosis for “Conduct Disorder” or an “Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)”. Some of the warning signs in the following list are taken from the criteria for professional diagnosis. Others are additional common signs of anger management problems for children that are “fighters”.
- Destroys property
- Difficulty accepting a “No” answer
- Does not follow rules
- Frequently vocalizes anger
- Furious temper
- Has left holes in walls and doors from violent outbursts
- Initiates fights with others
- Loud and yelling
- Makes threats
- Often demeans or swears directly to parent or others in authority positions
- Often feels rules are “stupid”, or don’t apply
- Openly and often defiant of requests
- Physically cruel to animals
- Physically cruel to people
- Seems to have “emotional diarrhea”, and “lets it all out, all the time”
- Seriously violates rules (at home, in school, or society in general)
- Uncontrollable fits of rage (usually these “temper tantrums” are used as threats to get their way)
This list does not list every possible warning sign for the “fighters”. The child “Fighters” have anger management problems when the problems are creating an unsafe situation for themselves, for others, or for property around them. If animals and/or people are the focus of the anger and aggression, the problem is extremely critical to address. Aspergers teenagers who have abused animals or people as kids are at a higher risk of becoming a threat to society than those who have not. Where these warning signs seem to be a part of daily life, intervention is strongly suggested. Intervention can be through anger management counseling, an anger management program, or a program dedicated and experienced in working with Aspergers children with anger management problems.
“The Flighters”: Child Anger Turned to Passive Responses—
The “Flighters” can also be fairly simple to recognize. They are passive. They do not fight back when confronted. Many of their characteristics may coincide with the diagnosis of depression. Some of these warning signs are taken from the professional diagnosis for depression, and others are taken from learning, observations and experience.
- Deals with difficult emotions by “cutting” the emotions off
- Does not engage in much conversation
- Extremely passive, to the point of getting “walked over” by others
- Has difficulty expressing emotions
- Holds anger in, then “blows up” suddenly and violently
- May blame self unnecessarily
- May have few friends
- May punch holes in walls or kick doors, when “the last straw drops”
- May be seen as a “loner”
- May simply “go along” with whatever, even when it is a poor decision
- Physical problems may include upset stomach, muscle aches, backaches, frequent headaches, or other physical symptoms from “holding it in”.
- Seems “emotionally constipated”
- Seems depressed
- Seems to have very little emotion
- Seems to hold anger in
- Seems withdrawn
- Tends to spend a lot of time alone
The “flighters” are in danger of destroying themselves emotionally from within. The “flighters” are like a balloon being constantly blown into, with no release valve. When they explode, their anger may be violent, and may lead to harming themselves, harming others, or destroying property. Internalized anger is potentially as destructive to a child as aggressive anger.
“The Pretenders”: Child Anger Silently Planning Revenge—
Perhaps the most difficult to detect, the “Pretenders” follow an anger style that seems to be calm on the surface, but is raging, scheming, and planning underneath. They are passive-aggressive. These children do not directly confront the anger as a “Fighter” would do. They will be passive and appear to accept what is said, and then will disregard what is said to do their own thing. They are sneaky. Often, they may be unnoticed. While they are giving a person a hug, they are also stabbing them in the back (so to speak). They lack the courage to be direct, and perfect the skills to be deceitful. They know where the “back door” to revenge is, and will use it often.
They will give the appearance of a “Flighter”. The list of “flighter” characteristics also applies to them. Additional items to look for with “Pretenders” are on the following list.
- Inconsistency between what is said and what is done
- May be very good at blaming others
- May not admit mistakes
- Often gets caught in lies
- Sneaky behaviors
- Tends to avoid direct conflict, while creating problems in other areas
- Tends to sabotage
These warning signs are a few to look for the “Pretenders”. Aspergers children who try to manage their anger through the “Pretender” style are as potentially dangerous to others and themselves as the other style. Moms and dads cannot underestimate the “Pretender” style because the danger does not seem to be that of the aggressive “Fighter”.
As has been shown, anger comes in three main styles -- Fighter, Flighter, and Pretender -- and each style has the potential to create big problems for the Aspergers child, families, and society in general. This post has offered specific warning signs that may indicate if an Aspergers child has an anger management problem more significant than what is to normally be expected. When necessary, professional and competent intervention is recommended.
My Aspergers Child: Parenting Aspergers Children with Anger Problems