"Our son with Aspergers (high functioning) recently turned 13. We are noticing an escalation in negative attitude and aggression (mostly verbal). We understand that traditional discipline may backfire with a child with this disorder. So, how can we approach these issues without making a growing problem worse?"
When it comes to Aspergers (high functioning autism) behavior and teenager problems, the teen years are the hardest. That is to say that the teen years are the hardest whether your youngster has Aspergers or not! Raging hormones and frustration with social interactions at school can cause a lot of anger and bad behavior during the teen years.
Your youngster may have the need to:
- Avoid responsibility (e.g, attending school, obeying parents)
- Fulfill sensory needs (e.g., relief from heat, cold, or to satisfy thirst)
- Get something (e.g., his way in a decision, your attention, control over a situation)
- Manage pain (e.g., physical and/or emotional stress that must be alleviated)
Your Aspergers youngster is unlikely to identify with your feelings or comprehend others' objections to his behavior. The only explanation you should use with him is to specifically state that the objectionable behavior is not permitted. Your son needs to follow rules, and following rules can help to focus and modify his rebellious behavior.
Aspergers Behavior Modification—
Behavior modification is a therapeutic approach that can change your son's behavior. You need to determine the need that his rebellion/aggression fulfills and teach him an acceptable replacement behavior. For example, he can be taught to ask for, point to, or show an emotion card to indicate the need that he is trying to fulfill. (Click here for more information on behavior modification.)
Aspergers Self-Stimulating Behaviors—
Sometimes, self-stimulating behaviors (e.g., pacing, squeezing a stress ball, playing a favorite video game) are taught as replacement behaviors, but it will take time for your son to integrate these behaviors into his daily activities. If your son is severely out of control, he needs to be physically removed from the situation. Granted, this may be easier said than done, and you may need someone to help you. But, behavior modification can be helpful, and it must be started as soon as possible.
Maintaining a Daily Routine—
For kids and adolescents with Aspergers, the importance of maintaining a daily routine cannot be stressed enough. A daily routine produces behavioral stability and psychological comfort for Aspergers kids. Also, it lessens their need to make demands.
When you establish a daily routine, you eliminate some of the situations in which your son's behavior becomes demanding. For example, by building in regular times to give him attention, he may have less need to show aggression to try to get that attention.
Learn to recognize and communicate the causes of his aggression with your youngster—
Ideally over time, your youngster will learn to recognize and communicate the causes of his aggression and get his needs met by using communication. Unfortunately, kids who get their needs met due to aggression or violence are very likely to continue and escalate this oppositional behavior.
DISCIPLINE FOR DEFIANT ASPERGERS TEENS