Adolescents with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) are often not found to be physically aggressive unless they feel threatened in some manner. For some kids with Aspergers, aggression may become quite common when reaching adolescence, and this may be clearly influenced by the parenting styles of the youngster's mother and/or father. In fact, one of the key factors in determining an Aspergers youngster's tendency to develop aggression later in life may involve the presence of a maternally sensitive woman who can balance the discipline and aggression in life.
In many of today's families, it is not uncommon to find either a mother or father is absent from the youngster's life. Because a youngster's mental health is often greatly influenced by the presence of maternal nurturing and the balance of a father's discipline, when either of these are absent in the life of an Aspergers youngster, aggression can develop.
If you are the parent of an Aspergers youngster, it is important to provide this balance to your child-rearing efforts. If you are a single mother, and your youngster's father is not present, you can expect your youngster's aggression may be present as you provide the maternal sensitivity your youngster needs while also attempting to be the disciplinarian. Because Asperger's kids have trouble differentiating social cues and are confused by discipline when expressed by their mother, the authoritarian type of parenting is often met with aggression. For this reason, having a male role model who can provide that discipline while you provide the maternal sensitivity will go a long way in your youngster's long term development.
Conversely, if you are a father who is raising an Aspergers youngster alone, you will want to be sure that you find ways to be sensitive and nurturing to your youngster's needs. Because fathers are more likely to be the authoritarian, a woman's sensitivity will be important in your youngster's mental health. Often, this role can be filled by a woman who is an aunt or even a grandmother - and does not necessarily mean that a step-mother or step-parent is necessary.
Aspergers is a developmental disorder that affects many adolescents by resulting in abnormal social development. For moms and dads of Aspergers kids, offsetting the risk for development of aggression is most likely achieved by first identifying your parenting style - as either disciplinarian or nurturing - and then finding someone who can fulfill the role as the opposite parenting style. Trying to manage both the motherly role and the fatherly role may lead to confusion in your youngster, and this may further exacerbate the Aspergers-related complications into adulthood.
Teens with Aspergers may display some – or all - of the following characteristics:
- lack of appreciation that communication involves listening as well as talking (e.g., they may not allow their communication partner an opportunity to engage in the conversation)
- narrow field of interests (e.g., a teen with Aspergers may focus on learning all there is to know about cars, trains or computers)
- preference for playing alone or with older kids and adults
- very literal understanding of what has been said (e.g., when asked to ‘get lost’ (i.e., go away), a teen with Aspergers will likely become confused and may literally try to ‘get lost’
- anger and aggression when things do not happen as they want
- apparently good language skills, but difficulty with communication
- language may be considered to be very advanced or ‘precocious’ when compared to their peers
- the teen may be able to talk extensively on a topic of interest, but have difficulty with more practical tasks such as recounting the day’s events, telling a story, or understanding jokes and sarcasm
- behavior varies from mildly unusual, eccentric or ‘odd’ to quite aggressive and difficult
- difficulty in forming friendships
- having rules and rituals that they insist all family members follow
- inability to understand the rules of social behavior, the feelings of others and difficulty ‘reading’ body language (e.g., a teen with Aspergers may not understand that someone is showing that they are unhappy by frowning)
- sensitivity to criticism
Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens