HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Aspergers and Violence

The fatal stabbing of James Alenson – allegedly by a teen living with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) – raises the issue of whether this tragedy is related to Aspergers. Those of us who work with kids with Aspergers worry that fingers will be pointed at people with the diagnosis. No two kids with this diagnosis are alike, and generally speaking this is not a dangerously violent group.

Current prevalence estimates suggest that 1 in 166 kids will have a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder, with four times more boys than girls being diagnosed. These kids have different learning styles and ways of social interaction. More than half have difficulty responding to sensory input, which may manifest as extreme sensitivity to sounds, touch, smells, and textures of food. They frequently overreact to common inconveniences, such as being bumped in the hallway at school, and may not understand the appropriate distance from others in social situations.

Most take much longer to develop "theory of mind" (i.e., the ability to understand another person's perspective). They can misinterpret nonverbal cues or body language in conversation. All need to learn aspects of communication that come intuitively to their typically developing peers. Some do beautifully with early intervention and continued help with their social skills as they grow up. Most are of average or above average intelligence, and some are brilliant. All are quirky, sometimes in delightful ways, but often in ways that isolate them from their peers.

Children with Aspergers typically have intense "special interests" about which they collect voluminous information and talk repetitively without self-consciousness. For some kids with the disorder, these are harmless obsessions about obscure topics such as the Civil War, the Titanic or magic cards. Like many teens, they can spend hours playing violent video games, but a boy with Aspergers may become more fixated upon and have less perspective about the games.

Today's teenagers with Aspergers are the first to reach the high school years with this diagnosis. They are the first to have reaped the benefits of the many therapies and interventions, including medications designed to foster their development or alleviate disturbing symptoms.

I hear many stories of "overwhelming rage" at the memories of isolation and victimization by bullies during the middle and high school years. Research shows that 3 out of 5 teens with Aspergers report being bullied at school, while 90 percent of their moms and dads report that their kids have been teased. Twenty percent of those studied changed schools because of bullying and a majority of moms and dads report that no action was taken by school staff against the bully.

Teens with Aspergers may have additional, co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses such as Tourette's syndrome, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression or eating disorders.

While aggression and physical violence have not been considered hallmarks of Aspergers, we often hear from moms and dads about stubbornness, rigidity, and high levels of anxiety. A typical American high school can be a stressful environment for someone with Aspergers. Many teens are hostile or indifferent to odd, eccentric peers.

The social demands of high school, such as flirting and dating, are often too much for adolescents with Aspergers because they are frequently trying to figure out what a simple friendship is about. The intrusive sensory properties of large high schools, such as the public address system, the chaos of locker rooms and bathrooms, hallways, and cafeterias can completely overwhelm a youngster.

When their senses are overloaded, teens with Aspergers can sometimes be quite reactive, even disruptive, though hardly ever dangerous. Unfortunately, they often do not understand the impact of their behaviors on others.

What do we learn from such tragedy and loss of life? We learn that we cannot control everything despite the absolute best of intentions, that no matter how intelligent a youngster with Aspergers is, he or she will need more support than a typical youngster for a much longer period of time. The stress on families is enormous.

One of the lessons we should learn from the Lincoln-Sudbury tragedy is that we should avoid the temptation to draw conclusions and stereotypes about kids with Aspergers. And we can grieve the losses suffered by the Alensons, the Odgrens, and the Lincoln-Sudbury community.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

My 9 yo has aspies and he can be very violent towards people and animals as are other aspie kids I know of a similar age. My son has threatened to stab me and has expressed a desire to shoot himself, so I dont really agree that they are not a dangerous group. Dont get me wrong, I realise not all are like this but the ones I know do have the violent streak. Ive had to hide knives and scissors because I cant trust that he wont carry out his threats. Would be interesting to see the statistics on how many aspies do actually have violent dangerous tendencies.

Anonymous said...

I have a 9 yr old with asperger's and he is the sweetest little boy you could meet! He has never harmed a living creature in his life...u should be ashamed by yr comments as this group is clearly trying to prevent the stigma and in one swoop you've just branded them again! Sometimes it's better for the majority when certain opions are not shared...

Anonymous said...

Children with Autism can present with other disorders in combination my child has HFA/ADHD and is not violent, I know another child who has Autism but he also has ADHD, FAS, and Bi Polar his aggressive and violent behaviors come from the other disorders he is dealing with not the Autism.

Anonymous said...

Its just shows how quick people are to judge and paint all with the same brush not nice at all.

Anonymous said...

I have a 14 yr old son who is also the sweetest boy. He would never harm anyone so please don't be labeling aspies as dangerous. We do not know the situation or circumstances behind the stabbing. The aspie could have been provoked in some way and then again maybe not. I don't know and neither does anyone else.

Anonymous said...

On the outside they look fine but inside the turmoil can be as different as the sea is from place to place-calm,violent,rough,churning,gentle swell and ebb, regular,irregular,hot,warm,cold,undercurrents,riptides,sheltered,exposed etc.

Anonymous said...

Aspergers always seem to be a threat to the Neuro typicals. Especially if they never understand the sytoms of it.

Anonymous said...

My 12 year old aspie is one of the kindest, sweetest boys you will ever meet. I truly believe that behavior therapy is key in helping them cope with their challenges and esteem issues. (We started even before we had our official diagnosis) We have NEVER had any incident where he has expressed wanting to do harm on himself or anyone else. This is the very stigma we all work so hard to avoid. In my personal experience and my personal opinion, Aspergers is no excuse for a lack of dicipline. Any child could be violent, even kids from great backgrounds with no issues can become agressive and destructive. I don't think its fair to blame it on Aspergers.

Anonymous said...

You all cant imagine what its like to have a violent kid. My son has aspergers and is 15 and big now. He was expelled from 2 schools and 16 other schools turned him down, only 1 said yes and he starts next week (we are in NJ and have more schools for autism than most states). This is all so taboo and it is hard to live with this stigma. I know only a few kids like him who are violent and many more who are not. We are already SO ostracized by the autism community and society too. You cant imagine what its like to worry all the time that the police may shoot him (like what just happened in chicago) the next time he is at the mall or when the school calls the police. And yet, he has improved alot, due to meds etc, but he will never be cured. Please, we need help and support.

Anonymous said...

I will add that i left my previous career and am in grad school now. My thesis is this topic, but specifically how to support the families pre and post police altercations. I am doing everything i can to help my son not end up in jail.

Anonymous said...

Kids are all different and just because they have Aspergers doesn't make them alike except for maybe the social anxiety. My daughter is 10 and would cry if you kill an ant. She knows right from wrong and loves life and respects her boundaries. Each child is different. Especially when you factor in the possibility of other issues they might have, bi-polar, depression, anger management issues. But it's unfair to classify the group as dangerous.., just like its unfair to say all men are violent.

Anonymous said...

Chris, my heart and prayers go out to you as I feel your pain as the other child I was speaking about at a very young age hid butcher knifes under his bed and the parents had to put a lock on their bedroom door for fear that he would come after them in the knight as he repeatedly beat them. They were abandoned by the system and could not find any support. You are not alone in your fears Chris! I pray you find the supports you all need and answers to help you all.

Anonymous said...

So unfair to generalise! My 7 your old son who has aspergers was bullied at school and wouldn't retaliate as, in his words "u mustn't hurt other people" - he is the kindest, sweetest child who wouldn't hurt a fly! Even ppl who don't have aspergers commit crimes, what's their excuse?

Anonymous said...

my six year old is an aspie and he is so kind and considerate and always wants to do the right thing and gets upset when others break the rules as he says..he has never hurt anybody i know people with what they label "normal" and they are very angry and aggresive kids......aspergers is just a different way of viewing the world they are not programed to be aggressive...some people are so ignorant..my son is a lot calmer and better behaved than most kids when we make his environment a safe place.....

Anonymous said...

Aspergers is no excuse for lack of discipline??? My 15yr old aspergers daughter is extremely volatile and unexpectedly violent at times yet my two other children are calm and sedate individuals I find your lack of discipline comment quite offensive! I haven't disregarded discipline thank you very much my daughter has just failed to respond to it! Not all aspies are violent in the same respect as not all men are cheating scumbags. But the fact remains some are. It is utterly unacceptable to assume somebody with aspergers is violent. It isn't the aspergers that makes the child violent. People are people with differing personalities and characters whether people are afflicted by aspergers or adhd or any other condition. My point is Just because a child misbehaves does NOT mean it has not been disciplined!

Anonymous said...

The first comment really upset me. I have never met a child with Aspergers that wasn't kind, loving, respectful, and intelligant. Violence is not a "symptom" of aspergers. I believe they have other undiagnosed issues. My 11 year old has Aspergers and he is over sympathetic with people and animals. He asked for world peace and happiness for others for Christmas. On top of that he doesn't pass a homeless person with out passing his allowance onto them. His goal in life is to be a scientist and fix the world hunger problem. On top of that he doesn't even like to hold a butter knife because they re dangerous. Saying all people with Aspergers is a dangerous connotation. Do not put people like my son into the same category as yours. All aspies are different and a lot of them have other disorders.

Anonymous said...

My 11 year old is the sweetest boy too. I just want to add that what parents allow their kids to be exposed to my be a huge factor. Monkey see, monkey do. Know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

I heard this saying long ago and use it all the time when talking about aspergers, "when youve met one person with aspergers, youve met one person with aspergers." I think it sums up this topic perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I feel the point that needs highlighting here is not all people are the same. Black white english american gay straight male female aspergers non aspergers it is never ok or fair to generalise! Violence is not a aspergers trait ... And as my daughter keeps reminding me "there is more to me than bloody aspergers you know"

Anonymous said...

My son is 9, has Asperges, he is well disciplined, have no anger issues with my other children, but he is a different kettle of fish, he self harms, can be very violent and we have to hide knives, scissors, hammers etc. he has attacked his sisters, and can be quite awful to animals too. Each child is different, we cant just assume them all with thw same label.x

Anonymous said...

My son is 14 an has aspergers, but also severe conduct disorder, he is nw on risperidone, comments on here are very similar to what im experiencing, as i also have to hide knives an anything sharp, as iv found these things hiden by him in places before, threats to harm others etc+ my 4yrold is often markd around the neck where he has tried to squeeze her neck, an my other 2 girls(1 who has learning disabilty) have been hurt an scared.

Anonymous said...

For all the haters and to those who mailed me. . I am not generalising all kids with aspies, I was merely stating what my child is like. He has ODD/ADHD as well as aspies, has a strict routine and discipline and is also a sweet boy at times, but is prone to violence and cruelty. He has been expelled from school and we were ostracised by our small community to the point we had to leave and move 5 hours away to a bigger town, just to find a school that would take him. Yesterday I had the police around as he had broken the neighbours window by throwing rocks, and when she told him to stop or she would call the police, he then threw them at her. He does know better and was remorseful only when the police showed up. Lack of empathy and understanding does not help him in any situation and certainly does not help him to be accepted into the area we have moved to. I wish my child was as nice and sweet all the time like others have claimed their child is, but he is not and obviously has that streak in him, and I know he is not the only one. So to all those who felt 'ashamed' by my first post, think yourselves lucky that your aspie is not like mine and you dont have to live with threats and violence on a daily basis as some of us do. Had u read the full post you would also have seen that I said I realise not all are like my child. Discipline and strict routines and behavioural therapy can only work to a certain degree, and I will fight for my son to my dying breath to keep him safe from bullys, bigots and narrow minded people, and to try and keep him on the 'right' side of the law.

Anonymous said...

Well said Sage on both of your posts. My Aspie son too has violent tendencies and am very saddened to see some of the responses on here discounting those whose kids do have the violent streaks in them. You are no better by the comments you make here because your kid is sweet than the NT parents labeling aspie kids as bad, strange, or loners. After this post I will be deleting this group from my pages. Take care, Sage. I completely understand!

Anonymous said...

Im with Sage Chris, Nikki, ,Gina....The rest of you that say your ASD kids are the sweetest kids...... Well all I can say is that you all are very very very LUCKY that your ASD kids have not got ODD,OCD,SADD,ADHD,PTSD etc and ASD mixed diagnosis.. I have tried every dicipline in the book for my child and nothing seems to work( even 2 different parenting courses at a young age).. So PLEASE dont judge Sage, because I know what its like. Even my psychologist said mainsteam dicipline DOES NOT work with ASD kids that have these other diagnosis. We too have been tarred and ITS NOT AT ALL PLEASANT for you and your ASD kid, Its very isolating and traumatic for both... The ASD spectrum is so HUGE. And this site is supposed to be a parent support and ideas group and its NOT acceptable to judge peoples comments that are doing it ALOT tougher than you!! As I said before you are all very very lucky that you dont have to deal and put up with violent outbursts,breaking things,swearing,running away,aggression etc etc. My older daughter has severe Autism and shes not as half tiring as my youngest Aspie child. Sage,Chris,Nikki,Gina Hang in there I fully inderstand your LIFE.... Greetings from OZ.

Anonymous said...

I to have a child that has aspergers along with odd and adhd. I want the support and not the judgment for my child. Thanks for bringing back hope.

Anonymous said...

I am in my 50s and just discovered I had Asperger’s all my life. This diagnosis caused many things to fit into place that did not make sense earlier in my life. One thing I would do as a teen is threaten violence and sometimes, strike others. Most of the time it was due to senses of entitlement, self-righteousness, and occasionally a rage that was hard to keep in check. I still deal with issues of Asperger’s; however, not to the extent as in my teens. My wife and I have five children, with the youngest diagnosed with Asperger’s. He exhibits violent tendencies; nevertheless, I believe he will not act on his threats; it is more blustering than anything else. He is not as violent as I was. The point is not all Asperger children are violent as not all are bipolar. Each child must be handled individually, one size does not fit all.

Anonymous said...

Other factors need looking into of course. Some high-functioning people do develope mood, anxiety, personality, and psychotic disorders later. I am labeled pdd-nos and high-functioning. I used to fixate heavily from age five to teens. Fixations included age and non-age typical things. I was obsessed with perfection, medical things, presidents, facts, dinosaurs, art, and video games. The art was extreme at times. I too drew violent pictures thinking it was art and meaningless to me. I was bullied, horribly, but never violently or abused. I was exposed to few violent movies and video games but didn't know better that violent art was ominous to people. My artwork did include non-explicit content as well like dinosaurs. Today I am regretful for the violent art but I'm not a psychopath and never was. Like I said about comorbid disorders, I have bipolar-nos and GAD. The stress from growing up and my learning disability can lead to mental issues. I'm still alive and great because of my loving and supportive family. High-functioning autistics can easily fall victim to a world big enough to fit bad things.

Viktoria Svensson said...

My son age 10 has Asperger's, I've dealt with his anger outbursts for years now, when he was 6 he came into the living room with a knife, and said he was going to kill me because "I told him to" - I constantly have to be careful what I say how I say it to prevent his violent behavior, I've been kicked in the throat by him, I've been punched, and cursed at by him, don't get me wrong, he has his sweet side too, he will come up to me on his "good days" and tell me he loves me and gives me a hug. He's also kicked a child at school in the face which caused a bloody nose, luckily the nose was not broken. His father has similar problems with verbal aggression, bipolar type if you will, he and I are no longer together since my son was 6 almost 7. He's only 10 now, and is almost as tall as I am, 4-5 yrs from now, I am very nervous about what his physical strength and violence may become. I wish I had a support group to go to in Salt Lake City, UT to know what I can do as a mother to help him. :(

vbdasc said...

Well, I'm a 44-years old man who has Asperger's plus moderate OCD. I can say for myself that I've had several episodes of explosive anger during my childhood and teenage years, all related to bullying from others. When I was 10, I threw a stone at the head of one kid who had been constantly teasing me mercilessly for months, and was later told that it didn't lead to anything serious only due to sheer luck. Later, I had the habit of throwing chairs at my tormentors, without thinking of consequences, while completely engulfed by my rage. In my later years I stopped using physical violence, but even today I still fight sometimes, albeit only with words. I can (and do), when angered, say some very bad, cruel and hurtful things to others, who have been teasing me for my strangeness. I've brought women to tears this way. I can assure everyone that I've never hurt anyone unprovoked, though. NEVER, ABSOLUTELY, and will never do. I refuse to think that I must change myself to avoid the violence. Perhaps the bullies should try to change themselves first, and if they will not, then at least they should stop portraying themselves as victims of the evil Aspies.

vbdasc said...

Well, I'm a 44-years old man who has Asperger's plus moderate OCD. I can say for myself that I've had several episodes of explosive anger during my childhood and teenage years, all related to bullying from others. When I was 10, I threw a stone at the head of one kid who had been constantly teasing me mercilessly for months, and was later told that it didn't lead to anything serious only due to sheer luck. Later, I had the habit of throwing chairs at my tormentors, without thinking of consequences, while completely engulfed by my rage. In my later years I stopped using physical violence, but even today I still fight sometimes, albeit only with words. I can (and do), when angered, say some very bad, cruel and hurtful things to others, who have been teasing me for my strangeness. I've brought women to tears this way. I can assure everyone that I've never hurt anyone unprovoked, though. NEVER, ABSOLUTELY, and will never do. I refuse to think that I must change myself to avoid the violence. Perhaps the bullies should try to change themselves first, and if they will not, then at least they should stop portraying themselves as victims of the evil Aspies.

Julius Mahipus said...

I am teacher teaching mixed students. My son was punched twice by a student with aspies and i asked him why did this child with aspies punched him? My little boy said "he wants me to put my water bottle inside my shirt and i dont want to do that so he punched me. I told him not to sit beside this aspies as he is always get victimized. How do you deal with that if you're a teacher and a mom?

Zion's Mom said...

I totally agree. That was offensive. I have the same thing going on. I have three kids. My child with ASD has been disciplined the exact same way as the other two, however it's how he reacts. One minute the sweetest kid ever, the next he is pulling a knife out. We have to keep all knives hidden. Every kid is different and most nuerotypical kids can keep it together. My son, just can't keep himself calm.

mich said...

My 14 year old aspie feels bullied often and he retaliates in anger. He had tried talking to schools but they don't listen to him. That results in him turning on them. Then he becomes violent towards the teacher and property. At home he gets angry and raged but it is more about losing his privileges. He does think siblings and we are mean or treat him differently then them. I am to a point that we think we should call the police if he assults us. How else can we get him to stop doing it. Last week he chased me with a metal bat outside. He puts holes in walls and dents in cars and attacks us.

mich said...

Thank you!

mich said...

I get it!

Sue said...

My son with asperg 21 he is lovely quit boy his dad tormented him he also as asperg my son lived with him but now he came back to live with me his dad didn't like it and wouldn't let my son have his things and kept saying my son let him down he wouldn't even ring my son or talk to him so one day his dad came to pick his brother up to take him off for the day and when he came back my son said mum I'm going to talk to dad I said ok good idear face to face he went out to the car sat next to his dad don't no what was said but my son stabed his dad 8 times got arrested now in prison could get along time in prison

Sue said...

My son as asperg his dad aggravated him so much that he has ended up stabbing his dad is in remand

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. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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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. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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