My Aspergers son has anger problems. How can I help him understand what his real emotions are?
For kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism), anger can be a major challenge. Many people do not realize the strong connection between Aspergers and behavioral issues like anger, anxiety, and depression. The very characteristics of Aspergers lead to these behavioral issues. Some of these characteristics are:
- Gross and fine motor problems
- Inflexible thinking
- Lack of language skills, especially social language, gestures and cues
- Narrow interests
- Sensory issues
- Social skills weaknesses
Understanding anger in Aspergers children is quite simple. Nearly all of your son’s anger stems from frustration. The characteristics of Aspergers listed above (plus others) create a confusing and uncomfortable social environment. The natural reaction is frustration, and the natural escalation of frustration is anxiety, then anger. Helping an Aspergers child understand his anger and other emotions, however, can be quite difficult. You must help your son understand the cause of his emotions, and then develop a plan to avoid the negative emotions that stem from frustration. There are several options available for the mother/father searching for anger-management for their Aspergers children. Here are a couple of those options:
1. Home Solutions— Not everyone with Aspergers anger issues choose private therapy. For some people, these therapies are not covered by insurance or are simply not available. Others choose to handle therapy and learning situations at home, in their own way. This is perfectly acceptable, and in all honesty, quite helpful for the child even if you do choose private therapy. Support at home will increase progress. Some examples of home solutions are:
- Five point scale assessments teach a youngster how to recognize his anger or anxiety and prepare to control their emotional responses.
- Parenting discipline programs teach parents how to use proper discipline techniques, which in turn, may diffuse some of the youngster’s anxiety and anger.
- Play therapy/activities make learning emotional control fun.
- Social stories can be written for specific behavioral problems and situations. These stories can put your youngster’s feelings into words and offer him simple solutions.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy— Many people with Aspergers anger choose to try cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy is highly recommended for kids with Aspergers. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is individual therapy designed around the idea that a child’s emotions and thought processes are what control that child’s outward feelings and behaviors. Most people tend to blame the situation or other people. This therapy places the focus on a child’s internal thoughts. In other words, if we think a certain way, even though the situation makes us feel the opposite, we can begin to feel better about that situation.
For your Aspergers child, anger can get in the way of learning, playing, and life. Perhaps you can use some of the above suggestions to help him handle his anger and better understand his emotions.
I cover a lot of ground on anger issues for children with Aspergers in my eBook entitled My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns.