How can I tell the difference between “aspergers behavior” and pure “disobedience” …I’m not sure what should be punished – and what should not?
Many moms and dads have a difficult time distinguishing between “disobedience” and “misunderstanding” in their Aspergers (high functioning autism) youngster. Because he may not interpret social cues correctly, it may be difficult for an Aspergers youngster to understand what is expected of him, and he may not understand the impact his behavior has on other family members.
So, how can parents tell the difference between “Aspergers behavior” versus “misbehavior”?
Most Aspergers-related behavior (sometimes misinterpreted by parents as “misbehavior”) tends to revolve around the child’s resistance to any kind of change. An Aspergers child is resistant to change for the following reasons:
- Has anxiety about a current or upcoming event (e.g., the start of school)
- Does not understanding how the world works
- Does not understanding the actions of someone else
- Has other issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Is reluctance to participate in an activity he cannot do perfectly or an activity that is difficult
- Parent or teacher changes a circumstance or rule that has been established
- Has the need for instant satisfaction and may not understand delayed gratification
- Has the need to control a situation
- Has the need to keep doing the activity that he likes (obsession or fantasy)
- Has difficulty transitioning to another activity (this is especially hard if the activity is not finished)
Any or all of these triggers can result in certain behavioral patterns that “look like” misbehavior (e.g., arguing, tantruming, refusing to listen, etc.). However, his responses to these triggers have more to do with anxiety and rigidity than his need to defy authority. He simply does not have the ability to understand the world like we do.
The Aspergers child:
- does not “take in” what is going on around him
- does not know how to “read between the lines”
- does not understand implied directions
- does not understand social cues
- needs explicit instructions
- will have difficulty understanding rules of society
Uncovering triggers for negative behavior is important. Keep a behavior diary, noting any events surrounding negative behaviors, the details of your youngster's responses, and any unintentional reinforcement your youngster receives that may be encouraging repeat behavior. The motivation behind negative behavior in Aspergers kids is often very different from other kids, which makes identifying the cause of those behaviors and developing a behavior treatment plan very difficult.
Many negative behaviors exhibited by Aspergers kids are a direct result of the condition. Parents, teachers, and professionals must consider this when developing behavior treatments.
- Aspergers kids may be unable to resist giving in to their obsessions and compulsions, and this is not a sign of disobedience.
- Because Aspergers kids have difficulty interpreting social cues and tend to be egocentric, they cannot fully appreciate what impact their behaviors have on others.
- Due to trouble handling changes in routine, a simple variation in schedules may be enough to cause a meltdown.
- Odd behaviors are not reflective of defiance and are not meant to irritate or annoy.
- Aspergers kids may exhibit a lack of common sense.
Moms and dads with an Aspergers youngster should receive professional training so that they can continue working with their child at home. Behavioral techniques are best when adapted to suit the home environment, and they should focus on issues directly related to home life and self-help skills while continuing with the goals established in school.
So when is the Aspergers child actually “misbehaving”?
Children misbehave for the following reasons (you can be pretty sure that the behavior is not Aspergers-related here):
1. To get attention. It is frequently noticed that when children feel a lack of attention, they get themselves noticed by their parents by resorting to misbehavior.
2. When they are disappointed. Sometimes, children get irritated and frustrated when things do not happen as per their wish. It is during these times that they usually misbehave.
3. When they test their parent's discipline. To check that their parents truly mean what they say, sometimes children misbehave. They check to see if their parent's will really enforce a rule or not.
4. When they want to assert their independence. Almost all the children hate being called a 'child'. To assert their independence, they often end up misbehaving.
5. When they have been previously “rewarded” for their misbehavior. No parent would ever think of purposefully rewarding bad behavior, but it subtly happens quite often.
6. When they copy the actions of their parents. The best teacher of how to misbehave or act and speak inappropriately is by watching mom or dad misbehave or act and speak inappropriately. Remember, what children see and experience in the home is what their normal is. So, if they see mom and dad yelling, they will yell. If they get spanked, they will likely use hitting to express their anger or frustration. If they hear, “What?” instead of “Pardon?” that is what they will use.
My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers Children