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How to Reduce Aggression in Aspergers Children: 12 Tips for Parents

There are many sources of stress for kids and teens with Aspergers (high functioning autism). Some will deal with stress by becoming anxious, some by feeling depressed, while others become angry and rage against the frustrating situations – and people – in their day.

Some Aspies internalize their feelings and tend to blame others when things go wrong. Others externalize their feelings. Those who externalize their feelings have great difficulty in controlling their temper. There may be no particular rationalization or focus – just an aggressive mood or an excessive reaction to frustration or provocation. The provocation can be deliberate teasing by other kids.

Kids with Aspergers seem to evoke either the maternal or the predatory instinct in others. Aspies often lack subtlety in retaliating. Other kids may wait for an appropriate moment to respond without being caught. The youngster with Aspergers can also lack sufficient empathy and self-control to moderate the degree of injury inflicted on others. The Aspie is in a blind fury that gets him into trouble. The teacher sees the Aspergers youngster being aggressive and may not be aware of the taunts by his peers that precipitated the anger.

It is helpful to use strategies to help the Aspergers youngster understand the nature and expression of specific feelings, particularly anger. It is also helpful to encourage self-control, and to teach the youngster to consider alternative options. Self-control can be strengthened by the traditional approaches of stopping and counting to ten, taking a deep breath, and reminding oneself to keep calm. Specific relaxation techniques can be practiced, and the youngster can learn cues when he must calm down and relax.

It is also important to explain the alternative option to hitting the other person. The youngster can use words, not actions, to express his anger. He can simply walk away, ask the other person to leave him alone, or seek an adult for help or to be a referee.

The level of stress that the youngster with Aspergers has been feeling may have been increasing for some time, and one incident can become the trigger that releases feelings that have long been suppressed. The angry moment can leave the youngster relieved at having discharged his stress in one brief episode. Thus the behavior becomes negatively reinforced, because it helps end an unpleasant feeling. When the incident is over, the youngster with Aspergers can be visibly relaxed, but confused as to why everyone else continues to be so distressed.

Strategies to reduce and channel aggression:

1. Activities that involve “creative destruction” can be particularly effective. If the youngster with Aspergers feels better after they have damaged or destroyed something, then ensure this becomes a productive activity (e.g., crushing cans or cardboard boxes for recycling, tearing up old clothing to make rags, etc.).

2. Comic Strip Conversations by Carol Gray can be used. A story-board approach is used, with a frame for each stage in the sequence of events. These are discussed, and the incident is used as an opportunity to learn the perspective of others, and to consider alternative actions and solutions.

3. Consequences of actions need to be discussed. Having Aspergers is not a license to behave irresponsibly. It is, however, important for all the information and perspectives to be available before appropriate consequences are considered.

4. Construct a “menu” of activities to reduce levels of stress (e.g., listen to music, close eyes and imagine a relaxing scene, a massage, a soothing bath, lots of reassurance and compliments, etc.).

5. Construct a list of signs that indicate the rising of stress levels (e.g., bombastic gestures, rigid thinking, rude words, etc.), and draw the child’s attention to this list.

6. Explain to the youngster what to do should the situation arise again, with instructions to tell an adult of the provoking activity or comments. It is essential that the youngster with Aspergers learns alternative (preferably verbal) ways of dealing with the situation.

7. If the angry youngster will tolerate a discussion of why he is so angry, try to discover the cause. If it is an anger provoked by the actions of another, getting an apology (sometimes from both parties) can help.

8. Most kids with Aspergers will respond well if a situation is explained visually rather than verbally. In practical terms, this means using drawing materials (e.g., pens, paper, computers, paints, chalkboards, white boards) to illustrate the situation and to understand what happened.

9. Should the agitation become greater, attempt to “burn up” the tension and anguish with a rigorous physical activity (e.g., going for a run or bike ride).

10. The question “what’s wrong?” can make things worse, because the youngster may have difficulty in explaining the causes of his increasing anger. It is good to learn when it is tactful not to ask, and to divert the attention away from the causes, to more pleasant things.

11. To become equally angry just inflames the situation. Try to remain calm and rational – a model of what the youngster should be doing.

12. Video tape the Aspergers child in a rage, and then when he is calm, play the video back for him in order to (a) allow him to see himself behaving “irrationally” and (b) discuss feelings and alternative responses to stressful situations.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns


Anonymous said...

I have a 12 year old boy who was diagnosed with aspergers 5-6 years ago. Recently when we were having our regular meeting with our child psychologist who specializes with aspergers children my wide and I raised that maybe I also had some form of aspergers. I ran through some psychological / IQ test with the pschologist and the results indicated that I am probably on the spectrum . I must admit after the years of reading my wife and I have done on aspergers I already had a good feeling that I was on the spectrum. Unfortunately having a parent and child with aspergers creates problems. I find my tolerance for his behavior is low. I also find my anxiety levels start to rise when he is acting up with his younger siblings or is just not doing he is being told. Once my anxiety levels go up I begin shouting out him and physically forcing him to do what I have asked him to do. He then starts screaming and swearing at me. My wife tells me I need to know how to deal with him without creating world war three every time. I must admit I sometimes feel my anxiety levels going through the roof when he won't accept 'no' for an answer. He just keeps going on and on and on- I have made the comment to my wife once that it feels like Chinese water torture. So I guess sometimes I just crack and again world war three starts. I do take 20mg of a tablet called eleva to help with my anxiety levels. Both my wife and I are worried about what type of relationship my son and I are going to have if I can't resolve this constant anger between us.

Anonymous said...

Karen Gomez Vega thanks, this is very helpful. we have had a really bad week and this will serve to help for next week along with some new medication (which was the hardest thing i have ever done).
17 hours ago · Like
Tuesday Bond The author states in this article states: Kids with Aspergers seem to evoke either the maternal or the predatory instinct in others. It seems my son runs into the predatory ones, this could be due to the type of classroom he was in, it was a SIED class and that was soooo predatory. Now he is in a classroom that is autism specific for his needs, we now are able to work on the skills suggested in this article.
12 hours ago · Like
Bethany Harty JUST what I needed to read tonight :) My 13 year old slightly autistic son got made when, in a bouncy castle, he and his 9 year old sister bumped each other, and she kicked him, and he proceeded to punch her in the arms. She has a MASSIVE bruise now on both arms. Sigh. He doesn't seem to understand why he got in such trouble. She hurt him, he hurt her back....

Anonymous said...

Hi, Wow you just spelled out my life in a nutshell. My husband is most likely on the spectrum too and we are finding it very challenging working as a team to help out son. Has you psychologist giving you any suggestions. I am searching for some help for both Aspies in my family.

Anonymous said...

My son is 14 and was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was about 9, he has become very irate and angry and has completely given up school,when he used to be a amazing student he is very verbally abusive to me daily and I just dont know how else to help him anymore,

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,
I subscribed to your site because of my 11 year old son. Long story and not sure how much you want to hear. Since my son was 4 or 5 my husband and I knew something was a little off. He was diagnosed as ADHD when he was 8 years old and his pediatricians said his behavior was due to the ADHD and him being "a boy". In the last 3 months his uniqueness seems to really be more noticeable. We don't know much about Aspbergers but wondering if the recent death of my mother, whom we lived with and took care of for the last 2 years, could have been to much stress on him. He has always hated school and getting him there is becoming more and more difficult. He is NOT an aggressive and is the sweetest kid ever. I could tell you so much more but again not sure how much you really want to know. We are trying very hard to get him officially diagnosed with Aspbergers but the wait for testing is quit long. I guess I'm asking for help with getting him socially close to par for his age, what can we do for him until the testing is over and what should we be doing for him during the summer.
Thank you for your time and the site!!!

Anonymous said...

It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

chai said...

I'm living with the same craziness everyday with my 12 and a half year old he has Aspergers has been on many different medications is gifted in math is social emotional problems at school is violent towards me living at home is almost intolerable you try and talk to them the conversation goes on and on and on he never will be quiet is explosive he's violent towards meI feel so hopeless I feel like the school doesn't understand his psychiatrist wants to keep prescribing different medications is with side effects it hurt his growth in and hurt him physicallysometimes I feel like there's no just know where to turn

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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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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Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content