Aspergers & Aggression

"My son is very aggressive and lacks any type of impulse control. He cannot be left alone with his siblings. Does anyone have any recommendations? I know he does not want to do these things, because when we talk about it he says he loves his sister, etc, but he hurts her all the time. My poor daughter has to put up with his aggressions on a daily basis. I can't watch him every second he's awake. I also can't put either child in a protective bubble or send my son to his room and leave him there all day. I really don't know what to do with him and I'm not a big advocate of drug therapy. He's so young and I don't want to change his personality, only his behavior. Will this end soon? Will he gain control at 6, 7, or 8? I love my little boy, but I'm sad that he's so physical. He's starting to internalize his behavior and now said to me this morning that he's a bad boy even though no one tells him that, not us, or his teacher. I worry about his self-esteem as he grows older. We praise him when he's good, but he gets a ton of negative feedback. Don't do this, don't do that, etc. 'You need to go to your room for hitting your sister', I constantly feel like I have to micromanage him. But he knows he's in time out/ or his room a lot and I do that so he can calm down or to protect his siblings. Any advice would be helpful."

Aggressive behavior in the child with Aspergers occurs for a reason, just as it would with any other child. Inappropriate behavior, whether mild or severe, occurs in order to:
  • avoid something
  • because of pain
  • get something
  • to fulfill a sensory need

The first step in reducing or eliminating this behavior is to determine the need that it fulfills.

The second step is to teach them a replacement behavior (i.e., communicate what they want or don’t want). It may even involve using some of their obsessive or self-stimulating behaviors as a replacement. This is because it would be far less intrusive to others than aggressive behaviors, but still serve the same purpose.

This process takes time and initially, and depending on the behavior, you may not have time. If the behavior is severe, then you need to remove the child from whatever situation they are in at the time. Simply insisting that they stop the behavior and participate in whatever is occurring will not benefit the child or you, unless you remove them from the situation first.

Maintaining their routine will go a long way towards reducing the need for inappropriate or aggressive behavior in the first place.

A behavior analyst should be able to help you. He/she will work with you and your family to try to hash out the functions of the behaviors. Once that is determined you son will be taught replacement behaviors that he can use to meet the needs that his concerning behaviors are filling for him.

Try doing a web search for 'behavior analysis' or 'applied behavior analysis' in your state. That would be a good place to start.

Aspergers is one of the diagnostic subcategories of pervasive developmental disorders. It is characterized by a defect in reciprocal social interaction, lack of empathy for others and poor non-verbal communication. Antisocial acts, including aggression and sexual offense, are not considered to be uncommon in this disorder, but these symptoms are secondary to the diagnosis of Aspergers as a manifestation of difficulties with the "theory of mind" of others.

The usual treatment for Aspergers aggression includes:

• Art Therapy
• Behavioral contracts
• Cognitive behavior-modification
• Drama Therapy
• Language Therapy
• Music Therapy
• Occupational Therapy
• Osteopathy
• Physiotherapy
• Play Therapy
• Scripts and autopsies
• Social stories
• Speech Therapy
• Structuring the environment for social success
• Traditional behavioral consequences

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