Aspergers and Anti-Social Behavior


My son is 14 with ADHD and aspergers. My housing association wont recognise this and want an ASBO placed on him, otherwise an Injuction placed on myself to take full responsibility for my sons anti-social behaviour. Surely this cannot be possible and so unfair on my son and myself. What can I do? Any ideas please...


For many moms and dads of kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism), coping with violent and aggressive behavior can be a very difficult challenge indeed. Aggressive behavior occurs for a reason, just as it would with any other kid. No child ever really just "acts out" for no apparent reason whatsoever. The key is in the words "apparent reason." There is ALWAYS a reason, but the major challenge for the mother or father is often working out what that reason is.

Inappropriate behavior, whether mild or severe, generally occurs in order to:
  1. Avoid something - for example, the youngster may become aggressive and shout before getting on the school bus because he wants to avoid going to school.
  2. Get something - for example, she may lash out at another child because she wants to get the toy that the other child is playing with.
  3. Because of pain - for example, he may show a range of challenging behaviors to his mom and dad because he is experiencing some physical pain (e.g., headache, earache, etc.).
  4. Fulfill a sensory need - for example, the youngster may lash out or shout in the classroom if it is too noisy, busy, bright, hot, or strong in a particular smell.

So, the first step in reducing or eliminating this behavior is to determine the need that it fulfills by looking at the four categories above.

The second step is to teach the Aspergers child a replacement behavior, which he can use to communicate what he wants or doesn't want. It may even involve using some of the child's obsessive or self-stimulating behaviors (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking, pacing, etc.) as a replacement behavior, which would be far less intrusive to others than aggressive behaviors -- but still serve the same purpose. 

A replacement behavior could also be about encouraging the youngster to express her feelings or negotiate verbally. For other kids on the autism spectrum, they may communicate through more creative methods (e.g., emotion cards, drawing, using symbols, "talking" through a puppet, etc.). 

The process of finding effective replacement behaviors takes time. Initially, depending on the behavior, parents (and teachers) may not have time. If the behavior is severe, then parents need to remove the youngster from whatever situation he is in at the time. Simply insisting that the child stop the behavior and participate in whatever is occurring will not benefit him or the parent -- unless he is removed from the situation first.

Maintaining your youngster's routine will also go a long way towards reducing the need for inappropriate or aggressive behavior. Routine is a great source of stability and comfort for kids with Aspergers.

So, just to recap, the two critical factors for coping with your youngster's aggressive and violent behaviors are:
  1. Identify the real cause of the behavior from the four main categories mentioned above.
  2. Teach the youngster to communicate the real cause of the behavior to you in a less harmful manner.

Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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