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Aggression in Aspergers Teens

Adolescents with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) are often not found to be physically aggressive unless they feel threatened in some manner. For some kids with Aspergers, aggression may become quite common when reaching adolescence, and this may be clearly influenced by the parenting styles of the youngster's mother and/or father. In fact, one of the key factors in determining an Aspergers youngster's tendency to develop aggression later in life may involve the presence of a maternally sensitive woman who can balance the discipline and aggression in life.

In many of today's families, it is not uncommon to find either a mother or father is absent from the youngster's life. Because a youngster's mental health is often greatly influenced by the presence of maternal nurturing and the balance of a father's discipline, when either of these are absent in the life of an Aspergers youngster, aggression can develop.

If you are the parent of an Aspergers youngster, it is important to provide this balance to your child-rearing efforts. If you are a single mother, and your youngster's father is not present, you can expect your youngster's aggression may be present as you provide the maternal sensitivity your youngster needs while also attempting to be the disciplinarian. Because Asperger's kids have trouble differentiating social cues and are confused by discipline when expressed by their mother, the authoritarian type of parenting is often met with aggression. For this reason, having a male role model who can provide that discipline while you provide the maternal sensitivity will go a long way in your youngster's long term development.

Conversely, if you are a father who is raising an Aspergers youngster alone, you will want to be sure that you find ways to be sensitive and nurturing to your youngster's needs. Because fathers are more likely to be the authoritarian, a woman's sensitivity will be important in your youngster's mental health. Often, this role can be filled by a woman who is an aunt or even a grandmother - and does not necessarily mean that a step-mother or step-parent is necessary.

Aspergers is a developmental disorder that affects many adolescents by resulting in abnormal social development. For moms and dads of Aspergers kids, offsetting the risk for development of aggression is most likely achieved by first identifying your parenting style - as either disciplinarian or nurturing - and then finding someone who can fulfill the role as the opposite parenting style. Trying to manage both the motherly role and the fatherly role may lead to confusion in your youngster, and this may further exacerbate the Aspergers-related complications into adulthood.

Teens with Aspergers may display some – or all - of the following characteristics:
  • lack of appreciation that communication involves listening as well as talking (e.g., they may not allow their communication partner an opportunity to engage in the conversation)
  • narrow field of interests (e.g., a teen with Aspergers may focus on learning all there is to know about cars, trains or computers)
  • preference for playing alone or with older kids and adults
  • very literal understanding of what has been said (e.g., when asked to ‘get lost’ (i.e., go away), a teen with Aspergers will likely become confused and may literally try to ‘get lost’
  • anger and aggression when things do not happen as they want
  • apparently good language skills, but difficulty with communication
  • language may be considered to be very advanced or ‘precocious’ when compared to their peers
  • the teen may be able to talk extensively on a topic of interest, but have difficulty with more practical tasks such as recounting the day’s events, telling a story, or understanding jokes and sarcasm
  • behavior varies from mildly unusual, eccentric or ‘odd’ to quite aggressive and difficult
  • difficulty in forming friendships
  • having rules and rituals that they insist all family members follow
  • inability to understand the rules of social behavior, the feelings of others and difficulty ‘reading’ body language (e.g., a teen with Aspergers may not understand that someone is showing that they are unhappy by frowning)
  • sensitivity to criticism

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens


Anonymous said...

i have a 13vyearold grandson with high functioning aspergers. he has been having anger issues. he punches walls, inanimate objects. i have been involved in his upbringing since he was 1 week old. tonight he had an episode because he has a friend over and goofing off another younger got a busted lip. i told his mother and he cursed me and hit the wall looking at me. i have never been afraid of him before, but after this episode i am frightened.the boy visiting him is very hyper and the only time the grandson acts out is when this one boy is around. i have had the worst weekend of my life, this boy plays hard rap, which my grandson does not usually listen too. i live with my daughter to help her with him and his younger siblings, , i am afraid to go to sleep now, and he admires this boy whom influences him much......i just do not know what to do anymore. now i feel he will hurt me. his mother fights against having him medicated.

Kenny Turck, CEO Crow River Family Services, LLC said...

Dear Anonymous,

First and foremost, if you truly feel unsafe you should contact a friend to stay with and contact county social services--you can do this anonymously too if you'd feel more comfortable and explain to them that you have concerns for your own and others' safety when your grandson acts out. (you don't have to say grandson)

Next, if you're daughter wants your help she needs to understand that her son hanging around with this other youth is not good right now for your grandson and together you need to set clear and firm limits with him but at a time when things are calm and expectations can be delivered in a concise but thoughtful manner (a harsh voice tone/scolding would NOT be the way to go). You may also feel more comfortable having someone else be present at this time.

I do not know what state you live in but many states have children's mental health programs that are community-based where providers come into your home and take kids out into the community and teach them social, life, and self-regulation skills that they are lacking as a result of their mental health issues.

You may also wish to speak to a public health nurse or local clergy to learn about more programs in your area. Opportunities for your grandson to participate in safe, structured, cohesive group experiences would likely be very beneficial in developing a positive social context for his adolescent years. Experiential learning opportunities (learning by doing) is a powerful and interesting/fun way to learn, practice, and master social, life, and self-regulation skills.

Erik Erikson, a renowned psychologist in his 1970 book "Identity, Youth, and Crisis" suggests identity development occurs in adolescents but not outside of a social context. In other words, if your grandson is hanging out with kids who are bad influences or good influences--these ingredients make up is "social context" and are very powerful in developing his identity--many kids with ASD struggle to fit in or would rather do more solitary things, or hyper-focus on one idea or theme; however the need and desire for belonging, fitting in for many ASD kids is just like any other kid--they want to fit in. Because many kids with ASD don't feel like they fit in, have many friends, get picked on, or feel left out (and many times are)--this new boy your grandson is hanging out with--is likely something very cool your grandson is experiencing. Having a friend that wants to have fun and hang out with me! Unfortunately, neither of them have the necessary self-regulation skills at this time to recognize their behavior as out of line, inappropriate, etc. (for the setting)--so back to Erikson and helping your daughter understand HOW IMPORTANT it is to really work hard to create the best social context for your grandson to learn important social, life, and self-regulation issues and this boy may not be the best influence for him right now.
Thank you for helping to raise your grandkids--you are to be commended! Sometimes we all need breaks though--and some breaks are longer than others. I hope this was a bit helpful and not too scattered--past my bedtime :)

Vette taylor said...

I know this very well. Behavior modification and counseling is what I suggest or you will become his victim. He has the potential to get violent with you in the future. Every child is different. 16 years here of experience here. You can love, support, and have the mostly loving atmosphere but sometimes it is not enough.

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content