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Manipulative Behavior in Children with ASD [level 1]

All folks manipulate others in some way. While this may seem like a character flaw, individuals use manipulation because it works. In fact, moms and dads and educators use manipulation to change behaviors in kids on a daily basis.

Manipulative behaviors can be a positive sign that the youngster is learning how to navigate the social world. At the same time, in some cases, manipulation is misunderstood or confused with frustration. Is a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) screaming because he is in pain, or because he wants to do something? Misunderstanding manipulation and frustrations is easy to do with this disorder.

Manipulation is sometimes used by the youngster to get what he wants or needs. Every instance of manipulation leads to an underlying legitimate request by the youngster. Yet, it is important to see that manipulation can also lead to behavior that is aggressive or otherwise extreme.

Various forms of manipulation can be seen in Aspergers and HFA kids as follows:

• Confusion Promotion: To manipulate the mother or father, the youngster brings up topics that are related, but not important for the discussion. In this form of manipulation, the goal is to confuse the mother or father to get what they want in a roundabout manner. Moms and dads often learn to ask direct questions to reduce the confusion level and not to give in to frustration over being confused.

• Playing Individuals against Each Other: Aspergers and HFA kids are very smart and this leads to more complex forms of manipulation, such as playing individuals against each other. This situation may result in confusion and frustration. The youngster may end up with what they want simply because of the lack of understanding in the group. This type of situation often happens between siblings or within a group home setting.

• Temper Tantrums: The standard temper tantrum is an example of a type of manipulation found in kids on the autism spectrum. In this situation, the youngster makes a request calmly. It may be unreasonable. When the youngster does not get his way, he may meet this negative response with yelling, destroying things, banging, stomping and even rolling on the floor. Moms and dads who are struggling with kids using temper tantrums learn to ignore them completely, except where the youngster may be injured.

Moms and dads end up frustrated when it comes to being manipulated by their children. You may be unsure of how to stop the poor behavior and get back to having a truthful and open relationship. Solutions often require patience and the ability to see what the underlying, unmet need is.

Here are some suggestions:

• Create an open environment as much as possible. Encourage your youngster to state what they want as directly as possible. Some Aspergers and HFA kids may not be able to communicate effectively.

• Disengage from the behavior occurring, but not the individual. If you feel powerless or unable to manage the situation, direct the individual to someone else.

• In manipulation, moms and dads and teachers may end up feeling powerless. In this situation, overcompensation may occur. A mother or father may become more controlling, for example, which pushes the manipulation farther. When you spot that powerless feeling, stop and assess the underlying circumstances first.

• Remember that the need is not the problem. The problem is the bad behavior and that should be the issue dealt with by the mother or father.

• Simply detach from the power struggle. Stop the process. If it continues, the manipulation will worsen, effectively causing the mother or father to become more controlling. This ends up leading to punishment.

For moms and dads in intense situations where manipulation is occurring readily, it may be helpful to find an support group, either online or locally. Meet with the group and learn strategies for tackling your youngster's particular needs. Some autism experts can also offer information and guidance on handling specific situations.

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