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Violent Children on the Spectrum: What Parents and Teachers Can Do


I am a special education teacher. I have an autistic (high functioning) student that hits impulsively. We have tried behavior modification, social stories, sensory exercises, and music therapy. She will say what she did was wrong and we will role play the correct behavior. She still hits and is getting in a lot of trouble. There is no pattern or functional cause. I want to help her but am running out of ideas. Does you have any suggestions??


There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among kids and teens with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS). This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by parents, educators, and other grown-ups. HFA and AS kids as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Moms and dads and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned; however, they often hope that the young child will "grow out of it." Violent behavior in a youngster at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!"

Faced with a world in which they find it difficult to interact socially, communicate clearly, and control their own behavior, kids on the autism spectrum sometimes respond with aggressive behavior. Aggression - physical and verbal - is a common characteristic of the disorder, and can be directed toward inanimate objects, moms and dads and other family members, educators, peers, and even toward the youngster herself. An observant parent or teacher can take practical steps to soothe and redirect a violent youngster.

Range of Aggressive Behavior—

Violent behavior in kids and adolescents with the disorder can include a wide range of behaviors. Kids who exhibit aggressive behavior intend to deliberately hurt others. Aggression can manifest in a number of ways including:
  • biting
  • cruelty toward animals
  • destroying public or personal property
  • explosive temper tantrums
  • fighting
  • fire setting
  • hitting
  • kicking
  • pushing
  • spitting
  • threats to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts)
  • throwing objects
  • use of weapons

Factors Which Increase Risk of Aggressive Behavior—

Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in HFA/AS kids and adolescents. These factors include:
  • being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
  • brain damage from head injury
  • combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
  • emotional problems
  • exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
  • exposure to violence in the home or community
  • frustration
  • genetic (family heredity) factors
  • limited communication or problem solving skills
  • low self esteem
  • presence of firearms in home
  • previous aggressive or violent behavior
  • spending time with peers who are aggressive
  • stress
  • temperament
  • use of drugs and/or alcohol

What are the "red flags" for aggressive behavior in kids?

Kids on the spectrum who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist:
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Extreme impulsiveness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Frequent loss of temper or meltdowns
  • Intense anger

Moms and dads and educators should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in kids.

What can be done if a youngster shows aggressive behavior?

Whenever a mother/father or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help. The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the youngster to:
  • accept consequences
  • be responsible for his/her actions
  • express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
  • learn how to control his/her anger

In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed.

Can anything prevent aggressive behavior in this population?

Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of kids and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and through the media. Clearly, violence leads to violence.

In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:
  • Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
  • Monitoring the child's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
  • Prevention of child abuse (use of programs such as parent training, family support programs, etc.)
  • Sex education and parenting programs for adolescents


To be effective, treatment approaches for aggressive children need to take these factors into account:

‘Me against the world’ attitude. Kids who become aggressive have often learned to see the world as a cold and hostile place. They develop a habit of thought that attributes hostile intentions to others. This attitude leaves them little choice but to fight virtually all the time. If, for example, another youngster bumps up against them in the hallway at school, they immediately take offense, certain that they were attacked. They cannot imagine that perhaps the bumping was just clumsiness on the other youngster's part or an attempt to tease that really wasn't hostile.

Always the victim. Even while they are the aggressors, aggressive children almost always think of themselves as victims--of unfair educators, of other bullies, of prejudice--and believe that their aggressive acts are therefore totally justified.

Distorted thinking. Aggressive kids come to believe that overpowering another child is a mark of strength and worth, and that violence is a legitimate way to resolve conflict. Popular media support this idea, with wrestlers who pound their opponents without mercy and so-called action heroes who slaughter foes by the truckload. For good or bad, the government unwittingly encourages the idea that "might makes right" when it engages in shows of strength celebrating the Army and police. Aggressive kids needn't look far for evidence that force is what really counts.

Never safe. The violent youngster sees the world as an unsafe place in which there are only victims and victimizers, so he (unconsciously) chooses to be one of the latter. The power and delight he takes in hurting others, in combination with his already numbed emotions, can make for a lethal mixture.

Self-esteem. For some kids, violence toward other kids may be a powerful source of self-esteem, particularly if they lack other confirmation of their human worth. In many cases, the problem is not lack of self-esteem as much as lack of self-esteem related to positive, peaceful accomplishments.

The loss of empathy. Aggressive kids often don't even recognize (much less feel) the suffering of others. Empathy develops early in infancy. Most nine-month-old infants register concern if they see their moms and dads crying, for example. Kids who have been emotionally traumatized learn to protect themselves from further emotional damage by shutting off their own feelings along with any empathic feelings they might have for others.

Specific Strategies for Parents and Teachers—

Acknowledge your child’s feelings while setting boundaries. Maintain eye contact with your youngster and find ways to help him verbalize his anger. Let him know that it’s okay to be angry but hurting others in not acceptable behavior. You can say, "I understand that you’re angry but I expect you to (state the boundary)."

Acknowledge your role. When one youngster is acting out, the family will blame him for the family's dysfunction. Oftentimes, you will see a family that will present a disruptive youngster for treatment ... this is the sacrificial lamb for the family's toxicity. Parents need to examine their own behavior, and if need be, the entire family should seek counseling.

Be selective about the types of television programs your kids watch. Don’t let them view shows that depict violence as humorous, or as a way to deal with problems.

Clearly State Expectations. Power struggles will be reduced when the youngster knows what is expected of him.

Don't get into a power struggle with a youngster. Sometimes aggressive kids know that if they struggle long enough with their parents (e.g., yelling, screaming, throwing temper tantrums in a crowded store, etc.), they will get their way. Be firm in disciplining your youngster and let them know that there boundaries that they have to observe.

Evaluate Outside Influences. If aggressive behavior has developed suddenly or has gotten worse over time, then find out if the youngster has a food allergy. Other factors to consider are environmental conditions, change in medication or a change in the home or school setting. Some drugs cause aggression. Seasonal or food allergies can cause discomfort that the youngster can't describe, leading to extreme behavior.

Every youngster has currency. Use it! There's not a youngster born that doesn't have currency, whether it's toys, clothes, games, or television. Access to this "currency" needs to be contingent upon proper behavior (e.g., if a youngster throws a temper tantrum in a crowded store, he should not be rewarded with a toy or a coloring book). He needs to (a) understand the consequences of his behavior, (b) be able to predict the consequences of his actions with 100% accuracy.

Identify Triggers to Aggression. Sometimes violent outbursts are predictable. For example, does wearing a warm winter sweater cause him to become angry? Maybe the fabric feels uncomfortable against his skin, or the smell of the drier sheet is offensive to him. Examine every component of a situation that seems to trigger aggressive actions and making adjustments.

• If you know that your child is prone to frequent aggressive outbursts, always be prepared to avert trouble by sticking close by when he is playing with others.

Maintain a unified front. Sometimes aggressive kids know that if they engage in "divide and conquer" tactics with their parents, they will be able to get their way. If you're together, if you're unified and if you're there for each other, then all of a sudden there's strength in numbers.

• Make sure that your kids have opportunities to expend excess energy by getting plenty of physical activity each day.

Obtain a proper diagnosis from a psychologist. Many times, mothers/fathers are quick to make evaluations of their kid's unruly behavior, such as blaming aggressiveness on ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Parents need to revisit their evaluations, because a youngster's violence may be stemming from other issues. Don't make judgments until you get to the root of the problem.

• One of the best ways to teach your youngster nonviolence is to control your own temper. If you express your anger in quiet, peaceful ways, he’ll probably follow your example.

Reduce Stress. Sometimes stress over not being able to verbalize frustration causes aggressive behavior. If a youngster is angry that he can't button his coat, but is unable to describe how he feels about lacking that skill, he could act out inappropriately. Examining the root problem and addressing it may help to curb angry behavior. Calm reactions on the part of the parent or teacher are important here.

Remove kids from the stimulant that triggers violent outbursts.

Seek a Doctor's Advice. Medication may be needed, especially if the youngster's behavior is hazardous to him or those around him. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved a medication specifically for HFA or AS. But some drugs used to treat other conditions have been shown to be useful in treating young people with an autism spectrum disorder. A health care professional can help you determine whether medication will be helpful for your aggressive youngster.

Simplify the Environment. Arrange furniture in a sensible way for the youngster so that he can easily maneuver through rooms. If a youngster often tries to escape through a certain door, change the path of the room so that he is unlikely to go near that door. Keep surfaces clear, taking special care to place breakables and dangerous or messy items out of reach. Organize and structure the youngster's living space to minimize frustration. Again, labels can help the youngster understand where things belong and make him less likely to become overwhelmed or anxious. Restrict access to items that tend to cause power struggles.

• Since kids tend to repeat behaviors that are reinforced, it is important for you to provide them with consistent, positive attention for behaviors that are acceptable.

Stop being intimidated by your youngster. Many moms and dads are afraid to discipline an unruly youngster for fear that their youngster will hate them for being an authority figure. Your youngster doesn't have to like you or even love you, but he does have to respect the parent-youngster relationship and realize that there will be consequences for negative actions. Recognize that you don't have to be your youngster's friend, but you do have to be his parent.

• Your surroundings can set the tone for calm or chaos. So minimize stress levels in the immediate environment.

Pharmacologic Treatment of Aggression—

Medications are frequently used in the management of aggression, and current psychopharmacologic treatment strategies involve treating aggression as part of each particular syndrome.

Antidepressants— Antidepressants reduce fear, irritability, and anxiety, emotions that are in the same spectrum as agitation. Current findings point to decreases in negative mood and aggressive attacks, as well as positive changes in personality traits after antidepressant treatment.

Antipsychotics— Antipsychotic medications are not recommended for people who do not have a psychotic or bipolar disorder. Lorazepam or another nonspecific sedating agent is preferred.

Benzodiazepines— Lorazepam is a good choice to treat acute agitation or aggression, particularly when the cause is not clear. Benzodiazepines also have a risk for abuse, and therefore should not be used on a regular basis.

Beta Blockers— Beta-adrenergic blockers, especially propranolol, have been used to treat aggressive behavior in a number of diagnoses, including autism.

Mood Stabilizers— Mood stabilizers are primarily used for the treatment of bipolar disorder and as an adjunct treatment for schizophrenia. They are also used to treat aggression, although they are not prototypical for this purpose.

Before prescribing medication for aggression, the clinician should ensure that the child or adolescent has a medical evaluation to rule out contraindications to treatment and to determine whether the aggressive symptoms might improve without the use of drugs (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy). Psychiatric evaluation is also necessary to determine whether depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other problems are present. Treatment of these conditions may also result in reduced symptoms of aggression.

==> Preventing Aggressive Behavior in Aspergers and HFA Children


Anonymous said...

I am very grateful for your input and information you share on certain behaviors and how to work with children with asperger's, I am a one on one para with a 8 yr old aspie but he has violent meltdowns and we are all beyond ourselves on how to deal with this, but i do share all my information with my boss, she is a special ed teacher also, but thank you for your responses, this is a very new diagnosis and not many professionals have dealt with this, I was with him all last year but this year I was reassigned because I am not strong enough now to deal with his meltdowns, as he gets very violent, hits, kicks, uses inappropriate language, and DOES NOT OR WANT to do any work at all. HELP

Anonymous said...

Wow what a lot of info but yep this is huge and took the teachers and i about 7 yrs to finally get it thru to my son that violents is not the answer. Some of the key that worked for us was a no tolerance to violents immediate take home, explaining what he did wrong, what he should of done instead, and followed up the next day at school with an apology to the victim /s and consistantly over seven years with lots of understanding along the way, because sometimes his action was justifiable but still not accecptable so again explaining what he did what he should of done and knowing the other got in trouble as well all seemed to work. We have had the comment from him at 15 yrs that getting angry doesnt work, take a deep breathe and or walk away, yeah we did it. There is light at the end of a tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My son is 8 years old and he is being very aggresive in school especially with teachers and personnel that intervine with him. I know they no put in practice his fba and he express to me how awful the school is for him.Now they are telling me that he has EBD[emotional behavior desorder]and they have been destroy his student record.How this label can affect my son? Is there an organization that can offer support for my son on the next IEP meeting? My son is a great kid and I am learning everyday about his dissability but I am suspecting his school is doing a lot of damage on him.I am in Broward county,FL.

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Anonymous said...

I have a 10 year old son with Aspergers that occasionally throws rocks or hits other children at school. today he got written up at school for hitting a child over the head with a set of head phones. When asked why he did this, he said he didn't know why. He is such a sweet good kid 90% of the time, and then out of the blue something like this happens.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful information on your website. I am a parent of a very intelligent 7 year old little boy who has just been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome with a co-morbidity of ADHD. He has become increasingly violent at school towards his classmates and the teacher. He has stabbed a little girl with a pencil because he found her voice very annoying. He has also thrown a pen at the teacher's face which resulted in her having to go to the hospital for a scratched cornea. These are just two of the several situations I have experienced so far this year. I do hours of research everyday on his condition and try to control it with a strict diet. I don't want to put my son on medication, because I am afraid of the long term effects it might have on his brain (since his brain is still developing and it has been proven that medication can alter normal development). He doesn't act this way at home or with family at all (because frankly we won't tolerate it). He can be very mentally manipulative at times if you're not on your guard. Since there have been so many serious situations at school, the school wants to put him in Special Education. He is so intelligent and brilliant, I know this would not do him any good academically. I just can't seem to stop his violent outbursts. What can I do to help him achieve his full potential?


My daughter is 8 yrs old and had her Asperger's diagnosis a year ago in August. I'm disgusted by the way the school and day care treat her. She comes home and tells me she's a monster and that everyone hates her. They use "handle with care" on her constantly and leave her locked inside the "quiet room" until she calms down. We're at the mercy of the school system and they do not have anyone in the entire county who specializes in Asperger's. The special ed teachers at her school are only familiar with Autism. I have tried to explain to them that she is NOT austistic and that Asperger's is very different. I've given them books and internet print-outs that include web addresses to sites specifically abotu Asperger's but I don't think they've looked at any of it. They make her feel like she's a bad kid and she's not. They don't try to help her before the situation gets out of control and they try to reason with her when she gets upset. I would definitely categorize myself as a parent at my wit's end. The school system is no help at all and my daughter is suffering. I need help. I'ma single mom with no family to help me. All i care about is getting her the help she needs. I'm tired of giving her medication that doesn't seem to help. It kills me to give it to her, but I've been pressured to find an immediate result. Any suggestions would be welcome... anything that could put me in the right direction. It breaks my heart to see my sweet girl suffer so much. I feel so helpless.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Anonymous said...

My son is 5, and has just started kindergarden this year. I am so confused right now. They did not do a formal eval at school, but did observe him. He has troubles with speach( talks, but is hard to understand). Troubles with fine motor skills( using silverware, writing, zippers, buttons etc.) When he runs, he does this hop thing every 3rd step or so every time. He has outbursts, for no reason I can see.

Anonymous said...

He consantly goes after his sisters, hitting, kicking, and pulling hair. He threw a book i bought him yesterday out the window while we were driving down the road, i just kept on driving and he didn't seem to care. The school psych. Said they do not think that there is a disorder. Sometimes i think their is a problem, other times i wonder if he is just a bad boy. He has sensitive hearing, does not do well at all in crowds( they had switched him to a smaller class in school), and he had a stroke before he was born, and had infantile seasures. Can anybody relate to this, or give me any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

apart from the stroke, you are pretty much describing my son! I have been taking him to see a child psych about once a month for the past year, in the lead up to a paediatric diagnosis. She is 100% certain he has aspergers... And she gave me a very valuable piece of're the parent, and if you really think there is something ''off'', then don't give up

Anonymous said...

my little boy Thomas is 6 years old and is under assesment for Aspergers syndrome and is has already been diagnosed with developmental delay at 3 years old. for a while now i have been struggling to cope with thomas's behaviore at home. especially towards his brother. he is such a loving adorable boy but he hurts his brother and me. its like he doesn't mean to do it and is always saying sorry but momenterly does it again. i despretley need some support with his behavioure because i have been getting ill too much lately and i know its due to stress with thomas. but i just can't seem to get help until he is diagnosed. no matter how loud i cry for it and iv been told that even when u get a diagnosis its still a constant battle for support. why? please can you help me to find any support in my area i live in rotherham south yorkshire. please help!

Anonymous said...

My 10 year old child is under assessment for asperger's, while awaiting a diagnosis he has been attending a mainstream school, too which he has had two violent outbursts and has now been sent to a pupil referral unit for (behaviour) alone. Is this right?

Anonymous said...

Hi all. Have been reading all the previous comments and my heart goes out to all - specially those parents with younger children. My Aspie son is 17 now and have struggled with all the issues mentioned by you. He was nearly expelled from the primary levels for being "unruly" and hurting his classmates and we were forced (by the school) to take him to a physiologist twice a month in an attempt to improve his social manners. Of course, this was worthless as Aspie children react on impulse. Somehow, we got through the lower grades and things seem to level out in the higher grades - maybe his classmates also realised that teasing was really not the best (of safest) way to go! The problem with older Aspie children - in our case - is that my son is now physically and emotionally blackmailing us. I have been locked in my bathroom several times (apparently he sees this as a huge joke), have been sworn at in the foulest of language imaginable and were targeted with bottles, balls or anything he could lie his hands on in a moment of rage. He definitely wants to dominate me as he has often forced my hands behind my back and insists that I say "sorry" for something which is totally not applicable. He has also hit me several times when things does not go his way. In his eyes he is always the victim and never does anything wrong. I am, in fact, very scared. Funny enough, through all of this, he copes reasonably well at high school and keeps to himself and we have had no reports of fighting or anger outbursts from the school.
I have no solution or advice - let's face it, living with an Aspie child is no joyride and the line between hate and love is very, very thin.

Anonymous said...

I have a 7 year old Aspie son who, for the most part, functions very well in school and social situations. He has been a member of a basketball team, coached by my husband, for a couple of years. He enjoys being a part of the team despite being a bit behind his teammates in abilities. The problem is his reaction to his team losing a game or even falling behind a basket or two. This sets him off into a tantrum that sometimes causes him to physically lash out on his opponents. We have been unable to calm him down when he first shows signs of anxiety and have had to resort to physically removing him from the game. As he gets older and bigger, this is becoming more and more challenging.

We have a new season coming up this week. My husband is scheduled to coach and his team buddies are very much looking forward to playing with our son. We have thought about pulling him from the team until we can work out these issues. I don't want it to be a punishing situation. I want to explore different options and use this time to work on some individual sports that are slower paced and not as anxiety provoking. Being the Aspie that he is, our son is fully aware that the basketball season is starting and has memorized the team roster and schedule. He very much wants to play again and has told us that he will be able to regulate himself. He has said this in the past, but in the moment gets too upset to successfully employ our agreed coping strategies.

Do you have any words of wisdom for us? Do we grin and bear it and work through it somehow? Do we find some way to pull him from the team? My husband and I are stumped.

Anonymous said...

Tonight was an awful night. My son is only 5, but he got so violent tonight that I'm sitting here icing my wrist. I got a foot across that jaw too. What can I do when he gets violent with me? I don't know how to calm him down without getting hurt. Our apartment is small, and I'm divorced. I don't want his brother to get hurt either--his brother is 6, just 13 months older. I'm exhausted!

Anonymous said...

we had a safe corner for our son to go to when he is going into full shutdown. there is nothing he hurt himself with in the immediate area and there are floor pillows there. sometimes i sit and hold him while there, holding his arms down (depending on the situation). he usually emotionally breaks down and after sometime he's able to get up.

dw said...

I sympathize with all of the comments posted. I have a son who is 14 and has Asperger's. He looks like he is 20, but can act like a 6 year old! I, too, was told that when he was growing up and acting violent, he was just going through phases - don't listen! I have two older children, parented them the same way, and always knew there was something going on with my youngest child. The pediatricians just never listened to me! He was finally diagnosed last year.
My son can be sweet one moment, and then extremely violent the next. He is actually very frightened all of the time, has low self esteem because of bullying he has endured, and acts out with violence. We have tried everything - over 10 doctors and social workers, 3 schools and tutoring. No one wants to deal with him after he is violent towards them. I need to find someone who will follow through the violence with us and teach us all how to help him deal with frustrating situations. He is fine if he is left alone all day to do what he wants, but if you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do, he gets extremely violent and throws chairs.
Like a previous post, my husband was always his basketball and baseball coach. When he turned 13, and was much larger than the other kids, he took everything personally on the playing field and court, and was thrown out of games for aggressively attacking kids after fouls, etc. It became very scary. We have tried many different medicines, with no luck.
He has misinterpreted all of the other kids actions, so now no one wants to be his friend. He is getting isolated, and refuses to go to school or do any work with a tutor at home.
He likes the computer, but says many inappropriate things. Texting and social networks are the worst things for kids with Asperger's - they can say things they don't understand is wrong to say - and it is on the internet forever.
We did just have his blood tested and he is deficient in B12 which contributes to mood. Also going to try a gluten free diet.
I have read"The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene, and found it very helpful.

beungood said...

Do not tolerate the violent physical altercatioons,make him accountable,with Police action if neccassary.

Emma said...

My daughter does not have AS but her friend does. They are both four and in summer camp and school together. My daughter is very sensitive and her friend is relentless in pushing her buttons. The friend will follow my daughter at a distance of less than 12", repeating a question over and over; she throws things at my daughter and tells her than she "wants to fight". This friend is making my daughter's life so hard. I've met with her mother and we've tried to come up with some strategies but things seem to have gotten worse. I'm sympathetic to the difficulties the family is experiencing but I don't know how to protect my child. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Any insight with middle school age?

Anonymous said...

Any help with Middle school age children?
We try to follow the "ABC's", but when he blows, there is rarely a consistent antecedent. I need input on dealing with the behavior after the fact. with making every attempt to prevent being done.

ScaredMum said...

I'm looking for advice from the opposite side of the story. For some reason a classmate of my daughter has targeted her. This child has Aspergers & almost every day I am presented with yet another incident report because he has hurt her again. The classroom teacher has assured me that she isn't doing anything to provoke the attacks & she has even observed the other child go looking for her when she isn't at school & when she can't be found he will fly into a rage & try to destroy the things she keeps on her desk.

The school claims that because this other child has Aspergers there is nothing they can do because kids with special needs can't be expelled. I just want my child to be safe. If I could afford to put her into the local private school I would but I can't so we are stuck with him. It's at the point where if I see him when I am at the school for canteen or reading groups I want to hurt him so he knows what it's like.

beungood said...

Have your Lawyer contact School Superintendant.

patty said...

My 8 year old son was being targeted (punches) for a few days by another boy who has some form of disability. The teachers intervened and it stopped. Now it has started again. He even told my son that he was going to kill him.
I'm going to keep reporting to the teacher what this boy does because sometimes she doesn't see what happens and my son won't tell her. I know it's frustrating. I hope next year they are not put in the same class. Good luck!

beungood said...

Make sure school doesnt put them in the same class. Protest if they do.

Not HER Again said...

My autistic son (also intellectually delayed) has never in his life been violent and we are not a "spanking" family (just don't believe in it). My son moved on to high school (ASD class) and he has experienced horrific changes. He has begun wetting the bed, which seriously worries me as he has never done this before (since he was potty trained at age 4). And then the other day he hit me. I was in shock and shoved him back. I was crying. There were all sorts of tears and apologies and so on then and he swore he felt bad for "hurting" me.

It stemmed from him repetitively crying about how he couldn't remember things well anymore and I told him for probably a good hour of this, maintaining calm the whole time, that nobody can remember everything, and that's one reason we have each other. Finally it escalated and I could tell he was going to start throwing things (this IS something he's done in the past) so I turned and bluntly told him to stop right there so he wouldn't get out of control and then he slammed me and almost knocked me down the stairs.

Today the same thing happened again. It has been two weeks since the first incident. We were in the grocery store. We had been at the park earlier where he had started perseverating, like before, on not being perfect, making mistakes, etc. I was answering him for, I don't know...45 minutes, maybe? - in a calm voice. Finally it started escalating again, right there in the store and I told him we had just been through this, don't get out of control and just stop now and he SLAMMED me in the back with his hand. The entire store turned around and stared in shock at this man-sized child physically attacking his mother.

I told him he was getting consequences, no Wii, no electronics of any kind and that it is 100% unacceptable to be physical in that way and by now we were on line at the store and he jumped into my face with his hands in his claws. I BARKED at him to stop right then and there and I told him people were going to call the police. I really thought they would. I saw a few extremely nervous, frightened glances and people moving back. I was HORRIFIED.

I don't know what to do. His teacher swears everything is just fine at school. I am destroyed. Gutted. Tonight was a shit-storm where he screamed at me about how Im an F-ing Wh. (yes...really) and how he hates me and hopes I'll die and then he asked if we were going to cut off his head "with a guillotine." WHAT THE?????????????? I was yelling at him in tears that if he EVER touches me again in harm I will call the police myself. I called myself and he whined about how there always has to be "drama" in the house.

I don't know what to do.

He takes medication for sensitivities, Fluoxetine and Risperdal.

I am calling his psychiatrist in the morning and I have emailed his teacher.

But I just wanted to reach out because I feel so very alone. And I feel ashamed. My child is hitting me...beating me...I feel ashamed and filthy.

Of course every single article on the internet calmly and gently asks whether the child is having the sh*t kicked out of him at home and this one was even cute enough to ask whether the parents make the child the "sacrificial lamb"...thanks, guys. Needed that, things weren't bad enough.

Please...can anyone relate...because I am all alone...and I am crying. Anybody at all...if you're out there and this has happened to you...please please write back.

Unknown said...

I know this was written a long time ago, but did you find anything that helped with the violent outbursts? I feel that I could have written this post almost word for word! We have tried many medications, but nothing seems to change the aggressive outbursts at school (he's fine at home & church). Any follow up info would be greatly appreciated!

Don't Get Ripped Off said...


God blesd you and hang in there. As parents and ultimately the people that care fir our children with their special needs we must persevere, but armed with professional advice and techniques.

My 14 year old Son also punched his Mom twice this morning and like you it's breaking our hearts, especially my Wife's as his Mother, who loves like a Mother does and does everything within her/our power to support him.

What I have been reminded from talking to a couple people about this today and reading up as well, hence the reason I'm seeing this post, is that we have to search for the root cause, if possible for the aggression.
Ask ourselves, what is triggering the episode. Although in a "normal" point of view in thinking, perhaps there's absolutely no justifiable reason for the kid to act up in the manner that they did, but our kids are not normal in their method of thinking, how their brain works and how they feel in the moment that they act out.

There could literally be hundreds of things going on in their heads at the moment that we can't comprehend.

Educating ourselves with how to handle it is part of they key.

Stay strong and faithful.

Gran in Cali said...

I so appreciate these posts. My much-loved 14-year-old Aspie grandson fairly regularly displays several of the aggressive behaviors several of you have described—major cursing, feeling like a "victim" even when he's at fault, hitting, sometimes spitting—though only with family. Searching for triggers, the consistent one seems to be any event that this boy deems "unfair," including even mild critical/corrective comments.He has great difficulty accepting responsibility for his hurtful/abusive/inappropriate actions. While we are hoping that psychotherapy will help him with these issues, we also are looking for advice on real consequences; what's appropriate, dealing with the inevitable resistance/violence, etc. I can foresee calling the sheriff the next time this boy hits me or brandishes a steak knife, and cancelling activities (like a vacation) when he is verbally or physically abusive. His father (my son) and me and my husband are the only caregivers (the mother, now deceased, had a series of boyfriends who physically abused this child). Any experience or advice to share re consequences?


Anna Chandran said...

I have an 8yr old high functioning autism son. He started hitting and kicking people at school 6 months ago and still not showing reduction. He has got written up several times, he has hurt other kids, staff and everyone and while he is sweet and smart he has no control over his emotions. He keeps doing this very fast and very impuslively and therapy and talking about it and nothing seems to work.
Now I am going to get him seen by a counselor and hoping some social skills or gaining more conversation skills or even a friend may help him understand how to manage his life at school better. Thanks for the article and knowing we are not alone.

Anonymous said...

We have a recently diagnosed 8 year old HFA. My understanding is that talk therapy is not as helpfully as ABA therapy services. Whoever diagnosed your kid can hopefully also refer you to ABA. For us, when/then statements also sometimes help as she starts to decline….when you get out of the tree and talk with me/then we can go get a cold drink…. When you eat protein (important for their brains or they decline quickly) then You may…etc. They know they are in a bad place but don’t have the tools to get from point A to point B……it’s so hard and I feel for you….. deep breaths

Anonymous said...

We have a recently diagnosed 8 year old HFA. My understanding is that talk therapy is not as helpfully as ABA therapy services. Whoever diagnosed your kid can hopefully also refer you to ABA. For us, when/then statements also sometimes help as she starts to decline….when you get out of the tree and talk with me/then we can go get a cold drink…. When you eat protein (important for their brains or they decline quickly) then You may…etc. They know they are in a bad place but don’t have the tools to get from point A to point B……it’s so hard and I feel for you….. deep breaths

Anonymous said...

Wow I can imagine how hard is this for you. I’m a autistic kid caregiver and I’m close to quit , I love the boy I take care but it’s being very dangerous for me to be alone w him, don’t know what to do

Anonymous said...

You do not need eye contact and its actually NOT recommended in any form of ASD therapies that are considered worthy.

Forcing eye contact is counter intuitive and causes the meltdowns to be worse.

So take as you should. Case by case. Some kids sure. Others nope. My daughter would head butt you. Chuckling. Run off.screaming and screeching.

For some its the last fuse before getting violent. Which is worse than a tantrum by miles. Better your knowledge. This is weak at best.

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here for the full article...

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here
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.

Click here for the full article...