Angry Outbursts in Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum


My son is 13 years old; he has been previously diagnosed with high functioning autism, adhd and obsessive compulsive disorder. My son lived with his father for six months while I recovered from a nervous breakdown. When I got custody of him again he was very aggressive, would hit his 6 year old brother and call him names and put him down. My ex gave him no discipline from what I gather from my son, he told me he had to raise his six year old brother for them six months. He blames me for the divorce between me and his father. I have bipolar and he doesn’t seem to understand that I am different too and that I need him to cooperate and help me as much as possible. He’s too focused on his ocd, his adhd and his autism and he uses all of these things for an excuse for all of the negative behaviors he is having.

In the last past year he has changed 3 schools, and moved to a new area, which he says he hates. I’m wondering if he will adjust to the new setting and new rules that I have for him. I think some of it is the teenage years; he uses profanity often and shows aggression to get his way no matter what the consequences. I want to help my son but I don’t know what to do. His brother is totally opposite; he does what I tell him and goes by all of the rules.

How do I get my son to show me respect and work on his attitude without so many angry outbursts which could get me evicted from our apartment? I go with the flow to keep things as quiet as possible but things get worse, if I threaten to take his games he threatens and has went as far as walking out of the door leaving me to find him. Am I dealing with autism, Adhd, compulsive disorder or just an unruly teenager? I think it is all of them. I was wondering if there is an autism training center that could come in and work with my son. I am desperate at this point and will do anything to help my child to stay on the right track, I worry that he is headed for suicide or prison. I am very concerned for him, he’s happy as long as I cater to him, but when I stand up for what I think is right he rebels and I pay dearly. Please help.


Parents of High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) children/teens will face many behavior problems (e.g., aggression and violent behavior, anger, depression, and many other problematic behaviors). Part of the problem stems from (a) the conflict between longings for social contact and (b) an inability to be social in ways that attract friendships and relationships.

HFA and AS adolescents possess a unique set of attitudes and behaviors:
  • Adolescents with the disorder tend to be physically and socially awkward, which makes them a frequent target of school bullies. Low self-esteem caused by being rejected and outcast by peers often makes these adolescents even more susceptible to “acting-out” behaviors at home and school.
  • These teenagers rely on routine to provide a sense of control and predictability in their lives. Another characteristic of the disorder is the development of special interests that are unusual in focus or intensity. These young people may become so obsessed with their particular areas of interest that they get upset and angry when something or someone interrupts their schedule or activity.
  • Adolescents on the autism spectrum often suffer from “mindblindness,” which means they have difficulty understanding the emotions others are trying to convey through facial expressions and body language. The problem isn’t that adolescents with Aspergers can’t feel emotion, but that they have trouble expressing their own emotions and understanding the feelings of others. “Mindblindness” often give parents the impression that their HFA or AS teen is insensitive, selfish and uncaring.
  • They can be extremely sensitive to loud noise, strong smells and bright lights. This can be a challenge in relationships as adolescents on the spectrum may be limited in where they can go on, how well they can tolerate the environment, and how receptive they are to instruction from parents and teachers.
  • Social conventions are a confusing maze for adolescents with the disorder. They can be disarmingly concise and to the point, and may take jokes and exaggerations literally. Because they struggle to interpret figures of speech and tones of voice that “neuro-typicals” naturally pick up on, they may have difficulty engaging in a two-way conversation. As a result, they may end up fixating on their own interests and ignoring the interests and opinions of others.

Focus on prevention and on helping your son to develop communication skills and develop a healthy self-esteem. These things can create the ability to develop relationships and friendships, lessening the chances of having issues with anger.

Anger is often prevalent in HFA and AS when rituals can't get accomplished or when the teen's need for order or symmetry can't be met. Frustration (over little things that usually don't bother others) can lead to anger and sometimes violent outbursts. This kind of anger is best handled through cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on maintaining control in spite of the frustration of not having their needs met.

Rest assured, communication skills and friendship skills can be taught to teens (and even adults) on the spectrum, which can eliminate some of the social isolation they feel. This can avert or reverse many anger control issues.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
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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…


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...


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…


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…


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...


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...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...


*   Anonymous said... I'd like to say to you this. My son has Aspergers/Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He too present with anger, negativity and outbursts with authority figures. One thing I learned early on, NEVER walk on broken glass waiting to get cut! Never let things go with ease to avaoid a melt down. Set clear limits he understands with clear consequences he also understands. Get your child the help hhe needs NOW before it's too late with the laws in your State. Many parents of Spectrum children do not understand the Laws that protect the child and hinder the parents. As with my son, at the age of 14 in our State children have the RIGHT to not participate in therapy of any sort including Mental Health Services. If and when your child is made aware of the Laws you should be prepared as we were not as we did not even know the Law existed. My son is as I've said now 17. He is reminded daily that no matter what his diagnosis are, he is bound by the same laws as the rest of the world. Dealing with anger outbursts are horrifying to say the least. It takes a toll on your entire family dynamics. Having a younger child watch this behavior will lead them to issues with outbursts as well. I also have a 7 yr old who learns from his brothers behavior. We do the same, set limits, make rules and make consequences clearly understood and FOLLOW THROUGH! NEVER let your guilt for the diagnosis to interfere with following through! This will by far be your biggest mistake. For yourself, establish a support system, keep time for yourself, try to stay positive at all times and again use your support system. If and when violence erupts, call the police to intervene and make sure they are aware of the diagnosis before they arrive for it can cause a bigger problem as well as a negative outcome all around.

•    Anonymous said… Communication is hard and understanding is wanted. Those that act out are in pain themselves..

•    Anonymous said… I have been dealing with this for 16 years. Therapy is a on going process. If the behavior is out of control. I would suggest a inpatient treatment facility. This will allow for continued therapy and behavior modification. Trust me.. I know this well. You are not along.

•    Anonymous said… I know this comment may sound soft and shallow, but believe me, as a single parent of an autistic/Asperger's son prone to violent outbursts just like the rest of you, all I can offer is for you the parent to take care of yourself. For me it was Transcendental Meditation. It calms me like nothing else and for some bizarre reason it calms my son, even though he's not the one meditating. I'm not affiliated and not trying to pitch them, but you need to do something CALMING for yourself. Every child is different and requires a unique strategy to cope, and so does every parent. Bless everyone here and let's try to keep our heads and hearts clear.
•    Anonymous said… Well i give my son 1 for being good and its been working i got him on ssi and he had outbursts 3 times before i decided this and i took one day at a time and for 5 days my son been good no outbursts and i give him options too like if he cant do something for a example my son he wanted to go yesterday to dollar General i said play on ur phone or color or drawl or eat popsicle something to distract him from what he wants til u can do it when ur ready . Take 1day at a time and be calm with him at all times i just started this 2 months ago and im handling it pretty well and he has asperger's and odd so i understand

•    Anonymous said… Wow! My son is 15 and this is my life right now, although luckily without the physical aggression. I have to admit it is nice to know I'm not the only one dealing with these severe behavior issues!

•    Anonymous said… your beautiful boy sounds like my 8yr old grand son , but these kids live in a completely different world to ours they like to do what they do eat what they eat and if left alone they survive just as well as if we never said a word the more we tell them and yell the worse they get .I have seen the outbursts and man its scary .
*     Anonymous said... Not enough focus on reaching out to others on the spectrum, other teens getting together. Organized by the supports already in place to have purposed get togethers for the teens. They just don't cut it , in high school. Highschool is a dead bully zone. Kids there are mean mean mean, if anyone is a bit 'off' they can make their life miserable, too miserable. I would not have my kid enter high school at all, and focus on get togethers with other aspergers kids, and just do it that way, engaging them in activities in the community.

*     Anonymous said...I really dont know what to do my 12 year old shouts at me and says the most horrible things most days and calls me and her sister names im a single mum of 3 and finding it hard to cope ive asked for help since she was 4 and no one does anything she has no therapy and we have no help at all just me because while at school etc she wants to be the same as everyone else she tells them shes fine and the works ok but what she does is bottle all her anxieties frustrations things that havent gone as shes wanted all day etc and lets rip at me when she gest home if something isnt how she wants or she cant have what she wants or things dont go as she expects she has meltdowns that can last hours ive said i will speak to school to see if there is anything they can do to help us she said if i speak to school or anyone else about her shes going to tell them i hit and hurt her i dont do either but do have to hold her when in meltdown to prevent her hurting herself me or someone else or damaging property until shes in either a safer place or calms down i have had a dislocated shoulder a torn rotary cuff in my shoulder which needed surgery to repair and still has limited movement shes broken 3 of my toes and i often end up bruised and sore muscles i have health conditions that mean the above and stress makes me really poorly she knows this but in meltdown does not care at all i do not hit h.  Id stayed out on sat nt my mum had her for the night so i could have a day/nt off her nanna treated her to sweets her favourote programme then on the way home took her clothes shopping she had a good time id been home 10 min and she'd reduced me to tears with shouting at me and calling me names and i got up this morning to the same today i really dont know what to do im so tired and drain from it all ���� im worried about what her future will be

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