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Aggression in Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

"Is aggression typically a trait of teens with ASD? I'm a single parent and my 17 y.o. son is becoming more verbally and physically aggressive and I do not know if this will escalate to dangerous levels."
Adolescents with ASD (high-functioning autism) are often not found to be physically aggressive unless they feel threatened in some manner. 
For some young people on the spectrum, aggression may become quite common when reaching adolescence, and this may be clearly influenced by the parenting styles of the mother and/or father. 
Also, if your son is on the receiving end of teasing, bullying and peer-rejection at school, then aggression and shutdowns can be expected either at home or school (or both).
One of the key factors in determining an ASD 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 teen's life. Because a teen'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 ASD teenager, aggression can develop. 

If you are the parent of a child with ASD, 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 (or still lives in the house - but is emotionally unavailable), you can expect your son's aggression may be present as you provide the maternal sensitivity he needs while also attempting to be the disciplinarian. 
Because kids on the spectrum 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 (i.e., guidance, not punishment) while you provide the maternal sensitivity will go a long way in your son's long-term development.

Conversely, if you are a father who is raising an ASD youngster alone, you will want to be sure that you find ways to be sensitive and nurturing to his or her needs. Because fathers are more likely to be the authoritarian, a woman's sensitivity will be important in your son'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.

ASD is a developmental disorder that affects many adolescents by resulting in abnormal social development. For moms and dads, 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 child, and this may further exacerbate the ASD-related complications into adulthood.

Teens with ASD 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 ASD may focus on learning all there is to know about cars, trains or computers)
  • preference for playing alone
  • very literal understanding of what has been said
  • 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 ASD may not understand that someone is showing that they are unhappy by frowning)
  • sensitivity to criticism

==> Discipline for Defiant ASD / High-Functioning Autistic Teens

School-related Anxiety in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"My 15 year old son has just had a meltdown over exams at school today and I'm at home with him - afraid to leave him alone and go to work in case he does something silly to himself. When he loses control, he bashes walls, rants, raves and finally curls up and hides somewhere (what I consider to be the danger period where he beats up on himself). He’s a very intelligent boy …places extreme expectations on himself. I try my best to reason, but with little success."

Research has shown that the rate of anxiety symptoms in kids with ASD (high-functioning autism) is much higher than the “average” youngster. More than 75% of all kids with ASD experience intense anxious feelings. For people without autism, anxiety most often begins during the late teens and early adulthood – but if it appears together with ASD, it can be present even in young kids. 
Some of the symptoms of anxiety include: 
  • Anger management problems
  • Avoidance of new situations
  • Insisting on rules and routines
  • Irritability
  • Preference for sameness
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Rigidity
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Somatic complaints
  • Tantrums 
  • Test anxiety

ASD and Sensory Overload—

Kids with ASD are known to have problems with sensory overload. This means they can be overly sensitive to touch, tastes, textures in the mouth, movements, loud sounds or lights. They receive too much information or stimuli from their environment, which can explain some of their typical behaviors such as keeping their ears covered in a crowd, their clumsiness or their unwillingness to go to social gatherings. Their poor communication skills and social withdrawal may also be caused by the input of too much sensory information in the brain.

Sensory overload occurs when the brain receives too much sensory information. This sensory information is needed to interact with the world around us. The only way we receive this information is through the senses which help us to find out where we need to put our attention, how to react or when to ignore stimuli. The senses can be seen as a filter that helps us protect ourselves against too much information.

But if that filter does not work properly and lets in way too much information, it is impossible to function normally. Unable to sort out the right sensory information, autistic kids become overwhelmed by the world around them and are unable to react to it effectively.

Signs of Sensory Overload:
• Overly sensitive when touched, refusing to be held or cuddled
• Easily distracted
• Avoiding moving playground equipment such as swings
• Emotional problems
• Social withdrawal
• Hyperactive
• Sensitive to sounds such as singing or humming
• Lack of fear even when it would be appropriate
• Unaware of dangers
• Clumsiness
• Anger management problems
• Unable to calm themselves down
• Unable to stop their behavior, even when it is asked
• Impulsive
• Delayed motor skills
• Delayed language acquisition
• Delayed speech skills
• Refusing to get splashed by water in the face (taking a shower)
• Unable to wear anything with clothing tags still in it
• Fainting when too much sounds or lights are unexpectedly present

"Typical" kids will learn to make sense of the information by interacting with others and through their daily play activities. However, kids with ASD lack social interaction with others, and because their senses are overly sensitive, they have to put more effort into all the normal simple stuff others take for granted. Learning new things or playing with others is much more difficult this way.

Sensory Integration Therapy:

The purpose of Sensory Integration therapy is to engage kids in fun activities which will help them integrate the sensory information. The therapy involves deep pressure, brushing, massage, vibration, and the use of play equipment such as inclines, balls, swings, and tunnels. This way they learn to get more control over their bodies and their environment. It’s a creative fun way to interact with kids and has shown some amazing results.

There are possibilities for a home program or specific types of activities you can do yourself. It is fun to interact with your youngster this way and it helps them too! If your youngster has specific problems that re-occur in daily life, a good therapist will train you to help your youngster. Look for a qualified therapist – an OTR specialized in sensory integration. 
You can look in the Yellow Pages under therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy and call clinics or hospitals that specialize in pediatrics. Most therapists are not qualified to give Sensory Integration Therapy. Make sure you find a qualified ORT!


•    Anonymous said... My 9 y.o. was finally put on RX for anxiety and since then, a year has passed and he has seen a dramatic decrease in the levels of anxiety he exhibits, the number of meltdown incidents, and the recovery time from those meltdowns is much shorter now too. He can see things/situations more clearly now that the anxiety isn't crippling him any longer. He is finding himself competent in so many ways and we are soaking it up! A confident, caring, super smart boy who can now speak for himself most of the time and who always wants to do his best....I attribute that to the RX. it was near the bottom of our list of options, after trying so many other Things and it, plus all those other things, have really been life changing. I hope you explore the possibility that a medication maybe able to help your son deal with his anxiety. Anxiety can be crippling...I know because I have it and I take medication for it and ive had panic attacks. The moral of my story here is that we were very cautious about medicating our child for a neurological condition and we delayed doing so but the results of that particular therapy have been phenomenal and life changing. I wish the same for your child.
•    Anonymous said... Have him write a dairy. Can be dot points with his feelings. You might find a routine and get closer to the issue of what makes him so anxious. I tried several things myself to help my daughter, it is growing above my knowledge. I am too close to her and therefor she is now seeing a psychotherapist to help her. What frustrates me the most is that everything the therapist is giving as advise, I am already doing. It is just that my daughter needs to hear it from someone else to confirm what I have said. I can feel your frustration, and it is not an easy road, but role play does work!
•    Anonymous said... I am in a similar position with my 8 year old. He can't grasp the concept of things like "What 3 things are you most excited about?" All he sees is that he hates school, and nobody is listening to him. He is on anti-anxiety meds. We were told by the school yesterday that he should start to settle in grade 4, which is 2016. Is putting an Aspergers child in a social situation, which goes against their nature and causes extreme anxiety not going to cause long-term self-esteem problems? Our children cannot learn how to socialize just by being in a school environment. They need to be taught how to socialize. I have reached a wall.
•    Anonymous said... I bought a lamp for my son I put it on for about an hr everyday & it defo helps plus got him nytol cos he suffers from a sleeping disorder & this also helps but he's 14 & I'm not sure if there's something like that for a 9 yr old think nytol is from 12 yrs plus x
•    Anonymous said... I son had aspergers. He is 10 now. We had to finally home school with computer. He is doing 100% better. At school we had light issue. Sounds in chapel and music. Ear plugs helped. The Ada meds made agitation worse instead of better. He was at the point his friends were not interested in things he was and he was agitated easy. He feels better not have people looking at him
•    Anonymous said... There are a lot of good ideas out there. We tried some. It's just not that simple. I had to take from everything I could and try to apply it to our ways. He is so smart he would be very insulted with stickers. Kids and parents are different. You can tx me anytime.

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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.

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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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