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

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