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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query aggression aggressive. Sort by date Show all posts

Aspergers Children Who Abuse Their Siblings


How can I help my youngest child age 4 cope with my 12 year old Asperger child’s sneaky aggressive behavior toward him? My four year old loves his older brother but is constantly being manipulated and abused. He does this very sneaky and tries not to get caught.

A typical example: My Asperger child will appear to cuddle with my child on the couch while he's secretly smashing the air out of him until the 4 year old screams. It's hard to watch my loving four year getting hurt every time I turn my back.


Research reveals that 53 out of every 100 kids abuse a sibling (higher than the percentage of grown-ups who abuse their kids or their spouse). What some children do to their sibling inside the family would be called assault outside the family. 

Here are some important facts related to sibling aggression. Researcher suggests that:
  1. A younger sibling who is very aggressive increases an older sibling's level of aggression.
  2. An older sibling who is very aggressive increases a younger sibling's chances of being aggressive too.
  3. If mothers/fathers show hostility in their family interactions, their kid’s level of aggression increases.
  4. Parental hostility related to economic pressures has an impact on kid’s aggression.
  5. Just having a sibling influences a youngster's level of aggression.
  6. Aggression runs in families.
  7. Although parental hostility is a risk factor for childhood aggression, marital conflict between mothers/fathers is not.
  8. Other family risk factors that increase the likelihood of childhood aggression are economic pressures, single parenting, violence in the home, and maternal depression.
  9. Boys are more physically aggressive in sibling relationships than girls, but girls can be just as aggressive in non-verbal ways.
  10. Sister-to-sister relationships have less fighting than brother-to-brother or brother-to-sister combinations.
  11. Having a nurturing older sister protects younger kids from becoming aggressive and even protects them from developing substance abuse issues, but having an overly aggressive older brother has the opposite effect.
  12. Kids tend to show more aggression toward siblings at younger ages, and then outgrow it.
  13. Kids learn how to be aggressive by watching their older brothers/sisters.

As moms and dads, we may be tempted to ignore fighting and quarrelling between kids. We may view these activities as a normal part of growing up. We say, "Boys will be boys" or "They'll grow out of it." However, thousands of adult survivors of sibling abuse tell of the far-reaching negative effects that such unchecked behavior has had on them as kids and grown-ups.

Sibling abuse, as all forms of human abuse, may be sexual, physical, or emotional:
  • Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, indecent exposure, intercourse, rape or sodomy between brother/sister.
  • Physical abuse ranges from hitting, biting, and slapping to more life-threatening acts such as choking or shooting with a BB gun.
  • Emotional abuse is present in all forms of sibling abuse. It may include teasing, name calling, belittling, ridiculing, intimidating, annoying, and provoking.

Kids often abuse a sibling, usually younger than themselves, to gain power and control. One explanation for this is that the abusive youngster feels powerless, neglected and insecure. He/she may feel strong only in relation to a brother/sister being powerless. The feeling of power kids experience when they mistreat a brother/sister often reinforces their decision to repeat the abuse.

How can you identify normal “sibling rivalry” versus “sibling abuse”? Here are some useful guidelines:
  • How does the abused sibling respond? Victims often respond to abuse from a sibling by protecting themselves, screaming and crying, separating themselves from the abuser, abusing a younger sibling in turn, telling their moms and dads, internalizing the abusive message, fighting back, or submitting.
  • How often does it happen and how long does it go on? Acceptable behavior that is long and drawn out may become abusive over time.
  • Identify the behavior. Isolate it from the emotions associated with it and evaluate it.
  • Is the behavior age-appropriate? Remember that generally you should confront fighting and jealousy even if you tend to think it is "normal."
  • Is there a victim in the situation? A victim may not want to participate, but may be unable to stop the activity.
  • What is the purpose of the behavior? If it tears down another person, it is abusive.

If you suspect abuse, it's important to act quickly to stop it. An effective parental response involves the following steps:
  • As a parent, you play a critical role in teaching kids how to mediate disputes without aggression. By setting rules and expectations for how your kids interact with each other, they are more likely to find ways to resolve their differences without aggression throughout their lives.
  • Be a good role-model of positive and esteem-building behavior.
  • Bring all kids involved into a problem-solving process.
  • Figure out alternative solutions to the problem.
  • Get enough fact and feeling information to assess the problem accurately.
  • Help kids to arrive at a child-set goal (goals set by moms and dads often become rules that kids will not follow).
  • How you handle aggression between siblings is critical. A common complaint among kids is, "He started it!" If you continually punish one youngster, and do not properly address issues with another youngster who could be instigating aggressive situations, you will likely breed resentment between siblings that could result in even more aggression. Assuming the older youngster is the aggressor could mean that you are missing a younger child's aggressive impulses and letting them go unchecked.
  • Minimize the violence your children see on T.V. and in the movies.
  • Reward sensitive, positive behavior among siblings.
  • Specify appropriate ways of acting and consequences should abusive behavior occur in the future.
  • State and restate the problem to make sure you understand it clearly.
  • The most important role you play with your youngster is that of a model for behavior. Your kids are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. If they see that you handle stressful situations by becoming aggressive or belligerent, they will learn this behavior. It is important to be aware of the behaviors you are teaching your youngster. Do you drive aggressively while screaming angry insults at other drivers? Are you rude or aggressively demanding toward others, such as restaurant or other service workers? Your kids learn through these interactions.
  • Work together to set up a contract which states the rights and responsibilities of each youngster.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Reducing Hostility in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"When dealing with my autistic child (high functioning), I'm so often kept busy 'reacting' to his bad behavior - and it's hard to find the time to be proactive. I need a reminder about the necessity of this...just wish the schools would get on board and actually 'teach' our special needs kids what they 'should' be doing! In any event, my question is: how can I deal with my son's anger and rage?"

Hostility for many kids and teens with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) stems from the difficulty they have in communicating their needs to their educators, moms and dads, and peers. Aggressive behaviors are one way they have for conveying their needs and emotions to others. As their communication skills grow, continued violence may be the result of never having learned appropriate, non-aggressive ways of communicating when they were faced with a difficult situation. 

The cause of hostility may be due to any or all of the following:
  • Being placed in a stressful situation
  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme frustration
  • Inadequate speech development
  • Lack of adult supervision
  • Lack of routine
  • Mirroring the aggressive behaviors of other kids around them
  • Over-stimulation
  • Self-defense

The first step in managing hostility and aggression in kids with Aspergers and HFA is to understand what is causing it. Understanding the antecedents of a behavior (i.e., what happened before the behavior) will allow parents and teachers to better anticipate the likelihood a behavior problem will occur.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
Here are some questions that need to be answered:
  • How is the aggression expressed? Is it through words or behaviors? Does the child become verbally aggressive first, and then physically aggressive, or is the first response to strike out?
  • What seems to cause the aggressive behavior? Is it triggered by frustration, anger, or excitement? Are there patterns? Does the child act this way when toys are involved, and when he or she is frustrated about sharing? Or does the child become aggressive when there is too much going on and he or she is over-stimulated?
  • Where and when is the youngster most aggressive? A youngster on the autism spectrum may have difficulty coping with stress in unfamiliar or noisy locations, or when he is tired or overheated. Understanding where and when he becomes aggressive can provide important clues as to why the aggression is occurring.
  • Who does the youngster act aggressively towards? Is the target of her aggression one person in particular, or will she act aggressively to anyone who is around her? If it’s one person in particular, try to find out if there’s a reason why she’s attacking that person. Is there anything that the person does when he or she is around the youngster that causes the aggression to occur (e.g., overly-aggressive play, poor match of personalities, lack of clear-cut rules, loud voice, etc.)?

Collecting and analyzing data by getting answers to these questions is essential in developing a plan for coping with – and eliminating – aggressive behaviors in kids on the spectrum. Understanding the “function” of a particular behavior is the first step to (a) helping the youngster to be more aware of his angry feelings, (b) teaching him to calm himself down, and (c) finding alternative ways to solve his problems. Once parents and/or teachers have figured out why the youngster is behaving violently, it’s time to intervene.

Here are some concrete tips for dealing with hostility in children and teens with High-Functioning Autism:

1. At the first sign that a youngster is about to become hostile, immediately step-in and remove him from the situation. Be careful not to give too much attention to the youngster so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the unwanted behavior. It can be useful to make a point of consoling the victim and ignoring the aggressor. If the youngster can’t calm down, remove him or her from the situation without getting angry yourself.

2. As grown-ups dealing with a hostile youngster, we need to demonstrate how to respond appropriately in stressful situations. Raising your voice tends to add stress to a difficult situation and will frequently result in an escalation of the behavior you are trying to stop.

3. Build the child’s language. If you can't get the HFA individual to be verbal, he should learn some sort of signs or picture system to give him some control over his life to communicate with people. That alone should help with a lot of behavioral issues. A variety of alternative communication devices, like the picture exchange communication system and other assistive technologies, enable an autistic youngster to express needs and desires.

4. Find out if the youngster has a comorbid condition influencing the aggressive behavior. A psychological or associated condition could be the root of the aggressive behavior. If that's the case, the youngster's behavior may need to be sorted out with a medical professional. In addition to seeking help from medical professionals, moms and dads should seek support from their own peers. It is important for parents of autistic children to get support from other parents of such children.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

5. Just because you have taught a youngster to cope with some stressful situations does not mean you should continuously place the youngster in situations you know causes him difficulties. This means knowing when to leave a potentially volatile situation or choosing to engage the youngster in a different activity to avoid angry confrontations. Also, if the aggressive behavior always happens during a certain activity, such as when it's time to go, then have the youngster bring a preferred item with him to make the transition easier. Look at the situation in which the behavior is occurring and see if there is a way to change the dynamic in a way that will be less stressful for the youngster.

6. Moms and dads should look at the reason why their youngster is being aggressive. Is it to get attention, or to get out of something he doesn't want to do, or to obtain something he wants? Look at the function of why he is expressing aggression in order to address the behavior. Also, remember that any sort of reaction you give to the youngster could also be making the situation worse.

7. There are a number of anger-control practices you can work on before, during and after hostile episodes. It can be useful to: (a) count to ten to provide the youngster time to calm down; (b) recognize the emotions behind the anger (e.g., “I know you’re angry, but we don’t kick”); (c) encourage the youngster to use his words by making statements like “I am really mad right now!”; and (d) teach the youngster how to do deep breathing in order to calm down.

8. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment to address aggression in kids with an autism spectrum disorder . Treatments should be carefully developed and based on each particular youngster's unique situation. Treatment should be implemented by a qualified professional. Many times, aggression can be worsened by a well-intentioned, but inexperienced therapist.

9. When you catch your youngster being good, be sure to praise her hard work and efforts. Look for and continue to praise good behavior as a way to motivate her to do better next time.

10. While it is easy to think that a 5-year-old will outgrow aggression – or there is time to deal with it later – moms and dads need to imagine their youngster as a 15-year-old engaging in the same type of behavior. When you are at this point, there will be a lot fewer options, and if your youngster were to hurt somebody, even fewer options will be available.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Tips for therapists who deal with hostility in children and teens with High-Functioning Autism:

Addressing hostile behaviors in kids and teens with High-Functioning Autism can be a frustrating and demanding process for therapists. The challenge is to teach parents to “respond” to the unwanted behavior in a systematic manner (i.e., using approaches specifically tailored to children and teens on the spectrum) instead of “reacting” to it.

When these kids exhibit aggressive behaviors, they may not be receiving adequate support in mastering their environments (e.g., home, school). Aggressiveness does not necessarily reflect willfulness. Often the youngster simply lacks the social skills needed to get his or her needs met in a non-aggressive manner.

HFA children with earlier ages of onset of aggressiveness are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD during childhood than children with later ages of onset of aggressiveness. Anxiety disorders have also been found to co-occur with aggressiveness at ‘higher than chance rates’ in childhood and adolescence.

Aggressive children need help in altering the way they process social information so that they do not interpret violence as justified or useful. The development of “voice” is an important component so that the child’s emotions can be put into words leading to social skill development, identifying feelings, fostering cooperation, emphasis on empathy, conflict resolution, and assertive communication. If an autistic youngster or teenager is not behaving in a positive manner, it is irrational to assume that they know more favorable alternatives.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Cognitive problem solving is useful in addressing aggression in kids on the spectrum. This method focuses on each youngster’s unique outlook to discover possible social skill deficits resulting in violence. 

The steps in cognitive problem solving are:
  1. encoding
  2. interpretation
  3. goal formulation
  4. response search and formulation
  5. response decision
  6. enactment

Each step requires different approaches to discovering and linking the missing skills in social situations. Developmental deficits in cognitive processes are often associated with early aggression, and normal social development requires mastery of cognitive and behavioral skills for assessing social circumstances, communicating with others, and resolving conflicts without aggressive behaviors. These skills empower HFA kids to make friends, succeed academically, and excel in the social world.

1. Encoding: Attending to social cues that are often missed or misinterpreted by aggressive kids.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Kids make videos of their own cues and then explain their feelings on the basis of cues demonstrated in the video including facial expressions, voice intonation, hand gestures, and other indicators of social intent
  • Help kids identify their own feeling states through self-report and observation
  • Enhance sensitivity to verbal and nonverbal social cues through games and role-play, teaching kids to identify social cues in body language and pitch of voice

2. Interpretation: Assign meaning to social cues.

HFA kids commonly interpret neutral interactions as threatening – and then respond aggressively. These young people are not born knowing socially acceptable behaviors, and the level of their required assistance depends on the social supports they receive and their ability to absorb information.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • With the help of videos of playground activities, kids should be taught to identify the sources of the problems with emphasis on correctly identifying friendly, as well as antagonistic, intent on the part of peers
  • Kids should learn to identify and classify social cues by friendly, neutral, and antagonistic categories of intent. Younger kids might practice this through puppet play, and older kids might practice by assuming the roles of other kids in disputes

3. Goal Formulation: Define goals that enhance social relationships with an awareness of the consequences of behavior.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Kids are rewarded for having ideas about goals for various situations (goals might be rated as to whether they are likely to augment or harm interpersonal relationships with peers)
  • Kids should be given opportunities to practice identifying and attaching pro-social goals to various situations

 ==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

4. Response Search and Formulation: Kids develop ideas about how to respond to each social circumstance they encounter.

Compared to neurotypical kids, HFA kids identify fewer alternatives and seem unaware of the various options that may be open to them when invited to participate in play or when confronted by a social problem. Remind parents that constantly telling kids on the spectrum what they are doing wrong is not beneficial, nor is it likely to improve future performance. Instead, these kids need help identifying their options and possible outcomes.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Develop skills to control kid’s arousal and to create behavioral patterns in which aggression is only one of many responses
  • Increase a youngster’s skill in identifying alternatives to the use of aggression to solve social problems

5. Response Decision: Assess likely outcomes of aggressive behavior and select a response that can be characterized as assertive rather than violent.

Compared to neurotypical children, HFA kids tend to view pro-social responses less favorably. Thus, these young people are not behaving a certain way to annoy or harm others; rather, they are simply making decisions based on their limited of social skills.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Evaluate the potential negative outcomes of each alternative
  • Evaluate the potential benefits of each alternative
  • Kids should be given opportunities to discuss likely gains and losses associated with each identified alternative in specific situations

6. Enactment: Apply a response.

This is where an aggressive youngster joins a group, offers and receives positive feedback, and learns to negotiate. Practicing these skills can be intimidating and challenging. Any attempts – successful or not – should be rewarded and reviewed to identify areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement.

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

Asperger’s and HFA Teens as Aggressors

"Any strategies for dealing with an angry 17 y.o. teenager (autistic - high functioning) who has been more and more aggressive towards us, the parents, and his siblings?"

Many children and teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are regularly victimized, and even more regularly misunderstood. Naturally, they and their parents feel that they are unjustly treated and inappropriately discriminated against. They are the victims of a society that puts a considerable premium on reciprocal social relationships.

Considering young people with AS and HFA as aggressors seems to fall-in with exactly the kind of stigma that has led to the injustice in the past. Nonetheless, aggression is a common problem, as many moms and dads will privately admit (in one survey, 40% of parents of autistic children reported “hitting other people” to be a problem).

Warning signs that an AS or HFA teen may become aggressive include:
  • Being cruel to pets
  • Fantasizing about acts of violence he would like to commit
  • Obsessively playing violent video games
  • Watching violent movies
  • Visiting websites that promote or glorify violence
  • Playing with weapons of any kind
  • Threatening or bullying others

Aggression in teens on the autism spectrum can develop for several reasons: 
  1. Membership card in a deviant group
  2. Special interest
  3. Defensive aggression
  4. Gaining ascendancy
  5. Outrage
  6. Retaliation
  7. Self-preservation
  8. Difficulties with emotional processing

Let’s look at each of these in turn…

1.  Membership Card—

Young people on the autism spectrum are often teased, bullied, and ostracized from their peer group. One option for someone who feels like an “outcast” is to ally himself with other marginalized or disruptive kids. By the time such a child becomes a teenager, his group membership may be in jeopardy, and he may have to behave more outrageously – and sometimes more aggressively – in order to fit-in. However, aggression is not usually the central method of staying in the group. This subgroup of teens may be engaged in other “normal” criminal and antisocial activities (e.g., alcohol and drug abuse, vandalism, theft of property, etc.). These are “typical” misdemeanors of adolescence, but are not usual misdemeanors in teens with AS or HFA. However, the autistic teen who carries out these apparent typical crimes, and who does so in a group, is often different from other group members. He will often be encouraged by the other members of the group to be the one who breaks the window or the one to drop the match. And, if property is stolen, the autistic teen will rarely know what to do with it or how to profit from it.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

2.  Special Interests—

Some teens with AS and HFA become fascinated with powerful others. This may be expressed through an interest in worldwide wrestling or martial arts training. They may have a special interest in fire that can lead to arson. There is often a period of covert fire setting in the garden or in a local woods that precedes the incident that comes to public attention. AS and HFA teens who have such an interest enjoy looking at fires and feel satisfaction from setting a fire. They may use fire-setting to escape a situation (e.g., setting a fire in the classroom), or they may use fires to pay back others. An interest in fire may persist for many years. Special sexual interests also may be a problem for these “special needs” teens.

3.  Defensive Aggression—

Although there is no reason to suppose the families with an AS or HFA child are more troubled than those of anyone else, there is every reason to think they are as troubled. A teen or young adult on the spectrum who is brought up in a troubled family may have to fight back to defend himself, and this aggression may spill out into other situations. However, there is one kind of defensive aggression that occurs even in children with AS and HFA whose families of origin have been aggression-free. This is when aggression is intended to terminate an aversive stimulus (e.g., a high-pitched sound). There was a report of one man with AS who tried to strangle a little girl who was crying in a supermarket, because he could not bear the noise. There have been other reports of AS individuals who have become violent when hearing certain kinds of music. In addition, aggression may result if an AS or HFA teen's belongings are upset or if he is interrupted in an activity that is important to him. An example of this is a 12-year-old boy with AS who hit his sister with a baseball bat because she pulled the plug of the computer when he was immersed in a game. He broke his sister's arm, and still, some years later, thought that was justified.

4.  Gaining Ascendancy—

Some of the most serious acts of aggression are committed by AS and HFA teens who feel so isolated and so powerless that they feel they have nothing to lose. In these circumstances, an act of violence that makes others take notice can become the stuff of daydreams, and can then be translated into practice. This kind of aggression often has a detached quality, almost like an experiment. Indeed, the AS or HFA teen may sometimes say, “I wanted to see what would happen.” An example of this is a 16-year-old female with AS who lived with her father, his new wife and their newborn. This teen was left to look after the baby and wanted to see what would happen if she mixed ground glass into the baby's food, which she did.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

5.  Outrage—

Entering the teenage years feeling lonely and powerless, struggling with learning difficulties, and having other people attribute both of these problems to personal shortcomings, are all unpleasant experiences. In this situation, two options often seem to present themselves:
  • Aggression is an easy route to outrage, although usually it is incidental to a wider strategy of disrupting a social situation. An AS or HFA child may just need to refuse to obey school rules, swear at the teacher, or knock down school furniture. As the child reaches adolescence, more serious acts may be necessary to produce outrage, and these can involve aggression.
  • Another option is to become the class joker who is prepared to do the craziest things to be a member of the gang or to become outrageous. Outrage has the advantage that other’s reactions to it are extreme, and therefore easier to read. It also provides a sense of power, at least if others are distressed by it.

6.  Retaliation—

Many young people with AS and HFA have strict codes of behavior that often include a dislike or even hatred of violence. However, even among them, aggression can be a problem when the teen or young adult becomes frustrated, feels unfairly treated, or feels excluded. The autistic teen can convince himself that aggression is justified in these circumstances. Aggression toward younger siblings may be a problem, as may aggression at school. But, the usual arena is at home.

This kind of aggression may be explosive, in which case there is often a sharp onset and a sharp offset. The teenager with AS or HFA may even be unaware of the impact of his aggression. As one parent stated, “He calmed down immediately, long before we could feel calm. He just seems to want to carry on as if nothing had happened. If we try to talk about the outburst, we can set him off again.” Outbursts of this kind may begin at an early age. Counter-violence makes matters worse, but it is a solution that often appeals to fathers. Withdrawal during the outburst, and then discussing how it felt to be on the receiving end of it, are often useful, but dealing with this level of aggression can be one of the most difficult aspects of living with a child on the autism spectrum.

7.  Self-preservation—

Young people with AS and HFA have a lively sense of self-preservation. They may therefore suppress an aggressive response to a bully or another aggressor, but turn the aggression on to a more vulnerable person later, who may have had nothing to do with the situation. The target of aggression is most likely to be the mother, or later in life, the spouse.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

8.  Difficulties with Emotional Processing—

Emotional processing is difficult for teens on the spectrum. They can’t tell themselves to “just forget it” or “life's too short to worry so much.” They want answers – and they want justice. A teen who has a clinic appointment may start to worry about this for several days, and then may ask repeated questions about what will happen, the route to be taken, and so on. Outbursts may happen during this period of heightened stress. Incidents that have happened in the past (sometimes many years before) may linger in the mind of an older teen or young adult with AS or HFA, and may resurface at regular intervals. When they do, it is as if he is re-experiencing the episode over again, and he may become suddenly and unexpectedly aggressive.


The unexpectedness of the timing and of the target of aggression makes risk assessment particularly difficult. Treatment also can be difficult because the AS or HFA teen, lacking empathy for others' reactions to his violence, may continue to feel that violence is justified. When aggression is a symptom of irritability, treatment of an underlying mood disorder may be useful. In the rare cases in which aggression is a symptom, anticonvulsants may be useful. Many doctors use “mood stabilizing” drugs in the absence of a mood disorder. However, this is most often because it reassures the doctor and the parents that something is being done, rather than that the drug has a specific effect.

How Parents Can Help—

The challenge for moms and dads is to help their AS or HFA teen cope with emotions and deal with aggressive tendencies in a more constructive way. Here are just a few tips:
  • Try to uncover what’s behind the aggression. Is your teen anxious, sad or depressed? Does he have feelings of inadequacy because his peers don’t accept him?
  • Manage your own temper. You can’t help your “special needs” teen if you lose your temper too. As difficult as it sounds, remain calm and balanced no matter how much your teen provokes you. If you or other family members scream, hit each other, or throw things, your AS or HFA teen will naturally assume that these are appropriate ways to express himself.
  • Help your teen find healthy ways to relieve tension. Exercise or team sports can help relieve aggressive tendencies. Many “special needs” teens also use art or writing to creatively express their rage. Dancing or playing along to loud music can also provide relief.
  • Give your teen a place to retreat. When he is upset, allow him to retreat to a place where it’s safe to cool off. Don’t follow him and demand apologies or explanations while he is still raging. This will only prolong the anger, or even provoke aggression.
  • Establish rules and consequences. At a time when both you and your teenager are calm, explain that there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, but there are unacceptable ways of expressing it. If he lashes out, he will have to face the consequences (e.g., loss of privileges, police involvement, etc.). AS and HFA teens need structure and consistent rules more than “typical” teens do.
  • Be aware of warning signs and triggers. Does your AS or HFA teen get headaches or start to pace before exploding? Does a certain teacher or class at school always trigger rage? When your teenager can identify the warning signs that his temper is starting to boil, it allows him to take steps to defuse the rage before it gets out of control.

Dealing with an aggressive AS or HFA teenager is not easy, and it can be hard to trace back the original causes of aggressive behavior. If parents are concerned about their teen’s aggression, they should seek advice from a professional. Oftentimes, teens on the autism spectrum who demonstrate aggression towards others simply need help developing social and communicating skills.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Aspergers Children

"Our 5 y.o. son with Aspergers [high functioning] can be very aggressive when he's frustrated. He's not beyond attacking whoever is the closest to him at the time, especially his playmates and siblings. He will push, spit, hit, kick ...and it's uncontrollable once his anger reaches that level. Any suggestions?!"

Few situations are more difficult to deal with than having a youngster who is aggressive toward other kids. It can be embarrassing as well as frightening when your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) youngster bites, hits, scratches or kicks to get his or her way. It’s not uncommon for younger Aspergers kids to engage in this type of behavior at various points in their development and in a variety of settings.

However, when it becomes very frequent or seems to be their consistent way of reacting to something they don’t like, it’s time to step in and help them change their behavior. The first step is understanding the underlying reasons why your Aspergers youngster is choosing to act out this way. The more you understand what’s happening, the better you’ll be able to help them find other, non-aggressive ways to solve their problems.

Initially, between the ages of 18 months to 2 years, Aspergers kids find it extremely hard to communicate their needs to their moms & dads, caregivers, and other kids. Negative behaviors are one way they may choose to get their point across. For older Aspergers kids between the ages of three and six, such behaviors may be the result of never having learned appropriate, non-aggressive ways of communicating when they were faced with a difficult situation. The cause of aggressive behaviors may be due to any or all of the following:
  • Being placed in a stressful situation
  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme frustration or anger
  • Inadequate speech development
  • Lack of adult supervision
  • Lack of routine
  • Mirroring the aggressive behaviors of other kids around them
  • Over-stimulation
  • Self-defense

One place to begin is to watch your youngster for cues to see if any of the situations described above brings about aggressive behavior. Learning as much as you can about the factors that trigger bad behavior is the best way to combat it when it occurs next time. Some questions you should ask yourself:

• How is his aggressiveness expressed? Is it through angry words or through angry behaviors? Does he become verbally aggressive first and then physically aggressive, or is his first response to strike out and hit?

• What seems to cause your youngster to act out in an aggressive fashion? Is it triggered by frustration, anger, or excitement? Notice if there are patterns. Does he act this way when toys are involved, and he’s frustrated about sharing? Or does he become aggressive when there is too much going on and he’s over-stimulated? If you observe the situations carefully, you will likely notice patterns.

• Who does my youngster hit, bite or kick? Does he do it to one friend in particular? Does he only do it to me? Or does he tend to be aggressive with whomever he is with? If it’s one person in particular, try to find out if there’s a reason why he’s attacking that youngster such as engaging in overly aggressive play, a poor match of temperaments or a lack of clear cut rules before play begins.

By answering these questions, you are on your way to successfully limiting your youngster’s aggressive behavior in the future. In this article, I’ll outline some ways that you can help your youngster become more aware of his aggressive feelings and teach him to calm himself down, or find alternative ways to solve his problems. We’ll also talk about giving consequences to kids when they do lash out and hurt someone. In my experience, consequences are imperative to ending aggressive behavior in young kids.

They teach your youngster that all behaviors have a consequence, whether good or bad, and will help him make better choices in the future when he is with his friends. Once you’ve narrowed down the reasons why your youngster is behaving aggressively, it’s time to intervene.

Step in and Stop it immediately—

At the first sign that your youngster is about to become aggressive, immediately step in and remove him from the situation. Be careful not to give too much attention to your youngster so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the bad behavior. Too much attention can include trying to “talk through” the problem.

Young kids are not able to hear long explanations of why their behavior was offensive. A simple yet firm statement such as, “We don’t bite” should suffice while you turn your attention to the victim. Other examples of too much attention include yelling at your youngster while attending to the victim, forcing your youngster to apologize immediately or continuing to talk to the other moms & dads around you about how embarrassed or angry you are.

Make a point of consoling the victim and ignoring the aggressor. If your youngster cannot calm down, remove him or her from the situation without getting angry yourself. When they are calm and ready to talk, you can discuss what happened. If it’s physically impossible to remove your youngster, you will have to remove yourself and the victim from the situation.

By walking an age-appropriate distance away from your youngster after he has acted out, you are sending the message that you will attend to him when he can calm down. In doing so, you are teaching your youngster that it is his responsibility to learn to calm himself and act appropriately.

Lower Your Voice, Don’t Raise It—

As moms & dads, we need to show self-control and use gentle words if we want our kids to do the same. It’s easy to respond with yelling or anger, but remember, your youngster is looking to you for cues on how to control his impulses and have good behavior. While it can be terribly embarrassing to have a youngster that continues to act out towards their friends, keep in mind that their negative behavior is most likely happening because they are still navigating their way through their social circles. This can be very difficult for some kids, so try not to over-react or personalize it.

One technique that works very well for some kids is to change the tone and volume of your voice. You can help your youngster stay calm by immediately lowering your voice when attending to the victim as well as to your youngster. If he is unable to calm down, before helping the victim, turn to him and say quietly, “I need you to calm down now. I am going to help Josh and when I am done I want you to be done screaming.”

For some kids this will work, and when your youngster returns to you, calm and collected, feel free to quietly praise him, saying, “Thank you for calming yourself down. We don’t bite. It hurt Josh and he is sad.” Repeat the phrase “We don’t bite” and inform your youngster that if it happens again, the consequence is that you will leave.

If this does not work for your youngster and he simply cannot calm down, leave him where he is (again, at an age-appropriate distance) and ignore the tantrum. Most young kids will not continue to act out if they no longer have an audience.

Practice Ways to De-fuse your Aspergers Child’s Anger—

For younger kids, help them recognize their anger by stating, “I know you're mad, but we don’t hit. No hitting!” For kids aged 3-7, talk about anger as an important feeling. You can practice ways to de-fuse your youngster's anger during calmer moments. You can say, “Sometimes I get angry too. When that happens, I say ‘I’m angry’ and I leave the room.”

You can also teach your youngster how to count to ten until he is less angry, how to do deep breathing in order to calm down, or how to use his words by making statements such as “I am really, really angry right now!” All of these methods help take the immediate focus off of your youngster’s anger and teach them to recognize this important emotion.

Before you enter into a potentially difficult social situation, review the consequences with your youngster about what will happen if he cannot control his anger. Tell your youngster, “I feel you can handle your anger, but if you can’t, we will have to leave the park and not come back until next week. Do you understand?” Make certain that you follow through with whatever consequences you pose to your youngster.

Teach Aspergers Kids that Aggression is wrong—

It’s also important to talk to your kids about aggression during a calm moment. In a steady voice, explain to your youngster that hitting, biting, kicking, and other aggressive behaviors are wrong. For younger kids, those between 18 months and 2 years, keep it simple. Hold them and explain, “No hitting. It is wrong.”

Remember that you may have to repeat this rule numerous times, using the same words, until your youngster gets it. Be firm and consistent each time your youngster becomes aggressive. Have a plan in place for consequences if aggressive behavior starts.

At home, this can include a time-out chair away from the rest of the family where your youngster can stay until he can calm down. If you are away from home, pick a safe place, such as a time-out in a car seat or another place where your youngster is removed from the fun. This reinforces that you are not tolerating aggression in any form.

For older kids, those between 3 and 7, remember that they may be experimenting with cause and effect. In other words, they want to see what you will do when they act out. It’s your job to provide the consequences for the "effect" to work. Since older kids are more verbal, you can use a variety of phrases when they misbehave.

Examples include, “Biting is not OK,” or “Hitting hurts others. You need to stop.” It is okay to tell your little biter/hitter/kicker that once he misbehaves, he’s lost a privilege for the day. Consequences can include leaving a play date immediately or losing video time.

Tell Your Aspergers Child to “Use Your Words”—

Many times kids who display aggressive behaviors simply lack the communication skills necessary to help them through a stressful situation. For a young youngster, biting or hitting someone is a whole lot easier! Plus, aggressive behaviors often give kids a false sense of power over their peers.

It’s up to you to work diligently with your youngster so that he or she can practice the art of diplomacy in a tough situation. Help your youngster find their voice when they feel like acting out. By explaining and then practicing using their words, you are helping them to trade off aggressive behavior in favor of more socially acceptable behavior. Some examples are:

• Teach your youngster to say “No!” to their peers instead of acting aggressively. Too often a youngster reacts negatively to a friend or sibling instead of asserting themselves. By using the simple word “no,” you are helping your youngster to get his point across verbally, not aggressively.

• Give your youngster a series of phrases to use with their friends when they are feeling angry or frustrated. Some examples are, “No, that’s mine,” “I don’t like that!” or “Stop! That hurts.” This helps your youngster substitute words for striking out.

Before you enter a situation that you know may cause your youngster to act aggressively (i.e., a play date or daycare) remind your youngster to “Use your words.” Repeat this to your youngster throughout the course of the week when you feel they are getting frustrated.

Recognize Your Aspergers Child’s Limitations—

This means knowing when to leave a potentially volatile situation or choosing to engage your youngster in a different activity to avoid aggressive confrontations. If you know that your youngster targets a particular youngster at play group, you may have to hold off going to play group for a few weeks until he learns to control himself. Or, if certain videos, games, or activities frustrate your youngster, remove them from your daily routine to see if this has a placating effect on your youngster’s behavior.

Finally, if your youngster is exhausted, hungry, or over-stimulated, respect that and engage in low-key, slow-paced activities that will make aggression less likely. With your older, more verbal youngster, talk openly about situations that make him angry and work together to come up with solutions to help him through the problem next time.

Be Appreciative of their Efforts—

When you catch your youngster being good, be sure to praise their hard work and efforts. For instance, if you observe your kids in a power struggle over a toy that ends in them working it out peacefully with their friend, tell them how proud you are that they chose to use their words instead of resorting to aggression to get their way. Look for and continue to praise good behavior as a way to motivate your kids to do better next time.

What Not to Do—

• Do not expose your youngster to violent television or video games. Too often TV and videos portray the most violent character as the hero, which sends the message that violence is a means to an end for problem-solving. This message can easily be avoided if you are on top of their viewing habits. While TV or video violence may not affect some kids, it may greatly influence others who have a tendency to act out aggressively with their friends. By knowing your youngster’s temperament and what he or she can withstand, you are helping them on their way towards their best behavior possible.

• Do not personalize your youngster’s bad behavior. All too often moms & dads get frustrated and angry at their youngster when they are aggressive, because many times we feel that our youngster’s poor behavior is a reflection of our parenting skills. If you have an aggressive youngster, switch your focus towards helping them express themselves in a more appropriate way and follow through when an incident occurs.

• Never bite or hit back. It can be tempting to want to teach your youngster a lesson in how it feels to be the victim of aggression, but when you succumb to a childlike form of communication, you are teaching your youngster that aggression is the answer to resolving a conflict. Even though it’s difficult, try your best to maintain your composure.

When Aggression is Extreme—

While aggression can be normal in many kids, you should be aware of when your youngster’s behavior has gone beyond the scope of what is considered within the normal boundaries for their developmental level. Look for the following signs in your youngster:
  • A pattern of defiant, disobedient, or hostile behavior towards you or other authority figures such as teachers or day care providers. A pattern means behavior that is not fleeting, but is chronic and does not respond to the above interventions.
  • Acts annoyed or is chronically touchy
  • Acts spiteful or vindictive
  • Blames others
  • Constantly argues with adults
  • Deliberately engages in activities that knowingly annoy others
  • Exhibits ongoing anger
  • Loses their temper easily

It is important to recognize that all young kids may exhibit any or all of the above problems at some point during their development. However, if your youngster persistently displays these behaviors and it affects their daily functioning, such as their ability to behave at school or maintain friendships, contact your pediatrician, as it may indicate that they have other psychological problems that need attention. In this case, you will need to have your youngster evaluated by a mental health professional.

Parenting an aggressive child with Asperger Syndrome can be one of the greatest challenges you will face as you weave your way through the maze of his or her development. Even though it may seem like it at times, it’s not impossible to teach your youngster new and appropriate ways to interact with other kids and the adults around them. The key is developing a clear, uncomplicated, consistent plan and following it in a composed manner. Remember: the best example of appropriate behavior is you, and your young kiddo is watching.

==> My Aspergers Child: Help for Parents with Aggressive Aspergers Children

How to Handle Aggressiveness in Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum


My son will be 11 in September. There are so many issues, but the biggest concern now is the aggression associated with his meltdowns. The aggression is getting worse, both physical and verbal. He uses foul language, hits, kicks, spits and threatens to kill me. I am desperate for a solution of some kind. I don't know what I should do when these meltdowns occur. They start the minute I pick him up from school. He does not have this problem at school. Since school started back last week he has had a major meltdown every day. I know that school (he's at a new school this year) is a major stressor. He's completely uncooperative with homework and as I said above, the aggression associated w/ these tantrums is escalating. I am desperate for help.


Many High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) kids do not have the social skills or self-control to manage their behavior. These must be taught. When kids can’t find the words to deal with aggressive feelings or are not encouraged to express themselves, they become frustrated. At other times, kids cannot cope with growing levels of anger in themselves or in others. In both cases, kids need to learn acceptable ways to assert themselves and to learn coping skills.

For these young people to outgrow their aggressive ways, they need positive, consistent, nurturing discipline. They need to learn positive problem-solving techniques. Parents need to place kids in environments that offer a setting and support for learning positive social behavior rather than aggressive, hostile, antisocial acts.

Try some of these options:

1. Observe to get the facts. Keep a log to find the theme of what triggers the acts of aggression – then help the youngster steer clear of these activities.

2. Share your notes or journal with the teachers. Compare to see if similar behaviors are triggered at home and at school.

3. Take a look at the environment. Is some activity or room arrangement causing anxiety or frustration? Does the youngster feel crowded, or is he bored for too long? Does the youngster have enough personal space?

4. For school-age kids, write a plan of action for what the youngster will do when the negative behavior occurs.

5. Make a list of activities to do “instead” (play with Play-Doh, run around the house, vacuum, draw, take a bath, etc.). Use a picture graph if the youngster can’t read.

6. Recognize success. “Even though I could tell you were mad, that was a great way you controlled your anger!”

7. Teach the youngster deep breathing and visualization relaxation exercises.

8. During a calm time, talk with the youngster so he understands the consequences of actions. Bedtimes are often quiet times for talking.

9. Accept your youngster and understand his unique temperament. While his behavior will be challenging at times, remain patient and supportive.

10. Tell your youngster how you expect him to behave. You will need to keep telling the youngster. Be specific and positive. Rather than saying, “Don’t hit,” …say, “Hitting hurts. Please use your words.”

11. Be consistent so kids know what to expect.

12. Organize the home environment; set limits on what the youngster may use.

13. Limit access to aggressive toys (e.g., swords, guns).

14. Monitor television for aggressive shows.

15. Watch television with your youngster, and comment on the content.

16. Sing songs and tell stories about feelings and frustrations. Talk about what anger may feel like.

17. Allow some independence by providing a help-yourself shelf with blocks, art supplies, puzzles, or other things. Define where kids may use these materials. Provide enough materials so kids don’t have to wait to use them and become frustrated.

18. Allow transition time between activities; give a five-minute warning that the activity will change or it is “time to come in from play.”

19. Be a model for controlled behavior, and avoid angry outbursts and violence.

20. Monitor out-of-home activity. Know where they are and whom they are with.

21. Avoid extreme permissiveness, laxness, and tolerance OR too much structure and too many demands.

22. Figure out what the youngster needs—attention, security, control, or to feel valued. Try to fill the need so he won’t continue to act undesirably.

23. Use closeness for control. When you sense your youngster is about to lose control, quietly and gently move close. Often your calm presence is enough to settle your youngster.

24. Help kids talk to each other to solve problems. Ask open-ended questions to help them think about options to solve their own problems.

25. Give kids choices so they feel empowered. Offer two acceptable choices.

26. Redirect your youngster. If your youngster is pushing, hitting, or grabbing, move him in another direction and into another activity. Stay by his side until he is positively engaged.

27. If your youngster is misusing a toy or destroying it in an aggressive manner, remove it. Get out Play-Doh, arrange an interlude of water play, or direct your youngster to his sandbox. These tactile experiences often magically quiet aggression.

28. Remove your out-of-control youngster from the scene. Hold the youngster, go for a walk, or go to another room. Stay with him until all is calm.

29. Be your youngster’s control. If your youngster is hitting another, your words may not be enough to stop the aggression. You must move in and gently but firmly stop the behavior. You provide the control your youngster lacks. In time, your control transfers to your youngster. Say, “I’ll keep you from hitting your sister.”

30. Note improved behaviors: “I like the way you used words to solve that problem.”

31. Avoid difficult situations. If you know going to the park where there are lots of children sends your youngster into an aggressive tirade, avoid going. Find a less-stimulating setting where your child can achieve more social success.

32. Seek support yourself when you need a break.

33. Banish punching bags. If you have a youngster who is aggressive, realize that the effect of “hit the punching bag, not Jo,” has not proven effective for reducing aggressive attacks.

34. Prepare the youngster. Before your youngster meets new friends, tell him what behavior you expect. With young kids, remind them that people don’t like to be hit or pushed.

35. If all of your strategies have been used to no avail, seek counseling or assistance in developing a youngster/family plan to learn aggression management.



•    Anonymous said... I am going through the same my son is fourteen. X
•    Anonymous said... I find that all children are different, and with my son, teasing, mimicking or laughing would send him into a downright rage even worse than the initial one! We find that just gently diffusing it and saying "I'm sorry you are feeling that way", or "maybe you could just take a few quiet minutes to yourself to think of some better words to describe how you are feeling" works much better. It helps him boil down what he's thinking and realize that he hasn't affected me, just the results he was hoping for, and that he won't get what he needs/wants with violence and aggression. It doesn't always work the way I want, but it models good problem solving and the behavior that I want to see in him.
•    Anonymous said... I ignore the foul language and tell my 15 yr old daughter I've hard worse and talking like that is not going to get you what you want. Thank goodness she has not used the language outside of our home, that I know of. Same with the physical. I walk away and if need be I lock myself in my bathroom and take a breather myself. Know what you are going through and feel for you.
•    Anonymous said... I know you probably won't feel like it at the time but I've found that diffusing the situation with humour often works best for me. We usually end up laughing. I've also used to mimic his voice or action, not in a patronising way, more in a over acting dramatic way. Worth trying?
•    Anonymous said... I tell my son that I don't deserve to be treated/spoken to like that, or I tell him he's more intelligent than to do/say that, I find logic helps him to handle his anger at the moment, but he's having cbt so I'm sure that's helping him to recognise the triggers for himself x
•    Anonymous said... my son was put on Risperdon and it changed his whole personality. He used to be how you described and now it chills him out and he is such a happy, content and great part of our family. Last year he was nearly suspended from school and he used to throw things at home, kick things, hit his sister etc. He is on a mix of Risperidon, Fluoxitine and Concerta. We also were told to spend time together and rub his head, arms etc while reading stories or watching movies and to play classical music around the house. We have a totally different 10 year old.
•    Anonymous said... We had the same type of experiences, I found my son used words and actions to assert himself, he knew which words would get a reaction. He once told his teacher that he hoped her unborn child would die, he did this at age 13. He was feeling highy frustrated that she thought he was too dumb to learn. Today at age 20 he is a model citizen, holds 2 jobs, goes to a trade school and is a volunteer fireman...who knew? God gave us these children for a reason-because we are the only people who could/can raise them! Hang in there it will get better when he learns coping skills.

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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.

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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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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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content