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Anger and Violence in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Question

Is anger and violent behavior usually a part of the ASD condition? I'm currently waiting for an evaluation and diagnosis for my 5 yr old – autism is suspected.

Answer

Kids (and adults) with ASD [High-Functioning Autism] are prone to frustration, anger – and sometimes violence. The rapidity and intensity of anger, often in response to a relatively trivial event, can be extreme. When feeling angry, the child with ASD does not appear to be able to pause and think of alternative strategies to resolve the situation.

There is often an instantaneous physical response without careful thought. When the anger is intense, the youngster on the spectrum may be in a blind rage and unable to see the signals indicating that it would be appropriate to stop.

Kids with ASD have a great deal of difficulty with social relationships. They have trouble understanding the meaning of what others are saying and doing, and they typically struggle to take the other person's perspective. In addition, children with ASD are typically dependent upon structure and routine because they have trouble making sense of the "gray areas" of any interaction. Thus, there is room for a great deal of confusion. Kids in a confused state can easily become frustrated, angry, and lash out.

For some kids with the disorder, there appears to be a faulty emotion regulation or control mechanism for expressing anger. This means they are more likely to use aggression or violence as a way of dealing with their anger. For others, aggression may be a way of controlling their circumstances and experiences.

For example, they may threaten to hurt their mother if she insists on their going to school; or they may use violence to make her buy something associated with their special interest. For others, aggression can be a way to make other people stop what they are doing – teasing or bullying – or a simply a way to make them go away. It is also possible that in some kids with ASD , the aggression is masking a mood disorder, such as clinical depression.

Treatment for these young people often involves a reliance on structure, including schedules and routine. In addition, teachers might offer a "quiet" place in the room that an overwhelmed youngster can move to in order to calm themselves.

Aggressive behavior in the youngster occurs for a reason, just as it would with any other youngster. Inappropriate behavior, whether mild or severe, occurs in order to (a) avoid something, (b) get something, (c) because of pain, or (d) to fulfill a sensory need.

Parents need to determine the need that aggression fulfills. Teach them a replacement behavior (i.e., to communicate what they want or don't want). It may even involve using some of their obsessive or self-stimulating behaviors as a replacement. This is because it would be far less intrusive to others than aggressive behaviors, but still serve the same purpose. This process takes time and initially, depending on the behavior, you may not have time.

If the behavior is severe, then you need to remove the youngster from whatever situation they are in at the time. Simply insisting that they stop the behavior and participate in whatever is occurring will not benefit the youngster or you, unless you remove them from the situation first.

Maintaining their routine will go a long way towards reducing the need for inappropriate or aggressive behavior in the first place.

Early diagnosis and intervention predicts more positive outcomes for kids with just about any diagnosis. And, in the case in which your youngster does not have a formal diagnosis, you will have learned a great deal about his or her unique cognitive and emotional profile, and you can rest easy, focusing on helping to grow his or her talents and capabilities.

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

COMMENTS:

Anonymous said… Someone just brought this to my attention. It was the killing from a few weeks ago, in WY, where the kid used a bow and arrow. He too had aspergers. I don't believe that everyone with the disease if at risk of creating violence, but I could be wrong and maybe it has something to do with the way their body reacts to the meds they're on.

Anonymous said… This incident has upset me tremendously.  A year ago a school psychologist actually told me "kids like your son become the Columbine kids".  Now I worry so much that people will be afraid of my son after this.  He is only nine but has had violent outbursts of screaming and biting at home and school.  I still don't think he could do something like this.  He has a hard time fighting kids in his karate class.  I can't for the life of me figure out why that mother had guns in her house.  But clearly there was more wrong with that boy than just Aspergers. Thank you for your website and information.  It helps to know others understand.

Anonymous said…Thank you so much for this post! Helps me make sense of something so "senseless."

Anonymous said… My child is now 20 and has a degree of social anxiety and possible Aspergers.. He is in therapy being tested.. However he has never ever been abusive in any way or violent at all. He is very soft spoken and is very open & friendly with his immediate family & some friends that are in his 'social comfort zone'.. He may not be the' norm' however I know there are such varying degrees of this... It makes me afraid though in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut that everyone will paint a picture of ever child with Aspergers as dangerous.. And I just don't believe that's the case.

Anonymous said… I'm not a health professional, but everyone is different and react to things differently. I've heard that Bill Gates has a touch of Aspergers, as do many other successful business people. That's what I've been told from a friend, who is a therapist for kids with downs and aspergers.

Anonymous said… Young people with Aspergers are quiet, gentle, sensitive, focussed on rules, facts etc. Give your child quiet activities to occupy him/her. Art, drawing, cutting, pasting..... Lego is a wonderful activity and my 12 year old will still head off to his lego box when stressed or anxious. Limit exposure to the news, which can be very violent, limit use of violent video games, music videos etc. These overstimulate any child really, but Aspergers children are highly intelligent and take in so much information.

Anonymous said… Thank you, Mark.  I've been worried about how the media would portray individuals who have Asperger's given the description of the suspected shooter.  Anything to minimize the stigma and misunderstanding is appreciated.

Anonymous said… My son in an aspie with ADHD/ODD. most of the time he is a sweet polite child, however, he is a light switch. He has difficulty making correct choices and sometimes the choice of threatening or hitting someone jumps I front of the correct choice of walking away or telling an adult or expressing he is upset. Aspergers itself isn't responsible for his behavior (which he does have a much better handle on, he has made dramatic improvements in the past year) but it is the other disorders that coincide with it. He has no filter even though he knows right from wrong. 

Anonymous said… My son's frustration results in hurting himself, not others. I am sure everyone is different as in the general population. Austim is a neuro developmental difference not a personality disorder. One can have Asperger's in conjunction with other disorders and the violence could be an attribute of the other disorder.

Anonymous said… my 12 year old son has never been violent or mean. He is more whiney than anything

Anonymous said… My 8yo has violent rages at home but behaves well at school.

Anonymous said… My son has aspergers and voilent behavior is part of it for him...but not for every child with it. He is on Abilify for a mood stabilizer It has made a world of a difference for him. He does still have outburts here and there, but NOTHING like before the Abilify.

Anonymous said… my 9 yr old has had rages at home,but is a perfect loveable angel anywhere else unless she has a meltdown. Those in public are few and far these days though. Rarely has her rage ever involved anyone other then herself (other then her little sister provoking her) and typically she will get so mad she just screams and cries.. a lot

Anonymous said… I have a 9 y.o. daughter with Asperger's and while she has angry outbursts from time to time, she does not usually resort to violence against another person - not since she was much younger and she did not know how to handle her feelings. I have taught her to take out her anger on a pillow, and to start counting backwards from 10 and practicing deep breathing whenever she begins to feel angry. These practices work great when they are allowed... but the key to their success are making the teachers aware of what helps and enforcing the child's need to be able to do these things. The times my child wound up having melt downs at school usually resulted from her being kept in a situation that was distressing her and she was not allowed to do what she needed to do to release the anger - usually whomever the anger was directed against was up in her personal space and simply would not leave her alone - teachers yelling, other students taunting, it happens whether you educate them or not. It is a battle you as the parent will have to wage constantly to make sure that the school follows the IEP. There are many different ways you can teach your child to cope with anger issues. Some Asperger's children are going to have more severe cases than others, of course, so it is really not accurate to say any one method works with all children with Asperger's. The sooner you have diagnosis and can get started with an OT the better off they will be. I really like the comment on the article from "catsarespies" (even though I love cats and know they aren't spies LOL) "surprisingly, when i sign up for kickboxing classes, i found i learned to control my rage attacks. by punching and kicking bags while building my anger, and stopping when the instructor told me to, i learned self control. i do believe i've got my rage under control now. part of the reason i got so mad was because i couldnt find words to say how i felt or why what the other person said or did was wrong. the others out talked me any time, easily. i cant always put an idea in words. knowing i'm right and the other person is wrong but doesnt realize it and the frustration of my inability to express it contributed to my anger, plus the feeling that i was trapped in an alien world with rules i couldnt understand caused me to feel anger often, especially in childhood, without knowing why. also, i'd want to the person to leave me alone and he/she wouldnt and i didnt know any strategy to make them stop."

Anonymous said… My 11 yr old has Aspergers, ADHD, odd, OCD, and anxiety and has severe rage fits. They have become less frequent as he got older, but he has got more defiant as he has gotten older. Every child is different!!

Anonymous said… My six year old, Julian has had rages at home and has been physically aggressive but does great at school. He has had meltdowns in public but all have decreased since he started taking vyvanse. We have him take a break when we see that he is getting frustrated, which leads to the aggression. This means reading, coloring or drawing, which helps him calm himself down.

Anonymous said… I think some kids on the spectrum can have anger/rage and display it in violent ways, but I see this as demonstrative of personality differences that we ALL have.

Anonymous said… ASD children can also learn coping skills (as we all have to) and what those are and how fast they learn them differs.

Anonymous said… My 9 yo son has had seasons of extreme anger and threats of violence. The thing that made the most difference was assuring him of our love no matter what, and us learning new skills to help him calm down. His social worker is like a magician!

Anonymous said… My 8 year old has violent outburst, punching kicking biting during meltdown, but my 7 year old just screams and yells and I have put some of this down to early stragies as we asked for help at 2 with my eldest son and bascially got told go away till he's 5. We had special ed at our kindy asses him at 4 and told us then what possibly could be going on and by this stage our youngest was starting to show the same signs, so intervention went in for both kids and my youngest is a lot easier to handel during rage. We have also found that he used rage at our last school as a coping skill, if life got tough hit someone and he was either put on the deck for the rest of lunch or sent home. He saw a punishment area at school as a safe place from bullies, but school didn't want to know.

Anonymous said… Wouldn't you get angry and violent if people kept misunderstanding you, not listening to you, throw too much information at you to process at one time and making you feel abnormal? I know I do when My kids don't listen to me, when I tell them to get dressed and instead they continue doing what they want to do, Or when I tell them please be quiet, mommy needs a time out, but instead they continue to come at me with questions, requests and even demands. My now 12 yo aspie used to have incredible violent anger episodes. It was after I tried to see the world from HIS perspective that things started to calm down. Those episodes are VERY few now. I think there is too much weight on making it the child's behavior the focus and not on the source of his behavior. Autic and Asperger children have a hard time communicating their feelings, let alone understanding feelings of others. They need OUR (the parents and his support network) help. WE need to step up and help THEM, not expect them to figure it out on their OWN, or because WE SAID SO. I am so angry with all the stuff that is coming out all over the media trying to over generalize the reason for something, when it is an individual challenge for each one of us with or without a disability or mental illness or disease. Let us all be responsible, not let others be responsible. BTW I am not diagnosed with ANYTHING. I am healthy, mentally and physically and spiritually. I work very hard to be that way, without someone else telling me what I need to do in order to be that way. It is WORK to be "NORMAL".

Anonymous said… Replies to this were helpful distraction techniques and trying to remain calm and being able to get out of the way of punches etc

Anonymous said… 1 thing to keep in mind and I know this with my son when he is in full rage, he hears nothing he see's nothing, he does not know what he is doing. He burst into tears the day following a huge rage when he saw the brusing to my finger, we thought he had broken it, he was so sorry for what he had done, but didn't remember hurting me. He is on an omega with evening primrose oil in it and we have found this has calmed him down a lot, we tried an omega on his own and it didn't have the same effect as the 1 with the EPO in it.

Anonymous said… A few weeks ago, my son Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan -- they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

Anonymous said… Violent outbursts are few and far between at home as we understand the triggers. At school he is becoming more violent (children seem to wind him up ie- shouting in his sensitive ears, not letting him play unless he brings in certain toys, embarrassing him when he chews on his sensory chew, lots of things really. The teacher believes a stern talking to is the way to go! Not working, so i have just bought teacher a book to educate him and my sons peers. Hopefully a bit more understanding will make my precious little boy have better school days.

Anonymous said… The media is saying there is “no connection” between high-functioning autism (aspergers) and violent crime. Bullshit! Open your eyes people. Of course, most of these children never get violent, and I’m not about to vilify these kids – but to say there is NO connection (if face of the recent incidents involving kids on the spectrum) is just plain stupid! I’m sure the truth will come to light soon ;)

Anonymous said… Mark, this is excellent.  You are amazing..I agree with every word.  I wish they would interview YOU on TV, because most of the so-called 'experts' are dancing around the mulberry bush being politically correct.  We need to hear the truth about this disorder!   Again, thank you..I will post this on my FB page and tell everybody I know to read your piece. God Bless You! 

Anonymous said… So my child tried to hit me tonight and I stopped him and sat him down and started showing him the news footage of this tragedy. We've had a good talk about all of this.

Anonymous said… WHY DON'T PEOPLE CHECK INTO HIM BEING INTO THE "GOTH" MOVEMENT ALONG WITH HIS MOTHER TAKING THEM TO THE SHOOTING RANGE, TEACHING THEM HOW TO SHOOT AND SHE, TOO, ENJOYED SHOOTING...IT HELPED HER TO FOCUS ON SHOOTING AND OFF HER PROBLEMS.


Anonymous said… I wonder how Adam Lanza was treated by his school system. Did it ignore his disability because it didn't want to spend money on him? I am raising my 9 year grandson. I have begged his school system to recognize his Asperger diagnosis as a disability. He threatens to kill classmates and teachers. His classmates are afraid of him and say he is mean. For 18 months I was told that he was "mild, mild, mild" and the child study committee ignored the warning signs. I was told that his grades were too good. That he didn't need help. Finally, after I became the bitch from hell and challenged them on their every decision, they have decided that his diagnosis is a disability. I anxiously await the next meeting to see what assistance they offer. I pray ever day for all the misunderstood children and their parents, who are trying to get them help.


Anonymous said… My son is like this, and we've been through hell. He can be sweet and polite, but on a daily basis he threatens to kill me. He's over 100 lbs now and almost my height. He has a specific connection with me vs anyone else in our household. If he is having a bad day he relys on my completely. He does a lot if rocking and spinning and repeating before the rage and then eventually goes into full on darkened eyes adrenaline fueled rage. He's punched me in the face, kicked me while pregnant, tried to kill himself by jumping off our balcony, jumping out of the car while I was driving, impaling me in the head with various things while I'm driving. He's peed on us, peed on himself. Thrown up on us, himself and his room. I could go on. At his best he is sweet and kind, at his worst I've woken up in the middle of the night to him standing over me with the look. Our knives are hidden, bedroom doors lock. I love him so much and it pulls on my heart strings to see him hurt. He is 9 yrs old, he's been like this since he was a toddler. He's diagnosed with Aspergers, before that we went through 4 other diagnoses. Aspergers has afforded is the healthcare coverage we need. I'm sorry if this doesn't describe your child, but it does mine. I just want a place free of judgement for how my son behaves. With behaviors like this, when I share with others I feel like I get ostracized. I get looks, judgement, people stop talking to us. I just want a place to go where people understand. The author who wrote this made me feel less alone in this battle. My husband and I are both active duty. We're a loving kind and compassionate family. Were not lazy inconsistent parents. We've raised our children in a structured traditional environment. My son has an ABA provider that works with him. We're doing EVERYTHING we are supposed to do. Again, Im sorry if this doesn't fit your child, and Im sorry if it may seem an insult to your child's character. This IS how my child is. This is our reality... hospitals, death threats. To me this wasn't an insult, it was the first time I've felt normal.


Anonymous said… My Aspie was suspended last week and now I don't even dare send him back to school. He has been "stereotyped" now, and I don't want to have the school overreacting.


Anonymous said… Our 21 year old son has taken a toll on the family, knife threats, erratic behavior, etc, all of which eventually landed us in psych emergency. How horrible to finally get there after a horrible episode only to be sent home with a prescription and recommendations. The psychiatrists apologized but that was all they could do. We were so close to calling the police, but thankfully avoided that route to date. I thank God every day for psychotropic medication! 


Anonymous said… I have a 13 year old aspie ,he does find it hard at school and cos stands out as vulnerable can be picked on,. He does hace friends, he does emotions and the same dry sense of humour as his elder brother (who is nt an aspie). He does get angry and frustrated and has,had meltdowns. He has does threaten me but I really don't think he means it,he vents out at me cos I'm his mum.he did hurt me the other week physically the other week and it took me by surprise,and has certainly reminded me how it can be.I am a bit wary now, he is extremely strong and nearly as big as me. I do think he could hurt me again,but he is not violent, it is his anger and frustration at himself at times. .eg,he,may lost his keys, or finding homework hard.going through puberty aswell,.we hav asked his doctor to refer us bk to the people that diagnosed him, for help and support for him and us as we approach the adolescent years. Aspergers syndrome is an individual condition..I doubt there's 2 aspies the same.


Anonymous said… Mark, it's not surprising that you took a lot of heat for this post, but please let that not deter you from espousing the truth.  Someone has to lead us out of ignorance and denial. You may well be the one! I'm doing all I can to support your position. 

Anonymous said… I would like to know if this ever gets better...we have been going through all of this for about 2 years now and I am scared about everything. I cry myself to sleep most of the night because I do not know how to fix the issues. Today was one of his worst issues and it was so bad that I am still up in the middle of the night trying to figure out why??? We do the medicine thing and it seems like every 3 to 6 months we are changing something. But during those few months it seems to look like everything is going to well and when we praise him it all goes to pot. He is a smart kid and everyone at his school knows that. We just recently got him under the special education but only for help on non-classroom functions. He is a A/B student that never brings home anything below an 88. Even this last six weeks he made and 85 in one class but missed over 20 days in the whole 6 weeks and still was able to bring home mostly all A's except 2 that were B's. He was tested on his IQ and scored over a 115. He is only 9 years old and in the 4th grade. During all the testing for the special education he scored for 5th and 6th grade levels. But we do not do anything about that because emotionally he could not handle the upper grade levels. Today he left school and will not talk to anyone about why he did that. He walked all the way home and the principle followed him here to make sure that nothing bad happened. Thankfully he live just around the corner from there. Then after school he had one of his worst episodes I have ever witnessed. It was so bad that the Sheriff Department had him hog tied in chains and handcuffs and the calming down took over 2 hours. It was bad. I just feel like a failure when it comes to him. Can anyone give me any ideas or suggestions on what I might be able to do for him. I just want him to be a sweet kid that he is when he is having a good day. Please help if anyones knows what might work with him. Thank you.

Anonymous said… My 10 year old son with Asperger's has a great sense of injustice and a need to get justice himself if he doesn't think adults have dealt with it in his mind appropriately and he harbors huge grudges as he has a fantastic long memory for remembering the smallest things some one has said or done to upset him. But ask him to remember his school reading diary and you have no hope lol 

Anonymous said… my 14 yr old seems to be this definition. Has over the top reactions to things that are not that big of a deal and holds on to anger/grudges for far longer than anyone I have ever known! Also his rigid thought process often makes him appear as the bully or classroom cop! UGH His perceived injustices often make it impossible for him to "let go" or walk away from a situation!

Anonymous said… My 7-year-old has a "swatting" problem. If the time comes to do something he doesn't want to do, he will start furiously waving his arms and smacking things (including other people). I consider myself pretty lucky though. I can usually get this to stop if I stand directly over him and very sternly, very slowly say "Don't Swat". His hearing is hypersensitive and if I raise my voice even a little he hates it. He'd rather just quit than listen to me.

Anonymous said… My Husband and I have all boys, five of them. Our 6 yr old was recently diagnosed by the school's testing with Asperger's. He's high functioning, makes eye contact, social to people - but inappropriate with social skills. He has melt downs, he toe walks, he hates to leave the house to go anywhere, he has food issues (taste, texture , temperature) clothing sensory issues, likes to be in soft clothing, he's stronger in math, behind in writing/reading, shuts down in school, will hide under a desk, run away into a hallway. It kills us he has no friends(other than his Brothers) and he's aware of that : it bothers him, his lack of social skills make it hard for him to keep a friend, he's made fun of at school, he eats lunch alone. We knew since he was about 2 1/2 there was something different about him (melt downs that were more than a typical temper tantrum, he seemed to look through you- not connect with what you say, even today I still see that look). With the school's findings , its a relief because now we have something to help him with, we can look for resources, read, learn how to make it better for him. My question is, what now ? What should we be doing ? I'm making an appointment with a psychologist so he can be evaluated and make sure we do indeed have the correct diagnosis, but from everything I've read, it seems to be spot on. However, our Pediatrician isn't convinced (which is why we are making the appt with the psychologist) In the meantime, what should we be doing ? What kind of sports do other people's children with Aspergers do ok with where they don't get frustrated or aren't' made fun of ? He wants to play baseball. Also, we make certain exceptions for him with family life- try to be even more patient with him, take the time to explain things, what we're doing that day- any changes in plans. His Brothers are understanding to be more patient with him but we also at the same time don't treat him so differently. When you learned your child's diagnosis, what did you tell them about it so they could understand what makes them a little different ? Any advice is appreciated, thank you.

Anonymous said… My son is 22 years old and I am still dealing with these issues 

Anonymous said… My son, is this way, as well. What is the best way to handle theses situations? He has said that he gets so frustrated, he can't control himself. He not so much hurts others, but throws shelves of books on the floor, he has spit on a teacher's chair....He feels his teacher expects him to be perfect, and he cannot get over it.

Anonymous said… Sounds exactly like my 15 year old son. He too holds grudges for extreme amounts of time basically forever. He also seems to have a strict self conduct code. Does anyone else's teen dislike other teens? My son goes as far to say he hates teens because of the way they behave he also often says he hates the fact that he's a teen himself.

Anonymous said… Thank God my aspie gets upset but let's go rather quickly. A blessing for all.

Anonymous said… That's the same as my 14yr old, his arguments always seem so logical, if I hesitate to come back with a counterpoint he knows I'm floundering to find a rebuke! SO frustrating!

Anonymous said… This describes my 10 year old daughter exactly. It starts quickly and stops just as quickly. She feels her aggression is justified.

Anonymous said… This describes my 8 year old perfectly. Glad to know I'm not the only one dealing with this. I get so frustrated trying to talk to him about it. He always is able to justify his behavior. I can't ever "out argue" him about it. He has a reason that seems logical to him for everything.

Anonymous said… This describes my son perfectly. It's helpful to read that others are experiencing the same.

Anonymous said… This sounds like my 14 your old. We have had to go to the extremes of me and my son moving out if the family home so everyone can be safe and happy.

Anonymous said… We are experiencing these issues with our 8 yr old boy with Aspergers. He gets so angry, so quickly over what to us seem small things. So what can we do to help them manage their explosive feelings? I'm not sure, other than some professional help perhaps with Psych. I know that a piece of rough Velcro can help him to calm down. He rubs it and this helps him concentrate on the sensory feeling. ___________________________________________________________


BEST COMMENT:

Anonymous said... Most research on the incidence of High-Functioning Autism in criminal settings has been published in the past 10 years and highlights provocative associations between the deficits in people with High-Functioning Autism and violence. Some recent studies have indicated the following:

• unique forensic profiles
• potentially increased violence and associated psychiatric comorbidity
• infrequent history of illicit drug use, but a greater history of violent behavior
• increased possible sexual offending
• higher prevalence of Aspergers in maximum security hospitals relative to prevalence in the general population

Even though a diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism is not sufficient to invoke mitigation, these findings support the need to understand the characteristics of people with this disorder that might contribute to law breaking and to use those characteristics to parse out legal and intervention-driven policy recommendations. 

Efforts to understand the link between High-Functioning Autism and violence have already manifested in the U.S. legal system. Since 2008, state legislative policies and judicial decisions have considered the presence of a High-Functioning Autism diagnosis as a factor in making guilt and competency determinations. 

In recent years, media attention to criminal behavior among people with High-Functioning Autism has raised public alarm over a possible link between such behavior and these diagnoses. Reports across the nation have raised speculation over the link between High-Functioning Autism and violence, often implying a causal connection between the population and violent behavior, despite a lack of persuasive empirical evidence to this effect. 

The authors of the earliest known review of the link between Aspergers and violence concluded that no such connection exists. In a more recent review, the determination was that the link is inconclusive and is supported by only 11 of 147 studies on Aspergers and violence when the strictest inclusion criteria are used. However, other work suggests that there may be unique features of Autism Spectrum Disorders that are important to consider when violence is committed by people with High-Functioning Autism. Several case studies of young people have indicated that certain traits among people with High-Functioning Autism (e.g., impaired social understanding, restricted empathy) may lead to violent behavior in specific provocative circumstances. 

A recent study indicated a reduced incidence of law breaking among people with High-Functioning Autism, but the same study also demonstrated an increased history of violent behavior in the same sample. So, while the overall rate of criminal behavior diminished, the violent behavior (and damage associated with this behavior) increased. This finding is consistent with that in a recent large-scale review suggesting increased prevalence of violent behavior among young people with High-Functioning Autism. 

Understanding the potential link between High-Functioning Autism and violence is necessary both descriptively and legally. Several case studies have examined these possible links through the lens of existing diagnostic criteria, particularly specialized interests, lack of social understanding, and deficient empathy.

1. Baron-Cohen and Kohn et al. presented individual case studies of violent law-breaking in people with High-Functioning Autism, and argued that the deficient social understanding was attributable to a deficient theory of mind (i.e., the ability to understand others' mental states). 
2. Barry-Walsh and Mullen presented several forensic cases of people with High-Functioning Autism that can be interpreted as repercussions of specialized interests or lack of social understanding. 
3. Murrie et al. noted several cases in which deficient empathy and social naïveté contributed substantially to law-breaking behavior (e.g., in one case, the individual believed he could attract sexual partners by engaging in public performance of bizarre sex acts with an inflatable doll).
4. Schwartz-Watts notes the importance of considering the person's stereotyped interests in several murder cases. 

The same observations are supported by a review of typical motives and triggers of violence in Aspergers:

• Violence (i.e., assaults, arson, homicides) was carried out in an emotionally detached manner. 
• More than half of the violent acts examined were motivated by “communicative and social misinterpretations of other persons' intentions” or sensory hypersensitivity.
• Approximately half of triggers of violence were accounted for by narrow interests in specialized visual appearances, “not getting the right response or being approached in a wrong manner by others,” or “ordinary, non-provocative physical nearness.”

While the above considerations help to understand that some people with High-Functioning Autism might commit acts of violence, they are less helpful for understanding why. A consideration of other common factors in High-Functioning Autism that may contribute to violence is important to describe, and it is necessary to understand the legal implications of such behavior in people with High-Functioning Autism. 

Newman and Ghaziuddin, authors of a report critiquing the link between Aspergers and violence, recently co-authored a review positing a link between some violent behavior and High-Functioning Autism in subsequent literature and suggesting psychiatric comorbidities as a possible factor leading to such a connection. They found that most of the literature on those with Aspergers who commit violent acts indicates that these people also have various co-occurring psychiatric problems (e.g., anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizoaffective disorder, depression, etc.). As the presence of these disorders alone does not confer substantial additional risk of violence, they concluded that the finding by no means proves a causal link, but nonetheless provides an area for further examination when evaluating people with Aspergers who have committed violence. 

“Theory of mind” deficits are implicated in violence among people with High-Functioning Autism. Theory of mind is the ability to understand and represent the mental states of others. The pattern of deficit appears unique among individuals with High-Functioning Autism. 

A second area of difficulty for people with High-Functioning Autism is emotion regulation (i.e., the ability to inhibit quickly and appropriately the expression of strong emotions). Behaviorally, deficits in emotion regulation manifest as problems with impulse control, aggression, and negative peer interactions. While emotion regulation is an executive function capacity that demonstrates considerable variation between typically developing people, it may be especially impaired in those with High-Functioning Autism. As emotion regulation difficulties in grown-ups can lead to violence, a deficiency in this ability among people with High-Functioning Autism may contribute to findings of a disproportionately increased history of violent behavior. This deficiency could also be seen to lead to more impulsive violence. 

In a study by Wahlund and Kristiansson, use of murder methods requiring less premeditation (i.e., not using guns or other weapons) was unique to incarcerated murderers with Autism Spectrum Disorders, compared with those with Antisocial Personality Disorder. The authors viewed this tendency as emerging from odd motives (e.g., the intense lifelong desire to stare at flickering flames in an arsonist with Aspergers).

It seems, then, that emotion regulation difficulties could increase violent behavior in people with High-Functioning Autism who also have substantial theory of mind impairment. For example, theory of mind difficulties may lead to social confusion, and this confusion can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness. Violent behavior may result from unregulated physiological arousal among people with High-Functioning Autism with poor emotion regulation ability. The combination of the two may pose a particular risk for confused, impulsive, and ultimately violent behavior for these individuals. In other words, an interaction between (a) impaired theory of mind and (b) emotion regulation difficulties may predict increased violent behavior in those with High-Functioning Autism. 

Clearly, there needs to be more cross-discipline attention in the academic, legislative, and judicial domains to understand the relationship between Autism Spectrum Disorders and acts of violence, as well as the possible features that may facilitate this relationship, effective interventions, and consistent legal consequences. 


Most recent comments:

•    Anonymous said… Anger and frustration will get worse if you try suppress the child, you need to ask for helpful strategies. It's a scary time for your child as well as you.
•    Anonymous said… In my humble opinion, I think that Anger and Violence should NOT be link more to people with Asperger Syndrome. My son is 15 years old with Asperger Syndrome. He is kind, patient and slow to anger, I always hear his laughter... Anger and Violence is subjective within individuals.. Neuro-typicals can be extreme too. I believe that love and patience can conquer all challenges. However, many people with social communication issues are always left alone, they have no friends and don't know how to make one. At many times, they are bullied and ostracised, or labelled as being weird. Human being are social creatures, hence, without the connection and communication to the community, hate and anger may brew into depression and violence. This theory applies to any other neuro-typicals too... Human nature and not Asperger nature.
•    Anonymous said… Oh thank you. I have lots of friends with kids who have autism and aspergerz and they all homeschool. Hey Brick and mortar schools didn't come around til the late 1800s before that everyone was home schooled. And they're are so many great and easy programs out there now and so many support groups. So home school is becoming the norm
•    Anonymous said… Taking the time to listen and not assume things and to let me finish til I'm done even I have to repeat myself and making sure people listened very carefully and didn't just nod. My MoM Gave Me Lots Of Love AND Was Very Patient With me. But my dad on the other hand didn't understand but they didn't know I had aspergers. It wasn't till 4yrs ago that when my son was diagnosed with aspergers that I was diagnosed with it. I think that preparation is a big help. Trying to prep them for a big change ahead of time if you can. Recognizing when something is about to trigger the sensory overload. Being a shield. When I would get into crowded areas I would hover my son and get him out of there as quickly as possible. I think it's easier to deal with these days then it used to be. Because so many people are aware of it. I wish the police officers knew back then..it wasn't til 2012 that my son has a huge temper tantrum at the library that the librarian thought something was seriously wrong with my son and called the cops on me but when the cop showed up at my door he said to me... have you has your son checked for aspergers? I said what? He repeated again and I said I've never heard of it. He told me about some good physiologists around and then left. He had a son who had it. So it helps when people are aware of it. So I think raising awareness and more understanding of it helps. But like I said when I grew up I was bullied and no one got me except my mom. And now that I'm almost 40 ughhhh lol I've talked to a lot of people who knew me when I was young that know now I have it wish they knew back them. They say... well that explains a lot but honestly I don't think even if they knew would have helped because kids can be cruel and they problem would have called me a special kid. That's why I home school my son and try not to change his schedule to much..he's 15 so I can.leave him at home if I run errands and it works great for all of us but when he starts getting angry I tell him you don't want to do that Caleb you know how you feel so fully afterwards and I just remind him over and over again that he will regret it and he's slowly getting better he's still yelling but with less breaking stuff. But I have to prepare him when his time is up on the computer. OK Caleb you have 10 mons left. OK you have 5 mons left and so on. And lots of praying to God. That is the reason I've come along so far today is my mom just got down on her knees everyday and just prayed hard.
•    Anonymous said… Thank you so much for what you've shared! As the mother of a child w Autism (Asperger's), I am currently and unfortunately battling w the school system to help them understand my son. Your words were exactly what I needed this morning. Thank you and God bless you, your son, and family!
•    Anonymous said… That's a great perspective for an aspie mum to read.....is there something that would have made you feel more understood while you were younger? Im sure it wouldve been a big combination of things but was there one thing that would have really made a difference?
•    Anonymous said… This is the hardest and scariest thing for us to deal with at our house.
•    Anonymous said… This was our first clue that something was going on. The rage and aggression was SO bad. My son has anxiety, and now that he's medicated for it, we don't have these problems any more.
•    Anonymous said… Yes because we are frustrated and misunderstood and feel like we are in our own world and no one understands. I always had an angry and violent temper but I'm much better these days. I've grown and mature. It helps to have mom's who love you and Just keep trying
•    Anonymous said… Yes, they do it out of frustration and actually have no control over it at the time. It can happy over just being miss understood about some thing that has happen or could be there surrounds effecting them due to sensory overload. My son is 7 with Aspergers and yes it does happen. The outbursts can be reduced my sons have now dropped from like 15 a day to only a couple times a week. Knowledge, understanding and patients is the key and always remember there behaviour = communication smile emoticon there body's seem to have anxiety all the time and it never seems to do away so I worked out most things that make his anxiety levels so high and use coping tools to accommodate him and help him through it, sometimes he may need redirecting, sometimes he just needs a helping hand sometimes it's guidanceand for me to take the leed that's when his almost reached breaking/meltdown stage and I haven't picked up on it intime. There are many reasons why the anger I would try and work out what causing his anxiety levels to rise smile emoticon hope that helps xx


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How to Deal with Obsessions and Rituals in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Question

Dear Mr. Hutten,

I appreciate all the newsletters, and have come to think that you might be able to offer advice. My son (KW- I will use his initials) is 14, and although my husband prefers to call him "normal", for me, it’s a little more reasonable to say that he has AS (as was diagnosed). I'm around him more. I see the tendency to rock, and the need to hold something in his hand, etc. There are a couple of symptoms that he does not have like having "meltdowns" in public or extreme reaction to loud noise. But he does have enough symptoms that generally I think he may have it. Whether he does or not, the advice for AS is right on the nose for him.

This is my dilemma - KW saw spit coming out of my mouth when I was speaking forcefully about his homework, and from that time has developed a sort of theory that whenever I talk I spit. From there, he started spitting in order to get rid of the germs that he thought went into his mouth. (I really apologize if this is a bit too gross). So now he softly allows saliva to fall onto his clothes or book or whatever.

I of course told him that spitting in that fashion was not ok and have gone to great lengths to tell him only babies spit, or "you did not do that when you were 12, why do you do it now?" I tried many different things, including explaining that his practice does not aid in getting rid of germs. But it is such a habit at this point. Also, along the same line of reasoning, he covers his food with his hand whenever I come near to avoid getting my germs on it. This really breaks my heart. But that’s what "he's into" at the moment.

He also was becoming obsessed with some sort of problem with his face. He's a genuinely good looking boy. However, there is something that he finds unacceptable. He was getting very upset and started looking at himself in the mirror and yelling something like "NO, no, no." Anyway, I tried to tell him that he was handsome but he would not accept that. He was really very upset and even cried. Then I told him something about hormones at his age causing the trouble. Anyway, he came up with another "theory" of sorts that his life is devastated because he is forced to accept something about himself that he cannot accept.

Up until he found out there was not going to be a spiderman 4, he was into blogging about Spiderman on the internet. But when he found out it was over, he lost his area of interest. Now he has no hobby and I think that these issues have become his hobby.

I wish I had been more wise a few years ago and that I could still hug him, but that is not the case. He will initiate conversation with me when he has something to say, but so often the conversation I initiate is centered around the daily task of getting homework done, or picking up or something. I am practically like his enemy. But the problem is that if he does not talk to me, then he spends his whole time at home just daydreaming, which is getting worse in terms of the amount of time and he is really tuning out.

I am thinking that maybe he needs counseling. When I went to a counselor a couple years ago he told me that if my son has AS, (no diagnosis back then) then the only counseling he could do is to help the parents. But at school there is a really great special ed teacher who works with KW on various social situations and is making some progress. I thought maybe someone could help him come to terms with these issues. My husband is not able to face it right now. And I have blown my relationship with KW by pushing him to get through the daily tasks.

This is my third attempt to write this letter. No matter how I write it, it seems like something that is not reasonable to send. Yet I keep trying. So I am going to send it as-is this time and not rewrite it again.

Thank you for your time.

J.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Answer

I see two issues here: (1) obsessions/rituals and (2) low self-esteem.

Rituals and obsessions are one of the hallmarks of ASD (high-functioning autism). In order to cope with the anxieties and stresses about the chaotic world around them, kids often obsess and ritualize their behaviors to comfort themselves. While some kids may spend their time intensely studying one area, others may be compulsive about cleaning, lining up items or even doing things which put them or others in danger.

Here are some suggestions to help:

1. Be prepared for resistance by arming yourself with suggestions and alternatives to your youngster's behavior. A great way of doing this is by creating a "social story". Carol Gray's Social Stories site is a great resource for parents and educators alike to create books which will modify behavior in kids with autistic spectrum disorders.

2. Choose your battles wisely. Breaking an obsession or ritual is like running a war campaign. If not planned wisely or if you attempt to fight on many fronts, you're guaranteed to fail. Not only is it time consuming and tiring, it means you can't devote 100% to each particular area. So, if you have a youngster with a game obsession, a phobia of baths and bedtime troubles, choose only one to deal with. Personally, and I have had that choice, I dealt with the bedtime troubles. Using logic, a sleep deprived youngster certainly isn't going to deal with behavioral modification in other areas well. Plus, it was having an effect on his overall health. Deal with the worst first!

3. Communicate with your youngster to explain the effect that his or her ritual is having on your family as a whole. My child's 2am wake-up calls were affecting me mentally, emotionally and physically, and I told him so. I pulled some research off the internet about sleep needs and discussed this with him.

4. Speak to professionals for advice. Contact your pediatrician for recommendations for behavior therapists. Your local parent support groups and national associations, such as the National Autistic Society, will not only provide you support but the information you need to move forward with your youngster.

5. When breaking an obsession or ritual, examine the ways that you may have fed into this. With my child's bedtime activities, I found I was too tired to fight his waking up at 2am. While dealing with this ritual, I ensured I was in bed early myself so I had enough sleep in me to knock his night owl tendencies on the head.

6. When tackling any problem with any youngster, Aspergers or not, it's always best to remain calm at all times. Kids can feed off your anger, frustration and anxiety, so keeping a level head at all times is essential. If you feel a situation is escalating and elevating your blood pressure, take a step back and collect yourself.

Some Practical Tips to Build Healthy Self-Esteem—

1. Always comment on any procedure that is done well, but aim not to comment when it is poorly done!

2. Ask permission to comment on their progress from your perspective.

3. Ask permission to work with them on any improvements they think might be necessary.

4. Avoid using words that denote something is ‘bad’, ‘rubbish’, ‘a mess’, ‘awful’, ‘could be better’, ‘poor’, or ‘incompetent’. Individuals with AS can be quick to pick up on all that they are not, rather than on what they are or could be!

5. Discuss with your child/spouse how they view their own achievements and/or progress.

6. Focus in on the successes, not the failures, mistakes or ‘could be improved’.

7. If they think they are ‘the best’, ask them to explore their reasoning with you.

8. If they think they are ‘the worst’, ask them to explore their reasoning with you. Be careful not to use ‘why’ questions and always frame or structure your question so that they have a framework to respond in. Avoid open-ended questions -- we don’t know how to answer them!

9. Never assume that your comments for their improvement will be welcome, either ask to be invited to comment or share your own experience with them, if allowed to, being careful NOT to compare yours to theirs. Just state the facts.

10. Offer lots and lots of positive reinforcement. I don’t mean bribes, but well-timed approval is terrific. Not only does it let us know that we are OK, but it's’ useful in teaching us what the most appropriate response might be. An example taken from personal experience is: "He always monopolizes the dinner table conversation, so one day I waited for a pause as he was eating, and I said, ‘you know Kyle, you talk much less at the table than you used to, and sometimes you listen to what others say and follow the dinner conversation’."

Good luck,

Mark

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

Kids with ASD and Their Problems with Perfectionism

“I'd like to ask you about a very big problem for our autistic (high functioning) son - his perfectionism! Can you give me some advice on what to do about this issue, because I believe it is a major contributing factor to his never-ending anxiety, especially when doing his homework?”

Although it may be hard to completely change a "special needs" youngster’s perfectionist nature, there are many things that parents can do to help their child find a better balance and not be so hard on himself.

Please consider these suggestions:

1. The pressure to be perfect may stem from school (or other areas where perfectionism is exhibited) being the only place from where your son derives self-worth. Try to expand your son’s notion of his identity by finding activities for him to participate in that do not involve scoring or competition (i.e., activities that simply exist to feel good and have fun).

2. Regularly remind your son to “keep it simple” and “make it fun.”



3. Make sure that you are not deriving your own sense of worth only from your son’s accomplishments.

4. Look for books and movies that provide role models of real people or characters who succeeded after a long line of failures.

5. Let your son make mistakes. Offer minor assistance and support if asked, but let him turn in work that is truly his own so he can get comfortable with constructive feedback. Allowing kids to do their own work and make mistakes not only can decrease a sense of pressure on them to always present a perfect front to the outside world, but also gives them the confidence that they can succeed on their own without the parent’s help.

6. Address faulty or unhealthy logic in your son’s thinking. Perfectionists tend to think in terms of “all-or-nothing” (e.g., “If I don’t get 100% on this quiz, then I’m dumb!”).

7. Keep the focus on the importance of learning new material or a new skill, rather than being the best. When your son brings home a perfect test score, you can say something like, “You worked really hard to learn that tough material,” instead of, “Excellent work – another 100%!”




8. If your son is spending too much time on homework, set a time limit so that he has to stop working and relax a bit. Explain the situation to his teacher and ask for help with what you are trying to teach your son.

9. Have a mantra in your house, for example, “Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to have fun learning and enjoy the process.” You may also want to consider finding a different word to use instead of “mistake” (e.g., everyone has “challenges” …or, everyone has to make a “detour” now and then).

10. Find activities for your son where he will not be the best. Help him learn how to handle being in such a circumstance. Do not let him stop the activity because it is too difficult or uncomfortable.

11. Do not discount your son’s school anxiety with statements like, “There’s no need to worry, I know you’ll get 100% on that test – you always do!” Even though your intentions are of the best, your son may interpret statements like that as adding more pressure to maintain his status. Instead, tell him that what matters most is putting forth enough effort to learn the subject matter, regardless of what the grade is.

12. Be careful about over-scheduling, and make sure that your son has time “scheduled” to just relax.

13. Be a good role model yourself by not holding yourself to perfectionist standards and showing your son how you handle mistakes. Point out what you did and how you learned from it.

14. Even though the pressure to be perfect often seems to come from the youngster himself, evaluate the messages that you are giving to your son. Even if you tell him that high grades or first-place trophies do not matter to you, if he hears you bragging about such honors all the time, he may feel a lot of trepidation about continuing to bring them home. Your son needs to understand that your love is unconditional, and not based on how well he does in school. Point out other ways in which he makes you proud (e.g., when he helps you around the house, when he is kind to others, etc.).

15. Lastly, have plenty of patience with your son. Don’t pressure him to relax and be “less than perfect.” It takes a lot of practice to overcome perfectionism!


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

COMMENTS:

Anonymous said… I have come to except that its a packaged deal and is part of the OCD that hangs them up, allow for more time so he can make the corrections he needs to feel good about his work remember he sees flaws where your eyes see nothing but perfection.

Anonymous said… I'm loving this group. It's so helpful! Thanks...

Anonymous said… In fact, it is such that he will avoid doing his homework as much as possible, then the following morning when it is due, he is having a fit "because he needs to get it done....NOW!"

Anonymous said… It may not be a bad thing. I believe I suffered with some of the attributes of asperger when young - still do, getting obsessed with things being one of them. But that allows me to study and learn most trades, I have several degrees including a PhD and I earn a good salary, the only hindrance is saying a development project is finished and ready to go to market which we manage with certain constraining rules. I would be happy if my boys managed a good education that could earn them a decent salary, I don't see why they shouldn't achieve this and I will do everything in my power to make that happen. So I don't feel Perfectionism and the Obsessive nature is a bad factor of Asperger, the tantrums when over whelmed are the nasty attributes. As for the anxiety, I look at what I've managed before and make sure the next time it's better, I make that my satisfaction, which controls the anxiety, Back to what we were told a few days ago, to engineer their lives to succeed even if it's in little steps so taking any failure out of the equation.

Anonymous said… my aspie just wants to get credit for it, but doesn't actually want to do the work on it.

Anonymous said… My daughter is that way, too. Homework we can manage because it's too easy for her (first grade), but at school, she will meltdown if the teacher wants to display the classes work and she sees hers as not perfect enough, even though it's miles better then her classmates.

Anonymous said… tell him everyone messes up and does things wrong everyday. Maybe give him examples in writing and pictures. Tell him its okay and it everything doesn't have to be perfect.

Anonymous said… What I find is that if one part came out wrong, then the whole thing is messed up and sometimes it will get destroyed. The CF/GF diet has helped immensely.

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Does My Child Really Have ASD - or Is It Something Else?

Question

We have a diagnosis of ASD from our pediatrician, but our counselor is telling me that she does not agree with the diagnosis because my son is very social with her and he always makes eye contact. He has ASD traits, and then some that are not:
  • He has problems keeping friends. No boys, just has friends that are girls.
  • Everything is black or white, there is no in between.
  • Everything is taken in the literal sense.
  • He does not understand that benefit him.
  • Refuses to do school/homework statements like "I shouldnt have to make up that school work, it wasnt my fault that I broke my shoulder at school!"
  • Dominates all conversations
  • Targets music (very talented) and will hound relentlessly for you to hear him play at inappropriate times (mom on a business call)
  • Doesnt understand jokes - gets offended because he thinks that they are directed at him in a negative way
  • Does not try to fit in with others (has his own style - not intentially, but because he has no interest in social norms)
  • Always raises his hand in class to answer EVERY question, to the point where the teacher has to ignore him and he does not catch on that he has has his turn.
  • Interrupts all conversations.
  • Was an "outstanding" citizen at school and wanted to always do the right thing, but has recently become a rule breaker, lying and stealing (only stealing things that he wants and says he took it because he wanted it and doesnt show remorse).

I know that you cannot diagnose through an email, but these are things that we have noticed and that he is much different from other kids. We are trying to get counseling and help dealing with his behaviors (everyday is a blow up over nothing) but the counselor thinks he does not have ASD because he makes eye contact. He also has Tourette's, but he does not suffer from coprolalia, just vocal and motor tics. I have seen other autistic kids who make eye contact and can be social, but dont key into social cues, understand body language, etc. How do I approach this with our counselor?

Thank you,

D.


Answer

Kids with ASD level 1 (high-functioning autism) experience many difficulties, and to complicate the situation, many of these difficulties are associated with other disabilities. Ultimately, ASD is hard to diagnose and is frequently misdiagnosed. Also, kids on the spectrum frequently have other disabilities as well. 
 

Following are some traits to help clarify what ASD is and how you can recognize it in your son:

1. Cognitive Difficulties: Frequently the ASD youngster experiences difficulty with empathizing with others and says inappropriate things because he fails to consider others' feelings. A significant problem for the ASD youngster, mindblindness occurs when he is unable to make inferences about what others are thinking. Mindblindness hinders communication with others.

2. Delayed or Impaired Language Skills: If your child starts talking late and exhibits lagging language skills, this may be a sign of ASD. My autistic grandson son talked late, but when he did, he began with full phrases and sentences. He also mixed up pronouns. The autistic youngster also fails to understand the "give and take" of communication; in other words, he may want to monopolize a conversation and fail to acknowledge the comments of others. The youngster with ASD understands communication as a way to share information but fails to recognize communication as a way to share thoughts, feelings and emotions.

3. Development of a Narrow Range of Interests: If a child seems stuck on a certain topic and seems a bit obsessed about always talking about that topic, s/he demonstrates narrow interests -- this a characteristic of ASD. Often the youngster learns everything s/he can about this special interest and then feels compelled to share information about the topic with everybody around them. Usually focusing on narrow interests affects social interactions negatively.

4. Difficulty with Social Interaction: Although the autistic youngster may want to interact with others, s/he lacks the skills. The child fails to understand both verbal and nonverbal cues, and communication with others breaks down. The child may lecture others, fail to ask questions to continue a discussion, or simply not even acknowledge the other person by looking at them. The desire to communicate may be there, but the language abilities others seem to develop naturally just don't develop easily for the youngster. But, ASD kids develop these skills with early interventions and teaching.

5. Motor Clumsiness: Sometimes, but not always, kids on the spectrum display poor coordination because they experience difficulties with either or both fine and gross motor skills. This problem is due to difficulties with motor planning in completing the task. For example, the youngster may experience difficulty in riding a bike because of planning the different steps to successfully complete the task.
 

6. Sensory Sensitivity: The youngster with ASD may be underactive to a sensation, or s/he may be intensely reactive to a sensation. The sensitivity could involve one or involve many of the senses. For example, before my grandson was diagnosed, I was appalled when he wanted to run outside in the middle of winter with no shoes or boots. I was so afraid he would sneak out of the house and get severe frostbite. I also remember he was fascinated by lights. Some moms and dads detail how their youngster may scream when the vacuum is turned on or how he refuses to brush his teeth due to the sensation caused by the tooth brush.

7. The Need for Routine: Perservation is a common characteristic of the youngster with ASD. Perservation involves repetition in language and/or behavior. For example, with language a perservative tendency is to repeat certain phrases over and over. In terms of action or behavior, the youngster may line objects up and insist the objects not be disturbed. Completing a certain set of rituals in a specific order also demonstrates perservation.

Although some of these traits are common to other disabilities, the whole bunch together certainly suggests further investigation into an ASD diagnosis. A professional, like a psychologist or a psychiatrist, should be consulted because early intervention is very important.

What ASD Is - and What It Is Not

Young people with ASD  have difficulty communicating or interacting in social settings, expressing emotions or empathy toward others, and may have eccentric language and behavior patterns. ASD is a developmental disorder. This means the brain of someone with the disorder processes information differently than most people.

What ASD is not is an illness per se. It is a neurological problem within the brain, causing impairment in language, communication skills, and repetitive thoughts and behaviors. Often, those with the disorder are thought to be eccentric and unique.

Although children on the spectrum retain their early language skills, some other things to look for include:
  • An obsessive preoccupation with a particular subject or object to the exclusion of any others
  • Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
  • Crawling or walking late, and later clumsiness
  • Difficulties with non-verbal communication, including no use of gestures, flat facial expressions, or a stiff gaze
  • High level of vocabulary and formal speech patterns
  • Peculiarities in speech and language, such as lack of rhythm, odd inflections, or in monotone
  • Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with others
  • Taking figures of speech literally
  • Talking incessantly about one particular topic, but in a random stream of facts and statistics with no point or conclusion

 
Causes Too Early to Know

The exact cause of ASD is still unknown. But there is strong research evidence to suggest a genetic connection. In fact, the brother or sister of someone with ASD is 50 times more likely to also have the disorder. The particular gene or group of genes has not been isolated yet. Research is ongoing and promising in this direction.

Your Autistic Child Can Have a Normal and Productive Life

Although there is no known cure for ASD, there are many ways your youngster can learn to cope with his or her condition. Your child's treatment plan must address three areas of their disorder:

1. Obsessive or repetitive routines
2. Poor communication skills, particularly in social situations
3. Poor motor coordination

Treatment includes social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational or physical therapy, and speech and language therapy.

Many kids with the disorder grow up having learned how to cope with and manage their disability. They often lead lives holding mainstream jobs, maintaining intimate relationships, raising kids, and being socially active.

The best means of handling your youngster’s diagnosis is to educate yourself. Find out everything you can about ASD by reading, asking questions of medical and psychological professionals, going online to find support groups in your area and all other resources.

The important thing to remember is that your child is unique and precious just like any other youngster. The greatest gift you can give him/her is a strong sense of self-esteem, encouragement, and love.

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

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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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