Autistic Teen Aggression
It is not un-common for an autistic child to become aggressive as they enter the teenage years, whether this is due to hormonal changes or the rebellious onset of teenage years as a child becomes more independent of their parents we don’t know…
However as your child grows and enters the teenage years, if you are finding aggression a problem there are a few ways you can find help.
Autistic aggression can be sudden and quite out of the blue, one of the first things you need to remember is the safety of the child as well as his/her peers and any other person within the vicinity.
You will need to first of all determine what is causing these violent aggressive outbursts. What sort of signals do they send before an upset? Can you read his/her body language to know when he/she is becoming upset?
What sort of things are causing the behavior? Are the outbursts connected to school work? To how he/she is feeling physically? To the amount of sleep he/she had? To the clothes he/she wearing, or the clothes of a peer, or maybe teacher? To a scent/smell? To who is near him?
Any of these can trigger an anxiety attack and thus cause an aggressive outburst.
Some experts will suggest not to react to this behavior…however this can be hard and certainly easier said than done. So what do you do when faced with an autistic teenager who is becoming increasingly more aggressive?
People with autism tend to be stronger visually than auditorally. This means they take in information better that they can see, rather than what they can hear. Unfortunately, we as parents, helpers and teachers are talkers. We will talk to explain, we talk to connect. And when we are upset, we tend to talk even more.
An autistic teenager, even one who is highly verbal, when under stress will have increasing difficulties understanding what it is you’re saying. Thus when he/she does not respond appropriately, the chances are you will talk even more trying to make them understand, which will actually compound his/her stress even further, rather than decreasing it.
It may well be a good thing to remember when a situation arises it’s better to talk less, far less than you would want too. In fact, ideally do not talk. During the outbursts, anything you may say will do little other than aggravate the situation.
Instead, when you do need to speak, try and keep your sentences short and blunt – a mere one word would be best. You could then couple the words you use with visuals or hand signals.
Try and remember that your autistic teenager will take in information better when it is visual (i.e. what he/she can see), rather than what he/she hears.
Because of the problems many autistic and asperger kids have making sense of the world, they often appreciate having rules and expectations set out clearly for them. Autistic people respond well to repetition and sameness. Therefore it has been found that they will respond well to, “The rule is…”. This simple technique can have a great impact in many situations.
“Establish rules”. You will need to make them clear and precise. Then stick them in every place that your autistic teenager will go to. It won’t work if you simply tell him/her the rules or discuss them – they have to be visual.
You may well want to consider doing the same thing with the consequences you’ve set up for rule infractions. Therefore when you feel an incident or outburst may be building, rather than issuing verbal warnings, tap on the visually posted rule.
Also remembering autistic people are visual learners a visual concise timetable should also be put in place if it has not already been done.
Plus social stories should be introduced. They are an excellent tool for letting a child know what is going to happen and what is expected of him. Thus taking away some of the anxiety triggers that can cause the outbursts. When using social stories ensure they are pictorially rich showing the autistic teenager visually what is expected, “The rules”, and giving them clear cues for behavior and what is expected of them in any given situation.
These short pieces of text can be like the autistic teenagers best friend not only are they visual but there is text to accompany the images giving your aggressive autistic teenager clear social cues for their expected behavior, giving them the rules and possible consequence of inappropriate behaviors.
By using the techniques set out above and the introduction of social stories, aggressive outburst should be kept to a minimum.
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