How to Manage Aggressive Behavior in Kids with Autism
March 04, 2019
March 04, 2019
If you feel the “mama bear” rising in you after watching this video, you’re not alone.
But if you’re feeling was instead, “oh no, that could have been my kid on the other end of the shove,” we need you to know that you’re not alone, either. And you’re not a “bad parent” and your kid is not a “mean kid,” even if they have engaged in this type of behavior.
Many who watched this video saw a boy seemingly unnecessarily pushed by another child. It’s tough to watch, and we feel for the boy and his parents in this situation. We can almost feel their pain, and it’s natural for parents to jump to their defense and do everything they can to protect their kids.
@caulkasian21 Just trying to get a cute video of my boy. #bully #seeingred #splashpad #ohno #twins #water ♬ Eleanor Rigby – Cody Fry
What many who watched this video did not see, however, is the deeper side to the boy on the other end, which is what the original poster attempted to explain in a follow-up video. It turns out that when they spoke to the other boy’s mother about the situation, they learned that he is nonverbal.
@caulkasian21 @caulkasian21 ♬ original sound – user5612561468993
While nonverbal does not equal aggression, it is common for some children who do not yet have communication skills to resort to maladaptive behaviors in order to express their wants, needs and frustrations. It doesn’t make them “bullies.” They just may not yet have the tools they need to appropriately and purposefully communicate–and this is what we will hope you take away from this video and article.
So, what are parents to do in these cases?
If your child is on the receiving end, we hope this post will build an understanding around the behaviors of some nonspeaking individuals and/or children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This doesn’t mean hurting another child is acceptable, but it may provide a new perspective as to why it occurs. Depending on the scenario, removing your child from the situation to keep them safe is best. If the opportunity is available, talking to the other caregiver with an open mind and judgement-free discussion can also still be a good idea, but keep in mind that it may be uncomfortable for both of you, and that parent or guardian may also be concerned and in the process of trying to keep everyone safe.
If your child is the one engaging in aggressive behaviors, the good news is that it doesn’t always have to be this way. There are strategies and tactics we use in applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) and other complementary therapies like speech therapy to help them reduce these behaviors. Our therapies can also support them in building certain skills to provide them with alternative, effective and safer options to choose from in the future. Read on for more tips to keep them and others safe.
Not all children with autism engage in disruptive or aggressive behaviors, but for those who do, this group of behaviors can create a lot of stress for their parents or caregivers, as well as those around them. Sometimes the behaviors may occur at a level that can make it difficult for the whole family to enjoy outings together or spend time with friends.
It’s important to remember that every situation is different and every child has different needs. Aggression can be displayed in many different forms:
Aggression can be a very serious and challenging form of behavior. If your child is engaging in these types of behaviors, it is very important that you seek assistance from a licensed professional with experience in managing and supporting this type of behavior. The recommendations listed below are only general suggestions and do not replace the need for an evaluation and guidance from a professional who has been trained in behavior reduction procedures, such as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
When a child begins engaging in aggressive behavior, there may be a wide range of emotions and reactions that a parent may experience. First and foremost, it is crucial that you are able to remain calm and “neutral.” This means keeping your body language and expressions in a relaxed and natural state. Try not to appear aggravated or upset. You should also limit speaking to them about the situation beyond what is necessary at that time. Until your child is calm, they will most likely not be able to attend to what you are trying to communicate to them, and for some children, talking to them may only escalate the behavior.
Remaining calm in situations where your child’s behavior is escalated allows you to be more aware of adjustments you can make to the environment to best protect your child, yourself and others. Look for any potentially dangerous items in the area that might need to be removed as a safety precaution. For example, remove any scissors, pens, keys and breakable or heavy objects that can potentially be used to cause physical harm to others.
Once your child is calm and able to return to their normal routine, it can be helpful to try to write down the specifics of the situation in a notebook or journal. Specific details that will be helpful to include are:
This type of information can be helpful in multiple ways. Being able to recognize changes in behavior that happen before aggression occurs provides you with the opportunity to possibly prevent the aggression from occurring at all. Keeping this information written down, even in a calendar, may reveal patterns or additional information for yourself or for professionals during autism testing, ABA evaluations and other similar appointments.
To be clear, these suggestions aren’t intended to replace the need for evaluation and guidance from a professional who has been trained in behavior reduction procedures. A behavior analyst will be able to evaluate your child by performing a Functional Behavior Assessment and, in turn, create a Behavior Support Plan that includes specific strategies and recommendations to address and reduce your child’s problem behaviors.
Seeing your child attempt to hurt others or hurt themselves can be incredibly difficult, but, if you remain calm and seek the help of a professional, you can help your child overcome their frustrations and impulses to achieve their goals.
If your child experiences struggles like these or challenges that may be hindering their learning or daily activities, don’t wait to seek support. Having them tested for autism or participate in an ABA evaluation are the first steps in toward unlocking your child’s potential, should they struggle with communication or aggressive behaviors. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment today, as we want to see your child safely make friends and thrive in their environments and can help them get there.
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