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Paul Hostler

Aggresive and destructive behavior in aperger children

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Paul Hostler

I've been asked to give advice to a parent of an aspie boy who's behaviour is very aggresive and destructive- as I had this experience with my aspie son. However, although my son is now an adult and willing to discuss his behaviour as a child he has no idea what caused that behaviour, so unless I can learn more all I can do is offer moral support. Does anyone think it's caused by frustration at being misunderstood? Any insight into this problem could be a lifeline for parents struggling with extreme oppositional behaviour. Many thanks to anyone who can help.

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aspieguy

Also known as a meltdown. Can be caused by pretty much anything that is distressing the child. Investigate common causes of distress in children with Asperger's and see if any of them could be the case. Attempt to ask the child leading questions such as "is there anything that's bothering you?" or "what would make your environment more comfortable?" if they are unable to determine a cause for their behaviour or distress.

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Whoknows

Frustration, for what I remember about my own life. :mellow:

Either way, he could be overwhelmed.

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Kroge

It's being overwhelmed and subsequent frustration. Parents often have to think outside the box about this because the source of the frustration may not be easy to see, or may even be imperceptible. Common causes can be sensory problems, too much information, shattered expectations, interpersonal failure, inability to get what they want or ask for what they want or even know what they want. Diet should be looked at too.

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Miss Chief

For me frustration is always the cause... I didn't/don't tend to lash out at people more at myself but it is always caused by frustration, usually cause I can't do something right, for example I can't get something fiddly done etc.

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Gone away
18 hours ago, Paul Hostler said:

. Does anyone think it's caused by frustration at being misunderstood?

Maybe, but who knows?

It might also be a response to getting sensory overwhelmed (used to just make me dizzy, sickly or pass out) or psychologically overloaded (too many demands / unable to process). Parents can unwittingly be very demanding or not demanding enough.  No one can know.

I was reading somewhere about an 8 second rule. ie: when asking an autistic person a question allow 8 seconds for a response (processing time). I'm not sure about that, but I do understand that life and interactions can move at a pace too fast to properly process cognitively. This can lead to compounded frustrations which eventually present negatively.

However, if someone is giving all the signals to make people go away, maybe they just want to be left alone. Quiet time to unwind or personal interest time in their own space.

Not knowing whats going and feeling different on can be quite a challenge.

I was never destructive, but did get very frustrated by not being able to understand language using idioms. These days my frustrations are still not knowing if I have been understood or if people are ignoring me or not.  Reading people can be a problem at a pace of life not of your own making. There can be insufficient time to process.

I don't remember having many meltdowns as a child (I would just withdraw / shut down), but as an adult have had some. Questions and advice are not helpful at that time as I cannot process anymore and need to release (rather than take things in).

Edited by Going home
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Paul Hostler

I'm deeply touched that so many of you took the time to make such thoughtful replies; thank you all so much. Please keep them coming;  I'm making notes of the points made- which I feel will could be very helpful.

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Gone away

My mother used to encourage me (in a loving way - hugs and reassurances) to cry when upset - and encourage me to keep on crying until I couldn't (physically or emotionally) cry anymore. If I tried to escape she would hug me harder and carry on encouraging. When I'd finished she'd encourage me to squeeze out a bit more to be sure there was nothing left.

I'm guessing it was pretty noisy, but never resulted in any destruction. I suppose she was going with the flow rather than trying to fight it (which would have made things worse).

I was still in single figures age wise. Not every parent would be able to do this. but I think it was a good approach. I suppose she was naturally supporting meltdowns rather than trying to understand the reasons or stop them. So maybe thats why I can't remember many 'meltdowns' as a child, because my mother would help their expression so they did not become major events. I was brought up in the country with few people - I don't know how my mothers approach would translate into busy modern day life. I suppose when I approached teens I started the withdrawal

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Mimo

I can't answer much based on personal experiences, but professionally as a teacher when i had a child with difficult behavior I often kept a log. I wrote down the time of the behavior and anything that I could remember happening before that, including the child's mood/demeanor during drop-off. Since I worked primarily with underprivileged 2 years olds, they were unable to verbalize their feelings and some had very rough home lives. Keeping a log forces you to look for clues you might not see otherwise.

They need to consider environment, amount of sleep, time of day, any possible food or environmental allergies, pain, hunger and probably a hundred other things. But keeping the log might just begin to show a pattern after a while. The patterns can be really really hard to spot. It will take time and patience, more than you think to figure out the cause and to help him cope in safe ways. Keep encouraging them to stay strong. Depending on how old and/or verbal he is it may be a trial and error kind of thing to figure out what is triggering it. Encourage them to talk with him when he's calm. There's a good chance he's as upset by his behavior as they are, I know I was when I acted out as a child. I often felt very guilty and shamed afterwards.

What about creating a safe place for him to work out his frustrations? A room with bean bag chairs and pillows, or things like swings and a trampoline?

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PossibleAspie
On January 12, 2017 at 7:50 AM, Paul Hostler said:

I've been asked to give advice to a parent of an aspie boy who's behaviour is very aggresive and destructive- as I had this experience with my aspie son. However, although my son is now an adult and willing to discuss his behaviour as a child he has no idea what caused that behaviour, so unless I can learn more all I can do is offer moral support. Does anyone think it's caused by frustration at being misunderstood? Any insight into this problem could be a lifeline for parents struggling with extreme oppositional behaviour. Many thanks to anyone who can help.

It could be frustration or sensory overload. Perhaps try to figure out what's bothering the child and when the behavior most often occurs. 

Anybody else notice that that kind of destructive behavior is more common in aspie boys than girls? I'm not saying all aspie males are violent (they're not); I'm simply stating what I know. 

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Ben

Not being left alone, when I REALLY needed to be left on my own to process my thoughts was probably my biggest trigger. Personal space is 9 on a scale of 10, and if you pressure an autistic child in an already stressful situation - (when they've had no time to process, piece together and rationalise their thoughts) is pretty much asking for a one way ticket to a BIG meltdown. If the child is upset, let them come to you, do NOT go to them if they withdraw. It'll be a disaster. 

Remember, it's NOT personal. It's simply a defensive reaction. It's often mistaken for anger, even by professionals, when it really isn't. (Think along the lines of fright and flight. It's impulsive.) 

 

I have to say though, that if you're ever asked a question that you don't really know how to answer, then the best response is "I don't know". The one asking the question should be the one doing the research, not you. 

Edited by Ben
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Little Guy
On 1/12/2017 at 10:50 AM, Paul Hostler said:

aggressive and destructive

All of above...
Also, abuse can also be a possibility: physical, psychological(bullying), sexual or all three.
Possibly by a sibling, friend, and/or adult.

Also "oppositional" as opposed to "aggressive" implies that he is rebelling against rather than attacking.
Suggest backing off as far as able.

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Paul Hostler

Thanks again everybody!  Your ideas really helped me to clarify and add to my understanding of the problem. I met the parent and thanks to all of you was able to help them understand the situation better and give some ideas that may help to improve things. 

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