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How To Calm An Aggressive Autistic Child

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S To Deal With Aggression In Autistic Children

How to Calm an Autistic Child?

If youre dealing with aggression from your Autistic child, it can be easy to feel completely defeated.

Traditional parenting strategies arent working.

You know that your childs aggression isnt their fault, but youre also getting concerned about the safety of your other kids or those your child is hurting.

Not to mention worrying about what the future looks like for your Autistic child if you cant get the aggression out of control.

A few years ago my son was struggling with aggression during his meltdowns. Anyone near him would get a headbutt as hard as he possibly could.

At first, I was at a complete loss for how to handle it

Then I found a way that kept everyone in our family safe, respected my Autistic child for who he was, and made sure his needs were being met.

And that 5 step process to handle aggression in Autistic children is exactly what Im sharing with you today.

Redirect To Other Behaviour

Tell the person what they need to do instead of the behaviour, eg “David, hands down”. Use visual cues such as picture symbols to back up instructions. Redirect to another activity that is incompatible with the behaviour and provide praise and reinforcement for the first occurrence of appropriate behaviour, eg “David, that’s excellent playing with your train”.

Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are another medical issue that can cause aggression. When trying to determine if a vitamin or mineral deficiency is causing your child’s aggressive behavior, please be sure to ask their doctor about lithium, potassium, folate, and magnesium.


To demonstrate how lithium impacts behavior, here is a study showing that cities with no-to-little lithium in their drinking water have more crime, suicides, and arrests than those cities that had a bit more lithium added.

If your child is low in lithium, their doctor may put them on lithium orotate, an essential trace element. It is the low dose supplement form of lithium.


Low potassium, also known as hypokalemia, can also cause aggression, depression, or even hallucination. Potassium levels can drop for several reasons. For example, some medications, such as diuretics, can cause low potassium. Also, consistent or prolonged diarrhea can cause low potassium levels, as can sweating.

Electrolytes for re-hydrating are essential but be sure they are not high in sugar. Coconut water is a great natural electrolyte water. There are many low sugar options you can purchase in health food stores.


Low folate in the brain can cause irritability and anxiety that can lead to aggression if it goes untreated. To learn more, please see TACA’s article dedicated to Cerebral Folate Deficiency.


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Focus On Maintaining A Positive Relationship

Researchers see families fall into a common trap:

When kids misbehave frequently, parents tend to focus on all those daily conflicts. They feel obliged to answer every offense with criticism or punishment, and end up with a relationship thats mostly characterized by negative exchanges.

Its a grim outcome, and its also counter-productive. Studies suggest that kids are more likely to learn desirable social skills when we provide them with positive feedback for making good choices not threats and punishments for doing the wrong thing.

Moreover, a diet of negativity can make kids become more defiant. Negative parenting can lead to a downward spiral of misbehavior, punishment, retaliation, more punishment, and more misbehavior .

How do you stay calm and upbeat? It isnt easy, not if your child seems stuck in defiance mode. Youll need social support, and maybe some professional guidance. Studies show that therapists specifically trained in handling aggression in children can help reduce stress and improve behavior.

One approach, used internationally, is the so called Oregon Model of Parent Management Training . Through weekly sessions of coaching and role playing, parents learn effect ways to set limits, foster cooperation, settle arguments in a constructive way, and inject daily life with pleasant, loving activities.

But the first step is reorganizing your priorities .

Four: Solve The Actual Problem

3 Ways to Calm an Autistic Child

Now you get to solve the actual problem!

We might think that aggression is the problem, but its actually just the consequence of whatever is triggering it.

So this step is about making a plan for the trigger youve identified in order to solve the real problem, allowing us to avoid the aggression.

This plan will vary depending on whats causing your childs aggression.

In general, youll want a plan that either avoids, accommodates, or manages your childs triggers.

A plan that avoids a trigger might include avoiding certain situations that lead to aggression.

A plan to accommodate might include adding a tool or strategy that helps your child get through situations that lead to aggression.

And a plan to manage a trigger might include changing your approach to a situation that typically leads to aggression.

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Two: Handle Aggression When It Happens

Ultimately we want to stop the aggression before it happens of course, but until then we need a plan for how we will handle aggression when it happens.

To do that, think about specifically what aggression looks like for your Autistic child.

  • Hitting?
  • Pushing?
  • Pulling Hair?

You want to be as specific as possible because the plan for a kid who scratches might be completely different than the plan for a kid who kicks.

Now that youre clear on what, specifically, they do, youre going to ask yourself: how can I keep them and others safe when theyre struggling?

The and is probably the most important part of that sentence.

Forceful holds that pin your child down to the ground? Those dont keep your child safe. But doing nothing while they kick you until youre bruised? Thats also not safe.

The three best ways to keep people safe during aggression are:

  • by removing other people from the aggressive child
  • Buffer by adding a physical barrier around the other person
  • Redirect by directing the aggression to an object rather than a person

Aba Therapy Tactics For Managing Aggression In Autistic Children

Anger and aggression are common emotions for children on the autism spectrum. Angry and seemingly rage-filled behaviors can come from nowhere, without warning, and then disappear just as abruptly.

For the most part, the triggers for this behavior usually come from stress, overstimulation, and unexpected and unpredictable changes in routine and scheduling. For example, a child with autism who feels like they are being ignored will likely not be able to clearly communicate their feelings. Without the language metaphorical and literal to explain their frustrations, they may lash out without even realizing that their behavior can be dangerous to themselves and others.

There are solutions and methods to manage aggression, and bring it down to controllable levels, using various forms of self-awareness and mindfulness training.

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Distract And Redirect Problematic Behavior Instead Of Saying Stop Or No

For example, if the child is running in the store, remind him or show him how to walk nicely. If necessary, find something interesting to show him and call his attention to it, rather than focusing on the problematic behavior. If he is running in the hall at school, redirect him back to the line, with a short directive such as, Come back to your spot in line or remind him to walk in the hallway. For children with trouble understanding language, try demonstrating what is expected or use a gesture, rather than just giving the verbal direction.

What Is An Autism Meltdown

Autism Meltdown Intervention: How To Handle Autism Tantrums, To Help And Calm Your Autistic Child

A meltdown is defined as an intense reaction to sensory overwhelm. When a child with autism is overwhelmed, he/she knows no other way to express it other than with a meltdown. This might involve emotional verbal outbursts such as screaming and crying or physical reactions like kicking, biting or hitting.

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A Temper Tantrum Is Not An Autism Meltdown

A temper tantrum usually occurs when a child is denied what they want to have or what they want to do.

Parents observe many tantrums during the terrible twos. This occurs when young children are developing problem-solving skills and beginning to assert their independence.

In fact, this terrible twos stage is typically experienced between 12 months through 4 years old!

When you look at why temper tantrums occur at this stage, it is important to consider typical development and why toddlers are so easily frustrated:

  • Emerging desire to become independent, but limited motor skills and cognitive skills make it impossible to actually BE independent.
  • Emerging, developing language skills make communicating wants/needs frustrating.
  • The prefrontal cortex of the brain has not yet developed – this is the brain center responsible for emotional regulation and social behavior – so they do not have the ability to regulate!
  • Toddlers are developing an understanding of their world, and its often anxiety-producing. This anxiety and lack of control often result in tantrums when it all gets to be too much to manage.

A hallmark of a tantrum is that the behavior will usually persist if the child gains attention for his behavior, but will subside when ignored.

When parents give in to tantrum outbursts, children are more likely to repeat the behavior the next time they are denied what they want or need.

Autism In The Classroom: How To Handle Behavior Challenges

Children with autism typically use behaviors to communicate their wants, needs, anxieties, and frustrations.

These behaviors can include:

  • Refusing to follow directives
  • Eloping

While behaviors are important communication tools, some behaviors can disrupt learning in a classroom setting. Various interventions teach children with autism new skills that help them develop acceptable ways to communicate, socialize, and function.

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Aba Techniques For Dealing With Anger

ABA therapy is a highly adaptable and flexible intervention that can be used in a variety of settings and tailored for the specific needs of your high-functioning autistic child. A therapist will start by spending some time with your child to analyze the behavioral patterns and determine his/her specific strengths and challenges. This functional behavior assessment will represent the basis for the work your child will do in therapy.

The ABA therapist will use a range of techniques to help your child with anger management. ABA therapy offers two effective ways of handling problem behaviors: proactive interventions and consequence-based reactive interventions. When used in combination, these two tactics will give you and your child all the necessary tools for preventing and managing anger issues.

Proactive intervention

Anger triggers are prevalent in an autistic childs surroundings. Thats why its extremely important to use proactive strategies that will help prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated. Strategies to minimize anger and aggression triggers include creating an environment that is calm, predictable, and as rewarding as possible for your autistic child.

Positive feedback

Neutral redirection

Positive reinforcement

Alternative behaviors

Modeling techniques

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How To Handle An Aggressive Autistic Child

Autism and Behavioral Problems: 8 Tips to Cope with ...

This article was written by Luna Rose. Luna Rose is an autistic community member who specializes in writing and autism. She holds a degree in Informatics and has spoken at college events to improve understanding about disabilities. Luna Rose leads wikiHow’s Autism Project.There are 33 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 39,586 times.

Autistic children tend to be non-aggressive by nature, but sometimes a child turns aggressive when under extreme stress. It’s natural to feel a mix of emotions about this, from worry to guilt to fear. This wikiHow will guide you in handling a difficult situation and helping a suffering child.

This article focuses on children who lash out at others. If the child is only hurting themselves, check out How to Redirect an Autistic Child’s Harmful Stims.

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Incredible Adam And A Day With Autism: An Illustrated Story Inspired By Social Narratives

Ander opened his mouth and screamed at her, flapping his arms so that one palm smacked the glass breakfast table making it jump a bit. Nora jumped herself, backing up slightly. She couldnt help it: she was actually feeling afraid of her own son. He had hit the table so hardIt wasnt supposed to be this wayshe thought to herself.

And then, in a sudden burst of movement, Ander jumped up, ran towards her, and tackled her. Nora fell backward, her elbow cracked against the tile floor, and the impact knocked the air from her chest. She was gulping like a hooked fish when Ander landed his first punch on her cheekbone. The next one caught her neck and the third her right ear, and her head reverberated with shrill ringing. Finally, with a gasp, she filled her lungs, but she couldnt push free. Ander was stronger. So she cried helplessly as her baby boy howled and beat her. The once chubby hands that used to grasp at toy cars had become powerful fists that continued striking her until, mercifully, her husband opened the front door. Then it stopped as quickly as it had begun Peter was still strong enough to pull Ander away from Norafor now.

After the barking dog woke her, Nora wondered through her familiar exhaustion whether she really knew her own child, knew how to care for him, what he needed, or even knew how to be a good parent. She closed her eyes and willed the barking to stop. When it finally did, she exhaled, not even realizing shed been holding her breath.

How To Handle A Meltdown In Public

This can happen to anyone. Parents and caregivers could be low on patience while also hurting for their struggling child.

Remember that autistic children do not have meltdowns and cry or flail just to get at you.They cry because they need to release tension from their bodies in some way. They are overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations.

There are some ways to effectively support your child when they are having a meltdown in public. Here are some of them.

Equip them with coping skills: Meltdowns cant be helped at that very moment. But afterwards, you can teach your child how to regulate their emotions. Try relaxing activities like going for walks. These calming activities will help them calm down even before the meltdown happens.

Feeling safe and loved: Trying to talk a child down from having a meltdown is not a great strategy when it comes to calm an autistic child. Be there for them. Let them know that they are safe at that moment. Stay close as much as their comfort allows. Dont leave them alone to be out of a meltdown and find no one in the room. This could send a message that they dont deserve to be around the people they love when it gets tough.

Empathy is key: Listen and understand their situation. Tell them expressing emotions is okay, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. If your child with autism can feel like they are being heard, they will feel that their experience is validated. Try to give them tools to express themselves in a safe way.

Recommended Reading: Autism Life Expectancy

Avoid Reinforcing Aggressive Behavior

Once you understand why your child is engaging in aggressive behavior, be careful not to reinforce it. Consider a child who hits you to get candy. If you give your child candy to stop their aggression, you may be reinforcing the behavior and your child may learn that hitting is a successful way to get candy. To ensure youre not reinforcing your childs aggressive behavior, your therapy team will provide support and training on how best to prevent and react to aggressive behavior.

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Learn The Triggers And Create A Plan For The Future

Autistic Child’s Abusive Behavior | Autism Meltdown

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:

  • What happened right before the child became upset or engaged in aggression?

  • Were there any signals or warning signs that the child was about to become upset or engage in aggression?

  • What exactly did the behavior look like?

  • How did you and others around your child react when the behavior occurred?

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 when they are evaluating your child.

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Physical Activities Sometimes Help To Ease The Tension

One way to keep excess energy from escalating into an anger situation is to burn it off with physical activity. Find an activity your child enjoys doing such as dancing, exercising, walking, running or even just playful wrestling.

This physical activity actually causes the brain to produce endorphins, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and well-being. Maybe they would enjoy going on a nature walk or taking a trip to the neighborhood playground.

Causes Of Anger In High

Although each case of autism is different,there are several common causes of anger in high-functioning autistic children:

Being overwhelmed by multiple tasks

Anyone with autism, including high-functioning autistic children, can get easily overwhelmed and frustrated when asked to perform several tasks at the same time. This is particularly the case when a new task is combined with the routine one and when tasks need prioritizing.

Sensory overload

Children with autism have fragile sensory systems that can easily get overloaded. Responding with anger outbursts and aggressive behaviors is sometimes simply an automatic reaction to being physically uncomfortable in situations that cause sensory overload.

Feeling helpless

All the unwritten rules and unpredictabilities of daily life may be hard to navigate for autistic children, regardless of their level of functioning. They dont always fully understand what is going on around them and act out aggressively out of frustration.

Changes in routine

Children on the autism spectrum can become distressed when their routines are changed. Unexpected events like having to take a different route to school or eat a different type of breakfast cereal can increase the childs anxiety levels. The feelings of confusion and helplessness may cause a meltdown.

Other peoples behavior

Intolerance of imperfections in others

Stress and anxiety

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