Sunday, May 19, 2024

What To Do With A Violent Autistic Teenager

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About Kim Abraham Lmsw And Marney Studaker

Autism Q&A: Why Is My Autistic Child so Aggressive? Hitting and Violent Behavior Explained (2019)

Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline® for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues . Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are also the co-creators of their first children’s book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, which teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children’s Storybook Cover Design Award.

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.

What To Do If You Are Experiencing Violence From Your Teen

If you are experiencing violence from your teen, it may be hard to admit that there is a problem, but if your teenager is hitting you, then this is domestic abuse. You deserve to feel safe in your own home and family life.

Look after yourself – This is vital to cope with the anger and aggression from your teen. You probably feel exhausted, demoralised and are likely to be making huge efforts to get a tiny amount of control.

This is not your fault –No parent can avoid making mistakes, life itself is an imperfect process full of disappointments, and difficulties and children need to be able to cope with these.

Choose your battles – You cant tackle everything at once, put some issues on the back-burner to be dealt with later.

Try not to take it personally – If your child is struggling, its often because of a range of issues that may have been beyond your control. Once you are aware of them, you can give the support and help to address their fears and worries.

You can still love your teen but not like their behaviour. It is not a package and it is important to try to view the behaviour as a stand-alone issue. ;

Ignoring the behaviour wont make it go away It is really hard to go through this, but playing it down wont help it go away. If it is not addressed, the violence could increase and become a life-long pattern; help them break the pattern.

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Autism Parents Seek Help For Behavioral Crises

Our child soon to be a teenager has autism, and there are times when we find ourselves in a true behavioral crisis. What can we do besides call 911?

So important is this question and so broad the situations and options – that weve invited two experts to provide answers.

This response is from child psychologist Lark Huang-Storms. Dr. Huang-Storms works within Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland.

Check out ‘Help for Child with Autism & Recurring Behavioral Crises: Part 2‘;for further perspective, including consideration of long-term residential treatment.

A meltdown can be really tough with a toddler and truly frightening in an adolescent or teenager both for those witnessing it and for the child who has lost control. With an adolescent, the stress of surging hormones and increasingly complex social expectations can mount faster than coping strategies can keep up. As a result, its not uncommon to see an increase in out-of-control behaviors.

Keep Doing The Things That Work

Aggressive behaviour & autism: 3
  • Discipline & responsibility: A simple, low key, consistent approach is more important than ever, as teens become taller and strongernot that physical restraint was ever very useful with our kids. Pick your battles. Set and enforce only your bottom line rules and expectationsmatters of safety and respect. Write them down. Make sure both parents/all involved adults agree on the rules. Give choices when possible, but not too many. Engage your teen in problem-solving; what does s/he think would work?
  • Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the teen.
  • Make sure thorough neuropsych re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, a good transition plan; choosing an appropriate college or other post-secondary programs; proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.
  • A regular bedtime at a reasonable hour is more important than ever if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kindsfamiliar foods, rituals, vacationsare reassuring when the teens body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.
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    What Could Be Behind This

    A young person who is acting in an aggressive or violent way is quite likely to be struggling with their feelings or it could be a reaction to something that they are going through which they may have kept to themselves. Is this behaviour something that has been a bolt unexpectedly? On the other hand, is it something that perhaps has been increasing as they have been developing? It is important to try to put a timeline on when and how it started and what triggers could have been the catalyst.

    We often find that there could be underlying emotional and mental health issues in the young people and they may be suffering from depression, anxiety or even harming themselves. Other triggers could include situations such as family breakdown, bullying or substance misuse. It is important to keep in mind that no child wants to behave in this way, frighten the people they love but it may have got out of control and they may be struggling on how to manage their feelings.

    Techniques For Calming An Upset Child

    While it’s great to simply avoid getting upset, real-life can make it impossible. When that happens, these tips for calming may help:

    • Recognize signs. Very often, children with autism show signs of distress before they “meltdown” or become very upset. Check to see if your child seems frustrated, angry, anxious, or just over-excited. If she can communicate effectively, she may be able to simply tell you what you need to know.
    • Look for environmental issues that could be causing your child’s discomfort. If it’s easy to do so, resolve any problems. For example, close a door, turn off a light, turn down music, etc.
    • Leave the space. Often, it’s possible to simply leave the situation for a period of time, allowing your child time and space to calm down. Just walk out the door with your child, staying calm and ensuring their safety.
    • Have a “bag of tricks” handy to share with your child. Chewy or sensory toys, favorite books or videos can all defuse a potentially difficult situation. While it’s never ideal to use TV as a babysitter, there are situations in which a favorite video on a smartphone can be a lifesaver.
    • Travel with a weighted vest or blanket. If your child does well with these calming tools, bring an extra in the car at all times. If you don’t have weighted items, you might want to consider rolling your child up in a blanket like a burrito. For some autistic children, the pressure can be very calming.

    Read Also: What Is The Life Expectancy Of People With Autism

    Adolescence And Autism Can Form A Volatile Mix

    Lately, I have been receiving an abundance of emails from parents about their children with autism who are now entering the teen years. “Help,” they write. “Their autism is getting worsewhat can I do?”

    The reality is that their autism is not getting worsethey are becoming teenagers! Having a teenager on the spectrum, and one that is neurotypical, provides a parent with great perspective on what is normal teenage behavior and what is due to autism. I used to preface the seminars I give on autism and adolescence by saying, “I have two teenagers: one severely impacted by autism, the other by hormones.”

    I also tell my audience that the year my oldest son hit puberty was the year I discovered martinis and began running four miles a day instead of two. Adolescence and autism can each be difficult on their own, but together they can form a volatile mix. As a parent, you need to find ways to relieve the resulting stress.

    Besides becoming more non-compliant, a major challenge with any teenager is that sometime during the teen years most of them become uncommunicative, moody, don’t want to spend time with you, and never want to do what you want to do. When tweens with autism go through puberty, they have the same hormonal activity taking place as the neurotypical teens do. Thus, they can become even more noncommunicative, moody and unpredictableonly they don’t have the same outlets as neurotypicals to express their teenage-hood.

    Diagnosing Autism In Teenagers

    Teen with autism explains why he was aggressive

    The process of getting diagnosed with autism during the teenage years is no different from that of getting a diagnosis at an early age, but it will involve more questions about the teens behavior in school and how he/she interacts with peers.

    A formal diagnosis might involve one or more experts in the field of autism such as developmental pediatricians, psychiatrist, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists.

    The diagnostic procedures can include:

    • An interview with parent or caregiver
    • Actual observation of all interactions with others
    • A physical exam to rule out other medical conditions
    • A developmental screening

    Once a teen has been diagnosed, a qualified pediatrician can recommend how to move forward with beneficial behavioral therapies and treatments.

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    Pharmacological Treatments Of Aggression

    The combined negative impact and frequent occurrence of aggressive behavior in individuals with ASD have been factors in driving the focus of pharmacologic research on ASD-associated irritability over the last 50 years. Second-generation antipsychotics are the most commonly employed first-line pharmacotherapy options for the treatment of aggression in ASD. Following several large randomized, placebo-controlled trials that demonstrated robust reduction in aggressive behavior with treatment in youth with ASD, risperidone and aripiprazole were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of irritability in this population. First-generation antipsychotics, antiepileptic medications , mood stabilizers, and several glutamatergic modulators are also frequently employed for the treatment of ASD-associated irritability, though with less robust evidence supporting their use .

    Negative Outcomes Related To Aggression

    Aggression is clearly associated with negative outcomes for children with ASD, including impaired social relationships, placement in restrictive school or residential settings, use of physical intervention, and increased risk of being victimized. Aggressive behaviors can also contribute to school provider burnout, leading to probable impact on the quality of education. Aggression also contributes to negative outcomes for caregivers of youth with ASD, including increased stress levels, financial problems, lack of support services, and negative impact on day-to-day family life and well-being. Clearly addressing aggressive behavior is pivotal to improving outcomes for individuals with ASD and their caregivers.

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    Growing Numbers Of Teens With Asd

    Chantal Sicile-Kira says nobody told her what to expect when her son with autism, now 24, became a teenager. Jeremy Sicile-Kira was born when autism was considered to be relatively rare just before the tide of diagnoses began rising in the 1990s. “Nobody ever told us anything about adolescence and autism,” she said.

    Today, many more parents have children with autism entering or already in their teens.1 Ms. Sicile-Kira tries to educate them through her books, speeches and seminars on autism spectrum disorders .

    One common complaint she hears from parents: their teens’ autism is getting worse. But that may be a misunderstanding, she said.

    “The teens are not getting more noncompliant because their autism is getting worse. It’s because they’re teenagers,” said Ms. Sicile-Kira, author of Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. Like all teens, they may want more independence. Parents can help: “If your child needs schedules, for example, give him more control over his schedule. That gives him a way to be ‘noncompliant'” to have his own way sometimes.

    Research into autism in the teen years and beyond is still in its infancy: “very little is known about the course of ASD through adolescence and into young adulthood,” one study said.1

    Autism is a broad spectrum, and adolescence will affect each child differently. If recent studies are an indication, parents generally can expect some of the following along their child’s road to adulthood:

    In The Midst Of The Crisis

    My Aspergers Child: Asperger

    But what if you, like so many of us, miss the early warning signs, and your child appears alarmingly close to damaging your home or hurting someone or himself?

    One thing is certain, theres no way to rationally work through a behavioral crisis in the midst of one. Safety becomes the priority, and this may mean calling 911. However, here are some guidelines that can help keep everyone safe.

  • Stay calm. Breathe. Your childs behaviors will likely trigger your own strong emotions. You need to manage them. By way of analogy, think of an aggressive behavioral outburst as a fire. Dont fan it with energy and excitement. Your goal is to smother it by remaining calm, patient, firm and reassuring.
  • Talk quietly. Talk less. For many of us, the impulse is to talk when things are getting out of control.; Remember that when someone is in full meltdown mode, he or she isnt able to reason. Autism adds to this difficulty, even for highly verbal children. When highly stressed, your child may have difficulty understanding what anyone is saying. A good rule of thumb is to talk far less than you want to. Consider not talking at all. When you do speak, keep your sentences short and concrete maybe one or two words paired with a visual signal.
  • You might consider smoothing or covering walls and sharp corners with soft materials. I recommend Making Homes that Work: A Resource Guide for Families Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Co-occuring Behaviors.
  • Looking beyond the crisis

    Read Also: Autism Life Expectancy

    What Should I Do If My Child With Autism Hits Me

    If youre here, you likely need answers regarding your childs aggressive behavior. Before we dive into our tips for how to stop an autistic child from hitting, you must understand;why;this occurs in the first place.

    Unable to express their thoughts or feelings in words, children with autism may lash out and hit, scratch, or bite their parents or siblings. Hitting can range from an open-handed slap to a closed-fisted punch, and some outbursts may even injure themselves or others.

    Many things can trigger aggressive behaviors like hitting, scratching, and biting, but these are some of the most common in children with autism:

    • Feeling very anxious or stressed
    • Trying to communicate
    • Sensory overload or sensitivity
    • Not understanding whats going on around them.

    Once we understand;why children with autism behave this way, we can work toward prevention and treatment. First, we need to discuss appropriate ways of dealing with aggressive and violent behaviors in children with autism.

    Break Out Your Sensory Toolkit

    Keep a few sensory tools or toys in your car or bag. You can offer these to your kid when their mind is overwhelmed.

    Kids have different favorites, but some common sensory tools include weighted lap pads, noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget toys.

    Dont force these on your child when theyre melting down, but if they choose to use them, these products can often help them calm down.

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    How To Handle An Aggressive Autistic Child

    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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