Those with autism often have extremes of emotion, they can be calm one minute and angry the next, sometimes without any obvious cause. This can be intimidating and frightening for parents. There are some helpful ways to manage anger. Obviously, the best way to manage anger is to reduce the chances of anger occurring. To do this a parent can find ways of communicating which, as far as possible, don’t create opposition. This isn’t saying don’t put boundaries in place, just reducing how often you say the opposite to the child. So if you say “no” this creates conflict, but there are many times when there is alternatives to the word “no” which can be used, like saying what you want instead of the word “no”. So a child may ask for something (like a magazine), your answer is going to be “no”, so instead of saying “no” you may say “you can… (have a magazine at the weekend/read the ones you have at home, etc)”. Like anything, this isn’t a guarantee that they won’t get angry, but when you don’t present the opposite view it often reduces the chances of conflict occurring, which could otherwise turn to anger. You can also notice triggers and so intervene with distraction when you know a trigger is likely to occur.
When the child is already angry anything which feeds into the fight or flight response is likely to escalate the anger. So any behaviours which could be perceived as threatening or trapping the child will make the situation worse, behaviours where the child feels they are safe and not trapped or threatened help to reduce anger. So talking calmly (not saying “calm down”) and quietly, not shouting or displaying anger in your voice, sitting beside the child (sitting is a calming act, so this also helps you to feel calmer), or away from the child, not standing in front of them towering over them. Giving them a couple of clear options which give them the chance to have a safe way out. For example; I worked with a teen who became aggressive, he was cutting things with a knife and threatening to cut anyone who came near him. I said I was going to sit in the seat (gesturing to a specific seat) and want to just talk to him see how I can help, if he decides he wants to attack me that is up to him, but I want to just see how I can help. I then sat down, we talked and the situation was resolved calmly and without further incident. Whereas a teen I was working with in a local school got angry, he kept saying he wanted to go to a quit room, which had been an agreed location for him, the teacher dealing with him told him he isn’t going anywhere until he calmed down, the teen felt trapped and eventually injured the teacher so that he could get away, this got him permanently excluded, and most likely could have been avoided if the teacher let him go to the quiet room.
Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones is available in Paperback & Kindle Here is a link to your local Amazon store: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196