Autism: Dealing with Anger – Tips for Parents

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 quiet 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

Autism: Understanding Your Child’s Behaviour – Tips for Parents

Those with autism often respond in a primal way. They want one message communicated to them, and will usually communicate one message back. They will be happy, sad, angry, anxious, they often struggle with subtle emotions like annoyance. This isn’t to say they don’t experience subtle emotions, but they find it difficult to recognise them if they do experience them, so they will often feel angry and be angry, they won’t feel annoyed which in most people would lead to a more measured response before full-blown anger kicks in. For me personally for example I am normally ‘okay’. I don’t feel happy, sad, angry, or anxious, just normal. For most situations this is how I would describe myself. Then when the microwave starts beeping, for example, I am angry, If I am doing something like working on the computer and want to finish what I am doing before going to the microwave I will be angrily swearing at it to shut the f*** up for the full minute that it beeps for. I can see this is an over-reaction, but it happens every time. As soon as it stops beeping I am ‘okay’ again. Anything which triggers discomfort, whether it is due to excessive sensory stimulation, or uncertainty, etc., is likely to trigger the fight or flight response in the child, they will either become anxious, angry, or they will freeze and shut down from the external world.

They are also likely to have a black and white mindset, so they may be working well in class in school, then one small thing happens and they go completely the opposite way, they shut down, or get angry, or suddenly refuse to do anything. This can seem to come out of nowhere because others around them don’t necessarily recognise the patterns of what just happened. The child themselves may not be able to reflect on what happened to be able to understand why they went from calm to angry. One way to help find out what happened is to ask “what happened” and ask for a description of what they were doing before they got angry up to when they got angry. If you ask “why did you do that?” they are unlikely to know why, and so not likely to be able to answer this question. Asking “what” instead of “why” is more likely to lead to giving you the pattern of what happened, and you have a chance then of piecing together the “why”. An example of this was a child who was sat at home playing a handheld games console, then he got angry and threw it across the room, and started being violent. Asking why just got the answer “I don’t know, I just felt angry”. Asking what happened elicited that he was sat in the living-room, the TV was on in the background, he was playing his game, then he felt angry, threw his console, and became violent. The mum analysed what he had said and realised that the TV programme that was on was a talk show where the topic was absent fathers, and it was an emotive programme. The child’s father was absent and made no attempted to be in his son’s life. It was most likely this which triggered the sudden aggressive outburst. The child wouldn’t have noticed or worked that out by asking him why, but the parent could work it out. What made us confident that this was the cause was that it fit with other outbursts which had happened and what was occurring during those outbursts, like an outburst in class when the school children had to make Father’s Day cards.

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