Children with autism often exhibit behaviors that are misunderstood by others who are not familiar with the disorder.
These behaviors – particularly when aggressive and can cause injury to the child or others – can be challenging for parents and caregivers to manage. These can also lead to stigmatization, isolation, and frustration for both the child and their caregivers.
Fortunately, there are strategies that parents can use to decrease these behaviors and improve the overall wellbeing of their child.
What causes aggressive behaviors among children with autism?
Children with autism may exhibit aggressive behaviors due to a variety of reasons, including communication difficulties, sensory overload, frustration, anxiety, and social challenges.
Many children in the spectrum struggle with communication, which can result in feelings of frustration and isolation. When they are unable to effectively express their needs, wants, and emotions, they may resort to aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, biting, or throwing objects. Additionally, sensory processing issues are common among these kids, which can make them more prone to experiencing sensory overload and becoming overwhelmed by stimuli in their environment. This can lead to aggressive or self-injurious behaviors as a way to cope with the overload.
They may also experience social challenges -such as struggling to understand social cues, make friends or engage in reciprocal communication – which can result in feelings of anxiety and frustration which then contribute to aggressive behaviors.
Furthermore, changes in routine or unexpected events can be distressing for them, and may trigger aggressive behaviors as a way to regain a sense of control or cope with their anxiety.
Strategies for parents to reduce aggressive behavior of children with autism
Understanding the underlying causes of these aggressive behaviors is an important step towards developing effective strategies for managing and reducing them. These strategies include:
- Developing a Routine. Children with autism often thrive on routine and structure. By developing a consistent daily routine, parents can help their child feel more secure and less prone to outbursts.
- Using Positive Reinforcement. Children with autism often respond well to praise and rewards. By using a token system or other incentives, parents can reinforce positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors.
- Providing Sensory Input. Many children with autism struggle with sensory overload, which can lead to aggressive behaviors. By providing sensory input in a structured way, such as using weighted blankets or noise-cancelling headphones, parents can help their child feel more regulated and less prone to outbursts.
- Teach Coping Strategies. Children with autism may need to learn coping strategies to manage their emotions and behaviors. Parents can teach their child breathing exercises, visualization, or other techniques to help them stay calm and focused.
- Seek Professional Help. Parents may need professional help to manage their child’s aggressive behaviors. This may include working with a behavior analyst, psychologist, or other professional who specializes in autism.
It is also important for parents to equip themselves with the tools and strategies needed to effectively support their child with autism such as these books that can provide valuable insights and practical advice for navigating the challenges of parenting a child with autism.
- Positive Parenting for Autism: Powerful Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Challenges and Thrive by Victoria Boone and Rishi Sriram is a guidebook that offers practical strategies for parents to help their child with autism thrive by building positive relationships, addressing behavior challenges, and developing life skills.
- The Autism Activities Handbook: Activities to Help Kids Communicate, Make Friends, and Learn Life Skills by Catherine Pascuas is a collection of fun and engaging activities for children with autism that are designed to help them improve their communication, socialization, and daily living skills.
- Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers by Angie Voss is a practical guidebook that provides parents and teachers with tools and strategies to help children with autism better understand and manage their sensory needs, which can lead to improved behavior and communication.
By taking the time to educate themselves on the most effective approaches for supporting their child, parents can feel more confident in their ability to provide the best possible care and support for their child’s unique needs.
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