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Parenting corner - Autism and Aggression

Children with autism may have communication issues which affects their ways of expressing themselves while interacting with people. Some children with autism are also nonverbal, while others may not be comfortable sharing their feelings. This may lead to a buildup of thoughts and cause frustration at times.

Aggressive behaviour in children is something parents should keep an eye out for address. Feelings of anger and frustration are natural and common and it is important that parents teach their children how to express this in a healthy manner.

"Sometimes, if a child with autism has a meltdown, it can be due to the frustration of trying to be understood. #AutismAwareness #autism," are the words from Fred Ford Foundation about autism aggression.

Many children with autism are unable to share their thoughts and needs with others. They may not be able to articulate their needs and this can lead to a communication barrier causing them to lose their cool. Their sensitivity towards external stimuli also makes them vulnerable to outbursts and anger issues.

They may express their anger and frustration in different forms. While some children feel less angry, others tend to be more tense or easily stressed. Understand that anger is a natural emotion and everyone is allowed a little venting time but if the child is harming itself or others, it is advisable to seek help from experts.

Shivani Wadhwa of Hyderabad-based organization Samadhan Goyam Child Development Centre says that anger is also a form of communication.

Children with autism have difficulty communicating, expressing their needs and feelings. When they cannot express themselves they get agitated and this inability causes aggressiveness in these children. They can be taught how to express their needs through a picture communication system. - Shivani Wadhwa, Counselling psychologist

Here are a few things to consider -

  • Some children with autism snap easily, others may be slower to anger.
  • The intensity of anger varies. So does the expression.
  • Understand what triggers the aggression and avoid them. It could be noise, lights, or certain activities.
  • Parents must stay calm and patient. Give space to the child.
  • Using shorter phrases or words in soft tones with the child may help.
  • Try and move the child away from the place where the negative emotions started.
  • Use distractions.

"Children with autism are often misunderstood. They need to be treated with patience and understanding and given time to calm down. Using coping strategies and avoiding anger causing triggers can help," says Vina Sharma a parent

Parents must arrive at some understanding of the state of mind of the child. Anger could be the child's way of telling you something. But if the children harms themselves, do seek professional help as behavioral psychologists and therapists can help the child learn strategies to deal with aggression.

Remember to also acknowledge and reward good behaviour for effective motivation.

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