Autism and Anger

People on the autism spectrum are much more likely to be overwhelmed by anger attacks as they experience huge amounts of stress in their daily lives. Those around them, their family and friends, are not able to comprehend this kind of behavior and are clueless as to what has brought on such an outburst. Yet, there are effective ways to deal with autism and anger the first step of which is to observe the causes that trigger such a volatile reaction.

For people with autism, their anger attacks are a channel to vent their frustrations and their stress from the struggles of life. However, for their parents and caregivers, it is a very unpleasant experience and leaves them bitter and hurt. These sentiments build up over a period of time and are capable of causing major rifts and clashes in the family which is already weakened by the strain of caring for an autistic person. The only solution to this is to observe and understand the cause and timing of such outbursts so that they can be anticipated and avoided.

Common causes of anger pertaining to autism spectrum disorders

  • Sensory overload, or being flooded with too many tasks or more stimulation than they can handle
  • Insensitive behavior of others
  • Disruption of routines and regular schedules or methods
  • Problems in employment or in relationships
  • Intolerance of imperfections in others
  • Unmanageable stress

Steps for caregivers to help control anger in persons with autism

Identifying triggers: It would be a good idea to keep a systematic track of the immediate cause of their anger as most of the times it is triggered by very minor reasons like following a different route on the way home or doing things in the different order than the person is used to or not serving his/her favorite food. Once the cause is identified, it would be that much easier to eliminate it thereby control the anger spells.

Fix predictable routines: Parents can reduce a great amount of stress for the autistic person just by strictly following a fixed daily schedule. In case of any unavoidable change in the offing, they must prepare their child in advance so that it does not come across as a sudden change.

Patience and understanding: Parents and caregivers of autistic persons need to have these virtues in ample measure to be able to deal with tricky situations in a calm, composed and rational manner. You should never forget that life must indeed be very difficult for persons with autism as they just do not perceive the world as we do and hence find themselves to be misfits everywhere they go.

Anger management techniques for persons with autism

Self Awareness: Autistic people should be taught to become more tuned to their thoughts and feelings and to notice the first signs of anger. This could be the first step in teaching them to control their outburst.

Maintaining an anger management record: It would be a good idea to encourage autistic people to keep a chart of the incidents that triggered the anger attacks. They could then be asked to rate the intensity of anger on a scale of ten and you could suggest strategies that would help prevent these episodes in the future.

Stop-think technique: This method can prove very useful in controlling bouts of anger and tantrum throwing. It involves training the autistic individual to notice the thoughts flowing in the mind and to catch the first wave of anger at the instant that it surfaces. The very next step should be to stop all further thoughts and actions. Finally, the unpleasant thought should be challenged and replaced by a positive and creative thought which should then be acted upon.

Quiet spaces: Assign some quiet spaces in the house where the person can retreat in times of extreme stress. That space should be filled with all the things that help soothe and comfort the autistic person and help dissipate the angry, violent mood.

Dealing with anger in Teens with autism

Anger episodes in autistic teens can be a frightening sight as they are physically strong and capable of extreme violence. Some suggested methods in dealing with their anger outbursts are mentioned below.

  • Refrain from intervening: The best approach would be to keep out of the way and reduce further stimulation. Being alone may be enough to calm down the teen
  • Ensure safety
  • Call for someone who the teen is attached to and generally obeys

Once the situation is under control, it is important to know how to work together calmly, without attributing any blame and taking every step to control and divert future anger attacks. These simple yet effective means would certainly prove to be a workable solution in dealing with autism and anger.

Discussion Started to “Autism and Anger”

  1. Helpless Mom says:

    My son just turned 11 and is high functioning autistic. recently his “melt downs” have become more frequent and way more viloent. It is as if he goes into this rage and is another person until he comes out of it. I am a single mom and also have a 6 year old son. I am very worried after some recent events and do not understand or know what to do to help him. Any suggestions would be greatly aprreciated.
    Hopeless Mom

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