View Full Version : violence and aggression in autistic children

28-07-2011, 08:58 PM
Hi, I had my day with the autistic 2 year old - it went fine apart from when we had to get out of the pool and he had a total melt down and wouldn't let me change him and I had to carry him out to the car in his trunks...to his credit he didn't bite me.

His parents had told me about how he lashes out and pinches and bites children when he doesn't get what he wants (if they have a toy he wants) In my work with autistic young people and adults this often seems to be an area they are incapable of controlling maybe due to their relative lack of empathy with how the other person is feeling.

I really want to carry on working with this little laddie and may decide to do a one to one only him a day a week in the school holidays. I think the parents have no idea how bad it'll get once he passes the cute baby stage unless this gets somehow cracked..... I asked about what they do when this happens and they said they say 'stop' firmly and ask him to say sorry to the person he's hurt which he'l do mechanically. I worry that already he is cutting down his chances of socialisation - he's not taken to the park as he fights over the slide. Other parents are going to be very upset if he bites their child and his 'sorry' is not exactly going to cut much ice.... I want to take him to a toddler group and back swimming again but I'm nervous. They don;t seem to have had a lot of advice so far altho he does go to a surestart nursery....

They are open to suggestions from me and I feel we all need to follow the same behaviour. As he is so young I feel we have a chance to affect this behaviour...but what to do?

I have worked with autistic people over 8 right up to in their 20s where this aggression and white hot flash point was so entrenched that their lives were very severely curtailed.

Any ideas what we should do? I hope I haven't offended any parents of autistic children by my generalisations - the comments were based on my experience as a teacher, support worker and scout leader of autistic people.



28-07-2011, 10:22 PM
To be honest I am not sure what you are hoping for?
Most autistic children who display such behaviour have no control over it and so cannot be taught to not act in such a way.

Other parents won't like it if he bites, but then decisions need to be made as to what are suitable social experiences and what are not. He cannot be made to conform to accepted behaviour as if he is autistic he may not have the ability to do so. He has to be accepted as he is- strategies put into to place to minimise the behaviours and causes of behaviour ( it won't be as simple as not getting what he wants).

I am not for 1 minute saying not to reinforce right & wrong but it needs to be realised that he has these needs, which means they need to be considered when going out etc and some experiences and situations will be vert difficult for him.

28-07-2011, 10:38 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. I think what I'm hoping for is that some parent will be able to suggest some strategies and approaches that might help this child. He is only 2 and they are very lucky to have so early a diagnosis. The fact that he didn't bite me in the close confines of a chaging room is maybe a tribute to what he has already learned. I think some learning is possible expecially in one so young. Of course careful planning will be necessary but as far as possible we dont want to stop taking him to places where there are other children in case he hurts them. Its not possible to always dive in and stop it even if you are hovering.
I'm stil getting the measure of this child and it may not be as bad as I'm making out. Next week I'm going with the mum and sibling to the pool and a playground to see how she deals with it. What I have found though, is that parents will sometimes play down the risk their child presents probably because its such a difficult thing to admit to and accept and work with.

Bitsy Beans
29-07-2011, 06:49 AM
It might be his tantrum is also related to his lack of communication abilities. I am not sure where you'll find them but I've heard about people using a visual scale with angry faces to point out their anger levels rather than kicking and biting but given the childs age I am not sure how effective this could be. Persistence I assume would be the key. I personally would work on his communication skills, is he verbal at all? Is he learning makaton?

29-07-2011, 08:09 AM
I have used this website before for feelings things.


Not sure if it'll be any good for you, but might be worth a look. x

29-07-2011, 08:12 AM
Or maybe the playing down is due to the fact they are still coming to terms to the fact their child is disabled and also possibly they are looking at some of his behaviours being due to ' usual terrible two's' type behaviour?

I think you are jumping into this to 'fix' this child & I think you need to slow down abit.

As a parent, teacher, foster carer and playworker of disabled ( including autistic) children... I have significant experience- but your post makes me feel a bit uncomfortable as you seem to want to tell the parents what to do, feel the parents aren't handling things right and do seem to think you can stop this child being autistic. Just because he didn't bite you on this occasion doesn't mean anything really.

A professional s&l therapist needs to assess the child- then an appropriate s&l programme needs to be put in place as frustration will add to behaviour. The s&l will prob choose a mixture of pecs and signing ( the type of signing varies area to area- some makaton, some SSL, some BSL etc etc).
The little one needs to have a referral to a specialist physchologist- either CAMHS or local disabled behavioural/physchology service.

They should have a paediatrician who can make these referrals. In your setting you could then follow the programmes set... In the meantime picture keyrings for choices, visual timetables etc will help. This will allow some communication.
Plus consistent, visual routines- no unexpected changes and noisey/ crowded places may be out of bounds as alot of autistic children cannot cope with loud or busy noises and crowds and 'busy' places confuse them and make them anxious - resulting in outbursts.

It is important to remember autistic outbursts are not 'naughtiness' and many times cannot be controlled. Often autistic outbursts have to 'peak' before the child can calm- by telling off, causing further anxiety etc it may prolong the outburst. Calming down time/ space & strategies to assist this and prevent outbursts in the first place ( getting to know triggers) are the most effective way of gaining some 'socialisation'. However autism is autism and no amount of interventions, behaviour strategies will stop a child being autistic and displaying autistic behaviours- especially if moderate/severe autism.
Alterations to 'usual life and routines' have to be made and accepted- that is The reality of life with a disabled child.

29-07-2011, 08:18 AM
An additional thought-- it will be worth advising mum to ask for a sensory assessment. Many people hear autism and assume surround with sensory item, however for some autistic children it actually leads to sensory overload- triggering more behaviours...so knowing the outcome of the assessment will indicate the sensory need

04-08-2011, 09:55 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. (just found this thread was carried on and didn't realise) Because the diagnosis is so recent there seems to be very little in the way of guidelines at all so far. I've had years of experience too with autism but not as young as 2. I'm very aware of course that I cant fix it but i want to help the parents move towards a process or a plan for helping him deal with his violent outbursts and they are grateful for any help as he is fast becoming too difficult for them and there is a 4 yo sibling suffering too ... so far I haven't really helped at all other than containing his aggressive behaviour, protecting other kids and finding a way of getting him away from the cause of upset when it happens with me. If experts are around to give advice they haven't so far There's no question of telling off of course.
I started this thread in the hope that someone may have had some success in calming aggressive behaviour in a 2-3 year autistic child and and have some strategies or tips to share...other than distraction or bribery which the mum uses (I'll buy you an ice lolly if you stop it.) In one year he will have lost a lot of his cuteness and life wil be a lot harder for him and his freedom will be a lot more curtailed...in the meantime there is a tiny window of opportunity maybe with his condition being recognised so early.
There is some makaton he knows and he responds a bit to pictures and posters of happy/angry etc

05-08-2011, 01:53 AM
It is really good that you have some experience (even though it isn't with 2 year olds!!) It's great that you want to help mum (and I hope she's grateful too).

With regards to the pictures/posters of happy and sad - I have found that they can lose their importance/signifcance over time - as when the child was happy about a certain thing they were shown/connected it to the poster, but when they are then happy about a different thing, the poster is not connected.

For example, if X was happy about having cake after dinner and connected it/was shown the happy poster - X started connecting the happiness of having cake with the happy poster. Then when X was 'happy' about going to the park, the happy poster could not be connected in X's head because the 'happy' feeling from the cake is slightly different to the happy feeling from the 'happy' feeling from the park. I hope that makes sense.

It works similiarly for the sad/angry. I think what we did that worked really well was take photos of X when he was just going through the gate of the park for example, and then write underneath 'happy feelings because we are going to the park'. We even took photos of him lay on the ground in the park screaming because it was time to go home and underneath this one we wrote 'angry because it is time to leave the park'. There ended up being quite a large number of photos, but over time we could almost predict how X would feel and would help him by producing the photo and talking calmly about it! For example, as we were about to leave the park we would show the lay on the ground photo and read out loud to him 'I am angry because it is time to leave the park' and would say things like 'I know that leaving the park makes you feel very angry, but we must go back to the house for lunch (or whatever) and we will come back to the park tomorrow (or Monday or whenever)'. It did get to the point where we'd HAVE to go the park tomorrow/Monday because we'd 'promised' him, but showing him these pictures and explaining it was ok to feel angry, but not really ok to lay on the ground and scream really seemed to help. I think it was difficult for X to describe how he felt (as he really didn't say much at all), but these pictures helped him to describe it and we could understand. When X became about 7 he was able to flick through the photos and tell us what he was feeling from the pictures!! It think we eventually went down to about 1 or 2 tantrums a week, rather than at least 1 or 2 per day (more like 5 or 6 in the beginning, I'm sure!!)

Oh, we had X from 4 and a half (ish) and he didn't get diagnosed until around about the time he came to us!

I hope something will work out for you (if it's photos or something else)!! Good luck! x

05-08-2011, 05:36 AM
Thanks that's really helpful; we've already started on photos and he's very responsive to those...and the expressions of others on photos too.

Did your 4 yo lo go for other children love381? How did you handle that?