Maybe you’ve experienced this: you finally braved bringing your child on the autism spectrum to a restaurant. The lights, the sounds, all of it you’ve diligently prepared for…and yet, before long, your child becomes aggressive and the focus of the rest of the patrons.
Or this: your child is starting to befriend others in school. Yet, when they have something your child wants to play with, they tend to act aggressively as they lack some key communication and social skills.
Once the aggression begins, it can be incredibly difficult to control. This is why so many families of children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) isolate themselves, afraid to experience a similar situation in a world of potential misunderstanding.
However, both you and your child deserve to feel comfortable in any situation. As you become more familiar with their personality, triggers, and behaviors, you will know exactly what to do when your child with autism becomes aggressive.
Remain as Calm as Possible
As difficult as it is, your goal is to remain as calm as possible. Take a moment, even walk into another room for a minute, and try to model the emotional state you want from your child. Matching their current level of emotion will only trigger more upset for them and potentially worsen the behavior.
Remaining calm also allows you to perform the most important task in that moment: keeping everyone safe. You will want to remove any objects in the area that may become dangerous and remove other people for their own safety and for your child’s safety.
Document Your Child's Behaviors
After your child has calmed down, write down everything you remember from that specific situation. Keep these notes in the same location, whether it be a Google Doc or notebook. As you write, ask yourself these questions:
- What behaviors did you see during the incident?
- What were some things that happened prior to the incident?
- Did you notice any shift in mood or behaviors prior to the aggression?
When an incident occurs at school, be prepared to ask these questions as well to get a detailed account. After a little while, you will likely see some trends develop throughout your notes.
Identify the Behavior's Triggers
Understanding what surrounds the behavior will help to mitigate it. Once you learn the triggers, you will be able to prevent them to the best of your ability.
We do this all the time as parents. We work to prevent evening tantrums by ensuring our toddlers take an afternoon nap. We tell our child exactly what to expect at a doctor’s appointment to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.
Some children with autism experience sensory triggers, such as loud noises or overpowering smells, that could result in aggression. Noise-canceling headphones can be a simple solution.
Some children become overwhelmed easily with changes in routine. Knowing this, when you know the routine will shift on a day, you can prepare them with a visual calendar ahead of time.
Seek Professional Guidance
Along with your own strategies, you and your child will still benefit from professional guidance who has training in reducing aggressive behaviors.
In our ABA therapy at Springtide, our BCBA’s and RBT’s will work with your child to determine the function of the behavior. A BCBA is able to administer an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) to determine this. The four possible functions are escape or avoiding something, attention-seeking, access to something they desire, or a sensory need.
Once the function is identified, the BCBA will put together a Behavior Support Plan specific to your child’s needs in order to reach agreed upon goals.
Our expert team of ABA therapists will work with you and your child to reduce the aggressive behaviors while focusing on building up skills necessary to succeed in the future. Reach out to request a call with one of our team members.