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Managing Aggressive Behavior In Children With Autism

Amber Valentino July 7, 2020

Aggressive behavior is something that parents or caregivers of children with autism may deal with on a regular basis. This type of behavior can be scary, frustrating, and emotionally draining for both the parent and child. Today, Trumpet Behavioral Health is discussing why children with autism may engage in aggressive behaviors and providing some tips parents and caregivers can use to manage this type of behavior.

Understanding Autism and Aggression

Many parents of children with autism want to control or stop their child’s aggressive behavior. However, the first step to reducing your child’s aggressive behavior is understanding its function, or the reason it occurs. No matter what form your child’s aggression takes, determining the underlying reason why your child is engaging in aggressive behavior is key. For example, if your child hits to escape demands, the method for reducing that behavior will be different than if your child hits to get your attention.

READ MORE: What is Functional Communication Training in ABA?

Behavior Management Strategies for Children with Autism

Avoid Reinforcing Aggressive Behavior

Once you understand why your child is engaging in aggressive behavior, be careful not to reinforce it. Consider a child who hits you to get candy. If you give your child candy to stop their aggression, you may be reinforcing the behavior and your child may learn that hitting is a successful way to get candy. To ensure you’re not reinforcing your child’s aggressive behavior, your therapy team will provide support and training on how best to prevent and react to aggressive behavior.

Prevent Aggressive Behavior Before It Occurs

Once you’ve identified why your child with autism engages in aggressive behavior and how you should react to it in the moment, try some preventative strategies. By delivering instructions a certain way, preparing for transitions, and preparing your child’s environment for success, you can avoid situations that may cause your child to become aggressive. For detailed explanations of preventative strategies, read our blog about preventing problem behavior before it occurs.

How to Handle Aggression in Children With Autism

Even if you avoid reinforcing aggressive behavior and use preventative strategies to reduce situations which cause aggression, you likely won’t be able to prevent every single instance. When your child behaves aggressively, follow these tips:

  • Stay calm. You may be frustrated, but becoming visibly angry can escalate your child’s behavior. Maintain a calm voice and a neutral facial expression.
  • Follow the plan. If your child engages in aggressive behavior often, your therapy team will have created a response plan. Consistency is key, so be sure to follow your child’s plan every time the aggression occurs.
  • Reward your child for moving on. Once the aggression is over, positively reinforce appropriate behavior. This can help motivate your child to engage in desired behaviors, rather than engage in aggressive behavior.

When your child with autism exhibits aggressive behavior, it can be scary and overwhelming. The Trumpet team is trained to identify causes of this behavior and help your child find safer ways to communicate. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your family, or find an ABA therapy location near you to schedule an assessment.

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