Parenting is a full-time job with its fair share of stressful situations, although the frequency of these situations increase tenfold if you are the parent of a special needs child.
Sadly, it is very common for ASD children to suffer from bouts of violent meltdowns if they become overwhelmed.
Often, this behavior is brushed aside as a temper tantrum when in reality it is actually an expression of the frustration these children feel because of their inability to communicate their feelings properly.
A meltdown in ASD children will normally appear in both physical symptoms like thrashing or hitting, and verbal symptoms like wailing or shrieking.
This can be very distressing to all family members and afflicted children involved.
This article may help to shed some light on the possible causes of such behavior and the kind of interventions that will prove fruitful.
What Might Be Causing Your Child’s Aggression
The primary reason for violent behaviors by ASD children towards others or themselves is not because the child has violent tendencies.
This is quite misleading and can lead to the child being unfairly punished or may face painful retaliation.
As a matter of fact, these children are trying to express something to the recipient through their outbursts.
In simple words, despite their best efforts, an ASD child may have extreme difficulty finding the right kind of words to make other people understand them.
Now, this inability to communicate is often paired with the following environmental factors that result in their display of aggression:
- Your child may be confused about the situation that is unfolding around him.
- Your child may be unable to express that he dislikes a particular activity, action, or person. Additionally, if he wants something and has trouble conveying the sentiment, he may resort to aggressive behavior.
- Your child may feel anxious or threatened.
- Your child is extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli such as overly bright lights or loud noises.
- Your child might want to get away from a certain circumstance that is causing him stress.
In addition to this, some physical factors could also be the culprit, such as:
- Poor sleep quality
- Picky eating
How Can You Accurately Diagnose the Real Reason?
Incessantly showing the same violent behavior can obviously be a cause for concern.
Even if you could somehow discern why he is reacting the way he is, it may still be difficult to accurately pinpoint the exact reason.
That is why it is important to make your child undergo a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) done by an experienced professional.
An FBA is conducted by a behaviorist who will observe your child, take notes on his behavioral patterns, and come up with an appropriate diagnosis.
Treatment Options To Curb Aggression
The general framework to permanently reduce instances of violence or self-injury in ASD children could be simplified into a four-step process: recognition, comprehension, management, and prevention.
As mentioned before, the identification process consists of parents reporting observed behaviors to a behaviorist while in the comprehension stage the behaviorist carries out FBA and provides a diagnosis.
For the management stage, the following interventions will help curb current patterns of aggressive behavior:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a procedure which involves the methodical application of mediation, derived from the principles of learning theory to significantly enhance the expression of socially important behaviors.
In simpler terms, the ASD child in question undergoes FBA to create a program binder that contains extensive details of his behavior and necessary diagnosis.
This file will also record the type of behavioral interventions used and their consequences.
Next, the behaviorist provides interventions appropriate with the diagnosis to change the current behavior to one that is clear to understand and more socially acceptable.
The comprehensive report created can also be referred back to the time during treatment and determine whether the approach used is proving to be useful or not.
Drugs can also be another helpful way to reduce the occurrence of self-injurious or violent behavior in ASD children.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the usage of risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) to treat symptoms of aggression in children with autism.
According to research studying the effectiveness of different treatment methods in ASD children, children treated with a combination of Risperdal and behavioral interventions by parents show greater improvement in behavior than those treated with t medication alone.
Prevent Development of Aggressive Tendencies
Finally, the prevention stage counteracts future occasions of violent displays.
Below are some practices that will soothe anxiety and reduce the appearance of physical factors that could result in a meltdown:
Provide CBD Oil to Calm Nerves
Suggesting the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to calm nerves might seem like a very controversial piece of advice for treating anxiety.
Unfortunately, many people easily confuse this oil with marijuana, believing that it may cause intoxication if ingested.
However, CBD oil is very different from marijuana because it contains less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive element responsible for the “high” feeling people get from marijuana.
CBD oil for autism could significantly reduce their instances of self-harming and aggressive behavior by soothing the high levels of stress that motivate these actions.
Introduce Dietary Changes to Fend Off Indigestion
Dietary changes involve the exclusion of certain categories of food from your child’s diet that he may not be able to process properly resulting in indigestion, constipation, allergies, etc. and could thus fuel anxiety.
This often includes the adoption of a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, Soy Free (GFCFSF) diet.
You may even have to remove allergenic foods as well as nitrates, MSG, preservatives, artificial coloring, and sweeteners, This might result in significantly improved physical and emotional health.
This is often the easiest and least risky method to counteract autism-related irritability.
Create a Favorable Environment to Discourage Anxiety
Ideally, surrounding your child with a relaxing and hospitable environment would prove conducive to good behavioral management.
You should work with your child’s teachers and therapists to figure out how to do so as well as get him to follow a proper schedule to increase his level of comfort in general.
In this way, he will know what and when to expect certain activities.
If every possible intervention to curb your child’s aggression seems to fail and you feel like you are at the end of your rope, then it might be time for you to step back and start looking at the bigger picture.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand where you should look and what appropriate measures you can take to solve this problem. Best of luck!