“ Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you're doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. “– Quote by Joel Osteen.
Anger is a negative emotion we all carry with us, just the degree of expression varies from person to person. This negative emotion needs to be managed or curbed through positive steps such as counseling, meditation, and so on. Some people on the spectrum are known to get quite angry and exhibit violent behavior towards others and even indulge in self – harm. We have to realize that anger and emotional outbursts by people on the spectrum are due to underlying causes. They are not happy with these episodes of anger etc. Since communication is a major issue with many individuals, their inability to get the message across or process a new development / event / person may be the trigger. People with ASD are comfortable with routine, structure, and familiarity, anything new can provoke anxiety & stress leading to episodes of anger / violence or “meltdowns”.
Anger & aggression with respect to Autism happens on the spur of the moment. Such behaviors are not pre planned / meditated. It’s a reaction in the heat of the moment (or with the issue festering internally for some time). At times, violence & aggression is used by a child to get what they want from their family or caregivers.
Leading causes of anger and aggression include:
· Medical issues
· Lack of proper sleep / sleep disorders
· Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar or schizophrenia
· Overload of sensory stimuli
· Break from the familiar / the routine / the structure
Identifying the causes of aggressive behaviors is the primary step. Parents, teachers, therapists, and caregivers come together to minimize / eliminate these triggers. Therapy can
Anger and aggression by people with ASD can be manifested in the following ways:
· Breaking / damaging objects
· Self harm such as head banging or hair pulling
The impact of anger & aggression can be felt in the following ways:
· Reduction in the overall quality of life
· Enhanced stress levels
· Health issues such as blood pressure and stroke
· Physical injuries
· Reduced access to educational & social support
Treatment & preventive measures include:
· Seeking medical attention for underlying physical ailments / issues.
· Seeking professional counseling in case of emotional / mental health issues
· Behavioral therapy from an early age
· Remove stressors such as people / objects / situations
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most effective forms of therapy to reduce maladaptive behaviors such as anger & aggression over time. In brief, ABA uses positive reinforcement to mold a child’s behavior. The therapy imparts coping mechanisms for emotional regulation & means of communication that don’t result in anger, frustration, and aggression.