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Aggressive behaviour of autistic child's sib

(17 Posts)
howsitgonnacomeout Thu 04-Jul-13 10:25:31

I'm hoping some of you can help me get some perspective with an issue which I just don't want to blow up. I love the people involved but don't know how to handle the situation.

A close friend of mine's 5 year old DS1 has ASD. The whole family are exhausted and on edge the whole time. This child tends to become aggressive when everything gets too much for him- either when happy or anxious- ie most of the time. He's doing unexpectedly well at school, having been statemented & having a one to one TA..

There is a bit of history that her DS1 has been physically aggressive with my daughter (same class ar school) in the past- pulling her to the ground by her hair, covering her mouth when she speaks, she comes home with grab bruises on her arms etc. the teacher & I have been encouraging her to keep her distance from him at school (which has helped- and luckily she's mature enough to do this most of the time) even though she adores him. He is not aggressive to other children in the class, probably because they let him be.

Friends 3 year old DS2 is battered by their DS1 constantly. He is frightened of his brother, with good reason.

My issue is that friends' non ASD DS2 is becoming increasingly aggressive with my 18/12 DS. By her own admission it's only my DS that he is like this with. He is copying his brother, swiping, pushing, & verbalising 'I want to scratch/ hurt [him]

howsitgonnacomeout Thu 04-Jul-13 10:29:36

Posted too early...

All in all, any advice? Mum's doing the best she can but I just hear her tell her DS2 'that's not nice'.

Just hearing perspective of other parents who have been in my friends' situation would help.

I know my situation is comparatively a walk in the park but I'm finding it difficult to support her- and hold my tongue as I don't want to make things worse.

howsitgonnacomeout Thu 04-Jul-13 10:53:07

Just read my post. I just need to get a grip, don't I ?

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:12:13

smile You can't solve everything. It does sound like she needs to intervene more with 'gentle hands/ kind words' etc, or you do. Identify triggers and all that and ask her if there's anything she needs, that you can realistically help with.

We are zero tolerance on aggression, it has not been easy in the early years and we had to take a lot of it whilst finding the head-space to adopt strategies. Helping DS1 channel his feelings appropriately and protecting DS2 were our top priorities, whilst getting out of the way where we could.

It's all much better now DS1 is 7. If anything DS2 (NT) is ramping it up now, he's 4. So we'll go through the same approach with him and I expect with our help and guidance he will get better at controlling himself as he gets older too.

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:19:33

It is not a good dynamic though for the siblings and her DS2. We absolutely do not accept any physical aggression or rough play. I do all the throwing them about and wheelbarrows and pillow fighting and anything physical they need when they are getting hyper. They are not allowed to 'fight' eachother. I let them do a few minutes of wrestling with me awarding points for good evasive moves but it is never, ever about hurting someone.

ATM we have a problem with DS1 enjoying frightening DS2 by putting a blanket over his head. I am sure DS1 does find it 'exciting' as in he knows it's wrong and he is still working out the differences between being frightened and excited but our approach is no blankets allowed in play for now.

Generally they get on very well though, but it has not been easy. A year or two ago we were desperate, no strategies worked, we just kept them separated as much as possible, to protect DS2 from DS1's rages as much as anything. Even if they weren't directed at DS2 they were still frightening for DS2 to see.

DisAstrophe Thu 04-Jul-13 11:24:11

It is great that you support your friend but you have to protect your toddler.

I'm also zero tolerance on violence with both my kids - one of who has asd and learning delays. I can't completely stop the behaviour but I can minimise the harm by intervention.

Do you have the sort of relationship where you can tell each other's kids off. If so then the next time you tell him off if the mother won't. Nothing over the top just a firm voice.

If you can't do that then you can say "oh dear everyone is getting very tired time to go home" . And leave. Hopefully she'll realise that even if she has become used to fisticuffs other people have different expectations.

If that fails then perhaps you can support in other ways. Offer to babysit at night so she can go out. Or meet up without the kids or just chat over the phone. Her 3 year old will hopefully quite quickly grow out of bashing younger kids.

What would be really sad is if you did/said nothing but then got so pissed off with the situation that you stopped being friends or it blew up into a row. It can be very isolating having a child on the spectrum and we need all the friends we can get.

PolterGoose Thu 04-Jul-13 11:26:02

My ds (10 now) has been very aggressive, was mostly at school but now tends to be mostly at home and is less frequent since he learnt to swear hmm

The most effective intervention has been OT stuff addressing his sensory defensiveness and lots of talking, using puppets, rehearsing responses at home, as well as supervision and pro-active intervention, ie the adults around him recognising the signs that he might attack and removing him or encouraging him to use the skills we are teaching. We use the phrase "Use words" a lot, to encourage him to express his feelings verbally rather than physically, but of course verbal expression of feelings is very hard for children with ASDs so we work on feelings stuff too.

I am sure to others what we have been doing with ds would appear as quite wooly, wishy washy and as if we tolerate violence, of course we don't, I don't think anyone would, but the techniques that have worked have been very gentle and the work that has been effective has been all the stuff we do behind closed doors rather than what gets said and done at the time of the incident. The most valuable thing I've learned is that ds doesn't respond to punishment and that at that moment his reaction is impulsive and borne of fear and anxiety, he doesn't actually want to hurt people, it is strongly linked to the fight/flight/freeze instinct.

The most helpful thing I've read, and it was life changing for me to read it, is Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child", please do recommend it to your friend.

PolterGoose Thu 04-Jul-13 11:28:15

Hothead and DisAstrophe, what do you mean by 'zero tolerance'?

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:28:28

And we have been called into school many times about issues, it was a surprise when DS1 became aggressive briefly towards other DC but we knew it was possible because it happened with us a lot and sometimes with DS2. Again, it has calmed down with the right strategies, and medication is helping a bit too I think. It's not easy but you have to act where you can or keep visits short.

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:32:08

I mean I'd act Polter. I can understand and empathise, but 'that's not nice' from a distance is not enough when a kid is hitting another. You have to physically deal with it. IE go up to them, hold their hands (or get between them if holding hands would escalate) and say 'gentle hands', direct one away. Bunny hugs not bear hugs, all those techniques.

I would not accept DS1 hitting me, I absolutely hated it. I would go ballistic, not ideal, but I could not stand it. And like I said, we spent most of our weekends with one with one and one with the other. You have to act, as much as you can, we had the resources to do it but it's been very hard.

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:33:13

And pro-active intervention like you said. When I see them getting hyper/aggressive, we do wheelbarrows, that tires them out!

DisAstrophe Thu 04-Jul-13 11:33:23

Polter - if it works then you are on the right track!

I mean I always try to something about violence (even if I don't succeed! grin). That might mean distracting, sitting with ds or dd on the stairs. A reminder to use gentle hands. Or I might get cross and shout. I would never sit back and let my child repeatedly hit someone else's kid or their sib.

I totally agree with the OT stuff for a child with ASD and I expect it would probably work with the NT child who the OP is most worried about at the moment.

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 11:34:18

Agree punishment doesn't work, you have to divide and conquer and work on all the things you said but I don't think the OP can realistically do that.

PolterGoose Thu 04-Jul-13 12:21:20

I think it's the term 'zero tolerance' I have an issue with, just because I'm sure that any half decent parent won't tolerate violence, but it just reminds me of the drugs rhetoric and how zero tolerance meant harsher punishments, which is absolutely not the way to deal with the sort of violence often exhibited by children with ASDs etc (or the drugs problem!)

HotheadPaisan Thu 04-Jul-13 13:06:28

True. I did mean to add as well that we didn't go out for years, certainly hardly to friends and so on. DS1 couldn't cope and we didn't want to force him. We're getting there now.

BarbarianMum Thu 04-Jul-13 14:35:46

You have to protect your toddler. Either be right there to intervene, or avoid playdates for a while (if it is getting really bad).

<<Friends 3 year old DS2 is battered by their DS1 constantly. He is frightened of his brother, with good reason.>>

Can you talk to your friend about this, or does she talk to you. Cause this sounds really awful. That poor kid. sad

ds2 and ds3 grew up around sometimes physical kids with learning disabilities. I hovered over them and picked them up if anything happened when they other children were visiting. For NT 3 year olds time out.

Mine have never copied any of ds1's physical moment, although when they were younger they did used to sniff rather than read books. confused

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