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Autism and violence.

(9 Posts)
Busybee101 Sat 26-Nov-16 11:28:47

My 13 year old DS has just been diagnosed with autism. He has suddenly become very aggressive and violent. We are eating to see CAMHS again as he was not violent when he was diagnosed. He just keeps hitting us. We try and not speak too much to him and to move away but he just throws things and hits us.
School have no concerns as he is very well behaved there. I just don't know what to do.

Camhs has said they will do telephone support once a week until appointment

knittingwithnettles Sat 26-Nov-16 11:54:20

okay, I am not a health professional, but if he is well behaved at school that is a bit of red flag for holding things in all day and then letting all his e motions of frustration, anxiety out when he comes home.

Presumably there has been a fair amount of concern for him to be diagnosed in the first place! What are school doing to help him despite having "no concerns" - is there anything in place to support him there - social skills group, nurture group safe space, reduced homework timetable, special interest activities (ie my son does Chess club)? If they just think he is fine presumably they are not doing much.

I would never assume that you are the cause of his violent behaviour, but something is building up inside him and you have to find out what it is.

I know people whose children were being bullied at school or found environment overwhelming but didn't let on that this was happening, but just lashed out at their parents when they got home. They might say they liked school because it is the only thing they know, and it is familiar - how can they imagine a different set up or a environment more suited to their needs. One of the problems with having poor social communication skills is communicating emotions in words rather than actions or in some cases children will swear to let the emotion out.

The most obvious solution to the violence is to reduce demands. Don't ask him how his day was. Don't ask him to do anything. Let him watch a screen when he gets home if necessary. Bring him food and drink and leave him to eat in peace before attempting to talk. Possibly let him tick boxes if you want him to answer yes or no or scaled questions - ie how was school today on 1-10 scale 1 being bad or 10 being good.

There is a lot of pressure when you are investigated for diagnosis a lot of people prodding and poking you and asking you questions. I'm not surprised this is making him feel angry and upset. It might be worth talking him through what the diagnosis means..not that he has done something wrong but that you have a bit more understanding of how his life feels, not in a patronising way of course.

Busybee101 Sat 26-Nov-16 12:08:47

Thank you very much for your reply. It's very helpful.
He was ststemented in primary school for a language disorder.
School are being very helpful. Trying to reduce pressure on him there. Doing lots of 121 with him. They said in yr8 that he should be referred for ASD assessment. We filled in some forms , saw a clinical psychologist for an hour and he said yes he has autism. Goodbye.

He has never been violent. Has always been cooperative and helpful. This all started in the summer holidays. Got better by the end. Saw Camhs who said ASD in September and things calmed down a bit. Wevtried to discuss it with him but he didn't want to listen

Last three weeks he had been violent practically every night. It's getting worse. rang Camhs back and they said they would do a weekly phone call until they can get him an appointment. The different peoele I speak to seem to contradict each other. One says keep him calm and don't put pressure on. Another says he has too much control and need firmer boundaries.

He's always struggled with people helping him. He sees it as unfair. He doesn't seem to have any concept of the magnitude of what he is doing and never says sorry.

I agree that he finds school hard and takes it out on me st home. I am just really worried that we won't be able to break this cycle of violence.

I am struggling as it has come so out of the blue.

knittingwithnettles Sat 26-Nov-16 12:34:35

I think violence does become an "addictive" for want of a better word, way of releasing stress and anger and getting attention.

Keeping calm and reducing pressure CAN go hand in hand with boundaries if the boundaries aren't reactive. ie if you tell someone that certain behaviour is unacceptable that is a reactive boundary, whereas if you create a timetable which is very simple and structured or give a very simple task or chore at the same time every day that might make him feel safe.

13 year olds are very difficult at the best of times whether they have ASD or not, they tend to have loud outbursts and impulsive behaviours, added to which they are hyper sensitive about perceived insults or restrictions. Even a NT teen will appear to have absolutely nil empathy with their parents's feelings at times. However that is not to say that very violent behaviour is something you have to put up with or accept = I feel that you have to redouble your efforts to find what is setting him off, why certain tiny things might trigger him and what is the context.

These things have helped ds2 (and my NT dd) Knowing I am on their side, this is what I try and reinforce when they are in a good mood. Joking and laughing with them when they are in a good mood. Sharing things when they are in a good mood ie watch favourite telly progs with them, chat about somethign that interests them however dull.

Exercise. Ds2 runs 5k race every Sat. He walks a lot. He is not naturally sporty so this has to be worked on. Lots of medals, reinforcers ( he likes tubes and cafes as end goal, hates country walks) Dd does a dance class on Sats.

One chore that is his. Ds empties recycling. Work with OT has also helped clarify some issues with ds about goals ie getting ready himself, ownership of some simple life skills. I laid out his clothes and zip card(travel card) for a long time though, it is worth reducing stress for sake of getting other independence stuff off the ground (ie getting out of house, getting to school calmly, activites etc)

Things that restore and relax to reduce anxiety. Cats in our house, familiar fun things (Red Dwarf, football on telly, a few friends, even one will do, to come round and do familiar activity (friend is something that needs a lot of work but makes such a big difference to help them make one and encourage them to come round - so important when you are 13 to have a peer you can relate to)

I noticed that now when ds2 is angry he tends to focus on something less serious, ie he shouts rather than hits or he complains rather than seeking to do something vindictive. It is as if he has found other ways to express his emotions - still not good of course, but much better than violence or revenge. He has also started to notice when other people get angry and emotional and suggests they calm down or find other solutions, he is seeing anxiety for what it is and how to help deal with it. He is nearly 15 now. His worst anger was about 11/12 and in his case it was about social isolation and homework.

tartanterror Sat 26-Nov-16 19:50:53

I don't have much personal experience of this but know people who's ASD son has been violent to them for quite a few years now. He normally hits his mum but has threatened his siblings. They have worked out a system of demand lowering and keeping things calm, but he has a very short fuse. They are walking on eggshells and had got to a point where they were happy about the accommodations were working for them. The trouble is that noone else in the world will make those accommodations in future so how will he be able to function? Will he think it's OK to hit and if he is HFA move on to hit his life partner? It's horribly tricky but somehow we have to help them for the future as much as now - if it weren't difficult enough.

He's possibly too old for social stories but could you maybe get hold of a magazine article or leaflet about domestic violence or violence of adolescents againts parents and leave it where he will find it?

I would also agree with above that the hitting is likely to be a sign that he is under stress and that things are not going well at school. I'd ask the SENCO to do observations at unstructured times. Could the SENCO have a weekly chat with him to try to keep up with what is happening? I know of one secondary where the SENCO gets certain kids to come and "help" with filing once a week as way of keeping tabs on them and giving them a break from playground antics.

Our DS isn't a teenager but last year he went through a bad patch at school, and we also weren't dealing with him well at home (too much discipline/demands) and he began hitting me out of frustration. Not every day but more regularly than I was happy with. I started highlighting that whatever he wanted from me he was unlikely to get it by hitting. I tried to avoid punishing and would ask if he needed a cuddle instead. It worked well for us but he is only 7.

We started giving quality one-to-one time daily and that really was the thing that helped the most. We maybe have a chat about a book or game and sometimes he will come out with things that are bothering him. It means I can provide support/advice/reassurance or get something sorted for him at school of with friends' mums. Not sure how that works with a teenager, but there might be a way of adapting it. Good luck

OneInEight Sun 27-Nov-16 11:39:01

I have two sons with AS who can be aggressive at times so you have my sympathies.

Some thoughts:

Is it a reaction to his diagnosis. Can you improve acceptance by explaining it in terms of a difference rather than something wrong. There are some positive role models out of there of people with an ASC who have done well in life despite or even better because of their ASC.

Puberty. ds1's class at school (a specialist school) has got more challenging this year and I suspect teenage hormones are playing a role.

Peer issues. A common cause of ds1's problems is falling out with a peer which even with the high staff: pupil ratio at his school can get missed so I imagine is even more likely to be missed in mainstream.

Do you give time to destress after school? For ds1 we hand over a cup of tea and then he treats to his room for an hour or so before he is ready to tell us about his day. We have also had to communicate a lot again with school lately to sort out problems because he finds it difficult to tell them what is upsetting him.

For ds2 slightly different as he is home educated and aggression is often more a result of depression. So for him its keeping him occupied and trying to encourage him there is hope for the future. Both of mine find it frightening to look at their future because of worries how their difficulties will affect employment etc and need lots of reassurance on this point.

Mine also need reassurance that even if you don't like the aggression you still love and like them as a lot.

Controversially we don't impose a lot of sanctions as we have found for our family this can escalate things considerably. We do make it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable and there may be natural consequences e.g. we have not repaired ds1's wallpaper where he pulled it off in a meltdown. I think you have to find out what works for your son and your family.

Busybee101 Tue 29-Nov-16 11:52:21

Thank you all for your thoughts. It's a lot to go through.
School are being really good. The Sen team have a drop in session before school and the kids can go and mention what is worrying them about the day ahead. DS is apparently going there each morning and telling them what he had been doing to me. They have been feeding back to me as well so I feel we are very lucky there.

School he finds difficult. Not really got any friends and is suddenly aware of it. Struggles with academic side too.

I have pushed and am getting appt with Camhs to do another assessment on him at the end of the week.

We have looked and it is incredibly minor things that have set off the rage.

I too fear that walking on eggshells is not good for his long term future.

It's always a bit of a debate about telling him things that are going to happen so that he has got time to get used to it (but he just gets stressed) or springing it on him at the last minute and he gets cross.

I'm sorry many of you have had similar experiences.

knittingwithnettles Tue 29-Nov-16 21:04:15

okay, "struggles with the academic side". The work he gets should be differentiated. Ds2 used to struggle with the academic side, but now all the homework he gets and classwork too are things he can actually Do by himself. He used to have screaming rage about homework in the old school, and now he is calm as a cucumber re: school work (touch wood) Ds has dropped Modern Languages completely although this is meant to be something you cannot drop in mainstream. Ds2 is of average IQ, but he is still in lowest set for English, and enjoys it there because he is not stressed by it, and can contribute his ideas.

Talking things through in advance is always worth it. For example ds hates travelling by plane, and will go on for hours worrying about a flight which is approaching, and demanding we go by ferry or such like. However, these scenarios are getting less and less common, possibly because he is now used to talking them through. He will often preface things with the phrase, Mum I'm Worried and you know you are in for a rant, but now he is getting more confident there CAN be a solution. I think talking things through is a habit a child has to get into, at first it is a further source of stress and anger but then slowly they get into the pattern of "preparing" rather than obsessing. Obsessing about what you don't know is much worse.

Busybee101 Wed 30-Nov-16 13:33:07

In y7 and y8 he was in small class for all wordy subjects and got extra English lessons instead of French. He is probably academically at the bottom of the whole year group.

You're right. I need to grit my teeth and tell him more stuff in advance. Thank you.

One thing I am worried about is that he has younger siblings. I was talking to a good friend about the upcoming Camhs assessment and she warned me not to mention that he had been aggressive to me as that would automatically trigger a social services assessment for them in case they are at risk. ? Does anyone have experience of this??

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