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How to Handle Autism Anger in the Teenage Years

Posted in autism on November 4th, 2008

Teens with autism can sometimes be faced with behaviors – such as autism anger – which are beyond their control. Anger can occur in many forms but often takes the shape of violence or tantrums.

When it comes to handling uncontrolled anger, it is typically recommended that whenever possible, you should not look at the person, not talk to them, and not touch them (unless it is for your own or their safety).  Essentially, do not add to their overstimulation and refrain from doing anything that might add fire to the flames.  Many parents find that over time, angry outbursts are reduced when no one reacts to them.

Ignoring this kind of behavior will no doubt be hard at first.  After all, when your child was little, anger was easier to control because you could either physically stop him or her from throwing the tantrum or distract them with a toy or favorite object.  However, once your child has entered the teenage years, then he or she will be too big to deal with physically and bribery with a favorite object tends to be less effective.  So unless he or she is breaking things, hurting others or themselves, it’s best to stay out of the way and let the anger wear off.

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Autism anger in teens can be quite frightening. Behaviors can escalate to the point where others are at risk of being harmed.  In fact, tantrum behaviors can even be seen as criminal in some cases, should the loss of control result in destroying possessions or hurting others.

The following steps are often recommended for parents who have teens who occasionally suffer from autism related anger outbursts.  They should be used when and if applicable, and not necessarily in this order:

- Resist intervening – as was mentioned earlier, by remaining calm and out of the way the tantrum should fade much more quickly because it won’t have outside stimulation to spur it on.

- Ensure safety – make sure that you, your child, and anyone else in the area are safe. If your autistic teen is simply screaming, pounding their feet, and doing other similar activities, and if there is nobody else in the area, it’s usually best to simply leave the room or area and get yourself to a safe place.  That way, you’re not only protecting yourself from harm, but you’re removing yourself altogether.  Sometimes simply being alone is enough to have the teen calm down.

- Calming People - If there is an individual who you know can diffuse the situation or is usually able to calm your teen down, then you may wish to see if they’re available to help.  They may not have to do anything, but simply their presence may be enough to instill calm.  However, this technique only works if there is a calming person in your teen’s life.  This is not always the case.

- Call for Help – If the situation doesn’t appear to be improving or if behaviors have become violent or out of control, then getting some outside help - paramedics, or even the police - may be the only solution.  They will be able to support your efforts to have your teen calm down and help control any dangerous behaviors.

Autism anger can be an overwhelming experience for teenagers as they struggle with fluctuating hormones and fighting for their independence, but it can also be very upsetting for the parents.

It’s important that once you have the situation under control, you work through together the cause of the outburst in a calm and controlled way, without apportioning blame, so that should the scenario occur in the future steps can be taken to divert anger before the situation becomes heated.

Grab your free copy of Rachel Evans’ brand new Autism Newsletter - Overflowing with easy to implement strategies to help you avoid outbursts of autism anger and for information on coping with other autism behaviors please visit The Essential Guide To Autism.