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Help! Agressive 2 1/2 yo...

614 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  thoesly
I am at a total loss. My little boy (2 1/2 and autistic) is SO MEAN to his baby sister (10 mo) He is getting along better than ever with his older sister who is 5. He can't even be in the same room with the baby without screaming at her and pinching, or kicking, or knocking her down. It is so sad to see and it just breaks her little heart. She tries so hard to communicate with him on his terms and he is just so mean.

Any moms with autistic kids have any experience with this?
Any ideas? How do I help them to have some sort of a relationship?


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I do not have a child with autism, but I was wondering if trying to figure out what bothered him about her might help. Is he confused by her lack of communication that he is used to (i.e. with the 5 yr old)? Is she noisy and it is effecting sensory issues for him? Is he sensitive to the amt. of attention she requires from you? Sometimes figuring that part out can give clues to how to intervene, ykwim?
if trying to figure out what bothered him about her might help
That's what I was thinking, too. If you could pin-point what it is that is bothering him, you could probably figure out a way to help them both "fix it". But that's probably the million $ question... what is the problem?
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Aggression is an occasional problem with my autistic 5-year old as well. When it first started at age 2 1/2, it was more than frustrating -- it was terrifying. I always said I would never consider an institution for him, and I stand by that, but I also have two other children to keep safe. Controlling him at age 2 was difficult enough -- the image of him exhibiting the same behavior at age 15 when he was bigger and stronger than me made me physically ill. We have a pretty good handle on the situation now, and here's what worked for us:

1) Keeping a functional behavioral analysis -- basically, a record of each incident with details like when/where/who, what happened, how long it lasted, what was going on right before, how it ended, etc. I have a form, if you're interested, but really, it just lists the things I said with spaces to keep track of incidents. This can be helpful to locate patterns and triggers and reinforcers. If you can find them, it may help, but not always -- in our latest round of aggression, my son was being reinforced by his sister's extreme reactions, and a 3-year old with special needs can't easily tone down her reactions.

2) Rigid scheduling. Most kids on the spectrum do well with routines, and the key for my son was scheduling every minute of his day so he didn't have "free time" to go off on an aggressive tangent. Picture schedules were crucial for this because they let him know what was happening and what was coming so he always knew where his mind should be. This is not easy -- it's extremely wearing on the whole family. Unsupervised time was unfocused time when he could go off. However, it wasn't permanent. After a few weeks, after the aggression habit was broken, we could experiment with allowing free time. It worked. Now, usually when we're having an aggression cycle, a few days of rigid scheduling breaks it.

3) Social stories. There are books about this (Carol Gray? is the author), but basically, they are very simple stories with simple pictures that demonstrate appropriate behavior. They work.

One thing to keep in mind: many kids on the spectrum have recurring "themes." That is, the behavior goes away, but it comes back again, maybe in a different form. Aggression is one of my son's themes. We know not to get rid of our picture schedules. We may not use them for months at a time, but we will inevitably need them again. This is why it's so important to establish an action plan to keep in the back of your mind, even after you have the current situation under control.

One other thing: you may necessarily have to restrain your son to protect your 10-month old. Be careful not to use more force than necessary. And don't use corporal punishment. Gentle Discipline philosophies aside, there are practical considerations for dealing with an autistic child. Most autistic children do not read social signs well. This means that they learn what they are taught, without consideration for appropriateness. So if you teach them hitting, they will hit. Period.

If I think of anything else, I'll post it. Feel free to ask questions, here or in PM.

All the best,

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I have to second everything that Tara said. I have seen the importance of picture schedules, social stories work really well - you can buy some but it's better to write your own, making sure to stick to the directions Carol Gray has written about the ratio of types of sentences, and make them very personal to your child, and same thing with corporal punishment. - carol gray's website - some great stories which you can use (replacing details to make it more personal to your family)

The most important thing when creating a behavior plan is to look at the ABC of it - the antecedent, behavior, and consequence. What is happening when the aggression occurs - look at all details, it may be subtle. Then look at exactly what is happening when he behavior occurs, from your son, daughter, and you. And then look at the consquences - what behavior do you do/say after he does it, how does your daughter responds. Keeping a detailed log of this over the next few times the behavior occcurs will enable you to look for patterns and see what you could change, MOST importantly during the antecedent, that will help prevent the behavior from occuring to begin with, and what you can do when it does occur to help make it easier for all of you and less likely to have it happen again.

Let us know a bit more - maybe post some of the ABC details and we can give you some more detailed suggestions.
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Thanks everyone! Ok, here are some ABCs...

A. This can be a hard one to figure out. It is obvious when she goes and gets in his space, she is going to get it! There are times she is just standing in the same room, not even close by, and he suddenly runs over screaming and freaking out. That is what I can't figure out. It also makes him very uncomfortable when she is crying.

B. Spencer screams, yells, kicks, hits, pinches, squeezes, pushes etc. Clara bears the brunt of it. I am not sure where he learned all this. We don't have tv and while I am still a GD work in progress, I obviously don't go around acting like this. Neither does dh.

C. Clara (his sister) screams and cries, I tell him, "Spencer, no!" "Be soft with baby clara." Then I comfort her. Then I comfort him. (holding and talking) Sometimes I take him and set him in his room until I can get Clara comforted. I don't think that is neccesarily the right thing to do.

He isn't verbal at all. We have been working with signs and are starting to have sucess. He is a very loving and affectionate boy. He just seems to have issues with the baby. He is obviously resentful of the time I spend with her. I think it is just normal sib stuff, but so much more intense in his situation. I know the screaming bothers him because of sensory issues.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far!
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I might have a little bit of input here. Since I know exactly what you are talking about. I feel your frustration Mommy! *hugz*

Adam is 3 yrs older than Harley. He loves his little sister very much, but he has times when his space is his space. Nothing is going to change that at this point. I know that from time to time he has a difficult time distiguishing that Harley is a person and not an object, so if she is in his way he will push her down or hit her or something. In those instances I pick up dd and comfort her, and then tell ds to be nice to dd. She is little and he could give her owwies. I say it every time. I am hoping that one of these years it will start to mean something to him. :/

If it is a personal space issue then if at all possible tell your dd that right now your ds wants to play by himself. And try to redirect her to doing something wither by herself or with you. Just a few suggestions. Hope they helped some.
I will reply more later but at this point, I'm thinking of creating a way for him to let you know when she's too close to him, or if she's crying the noise is too much. I use PECS with my student with HUGE success, so i would think about a picture symbol you could have on a small velcro in each room that would mean "I need some space" that he could give you when he felt that way so that you could move the baby to another room, or take him somwhere else, etc.

Obviously this wouldn't work right away. YOu'd have to begin by puttin up the PECS and then teaching him to give it to you when he *wasn't* upset so that he could easily learn that when he gives that particular picture to you, he gets some time alone. Then when an incident does occur, you can give him decreasing prompts to give it to you, followed by some time alone for him.

We have a sort-of-similar system for when my student has had enough and needs to do this activity we call relax to help prevent a tantrum. He can now give it to me before he has gone over the edge and it's much easier for all of us (parents, too.) I can also give him a choice of pecs including the relax one if I think that might be something he needs but isn't going to get it for himself.

The prevention is the most important part here - you need to find a way for your son to let you know when he's had too much before it reaches the violent stage. Whether there is an outer sign from him or not, he knows inside when he's had too much. Having some way to let you know would be very powerful for him and let him have a better way to communicate that need rather than resorting to the violence that most people use when they've "just had it!"
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I think you should consider two things and both of them are important. The first thing is that if your son has autism then he isn't being mean. Meanness is what kids do when they have their emotions all settled and they can talk and thiink about what would hurt and then do it. That's not what is happening to your son if he has autism. Your son is overwhelmed by some aspect of what is going on and can't deal with how it feels and can't express what he feels and that's different than being mean.
The other thing to consider is that he may need something meaning vitamins or a change of diet. Do you gf/cf? Do you give him b6 and magnesium? These have made a difference in my babes! If I were you I'd start looking at his diet and see if he is getting all the vitamins he needs. If he needs gfcf and you don't do it then he isn't getting what he needs even if you give him a lot of vitamins. Start there it will make a big difference.
Ok this is way different than what the others said {ITA with the others though}. My son Joe was SO violent at that age {when we first started the dx process} that I was afraid for my son Ben {an infant at the time}. When I finally got into the Psychiatrist she put him on Paxil and it worked overnight! We quickly figured out that anxiety from anything new during the day would send him into violence - His way of showing us he didn't like the change. Once we were able to help remove the anxiety he calmed WAY down.

I hope this helps. *hugs*
Thanks so much everyone!

We are jut getting ready to do a sort of PECS system. I hadn't considered cards for that sort of thing. That is a very good idea.

I know I need to be more sensitive, and that he is not being "mean" I know he just can't deal. You are totally right on that one!

I have looked into the B6 and Mag. What kind do you use? I need to order some online.

2ds1dd- I appreciate you post as well. Our OT said that it we went a medical route, Spencer would be on Clomid. I am sort of anti behviour mod drugs for him at this point, but I am glad it helped your family. It is so hard to know the right thing.

You have all given me things to try!

Thanks again!

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