Many children with autism display what appear to be aggressive behaviors, mostly when they are having some time of “meltdown”. This can be very disturbing to parents and other caregivers. Some parents have experienced having their child labeled as an “aggressive child”.
While it is true that children with autism can look aggressive and have aggressive actions when they are dysregulated, it is not the same as a child with an aggression tendency or aggression related disorder. Children with autism may yell, throw things, hit others and seem somewhat “out of control” when they are dysregulated and experiencing a meltdown. These aggressive behaviors are actually dysregulation manifesting itself. There is an overload and the child is having great difficulty regulating their thoughts and emotions and thus those thoughts and emotions turn into negative behaviors.
It is important for parents and those who work with children with autism to understand the child is not intentionally trying to be aggressive but experiencing being dysregulated (likely a very frightening and overwhelming feeling for the child) and that the dysregulation is manifesting the negative behaviors. The next time someone tries to label your child with autism as aggressive, take a moment to explain dysregulation to them. The more awareness the better!
Dr. Robert Jason Grant is a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Board Certified Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, and a Certified Autism Specialist. www.robertjasongrant.com