Autistic children already have enough problems interacting with other people without adding aggression to the mix.
Unfortunately, that’s a common problem for kids with autism spectrum disorders. They might lash out at the parent, their siblings, the teacher or other kids at school.
This worsens their social problems, preventing them from interacting properly with other people and affecting learning.
Fortunately, it’s a solvable challenge. You just need to figure out why they are hitting and how to prevent it in the future. Read on to learn more on how to stop autistic child from hitting.
Reasons for lashing out
Here are several possible reasons why an autistic child might react aggressively.
1. It’s a tantrum
If your child acts out after you or someone else has denied them something, then they are just having a temper tantrum.
It could be because they have been denied a treat, their favourite toy or TV time.
In addition to hitting, a temper tantrum is usually accompanied by other behaviour like screaming, kicking and crying. In extreme cases, a child might even hurt themselves.
You deal with it the way you would with any other child – you ignore the behaviour.
When kids throw a tantrum, they are seeking attention and trying to get their way. The tantrum gets worse if you feed that attention. They’ll know it’s working. So they keep acting out to get you to give in.
If you are at home, just ignore them until they calm down. Then explain why they cannot have something.
Do not wait for them to calm down then give in anyway. It’ll only teach them to keep lashing out whenever they don’t get what they want.
If you are in a public place, try to take them to a quiet place or holding their hand until they calm down.
In the meantime, do not scold or react angrily. It will only encourage them to continue with the behaviour.
You can also try distracting them with another form of stimulation like a toy or a snack.
2. Sensory overload
This usually happens when a child is in a noisy and crowded place playing with other kids or interacting with family members.
The environment will suddenly become too much and feel overwhelming.
Most autistic kids experiencing a meltdown because of a sensory overload don’t hit other people.
But each child reacts differently. While others might start whimpering or screaming, some children can lash out at other people around them.
The best way to deal with a sensory overload is to take the child away from that environment. Look for a quiet corner where they can calm down.
Squeezing their hand or shoulder can help them calm down faster. Some parents also use a weighted blanket, which is handy in places like an air plane or train.
3. Social deficiency
Your child may also be hitting other people because they simply do not know how to communicate and express their emotions.
Autism is primarily a social and communication disorder.
So it’s par for the course for them to sometimes lash out when interacting with other people. This is one of the challenges a therapist will help your child overcome.
As a parent, you should also make efforts at home to teach your child how to communicate properly. This is where toys and role-playing games are helpful.
Act out different social situations at home such as asking a friend for something, expressing displeasure or dealing with someone who accidentally hurts them.
Toys that involve interactive play between the child and the parent can also help.
Most of these toys such as board games help autistic kids learn how to talk about their feelings and learn how to react properly in different kinds of situations.
Something else to keep in mind: If you have other kids, closely observe how the autistic child is interacting with them.
They may be responding in a similar aggressive manner when the child lashes out. This worsens the problem.
Since it is hard to ask young kids not to get upset, just ask them to move away and not hit back.
Praise good behaviour
It’s a lot of hard work to teach your kid to stop hitting. It’s a struggle for them not to react reflexively to unpleasant situations.
So whenever they manage not to react aggressively, remember to praise them. This encourages good behaviour.