Sunday 12 February 2012

Nipping Aggression in the Bud

Nathan has had a rough week at school this week.  He’s been very upset and agitated.  On Wednesday, he got upset and began to hit another child.  The teacher pulled me aside at the end of the day to explain the situation.

When I first had children, I worried they might be bullied.  I was bullied quite harshly as a child, so I know how devastating it can be.  However, both of them are far more comfortable with standing up for themselves and bringing the fight to others than I was.  In short, although I don’t think they are malicious or intending to hurt, they act as the bullies.

It gives me a sick feeling deep in my gut, like a sour, hollow void.  It’s one of the few things which makes me feel like an absolute failure as a parent.  We’ve worked very hard with Alex to reduce his aggression to others, but we haven’t been able to eliminate it.  There is something underlying we’re missing. 

Nathan is a different story.  He has the social skills and understanding to be taught that hitting hurts other people.  It’s not a question of manipulating the environment to avoid triggers.  He can be taught how to moderate his impulses.  (Alex might get there, but right now, it would be too much to ask.) 

The school sent home a simple social story:

Sometimes I get angry or sad but:
At school, I don’t hit.
At school, I don’t kick.

Simple and direct but I added a line to it:

At school, I ask the teacher for help.

That’s what we’ve been trying to teach Nathan to do.  When he’s angry, go to his teacher and ask her what to do.  She can help him to figure out what’s appropriate.  It’s important to tell children what to do instead of just what not to do.  It’s been shown to be effective in training kids about stranger danger.  Children who were given instructions about what to do in a given situation (ie, come and find mommy before leaving with any other adult) did better than those simply told to not go with a stranger.  It’s the same with children with autism.  They need a script to play out.

We’ll see if our tactics are effective.

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