When you become a parent no-one gives you a book on how to do it, with all the answers to everything you’ll ever need to know.
You’ve managed through the first 10 years or so, and now you’re dealing with a teenager with autism. Good luck! Here’s a few things to help prepare you for the ‘wonder years.’
Hormonal changes can cause mood imbalance, aggressive behaviour, self-injury/harm, unreasonable behaviour and the lack of ability to calm themselves. They may become argumentative at the smallest issue, probably not unlike other teenagers really, however having the ability to calm down and regulate these outbursts is something that most autistic teens are lacking.
My advice is to call a ‘time out’ when these behaviours happen. Allow your teenager to retreat to their ‘safe place’ and for yourself and other family members to retreat to yours. Give your son or daughter time to calm themselves, and approach them when they have come down from their outburst. I’m not suggesting to tread on eggshells, but pick your battles and try to keep your calm in the event of an argument.
This is often easier said than done, and in the moment, when your angry teen is pushing your buttons, it is difficult not to react. Psychologists can provide you with every strategy under the sun, but if they’re not there in the moment they cannot truly understand the situation you’re faced with.
Your child may try to physically attack you, another family member, or pet. They can make threats and although they may be empty threats with no intent, you still have to treat them seriously. They may also threaten to kill themselves. In this instance take all sharp objects or anything of danger away from them.
If you or a family member feel threatened by violence at any time, or you think your child is at risk of self-harm, don’t hesitate to call 000. You can request Police or Ambulance, or both depending on the situation.
It is important that you think about safety first. Ambulance and Police officers are called to situations that relate to mental health on a regular basis and they are equipped to deal with the situation and will be able to make the call regarding the type of assistance your child requires at the time.
The good news is, they won’t be a teenager forever. For most families this will hopefully be a passing phase. In the meantime look after yourself and your own mental health and wellbeing, make sure you have supports around you to help you and to provide you with occasional respite. Once again, good luck.
If you have any other suggestions you’d like to make to help other parents with strategies to manage aggressive behaviour please leave them in the comments section below.