Hi, I'm sorry if this has been covered before, I am new on here and desperate. I have been trying to contact the helpline but it is so busy.
My son is 13 and was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was about 9. Most of the time he manages really well, he does very well at school and has a few friends, however he has always had a problem with house rules and acceptance of the fact that, as parents, we do have to say what needs to be done and when, and that there will be sanctions for bad behaviour. Now we are entering the teenage years he is becoming more aggressive, threatening and violent and to be honest it is tearing our family apart. The only things he cares about are his iPad and xBox. All he talks about is computer games. We have set screen time limits and parental controls to protect both our children, and whilst we understand that our son needs his screen time to calm down, he cannot do this every waking moment. When our son is violent, refuses to cooperate and makes life unpleasant for everyone he needs some sanctions to learn that this is not acceptable behaviour. The only sanction that means anything to him is reduction of screen time or bans from use of the Wi-Fi. We have discussed other sanctions and asked our son to suggest something else, but he refuses and states that any sanction is unreasonable. He wants complete control and says that no-one has the right to control him or tell him what to do. All we get back from him is the sanctions thrown back at us, with him saying he will confiscate our devices, or trash them and any bans he has apply to us too. He has threatened extreme violence and says that he will get worse and worse until we back down and remove the screen limits and see his point of view that we are causing the arguments so if we want a quiet life we have to do what he says. Obviously we can't have a 13 year old set the rules like this and control everyone but I just don't know where to go. His ASC makes him inflexible and he cannot see the effect it is having on us and our 11 year old daughter, who is terrified of his behaviour.
We have written down the screen limits, 1.5 hours a day on the xbox along with a bulletpoint explanation of why we set screen time and monitor internet access. We have written down that good behaviour will be rewarded with more screen time and bad behaviour will invoke sanctions of screen time reduction. We have specified what is meant by good behaviour (positive attitude, completion of homework and household tasks as expected and being cooperative, friendly and helpful) and bad behaviour (negative attitude, refusal to do tasks, violent, aggressive, threatening behaviour). The list is ripped up, refused and thrown back at us with more threats. He stormed to school today threatening and cursing me. He is very eloquent and his abuse is relentless. It is causing a lot of stress to us all.
Has anyone else experienced this and found a solution that works for their family? Many thanks.
Hm. It's very difficult, and it sounds like you are really making the effort with things like 'signposting' of limits. At work, we use things like PECS and social stories to handle these things. We stick to routines, depending on the person. Even then, though, it doesn't always work. If someone has decided that day that they don't want to do something, then coercion will only aggravate the situation. Maybe your son feels like he can get away with things more at home, and will challenge authority - something he otherwise wouldn't dare to do at school. I don't know. One of our other people at the day centre is reasonably fine when there, but at home will throw things at his parents and smash things. They're also at their wits' end, and we're doing what we can to work with it. Your son, too, is at the age that is often difficult with NT children, let alone having to cope with autism as well. It's a lot for his brain to deal with.
I would seriously challenge the matter of being told that you don't qualify, because clearly some other input is needed. A behavioural or occupational therapist, for instance. I would keep pushing on that front.
Thinking back to how I was at that age... school was the big problem. I sometimes wonder how I got through it. I couldn't focus on lessons. I couldn't get on with my peers. My reports said things like 'Bright, but lacks application', 'shy', 'unfocused', etc. It wasn't expected that I would amount to much. I was bottom of my year at 14, and eventually left with no qualifications. My parents, bless them, put up with a lot at home. But my condition wasn't known about, and they didn't really know what to do. They worried that I didn't want to make friends, and got me to go to a youth club - but I hated it. I just wanted to be on my own, in my room, doing my own thing. I had an older NT brother, but we didn't get on at all and I know he was glad when he could eventually leave home. I behaved abominably towards him, too. At the time, it was put down to 'delinquency'. Much later, in my late 20s, I studied hard - at my own pace - and got into university. There, I found an educational environment more in tune with my needs.
Hopefully, some others can provide some useful insights here.
Check out this link, too, which might help...
Different behaviour at school and at home
Thanks Tom, I'm sorry you had such a struggle as a child and glad you eventually found your place.
I know that I also have elements and wasn't easy as a child so I can see the traits and where my son is similar. Thanks for the link, it's interesting. I have read that in Tony Attwood's book also.
I've just picked up my son after orchestra and he was in a really good mood, I think the interlude of playing his trumpet after school and coming home really helps, which is one reason why we encourage the music. I have also had a discussion online with other parents in his year group and can let him have the evidence if needed that he isn't alone in having screen limits! Although he is much calmer about the situation this evening, I know it will fire up again at some point.
Following your advice I have discussed with him why he was so angry over it all the last few days and established that, as I suspected, he was anxious about the transition of going back to school after the holidays. I am trying to get him to label this feeling and tell us about it rather than transferring the anxiety into anger and pushing the blame elsewhere, I know this is difficult for him to do but small steps and I've said if we can understand it we can be more understanding of him.
I've also rewarded his good behaviour: maximum positive behaviour points in all his lessons today, passed his trumpet exam with merit and especially, coming out of school with a smile on his face and polite conversation. He has his full screen time. We discussed the fact that you thought removing the screen time as a punishment was something he would find difficult and I offered him the choice of starting with a little less and being able to gain more on daily basis but never losing it but he says (at the moment) that he prefers it the way it is and he will try hard to stay calm.
It is always day by day, but this is a good result for today and I feel a lot happier having made contact on here. Thank you so much for your advice today and the links. I hope in time I will be able to help others too.
All the best,
Hi MJ. What sort of things is he doing that you need to 'sanction' him for?
That's great to hear. Really positive.
MJ said:It is always day by day,
Yes, this is true. And the transition anxiety is understandable. I know at our day centre, if we have long holidays (like Christmas) or the clients go away on holiday, the first few days afterwards can often be difficult as they re-adjust to routines again. Some can initially be very reluctant to come back. And then, once they're settled, they can often be reluctant to go home again!
This whole thread is fascinating for me. Thank you MJ and Tom for sharing. I have a 14 year old newly diagnosed Aspergers daughter and completely get the sanctions concerns. We also have been advised about positives only, no sanctions. I am finding that it is hard to adapt my behaviour to deliver that consistently, but working on it (esp difficult where daughter does not have anything that she is really passionate about - if she doesn't want to put her dirty underwear in the laundry or do her teeth or homework, no amount of screen time etc will persuade her.)
Can I ask a follow up?
She is over-eating for comfort and has taken money from us to facilitate that. I understand about the importance of the comfort to her - we have conversations about nutrition and there is a snack box just for her at home with a sensible ration of healthy and unhealthy snacks in it (which I never allow to empty). She knows it is wrong to take the money. I really want to apply sanctions to ensure this behaviour of taking money never happens outside the home. But I know that this won't help. What can I do and how to explain to my NT 11 year old?