Aggressive behaviour

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can behave aggressively towards themselves or other people. There are lots of strategies you can use to help prevent and manage your child’s self-injurious or aggressive behaviour.

According to koodakpress، Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) don’t necessarily express anger, fear, anxiety or frustration in the same way as other children.


They can sometimes express these feelings through aggressive behaviour towards other children. Sometimes they’re aggressive towards themselves, which is called self-injurious behaviour. They might hit, kick, throw objects or hurt themselves – for example, by head-banging.


Children with ASD might behave aggressively or hurt themselves because they:

  • have trouble understanding what’s happening around them – for example, what other people are saying or communicating non-verbally
  • can’t communicate their own wants and needs – for example, they can’t express that they don’t want to do an activity or that they want a particular object
  • are very anxious and tense
  • have sensory sensitivities, like an oversensitivity to noise or a need for stimulation
  • want to escape from stressful situations or activities.

Understanding aggressive behaviour in your child with autism spectrum disorder

Understanding what causes your child’s self-injurious and aggressive behaviour can help you to change or reduce the behaviour.


You can do this by looking at the aggressive behaviour as an ABC sandwich:

  • Antecedents: these are ‘triggers’ for the aggressive or self-injurious behaviour
  • Behaviour: this is the way your child responds to the trigger
  • Consequences or ‘rewards’: this is what your child gets out of behaving aggressively, like being allowed to go on with a favourite activity, or to leave a stressful situation.


You can work on your child’s aggressive behaviour by changing either the triggers or the rewards your child gets from behaving aggressively or self-injuring. Our article on managing challenging behaviour in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) explains how to do this.


Understanding how well your child can communicate is also a key step in finding out what’s causing the aggressive behaviour. When children can’t express feelings or ask for what they need, they might use aggressive behaviour to communicate.


It can be helpful to ask yourself, ‘Is she trying to tell me something?’. For example, if your child doesn’t like corn flakes but can’t tell you, she might hit you as a way of saying ‘Take it away, I don’t want it!’.

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