How To Deal With Aggressive Behavior

Last week, I was watching a YouTube video of a live show titled Autism Live. Each week, the host features Dr. Doreen Grandpeeshah, an expert in the field of autism. Each week, I try and write a question in the chat feature hoping they will discuss my question while on the air. I have been successful two times. Getting the doctor’s perspective on my grand-nephew, Jaxon, autism is helpful. On this particular day, I asked about aggressive behavior.

The topic for the show centered around aggressive behavior which is something we are dealing with in our house. I was very interested to hear what she had to say and if she could recommend anything in addition to what we are already doing.

Dr. Doreen defines aggression as this, “Your child has learned that aggression is a functional form of communicating whatever it is he wants. Our kids learn that if they aggress, people will try and figure out what they want. Now what they want is usually they are trying to communicate, ‘I don’t want to do this. Leave me alone or else I am going to hit. Or they communicate something like, ‘I want to go outside and no one is letting me go. I am going to hit.’ Or, ‘I want an object, or I want your attention.’ It could be a variety of things. For the child, it has become a form of communication. None of these are a symptom of autism.”

What we need to teach our kids is aggression doesn’t work. Communication and language do work.”

Admittedly, when I first heard this, I thought about Jaxon. I thought his aggressive behavior was a symptom of autism. According to the doctor and the BCBA we use for Jaxon, aggressive behavior is not a symptom of autism.

Jaxon struggles to communicate. He just started saying more words in the last month thanks to cleaning up his gut health. For more details on clearing out his yeast belly, see the links below. We made major changes to his food and we are reaping the benefits of those changes. They are big in our house and I have shared our story because it’s been life-changing for Jaxon.

The one area we haven’t seen much of a change in as a result of his new food regimen is Jaxon’s aggressive behavior. It’s hard. The other day, I said something he didn’t like and he walked up behind me and hit me as hard as he could in the back with his car. Needless to say, it hurt and I wasn’t happy, but I calmly walked away. He continued to come after me, swatting at my back, and I did as I have been instructed to do – I got out of his path. Eventually, he stopped, looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face, and placed his little hands over his eyes for about a minute, and started tearing up. When he was calm, I re-engaged. I knelt down, got eye to eye with him, and speaking softly, told him we do not hit.

Why does Jaxon get aggressive?

When Jaxon doesn’t get his way or he is denied something or told no, he gets aggressive. This could involve any number of aggressive behaviors; head butting the nearest person, hitting, biting, screaming, running around, head butting a wall, oven door, or a bedroom door. His lack of communication is hard for him and it causes frustration.

According to the expert doctor’s definition above, Jaxon is trying to communicate something to us in response to whatever we have told him. Jaxon hasn’t learned yet how to verbally tell us he wants something or isn’t happy with our decision. He has learned being aggressive is the way he communicates.

We are in the process of learning how to respond and interact for the best outcome. As the doctor mentions, we need to figure out what Jaxon is trying to communicate. He has made progress with pointing his finger to what he wants, but sometimes that’s even hard to decipher.

Are we the only ones? No, others are experiencing the same struggle.

I am attaching the link to the video I watched on aggressive behavior. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

The advice and opinions expressed by the host of Autism Live and her guests are meant solely as suggestions and should not be in any way construed as child-specific advice. Any choices you make in determining your child’s treatment are completely at your own discretion.

My question was this: “We have been to the neurologist and she asked about his behavior. It just so happens that on that very day, Jaxon had displayed some pretty aggressive behavior because he was upset about having to put on shoes. The neurologist asked how long he had been with ABA and I told her three weeks, maybe a month. She responded, “That’s not long enough. He needs a lot more therapy. Make an appointment for two months from now and let’s talk again. We don’t want to put him on pills now, but if this doesn’t get better, we need to look at all options.”

I asked Dr. Doreen if she thought putting Jaxon on a pill was a good idea. She answered my question in the chat feature and said, “No, not yet. He needs a lot more therapy.”

It was nice to get a second opinion with little to no effort.

One thing I have learned through this process is it takes time. We are in this for the long game. Nothing about this process is quick and I am an impatient person. I like things fixed now if possible, so I am learning along the way this is not one of those situations.

I believe aggressive behavior can be changed especially if it is a result of communication deficits, but it takes commitment on our part. We are teaching Jaxon how to communicate, but again, it’s a slow process. We figure based on CDC milestones, Jaxon is functioning around 18 months in some areas. Speech is one of those areas.

I share all this with the hope our journey helps others. This is not an easy road to walk, and I certainly don’t recommend walking this alone. The Lord has been with us every step of the way, and I believe he will continue to see us through. Jaxon’s story will help change the world he lives in. Glory to God!

“Teach me your way, O Lord; Lead me in a straight path.” Psalm 27:11


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