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Violence and Autism



Hi, our 9.5 year old boy, autism/landau kleffner syndrome, has always been a bit mischievous, but not violent. In the past month or so he has taken to attacking children--and sometimes but more rarely an adult with him--by slapping them over the head. Any child at random can precipitate this action--he takes one look at them, becomes deeply angry, and hits. Sometimes it is linked to a situation where he has been denied something, but more often it is strictly out of the blue with no apparent antecedent. We are deeply worried. A behaviorist suggested we tell him to squeeze a ball when he gets angry, but that isn`t working and will likely be a short term resolution. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


I agree that squeezing a ball is not likely to be sufficient to decrease physical aggression. Aggression can be a complicated matter. I recommend an evaluation by a mental health professional.

Behavior management techniques can be quite successful in decreasing physical aggression. In a nutshell, this approach attempts to identify the antecedents and consequences of the behavior (aggression in this case). By modifying the environment and teaching appropriate replacement skills (e.g., communication or play behaviors), one can decrease the aggression. Psychotropic medicines can also assist in decreasing aggression.

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Response by:

Luc   Lecavalier, PhD Luc Lecavalier, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Ohio State University