Autism and Aggression

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Lately, I have been enjoying the TV show, The Walking Dead.  I love a good post-apocalyptic story and The Walking Dead fits the mold.

Last night as I watched, a character got infected and turned into a zombie.  Not really giving anything away here, happens almost every episode.

But before the character started on a blood thirsty rampage as a zombie, he was a docile, loving human.  The change is always so dramatic.

Which made me think of our autism household.

Autism and Aggression

“Hi Bob-by..” Declan said and continued to sing with his iPad as he walked by.

“Hi Declan,” Bobby returned with a limp smile on his face.

Bobby put his book bag down and walked into the kitchen.

“Hey,” I said in greeting, “How do you feel?”

I looked to the back of Bobby’s head as he put his head down to let me see the affected area.

“It hurt a lot today.  Every time I walked I could feel it.  It is really swollen.”

I could see a bump on the side of his head.  An area of hair was undulated, red and had clumped together.  Below the clump a thin red line could be seen.

Before school that morning, Bobby was playing a video game online with one of his friends.  The cold weather had brought ice and a 2-hour delay from school.

Bobby let Declan sit with him as he played.  Declan sat listening to his songs.  As time went on, Declan became agitated.

And from the other room I heard a loud thunk followed by Bobby’s scream.  Agitated to aggression, Declan had drilled an X-Box controller into the side of Bobby’s head.

A bruise quickly appeared on Bobby’s cheek and a towel was grabbed to collect the blood that came out the back of his head.

Declan was deescalated and taken to another area to calm down.  Bobby was given hugs and ice for the swelling.

Minutes later, Declan was sitting quietly watching TV.  Bobby collected his materials for school with a depressed gait and demeanor.  And a painful bump on the head.


A long time ago I wrote about the 4 most challenging autism behaviors, at least for our family.

  • Food Sensitivities
  • Meltdowns
  • Aggression

Aggression is a challenge for Declan.  And by far the behavior that I have the most fear around.

Through the years we have all faced Declan’s aggressive beast inside.  Birthday pictures of the kids with scratches on their faces.  Scratches on arms, red faces from objects thrown at them.  We have all learned a protective stance.  Two large flat screen TV’s have had their screens broken by Declan’s aggressive beast.  Two computers, one phone.


When I watched The Walking Dead, and the transformation last night, I thought of my own beloved, Declan.  A happy, loving, peaceful boy – unless he becomes agitated.

When Declan was younger, he was unable to express his needs, wants or even likes.  Without his speech, he was frustrated and aggressive.

Now, Declan has speech.  We kind of know the things that set him into an aggressive state, and work away from those.  Even at school, the teachers are aware of the kids that upset Declan, and keep them separated.

But there are still times when the aggression comes fast and unannounced.

At those times we work to keep everyone safe.  To try to get Declan to a physical or mental place where he can deescalate.  For all of us to deescalate and get our bearings back together.

Ultimately, Declan is a peaceful loving being, who has autism.  One part of Declan’s autism is an aggressive beast inside.  Occasionally the beast forces its way out.  And we must deal with the beast in a protective way to get our loving child back.

And continue to take notes.  To learn what new trigger might be out there to help prevent future acts from the aggressive beast inside.


20 thoughts on “Autism and Aggression

  1. OK, I realize I’m missing the point here, but I’m 3 episodes into the walking dead, and I’m already bored with the zombies, Should I keep at it, or if I’m bored already, should I just bail?

    1. I don’t really care about the (zombie, vampire, plague, flu) that takes out a whole population – I always like the story about the survivors, their relationships and how they manage. Their some gains and continued losses. I am finding this show is like The Passage by Justin Cronin meets the TV show LOST – just hoping it isn’t as big of a let down as LOST. If you’re already bored though – I guess I would bail. There are a lot of times I get to a book or a show that everyone has raved about and it just doesn’t do it for me. I put it aside and try again later. That works sometimes. But just sometimes.

  2. The agitated aggression can kind of be anticipated. What I hate are the random acts of violence. Just today I got smacked in the face. Hard. No reason. Just something he saw in a movie. Even Disney has violence. It’s so rough cuz like Declan, Ben is a sweet kid. He’s also a big kid at almost 5′ and 100lbs. The aggression and the instant switch is definitely a tough one.

    1. Yes, those reenactments stink. I know what you are talking about. Sorry you got hit 🙁 I have concerns as Declan gets bigger as well. Thinking of you and Ben! Hugs!

  3. Awww, I do hope Bobby gets better. God will continue to give you wisdom on how to tame that beast inside and let the beautiful Declan shine through. It’s not always easy. God’s abundant grace to you dear.

  4. Brigitte Harrisson, an autistic author and autism specialist, has famously said (loosely translated from French) “an autistic person who is aggressive is an autistic person who is feeling like he’s being assaulted”. Identifying triggers, indeed, is key.

    My son has rarely hit other kids, but it happened a couple of time (I’ve written about that : but he was basically just imitating the interactions between kids that he saw on TV (cartoon children are always hitting each other and laughing, but in the context of an existing bond, between friends – my son didn’t understand that part and it’s quite hard to explain too). Once, a teacher told me “I don’t understand, he never does this so why on Earth did it happen with these kids, they are quite accepting of him”. That came as no surprise to me, since he didn’t do it out of anger, he was trying to join them in play, but he didn’t understand how it worked… That’s basically what he told me (“I wanted to play, I said I was sorry…”). These kids are strong, they really don’t have it easy.

  5. Autism .. what I have observed is a series of patterns you need to closely observe ..
    I term them as ‘highs’ and ‘very highs’because now I don’t allow autism to add the word low’ in my vocabulary.

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