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Behavior of Children with Aspergers Syndrome: Why They Do What They Do

Updated on February 9, 2018

A child rips up his assignment, screams "I will not do this," and scatters pieces of the torn assignment al over the floor. You don't know why, and you're not quite sure what to do. This behavior although disruptive and annoying can be explained, and possibly avoided in the future. This action is not unusual for the asperger child.

What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Aspergers Syndrome is a form of high functioning autism. Children with this disorder may be very intelligent, but they lack the ability to socially interact effectively. They react differently to the world than other children do. Frequently the aspergers child suffers from anxiety and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The child may also suffer from other disorders as well. But there are strategies to help the aspergers child.

What are some of the disruptive behaviors exhibited by the aspergers child?

Behaviors exhibited by asperger children cover a wide spectrum, and some would not even be noticed because the behaviors are not disruptive. On one end of the spectrum children may hit the meltdown or tantrum stage. At this level the child may become violent-- kick, hit, and swear. On the other end of the spectrum, an asperger child may just decide to tune out and not engage in a classroon discussion, and instead choose a preferred behavior--doodling. The range of behaviors is wide, but the key is to identify why the behavior occurs.

It is extremely important to note that Aspergers Syndrome is a diagnosis that should come from a professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist because the disorder is very similar to other disorders.

Possible reasons why the child with Aspergers Syndrome exhibits the behavior:

  • Sensory issues: Many children with Asperger's Syndrome react strongly to sensory stimuli. The sound of a ticking clock can be unbearable, bright sunshine on a summer day may be overwhelming, or flashing lights can be overstimulating. The asperger child is often plagued by sensory overload.
  • Transitons: Switching from one activity to another can set the asperger student off because if the transition is not planned it causes anxiety. Asperger children work much better with a plan or schedule, and when the schedule is changed without warning, disruptive behaviors can, and frequently do, happen.
  • A need to continue a preferred activity: For the asperger child, the world is comprised of preferred and nonpreferred activities. The asperger child may get stuck on doing a preferred activity because the child experiences less anxiety with the preferred activity. When a child must complete a nonpreferred activity, anxiety increases along with disruptive behavior. For example, the child who experiences difficulty with reading, a nonpreferred activity, may become disruptive when it's time for reading.
  • A misinterpretation or misunderstanding of another person's actions. This problem happens frequently because the asperger child does not understand nonverbal communication. Consider the following stituation: a child accidentally bumps the asperger child while in line. The asperger child sees the "accidental bump" as an aggressive push and accuses the child of trying to hurt him. The conflict escalates, and the other student calls the asperger student a liar.
  • A violation of a rule: For the asperger child, rules are definite always, and there are no exceptions. For example, if the rule is bedtime is 9 pm, and bedtime is changed to 8 pm because a family must leave early the following morning, the asperger child may become very upset about changing bedtime, unless s/he is prepared for the earlier bedtime in advance of the event.
  • A need to escape a nonpreferred activity: If an asperger child suffers great anxiety from a nonpreferred activity, s/he may simply may choose not to actively engage or become disruptive. A classroom discuission could result in the asperger child tapping their pencil on their desk excessively or simply not participating and choosing to stare off into space.
  • A need to control a situation: The asperger child may feel the need to control the situation because then the anxiety level won't be so high because the situation will be predictable. An example is when the asperger child insists s/he has to follow a particular routine even though there is a change. "I must go to the library today, and I don't care if it's a holiday and the library is closed."

Identifying the cause of the behavior is the key first step in controlling the behavior.

By identifying the cause then you can begin the process of dealing with the behavior. Strategies may include teaching the child to do a different behavior, changing the environment, or suggesting some calming activities for the child.

An asperger child does not want to disrupt others, the child simply needs to be taught alternative strategies beause s/he lacks the ability to develop these skills without the help of others. Ther is hope for the aspergers child and those who live and work with this unique individual.

Helpful Books on Children and Aspergers Syndrome


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