Autism & Aggressive Behavior

Instructor: Duane Cloud

Duane has taught teacher education courses and has a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction. His doctoral dissertation is on ''The Wizard of Oz''.

Autism is a relatively common developmental condition. However, autistic individuals may often be misunderstood or stigmatized. This lesson discusses autism and its perceived connection to aggressive behavior.

Stereotypes About Autism

Often, when dealing with people with mental or developmental illnesses, it is easy to misunderstand them. People with these conditions are sometimes stereotyped as being aggressive, violent, or 'insane'. In the case of autism, people can violate boundaries in such a way that the individual panics and lashes out. News stories frequently associate autism with aggressive and violent behavior. But is autism actually associated with aggression?

Characteristics of Autism

Autism is a condition that affects as many as 1 in 68 Americans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Rather than a single set of symptoms, the term autism represents a spectrum of disorders (formally diagnosed as ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorders) involving how people process information. Symptoms falling on the autistic spectrum can range from minor conceptual issues to more serious difficulties in using verbal (spoken) communication. Many individuals with autism can lead relatively normal lives once they have a chance to learn in their own way and manage their symptoms. People at the other end of the spectrum may need some sort of assisted living or supervised care for the rest of their lives.

People on the autistic spectrum process information differently than those without the disorder. These people can become overwhelmed by too much sensory input, in particular if the input comes from being touched or via some other uncommon sensation. People with autism tend to have problems understanding social situations and nonverbal communication like body language and gestures. This can make it difficult for the individual with ASD to determine the exact context of things that are going on around them. Other symptoms may include physical difficulties with digestion and interests that may border on the obsessive.

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