A Defiant Attitude or Autism?

Autism Q&A
560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.


Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.


This week, I received a a question about a defiant attitude form a person with Autism. Here’s the question and answer:




How do you know when certain behavior is the autism or just being defiant? My 14 year old becomes aggressive and loses temper easily when things don’t go his way especially with his much younger siblings.




There’s no real “tell” that I’m aware of, unfortunately. We’re people, so asking that can be like looking at a purple wall and asking “how do I know which parts are red and which parts are blue?” For example, it’s possible that he becomes frustrated with the situation because of the autism, but the actions he chooses to demonstrate it are a result of personality that needs guidance.


Aggressiveness isn’t typically a core aspect of autism. On the other hand, the situation itself could be a clash of personalities, while the aggressive response is because autism has so far deprived him of life experiences and skills that help him resolve it in other ways. While aggressiveness is less likely in autism, it’s not impossible, especially if it’s developed over time in response to the world around him.


The best starting point is just to see if you can get him to open up about it. Try to make sure he doesn’t feel “interrogated” or necessarily “in the wrong.” Just that you’re interested in why he did what he did. See if he can, probably slowly and across multiple incidents, be coaxed into opening up about what leads to these situations.


Whether it’s autism or personality, you still want to understand the behavior and you want to change it. The major difference is really in how you go about trying for change, and that can only come from a deeper understanding of what’s actually happening inside his mind when things go wrong.


Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

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