Understanding Crisis Behavior in People with Aspergers

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may engage in crisis behavior that interferes with their learning, puts themselves or others at risk, prevents them from participating in various activities, or impedes the development of relationships. Crisis behavior can range in severity from low productivity to meltdowns that involve aggression, self-injury, or property destruction.

Stressed teen girl screaming, shouting

Many individuals unfamiliar with Aspergers may believe these types of behaviors are intentional and malicious. However, it has become well known that problem behaviors often serve a function for the individual engaging in the behaviors. Additionally, deficits in the areas characterized by Aspergers may impact behavior.

Characteristics associated with Aspergers and how it may lead to crisis behavior:

Cognition

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that impacts the way that individuals think, feel, and react. Individuals with Aspergers are believed to react “emotionally” rather than “logically” during stressful situations and are unable to maintain self-control.

Generalization

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may have difficulty applying information and skills across settings, individuals, materials, and situations. Even though socially appropriate alternative strategies have been learned, the individual may be unable to “recall” the strategies while stressed.

Theory of Mind Deficits

People with these deficits have difficulty understanding the emotional and mental states of others. They may be unable to explain their own behaviors or may be unable to recognize when they’re agitated. They may also have difficulty understanding the perspectives of others or how their behaviors impact others.

Problem Solving

Although many individuals with Aspergers may be able to engage in high-level thinking and problem-solving skills, they may not be able to apply those skills to situations with which they are not interested. The individual may utilize one of a few strategies consistently and may have difficulty thinking of other options.

Language

Although most people with Aspergers have good structural language skills, they may have poor pragmatic communication abilities. That is, they may not have the ability to use those language skills during social interactions. Pragmatic language difficulties may result in repetitive phrases, exaggerated inflections or monotone intonation, or difficulty sustaining conversations.

Socialization

Reciprocal social interactions are a core deficit and make it difficulty for the individual to interact with others. The social rules are not understood and individuals with Aspergers or HFA often attempt to rigidly apply social rules.

Sensory Issues

Individuals may be hypersensitive to sounds, visual stimuli, textures, or foods. These stimuli may evoke behaviors that allow the individual to attempt to escape or avoid settings or situations in which the stimuli maybe present.

When we understand the internal factors that lead to crisis behavior in individuals with Aspergers or HFA, it can be easier to prevent and manage the behaviors.

By Lupe Castañeda, M.S., BCBA

Source: 

Smith-Myles, B. & Southwick, J. (1999). Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
The following two tabs change content below.
Providing the weekly Medical Blogs are the team of professionals, doctors, occupational and behavioral therapists at San Antonio’s premiere Autism Diagnostic Clinic, the Autism Community Network. Contributors include: Executive Director Dr. Loree Primeau Medical Director Dr. A Patricia Del Angel Training and Research Director Dr. Berenice de la Cruz Carrie Alvarado, OTR, PhD©, DIR/Floortime-Certified Lupe Castaneda, MS, BCBA Adriana Sanchez, MA, BCBA Dr. Gayla Aguilar, OTR, OTD, C-SIPT Megan Kunze, MA, BCBA The ACN teams works to maximize the potential of children with autism through their administrative, clinic, training and development departments. Their expertise on Aspergers Syndrome is offered to you through aspergers101.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *