Autism and Aggression: An Autistic Adult’s Perspective

April was Autism Awareness Month. In previous years, I have dedicated my #AtoZChallenge to autism, but this year, I chose a different topic. For a while, I had it in mind to focus on developmental disabilities in general, but, as you can see, I chose another topic entirely. However, the topic of autism is still on my mind. In the coming weeks, I want to offer more of an insider’s perspective on autism and its characteristics. After all, I am autistic and I feel that the blog coverage on autism is heavily divided between parents of autistic children sharing their stories and adult autistics sharing advocacy. Now there’s nothing wrong with advocacy – I feel passionate about it too -, but there is also nothing wrong with personal experience stories. What is wrong is when these are mostly one-sidedly coming from neurotypical (non-autistic) parents of autistic children. Hence, my insider’s perspective.

For my first post, I am choosing a rather controversial topic: aggression. When parents talk about their child with autism, one of the first things they will usually mention is the child’s aggressive behavior. And in fact, this was the first thing my parents would say when asked to describe my problem behaviors too. It was also what got me to be referred to the mental health agency for an evaluation at age 20, which ultimately led to my autism diagnosis.

I don’t know about statistics of aggression in general, but it is highly stereotypical to equate autism with violent behavior. Autistics are not more likely to be deliberately violent than neurotypicals and they are, in fact, more likely to fall victim to violent crimes.

That doesn’t mean aggression doesn’t occur and, when it does, that it isn’t related to the autistic person’s autism. To say that it’s a “comorbidity” is, in my opinion, doing the autistic a disservice. It is, however, an issue that arises in the interaction between the autistic person and a highly autism-unfriendly world. After all, at least I have often gotten aggressive when my needs for autism-supportive care are not met.

For instance, one day in the psych hospital, a nurse, whom I will call Sara, had said one evening that she’d get back to me the following day after morning report to talk about getting me unsupervised off-ward privileges. The next day, I went up to Sara, but wasn’t able to communicate clearly what I wanted. “I’m not your assigned nurse today,” Sara said. “Go to Daisy if you want something.” Now the nurse I’ll call Daisy was a temp worker, so clueless about my needs or what I’d talked to Sara about the previous day. I got very irritable, because Sara had promised me she’d get back to me and now she was referring me to Daisy. I screamed, walked around the ward restlessly and constantly nagged the staff in an irritable voice. By handover, a third nurse, whom I’ll call Robert, came on and said that he’d put me in seclusion if I didn’t calm down right away. “Go on then, stupid,” I shouted. So he did.

This was not my worst incident of aggression ever. As a teen, my mother reports, I would hit her. I currently still occasionally slap or push staff. Usually, this again results from staff not following through on something or not following my daily routine.

I feel strongly that, though not all incidents of aggression can be prevented by parents or carers providing autism-sensitive support, a lot of them can. If an autistic is aggressive anyway, there are much better ways of handling it than solitary confinement.

loopyloulaura

Also linking up with #PoCoLo.

Flash Fiction: Can I Go?

“I just want to go to a friend for two nights,” Patricia yelled, asserting her words with some colorful language, as she grabbed the nearest chair she could reach. “You are NOT going to treat me this way,” nurse Nancy replied with more anger in her voice than she probably intended. More calmly, she added: “If you want to go on leave for longer than originally agreed upon, you need to discuss it with Marjorie, and she’s not available right now.” At that point, a blonde nurse in her mid-thirties entered the ward. As Patricia saw her, her anger rose and, heaving the chair off the floor, she threw it at Marjorie, barely missing her. Turning to the nurse’s station, Nancy told Patricia, not even looking at her: “Here are your meds and the address for the homeless shelter; for your severe aggressive behavior, you’ve been suspended until Monday.”


This piece of flash fiction is based on a true story from a fellow patient at the locked psychiatric unit back in 2008. I always felt rather conflicted about patients, especially those without a home, being suspended for severe challenging behavior. In this case though, the patient got exactly what she wanted.

I am joining the Six Sentence Story Link-Up, for which the prompt this week is “Shelter”. I am also linking up with Friday Writings, even though it’s Saturday. The optional prompt is conversations you’ve overheard. Though I didn’t exactly overhear this conversation, as it was told to me by the fellow patient later on, I thought it’d be fitting enough.

Flash Fiction: ER

I look(1) at the patient and notice(1) she’s cyanosing(2). I check her pulse, which is very faint(5). I tell my colleague in a whispering)3) voice: “Please get the doc. I don’t know what happened, but she has to come through.” I lovingly(4) stroke her arm. Despite being a nurse, I can’t act. I can’t imagine my own daughter is in such a feeble(5) condition.


This piece of flash fiction was written for MindloveMisery’s Menagerie’s Saturday Mix for this week, which was Same Same But Different. The challenge is to write about the five words provided, but not use them. The words were: see, blue, soft, kind and weak.

I saw that many participants used synonyms for “blue” such as “sad” and “moody”. For me though, immediately, words that convey the color blue came to mind.

Obviously, this piece is entirely the product of my own imagination. I have absolutely no idea whether there’s any realism about this tale, but I loved trying to come up with it.

Challenge: The Skill of Dialectics

“The best person you can become is yourself.” I once read this in an advert for a personality disorders treatment center. It seems so true, and yet it suggests that people with personality disorders are not being themselves. As if a personality disorder is somehow superimposed upon the otherwise healthy person. That’s probably not how it works.

I was reminded of this as I thought of my meeting with my mental health nurse today. I was very open about my thoughts regarding treatment and its effectiveness and my maybe wanting to stop it. The challenge, in this respect, is figuring out which aspects of myself I still want to improve on and which I want to accept as part of myself.

I clarified that I’m afraid treatment is always focused on making the patient more independent. That’s not a problem, but it is when practical independence comes at a cost to autonomy. I am and will always be multiply-disabled. No amount of mental health treatment will change that. My nurse agreed, but said that she doesn’t feel I’m at a point where I can accept myself and just live yet.

The biggest challenge in my life seems to be and always has been to find the right balance between apparent opposites. Between my intellectual capacity and my social-emotional disability. Between my wish for autonomy or self-determination and my need for support. Between my desire to progress and my desire to just be.

I remember several years ago checking out a dialectical behavior therapy self-help manual that started with the skill of dialectics, of finding the right balance between two opposites. This is such a cool skill. I think I’ll accept the challenge and work this skill again tonight.

I am joining RDP #63: Challenge with this post.