Helping a Neurodivergent Child or Adult with Aggression

*I am not saying forgo mediation, always take medication as prescribed by your physician*

Aggression is a much talked about topic in parent groups but not so much in autistic led spaces, or at least in my experience. Aggression is something that a lot of neurodivergent people experience. I experienced it and learned to channel it. Some of my kids experience. It needs to be redirected. Suppressing it is masking and can have some dangerous effects. AIM even tackles this as a community activity.

Being Enrolled in Martial Arts

I speak of all the things that my parents did wrong when I was a child but this is one thing they did right. When I was five, I had a lot of pent up aggression. I would punch walls. I had a hard time communicating. This was around the age where I started to speak but I did not have many words and I was overly frustrated because I had a hard time communicating.

They enrolled me in the local Kempo dojo and this was a great thing. I was able to channel that energy into the different requirements I needed to complete in order to earn the next rank. No verbal communication needed. I understood everything that was expected of me. I was less aggressive at home and at school. I was not well supported at home but the activities I was in, I was supported somewhat.

I was taught so I was able to understand it. They did not expect me to learn like “typical” kids and it felt great to be seen. I loved it.

I have nothing but great memories from being in martial arts and I do teach it to my children today. We do have our own equipment because it is expensive to enroll all these children in it.

Redirecting My Children’s Aggression

For a while we were unsure how to redirect some of my children’s aggression. Then we had the great idea of getting a stand alone punching bag. The punching bag we bought is this one:

Some of our children would punch things to avoid people. Some kids who saw this got scared. So what we did was we bought this punching bag online. It was super easy to put together. Nothing needed to be drilled it is stand alone. Just fill the base with water or sand.

Bug wanted to help put it together. He was really excited to get it. He was the most excited.

After we filled the base with water:

“Mom you were in karate, show me what you can do!”

I wasn’t having a horrible pain day, so I showed him a round house kick and his eyes were wide and I swear his jaw dropped to the floor.

Just because I am overweight, does not mean I can’t do it. If I was particularly painful, I could do it but it would hurt a lot.

I then showed them how to punch it without hurting themselves. Of course J being a teen, she thought she knew exactly what she was doing and didn’t listen. Wound up spraining her wrist but was fine a few day later.

“What did you learn?” I just got a dirty look but we laughed about it later.

Anyway, we got that set up and its good. It did take a little redirection until they got used to going to the garage to hit the bag. When we saw the beginning signs that an aggressive moment was happening we would gently remind them to go to the garage to hit the bag. It did take a while but they are doing it now.

Just because you tell someone with pent up aggression to stop, doesn’t mean the aggression just goes away. It needs to be released somehow. This is a good safe way to release the aggressive energy.

A few minutes after they release this energy, they are usually fine.

Remember, the aggression adults or children feel does need to be released so no one gets hurt. It can come out at the worst times and someone could get injured. If one my children did this without meaning to and a sibling got hurt, they would feel awful. We definitely want to prevent that.

My partner uses the bag, I use it, everyone does, well except for Potato because she is too little. The aggression needs to go somewhere. It might as go somewhere, where no one gets hurt. Once the aggression is released, everyone feels a lot better.

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