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"I'm Angry"...How to develop coping strategies

Teaching children of any communication skill level an acceptable way to express powerful feelings like anger and frustration goes a long way in alleviating negative or troublesome behaviors. Recognizing the need is the first step. Headbanging, hitting or kicking, stubborn resistance, and verbal insults are all signs of fraustration.

Start by choosing a physical outlet that is acceptable to you, such as punching a pillow, screaming in a cupboard (or closet!) for 30 seconds, jumping or stomping feet. Next, create a social story (or social script) all about being angry or frustrated. For example

1. Everybody Feels Angry Sometimes

2. It is OK to feel angry.

3. When I get angry I can punch pillows in my room

4. Soon I will feel better.

5. When I have finished being angry, I will feel happy again!

Use words, pictures, photographs, or a combination of visuals that are meaningful to the child, such as a photo of the child's face when she's angry and when she's happy. Some kids may respond to a small story booklet produced with words and drawings. Introduce the social story/booklet to the child when she is calm. Read it more than once and discuss ideas as needed to match the skill level of your child.

Give the social story to your child the next time she is angry or frustrated. Remind her of the action she can take to quell her anger. Fade the prompt over time to just a cue card reminding her of acceptable ways to release her anger. This can be reduced to a hand signal or just one word ("Pillow!"). Reinforce the child with positive praise or reward when she makes a good choice. Develop this to promote independence by creating a key chain for the cue cards, or have them available in your child's communication folder, if they have one.

Adapted from

Ellen Notbohm & Veronica Zysk

1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism or Aspergers

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