Q: My aspie son is 7 1/2. He has a younger brother who is almost 4. My older son has begun to hit and punch the younger one when he "bothers" him. He actually punched his brother in the private parts last night. After talking with my aspie son for quite a while we decided to 1) take away a favorite toy for one week or until he finally shows some remorse for hitting (he has many other favorite toys) and 2) to make him say he was sorry. He absolutely refused so I made him write it.
So I have two questions. The first is: What can I do about my aspie's intolerance of his brother? The second is: Why is saying he is sorry so difficult for my aspie?
Thanks for any and all comments.
A: They're difficult questions that you ask, but I'll try to shed some light on
them! I wonder, based on your email, what reason your Aspie son thinks he
has for hitting his brother. Aspies, even when children, rarely do things
for no reason, even if the reason is somewhat obscure and/or no excuse for
their actions. How is it, exactly, that his brother is bothering him? If
your younger son is intentionally making life tough for his brother, your
elder son may not be the only one who needs a lecture :) When I was about
that age, I dealt with older boys on the playground who would frequently
verbally harass me; I would respond by trying to hit them. Naturally, I was
the one who was disciplined -- and while that was appropriate, I can't help
but feel that I wasn't the only one who had acted wrongly. And I sure as
heck wasn't going to apologize to my verbal tormentors! Back then, in my
mind, they deserved it.
Now, if your younger son isn't intentionally molesting his brother (be it
by teasing him, invading his space after being asked to stop, etc.), then
there may be some sort of misunderstanding between the two. If he's
reasonably high-functioning, I'd encourage you to nonconfrontationally ask
your Aspie son some of these questions yourself! Why did you hit your
brother? Why don't you want to say you're sorry? What could I do to make it
easier for you two to get along? Aspies have a keen sense of injustice, and
even if there ends up being nothing you can do, asking will show him that
you and his brother aren't conspiring against him :) I remember wishing very
badly that my mother would take the trouble to get her story straight before
Finally, Aspies, like autistics more broadly, do have trouble knowing
what's socially appropriate, more so at early ages. (You may have seen some
of this coming out in my playground story above.) By now I'm sure he's
gotten the message that he's not supposed to hit people, but he may not know
what to do instead. You might try encouraging him to tell his brother when
he's bothering him -- or, if that doesn't work, to tell you!
Hope you find some of this helpful! Good luck with both your sons!