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Autism

Helping the Friend of an Autistic Child

12/28/2006

Question:

My daughter has been friends with an autistic neighbor child of the same age from the age of 2. Now that they are both in 5th grade, the autistic child has become very aggressive, not just toward my daughter, but others in school as well, to the point that the other girl will now be going to another school. Yet, my daughter continues to see this girl on our street, at the bus stop, etc., and although she knows that an illness is responsible, she is not sure how to react to the sudden violence. For example, recently the child has begun pushing my daughter at the bus stop. When my daughter doesn`t wait at the same stop, but goes up the block to avoid a confrontation, the girl will cry and yell until my daughter comes back; just to be pushed! My daughter has a good heart, and it bothers her that although she has always played with and spent time with this girl, and continues to care for her, she is now being bullied and hurt. It is painful for my daughter; she can`t stand for the other girl to be upset, but she also knows she can`t allow herself to be hurt either. What can we do to help my daughter come to terms with this change/issue with her friend? I don`t want to tell her to stay away; I would love for her to find a way to remain friendly, but obviously, I don`t want my daughter physically harmed. Is there a way to do this?

Answer:

It sounds as though you have a very loving and caring daughter.  It may be helpful (if you have not already done so) to get a book on autism at the library.  This would be a book that is at the level that your daughter can understand. 

As often times happens with autistic children, particularly entering their teen years, in addition to having autism, they are also having hormonal changes just as other kids their age.  Mood swings and irritability are more often than not increased at this time.  Your daughter definitely needs to look out for her own safety and obviously should not allow her friend to push or bully her.  She should definitely tell her friend in a gentle but firm manner that pushing is not allowed.  It may take several times to get her point across. 

It sounds as though the girl is wanting attention and until she stops her negative behavior, your daughter will need to "back away".  It is possible that if she is high functioning enough, she will get the message.  Sometimes these behaviors need to be addressed with medical intervention such as medication through a medical professional which helps to get the irritability and aggression under control. 

I think at this time it is appropriate for your daughter to visit or play with her in a supervised setting where there are adults.  If she starts to act out with pushing, etc... then your daughter needs to excuse herself from the room and let her know that hitting or pushing is not acceptable. 

For more information:

Go to the Autism health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Susan Thompson, MSN, CPNP
Research Nurse Practitioner
OSU Nisonger Center
The Ohio State University