Reducing aggressive behaviour with music

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This story is taken from the book My Unique Child: A Practical Guide to Raising A Child with Autism. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the persons mentioned.

Winnie is a single mother. She talks about the challenges she faces with her 11-year-old son who has autism.

About two years ago, whenever he got aggressive, he would hurt me. He would scratch, kick, and pull my hair. I find his aggression to be like a volcanic eruption. He flares up very quickly and calms down very quickly too.

We try to find out what triggers it, but many times, we are not sure. I feel that he can understand what we say and there are things he wants to tell us, but it seems like the words are stuck in his mouth.

He’s still small and I can physically control him. But when he becomes a big and tall boy, I cannot do that anymore. My concern is to help him to reduce and eliminate this aggressive behaviour.

Nowadays, he tries to control his anger by breathing into his palm. He also repeatedly tells himself, “Don't hit people, don’t throw things.” Often, he manages to calm himself down. However, if he is very frustrated, he will still hit, kick, and pull people’s hair. Sometimes, he ends up doing it to himself when I signal to him that he cannot do that to others.

Overall, he has improved since two years ago. I think that one of the reasons is his newly acquired hobby of playing the piano. He plays well. He also likes to listen to pop music. The soundtracks from the cartoon movies Sing and Trolls are his favourite.


Read more stories like this in the book My Unique Child: A Practical Guide to Raising A Child with Autism.

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VoicesJasmine Goh