It seems these days that anger and Asperger’s Disorder go hand in hand.
An 11-year-old female client with AS was talking about her anger today. “I’m not an angry person, you know that right? When they [classmates] say something horribly bad that is on the top of my bad-word list, I can’t help it. It makes me mad. Taking deep breaths doesn’t work, so don’t tell me to do that.”
With a deep breathe (pun intended), I used a stack of post-it notes for all of the anger-inducing situations, pulling a note off for each annoyance. You might imagine that my office floor looked a bit like Office Max after a few minutes. Then, we added a bag and a jar to the papery snow.
The jar had a lid and held the items that were so anger-inducing that she “carried” them home to talk to her parents about. We decided that the jar was for the meanest of words directed at her and physical acts of violence targeting her. The bag was a “temporary” holding receptacle. An annoyance went “in” but couldn’t be “held” but the top was open. Gossip went into bag because gossip “hurts but when they don’t say it to my face, they are wimps. So, the anger goes away.”
With these two categories, yellow snow remained on the floor. She started to put them in the bag or the jar but then stopped and said, “I can’t, so poof.” She recounted a song her classmates sing to make fun of others, with a chorus of, you guessed it, “poof” to make the “nerd” disappear. So, “poof” went the other anger post-it notes. “Poof” because they weren’t that important.
In the next few weeks, we will see if a cognitive strategy — asking herself, “is this a poof, a bag, or a jar issue?” — will work better than deep breaths. Here’s to hoping. What has helped you manage your anger?