Tantrums in Autistic children and how to handle them

Katherine - posted on 03/01/2011 ( 7 moms have responded )




re-posted from "My Aspbergers Child"

Preventing Intense Temper Tantrums in Aspergers Children
A meltdown (i.e., intense temper tantrum) is the expression of an Aspergers kid's frustration with the physical, mental or emotional challenges of the moment. Physical challenges are things like hunger and thirst. Mental challenges are related to an Aspergers kid's difficulty learning or performing a specific task. Emotional challenges are more open to speculation. Still, whatever the challenge, frustration with the situation may fuel an Aspergers kid's anger — and erupt in a meltdown.

There is some really helpful info on this site.
Consider this: Most 2-year-olds have a limited vocabulary. Moms and dads may understand what a toddler says only 50 percent of the time. Strangers understand even less. When your Aspergers kid wants to tell you something and you don't understand — or you don't comply with your Aspergers kid's wishes — you may have a meltdown on your hands.

Do young Aspergers kids have meltdowns on purpose?

It might seem as though your Aspergers kid plans to misbehave simply to get on your nerves, but that's probably giving your Aspergers kid too much credit. Young Aspergers kids don't have evil plans to frustrate or embarrass their moms and dads. A young Aspergers kid's world is right there in sight, at the end of his or her nose. Your Aspergers kid doesn't enjoy throwing a tantrum any more than you enjoy dealing with a meltdown.

Can meltdowns be prevented?

There may be no fool-proof way to prevent meltdowns, but there's plenty you can do to encourage good behavior in even the youngest Aspergers kids:

• Avoid situations likely to trigger meltdowns. If your Aspergers kid begs for toys or treats when you shop, steer clear of "temptation islands" full of eye-level goodies. If your Aspergers kid acts up in restaurants, make reservations so that you won't have to wait — or choose restaurants that offer quick service.

• Be consistent. Establish a daily routine so that your Aspergers kid knows what to expect. Stick to the routine as much as possible, including nap time and bedtime. It's also important to set reasonable limits and follow them consistently.

• Encourage your Aspergers kid to use words. Young Aspergers kids understand many more words than they're able to express. If your Aspergers kid isn't speaking — or speaking clearly — you might teach him or her sign language for words such as "I want," "more," "enough," "hurt" and "tired." The more easily your Aspergers kid can communicate with you, the less likely you are to struggle with meltdowns. As your Aspergers kid gets older, help him or her put feelings into words.

• Let your Aspergers kid make choices. To give your Aspergers kid a sense of control, let him or her make appropriate choices. Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt? Would you like to eat strawberries or bananas? Would you like to read a book or build a tower with your blocks? Then compliment your Aspergers kid on his or her choices.

• Plan ahead. If you need to run errands, go early in the day — when your Aspergers kid isn't likely to be hungry or tired. If you're expecting to wait in line, pack a small toy or snack to occupy your Aspergers kid.

• Praise good behavior. Offer extra attention when your Aspergers kid behaves well. Tell your Aspergers kid how proud you are when he or she shares toys, listens to directions, and so on.

• Use distraction. If you sense a meltdown brewing, distract your Aspergers kid. Try making a silly face or changing location. It may help to touch or hold your Aspergers kid.

What's the best way to respond to a meltdown?

If you can, pretend to ignore the meltdown. If you lose your cool or give in to your Aspergers kid's demands, you've only taught your Aspergers kid that meltdowns are effective.

If your Aspergers kid has a meltdown at home, you can act as if it's not interrupting things. After your Aspergers kid quiets down, you might say, "I noticed your behavior, but that won't get my attention. If you need to tell me something, you need to use your words."

If your Aspergers kid has a meltdown in public, pretending to ignore the behavior is still the best policy. Any parent who witnesses the scene will sympathize with you as you ignore the meltdown. If the meltdown escalates or your Aspergers kid is in danger of hurting himself or herself, stop what you're doing and remove your Aspergers kid from the situation. If your Aspergers kid calms down, you may be able to return to your activity. If not, go home — even if it means leaving a cart full of groceries in the middle of the store. At home, discuss with your Aspergers kid the type of behavior you would have preferred.

Should an Aspergers kid be punished for having a meltdown?

Tempter tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Rather than punishing your Aspergers kid, remind him or her that meltdowns aren't appropriate. Sometimes a simple reminder to "use your words" is adequate. For a full-blown meltdown — or a tantrum that caused you to abandon an activity in public — try a timeout.

During a timeout, your Aspergers kid must sit someplace boring — such as in a chair in the living room or on the floor in the hallway — for a certain length of time, usually one minute for each year of the Aspergers kid's age. You can pretend that you don't even see your Aspergers kid during the timeout, but you can still assure his or her safety. If your Aspergers kid begins to wander around, simply place him or her back in the designated timeout spot. Remind your Aspergers kid that he or she is in timeout, but don't offer any other attention.

Eventually, your Aspergers kid may even take his or her own timeout at the first sign of a meltdown — before a negative cloud surrounds you both.

When might meltdowns be a sign of something more serious?

As your Aspergers kid's self-control improves, meltdowns should become less common. Most Aspergers kids outgrow meltdowns by age 4. If your older Aspergers kid is still having meltdowns, the meltdowns seem especially severe or the meltdowns have pushed you beyond your ability to cope, share your concerns with your Aspergers kid's doctor. These may be signs that something else is going on. The doctor will consider physical or psychological problems that may be contributing to the meltdowns, as well as give you additional tips to help you deal with your Aspergers kid's behavior.


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There is a difference between Meltdowns and Tantrums. Meltdowns are what people (of ALL ages) on the spectrum have when they are overwhelmed, either by sensory things (i.e. noise, sight, smell, heat), mental things (being unable to do something or understand something), and emotional things (having a lot of anxiety or being angry or sad). Tantrums, on the other hand, are what spoiled children do when they want something or just feel like testing their parent's authority.

These two things are not the same. Meltdowns are not something someone on the spectrum can control, they are embarrassing and scary, and i assure you that the person on the spectrum who is having it, definitely doesn't want it. But unfortunately they cannot be stopped once they start, they have to run their course, and you have to be supportive to the person. To help someone who is having a meltdown, you first have to get them away from the thing that is overwhelming them, be it loud noises, emotional stress, or homework. There won't really be much you can do, and you'll feel pretty helpless, but you'll both get through it, and your kid will be thankful that you're not adding to their stress by yelling at them. I recommend that you don't try to hold them or restrain them in any way (to the ASD person, it feels like you're strangling them), and may prolong the meltdown (which can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours). If they're hyperventilating or hitting themselves, take necessary precautions, but don't let on that you're freaking out. If you feel like they'll be safe without you, then give them some space and let them stim! Also, try to distract them once they've calmed down a bit, turn on the TV or a radio or something like that, and that will calm them down faster (unless you do it too early). Another thing to mention is that people who have meltdowns don't like to and usually don't have them in public, not to say that they can't, it's just that meltdowns are so primal and uncontrollable that these people who prefer to be in control, and are already outcasted from society (without the meltdowns), really just prefer to keep it private. To punish someone for something that they can't control is cruel, that's like punishing a blind kid because he can't see.

Tantrums are as I described before, and usually can be stopped on a dime once the kid gets what it wants. Not to mention the kid usually doesn't start hurting themselves (punching themselves in the head is a common ASD meltdown behavior), stimming, or do things like hyperventilate or things like that. Having a meltdown is scary, tantrums are just embarrassing. The punishment methods you described above are the perfect way to deal tantrums, but like I said, you shouldn't punish people for having meltdowns.

That's not to say that people on the spectrum can't have tantrums either, but you'll be able to tell the difference.
But in general, if you love your child and you want your child to love you back then I highly recommend that you do not listen to this article in terms of meltdowns (its perfectly fine for tantrums though).

Lisa - posted on 12/09/2012




This doesn't work... we've tried it.. sometimes it might but not in our case with either one..

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