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Dealing With Meltdowns And Tantrums
Tantrums Meltdowns And Takeaways
Both tantrums and meltdowns are manifestations of difficulty with emotional regulation skills and if they persist beyond the stages of typical development, can be associated with other diagnoses like ADHD, autism, sensory processing dysfunction, learning disabilities, depression, and anxiety.
While tantrums are behavioral in nature, meltdowns have a sensory, physiological basis that warrants different management strategies. While neither are fun outbursts to experience, focus part of your energy on proactively supporting your childs emotional regulation.
In the moments of tantrum or meltdown, use the guidelines weve outlined above to find what works for your child, and please share with Harkla what management strategies work for you!
“Autistic Meltdown or Temper Tantrum? by Judy Endow, MSW.” Ollibean. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May 2017.
“26 Sensory Integration Tools for Meltdown Management – Friendship Circle – Special Needs Blog.” Friendship Circle — Special Needs Blog. N.p., 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 May 2017.
Bennett, David D. “Decreasing Tantrum/meltdown Behaviors of School Children with High Functioning Autism through Parent Training.” Social Science. N.p., 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
Dealing With Aggressive Outbursts From Autistic Children And Teenagers
You probably cant prevent every outburst from your autistic child. So its important for you to have some strategies to deal with the aggressive behaviour when it happens.
Stay calm This is the first and most important thing. Most aggressive outbursts happen because your child has feelings building up and cant communicate them. By managing your own feelings and staying calm and quiet, you wont add your emotions to the mix.
Limit what you say During an outburst your child will be feeling very stressed. Its hard to process what someone else is saying when youre feeling stressed, and this is especially true for autistic children, who can have trouble understanding language.
So it can help if you dont say too much. Aim for short phrases or even just a couple of words for example, Sit down rather than Lachlan, come over here and sit down.
Move your child to a safer place For everyones safety, make sure your child isnt close to anything that could be harmful for example, shelves that could fall over or glass objects. A quiet enclosed space outside might be an option. You might also need to get other people to move out of the way for safety.
Consider visual cues Visual cues can help in these situations. For example, you might have a picture of a quiet place in your home that your child can go to.
Focus On What You Want The Child To Do Not What You Want Them To Stop Doing
How many of you have screamed at your child, STOP SCREAMING?!!!! with crazed eyes and clinched fists?
Minimize the use of dont and stop. For example, Walk on the sidewalk can be much more effective than Dont walk on the grass for a child who might not hear the dontor for one who isnt sure where the acceptable place to walk might be. This lets the child know exactly what you WANT them to do. ‘Stop screaming’ becomes, ‘Quiet please’, ‘Don’t color on the table’ becomes ‘Only color on the paper’. It’s counter-intuitive to the ways most of us usually parent but it works. There are times when there’s NO WAY around a don’t/stop statement. DON’T COLOR ON THE DOG. STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER. Use your best judgement- you’ll figure out when you need to lay down the DON’T law.
Here I ignore his screaming because he was mad that I gave one of his cars to his brother when he didn’t want to share.
Here I praise him, “Great job being quiet and playing with your cars.”I know, it feels a little weird at first, ignoring your child while they are screaming or throwing themselves on the ground. But when they do that, they are attention seeking and giving them any kind of attention reinforces that behavior. They will learn it doesn’t work and realize they get more attention when their behavior is good.
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Redirect To Other Behaviour
Tell the person what they need to do instead of the behaviour, eg “David, hands down”. Use visual cues such as picture symbols to back up instructions. Redirect to another activity that is incompatible with the behaviour and provide praise and reinforcement for the first occurrence of appropriate behaviour, eg “David, that’s excellent playing with your train”.
Could It Be Autism
For the most part, this behavior is a phase: As your toddler figures out better ways to communicate with you, self-soothe, or get your attention, they should stop using this particular tactic to get what they want or need.
This is especially true if your toddler is otherwise developing as expected.
The only time this type of behavior could be a red flag for a developmental disorder like autism is if its not the only symptom youve noticed.
If your child hits themselves frequently and struggles to make eye contact, isnt interested in social interaction, performs repetitive behaviors, or has delayed speech or motor skills, there could be a broader diagnosis at play.
What Causes Distressed Behaviour
Behaviour has a function, and there could be a number of reasons for it. These may include difficulty in processing information, unstructured time,sensory differences, achange in routine, transition between activities, or physical reasons like feeling unwell, tired or hungry. Not being able to communicate these difficulties can lead toanxiety, anger and frustration, and then to an outburst of distressed behaviour.
Use Time To Decrease Transitional Tantrums
Many children have trouble leaving preferred places and activities. This is a BIG one for my 5 year old. There were times I wouldn’t even take him to our neighborhood park because I was so scared of that awful moment when we had to leave. He was unpredictable and erratic. Sometimes he would scream and fall to the ground, or try to run into a busy street to get away from me, or lash out to hit me. It broke my heart and downright scared me. One thing that has been life-changing for us is using Minute Warnings/Timers: Your child may need a 5 minute, 2 minute, or 1 minute warning before there is a change of activity. These warnings help the children prepare for the transition. They will begin to learn that the warning comes and then the change comes. Eventually, the minute warnings become routine, even if the next task is not.
We set a timer on our iphone. “In five minutes you need to take a bath.” “In two minutes we are leaving the park.”This helps a child feel more in control without controlling us. When the timer goes off you have to carry through every single time. We did this continuously for two weeks before we started to see results. Now it’s been years and it still works. Set your boundaries, stick to them, and follow through.
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What To Do When My Child Is Having A Tantrum
1. Tantrum vs. Meltdown
Before you intervene in any way, try to figure out whether your child is having an autism meltdown or tantrum. As we discussed earlier, they may look similar but they need different approaches.
Meltdowns are a response to external stimulation, while tantrums can occur when a need is not being met.
It is important to distinguish the two before having a strategy to manage the situation.
2. Figure out the motivation
Understanding what lies behind the tantrum behavior will give you the key to manage it.
You will be able to respond to it more appropriately. They may want something, like a toy or attention. Recognize this want without giving it to them.
3. Remove the audience
Sometimes removing the audience from the environment, the tantrum will stop. If you noticed this pattern, like your child tends to have tantrums in crowded areas, teach them coping mechanisms in small gatherings.
Try removing yourself from the environment . It could also help reduce and stop tantrum.
4. Praise and reinforce positive behavior
Acknowledge the feelings of your child and praise them for their good behavior.
You can give them a hug, or tell them how they managed to do the thing well. These will avoid tantrum outbursts as your child will learn that they have your attention and can be successful in doing things.
5. Build the necessary skills
We have discussed before that tantrums can be caused by lack of certain skills like problem solving or negotiating.
- impulse control,
Sensory Strategies For Headbanging
As head banging is a sign of a childs need for release, it can be altered with other physical activities that are not harmful to the child. Some tips for giving replacement behavior for headbanging are:
1. Consider padding areas you find your child frequently bangs his/her head against.
2. Use a headbanging helmet with an MD prescription.
3. Utilize vibration. This will activate the vestibular system, and your child will thus receive input in a safer and more functional way. Examples include vibrating stuffed animals, vibrating toothbrushes, vibrating pillows, vibrating small massagers, etc.
4. Have your child sit in a rocking chair at home and school.
5. Have a yoga ball chair at home and at school to help provide vestibular input .
6. Have your child do movement exercises that go against resistance and activate the proprioceptive system.
7. Have your child do movement breaks that incorporate rotation and place the head below the heart . An example of this would be the yoga pose of Sunrise, Sunset. Have your child stand with feet planted and back straight. Your child should reach up with straight arms while taking a deep breath in.
This should be followed by your child reaching down towards the floor and touching his/her feet while breathing out .
9. Use a weighted hat/weighted halo to provide proprioceptive input to the head. A regular baseball cap is also fine, as this will still provide input to the head.
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Treatment For Aggressive Children With Autism
Knowing how to stop an autistic child from hitting is key. Aggressive behavior can hinder a childs progress at school, at home, and in social interactions. If your child has an autism diagnosis and is engaging in aggressive behaviors, seek treatment options as soon as possible.
The earlier the intervention , the greater your childs chances of developing alongside their peers and becoming independent.
At Therapeutic Pathways, our Board-Certified Behavior Analysts put together an ABA treatment plan for each child engaging in aggressive behaviors. We work diligently to remediate harmful behaviors and encourage children to engage in safer, more appropriate behaviors.
For more information and to learn more about our ABA methods, contact Therapeutic Pathways at 422-3280 to see if our Behavior Center program is right for your child.
Ways To Handle Violent Autistic Behaviour
Responding to violent autistic behavior in toddlers and children requires significant parental considerations. Interspersions, not intensities will worsen the behavior further for the child. For example, lets take Adam, who likes hit the child next to him in school because he likes to hear the other childs reactionHe hit me! Or, lets talk about Sophie who, out of jealousy, throws her classmates stationaries off the table and on the ground.
For children with high functioning or borderline autism, it is often the attention they get from being difficult that keeps children into the habit. For parents, the time to act is now! If you dont intervene today, the problem would only grow, not to mention that there can be another child victimized tomorrow.
While many of you may have taken temporary measures to alleviate this problem, unless you have a longer-term autistic behavior control strategy in place, the child might end up hurting several others and in worst cases, him/herself.
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What To Do If Your Child Hits You
Neutral redirection is effective in how to stop an autistic child from hitting. This is an Applied Behavior Analysis technique consisting of replacing a childs aggressive, potentially dangerous behaviors with functional, appropriate behaviors.
With some guidance and gentleness, neutral redirection allows parents to effectively teach their children socially appropriate and safe behaviors, skills that will help them interact with peers, share experiences, and enjoy a higher quality of life. This process begins at treatment centers like Therapeutic Pathways, but can be followed at home.
As a parent or caregiver, heres how you can remediate your childs aggressiveness through neutral redirection:
- Remain calm. Remember that your childs behavior may be kindled if you give in to their aggression.
- Prevent your child from making contact with you by moving out of the way.
- If this is not possible, you may need to protect vulnerable parts of your body.
- During the process, refrain from speaking to your child , making eye contact with them, or reacting physically .
- Calmly redirect your child to a different method of communication. For example, if your child usually hits you to get your attention, you can instead instruct them to tap you on the arm and say excuse me.
- Only give your child direct acknowledgment when they engage in the appropriate behavior. Failing to do so could lead your child to associate aggressiveness with attention and getting what they want.
Figuring Out Your Childs Needs
Theres been a lot of research about how people with autism lack a so-called theory of mindthey dont understand that you are a different person with different needs than theirs. That may be true, but teachers, parents, and specialists are often just as lacking their understanding of what might be called the childs theory of sensation and perception.
You dont get why she experiences a flickering light bulb as a bolt of lightning, a doorbell ringing as the sound of a thousand church bells. You dont appreciate why a child might need to tap his foot and run around the classroom to keep from falling out of his chair. And you dont grasp how yogurt, because of its smoothness, may be one of the only foods that doesnt make your daughter feel like she has a mouthful of pebbles.
Your child may have as hard a time figuring out your needs as you have figuring out hers. She may not notice that today is a bad one for you, and so try to be less needy. He may talk endlessly because he cant read your cues of boredom.
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What To Do When Your Child Hits You
Stay Calm: Although it might sound pretty obvious, the first step is staying calm. When you stay calm it shows your child that you are in control. Which, can represent huge support for him/her during a frustrating moment.
Never Punish/Yell/Spank: Keep in mind that your childs behavior is not personal. It is not that he/she means to hurt you. If you react with similar behaviors, you will only reinforce the conduct in your child, and somehow he/she will learn that it is okay to express his/her feelings in that way.
Stop The Behavior: Stopping the behavior is the first step to properly managing anger episodes.
Gently grab your childs arms to stop him from hitting you, and then calmly but firmly mention to him/her I see that you are angry but I wont let you hit me. A simple statement like this will show your child that you care and validate his/her feelings, but you are setting healthy limits.
Validate his/Her Feelings: Validating your childs feelings is crucial for his/her connection with you. This way you are letting your child know that even though you dont approve of his/her conduct, you understand the feeling behind it.
The following phrases will help you validate your childs emotions while setting boundaries:
- I know that you were very angry and this is why you hit me. Im here if you want to talk about it.
- I see how upset you are. Lets talk about this!
- Lets take a moment to calm down and see how you feel.
Remember, you are not alone!