There was one thing I was always thankful for after we got my little Aspie diagnosed – my little Aspie is a girl. Although her tantrums could be quite intense, they were more of the yelling/screaming type. I’ve heard that boys with Aspergers can have tantrums that become extremely physical, even evolving into fistfights. Luckily, K’s tantrums don’t go that far. She will scream and yell loud enough to hear on the street, but at least there are no holes in the wall in her bedroom.
It’s difficult to figure out the best way to handle a physical tantrum. When kids are smaller, it’s not that hard – usually the best course of action is to let them work it out, as long as they are safe. If their safety is compromised, physcially restraining them may be necessary. Sounds simple, but ask my wife how easy it is in real life. She had a knock-down drag out tantrum confrontation with my son the other day, and he’s not even on the spectrum.
Imagine this, but with less smiling and more screaming and flailing limbs.
This is all great advice, but kids have this really strange tendency to get bigger. I know… how dare they, right? The problem with this is that bigger kids bring bigger tantrums. Your child is bigger and stronger; you can’t just hold him down until he exhausts himself anymore. He fights back. He throws punches. Pretty soon, you’re no longer just worried about the saftey of you child but your own as well.
The most common advice I hear about this situation is to try and give you child a place where he can physically lash out without an increased risk of injury – for lack of a better way to describe it, a “rubber room” of sorts. I’m not saying to actually build youself an isolation room, but create a space where there are no breakables and the environment is generally safe. Once you child has gotten throught the necessary explosion, then you can provide loving support. Most people advise against intervening, especially if you feel you safety is threatened. It’s most important to protect yourself; you cannot help your child if you are injured.
Ok, kids! Time to get dressed for school!
I count myself lucky because I haven’t had to deal with this type of situation yet. Not to say that girls don’t have physical tanrtums; it’s just more common for boys to lash out than girls. But I have found out that nuerotypical boys can have tantrums that are just as strong as Aspie boys.
Good luck and be safe out there.
Of all of the behaviors that encompass Autistic behavior, there seems to be one common thread – stimming. Stimming is short for “self stimulation” and usually involves repetitive movement that stimulates one or more of the senses. In Autism, it is usually seen as a response to intense stimuli. Not much is known about the reason for stimming; it could be a stress response, a way to burn off unfocused energy, or a kind of self-comforting mechanism.
Stimming is very common in Spectrumites, however the specific stim can vary greatly. My daughter’s main stim behavior is chewing/mouthing on objects. Other common stims include rocking back and forth, head bobbing, or skin pinching. Mine is picking and biting at the skin on my fingers. Sometimes the compulsion is so strong, I pick at my fingers to the point of drawing blood. Yeah, it’s that bad.
There has been a debate about how to handle stim behaviors. Should all stim behaviors be stopped in an attempt to make the person more “normal?” Or should the stim behaviors be allowed to continue, for the comfort of the Spectrumite? I’m very waffley on this issue – I think the best approach is a little bit of both. I think allowing harmless stim behavior is a good idea if there is no potential for harm or injury to the person.
For example: in order to help our daughter feel more comfortable, we got her a chewable necklace so she could chew and mouth appropriately when needed. On the other hand, I have been trying REALLY hard to stop my finger picking, because it’s obviously not good for my hands.
So I would be in favor of allowing something benign like hand flapping to continue, but I would certainly be trying to keep something like banging one’s head against the wall to a minimum. The goal is to try to keep the person safe, but avoid depriving them of the behaviors they feel they need.
Just a little bit about me, and this blog, FYI.
I write this blog from a number of viewpoints. First, I write as a parent of a child with Aspergers. I have a 6 year old daughter who also happens to be the cutest little girl in the world (sorry to all of you people out there who also have daughters, but it’s true). She inspires a lot of what I write here.
Second, I write as a “medically informed person.” Notice I did not claim to be a doctor, nor did I claim to have all of the correct answers when it comes to medical problems. This blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, cause, cure, or worsen any disease or mental health state.
Third, I write this blog form the viewpoint of a person with Aspergers… presumably. You see, I was never formally diagnosed with Aspergers, but while getting my daughter diagnosed I began sensing a lot of… shall we say “odd, unexplainable behaviors” on my part. I came to learn that Autism tends to run in families, and things began to clear up a bit. After months of soul searching, I finally became comfortable with the fact that I have Aspergers. A diagnosis now would be redundant. A lot of what I write will end up sounding strange and unbelievable, but it comes from my inner feelings as an Aspie myself.
So I wear many hats when I type these posts up. First and foremost, I write these posts because I expect NOBODY to read them. That’s right. I don’t have delusions of grandeur; I don’t expect to be this massive blogger reaching thousands of people, spreading Autism awareness, and making the world a much better place to live in. I’m just using this blog to help express myself, figure out my feelings, and hopefully connect to the world a little better.
Now, if someone other than me happens to be reading this… awesome! Welcome! Don’t be afraid to comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter (@mindofanaspie).
I just ask one thing of you readers – please don’t take what I say as the gold standard of facts about Autism. My posts contain my opinions based on the many aforementioned hats I wear. I may be commenting on something my daughter did, or something I read while reading about Autism research. I may be talking about some private feelings I have about how hard it is to try to fit in with you normal people. But please remember that all Sprectrumites are different. We are all unique. In fact, I fully expect other Aspies to read this blog and claim I’m full of crap. Just try to keep an open mind, and we all might learn something from this.
It can be very difficult for parents of Autistic children to deal with, but this is a fact: tantrums are unstoppable. And in the case of children with Autism, the tantrums are SO MUCH MORE INTENSE.
If you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, I am about to tell you something you won’t want to hear: the tantrums don’t go away with age. I’m a full grown adult (sort of), and I still throw tantrums when I lose my keys.
The good news is that it’s not your fault. You may feel like you are causing the tantrums by either using discipline or holding firm to boundaries, but it’s not that. Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that sparks a tantrum. For me, it’s losing something. For someone else, it can be an uncomfortable setting (too warm/too cold/too loud/too quiet/etc.). Some kids can throw a tantrum over a broken toy. Some can go off because they didn’t get the right amount of chocolate chips on their cookie. It’s different with every Spectrumite.
So, how to deal with the tantruming child? Well, let’s start with what not to do. First, don’t tell the child to be quiet or to not be upset – this will only make the child feel alienated and “wrong” for being upset. Second – and trust me on this – do NOT let them “cry it out.” Tantruming Spectrumites very often get physical during tantrums and can cause harm to objects and themselves. If you just let them get it all out, you may end up with a broken lamp or a broken body part.
The best course of action is to hold the child tight and let them know everything is going to be okay. This is where wrestling skills come in handy. Your youngster is going to fight back; don’t take it personally. But, BE CAREFUL!!! Remember, you are trying to prevent harm, not cause it. So make sure your child can breathe and nothing is bending at any weird angles. Also, do your best to soothe. Speak in a soft voice; tell him you love him, that it’s going to be okay, or sing a lullaby she likes. Don’t expect an immediate response, but it will sink in and they will feel more confident in their bond with you. When your child (FINALLY!!!!!!) begins to calm down (AFTER 19 HOURS OF SCREAMING!!!!!), reinforce the fact that everything is okay, and s/he shouldn’t feel bad about going off.
Tantrums can be scary, especially for parents of Autistic children. But when you know how to handle them, you can get through them with at least some of your sanity intact.