The funny thing about my Aspergers is that it blesses (curses?) me with extreme polarity. I can remember the tiniest minutiae of information, yet I can’t remember where I put my keys. I can deal with major levels of discomfort, but I can’t handle having an itchy tag on the collar of my shirt. And while it gives me the ability to tune out things that drive me crazy, it also makes me lose my shit at the smallest provocation.
So that’s where my keys were.
My tolerance level is practically nil for certain EXTREMELY annoying things. Recently, my daughter has begun making this really strange noise with her mouth/throat that makes me nauseous. It sounds like a pig trying to stop itself from vomiting. In fact, you know what? I can’t even describe how gross it is, so I’m going to let you experience it for yourself:
I told you so.
Now, I don’t know if this is some sort of new stim/nervous tic she has developed, but I have told her over and over again to STOP MAKING THAT GOD DAMN NOISE. But she doesn’t stop. Most likely can’t stop, but that makes no difference to me. Last night she made the noise at least ten times while we were playing Life, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her if she kept doing it, I’d make sure she wouldn’t be able to play at Life anymore. And I wasn’t talking about the board game.
She didn’t think it was funny, either.
And it’s even funnier that as I’m writing a blog post about not having any tolerance for anything, I have a difficult time making the post exactly how I want it to be and end up throwing a tantrum over it. I can usually problem solve pretty effectively, but sometimes the problem is just so frustrating that it makes me just up and say “fuck this shit” and give up. I had some other things to talk about in this post, but I’ve kinda lost the groove after my energy-draining frustration explosion.
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.
Yesterday, I sent out a semi-serious tweet about the possibility of throwing a tantrum because I didn’t get pizza for dinner. As ridiculous as that sounds, aspie tantrums can very well be triggered by something that insignificant. Perhaps something of even less importance.
For example, not getting the Golden Goose that you found out existed only five minutes ago.
Fatigue is a very common tantrum trigger, although not so much for me – my wife will tell you otherwise, but I simply get crabby. Hunger is also a big one on the list of triggers. Specifically for people with aspergers, crowds and social events can lead to meltdowns. For those with autism, loud/unpleasant noises or sensations can cause a blow up. Then you have the triggers that are specific to each person – schedule changes, absence of a normal favorite choice, etc. I know I tend to go nuts if I can’t find something that I’m looking for right away.
The importance of knowing these things is not to remove all of the triggers from the world of the Spectrumite – that’s pretty much impossible. What’s important is to know that these triggers do exist, and that a tantrum can be caused by the smallest little thing that you couldn’t even notice if you tried.
What are some of the small triggers that you have seen influence you or someone with Aspergers/Autism?
Please fill up my comments section. It makes me feel important.
It’s kind of funny how my brain processes stress. I don’t know if it’s my Aspieness or just the way I am, but I seem to be somewhat immune to the rising pressure of a life or death situation.
This actually comes in handy at work. In my job, one mistake can literally kill a person. Sure, there are quality checks in place to prevent this from happening, but the checks are not perfect. The fact remains – I could seriously harm or kill a person with a mistake as small as a typo. And, oh yeah, I almost forgot… in certain situations, if I don’t work quick enough, someone might die as well. So pretty much every day, lives depend on my ability to be fast and accurate with my work. Can you imagine if every time you got the wrong order at the drive through window, you ended up dead?
Now here’s the funny thing: it doesn’t bother me in the least. I actually find myself strangely energized when I’m thrusted into those types of high pressure situations. I excel, I succeed, and dare I say it… I have fun. It’s not that I don’t understand the severity of the events. I just know I’m that damn good at my job to handle even the heaviest situation.
Ironically, it’s the smaller things that tend to drive me crazy. Situations that would seem insignificant to you end up tying me in knots: if my wife sends me to the store to get a specific item and it’s sold out, if I misplace something and can’t find it, or if I start to cook something and I’m missing an ingredient. Just the other day, I threw a tantrum because I couldn’t get the Food Saver to work properly while trying to prep meat for the freezer.
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!
But seriously… I find it fascinating that I can keep it together at work when someone’s life hangs in the balance, yet completely lose my shit in the face of freezer burn.
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.