Sunday, May 4, 2014

What is an ASD tantrum?

All kids have tantrums now and again.  Usually it is over frustration or not getting what they want.  I remember the first time I met my oldest Nephew, he was in 6th grade at the time.  He is a senior in high school this year and is a calm, intelligent and all around great young man.  I couldn't even imagine him having a tantrum.  Will tells the story of a time where this calm, cool, and collected nephew had to be carried out of Target on Will's shoulder because Will wouldn't buy him the toy he had his heart set on.  Will says he screamed and cried all the way out of the store and into the car.  I feel like it is a right of parenting passageway to have one of these episodes with your child.  These tantrums are normal.

Then there are the out of control ASD tantrums that Max has that warren a concern.  At first glance it looks like a tantrum, but then it turns into rage.  Max was having 5-6 of these a day at one point.  Max's ASD tantrums would last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. A lot of the time they would come on suddenly without a motive.  Max would hit his head against the floor or wall, his hands would hit his face and he would run all over the house screaming and throwing things.  His whole body would be in a state of panic.  There have been times I have had to call Will home from work because I wouldn't physically calm Max down from a tantrum.

Why do Autistic children get so out of control?  What causes these tantrums?

"One of the most misunderstood autistic behaviors is the meltdown.  Frequently, it is the result of some sort of overwhelming stimulation of which cause is often a mystery to parents and teachers.   They can come on suddenly and catch everyone by surprise.  Autistic children tend to suffer from sensory overload issues that can create meltdowns.  Children who have neurological disorders other than autism can suffer from meltdowns. Unlike temper tantrums, these children are expressing a need to withdraw and slowly collect themselves at their own pace." From The Examiner.

We have learned a lot about tantrums and how to avoid one, and how to calm a tantrum when one comes on.  Will and I ARE NOT perfect, but we are learning how to stay calm and not over react.  The most important part of a tantrum is to keep the child safe from harming himself and others.

Here are some things we have been doing to help us manage The Tantrum:
  • Max tantrums a lot more if he is overtired.  Sleep is a whole other topic.  But bottom line is, when Max gets sleep, the less he tantrums.  
  • Max is calmed by physical touch.  Will holds him really tight and does deep breathing with him.  This has been helping Max since he was really little.  
  • Max loves to watch the fan spin.  If we can get him focused on the fan and drinking a cup of juice or milk that will help calm him.  
  • Max has sensory overload with loud noises, and large groups of people so we try to avoid these places as much as possible.  
  • Talking in calm voices ALL the time helps.  
  • Not over loading him with toys also has helped.  
  • Getting physical exercise 
  • Not taking Max to places that naturally cause tantrums - like a toy store.  
  • Having a plan if a tantrum happens.  For example in church if the music is to loud, we immediately take Max out into the foyer.  This stops a tantrum before it happens.  
  • Teaching Max by role playing "people games" to illustrate what proper behaviors look like has helped.  
  • When we leave somewhere now we say "bye-bye pool, or bye-bye ducks (at the pond)" to illustrate that we are leaving but will be back.  It has started to help with transitions from one activity to another.  
  • Patience - we are learning and will keep practicing our patience.
Will and I are learning more and more each day.  Each child on the ASD spectrum is different, and on some days NOTHING works and we have to wait out a tantrum.

To read more about tantrums My Aspergers Child has some great information. 

I also LOVE this statement about tantrums:


  1. Tantrums are awful! ABA therapy will help a lot with this. You guys are doing so great!

  2. Thank you. This is all very interesting and insightful. Love you.

    1. I am glad that you are reading my posts. You are awesome Bri.