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Aspergers Temper Tantrums and Meltdowns

"My son, who is nearly 5 and has Asperger's, has started to get uncontrollable meltdowns. He is as nice as pie one minute, and then for what seems like no reason at all, he kicks off, hitting, jumping, throwing things, and laughing almost hysterically. Nothing calms him down when he is like this. Please let me know what can be done to stop this behavior." 

Parents with children who have Aspergers Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism will often tell you about times their child has had a “meltdown” or type of temper tantrum that can disrupt the lives of the whole family.

These types of behaviors can be as rare as once a month or can happen several times per day, leaving parents sometimes frustrated and exhausted. There are, however, things a parent can do to minimize the strength and length of these tantrums.

The first thing to pay attention to is your own response to the tantrum. Are you calm and quiet? Have you taken steps to assure safety? Are you thinking clearly? Take slow, even breaths and reassure yourself that you’ve survived these meltdowns before, and it doesn’t have to be the dreadful experience you anticipate it to be.

Speak with a soft, neutral and pleasant voice. This relaxes both you and your child. Stay away from unnecessary words, and keep your movements slow and purposeful.

Many meltdowns happen as a result of rushing around or trying to get somewhere. It’s vital to take the time to slow down and rearrange your priorities. Forget that you have a timetable and concentrate on helping your child settle down first.

Keep safety a priority. Children in this stage can be impulsive and can forget every safety rule they were ever taught. If the child is having a meltdown while you’re driving, stop the car and take care of the issue. If your child tends to run away from you, resist the urge to chase them as it can make the situation worse.

Hold your child if necessary or talk with him in an attempt to redirect his behavior. In other situations, let the meltdown run itself down. Bear in mind that the child will often be exhausted after a meltdown so that you may need to give him the time to rest and get his breath back after such an event.

Remember that these types of behaviors represent ways you child is trying to communicate with you. Think about what the behavior represents and make attempts to avoid the behavior the next time. 

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdown and Tantrums


•    Anonymous said... HUGS. Just know that you are not the only one! That helps a little. Really, I've found that there are no quick fixes. Eliminating food dyes helped us some, but it was not a miracle cure. My son still has meltdowns at almost 11, but over time he's slowly learning control. It may help to see what is triggering these meltdowns and avoid the trigger, if possible, or approach it differently. When there is anxiety or things appear to be heading toward a meltdown, try using some coping techniques that she can learn ahead of time, like "squeezing lemons" (squeezing her fists together repeatedly) or concentrating on her breathing to calm herself down. It will take a while and you'lll have to work with her on those. See what kinds of things she finds soothing. For my son, it's warmth (especially warm water) and heavy pressure (he likes to be a sandwish between two beanbag chairs). Most kids have something soothing that can head off a melt down as well. Some OT things that can be helpful are a weighted or neoprene vest, squeeze balls or textured toys, and things like swinging or spinning depending upon her preferences. There are lots of these calming OT things available for purchase online. Finally some studies have shown that teaching children to meditate, even for just a few minutes each day, can help their overall temperament. There are some good yoga and meditation websites for kids that you can take a look at, and see if a few months of meditation helps. Finally, unless you have a personal objection to medication, talk to your daughter's doctor about it. She's young, but I have found that there are some medications that help my son stay calmer overall, and have more control when his emotions are spiraling. Meds are not for everyone and I won't recommend any here since all kids are so different, but it's a last-resort that's available if she needs it.
•    Anonymous said... I agree that it can be the simplest sensory issue and you need to think of the common thread. I am amazed how my son can articulate like when we took tennis lessons in a huge tent that magnified every sound. He told me he was listening to every conversation and sound and couldn't pick out the sounds he was involved in. I'm very lucky my son can verbalize sometimes what is setting him off and understand his noise sensitivity. I say stay open minded to find which sensitivities bother your child. Food coloring is another for us.
•    Anonymous said... I completely understand what you are experiencing! My daughter is now 12 and continues to have meltdowns that can turn into full blown tantrums that can last an hour! We have been trying for years to understand and prevent them. It is just like a light switch- she is completely fine and chatting and then she is screaming & out of control. It makes no sense- very irrational! Age, maturity, medication and time continues to help but it is a constant struggle. I can only tell you that you are not alone.
•    Anonymous said... I personally agree with Heather. Although food may be playing a part and is definitely something to look into, I have found with my son that meltdowns usually happen because he is overwhelmed or frustrated over a given situation. I have to constantly remind mysel to make sure he is well prepared for the day (if there are changes to the normal routine, explain early why and what is expected - behavior wise from him as well as what the new or changed event is). Every meltdown my son has had, I can usually tie to me not being as understanding or as patient as I should have been. I'm not trying to say that is what's happening for you, but after many years (my son is now 13), I have found my behavior or expectations usually compound the problem.
•    Anonymous said... I'll second the food dyes. We had to eliminate red 40 from my daughter's diet. She would go from a very sweet, obedient child to a real handful. Between the Flinstones chewable vitamins, NestlĂ© strawberry milk, breaded chicken nuggets (yes, it's there, too) she was overloaded. Once we eliminated it from her diet she was a different child!
•    Anonymous said... Just a quick note, many things help and others don't, that of course, will be child specific. I have a 16 year old and whilst life is always interesting with an aspie, the major meltdowns have subsided as he has matured and been taught what is and isn't socially acceptable. I whole heartedly agree that this is vital for the child to find 'their' place in the world. But the key to getting there is vigilant preemption of triggers. is waaaay easier on all of you to avoid them and as you all know, they usually aren't major issues. The other thing to remember is that you are looking after YOUR child and YOUR family. one else's, their judgment is unimportant!
•    Anonymous said... Please be careful the meltdowns don't turn into violent melt downs We carry a distraction with us at all times ie Lego that he will play with and it will distract him. We let him melt down a little while and watch from a distance then try and distract him with food or toy. If this doesn't work we leave him alone for another minute then try again.
•    Anonymous said... sigh. maybe make it clear that what he's doing is not appropriate and that it's not acceptable. it's not the food, it's whatevers setting him off in the first place. take a look at what happens right before he has a meltdown. the "what seems like no reason at all" IS a reason to kids like him with aspergers, and I guarantee he'll feel better just with you sitting down to find out whats upset him. fixing what upset him (if possible and "acceptable") will do a world of wonders. I dont normally rant like this, but as a parent of an aspie and as an aspie myself, it's something I feel very strongly about. if you raise a child to ride the aspie train, they'll do so their whole life. teach an aspie to deal with issues first hand like every other neurotypical child (within reason, of course), you'll raise an amazing aspie.
•    Anonymous said... Two of my kids are very sensitive to food dyes. Eliminating food dyes from their diets has made a huge difference for us. On days when they don't have food with dyes, they are in control of their emotions. On days when they have food with coloring, they have enormous meltdowns and loss of emotional control. Figuring out this trigger was a lifesaver for us.
•    Anonymous said... Watch the protein/carbohydrate balance, too. I could definitely see mine burn out faster after a heavy carb meal or snack. Once that blood sugar dipped it was meltdown city!
•    Anonymous said... When I discovered that my aspergers son was allergic to red dye, it was like a miracle. the days of dr. Jeckyl and mr hyde syndrome went away and although he is still an aspie kid, on the spectrum, there are no more crazy explosive manic uncontrollable over reactions. ... unless we get red dye by mistake, then look out for about 3 days. I am reminded each time it happens, to me or him, how life would be if we'd never discovered the link.
•    Anonymous said... When you remove the dye, it becomes that much easier to find the other triggers: noise, sleep, frustration, anxiety. Also O.T. made a huge difference for us, getting on a sensory diet st home and before school made the day go by so much better. Riding a bike or scooter in the morning and installing a hammock chair swing were two things that help us still to this day. Movement helps my kids organize their thoughts and feelings. Hope it helps.
•    Anonymous said... Wish I knew. We try to calmly talk to our nine year old. He was diagnosed last year but school suspected it since kindergarten. Since he was verbal, I didn't see it. He has had some meltdowns that have caused people to threaten to call cops nome because they didn't understand. Now that I know he is aspergers, I can handle the meltdowns a but better and know how to react better.
•    Anonymous said... Don't misunderstand what I'm saying...I still have a child w/ Aspergers. I still have to talk to her about what is acceptable social behavior. She still has obsessions and adheres to routines. She still suffers from anxiety and has sensory issues. We have our challenges every day. What I said is that there are substances like food dyes going into these kids that can influence their behavior, ability to concentrate, etc. My daughter does so much better when these things are eliminated from her diet.

More comments below…


Anonymous said...

I know that feeling! Looking forward to the tips because I have NO idea!

Anonymous said...

There usually isn't any stopping it once it gets to that level. You have to try and head it off before it starts. They can't be calmed and told to stop. I've found help by talking to my sons after the meltdown. I tell them they can't act like.that, that it isn't good for them or anyone else. I let them know I know things are hard for them but they still have to find another way to cope. And I give them choices. I've made a sensory area that is just for them. We call it the cool down club house. It is a pop up tent with sensory things inside. Fidgetes, coloring things, other small toys they enjoy. when they feel one coming on they are to take themselves away from the situation and go to their club. If they allow themselves to get like that then there is consequences, and I let them know what they are prior. It puts them in charge of their meltdowns and let's them know its not proper. On top of that it gives them rules and Aspergers like rules. It has helped us anyway.

Anonymous said...

The less we diviate from plans or structure the better. I have learned not to say when and where we r going unless it is a 100% chance it is happening that way. I do not ...or try hard not to interupt his daily schedule, plan everything....daily routeins helps. My aspie does not like change.not sure any of them do. Hope this help.

Anonymous said...

My son when he was little use to do something similar but not with the laughing and use to self injure during these times. My saving grace was some one taught me how to give him a love hug, a form of restraint but in a hug. I would do that and not speak or give any emotional response and we would sit there until I knew he was done and calmed down to release him. I have to say they started to lesson over time. I know this is a time where the journey feels it will never end but I am 18 yrs in and I can say it does get a bit easier as time goes on.

Unknown said...

*****taurine. It will calm your child down within 10 minutes!! My son is 50 pds and he gets 335 mg every morning. It stops meltdowns!! Use the powder form by Source Naturals from Vitacost!!!!

Tamara said...

This may not work for everyone, but for my son, changing his diet has reduced has tantrums by about 95%. Even though all of his allergy tests came back negative, we've found that corn causes a delayed reaction that leads to horrible tantrums. It might be worth it to try an elimination diet (along with behavioral strategies) to see if it would help.

Anonymous said...

time to look at biomedical treatment. diet triggers, select supplements. contact me when you are ready.

Anonymous said...

i have a child with aspergers, after a few years of treating his disorder, he is now the best behaved boy on the block. I can help you turn the meltdowns into sweet smiles and I love yous!

Anonymous said...

I found with my son it was good to let him know in advance if there was going to be a change in routine ..... Talk to him about it, his ideas and feelings so that he was prepared..... If it was going to be hard we used to talk about what to bring with us to make it more comfortable or like home eg if we went on holidays or school camps etc he would bring his special book, or toy or pillow or blue tac ( he used to mould n play with this while watching tv....... It helped to prevent melt downs ..... He has had melt downs n I found putting him in a quiet place alone till he calmed down , the best way was with the least amount of sensory distractions possible and then after he calmed we would talk about the situation , what triggered it and try to find a solution.... I would also learn from this as sometimes I didn't release what I might have done to bring it on....... He is 16 now and living with his father,.... Now his father is learning all about it but at least my son knows what the triggers are and he warns his dad and tells him " dad I need quiet time or dad I hate busy arcades don't take me there' his farther didn't listen one time and my son had a melt down , NOW he listens.... It's a learning experience for us all....... This works for us

Anonymous said...

For years I wondered what was wrong with my son. Now having this as a diagnosis helps us to understand a little better why and we have learned to stay calm with him and talk him through it. He is eight.

Anonymous said...

Always try to abort a meltdown.Meaning as a parent you have to stay one step ahead.We are trying at 11 yrs to get our Aspie to recognize her stress level.I truthfully feel at the edge of a meltdown they have no control.Possibly can't hear either.We try to keep schedules.It gets worse at puberty.

Anonymous said...

Show no fear, use firm reassuring touch if he reacts with firmness. My son was like this only without the laughing and I took him to a biomedical doctor, he is on a variety of homeopathic medicines but the one that was noticably calming for him was the evening primrose. I would highly recommend getting him looked at by either a gp/naturapath (a doctor who looks at the biomedical chemistry) I am a big believer in treating the causes rather than the symptoms myself and I have never looked back since doing this for my son. Your son could be what is called a Pyrole child (just a fancy name with a group of chemical imbalances in the body) and could be high in one or several heavy metals which cause an interruption to the brain signals too. Be strong!
13 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Patience and very clear consequences that he will expect to happen each time he hurts someone, which I assume he may be doing. Our son is 12, on medication and still does these things fairly often. It's part of Asperger's, it's our job to make sure he knows what to expect. After all, they usually act this way the most when they are unsure of what's expected of them at that time.

Anonymous said...

Went through much less tantrums when we started our daughter on Nurtured Heart Approach. Didn't start her until around 6, but she was through with the all out tantrums, biting, kicking and such within a few weeks. Highly recommended! Other then that love worked wonders!!

Anonymous said...

For a few years I tried the very clear consequences trick, I found it did nothing for my son, he use to stab me with knives if any were left out, hit me with branches if he had any and I found by showing him no fear and walking confidently up to him to remove the item (knives were different) he didn't use it. I had to go through a whole trial and error system before finding out triggers, calming ways, I use to diaries each event what happened before and after which was alot of work and not easy to keep up with but for me was well worth it in the end. I documents foods he ate which caused some of the behavioural changes for example, strawberry topping would set my son off within 10 minutes of eating it, his mood changed and his behaviour. Sometimes it was the environment like shopping, he use to run wild throwing things off the shelves and I found out it was due to the over stimulation of the environment for example, the lights, all the busyness with all the labels on the shelves and noise. After ruling out everything I could think of after some years of trial and error and documenting, I took him to get the biochemisty checked, mind you getting a blood test was a challenge but we got around that by offereing his favourite food or activity after. We found that a lack of zinc, iron and high copper were a factor with him too so now he has been put on a few different natural medications like, olive leaf extract, evening primrose oil, melatonin for sleeping, and a pyrole primer he has been amazingly less violent, learns alot more at school, and copes slightly better with sensory stimulation. I did have a physchologist tell me that Apergers children were non violent but she obviously was not well informed about this as Aspergers children can be quiet and mild or violent and uncontrollable, the later is less common though. I wish you luck as it is no easy feat but what is life without a challenge? If you do not invest in your child with time and effort no one else will, it is worth persistance and perserverance in the end. Children change all the time so the learning of them never ends .. good luck.

Anonymous said...

I actually have never heard of the Nurtured Heart Approach, I have been researching in Magic 123 a disciplinary system used for all children in general including special needs children but will look into this other approach for research.

Carla said...

What works for us is staying away from gm foods. I don't even know why it works for my son. We used to have several fits daily. Since we've been doing this, the fits are maybe two or three a week. It took about 3 months before we really saw the difference and now we know immediately when he has had something at school because he will cry very easily.

Carla said...

What works for us is staying away from gm foods. I don't even know why it works for my son. We used to have several fits daily. Since we've been doing this, the fits are maybe two or three a week. It took about 3 months before we really saw the difference and now we know immediately when he has had something at school because he will cry very easily.

Amy said...

We used the Wilabarger protacol (ask a therapist or google it)...a soft brush using a soft calming voice and firm brushes to the arms and legs then doing joint compressions. It took a few times and eventually calmed the meltdown time and then our son must have known when he was reaching a meltdown/ or being overstimulated because he would bring the brush to us to use on him and it would "restart" him, his words...we started this at age 3, at age 6 he asked for it less and less. At 7 meltdowns were minimal and manageable. Hes now 8;)

Meredith Roberson said...

My 10 year ol has Aspergers. I completely understand what its like when a melt down occurs. I have even found a way to watch for signals that one might occur and sometimes avoid the meltdown. While it does not work all the time. It is helpful most times.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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