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Aspergers Kids & Temper Tantrums in Public

"What do you suggest we do when we are out shopping and our Aspie son has a massive temper tantrum right there in the store for all to see?"

All moms and dads have experienced the tempter tantrum in the grocery store or restaurant. While kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism may have tantrums that seem larger than life at times, they are still tantrums. 

Here are some tips:
  1. Prior to going on out somewhere, it is important that your Aspie is prepared for what is going to take place. Explain where you are going, what you will be doing, and how long you will be doing it. Use a picture story board that describes the basic steps of a shopping trip (one that you have already created for such an event).
  2. You may want to have your child engage in some physical activity and play so that he's calm for the outing.
  3. You will want to establish what the expectations are for your child's behavior during the outing. State these expectations immediately before exiting your front door. You will need to keep in mind his age when giving expectations. Don't overload him with rules, but be consistent.
  4. As you shop, ask your child to help you pick out some of the items; enlist his help. 
  5. Monitor his behavior very closely on the outing. If you sense that he is becoming overwhelmed, intervene at that point. Tantrums are not only embarrassing for you, but for your youngster as well. He doesn't want to behave this way, so if you can help him avoid it, you should.
  6. If you are going to be out-and-about for an extended period of time, prepare for it. Bring with you activities or things that your youngster enjoys to keep him occupied.
  7. If he doesn't function well while out on trips, then start with brief periods of time at first. Go on an outing for 10-15 minutes, and if all goes well, reinforce that behavior. Then gradually increase that time period.
  8. If the outing is not for your child's benefit, then don't ask him to engage in an activity for extended periods of time. Don't expect him to sit quietly for hours while you shop -- that's unfair to any child.
  9. If a tantrum occurs at any point -- leave! Stop what you are doing, and get out of that store. DO NOT stand there and try to reason with your child at this point!! Also, don't create more tension by making a big deal of it. Just remove him from the area. This may mean just leaving for a few minutes until his behavior becomes calm, or it may mean putting the trip off until a later date and simply returning home. When your child has calmed down, tell him what was inappropriate, and why you left early. Try not to continue the discussion about his behavior once you are home. It is over!
  10. Create a social story about "how to remain calm during trips," and have your child read that story often.
  11. Reward your child with a special treat or activity if he completes the trip without incident.
  12. When you must make long trips (3 hours or longer), consider leaving the child at home with a family member or babysitter. 

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Don't take him in the first place. You are not dealing with a normal kid having a fit. He can't help it! We learned a long time ago, if our aspie didn't want to do something or go a certain place, it is just easier not to. There are way bigger battles than going to wal mart that you will have to fight, so let some of the little ones go. His life is probably hard enough as is.
•    Anonymous said... go home
•    Anonymous said... I use to start a week before shopping day explaining that shopping was this certain day, which was a Friday night due to quietness...if he had a meltdown (which was often) I would hold him tight (but not restrained) slow my breathing down until he was in tune with me which sometimes took a couple of minutes, meanwhile he would be hitting, kicking and telling me he hated me which I would respond 'I love you too'...we did this ritual for about 12 months, now he knows we go shopping on the weekend and we can go any day at any time on the weekend, or during the week after school if necessary, he still doesn't like it too much but is a lot better at handling himself, he now has skills to cope...he is now 12
•    Anonymous said... If you change the plan in anyway, or go to a stop along the way, get prepared for a melt down. The best advice is tell him ahead of time where you are going what you are doing and stick to it. If you have to make an unexpected stop, only one of you get out the other stays in the car with the kid. Otherwise you will have a melt down. period
•    Anonymous said... Ignore everyone but you and your child
•    Anonymous said... Mine MUST sit in the cart, so that means it's a two parent trip every time. HE'S getting to big for the carts now, so it will be a game plan change. He also must wear ear protection (head set) since he has above superior hearing.
•    Anonymous said... My son once had a tantrums in public and twice people threatened to call cps on me! People who do not have autistic children simply do not understand that a child will meltdown over the smallest things.
•    Anonymous said... Nice suggestions guys, but single parents don't have the luxury of leaving the child at home or having a second adult present. Likewise, doing your shopping later sounds good, but there are times when that isn't possible (like when you're there to pick up the medication for the child that controls the violent, impulsive behavior). Sometimes, the kid just needs to be able to suck it up and get through it (mine is 12 and still has difficulties). I was once counseled by a first responder to carry a letter in your purse or wallet from the child's doctor explaining his diagnosis and assuring the reader that the parent knows what they are doing and how they might help. The parent, if heavily engaged in restraining or "managing" the out of control child, can then direct the first responder to the letter so they do not misunderstand the situation and take actions that might make matters even worse. Melt downs are ugly and often misunderstood by observers. Not exposing the child to activities that require self control, even when it is difficult, sets the child up to be confused as an adult when the challenges of life are not "fixed" for him or her.
•    Anonymous said... This article is a perfect answer!
•    Anonymous said... Look the first thing is you can't be embarrassed. You child is wired different, embrace that! Many time when my son starts to act out I will try to get him under Control which in it's self a challange. It if people are being really nosy I will explain that he has aspergers. If they don't like it I just look in their eye and simply say "walk a mile in his shoes then you can judge"
•    Anonymous said... My child is special I love him for all he is. Even though the are days I want to pop his little head off smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said... Stores are noisy, bright, boring, overwhelming, smelly, and generally not a sensory friendly atmosphere at all. If you absolutely must take him with you, make it short, occupy him with something useful like checking items off a list, and try to recognize when too much is getting close.
•    Anonymous said... When my son was younger it was difficult and he did have a lot meltdowns because of sensory issues. Some people say don't bring your child at all but I have to disagree with that, you need to teach them about the real world because at some point in their life they will have to face the real world. And if you keep them away from all that and confined they are not going learn how to cope. My son is now almost 13 and does wonderfully no more meltdowns. He has learned how to handle it.
 

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18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Um, leave -- as quickly and with as much dignity as possible, in concern for your son. Who cares what other people think, but your son is upset and needs your calm love & reassurance, not anger. Meltdowns are grounded in anxiety and he needs your love & support to learn how to handle the outside world & expectations.

Anonymous said...

Feed your child before you go.

Anonymous said...

Depending on your son's age & size, pick him up & carry him as you go on about your shopping.... My son used to throw huge fits, lying on the floor, kicking & screaming...because he simply did not wish to shop. I never would have gotten anything done if I had left very time he flipped out, and he would have learned that having a temper fit is an excellent way to get exactly what he wants. I would talk softly to him about what we were doing, what we needed to get in the store, & that we were going to do those things & Then leave...(not that he always listened) Sometimes it was just, hold on tight & keep moving--Don't worry about the other people though--they are not living your life or parenting your child.

Anonymous said...

Take something for them to drink. 3. shop at a reasonable hour.. not at midnight when they are tired. 4. Do NOT take them to the toy department unless you are planning on buying the a toy.. thats not fair.

Anonymous said...

If you are stressed... DO NOT TAKE YOUR KID TO THE STORE. get a babysitter. kids pick up on our emotions and respond .. if we are happy they are happy if we are stressed they are stressed

Anonymous said...

its not about what to do when it happens.. its how to stop it before it starts.

Anonymous said...

I agree,try to keep calm and not get annoyed ,its difficult last major meltdown my son had in a shop was abt 2 years ago ,my husband had to put him over his shoulder and carry him out ,after throwing himself on the floor,hes 16 yes old on Wednesday and altho has the occasional meltdown its at school or home ,good luck xxxxx

Anonymous said...

My son had not been officially diagnosed yet. He's four, has his first eval this Thurs. still glad I found this group! His temper tantrums are exhausting and we have three other kids too. His tantrums alone are more exhausting than the other three together. I love him dearly and look forward to these posts so I can use them to help us help him! :)

Anonymous said...

We went through this for a year and it wasnt so much a tantrum because they wanted something it was because the places like malls and stores with a lot going on was too overwhelming for my daughter. 2 years later we now prepare her and tell her where we are going and what we are getting. She helps by making the list and helping to get items. Now as for browsing, we keep it to 10 mins and sometimes it gets longer! :-) we also bring along her iPod for her nature sounds and music :-) what helps for one family may not help for all but I love getting ideas from all on here. Hope my ideas help someone ;-) Have a great day ^_^

Anonymous said...

When I figured out that my kids are sensitive to artificial food coloring, it cut out most of their meltdowns.

Anonymous said...

My son had a meltdown in a store parking lot once so bad that a passerby threatened to call CPS on me because I was "obviously abusing my child for him to be screaming that much". Sigh.

Anonymous said...

We have also left from restaurants during one.

Anonymous said...

ABA has helped us tremendously. You have to set them up for success. Positive reinforcement. We have a behavior expectation chart in both the car and at home. I give him reinforcers (coins, stickers, some people do food) when my son exhibits appropriate behavior and conversation. 10 coins equals prize if his choice, which together we decide on before our shopping trip. Don't wait for negative behavior and then try and address it. I used to threaten with lots of time outs, but it just got worse. Like I said, set examples of what you expect before you go, follow through, and be willing to leave if the tantrum persists. Keep shopping trips short. Praise, praise and more praise and eventually the trips may get longer and easier for all.

Anonymous said...

We try to avoid taking him out shopping though. Even yesterday, I needed to get him some new shoes. He doesn't care what type of shoes I get as long as they are sneakers. I asked him how his last pair fit and went to the store leaving him home and picked up a pair that was 1/2 size bigger. It worked. He likes his new shoes and I didn't have any shopping trauma with him.

Anonymous said...

I have left a couple of full shopping carts in Target & Publix (sorry), when my son threw a tantrum, when he was around 4-6. Now, IF I take him, it's a short trip, we talk about it the day before & make a list. I always carry drinks & snacks, he is now 8 yrs old. And yes, always with great praise, when we get in the car. *It was not fun when he was really young & we didn't know what triggered his tantrums. He panics in the toy sections, kindof a good thing for my wallet,lol.

Anonymous said...

For a long time, I just didn't take my son shopping, knowing he would most likely have a meltdown. When I did have to take him, I prepared him for the trip. I always made sure he knew ahead of time where we were going and what we were going for. There weren't many meltdowns, but when there were, I, as quietly as possible, left the cart and left the store. I think it's better to prepare your child before you go, than to handle a meltdown in the middle of a store.

Anonymous said...

Tell him ahead of time where you r going, what you are going to buy and stick to the list. He will help "look" for items on your list. Tale some bribery such as his favorite snacks, juice and loan him your phone to watch a show or play with the calculator function as he sits in the cart.

Ashlea Lemon said...

Our son is 12 with Aspies. We dont take him to the store often for this reason. If we needed to we would leave and then talk about it when we got home. Im hoping that one day we will beable to give him a shopping list and the credit card he'll be able to do it himself. I want to try this when then store has very little amount of people so he doesnt feel overwhelmed. It will be a sink or swim moment.

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