The Rage Cycle in Aspergers: Group Discussion

I am reading about the rage cycle with Aspergers or High Functioning Autistic kids. One of my son's problems is his meltdowns and tantrums.

The cycle is supposed to have three parts:

1) Rumbling (like warnings of thunder)
2) Rage (the storm)
3) Recovery (the calm after the storm. Sometimes if handled poorly it can merely be the eye of the storm).

Various suggestions were made regarding interventions during the rumbling stage.

My son's camp therapist has not been successful at preventing blow ups. As a matter of fact, a good day seems to be followed by a seriously bad day.

Does anyone have any experience working with this?


Oh, I know these tantrums very well. They're very hard to get under control.

I don't know what methods my mother used on me. Or better I don't know what method worked. I know what she tried. She tried to bring me in my room and let me stay there until I calmed down. But too much damage was done that way, because when in rage, I ripped down curtains, kicked furniture and walls, destroyed toys and handicrafts of mine. I was always horrified by what I had done when the fit was over, but at the time of rage I could only hardly help doing it.

She tried to hold me, but it made me only more furious and I tried everything to struggle free. If she had held on, we had both been hurt seriously.

She tried to talk to me and to distract me, but that was next to useless. I wasn't able to listen and the mere sound of the voice added to my rage.

Basically she always secured my little sister from me (because, sad as it is, if she'd come in my way I'd have hurt her) and then waited it out. That is what worked best.

Also she became a real master in watching out for possible triggers. That didn't help the fact that it came to such meltdowns, because the energy and frustration inside me was there and needed to come out sooner or later, but it (sometimes) helped to avoid the tantrums to happen in unpleasant moments.


My son (he is moderately autistic and not aspergers) would have tremendous tantrums, they made me feel helpless because I never knew what caused them. He would do things like throw his dinner across the room, start screaming and tearing off his clothes while he was getting ready for school. I was told just to wait them out. Then I could get him to redress, or clean his dinner off the floor. Luckily he has fewer of these outbursts.


Piper, my son will get upset when he feels an injustice has been done or as if he is being blocked from doing something he wants to do in an unreasonable way. Afterwards, he feels sorry that he reacted so strongly.

I have found that it if I try to explain the reasons for my requests before he goes into a rage, then if it is logical to him, he will comply without the rage. For example, I tried to explain the reason one washes one's hands after using the bathroom. He still needs to be reminded but does it.

My son has done some damage from his rages, including kicking a door off its hinges when he was 5! At this point, I simply try to keep the house clean. Our furnishing is very simple. I've delayed my desire to have a beautiful interior lest he (now the dogs!) ruined it.


Getting upset over injustices sounds very familiar to me. Also being kept away from doing something of my interest was a big trigger for me.

I remember that the worst tantrum I ever had, was over a happy-meal toy my little sister had gotten while I had been at a school camp. I was already much stressed from two days away from home and that toy, and the injustice that my sister had gotten one and I had not (A MAJOR injustice to me), was the trigger to the worst tantrum I and my Mother can remember.
Also if others insisted that I did things different than I wanted to, upset me very much.

It's interesting, because logic reasoning helped preventing tantrums with me, too. It's still the same today. Once I understand something I'm fine with it and can handle it very good.


Thanks for letting me know that!

I can really sympathize with you about that toy. After being at camp where you had to cope with all of those people, not getting the toy seemed like "the last straw" or the event that caused the tantrum after all of that tension had built up.

It is hard to realize that people are very illogical creatures sometimes and to realize that it doesn't even bother many of them to be so illogical! They accept things that seem to be wrong and don't even give it a second thought. And they think that the person that is trying to correct them is trying to make trouble.


theses rage cycles sound like seizures. Are they? That kind of anger is not normal. It doesn’t sound like it happens on purpose. Parents should know that it could be a seizure. You might have that checked out. I know the rages you are talking about though medication can help too.


That's a really good analogy. But I think actual seizures are due to an irregular type of brain wave activity. I'm not so sure that these rages can be tracked on an EEG. My son's EEG was normal, but they do say that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can develop seizures in adolescence.

I think that these can be prevented more so than seizures, but I can be wrong.


My EEG did never show any irregularities, either.

Another thing that sets them apart from seizures is that the rages are not impossible to control. It's next to impossible to do that as a child (at least it was for me, because I tried very hard to sometimes and it just never worked), but getting older I got more control about them.
At the moment I can control them so much that I can stay pretty calm when I feel overwhelmed with something. I do still get upset, but I have learned to verbalize my anger and my feelings, I don't destroy things anymore, and apart from crying, which I usually can't help, I'm fine. Screaming helps a lot to. Really loud screaming. Instead of kicking things I learned to scream. It has the same effect, only it doesn't cause damage.

Also I've learned that some things aren't worth being upset about. Some really stupid things happen, people do things "wrong" very often, don't understand my point of view and many things are very frustrating still, but my tolerance for them has increased throughout the years. My feelings over those things don't overwhelm me nearly as much as they used to do anymore.


Rowena's hurt all of us pretty badly at one point or another. Even Keven hasn't come through unscathed. Rowena is exceptionally strong and someone Kevin ended up with a broken wrist in the process.

I had a lot of problems with such things when I was younger. Now, I have it a lot more under control, though sometimes that control is a very fragile thing. Kevin's getting good at recognizing such times and avoiding me. (For me, that's the best way to deal with it, because that's basically what my parents did... tossed me into the bedroom and ignored it) Not the best solution, but now, because of that, it's what I'm used to.


My natural mother would ridicule me knowing full well that she was making a bad situation worse. I was glad when she outgrew her slapping sprees.

I have no idea why or how anybody could possibly think slapping does any good at all. I think it is cruel, painful and very humiliating.

No child WANTS to vent like this, but slapped, ridiculed and pushed past a certain point with few outlets...you finally outgrow it.

Another thing I found upsetting was when she'd sing the praises of Other People's Children.


My oldest uncle had an explosive temper his entire life (luckily, I was spared that side of him). When he was a boy, his paternal grandfather used to whip him for it. I seriously doubt that did him a damn bit of good. (This uncle died the summer of 2002).

I don't believe in whipping.

He was always "highly charged" and when I visited him in fairly recent years, he said that when he was upset he "had something wrong with his nervous system." The man was more highly charged than I EVER was! (I don't know if he had synesthesia). He had a myriad of interests, raised a family and successfully ran his own business until age 86 in the summer of 2000. My oldest uncle was deeply involved in whatever he was doing. He, like my youngest and favorite uncle was gifted.

I don't know if he would be considered on the spectrum or not and I never thought about it until now. It's just that now that I know more about it, I wonder in retrospect if he might have had Aspergers tendencies as well.


I've learned that trying to talk to someone in a rage is pointless. Only infuriates them further. Any type of physical restraint also seems to make it worse. Loud noises or bright lights also seem to exacerbate the situation.

One young autistic boy I knew would run into the class coatroom when he was very upset. He'd throw himself on the floor and sob and kick his feet. There was no window and the closet was dark. After a few minutes, he'd be calmer. At that point, he'd usually ask that I rub the back of his neck. He found that calming.

I later realized that whenever he was anxious or stressed, he'd want me to apply pressure to the back of his neck, below the hairline. I once read something that said the neural bundling at that point of the body was very influenced by physical manipulation. Perhaps this little boy realized something scientists are only starting to study. Pressure on this spot helped him not lose control. However, once he had lost control, touching him did not help - it made things worse.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea what triggers the rages? With my daughter
it would happen after school at home, it was a build up of
stress. My daughter did respond to melatonin 2mg at bedtime.

Some people are very alert on Adderall and don't sleep well.
Sometimes the mind races too much or they are too stimulanted
to sleep even though they need the rest.

Fatigue will contribute to rages.

I have heard that many kids with AS do well on straterra.
Is your son hyperactive? Is he in constant motion without the
adderall. Some AS kids have attentional issues but don't
get much benefit from stimulants. Does your son benefit
from the Adderall?

Many kids with AS do best on lower doses of anti-depressant.
My daughter was on zoloft and was agitated by it at higher
doses. We tried prozac and at a very low dose (10mg) she
has not raged as much.

The Adderall may increase anxiety. It is hard for me to guess.
Some people feel great on a stimulant like life is not
such a great effort and others feel wired and strung out.
Kids have a hard time explaining how they feel.

For school I always want the school to use positive
reinforcement to shape behaviors.

You may want to add to the IEP that a behavior goal
is to have your son request a break to avoid a meltdown
in the class room.

The school should bring a certified behaviorist to do a
functional behavior analysis so that the behaviorist
can help figure out his triggers.

Your son should have a weekly school meeting with the
school psychiatrist so that they can address weekly
what are the triggers.

What are some of his school issues? Is he late? Is he slow in
moving from class to class? Any obsessions with getting things
just right or perfect ...any problems with peers?


Anonymous said...

I am looking for some insight and advice, but please allow me to introduce myself first.
My name is Sylvia and my husband is James. We are a military family (Marine Corp). We have 3 kids together, Andrew (7) Courtney (5) and Kaylee (10 months).
Our oldest, Andrew, we knew has ADHD. But I knew there was more...My husband was in denial at the time. He kept getting suspended from school this past school year so I knew I needed to have him tested quickly. I took him to be evaluated and the test came back that not only does he have ADHD, but he also has Asperger's Syndrome and Disruptive Behavior Disorder. I was, in a sense, glad to have these diagnoses so that way I could get a 504 and a IEP put into place. My husband has also come to terms with it and accepts it now.
Andrew has tried different types of medication in the past for his ADHD (the only diagnoses at the time). He is currently taking Adderall 3 times a day (morning, noon and evening). He takes zoloft with his morning dose. At night, he takes Trazadone (to help him sleep) and Desmopresin Acetate (to help with the bed wetting).
We also started seeing a therapist a couple of months ago.
We have times where he is doing really good and then times, like right now, where he is doing so well. When he get's in his rages, they scare me because I feel like I can't control him and I don't know how to gain control over him or what to do. So, if you have any advise, I would love to hear it.
Also, even though he takes a sleeping medication, my son hardly sleeps. And I know that can trigger rages. It's like he becomes immune to his medication. Does anyone else experience this?

Another thing, school has been pretty rocky this year. His teacher, nor his principle has no experience with Asperger's. Nor do I, as I am still learning about it. He has a IEP, but I would like to modify it next school year. I am wanting to get a head start on it, but I am really not sure what to put in it to help him. He still had issues with rages with his current IEP and sometimes it just got worse with removal of the scene. I have read somewhere that if the child has reached the rage stage, it most often has to run it's course but it is not purposeful and sometimes the child can't fully remember what happened. I obviously don't want this to happen, but I want the school to understand it and if it does happen, I want it to be in a safe setting. His school that he attends now works with other handicapped students so I am pretty sure they have a special room, but he always get's sent to the office and I think that just makes things worse for him.
Like I had mentioned, this is all new to me and is still a learning process so I am not sure what to suggest to the school.

Looking forward to some insight :)


Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

mich said...

What do we do when my son's rages over not getting his stuff such as electronics cause him to break stuff kick walls and doors and beat on us?

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