Calming Techniques for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"How do you deal with an autistic child (age 5) who frequently has severe temper tantrums whenever she doesn't get her way, for example, can't play here favorite game 24/7?"

In order to understand what calming techniques will work with your ASD (high functioning autistic) child, you will first need to determine what things irritate her and have some understanding of the context in which she is throwing a tantrum. 
 
While she is calm, make sure your child knows what the expectations are, but don't confuse the issue with trying to talk to her about things at a time when she is already upset.

Here's a basic plan:
  1. Recognize the signs (e.g., facial expressions) and triggers (e.g., transitioning from one activity to the next) that your child is becoming upset, and intervene prior to a tantrum. Try to redirect her to an alternative activity, something that she enjoys.
  2. If "redirecting" does not stop the tantrum, tell her to stop. Don’t add any extras, just STOP (calming and directly).
  3. If she still doesn't stop, remove her from the area in which the tantrum is taking place. Provide some physical redirection to an area where she can calm down. It can be very effective to call this her SAFE place. It may include a bean-bag chair where she can sit. But, eliminate any extras in the area, such as toys or other preferred items. 
  4. If she doesn’t voluntarily go to her SAFE place, physically escort her there.
  5. Tell her she must be calm for 5 minutes before she can get up.

This may seem like a overly simple process in order to deal with what may be a challenging behavior. The key is to be consistent so that your child will always know what is coming. If the child is in school, try to provide this program across all environments. 

It is amazing how many children on the autism spectrum will actually learn to go to their SAFE place independently as a way for them to control themselves. (Tip: They LOVE structure and routine!) You want your child to self-monitor her behavior, and you want to show her that you believe she has the ability to calm herself down.


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... We also struggle with tantrums and even rage with our 8 year old son. I agree with setting clear limits. Zoe, can you give me an example of emotional regulation? Im not sure i know what that means.
•    Anonymous said... Trying to stop it before my 6yr son goes over the hill has not been easy for me,
•    Anonymous said... Let me know...my 10yo aspie is getting too aggressive for me.
•    Anonymous said... Lately its been take the flight system before the storm hits, I ask him whats wrong or what happend, and sometimes he can express bit other times it break or throw things,,,
•    Anonymous said... get some some books or flyers on how to calm down, even picture stories. During calm days talk about other options for dealing with there own stresses better, taking a deep breath, counting to 10, walk away, dive into a bean bag, give them alternative options, ask them to use words to tell you what's bothering them. Then at times of tantrum calmly remind them of the other options, guide them, it will take time. You have to also understand why the tantrum is taking place as you may deal with different tantrums in different ways, for example is it too much sensory stimuli, boredom, just plain refusal, what happened before the tantrum etc. My son used to have very long tantrums, we worked on this for about 2+ years, he still has some but they have reduced considerably in how often and for how long. It took a lot of consistency, guidance and repetition to see improvement, it won't happen overnight. I am not talking about the typical kind of tantrums that you see in kids, children with HFA/Aspergers can, as you know, have tantrums that are on a whole other level.
•    Anonymous said... Assertive limit setting works for me - acknowledging and validating the childs feelings and difficulty but setting firm limits around what kind of behaviour is and isn't acceptable. We also work on emotional regulation and perspective-taking as a backdrop to this.

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