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Aspergers and HFA Temper Tantrums: 15 Tips for Parents

Does your child have periodic tantrums. Here are some tips to tame tempers:

1. A tantrum can be a request for attention. Moms and dads have a natural tendency to run to their Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) kids when they are in distress. Unfortunately, these kids can learn to get attention just by screaming. It is important that you stop reinforcing the behavior by giving attention to your child. Instead, give lots of positive attention during appropriate behaviors. For example, approach him when he is playing quietly and offer lots of hugs and kind words (or whatever works as positive reinforcement for the youngster).

2. As long as the child is not tantrumming, give praise when the youngster uses his words. Also, make sure you listen, don't ignore good communication (get up and meet the need or request if it is appropriate - or explain why it is not appropriate). Often we moms and dads get busy and put the youngster off for too long once he has asked appropriately for something. Show your child that appropriate communication is rewarded and honored.

3. Kids on the autism spectrum often communicate through their behavior. That may well be what is going on in a tantrum. You may acknowledge that you understand that the child is trying to tell you something but "you must use your words" or communicate in some other way.

4. Do not talk to others in the room about the child's tantrum. Talk to other adults about the news, sports, or weather. Focus on the other kids or people in the room and what they are doing right. Also, do not ignore good behavior when it occurs at other times. When you see your youngster behaving well, sitting quietly, tell him so: "I like how you are sitting so quietly!" This will let the child know that you pay attention to good behavior, not bad.

5. Have someone else observe your ignoring to make sure you are not providing any inadvertent attention to your child when he is having a tantrum. Stick to the planned ignoring for at least one month before thinking about changing tactics. Behaviors that have been around for a long time will take longer to extinguish. If the tantrum behavior occurs again after it has stopped, apply the planned ignoring all over again. Your child must get the idea that tantrums do not help them or hurt them, they just get ignored!

6. If your child begins to hurt himself, others, or property during a tantrum, you must intervene. If your youngster is trying to hurt others, remove the others from his reach and give the others your full attention. Do not talk to your child while intervening. Continue to ignore the tantrum. If your youngster is hurting himself, remove any items that may harm your youngster or move your youngster to a safer place. Do not talk to your youngster and use only the amount of physical contact necessary to assure your youngster's safety. Make all your actions appear to be matter-of-fact. Treat the tantrum with as little attention as possible. Not unlike the way you deal with an unpleasant noise from outside over which you have no control.

7. If your child was in the middle of completing a task for you when the tantrum began, ignore the tantrum but make sure the youngster completes the task, even if it means hand-over-hand help. For example, if you asked your youngster to pick up the toys and then the tantrum began, do not allow the tantrum to get the youngster out of the chore. Without talking to the youngster, help him pick up the toys and put them away. When the task is finished, walk away without praising your youngster, unless the tantrum stopped. You may also wait for the tantrum to stop and then have your youngster complete the task.

8. Never give attention to the problem behavior again. Time out or ignoring will work if the problem behavior is an attempt to gain attention. If the child is using self-injurious or destructive behavior to gain attention, don't leave the youngster alone. Block the behavior and protect the youngster but do not say anything and do not provide any “soothing” touches.

9. Read a book, call a friend (this may be a good idea as long as the friend will support you in your new, tough-love stance with your child - but do not call anyone who will convince you to give in), listen to music, watch television, sweep the floor, anything to distract you from paying attention to your youngster's tantrum.

10. Some kids do things in a tantrum that cause them self-harm (e.g., banging head, hitting self, etc.) and can lead to self-injurious behavior - sometimes this is a sensory issue also. Researchers believe some kids hurt themselves to release endorphins in the body that then provides them with a sensation they enjoy. If your child is hurting himself, please contact a psychologist or psychiatrist or other medical professional for evaluation.

11. Some tantrums are related to sensory issues. A tantrum may occur due to your child 's hearing a noise, seeing something that they dislike or are afraid of, smelling something, etc. If you suspect this, look into the sensory issues and consult your youngster's occupational therapist for sensory integration ideas. Some kids enjoy tantrums because they lead to the parent holding the youngster. I know some therapists recommend holding a youngster to relieve the tantrum. Just my opinion: I think this gives too much attention and may actually reinforce the tantrum.

12. Talk with supportive people who understand what you are doing with your child . Hopefully, you have a spouse, minister, friend, family member, and/or professional to share your progress with. This will help keep you on track and will help you deal with the strange looks you will get from people in the community who do not understand what you are doing to your child .

13. When the tantrum stops (in the beginning, this may take a long time), wait a few moments, and then praise your child for the next appropriate behavior. Do not discuss the tantrum and do not give your youngster the item or privilege he was tantrumming for until 30 minutes have passed. At that time it is appropriate to say: "Now ask me again for a cookie (or the item that set the tantrum off - if it is appropriate to have at that time)." Praise the youngster for appropriate asking and give the item, if appropriate. This positive reinforcement will encourage appropriate behavior.

14. Whenever and wherever a tantrum occurs, it must be completely ignored. This means no positive or negative attention. The tantrum should be treated as if it did not exist and that it will change nothing for the good or bad in your child 's life. Do not look at your youngster (except out of the corner of your eye to assure your youngster's safety). Do not talk to your youngster, correct your youngster, yell at your youngster, reason with your youngster, comment on the tantrum, or explain your actions to your youngster. Do not touch your youngster (except to protect him from harming himself, others, or property). Step over your youngster if you have to. No hugs, spankings, pats, squeezes, etc. Do not give your child anything to distract him, especially the item he is tantrumming for.

15. Another strategy is to let the child know that reinforcement is currently not available. It can be used when a child wants something that he can have, but not by throwing a tantrum:
  • Parent: “No crying.” (Start counting as soon as the child takes a breath, but stop counting as soon as the crying begins again.)
  • Parent: Repeat “No crying” (Resume counting each time the child stops crying.)
  • (Child eventually stops crying for a full count of 10.) Parent: "What do you want?"

NOTE: The post above addresses temper tantrums - not meltdownsA meltdown is a completely separate issue and will need to be handled differently. In a nutshell, tantrums are behavioral, whereas meltdowns are related to how the child 's brain is wired. For information regarding meltdowns, view the video below:

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

Misbehavior versus Aspergers-Related Behavior


How can I tell the difference between “aspergers behavior” and pure “disobedience” …I’m not sure what should be punished – and what should not?


Many moms and dads have a difficult time distinguishing between “disobedience” and “misunderstanding” in their Aspergers (high functioning autism) youngster. Because he may not interpret social cues correctly, it may be difficult for an Aspergers youngster to understand what is expected of him, and he may not understand the impact his behavior has on other family members.

So, how can parents tell the difference between “Aspergers behavior” versus “misbehavior”?

Most Aspergers-related behavior (sometimes misinterpreted by parents as “misbehavior”) tends to revolve around the child’s resistance to any kind of change. An Aspergers child is resistant to change for the following reasons:
  • Has anxiety about a current or upcoming event (e.g., the start of school)
  • Does not understanding how the world works
  • Does not understanding the actions of someone else
  • Has other issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Is reluctance to participate in an activity he cannot do perfectly or an activity that is difficult
  • Parent or teacher changes a circumstance or rule that has been established
  • Has the need for instant satisfaction and may not understand delayed gratification
  • Has the need to control a situation
  • Has the need to keep doing the activity that he likes (obsession or fantasy)
  • Has difficulty transitioning to another activity (this is especially hard if the activity is not finished)

Any or all of these triggers can result in certain behavioral patterns that “look like” misbehavior (e.g., arguing, tantruming, refusing to listen, etc.). However, his responses to these triggers have more to do with anxiety and rigidity than his need to defy authority. He simply does not have the ability to understand the world like we do.

The Aspergers child:
  • does not “take in” what is going on around him
  • does not know how to “read between the lines”
  • does not understand implied directions
  • does not understand social cues
  • needs explicit instructions
  • will have difficulty understanding rules of society

Uncovering triggers for negative behavior is important. Keep a behavior diary, noting any events surrounding negative behaviors, the details of your youngster's responses, and any unintentional reinforcement your youngster receives that may be encouraging repeat behavior. The motivation behind negative behavior in Aspergers kids is often very different from other kids, which makes identifying the cause of those behaviors and developing a behavior treatment plan very difficult.

Many negative behaviors exhibited by Aspergers kids are a direct result of the condition. Parents, teachers, and professionals must consider this when developing behavior treatments.

  • Aspergers kids may be unable to resist giving in to their obsessions and compulsions, and this is not a sign of disobedience.
  • Because Aspergers kids have difficulty interpreting social cues and tend to be egocentric, they cannot fully appreciate what impact their behaviors have on others.
  • Due to trouble handling changes in routine, a simple variation in schedules may be enough to cause a meltdown.
  • Odd behaviors are not reflective of defiance and are not meant to irritate or annoy.
  • Aspergers kids may exhibit a lack of common sense.

Moms and dads with an Aspergers youngster should receive professional training so that they can continue working with their child at home. Behavioral techniques are best when adapted to suit the home environment, and they should focus on issues directly related to home life and self-help skills while continuing with the goals established in school.

So when is the Aspergers child actually “misbehaving”?

Children misbehave for the following reasons (you can be pretty sure that the behavior is not Aspergers-related here):

1. To get attention. It is frequently noticed that when children feel a lack of attention, they get themselves noticed by their parents by resorting to misbehavior.

2. When they are disappointed. Sometimes, children get irritated and frustrated when things do not happen as per their wish. It is during these times that they usually misbehave.

3. When they test their parent's discipline. To check that their parents truly mean what they say, sometimes children misbehave. They check to see if their parent's will really enforce a rule or not.

4. When they want to assert their independence. Almost all the children hate being called a 'child'. To assert their independence, they often end up misbehaving.

5. When they have been previously “rewarded” for their misbehavior. No parent would ever think of purposefully rewarding bad behavior, but it subtly happens quite often.

6. When they copy the actions of their parents. The best teacher of how to misbehave or act and speak inappropriately is by watching mom or dad misbehave or act and speak inappropriately. Remember, what children see and experience in the home is what their normal is. So, if they see mom and dad yelling, they will yell. If they get spanked, they will likely use hitting to express their anger or frustration. If they hear, “What?” instead of “Pardon?” that is what they will use.

==> Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers and HFA Children

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Online Resources for Parents

Autism Spectrum Disorder/Asperger Syndrome Information—

1.      Articles on Asperger Syndrome
2.      Asperger Syndrome Information for Teens
3.      Australian Autism Education & Training Consortium-Provides details about workshops and information sessions for parents/caregivers of school-aged children who have autism).
4.      Autism Advisory and Support Service
5.      Autism Awareness
6.      Autism Help Info-Webpage to help professionals, teachers, to understand and support the inclusion of people with ASD. Website funded by The Department of Human Services in Geelong, Victoria, Australia (Barwon South Western region).
7.      Autism Help-A wealth of information and on a range of topics relating to  autism and Asperger syndrome)
8.      Autism SA-Information sheets on topics such as challenging behaviors, communication skills, coping with change, strategies for supporting students with autism in the classroom)
9.      Autism Speaks
11.  Carol Gray’s website-Founder of Social Stories and educator in ASD
12.  Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service, Parenting and Health, Child and Youth Health
13.  Information on Asperger Syndrome that is easier for kids to understand
14.  Mark LeMessurier
15.  Monash University -Evidence-based research, as well as information sheets that provide strategies relating to various developmental areas, including communication, social skills and motor skills.
16.  OASIS: Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support
17.  Positive Partnerships: online education about ASD for parents
18.  Printable handouts (great handouts that are easy for parents to read)
19.  Rainbowland Autism Services
20.  Raising Children Network-Specific support for parents raising a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
21.  Simon Baron-Cohen-Leading UK expert on Autism Spectrum Disorder
22.  Sue Larkey
23.  The Disability Information Resource Centre
24.  Tony Attwood-Leading Australian expert in Asperger Syndrome

Counseling Services—

1.      Department of Education and Children’s Services Helpline
Ph:  1800 222 696 or Disability Services Level 6 Education Centre 31 Flinders Street, Adelaide SA 5000 Email: Ph: (08) 8226 0546
2.      Kids Helpline
Ph: 1800 55 1800
3.      Lifeline
Ph: 131114
4.      Parent Helpline-A service of Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week providing telephone information, counselling and support. Available for parents of children and young people from birth to 25 years, also to those people working with children and young people.
Ph: 1300 364 100
5.      The Second Story Youth Health Centers-Counseling and support available for Youth
6.      Youth Healthline-The Youth Healthline is a 24-hour, 7-day telephone service for young people aged 12 to 25 years in South Australia
Ph: 1300 13 17 19

Diagnosis and other Support Services—

1.      Autism SA
Autism SA Info Line on 1300 288 476
Autism SA Info Line can also provide you a list of Private Practitioners.
Medicare rebates are available for diagnostic assessments of children under 13 years.  For more information contact the Autism SA Info Line on 1300 288 476 or Medicare 132 011.
2.      Flinders Medical Centre
Ph: 8204 4433
3.      Inclusive Directions
4.      Lyell McEwin Health Service
Ph: 8182 9379
5.      Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Ph: 8161 7287
6.      Commonwealth Carelink Centers-Established to assist people with disabilities to navigate through the services that are out there, acting as a single point to obtain current information. Free of charge and confidential:

* North & West Country SA Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
33 McKay Street

* South & East Metropolitan SA Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
290 Glen Osmond Road

* North & West Metropolitan SA Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
77 Gibson Street

* South East Country SA Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
4 Third Street


Educational Websites—

2. (for interactive games, including feelings game, sequencing activity, activity teaching parts of the body, road safety song, matching game, picking the odd one out)

Education/Classroom Strategies and Protocols—

General Disability Information and Education—

2.      Australian Association for Families


1.      A-Z of Disability SA Fact Sheets
2.      Helping Children with Autism Package-Federal funding and support packages available to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Online Forums/Groups—

Parent Support Groups—

1.      The Flinders University Early Intervention Research Program
2.      Playgroups and services for younger  children and families with ASD
3.      My Time groups-A chance to meet and talk with other families of children with a disability and find support and understanding. My Time groups in SA- My Time information-
4.      List of Parent Groups from Parenting SA
5.      Early Development Program at Autism SA-Provides support for young children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder up until the child commences school or 6 years of age and are registered for services with Autism SA.
For further information, contact the Coordinator Early Development Program at Autism SA.
Ph: 8379 6976
6.      A list of parent support groups can be located on the Austism SA Website


1.      YMCA of SA: Sharing the Fun-'Sharing the Fun' provides a non-threatening and welcoming environment for children with a disability, in which they can have fun and enjoyment. However, it is not only enjoyable but also beneficial for the children. Whilst having fun, they are also developing the necessary movement skills for successful involvement in integrated physical activities, sports or recreational opportunities. Children who have a disability and are aged between 5 and 13 years can have fun and build on existing skills in Sharing the Fun, which is a non-competitive, recreational after school program which provides a comfortable environment where participants may improve their social and physical skills.
2.      SASRAPID-The South Australian Sport and Recreation Association for People with Integration Difficulties Incorporated (SASRAPID) is an organisation which assists people with integration difficulties to become involved in community activities. SASRAPID provides assistance and enables participation into valued community sport, recreation and leisure activities. All inclusion is based on the ability and individual choice of the person.
3.      Recreation Link-Up-Recreation Link-up is a free service that provides recreation planning, information, education and introductory assistance for people with a disability. Recreation link-up can make it easier for people to become involved in recreation and leisure activities in their local community. Help people to become involved in an activity of their own choice, by developing a plan of action and identifying what needs to be put into place to achieve ongoing involvement.
4.      Government of South Australia: Office for Recreation and Sport-Specific programs and support for people with disabilities


3.      Careers SA
4.      Centacare
5.      Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
7.      Disability SA

For more information about who is eligible for respite through Disability SA, telephone 1300 786 117 (cost of a local call) or email
8.      Southern Country Commonwealth Career Respite Centre (SCCCRC)-Carers SA manages trhe Southern Country Commonwealth Carer Respite Centre; providing services to caregivers living in the Adelaide Hills, south and east of and including Mt Barker, Southern Fleurieu, Kangaroo Island, Riverland, Murray Mallee and the South East areas. Working in partnership with other services to provide carers with access to respite.

Sex Education—


2.      Siblings Australia

Social Skills—

Triple A Social Development Group-Social development group focused on expressive arts and exploring social issues through theatre, music, writing, and other art forms. There will also be a social element to the sessions for those who wish to meet others and form friendships.

Online Resources—

1. (social story templates - check them out and see if you can modify some of the many social story templates for your own child. There are some that are PowerPoint files, which is a great idea, especially for children who are more motivated by activities and programs that are computer-based)
2. (sample social stories and general information about why and how to use social stories to teach specific social skills)





Communication/language and play—

Feelings and emotions—

1.  (This website is an interactive one, where the user can create and manipulate a vast range of potential expressions. Specific expressions of being afraid, interested, sad, ashamed, disgusted, surprised, happy and angry are preset on clicking buttons at the top of screen)


Mental Health/Social Anxiety/stress/depression—

1. (a great website, has sections for parents, children and adolescents)

Support Services—

2.      Community Support  Inc-In-home and Community Support


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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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 Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content