Autism behavior management is hard work. Absolutely no doubt about it! Once the tantrum starts, it’s practically impossible to stop that train. Especially when you are in public and the whole world tunes in to another episode of mom versus child! Or so it seems.
Tantrums demand our attention in ways other behaviors don’t. They are hard to ignore, and to be honest, tantrums are just plain annoying! And not just that, you know that your child has specific needs and can’t be dealt with in just any way.
And so the question you may be asking is, “How can I get my child to calm down ASAP?” Sounds like a reasonable question, right? Well, not so fast. If this is your only question, then it’s short-sighted. Why? Because it’s way more important to address a tantrum properly than to hastily get rid of it. We can do a lot more damage trying to rush to sanity!
A few examples may be helpful. Let’s say Quincy is throwing a tantrum because you refuse to buy him a candy bar. The quickest way to get rid of the tantrum would be to buy him the candy bar. But would that be the best thing to do? Or let’s say Aliyah has a history of refusing homework and is throwing a tantrum to avoid it. The quickest way to calm her would be to take away the assignment or complete it for her. But again would this be the best thing to do? Well, you guessed it. The right answer is no!
When addressing problem behaviors, always prioritize the best solution. If you can do so quickly, by all means. But never sacrifice what is proper for what is quick. Click here for more information on this. With that said, here are some tips for calming your child.
Autism Behavior Management Relaxation Strategies
Tantrums are very taxing on a child. It requires a lot of emotional energy, and it is next to impossible for children to be rational during a tantrum. Relaxation strategies are a great way to reduce heightened emotions. Here are a few proven strategies:
Let’s keep in mind that your child’s body is under a load of stress during a tantrum. It would only be natural to use a strategy that targets the physiological. Deep breathing accomplishes this.
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen in the body, which helps the body to relax. It’s amazing how well something as simple as deep breathing can do!
However, you can’t expect your child to engage in deep breathing on their own. Especially if your child isn’t accustomed to doing this. And I can imagine the chaos of trying to get your child to focus on breathing during a tantrum. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered if you need tips on how to get your child to engage in deep breathing. Click here for coaching tips.
It’s important to have a good understanding of why your child is displaying a tantrum. Getting familiar with your child’s specific triggers will help in the long run. Why? Well, simply because it helps you to better plan for the inevitable. Remember, this is about proactive parenting, not just wishing for the best outcome.
Usually, your child’s fixation with or insistence on something is why they tantrum. So getting their mind off of that thing is key. This requires some serious creativity if “on-the-fly.” If you often find yourself in this situation, you’ll definitely want to check out my list of things not to do. Nonetheless, its always preferable to prep in advance. So this means you must know your child’s tendencies well.
Redirecting your child can definitely be an effective strategy. Depending on your child’s age and tendencies, there are several approaches that could work. Two of my favorite are redirecting the conversation and redirection to a new environment. A change of environment can be particularly effective for younger children. Redirecting the conversation takes more persistence and skill, given your child’s cognitive ability at this age. Nonetheless, both when used properly, yield undeniable results!
As stated earlier, tantrums can take a tremendous amount of emotional energy. Sometimes tantrums can involve or trigger sensory overload in children. In response, some children may engage in physical behaviors like scratching or hitting themselves. Some even engage in loud yelling.
View these as their attempt to release that internal tension. Depending on your child’s response, handheld items such as stress balls or fidget items can be useful.
Other children may require more direct sensory input. For some children, I’ve found that physical pressure works well to calm them. For example, the use of a weighted blanket or massager can provide the necessary sensory input.
Though autism behavior management is challenging, you can thrive with the right support. And that’s what I’m here to provide you with. Yes, each child’s tendencies will vary. But regardless, there are relaxation techniques that will work for your child. I’m here to help you understand your child and to discover what works for your situation! But I’m also here to help you to implement these strategies correctly. Let’s get to work!
A.D. Daisley holds a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida and has been working in the field as a Behavior Analyst since 2005. He has provided services to children and adults with varying diagnoses such as autism, mental retardation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His scope of experience also includes coordinating therapy to individuals and families in conjunction with other supports including School Teachers, Adult Day Training Facility Staff (ADT’s) and Speech/Occupational therapists. He is the Director and Behavior Analyst at Alternative Outcomes since 2007. A.D is also the Director of Creátre, a non-profit organization that uses the arts for the purpose of skill training, outreach and to display community leadership.