Handling Tantrums

This is probably the most stressful trait that autism parents have to face day in and day out. Autistic children’s tantrums are not just your “terrible two tantrums” when a child doesn’t get to buy that new toy that she so desires. Autistic children’s tantrums are extremely, painfully loud, can possibly last up to hours (if you don’t give in) and non-negotiable.

I have mentioned earlier that the most valuable advice I have received from the therapists on this is to JUST IGNORE THE TANTRUM. Firmly say “no”, put on your best “poker, I don’t give a damn” face, avoid eye contact, (my own additional tip-baca salawat banyak2) and just wait until the tantrums die down. If you have other children, especially younger ones, make them leave the room in case they can get negatively affected by the screams.

I know it’s hard because our parental instinct tells us to immediately go to our child who seems to be in such misery. But keep reminding yourself that you are doing this to help him. Treat the “tantrum” as your enemy and as if it is the “tantrum” that is taking hold of your child. That way, this lessens the guilt because you are doing what you’re doing to torture the tantrum and NOT your child. HATE THE TANTRUM!

Stay strong and committed no matter how much louder and prolonged the tantrums are. Have faith that eventually, once the child sees that his tantrum is not having any effect on us, they will stop. I have to be honest that it does take getting used to, and it is possible for the tantrums to last up to an hour and more. But listen, at the end of it, Raiyan stopped and continued on with his life like nothing happened. He wasn’t in the least upset with us for doing what we did. In fact, he was keen to start playing and interacting with us again after being away in his “tantrum world” for so long. Remember autistic children slightly lack emotions or feelings? So you don’t have to worry about feelings of abandonment of your child when you do this.

Don’t bother to negotiate or “pujuk” him. He doesn’t understand what we are saying, especially amidst the screamings, and so you are just wasting your breath and energy. Plus what you are doing is giving him the attention that he wants! Even if you pujuk him in a stern or marah way thinking that this will make him realise that what he’s doing is wrong, you are still giving him attention, even though it is negative attention, so just save it.

This goes without saying but don’t scold him, scream back at him or hit him because not only will you be wasting your breath and energy but you’d waste further time later feeling guilty for being a horrible parent. It’s not worth it.

One trick to help minimise the crying is to try averting his attention to something else but make sure that it is not something that he ALREADY likes or prefers because this will then just send the message that his tantrums leads him to get something even better! Just try to divert his attention to something new. Be creative and don’t feel the need to buy something new every time for this purpose. Sometimes, children get fascinated with the most mundane things, like a bunch of keys or scotch tape!

Another challenge is for you to explain and teach this to your family members because we all have to be consistent in treating his tantrums. If one person gives in then it makes the child realise that “ooh sometimes my tantrums do still work” so he’ll still carry on doing it. Explain all of the above to your family members. (This may take a few times by the way so don’t get upset with them if they failed the first few times).

What to do when the tantrum happens in public? Well, first of all, I’m sure being an autism parent, you have developed some level of thick skin by now so make sure you don’t let the curious stares from the general public bother you. You could first just try ignoring him depending on the intensity of the tantrum. But my best advice is to just take physical control of the child and bring him back to the car until he quietens down. I once had to carry a deliriously screaming Raiyan all the way from the colour pencil section of Hua Ho Manggis, down the lifts, pass the supermarket and to the underground car park (I wonder if there are still people who remembers that scene because I practically felt like the whole of Hua Ho was watching).

But at the end of it all, if the child seems to be in serious pain or despair (and you as the parent will be the best person to judge this) just go ahead and give in. You know best to decide when it’s worth to give in or when it’s not. You also have to realise your own limitations as a human being. If you can feel yourself brewing with rage (let’s face it, who wouldn’t go crazy hearing a child scream even after a few minutes let alone for up to an hour?), just stop yourself before you do something you will regret later. Take a breather and give in and hope the next time it will work.

Again, please remember that this is just something I would like to share because it is something that I have seen work with Raiyan. However, we all know that not all autistic children are the same so one tip is not one size for all.

Good Luck! I would love to hear any feedback!


autismx2 said...

Hmmm! Tantrums/meltdowns......very familiar with it!

Yes i do agree sometimes it can be very easy for us parents to lose our cool after more than an hour of screaming.

We had one massive one at the airport some months back. But my sis (the Ultimate Fav Aunt) was quite brilliant about it...she wanted to go round collecting ticket money from all the people staring since it was not a free show!!

There were lots of times i felt "ringan tangan" to give my boys a smack (ugh! sounds harsh), but when you think about it,the biggest hurdle an autistic boy has is COMMUNICATION SKILLS or lack of it. I have an extremely verbal 7yr old who still screams (very High-pitched enough to shatter every glass in the house) when he can't convey whatever he is feeling.

To me when autistic children scream it is the ultimate frustration at not being able to tell someone what he/she feels.

Imagine being in a foreign country where no one speaks the same language as you do and you need to use the bathroom (Badly!). You would feel like screaming too when no one can tell you where the nearest loo is.

So Pweshes Mama hang on tight. At the fast rate autism is rising, screaming will one day be a form of communication around the world!!!!

Pweshes Mama said...

Iatah tu we just have to constantly remind ourselves that they are acting the way they do to release their frustrations.. but at the same time let's pray and have faith that if we continue handling them the right way they will slowly realise that they don't have to be oh so melodramatic ALL the time!

Yeah sometimes when it happens in public I cant help getting affected by all the stares (we're only human right?) SO BILATAH our society kan start manufacturing those t-shirts :I'M NOT NAUGHTY I'M AUTISTIC!... ? I'm sure laku tu!!!


Babu said...


I am a mother to an autistic boy. He just turned 13, so he is now a preteen. Raising him for 13 years is a pretty long experience, passing many obstacles, so I understand your situation. As they say, "been there, done that". This will be never-ending, that's for sure. But anyway, don't give up, we're still doing the best for him day by day.

Though he is autistic, it doesn't make any difference. He is also human with love and compassion. He teaches us on how to be patient, and he might be one of the greatest people on earth!

Just to share the latest experience of his tantrum, which was last week, when the water supply was cut off. One of his habits is going to this one toilet only, so as the toilet is connected to the water pump, only small amount of water came out. So he started to cause a tantrum and there was nothing much to do. His routine after the Maghrib prayers is to go around Bandar with my husband when he is around, but not with me because probably he knows that I am not comfortable with him controlling stirring wheel. An unexpected things happened during their stop in front of the chinese temple, the traffic lights turns red, he ran out of the car and lied on the road! People stared and only when the lights turned green that he went back into the care. Alhamdulillah nothing bad happened. After going to McDs', they went to a retail store and started to break the Maggi sauce bottles and lying on the floor again. In the car, he threw everything around, including the rearview mirror. We finally managed to calm him down after so many hours of breaking things around the house. Maybe his anger was finally satisfied with all the throwings, in addition with prayings. It was finally over after midnight.

So to parents having the same situation like us, just remember the code that
A - Always
U - Unique
T - Totally
I - Interesting
S - Sometimes
M - Mysterious


Socializer said...

a very informative and well written blog. i'm adding your blog feed to mine here ;)

Pweshes Mama said...

Dearest Babu,
As you can imagine, reading your comments have left me (and I'm sure a lot of other people) absolutely lost for words. No words can measure up how much I admire you and your husband for your courage, patience and humility and I will make sure to always remember you, your 13 year old angel and your words of wisdom when I'm dealing with my own little angel.

This is again another reason as to why we need to bring more awareness on autism so whenever they see something like what happened with your husband and your son the other day, instead of staring and just judging, they reach out and tells us that it's ok and that they understand what we are going through... I know that is such a major hurdle to cross but I will try my best every minute, every day till the day I die!
Thank you sooo much for sharing and please continue to spread the word on this.. I would love to get to know you more, so if you can, please email me anytime ok!


Pweshes Mama said...

Social Moths,

I'm flattered by your praises and would be honoured to be listed on your page. May God bless you always! Spread the awareness! :D

babu said...

Hi there...
Thanks for the compliments. It's my pleasure to share the exprience, we need to let it all out and only the people with the same situation will understand more what we have been through.
That was only one part of it, actually there are lots more to share. But beside all that complications, there were also good and fun of having them. After all, he is my motivator, make me as a better person as I can be.
I would love to know you as well but I could not find your email. So feel free to email or YM me at rakujin11@yahoo.co.uk.

PURPOSE:Hoping for more understanding and less judgment from all.

 To show the importances of early intervention and an evidence based treatment to help reach the full potential of the child.

 Offering other parents hope to have faith in the positive progress of their child.

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