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!