The Care and Feeding of your Aspie Uncategorized

Care and Feeding of your Aspie: Part 7 – Tantrum avoidance

This Ashwin Gopala Krishnan – a 23 year old man with autism and his
mother as she comforts him after a breakdown at the beach.
In past entries in this series, I have covered possible causes of agitation in your Aspie, but I have yet to talk about diffusing the situation. Management of stress, agitation and anger issues is an art form. While art is not something that is for everyone, but mastering this art can benefit you a great deal. It can benefit your Aspie even more. 

What most Mental Health professionals neglect to tell people (or are, perhaps, ignorant of it) is that tantrums, anger outbursts and meltdowns are as hard, if not harder on your Aspie (and in fact, all Autistic Spectrum individuals). We don’t want to be angry, loud, hateful or obnoxious and when we breakdown outside of our own paradigm of thought, we are inflicted with cognitive dissonance. As we have discussed previously in Part 5 (>>>Part 5 here<<<), cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable at best… and can cause damage to your Aspie’s psyche at it’s worst.

Please watch this video before you continue reading:

When you notice that your Aspie is starting to become agitated, try the following steps…

Safety First
If your Aspie has become physically violent, thrashing about or flailing – (This can happen LONG before a tantrum actually starts.) remember safety first… DO NOT attempt to restrain them. This can lead to you getting injured and then you won’t be able to help your Aspie. FURTHER, it can accelerate the process and jump them straight into a full blown meltdown. Instead, remove any objects that can be damaging, knocked over or may fall, causing injury.

If your Aspie is still verbal, asking them what is causing the anxiety or stress can help identify a possible solution. This should be done in a respectful manner. Asking and Autistic Spectrum individual something like “What now?” will only exacerbate the problem and will accelerate the tantrum/melt down cycle.

Attempt to rectify the situation – post haste
If it is something that can be removed from the environment, remove it immediately (turn off the music or television, ask someone to leave the room, take away the abhorrent food item. If the cause cannot be removed, then relocate your Aspie to another location.

Limit Stimuli
If your Aspie has gone non-verbal, remove sources of stimulation. This means turn off the television, radio, music… if you can, turn down the lights. As we have discussed, Autistic Spectrum individuals often have problems with sensory input… We hear, feel, and see things a lot more potently than others. If your Aspie is non-verbal, they won’t be able to tell you what is wrong. You have to try to anticipate the issues.

Physically calm your Aspie
THIS NEXT SUGGESTION IS ONLY FOR THOSE AUTISTIC SPECTRUM INDIVIDUALS THAT RESPOND TO TOUCH FROM A FAMILIAR PERSON – DO NOT FORCE TOUCH ON YOUR ASPIE IF THEY ARE NOT KNOWN TO RESPOND TO IT FAVORABLY. It has been shown that some Autistic Spectrum individuals respond well and benefit from massage therapy. If your Aspie is one that responds to this, rubbing shoulders, head or back can have a rapidly soothing effect. My sister responds especially well to having someone stand behind her, place an arm across her shoulders and leaning your cheek on her head.

Help Them
Be observant… If they are agitated and have started tugging at a piece of clothing, seem averse to a specific object, person, etc. Help them. Help them remove the clothing. Help them by asking the person to leave until the incident is over. Help them by removing the offending object.

Speak in Soothing Tones
As we have discussed, your Aspie often suffers from being hyper-vigilant. This means that your tone will be magnified in their ears. If you are angry, they will become defensive on top of everything else. And I mean it… be soothing… do not condescend. Just because your Aspie is socially inept and is having an issue that makes them seem child-like, condescension will only worsen the issues.

Stay Calm
The calmer you are, the more likely you are to be able to calm them down. If you panic – it is almost a sure bet that they will, too.

Stay with Them
If this is scary for you, imagine how it is for them. We don’t want to be like this. We don’t want to have tantrums and meltdowns. These events are beyond our control, and are often contrary to how we feel at the time. So our brain is betraying us. Stay with your Aspie. If you leave – you are likely to add anxiety or all out panic to the issue.

Sometimes, You Have to Let It Happen
Sometimes, it is inevitable – It will happen. This is not a failure as a parent or guardian. It is just the way it is. If you cannot manage the tantrum and eliminate it… You will have to ride it out. Stay calm and keep your Aspie safe. Above all else… DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. If your Aspie does not go non-verbal, they will likely say something hurtful that they do not mean. Seriously, don’t take it personally… That is the tantrum speaking… Not the Aspie.

Weather the storm – It’s worth it. 

Images in this issue SHAMELESSLY stolen from the following sources:

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