Some underlying characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can lead to behavioral problems such as frustration and angry outbursts in children. One such characteristic is simply not being able to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings to others. This can lead to frustration and feelings of being misunderstood or not being listened to. Another might be the tendency for a child with autism to require “sameness,” with no alterations in routine: Any changes in the daily schedule or familiar surroundings can be very upsetting and anxiety provoking. Calming down a child with autism can be stressful and exhausting, but it’s important to deal with these manage anger outbursts constructively. Here are some tips on how you can de-escalate your child’s anger and help them to learn how to manage anger, thereby taking back control of the situation.
Listen To Your Child To Understand Where The Anger Is Coming From
To really deal with your child’s anger, you first need to try and determine where it’s coming from. This can be especially challenging if they have trouble communicating their feelings and desires to you. Ask your child what’s wrong and really listen to what they are telling you. Help them learn to manage anger through communication. Are they upset because they can’t locate a favorite toy or object? Or is it something deeper? Talk to your child and try to understand what’s wrong. You may notice that these temper tantrums occur at the same time each day, which may offer a clue as to the trigger.
One of the most important and useful tools that you can use in a situation where your child is frustrated or angry, but having a hard time expressing their emotions, is a communication device or strategy. You can create some sort of visual board or visual representation of emotions, triggers, and consequences to help your child express themselves. Schools like Lexington Life Academy employ strategies to help students communicate effectively and your child’s school can implement visual aids and zones of regulation to help children with autism to communicate and manage anger effectively.
Once this trigger is identified, you may be able to steer away from it in the future. Allow your child time to express their feelings and let them know that you care how they are feeling. Stay calm and resist the urge to yell at them. Model good behavior for your child to learn from. Maybe the problem is something easily remedied. Then again, the source of frustration may be something you have no control over. In that case, altering the immediate surroundings or trying to shift their focus to something else may help you to diffuse their anger.
Let Your Child Express Anger In A Safe Place
When rage is unavoidable, it’s important to let the child safely vent their feelings in a place where they won’t hurt themselves or anyone else. You can try redirecting their anger by offering them a soft object such as a pillow to scream into or to use as a punching bag. After a while, they will become tired and begin to calm down. Another way to let your child express themselves is to encourage them to write their feelings down in a journal or talk about what’s bothering them.
They could also try expressing their emotions through art, such as writing a poem or drawing a picture. By teaching your child ways to express themselves, you are helping them learn how to manage anger more constructively.
Set A Safe Place For Your Child In Your Home Where They Can Calm Down
This could be the child’s bedroom or a playroom. Make sure the designated safe area is free of things that could break or otherwise harm someone if thrown or knocked over. You can set the mood of this safe place and tailor it to whatever your child finds soothing.
Try creating a more subdued ambiance by making the area less bright or quieter, if that’s what your child prefers. It’s important to remember that not every child with autism has the same triggers or preferences, so experiment to see what works best for calming your child down.
One child may dislike bright sunshine and prefer to have the curtains drawn, whereas another may find it entrancing.
Reach A Compromise With Your Child When They Can’t Get What They Want
If your child is angry that they can’t do or have something they want at that moment, try to reach a compromise with them, if appropriate. Maybe they want dessert before eating their dinner. Tell them if they eat their meals, you will make an extra special dessert for them.
Maybe they would enjoy making an ice cream sundae together or baking and decorating cookies in fun shapes. Don’t give in to your child’s demands just to stop their bad behavior. For children under age eight, a period of time out for bad behavior can be effective.
Always reward and praise a child for good behavior and for following the rules. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way to teach them to manage anger. It can be something as simple as earning foil stars on a chart where a child can have a special reward after collecting a certain number of them.
When Your Child Gets Physical, Talk To Them Truthfully About The Consequences
When rage leads to physical violence, it’s time to talk with your child about the possible consequences of their behavior. You should not ignore this type of behavior. Even a small child can inflict serious harm to others in the midst of rage, but this child will someday be much bigger, and this could become a serious safety issue.
Let your child know that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated and that people who do such things may have to go to a juvenile detention center or a jail. Be honest with your child about what you expect of them and seek the guidance of a professional if you need help.
In an emergency, if you can’t handle the situation and are in fear of someone being hurt, call 911.
Physical Activities Sometimes Help To Ease The Tension
One way to keep excess energy from escalating into an anger situation is to burn it off with physical activity. Find an activity your child enjoys doing such as dancing, exercising, walking, running or even just playful wrestling.
This physical activity actually causes the brain to produce endorphins, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and well-being. Maybe they would enjoy going on a nature walk or taking a trip to the neighborhood playground.
Give Them Toys That Relieve Stress And Anxiety, Such As Fidget Toys
Giving an anxious child something to redirect and focus their attention on can help prevent their anxiety from escalating into an angry outburst. These little hand toys or fidget toys can be fun to play with and will occupy their attention.
Small toys that can be held and squeezed, squished, stretched or spun can bring on an instant sense of calmness. There are a variety of these popular toys on the market. Some offer tactile stimulation or come in fun, glittery colors.
They include squeezable stress balls, colorful and glittery putties, moldable bubble foams, stretchy whimsical objects like a mouse perched atop a slice of cheese, bristle brushes, long sets of clicking links and tabletop spinners.
Helping your child to manage anger in stressful situations is never an easy task. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is seek help and advice from experts that care. You can reach out to Lexington Services today for any questions you might have or to enroll them in one of our excellent programs. Our staff can help children learn to manage anger constructively, while guiding them through activities and exercises that improve their future. Contact Lexington Services today to find out more information.
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