Tantrums are never easy to deal with and push parents
to their limits of patients. It often seems to be that parents of children
with social difficulties have a harder job because tantrums are either
more frequent, unpredictable or harder to bring under control.
Children with social difficulties can be very difficult
to calm down when they have a tantrum because they have less of an understanding
of things going on around them. This makes things like discipline very
difficult because you are constantly weary that saying 'no' to even the
slightest of things can develop into a dramatic tantrum.
Certainly the tantrums are less predictable or triggered
by what people would generally consider 'no big deal'. This means that
when your child has a tantrum over something very slight such as a meal
they don't like, it becomes very difficult for parents and carers to sympathise
and empathise. To you it is a perfectly reasonable thing to cope with.
When a tantrum does occur, it can be very difficult to
bring under control. Parents can be left feeling shocked by the length
of time a tantrum has lasted or by the amount of anxiety, frustration or
aggression the child was feeling. Most of all, it can be very disheartening
to see their apparent lack of being able to reach their own child to calm
Another difficulty parents have is when they are in public
places and their child has a tantrum, it is staggering to see other people
looking at disgust at the parents who are immediately branded as bad parents
to let their child get to that state.
Its not only members of the public but also uninformed
professionals and medical practitioners who believe children are always
a result of their parents.
Causes of Tantrums
Although it may feel that children with social difficulties
have tantrums at the slightest problem, the causes of their tantrums can
be a little more complex than it first appears. Tantrums are a product
of some form of frustration, anxiety, anger etc. The causes of these behaviors
can be extremely varied.
Some children have tantrums because they are unable to
communicate what they want or express their feelings in any other way.
Furthermore, they may have difficulty in understanding what they are being
told. The use of picture cards may help overcome some of these problems.
It is also essential to keep your language clear and brief and to emphasis
Some children have great difficulty with their senses
such as the feel of their clothes, the taste of their food. These uncomfortable
senses make them feel uneasy and lead to built up stress if they cannot
sort the problem out themselves.
Some causes of anxiety come from activities or planned
events they have had problems with in the past. For example, the tennis
teacher made them feel uncomfortable and knowing they have to go again
causes them distress.
Problems can also occur from lack of sleep, a drop in
their blood-sugar levels, an allergy to certain foods and the list goes
on and on.
Parents and carers must also remember that most of the
time their children do not realise themselves what is causing them to feel
What to do
Try to get as much information as possible when tantrums
happen. Try to think of all the things that may have been the cause. Try
talking to others e.g. teachers or other carers for the child to see what
their experiences were and if there are any common issues that could lead
The best thing to encourage is communication to get the
child to tell you or indicate in some way what they think is causing them
distress. Try to coach them into knowing when something is making them
feel bad. Then help them to tell you and give you the chance to sort it
If a child is non-verbal it would be helpful to teach
a child to initially point or take an adult's hand to items they want.
This will reduce the frustration of not having some of their needs met.
This will also help if they can point to things that are distressing them.
Don't underestimate the value of support groups close
to you. Parents should feel comfort in there being many thousands of other
parents that understand what you have to deal with. Often talking to other
parents with children with social difficulties helps a lot so that you
can see you are not the only one. It helps when you are out in public places
and other people see you dealing with a child with social difficulties
obviously don't understand the difficulty
About the Author
Ben Sidman is a Parent of an amazing autistic child and
- an informative and friendly web site for parents with autistic children.