Autism information - what is autism - signs of autism. Autism and Tantrums  Bright Tots - Information on child development
Some children are more likely to have tantrums than other children. Causes that contribute to a child's tendency to have
tantrums include fatigue, the child's age and stage of development, temperament, stress in the child's environment, and
whether underlying behavioral, developmental, or health conditions are present such as ADHD or autism. Also, a child may be
more likely to have temper tantrums if parents react too strongly to difficult behavior or give in to the child's demands.
Tantrums are normal behavior for most children and there is no reason why children with autism should refrain from this
stage of development.

Tantrums are one of the most common problems in young children with autism. They may appear to go into a state of rage,
panic, anxiety or fear for no reason at all. This might involve screaming, crying, resisting contact with others, or pushing
others away. Unfortunately for individuals with autism and their families, ‘tantrums’ and destructive behaviors are especially
common, among children. The problem seems to be that it is more difficult for parents to prevent ‘tantrums’ in children with
autism, the child seems inconsolable during the ‘tantrum’, the episode might last a long time, and consist of more aggressive
behavior, such as hitting, biting, and pinching. Most often the satisfaction that typically accompanies the end of the ‘tantrum’
rarely occurs. Similar episodes of panic, anxiety, rage or even aggression might be seen all through childhood, adolescence
and even adulthood.

Ignoring the tantrum behavior and helping a young child learn how to handle and express anger and frustration are usually
effective ways to deal with the behavior.  Also, paying attention to what triggers tantrums can help you act before a child's
emotions escalate beyond the point where he or she can control them. This is supposed to identify the cause of the behavior
and prevent ‘blaming’ the individual. This is very important in autism, as it is doubtful that any behavior which may cause
difficulties for families is intended maliciously or menacing. There is almost always some other, unidentified, trigger that
brings on challenging behavior.

It is important to intervene as early as possible so that behaviors are not constant and so that other means of expression and
communication are open to children with autism.

Causes for challenging behaviors

What causes this? As with such behavior in all children there may be any number of causes. There might be underlying
reasons (such as feeling upset, anxious or angry) and immediate triggers (such as being told to do something). In autism
however there is also a specific pattern of behavior, social interaction and understanding the tantrums are directed by
frustration, can help explain some ‘challenging’ behaviors.

People with autism often rely on ritual and structure. Structure is a method that helps define the world in terms of set rules
and explanations in turn helps the person function most effectively. Most children with autism find their own methods of
imposing structure and maintaining consistency. They need this structure because the world is confusing. Other people are
complex and almost impossible to understand. The information they receive through their senses might be overwhelming and
hard to bring together into a strong whole, and there is likely to be an additional learning disability that makes it hard to apply
cognitive skills to all these areas at once.

When some form of structure or routine is disrupted the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again. It might be like
losing a comforting toy when feeling alone or homesick. This disruption of structure might be obvious (having a collection of
objects disturbed, being made to go a different way to school, getting up at an unusual hour) or it might be hidden (subtle
changes in the environment which the child is used to for example). Some of these triggers might be out of the control of the
individual or his or her family members. Some might be avoidable.  Others might be necessary events, which can be slowly
introduced so as to limit overt reactions.

Generally one of the most significant causes of ‘challenging behavior’ is a communicative need. For people with profound
difficulties in understanding others and in communicating with them it is hardly surprising for frustration, anger and anxiety to
build up. It is also quite likely that ‘challenging behaviors’ will directly serve as a form of communication. Natural ‘tantrums’,
for example in response to changes in routine or requests to do something the individual does not want to do, may well
become usual reactions to those involved.

Frequent Tantrums

If your child continues to have frequent tantrums after age 3, you may need to use time-outs. A time-out removes the child
from the situation, allows him or her time to calm down, and teaches the child that having a temper tantrum is not acceptable
behavior. Time-out works best for children who understand why it is being used.

Most children gradually learn healthy ways to handle the strong emotions that can lead to temper tantrums. They also usually
improve their ability to communicate, become increasingly independent, and recognize the benefits of having these skills.
Children who continue to have tantrums after the age of 4 usually need outside help learning to deal with anger. Temper
tantrums that continue or start during the school years may be a sign of other issues, including problems with learning or
getting along with other children.

Talk with a health professional if:

•        You have concerns about your child's temper tantrums.

•        Your child older than 4 years continues to have frequent temper tantrums.

•        Your child's temper tantrums escalate into violent behavior that endangers others or results in self-inflicted injuries.

•        You have problems handling your child's behavior, especially if you are concerned that you might hurt your child.

Difficult behavior that frequently lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than 3 times a day, or is more aggressive may
indicate that a child has an underlying medical, emotional, or social problem that needs attention. These are not considered
typical temper tantrums. Difficult behaviors may include:

•        Kicking, hitting, biting, scratching, hair pulling, or pinching other people.

•        Throwing or breaking things.

•        Head-banging or inflicting self-injury.

•        The child's temper tantrums frequently last longer than 15 minutes or occur more than 3 times a day.

•        The child's behavior does not improve after 4 years of age.

•        The child hurts him/her self, other people, or objects during a temper tantrum.

•        You have problems handling your child's behavior, especially if you are concerned that you might hurt your child.

•        You want help with learning to cope with your feelings during your child's temper tantrums.

Medical treatment for temper tantrums may be recommended for children who:

•        Have long-lasting and frequent temper tantrums.

•        Regularly have temper tantrums after 4 years of age.

•        Causing self-injury or becomes violent.

This is where support is needed both in the form of direct interventions related to the behaviors, and in advising and helping
parents manage episodes in ways which can be applied at home.

These difficulties can be improved slowly through education and other interventions, but particular differences must be
respected. Parents can help by making an effort to manage the environment so that the individual is more comfortable
(allowing some structure, avoiding distracting information when engaging in tasks, allowing personal space where necessary).
The second major area is where ‘challenging behavior’ serves a communicative conduct. In this case the cause for the
behavior must first be identified before teaching and developing other means of communicating.
Autism & Tantrums
Autism & Tantrums
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