Navigating the stormy seas of toddler tantrums is a challenge for any parent, but for those caring for a 3-year-old with autism, these emotional outbursts can feel like hurricanes.
Understanding these explosive displays of emotion involves exploring a complex interplay of communication difficulties, sensory overloads, and unique developmental aspects of autism. This article will shed light on autism tantrums, offering insights to manage these emotional whirlwinds and transform them into breezes.
3 Year-old Tantrums Autism
Tantrums are a common part of child development, and they can be particularly challenging for children with autism. The reasons behind these tantrums often extend beyond mere willful behaviour and are more complex. The difference between classic temper tantrums and those experienced by a person with autism can often be significant. While younger children may throw tantrums as a part of their growing process, children with autism might have tantrums due to being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
For autistic children, the application of a reward system is critical. This is a method where desired behaviours are rewarded as the child grows, aiding in reducing the frequency of tantrums across the lifespan.
Expecting parents, idea of a temper tantrum
All parents, whether new or experienced, must be ready for the idea of a temper tantrum. Especially when dealing with children with autism, these tantrums can be frequent, distressing, and difficult to quell. Patience is a must, alongside the use of effective behavioral strategies for autism tantrums, as listed on Therapeutic Pathways’ Resources page.
Behavioral Strategies for Tantrums
Temper tantrums can be triggered by different situations, making it crucial to understand the motivation behind the tantrum. For example, young children may express their desires and frustration through tantrums when denied a favorite TV show or candy bar. For them, such tantrums are a way of asserting independence and communicating their needs. Understanding the motivations behind temper tantrums can help guide a response that encourages positive behaviors.
Developing communication and impulse control skills can also reduce the rate of tantrums. A good example is when a child named Michael calms down after being denied watching his favorite shows, SpongeBob and Phineas and Ferb, demonstrating a successful control over his impulses.
Reinforce positive behavior
Children, especially those with autism, often respond poorly to situations that cause frustration. To avert negative behavior, teaching them how to recognize and manage these feelings can be beneficial. Encouraging children for their positive behaviors through praise, rewards, or simply a high-five or a hug can reinforce good behavior. A tangible token like a gold star sticker or a treat can also serve as a reward and motivate the child for future good behavior.
Continue working on or developing communication skills
Reducing the risk of a temper tantrum can also involve improving a child’s ability to express strong emotions with words. Developing and practicing communication skills can help children to convey when something is bothering them, potentially averting an impending temper tantrum.
For children with autism, sensory overload can be a trigger for tantrums. Therefore, having noise-canceling headphones in a bag or car can be a practical strategy for managing sensory triggers, particularly in a noisy environment like a grocery store.
Behavioral Strategies for Children With Autism
The Therapeutic Pathways’ Family Resource Center provides various tips, blog posts, FAQs, and expert-led resources that can help encourage positive behavior and prevent negative behavior in children with autism.
How can you tell an autistic meltdown from a tantrum?
While tantrums in young children are often goal-oriented, stemming from frustration about not being able to play with a toy or button up their shirts before bed, an autistic meltdown is usually a response to being overwhelmed by sensory or emotional information overload. Unlike tantrums, autistic meltdowns don’t require an audience; they are a reaction to external stimulus overload rather than an angry or frustrated outburst.
What does an autistic tantrum look like?
Autistic tantrums may involve the individual crying, screaming, hitting, or even self-abuse. These outbursts can be both frightening and dangerous, especially if the autistic individual is physically large.
How to tell the difference between a temper tantrum and autism
There are important differences between autism meltdowns and tantrums. Unlike tantrums, autism meltdowns are not naughty behaviour. They are intense reactions to sensory overload, which the autistic person cannot control.
What are the red flags of autism at 3 years old?
As a child reaches the age of 3, certain changes and challenges may become noticeable. Signs of autism at this age may include playing alone, unusual body movements, or not speaking.
What age do autism tantrums start?
Parents of young children with autism might notice tantrums starting at a very young age. Sometimes, these tantrums might begin as early as when the child is just 6 months old.