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Handling Outbursts And Unpleasant Behaviors

Handling Outbursts and Unpleasant Behaviors

All children have temper tantrums. They scream, cry, yell and thrash about whenever they do not get what they want when they want it. Sometimes a piece of candy or a little pep talk can calm them down – and other times it takes more than a promise to get them to stop. For children with autism, outbursts of unpleasant behavior may be caused by frustration over trying to communicate what they feel or a product of a routine change.

As parents, you may experience your own frustrations and feel helpless whenever your child throws a fit and you cannot seem to make him or her stop nor understand what your child wants in the first place. Observation can help you see what causes your child’s outbursts of unpleasant behavior. Be keen and, eventually, as your child grows, you will learn to identify what triggers these tantrums and apply strategies that work to calm your child. There are several ways you can handle a tantrum:

    • Positive reinforcement – Praising your child once a tantrum comes to a stop and after you have reprimanded him or she is a good way of telling your child which behavior is good and which is bad. Rewarding your child is another option. You may give a token or a prize for your child’s good behavior, such as a cookie or whatever it is your child was asking for. This will teach your child that in order to get something they want, they must behave well in return.
    • Ignoring – Children sometimes throw a tantrum just for attention. In this situation, you can ignore your child. Do not talk, correct, hold or yell at your child (but always make sure your child is safe) to teach your child that getting attention by displaying unpleasant behavior will not be tolerated (Heffner).
    • Never punish – Spanking a child who is behaving badly is not a therapeutic way of handling a behavior outburst. Remember that your child with autism may be throwing a tantrum because he or she is not able to convey something verbally; therefore, there is no reason for you to punish.
    • Assure your child that you understand – Guarantee your child that you know he or she is trying to say something but make it clear that it is necessary to use words and communicate properly in order for you to understand.

Handling tantrums of a child with autism is not easy. Keep in mind that you can always ask for help on how to deal with tantrums from professionals, such as your child’s school counselor, teacher, or even your child’s therapist. With a little extra patience and a keen eye for observation, your child’s outbursts of unpleasant behavior are something that you and your family will be able to handle.


 Heffner, G.J. (n.d.). Managing tantrums in autistic children. Retrieved April 24, 2011, from http://www.autism-help.org/behavior-tantrums-aspergers.htm

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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

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Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

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