Both my autistic children experience moments of anger. For my aspergers daughter this builds up during her day at school and is let off when she is in the comfort of her own home. Much of her anger is related to her frustrations at school and her difficulties in understanding others though she also gets angry if she thinks she has been treated unfairly. Nevertheless, these are some of the things that I do to manage my children’s anger which might help you if you’re also having similar difficulties.
1. Channel their anger into something else – tearing up old newspapers is a favourite in our house and works well at absorbing negative energy. Alternatively get a pillow and encourage them to thump it.
2. Distraction – my daughter loves art and the computer and if I can get her to concentrate on these things instead of focusing on her anger then she will start to calm down. Alternatively, practical jobs are also a good source of distraction. Mowing the lawn, washing the car or helping to cook can help both of my children to chill out.
3. Exercise – the trampoline, cycling, swimming and the Wii have all been effective in helping to de-stress our children though I try not to leave the house if their anger is so great that a meltdown is likely.
4. Scented oils, warm lavender pillows and warm baths with plenty of ‘bubbles’ have all helped my daughter to relax, particularly before bedtime.
5. Create a calming bedroom – soothing colours and lighting can really help to calm our children. We have recently redecorated our children’s rooms in colours of their choosing and have added special lighting to help them relax. By involving them in the redecoration, we have managed to create bedrooms that they are happy to spend time in.
6. Find a quiet space – time out in a quiet part of the house, away from other members of the family can be really effective. Often in our house, our daughter needs to be on her own, either in the lounge watching TV or in her bedroom.
7. Consider your child’s sensory issues. My daughter often likes to squeeze in the laundry basket (the snug fit helps her to relax) and she also enjoys the tactile nature of fluffy clothing. My son on the other hand enjoys water play or playing in the sandpit. Ignore what is age appropriate and let them play with the things that help them to unwind.
8. Keep calm – our autistic children can pick up on our feelings and react negatively if we are angry so by learning to be calm ourselves we can set a good example.
9. Try to find out what is causing the anger – I am fortunate that my daughter can tell me about her day and usually I can get to the root of her problems. If your child can’t tell you, like my son, then speak to the school to see if they can provide any insight. If not, think back to what your child was doing before he/she got angry and see if you can find a trigger. However, as I have found it is not always possible to identify a trigger, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
10. Other children – if the cause of the anger is the result of an argument with another child then try to find out what happened and deal with it. If it’s a brother or sister, try and get the one who caused the argument to apologise and if the problem is school related, ask the school for help in resolving it. My daughter will not settle if arguments remain unresolved or if she feels she has been treated unfairly so its important for me to deal with arguments quickly.
11. Feelings – help your child to learn about their feelings and how to manage them. After your child has calmed down discuss it with them, asking them whether they felt angry, sad or frightened. Do this as often as possible so that they start to learn about their feelings and the symptoms of anger. You may want to think about doing a social story on ways of staying calm or looking for a self-help book on feelings that you and your child can share.
12. Just because our children are autistic, doesn’t mean we have to put up with aggressive behaviour. Try and teach your child that aggressive behaviour is not acceptable. We have made it clear to our children that they loose computer time when they behave badly but we also make a point of rewarding good behaviour.
13. Authority – my daughter does not respond well to authority so I try and explain that if she didn’t misbehave in the first place or she did as she was told then I wouldn’t need to tell her off.
14. As far as possible, I get my children to help me clear up any mess that they have made during moments of aggression. Its often too overwhelming for them to clear up on their own (they don’t know where to start) but if I get them to help me then it’s a way of showing them that one consequence of their aggression is that they will be expected to help clear up their mess.
15. Empathy. I try and teach my children the consequences of their behaviour on other people. If one of my children says horrible things or hits out at someone else, I try and help them to think about what it would be like if people said or did those things to him/her.
This post is day 15 of the nablopomo challenge.