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Autism………………………Tantrum (Part 2)

 In Part 1, I expressed how I made my son use the word No and tried to express his feelings and reduce his frustration( ). Now I want to record the approaches I am following.
  1. I made my son’s world predictable
By setting up visual schedule, my son knew what was going to come next and plan for the day. With this, I was able to reduce his anxiety and hence tantrum considerably. Many of us have telephone indexes and diaries to control our schedules. A visual schedule similarly became a diary of appointment for my kid.
  1. Ignore
Sometimes ignoring him also works and is needed. For example, he sometimes asks for Chocolate. But if there is none in house, I would tell him, "Wait for daddy". Daddy would get it, but my son would repeat the request continuously until he becomes hyper himself. In those kinds of situations, after responding a couple of times, I will ignore the repetitive requests.
  1. Isolate
Sometimes when he is really upset and throws a tantrum, I used to isolate him (courtesy: Super nanny* for some time, say in his bed. I will not do this isolation in a closed room or dark corners. I will keep him stay put in his usual spots, sofa or bed. And I will ensure there are no dangerous things around e.g. fragile items near him. In Super nanny program this isolation used to be done little differently. But as my son does not have that much understanding as a normal kid, I followed this simplified version.

*Super Nanny is a UK based TV program about a well-educated Nanny(one who looks after kids) addressing behavioural problem with kids. Please note these kids are normal kids without any special needs, but definitely misbehaving. This nanny comes home (real life stories) structures the family affairs, educates the parents, helps the kids and leaves behind a peaceful family. This program made me realize all the kids or same, whether normal or special. It is up to the parents to create the right environment to change things. This program is available in YouTube as well. Search with the key word “Super Nanny”.
  1. Say strong No.
In very dangerous situations when my son’s misbehavior is totally unacceptable like crossing the road, playing near balcony ledge or with electric items, I used to say a strong “No”. But before this I used to constantly prepare him for accepting the “No” as an answer.
  1. Distract
This works when my son is in a little bit listening mood despite his tantrums. At those times, I used to offer him his favourite food, play bubbles or offer to play Rhymes DVD or songs etc. This used to distract him and cool him down.
  1. Prepare
Preparing him adequately for something to come is one way to reduce a known tantrum that is going to come. For e.g. Hair cut is a no no to my son owing to his sensory issues on his head and leads to tantrums. We used to prepare him with head massage, haircut pictures, constant communication that we are going to do haircut on a specific day. This made him accept the activity (haircut in this example) and reduce tantrums.
  1. Routines
Routine is another way to reduce anxiety and tantrum for some specific activities. My son’s Brushing was one thing that got sorted out this way. He used to cry and shout for brushing. When I consulted my visiting therapist, she told me that do it as a ritual and one day my son would understand. So we did this everyday morning. And slowly my son got used to it and eventually agreed to do this activity as a daily chore.

However tantrums were better manageable at my home rather than outside were lot of distractions and unplanned things could happen. But with continuous training at home, I realised my ability to soothe and bring my son under control in outside circumstances improved.

But before all this, I had a big change in some of my perspectives.

Managing Anxiety
Initially when my son threw tantrum, I would get anxious and tensed. Being anxious I realized I could not manage my son’s anxiety or tensions. It was a bit of contradiction. Anxiety cannot soothe the anxiety. I decided that I should overcome my emotional barrier.

Ignoring the public comments
I learnt to ignore the public comments or staring. Once when we were on vacation, a European couple stayed in a nearby room. Seeing my son’s behavior, they understood there was some issue with him. They approached us and said they were priests of some faith and told us that they would like to pray for our son. We told them we were not religiously inclined. But they said that would not matter. We could not say anything further. But it was a complete invasion of our privacy and a help that we didn’t seek for.

And once when my son complained of chest pain, we rushed him to a Paediatric emergency ward of a well-known hospital in Bangalore. But my son was not co-operative to walk in and let the doctor do the tests. The doctor (who liked like a fresher) coolly said us to come the next day with some “proper plan for handling him”. Just because my son had a psychological difficulty can he be denied of medical support during an emergency like chest pain? Myself and my husband were shocked by Apathy.

I realized all categories of people cutting across professions, across the world were just the same, they were all “unaware” and could not help. So I decided to ignore them.

Listening to my son
Whenever my son screamed, the one thought that recurrently occurred on my mind is “why me”. But after a point of time, I realized it was neither my mistake nor my son’s. Trying to take control of my child whenever he threw tantrum was very difficult until I trained him in controlled circumstances at home. I realized rather than making the communication unidirectional with my son, that is me giving directions, I should also listen to him. When I listened and interacted with him, he started listening to me. This helped me take control when he lost his.

I strongly believe that every tantrum has a triggering point. Recently for 2 days at a go, he was hyper continuously. Eventually I realized a medication that I was giving for his cold symptoms was the reason.

And also on working with him on various methods, I realized the better he was at understanding my communication, the less tantrum he threw. And improvement in his communication lead to better understanding of my communication. This was a key to control his moods as he grew up. When he was three years old, I used to put him into a buggy (a controlled space) to reduce his anxiety and tantrum. But when he was 8 years old, his needs got sophisticated and I could not control his tempers by a physical space. Good communication between both of us was needed. So today I mainly work on making him express/communicate his needs, discomforts, likes and dislikes.

I know there are lot more challenges as my son grows up. But with better understanding between both of us, good communication and relationship, we will outgrow all troubles.

  1. Expose the kids continously to new situations , if unacceptable things happen, take it as a goal and work on it. If they are not taken to the outside world, there needs and difficulties will be hidden. So take kids regularly to park, relatives/friends place, long trips etc.
  2. Routinue will help the kids to learn. But if the kids are on a routinue then they will find difficult to cope with the sudden changes. So break the routinues at home at regular interavals. For Example change the study activity places at home like doing it on the bed, another day in the balcony instead of always sticking to the study table.

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    Please click the following link for a comprehensive documentation of my journey with Aakash: Click Here
    Here is the link to the playlist of Activities done with Aakash, in YouTube: Click Here
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