Parenting a child on the autism spectrum can often feel like you're treading in a pool of Jell-O because it is an ongoing process that can leave you feeling as though you're getting nowhere at all. One of the biggest struggles many parents have when dealing with children on the spectrum is the temper tantrums and screaming that often comes as part of their communication skills. Here are some tips on how to handle your child's communication in the hopes of bringing an end to those tantrums.
Don't Let The Behavior Rattle You
One of the keys to calming your child down is remaining calm yourself. It's easy to get agitated or anxious when your child is screaming, but this only feeds the reaction they are looking for. You need to stay relaxed and at ease in the situation. The more comfortable you are, the less anxiety your child will be able to draw on to feed the tantrum. He or she needs to see that you're not going to react at all.
Do Make Your Child Explain What They Want
When you give in to what your child wants just to stop the tantrum, you're reinforcing the behavior. For kids on the autism spectrum, that reinforcement is basically a green light to stick with it indefinitely.
Instead, practice a very confused, baffled face that you can make to your child when he or she starts throwing a tantrum. Then, tell them that you aren't sure how to help them or solve the problem when they are screaming, crying, or lashing out. You can even spend a few minutes doing some quiet and relaxed attempts at "solving" the problem but don't actually solve it until he or she stops the tantrum.
Don't Punish Your Child
Although this is a departure from what traditional parenting would say, you don't want to punish your child when he or she throws tantrums. Remember that this process is about teaching him or her that you can't understand them when they throw a fit like that, not about punishing them. Kids on the spectrum need logic and evidence. Punishment is rarely effective.
Do Reward Proper Behavior
Even if it's something as simple as asking someone to move or moving the cat out of the way gently, make a conscious effort to reward good communication skills and behavior from your child. Go over the top with your praise, because the more emphatic it is, the more it will reinforce the ideas.
For more information, contact your local autism treatment center.