Surviving the Rage: The Autism Files

Speaking of rage, my son (diagnosed with autism at age 3) has had his fair share of tantrums and meltdowns (though he is pretty good now at age 10 and when angry will go to his room, mumbling and abusing everyone under his breath, to calm down on his own).

The boy was a screamer, fighter and a biter!

I remember one time when my son had lost the plot and started attacking me in the kitchen. He lifted up my shirt and bit me hard on the bare skin of my stomach. I asked one of his therapists why he did that, and she said ‘probably to get a better grip’ – haha!

I can laugh about it now, but there is something particularly upsetting about being bitten (worse than being hit). I am not sure why this is so – maybe it relates back to primal fears of being attacked and bitten by wild animals.

It is very easy, when your child is having a meltdown, to join in the fracas.  Emotions are high and it is difficult to think straight when chaos is having a field day.  Losing the plot was my forte, as I have a bit of a short fuse myself, and I would manage to make a bad situation much worse by yelling and carrying on. I needed a bit of time-out 😉

Over the years it slowly dawned on me that I must disengage from the battle. I was the grown-up and I must not take it personally. My child was biting/hitting/screaming at me, but this didn’t mean he hated me. He had lost control of his emotions and was using all weapons at his disposal. Fair enough!

Surviving the Rage

Remember, it is a bit too late once the rage is raging – better to intervene during the rumbling stage. But that is easier said than done, and if you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you will inevitably get an uncontrollable rage.

Safety first

The child in a rage has lost control and must be kept safe (and those around him/her must be kept safe). If possible, remove dangerous items (and things that might get broken). Remove all other people from the area, particularly at school (except the one or two people supervising the child) – this is not a spectator sport!

Keep calm

This is the bit I had trouble with 😉

Do not make threats, yell and try to dominate or tower over the person in a rage. This will inflame the situation, and make everyone feel worse. Reduce verbal communication (or stop talking altogether).

Disengage emotionally

Yeah sure 😉

The rage is about an incident or situation – not you personally. Also it is a good idea not to listen to any horrible things that they might say about you (you know the type of thing – ‘I hate you mummy so much, you are the most horrible mummy in the world, no, the whole universe and beyond …’). Try to disengage emotionally and think about something else, if possible.

________________________________

Note: If your child has a rapid increase in rage episodes or puts him or herself in dangerous situations, seek out professional assistance from someone who has expertise in ASD.