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.

22 thoughts on “Surviving the Rage: The Autism Files

    1. Haha – yes, we all have out moments Aletha – children of all sorts and ages can be very difficult and I admire any who can remain calm in the face of tantrums 🙂 – you just have to go to the local shopping centre to see what I mean.

  1. The hair on the back of my neck stood up at the biting part, Gabrielle – one of the less pleasant memories of the childhood play ground – must have been really distressing for you. I love the photo – it speaks of a lot of love between those two littlies – and the patience and understanding of a sister.

    1. It is a lovely photo bluebee – Tessa is a good sister (though she has her moments) but it has been hard on her over the years. Sorry to hear about your playground incident 😦 – I vaguely remember being the perpetrator of a bite in my youth, but we won’t talk about that (I apologise to whoever it was …)

  2. Some of your advice I try to pass on in the workshop with chronic pain patients. In their case the rage is the wave of suffering that comes and comes.
    Good advice, I like how you explain things, very simple to understand.

  3. Those realisations can be funny things … once a solution occurs to us it can often seem to obvious … like, ‘how did I not realise this before?’.

    I have a healthy temper, but do my best to take deep breaths and exhibit as much patience as I can. You’re a champ Gabrielle!

    PS. That photo is adorable.

    1. Thanks Tracey 🙂 Yes, a ‘healthy temper’ – haha (we all need one of those – and best to keep most of the angry thoughts in our thought balloons – well I try anyhow 😉 ).

  4. ah, yes…needed these reminders tonight–I think it’s what I went searching for when I Googled “autism rage” tonight, my arms bitten up by my son in an out-in-public rage tonight where I couldn’t let him go but just had to hold on to him so I could contain him. Always good to know I’m not alone in these things, so thanks for putting your words out there 🙂

    1. Thanks Dawn for sharing your experience – it is so good to hear from other parents of ASD kids. I think the in public rages would have to be up there with the worst experiences – bad enough at home but in the public domain – not good! Wishing you all the best 🙂

  5. Oh, and the picture so reminds me of my daughter who always tries to comfort her older brother even in the midst of really trying moments. Her gentleness sometimes gets through to him.

      1. Very true. My daughter, who will be 4 next week, already possesses a level of caring beyond her age. Amazes me. (Though sometimes she can really get fed up and tease her brother too 😉 )

  6. Once again, an excellent post from you. I find it hard to disengage because I have a very fiery temper myself. I admire you so much for being able to do so. It is best to separate oneself, for sure. I love that photo of your two gorgeous kids. It is so lovely!

    1. It took me years to get any good at it Selma, and I still occasionally get caught up in the drama of it all 😉 It is a lovely photo – Michael loves to be squeezed extra hard and Tessa is the best hugger in the world 🙂

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