A child with Autism, who is having a meltdown, is vastly different then a child having a tantrum. So why do they call it a tantrum? It is called lack of education and is very frustrating as a parent of a child with Autism when you call it a tantrum. . Let me explain the difference.
I am at the grocery store with my child and my son/daughter wants a piece of candy. I say no and he/she proceeds to roll on the ground screaming and crying and basically throwing a fit. This is called a tantrum. A tantrum is a child who isn’t getting what they want and will do anything to get your attention, usually negative, to get what he/she wants. This happens in ALL children, including those with Autism. This is a tantrum. It is something that the child has control over and the parent can address and ideally change the behavior.
A meltdown is completely different and something a child with Autism can’t control. A meltdown can occur from many different things including, lack of routine, transitioning to a different task or event, lack of speech, frustration, and sensory overload. A meltdown takes redirection, soothing, and other tactics to help calm the child down. It might take calming the child down enough to be able to help them communicate what they need because when they are having a meltdown, communicating comes to a halt. This takes patience and love.
My son with Autism has tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. He is 4 and this is very typical of toddlers. I ignore the tantrum and not give in to his demands. I do not react to negative attention so he realizes that this type of behavior doesn’t work and in the future makes a better choice. Usually when he does it in the grocery store, we get nasty looks and I laugh because if you have a child, you have been in my shoes.
However, if you give me a nasty look when my son is having a meltdown, you will get a different reaction from me. I want to scream, “he has Autism and is having a meltdown so what are you looking at!” However, I understand that they aren’t educated in the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown and they think that my child is just being a brat.
After you have read this blog I hope that you are well versed in the differences between a tantrum and a meltdown and can offer sympathy or help next time you see a mom or dad in the grocery store with a child having a meltdown.
With twin 5 year old boys and one with Autism, we were encountering some negative behaviors which were making our lives as parents more difficult. These negative behaviors are typical behaviors all kids do; not listening to mom or dad, hitting their sibling, not sharing, and the “I wants.” The “I wants” are when you are trying to run an errand at the grocery store and they want everything. I want this car, I want this cereal, the I want EVERYTHING that will frustrate you as a parent and make you dream of grocery shopping alone.
I spoke with Ms. Kelli, who is Wyatt’s teacher and specializes in ABA therapy. She gave me a brilliant solution which has worked for us. It is the Positive Behavior Rewards Chart using stickers and it is awesome!
Each child has a Reward Chart, which you can Google for different styles of charts, that will work for your family. For every positive behavior they do, they get a sticker.We then sit down with the kids and talk about positive behaviors and examples of them. We talk about how every positive behavior gets a sticker and once they fill up all the boxes, they get a predetermined award. After explaining the reward chart, we take them to Target and they get to 1) pick out their own stickers and 2) pick out their reward. You do not buy the reward, you have them leave the store without their desired toy. Talk about motivation!!! We use the chart on the left, however you can use the one on the right for more specific goals.
Some key rules to follow to help ensure your success:
- It is very important that you allow them to put the sticker in the square and celebrate the positive behavior at the time they are putting the sticker on the chart.
- Do not threaten to remove stickers for negative behaviors, this is positive reinforcement only. If they exhibit a negative behavior I would say, “What a bummer that you decided to hit your brother, you missed a great opportunity to add a sticker to your rewards chart, and closer to getting that Star Wars figure.”
- DO NOT BUY them anything unless they have earned enough stickers to fill up all the boxes. If you do, their motivation is gone.
- If you have multiple children, always point out the good behaviors of another sibling. Example: Susie is making good choices and sharing with her brother but little Johnny doesn’t want to share. I wouldn’t acknowledge Johnny’s bad behavior, I would tell Susie how she is making good choices by sharing with her brother and playing nicely and she gets to add a sticker to her chart.
I hope this information is helpful for you and your family and helps eliminate bad behaviors!
For those of you who know about our struggle having Wyatt sleep thru the night, I am ecstatic to report that he has slept thru the night two nights in a row! WooHoo!
For those who are new to our story, Wyatt doesn’t sleep well at night. He wakes up 4-6 times a night. I think it was his way to pay us back for all the times we told him he couldn’t do something he wanted to do. LOL I work full time so this was a huge challenge and quite frankly not working out well for my husband and I. I posted about our struggle on Facebook and had a lot of great ideas from friends. I researched everything and bought every product that might help him sleep, we were desperate.
He has been on Melatonin for 2 years and it works in the beginning and the effect slowly wears off. The problem with Melatonin is that it will put you to sleep, however it doesn’t keep you asleep. Our doctor recommended we put him on Melatonin ER (extended release) which is supposed to keep him asleep. It worked great the first night, however hasn’t worked well since.
I have heard a lot about Essential Oils, however I honestly didn’t think they would work and it was a waste of money. I am happy to report I was wrong! A friend recommended Lavender Oil and told me to rub on the bottom of his feet and also to put in a diffuser in his room. I have done both the last two nights and he has slept thru the night!
Through out our Autism journey we have had to try different supplements, therapies, medicines and now oils to see what will help Wyatt. If one doesn’t work, try the next one. This can get very expensive and can feel frustrating at times. So when you find something that works and helps your child, it is very rewarding. It solidifies they fact that all the time and energy you are putting into helping your child is worth it.
When Wyatt was first diagnosed with Autism, I did a lot of research on vitamin supplements. The results that parents and doctors found made me interested enough to try. Anything that might help offset behaviors was worth it to me. After extensive research, here are the vitamins that I would recommend. Please only try one vitamin at a time to make sure your little one can tolerate and that it has a positive affect. For example, Wyatt could tolerate small does of B12 but when we switched to B12 injections, he became very angry and we stopped immediately. What vitamins have you tried or do you recommend?
1) Super Nu Thera by Kirkman Labs (Multivitamin) http://www.amazon.com/Kirkman-Super-Nu-Thera-…/…/ref=sr_1_1… follow directions
2) B12 with 5000 mcg Methylcobalamin http://www.amazon.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Methylc…/…/ref=sr_1_2…
If he shows improvement on this she should get B12 injections. Follow directions. There are liquid forms if he won’t chew.
3) Children’s fish oil http://www.amazon.com/Carlson-Kids-Finest-Ora…/…/ref=sr_1_4… follow directions
4) If he has trouble sleeping you can give him 1 teaspoon of Melatonin http://www.amazon.com/Natrol-Melatonin-2-5mg-…/…/ref=sr_1_1… 1 teaspoon in water or juice
5) If he has any digestive issues use this probiotic. http://www.amazon.com/Culturelle-Digestive-He…/…/ref=sr_1_5… 1 capsule in water or juice
Here is a fantastic article about understanding signs of children with Sensory Issues.
My name is Heather and I am the mother to 5 year old twin boys, Wyatt and Tucker. Wyatt was diagnosed with autism at 16 months and started our family on a journey which has had many highs and many lows. The amount of research and training I put myself thru was my way of dealing with my sons diagnosis. I read every book, every article, attended ABA training and advanced ABA training, meet with doctors, therapists, and pediatric neurologists. I did whatever I could to try and help my son.
Along the way, I learned a ton of information that has been beneficial to me as a parent. For the month of April, which is Autism Awareness Month, I started a daily post about Wyatt’s story and his autism. How autism has effected our family, relationships, and our overall daily life. Most importantly, I wanted to focus on all of the positives and accomplishments that Wyatt has achieved thru hard work and many hours of therapy. I wanted to educate my family and friends about autism and what behaviors are associated with it. Some family and friends suggested I start a blog as they felt my information was useful. I am not a good writer, however I believe I have useful information.
I found along the way that there are so many families who are effected by Autism and don’t know what to do or how to start helping their child, grandchild, niece or nephew. I am not a doctor, therapist, or ABA expert but I am a mother who would do anything for her child. I don’t believe in their only being one way to treat a child with Autism, I believe that whatever works for your child, is how you should treat them. There is no medicine that will cure autism, there is no one therapy that will cure autism so you as a parent need to find your own way thru the tangled web of information on autism.
Hopefully this blog will be one source of useful information for you to retain on your journey. My blog will not be autism specific, it will center around parenting in general. Please join me on this journey as we have so much to learn from one another. If you know anyone who might be interested in my posts, I would appreciate it if you would share my blog with them.