Many parents have experienced their child having tantrums in public. These episodes can be more common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children throw tantrums for various reasons such as not getting what they want or for attention. In some cases, they have meltdowns due to sensory overload.
Many children with ASD have difficulties in expressing their wants, needs and feelings due to challenges with their speech and communication. A lot of the time, parents feel helpless and distressed when their child throws a tantrum when out and about. Below are some tips on how to handle the situation in a way that is best for both your child and yourself.
1. Keep yourself calm
Public outbursts can feel embarrassing and overwhelming for parents, particularly if it seems as if people are staring. However, remember that the one struggling most and really needing support is your child. Try to ignore the judgmental looks and focus on your child. You may assess the environment and try to remove the triggers as much as possible. For example, if it’s the loud environment that is triggering your child, bring them to a quieter place. It is important to let your child feel loved and safe.
2. Safety first
During a meltdown, the child might cry, run, hit, fall, or bite. They might unintentionally hurt themselves or others around them and it is crucial to make sure everyone is safe. First and foremost, bring your child to a safe environment. Moving from the situation or place where they have the meltdown can help them calm down and gather themselves.
3. Have distractions ready
It is always a good idea to have a few sensory tools or toys in your bag when you are out with your child. These can help distract and relax their mind when they are overwhelmed. Some examples include: headphones, fidget toy, slinky, massage ball, music, or your child’s favourite toy.
4. Show empathy to your child
With some children, depending on their level of communication, once they feel better, you can talk it out with them and guide them to express their feelings in a safe way that won’t hurt themselves or others. Acknowledge their feelings and praise them for their good behaviours. This is a good way to facilitate communication between you and your child. Not only would your child feel heard and validated, it can also give you a better understanding of your child’s thoughts and emotions.