im looking for some advise, I'm currently on holiday dealing with my very very angry toddler and I’m counting the days in my room until our flight home.
he has been referred 2 months ago suspected high functioning autism and adhd.
the past few weeks he has progressed from hitting children to scratching and pulling adults hair (parents, teachers or anyone near him) in a violent rage. He has no empathy and my arms are so very badly scratched all over.
we are a family of 5 and my husband and I as well as our other kids are very calm people, we otherwise had a very happy home with no conflict at all but for the past year with what started with typical toddler behaviour has progressed into a real struggle. I don’t believe this is learned behaviour as he has never been subject or witnessed any anger or violence.
He attends a very small nursery (12 children) he is youngest and no other children there have behaviour issues. Despite being the youngest at his nursery (30 months) he can count, name all colours, shapes, letters and now able to say a for apple, b for ball etc he can sort objects in order from largest to smallest etc but his behaviour is out of control.
I’m at my wits end with his challenging behaviour.
can anyone relate to this and please give me some advice?
Most of what you are describing sounds like he is totally distressed. Try looking at what he is doing before he lashes out, see if there are triggers, it is quite rare for there to be no reason for it, the trigger could be something that seems completely innocuous to you but it is everything to him.
Most behaviour is communication, it is learning what he is trying to tell you. Have you looked at introducing sensory items to give him an outlet for the anger? As well as sensory sessions to help him focus himself.
How is his communication (speech) it could be frustration at not being able to tell you what he feels/needs you may want to consider pecs cards and visual timetables to help him maintain a routine.
There are lots of pages on this site with information or join an autistic led group.
As for the empathy, it is a disproved myth that autistica dont feel empathy. It is quite often the opposite in that they feel to much and struggle to show this in a neuro typical way, it is entirely possible that everything is currently assaulting his senses totally overwhelming him so he is lashing out as a response.
Thank you so much for your reply.
Yes I agree he’s totally distressed about absolutely everything.
he likes everything his own way and on his terms, if I don’t allow it he kicks, screams, punches, scratches and yells. When I’m at home distraction often helps but here on holiday he’s overwhelmed by absolutely everything that distraction isn’t working.
he bangs anything in sight, throws things at people for no reason. Snatches things from people, cannot wait in ques or take turns, he doesn’t like to share with anyone other than me (sometimes), he hits other children (and recently adults too), I can no longer goto play areas and clubs because it’s really so distressing for everyone. He doesn’t like walking with me holding his hand (throws himself to ground), hates supermarkets, shops, swimming pools or anywhere with crowds, I have tried everything. He doesn’t understand naughty steps/time outs and doesn’t read angry or sad facial expressions. He has recently learned happy face, we high five, air punch and I make a huge deal when he does something good to try encourage his good behaviour. But he is publicity displaying extremely challenging and destructive behaviour and I’m really struggling. If he’s having a meltdown in public and I try picking him up he scratches my face and yanks chunks of my hair out, if I trying putting him in his buggy he digs his nails into my hands and arms as I try to fasten him in, My body is covered in deep scratches all over. People stare open mouthed as if I’m a useless mum
My other kids were (and still are) all very well behaved and very polite so I know that this is not as a result of poor parenting. He is out of control at nursery too, they struggle to discipline him as well. My health visitor finally came to see him (after me reporting my concern for 6 months) and when she did she immediately referred him but in the meantime I’m stuck on a nhs waiting list for desperate help. I tried looking for private behaviour therapy but they start age 5 + near me. I contacted a sensory charity who have been helpful even though we don’t yet have the diagnosis and they have booked me-on some parents courses and a toddler communication course after summer.
He can talk but I would say slightly delayed for his age. He can say “that’s mine”, “give it back”, “go away”, “I don’t want to” etc but whist he’s yelling those words he’s also lashing out at the same time.
he loves switches, pressing buttons, paint, play doh and can sit for half an hour quietly with these things. I have been to a sensory play area run by a charity near me 2 weeks ago and I found he was much more calm for almost 3 days afterwords so I do think he is satisfied after he is over stimulated and also lashes out when he is bored.
I have shown him simple pictures of faces but he only understands happy face, I always emphasise emotions for example a crying baby I say “baby is sad, the baby is crying, can you hear the baby crying?....the baby needs a hug, do you think the baby will be happy if she has a hug?... mummy likes hugs too.. it’s nice to give hugs and so on.....
i bought him a baby dolly 6 months ago because he doesn’t seem to like babies and a day Creche told me he try’s to pull their hair and scratch them. (I think he is over sensitive to the babbling noises) he has progressed with the dolly from throwing it and stamping on it in the early days to now pushing it around in a buggy, if he does spontaneously hit the dolly I always emphasise how it’s not nice to hurt and makes you sad. He will after persuading only sometimes hug or kiss the dolly but it’s a work in progress.
i just really cannot understand why he’s so angry with people, I spend a lot of time with him, he’s loved so very much and we used to goto daily to various play groups, mother and toddlers, baby massage and so on every day so he has been used to people from very young.
I notice that The anger can be frustration and boredom but also we can be happy playing together having such a nice time and he will just spontaneously slap me in the face or yank my hair.
I would really appreciate any ideas or tip on how to help him.
thank you so much for taking the time to read
I really do understand your frustration at his anger.
But please he is not doing this to be bad, when he is having a meltdown moving him will make him worse (unless he is in danger) try sitting near him not touching him quietly talking just repeating it's ok, it's ok. Physical interaction will probably escalate it. Learning how to spot the signs before the meltdowns is the key.
Consider his world at the moment his senses are in overdrive every sight, sound, smell, touch could be to much, and his only way of showing this is lashing out. Autistic people literally see and feel things more intensely so a supermarket filled with bright lights hurting his eyes noises hurting his ears and confusing him people everywhere and overwhelming smells, as he tries to process this it gets to much and he lashes out. I know it's not helpful but limiting exposure to these situations until you understand his triggers and have worked out a strategy to handle meltdowns. Have you looked into ear defenders, weighted blankets to calm him, chewable items to bite, stress balls for him to dig his nails into? Work with the things he likes build a routine with time for him to stimulate his senses which will make him calmer.
Discipline, I no this sounds stupid but stop. My daughter used to kick scream bite throw things when she couldn't do what she wanted and if we told her to do something it was war! But I stopped trying to make her do what she was told I gave her options. We can do a or b and so on as the pressure was taken off she stopped lashing out so much as she got older we got firmer and did start time out but not until she was about 4 and could understand fully.
When you speak to him language is important, if he is asked to do something give him time to respond, if you repeat the question use the same wording as this can lead to confusion as he is then trying to process multiple things.
Sensory sessions can be done anywhere you dont need a special area or anything, just an area for him to move.
Mostly speak to autistic adults, there are plenty of online groups that will help. You could try the service directory on this site you may find other things in your area,
I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record or am telling you things you have already tried. Feel free to message any time
Hi, I'm really sorry to hear what you're going through. Perhaps try calling the Autism helpline when they open again on Monday, they should be able to advise you on strategies to help manage your toddler's behaviour.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me, I’m trying to remain positive and will try everything you suggest.
I think your right I’m basically making the situation worse for him by removing him from the area and that’s me that has the problem, I’m worrying about everybody talking about me because when I’m at home or when I see that nobody is near us I do re act very differently to those episodes. I am able to distract him quite quickly.
i do see slow progress in his development for example he used to reply no to every question even when he meant yes but recently he has started to say yes when I ask questions. So I will definitely try giving the 2 options going forward.
thank you for sharing your experience with me about your little girl, I know I shouldn’t compare him to others but it does make me feel more positive that his behaviour will improve.
Thank you for your reply
yes I will contact them for advice as well
He will probably be upset because his "normality" has changed.
For perhaps future use when applying for help it may help you to have a Diary of his Melt downs and kickoffs. describing especially of his refusals to walk, (ie dropping down and resisting being picked up, attacks on yourselves and others, needing your close control. It may be he is just too hot, It's too noisy etc.
I think at some point we have all worried what others are saying about us, I know I certainly have. It took a while for me to accept that, now I just ignore people who make comments it's their problem not mine!
Speak to health visitors when you get back from holiday about possible family support, this can open doors to getting additional help sooner. And as kitsun suggests call the helpline they can give you specialist up to date advice.