Struggling with emotional wellbeing of our (potentially) autistic son.

We had always had our suspicions, but last year our son's primary school teacher said she would like to refer him for testing. Now our son is (mostly) ok with changes in his daily routine, however he struggles with controlling his emotions, whilst I know a lot of children are emotionally sensitive it can be as simple as him having tomato on his pasta, which is normally cheese and tuna pasta , that causes an outburst for him to start kickin, punching, slapping, spitting his mother and I. We are terrified to take him out into the town incase the wrong bus turns up or the bus is running late as these are his biggest triggers. before now my wife has forcibly held him in her lap to keep him calm. We are running out of ideas on how we can help him control his behavior. We have tried the temporary removal of his toys, sending him to his bedroom, the naughty step. Nothing seems to alter his behaviour because no less then 10 minutes out of his punishment he is acting up again. Has anyone had experience with this and how can we curb it?

  • I do not have any experience with this specifically but it sounds very much like he's autistic. I'd highly recommend getting him tested and you, yourself having a look at local organisations that specialise in kids with autism. Get yourself some support and advice from professionals and good luck. 

  • Please try not to see these behaviours as 'naughty'. By punishing him, you risk taking away his coping mechanisms - toys that he might use for distraction, the freedom to escape a stressful situation....

    Rather than 'acting up', if he is autistic then what you're getting is a response to fear or panic that's brought about by something being not how he expects or needs it.

    Instead, work with your son to find things that he can use to calm him. Prepare a 'Plan B' if you're going out. Explain the other buses that might appear before his. If you're at home, try not to send him to his room as punishment but create somewhere he can escape to and then guide him to go there in order to calm down if needed.

    As he grows older, he will need to learn appropriate and inappropriate ways to cope with his meltdowns. Spitting and violence are absolutely not acceptable. But he's probably lashing out because he's scared and upset, and so he's only going to learn more appropriate behaviours from a calmer mental place. If you're on edge, perhaps someone has just put you in a cage with a tiger and is blocking the only exit (this is how I liken the feeling of being in a meltdown), then no amount of "calm down or we're going to take your belongings away from you" is going to help the situation.