Strategies to Help with IRRITABILITY in Your Child with Autism
Caregivers who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be dealing with symptoms of irritability. Your child may not be able to properly communicate what they are feeling or thinking. This can lead to frustration and irritability, which in turn can lead to aggression or self-harming behaviour.
How can creating strategies help to tackle irritability?
The intensity, frequency and severity of behaviours can be different for every person. Behaviours may also differ based on the settings, like home or school. These behaviours can also change over time.
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What are the signs of irritability?
- Self-harming behaviour, such as head banging/harming their own body, trying to hurt/bite others.
- Severe tantrums or meltdowns
- Property destruction, such as breaking their own toys
- Running away or “eloping”
How to support your child
- Give them a break between tasks and assignments.
- Build your child up for success by starting tasks you know they can complete before trying harder tasks.
- Communicate using concrete statements and the fewest words possible.
- Instead of finding faults, concentrate on positive behaviour by praising them and giving them a treat to encourage good behaviour .
- Create and offer a safe spot in your home where your child can take a break.
- Respect and listen to your child to understand what is causing their irritation. • Remain calm and patient.
How to encourage positive behaviour:
- Provide reinforcement or a reward
- Remove or reduce distractions, such as loud noises, clutter or bright lights, during particularly stressful activities. How to decrease irritability:
- Consider what might be contributing to irritability, such as poor sleep, constipation, pain or environmental changes.
- Show respect for their thoughts and feelings.
- Give your child simple choices (e.g., “Do you want to wear your red shirt or green shirt today?”)
- Try to identify the first signs of your child becoming upset and intervene before behaviour worsens.
- Keep communication open with your care team and your child’s healthcare provider. Keep the team updated on how medication is helping your child or how their behaviours have changed. Ask for additional suggestions and help if you need it.