Look for cues

One of the golden rules here is to know the difference between an ordinary strop and something brought on by a situation out of the person’s control. Look for clues.

What are they saying?

All behaviour is a form of communication – what is the person trying to tell you?

What's happening next?

Ben really likes to know what to expect next. We use a visual record and objects of reference to keep him informed and try hard not to scare him with too many unexpected events.


Being constipated really affects Georgie’s behaviour.

Healthy diet

We’ve found keeping a clean healthy diet of foods without additives and too much sugar makes such a difference to Chris’s behaviour.

Coloured stickers

If you are keeping a record I have found that a visual record, using coloured stickers on a 6 month to a view calendar, is more useful than a written one and can sometimes highlight patterns that a written one wouldn't show so clearly.

Rescue remedy

I’ve found Rescue Remedy and lots of relaxation techniques to be a great help in sensory and emotionally stressful situations. Sometimes it’s a good thing for both Grace and myself!

Keep notes

It can help to keep a record of the tantrums and see if a pattern emerges. If the person is still at school it could be a staff change or the combination of subjects that morning that provides the last straw and makes Wednesdays awful for him, you and the staff.

Change of medication

Always consider the possibility that a new or more intense period of outbursts could be a reaction to a new medication, if there has been a change recently. Some drugs can affect personality and behaviour and people with learning disabilities can react unexpectedly to them.

Get the book

I found Marcia Brown Rubenstein’s Raising NLD Superstars book really helpful. NLD isn’t a recognised diagnosis in the UK yet, but much that’s in the book rang very loud bells for me. She describes how a child deals with sensory, mental and emotional overload which may manifest in very different ways.

Don't struggle alone

If you are really worried about the tantrums then ask for help, and keep on asking until you get it. Go to your doctor and ask to be referred to the local CAMHS team (Child and adolescent mental health services). Psychology input is very useful and can include teaching ways of relaxation which can help as a lot of tantrums stem from anxiety rather than wilful naughtiness! Not least it gives you support, so you don’t feel you are dealing with the situation on your own.

What's the trigger?

Try to work out if there was a specific trigger for the outburst. I found that being hungry and expected to go to too many places in one morning were factors for us. If you can identify a trigger then you are in a better position to either avoid it or to prepare the person in advance. Do remember that if they are ill or in a strange place (including on holiday) their tolerance will be lower anyway so you will need to be more alert for any warning signs.

First this, second that

We used our fingers as an aid to teach Jack that one thing leads to the next. For example, we hold up one finger, first we get dressed, two fingers, second we have breakfast. It took some time but he now understands. It is very helpful when Jack wants to do something else - I repeat my sentence ‘first we do this, second we do that’ and he understands he will get to do what he wants soon.

Distract is best

Distraction is far better than saying “No”. I generally try to get Josh to focus on something else. If he is upset, singing either distracts or calms him, do whatever works for you.

Keep cool

Often the worse Ella’s behaviour the worse everyone else’s response becomes which in turn exacerbates the problem. This really makes a mess. It is important to check your own behaviour, try to be calm and in control.

Stimulation overload

Meltdown occurs when Michael is simply overloaded, his brain cannot process one more lot of information. We remove him from that location. What Michael needs when he is in meltdown and behaving “badly” is a familiar non-threatening and non-stimulating environment. Kindly understanding while he relaxes and lets his brain and emotions settle down works for all of us.

Communicate with local shopkeepers

There are several shops locally where my daughter had loud tantrums and I went back to them later, on my own, and half-apologised and entirely explained, thinking that I was not going to be shamed out of going back there another time! I always received a fair hearing and in the supermarket I met genuine understanding from that day's checkout supervisor. She told me that she told the check-out girls, as part of their training, that there are many different reasons for a child's behaviour, and that they shouldn't jump to conclusions. I went away feeling much better!

Hand out explanation cards

When Sean has a mega-tantrum in a public place, we feel really bad and embarrassed. We have some handy cards to give out in this situation (we had some printed for ourselves with our choice of words after a particularly bad patch).

Theme tune

Here’s a tip for you which I use with my son. If we’re out and about and he’s looking like he’s about to have a tantrum I play him the Emmerdale theme music which I’ve downloaded to my phone and that usually does the trick.

Ceiling fan

Having a meltdown and nothing to break the cycle? The best thing that works for us right now is… would you believe... a ceiling fan. The best £45 ever spent! Screaming starts, turn the fan on... hey presto... the fan spinning calms James down immediately :-)

Allow comfort items

Help minimise tantrums by allowing your child to have items that comfort and settle them whenever they want. Attempting to ration these, or worse, using them as a reward can lead to all sorts of battles - which isn't really worth the hassle.

Avoiding the tantrums

My son loves his Buzz Lightyear doll but he can't take him into school. This causes a huge temper tantrum. So I now play a game with him, I tell him to make Buzz fly, and sure enough he throws the toy across the car. It makes him laugh and I can get him into school without a tantrum.

Traffic lights

I use traffic light cards on my keyring to control my sons' (both ASD) behaviour. Green means 'OK, good, go for it'. Yellow means 'calm down, you may hurt yourself or someone else if you carry on'. Red means 'no- stop right now!' Used alongside countdowns these techniques have made a lot more manageable.

Scream time

Try fun games that involve screaming as loud as you can then whispering quietly. We do this before we go out. It reduces my son's anxiety and also prepares him for what is acceptable in private and in public.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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