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02 Jun '21

Brenda Smith Myles' Cycle of Rage, Tantrums & Meltdown in Autistic Children

Posted by Carolyn in News

Medica CPD was honoured to have the fantastic and world-renowned autism expert Brenda Smith Myles tutor for part one of our ‘Autism at School: How Teachers Can Help’ online training course this week.

Brenda is a loyal friend of ours and on Wednesday afternoon via Zoom, was tutoring delegates made up of teachers, healthcare professionals and social workers on ‘Rumbling Behaviours & Interventions’.

This was a 1.5 hour-long discussion giving knowledge updates and practical strategies on best supporting autistic individuals who have tantrums, rages and meltdowns.

One very useful formula Brenda shared during the discussion centred around the three main stages individuals with autism go through when they are in a rage or experiencing a meltdown.

These are:

1. The Rumbling Stage

2. The Rage Stage

3. The Recovery Stage

This is better exemplified in the graphic here:
Cycle of Rage Autism.PNG
We’ll go through these three steps in a simple way to help you understand the best way to manage difficult situations like this, whether it be at home or in an educational setting.

The Rumbling Stage

The rumbling stage of an ensuing meltdown is the first stage. Sometimes, the signs are difficult to detect before the meltdown. For example, you might see these behaviours, amongst others.

- Clearing their throats
- Lowering their voice,
- The tensing of muscles
- Foot/feet tapping
- Grimacing

In some occasions, autistic children display more emotional behaviour, which is of course, a lot more obvious.

One good intervention to try during the rumbling stage is ‘antiseptic bouncing’. This technique involves “removing a student, in a nonpunitive fashion, from the environment in which she is experiencing difficulty”.

In a classroom setting, this may simply translate to asking the child to grab something across the room for the teacher, distracting them and potentially erasing the possibility of a meltdown.

Tip: Talk to the parent/carer of the child to help recognise the signs of rage

The signs where a child is about to have a meltdown can be so small that we don’t realise the message being communicated. Thus it is very important that a teacher talks to a parent or carer asking, “how can you tell when Tommy is about to have a meltdown?”.

The Rage Stage

The rage stage of the tantrum cycle is understandably, the most challenging for parents and teachers alike. This is when the child has not cooperated with a rumbling intervention such as antiseptic bouncing. Once this stage has commenced, it is best not to intervene and let the child behave as they wish.

The child will act “impulsively, emotionally and sometimes explosively.” The behaviours will either be externalised or internalised, with the former certainly being most common. External behaviours may include kicking, shouting, biting, hitting, throwing objects or hurting themselves.

Brenda shared a good intervention to try called ‘homebase’. This is where the child is sent to a quiet dedicated room with few distractions, such as a resource room or an office, where the child can calm down and destress.

Keep verbalisation at a minimum. For example, lay a card with ‘homebase’ written on it on the child’s desk. Homebasing isn’t an escape from work. Recognise the neurological differences with the other children and have them do their work in the homebase setting a a further method to induce calm.

The Recovery Stage

The recovery stage often involves more withdrawn behaviours from the child. Often, they cannot recall how they behaved and if they do, they will usually deny any sort of wrongdoing.

In extreme cases, a child may feel very exhausted after a physically-enduring meltdown and as a result, may fall asleep.

During the recovery stage, children are often not ready to learn. Thus, it is important that adults work with them to help them to once again become a part of the routine – whether at school or at home.

This is often best accomplished by directing the child to a highly motivating task that can be easily accomplished such as an activity related to a special interest.

More of Brenda’s rumbling practical strategies

Proximity Control - Standing with or walking around the rumbling child can help induce calm with some.

Signal Interference - The use of a non-verbal signal by a teacher/carer to indicate to the child that he/she is under stress.

Support From Routine - The displaying of a chart or schedule for the child to adhere to can distract them from a rumbling behaviour, reducing their anxiety and stress. For example, explain to the child he has one more task to finish before he can partake in his activity of choice.

Just Walk & Don’t Talk - Simply walking with a child without verbal communication can calm a rumbling behaviour down. The teacher/carer must stay calm and not confrontational.

Brenda Smith Myles Autism Quote Medica CPD.jpg

You may be interested in this…

If you are interested in supporting children’s problematic behaviour for the better through tried and trusted practical strategies, then look no further than our upcoming CPD courses led by children’s mental health expert Tony France.

See below to read more or to book now!

Forthcoming Medica CPD courses:

Explosive Kids - Understanding & Supporting Children with Violent or Self-Destructive Behaviour, With Tony France (Afternoon)
Date: 15 June 2021
Time: 1PM - 4PM
Read more:

Child To Parent Violence, With Tony France (Morning)
Date: 15 June 2021
Time: 9.30AM - 12.30PM
Read more:

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