What Causes a Child with Autism to be Hyperactive and How to Control It
What causes a child to be hyperactive? A temper tantrum usually occurs when a child is denied what they want to have or what they want to do. Parents observe many tantrums during the “terrible twos”. This occurs when young children are developing problem-solving skills and beginning to assert their independence. In fact, this “terrible twos” stage is typically experienced between 12 months through 4 years old!
When you look at what causes a child to be hyperactive during, it is important to consider typical development and why toddlers are so easily frustrated:
● Emerging desire to become independent, but limited motor skills and cognitive skills (planning, organization, execution) make it impossible to BE independent.
● Emerging, developing language skills make communicating wants/needs frustrating.
● The prefrontal cortex of the brain has not yet developed - this is the brain centre responsible for emotional regulation and social behaviour - so they cannot regulate!
● Toddlers are developing an understanding of their world, and it’s often anxiety-producing. This anxiety and lack of control often result in tantrums when it all gets to be too much to manage.
A hallmark of a tantrum is that the behaviour will usually persist if the child gains attention for his behaviour, but will subside when ignored.
When children tantrum, they continue to be in control of their behaviour and can adjust the level of the tantrum based on the feedback they receive from adults around them. The tantrums will resolve when the child either gets what he wants or when he realizes that his outburst will not result in getting his way.
When parents “give in” to tantrum outbursts, children are more likely to repeat the behaviour the next time they are denied what they want or need.
Children who exhibit frequent tantrum outbursts have difficulty regulating emotions associated with anxiety and anger. They can be impulsive in their reactions and, if not addressed appropriately, persistent outbursts (maladaptive responses to problems/not getting his way) can result in social-emotional difficulties as they get older.
While a tantrum isn’t a meltdown, they are related and can be difficult to decipher, especially if you aren’t the direct caregiver to the child.
1) RECOGNIZING THE MOTIVATION OR PURPOSE OF THE TANTRUM BEHAVIOR
Here are a few examples of motivation children might have:
● to get attention
● to get what he wants/needs
● denial of want/need
● delayed access to what he wants/needs
Once you identify WHY your child is throwing tantrums, you can respond more appropriately.
Recognize your child’s needs at the moment, without giving into them.
When Bobby calms down, he can then be engaged in conversation about how to solve the TV show problem but he does not get his Dora TV show immediately.
2) REINFORCE POSITIVE BEHAVIOR
Catch your child when they ARE responding appropriately to small problems and praise them or reward them for great behaviour! A hug, high-five, or “Way to go!” are all ways of proactively avoiding those tantrum outbursts by teaching your child that he has your attention for the times he’s successful too!
Calling attention to what he does right, at the moment, will also help him build on those successes and positively respond in the future! Besides, modelling appropriate behaviour yourself or pointing out acceptable behaviours in others can help reinforce appropriate ways for your child to respond and behave.
3) BUILD THE SKILLS
We know that children who demonstrate temper tantrums frequently struggle with impulse control, problem-solving, delaying gratification, negotiating, communicating wishes and needs, knowing what’s appropriate in given situations, and self-soothing.
Look for opportunities to build on these skills with your child and help them to be successful. It is best to work on these skills outside of tantrum moments, however. These tips would only work if performed with the proper judgement of the situation. You can join our expert workshops to get individualised suggestions and hacks of parenting your special needs child.