I initially wrote this post when we had not experienced severe tantrums for several days. As a result, I feel that I have been able to be fairly objective in writing about the subject. However, we are just winding down from a several hour tantrum Alyssa had at home–a tough reminder that these are not just words. This is life for my family and many like us. On behalf of us all, thank you for taking time to read.


Pouting Child

We have probably all done it at times. We walk past the kid pouting on the floor of the grocery store or hear a child screaming three aisles over and think “Wow, those parents need to get a handle on their kids.”

Some of us who live with a special needs sibling, however, have a very different view of tantrums.  We know it normally starts with something small.  She didn’t find the candy bar she wanted.  He was upset because someone looked at him funny.  The lights or the noise or the people were just too much for their hyper-acute senses to take.  Before you know it, the sibling you love and want to protect is making you want to run away and hide.  The tantrums can take many forms.  However, screaming, kicking, biting, sitting down and refusing to move, or even swearing are all fair game. I must say, during times like this, our entire family is grateful that the worst words Alyssa can come up with are “stupid” and “idiot.”  😉

As we suffer the embarrassment and helplessness inherent in this type of situation, there are two things we desperately wish would happen. Number one is obvious… that they will stop screaming.  But as we suffer the stares, the whispers, or people calling the manager or even the police, we think “I wish they knew.”

So on behalf of tantrum-throwing special needs kids and their siblings everywhere, I would like to explain to the rest of the world a few reasons that child may be kicking and screaming on the floor. My hope is that the next time you are tempted to think some needs to “control their child,” you will remember that there are so many hidden causes to tantrums.  Here are just three reasons a special needs kid might have a tantrum.

1. Medication
If you have ever watched a commercial for some new drug, you know they promise all kinds of miracle cures. Until they get to the disclaimer.  “sideeffectsmayincludeheadaches,nausea,diarrhea,stuffiness,drowsiness,depression,
andinsomerarecasesdeath.”

Most of the time, we’re left preferring the disease over the “cure.”  Yet for special needs individuals, seizure medication, heart medicine, or antidepressants are simply not optional. Unfortunately, some of the many side effects to their medication often include aggression, acting out, and tantrums.

2. Over-Stimulation
Many special needs people have hyper-acute senses. What may be a simple trip to the store for us becomes a walking nightmare for them. Crowded aisles, people talking, bright lights, and noisy machines all contribute to sensory overload. Envision yourself having to go into work with a terrible headache. Then envision work has morphed into an intense scene from your favorite action adventure film with your coworkers, staplers, and the copy machine out to get you. Now you’re starting to understand.  Is it any wonder they’re having a meltdown?

3. A Bad Day
This final reason is the most basic of all. We all have them, but a person with special needs often lacks the social restraint and inhibitors that keep the rest of is smiling on the outside, even if we’re itching to go knock something down. Remember, they have bad days, just like you. They are probably just more honest about it than we are.

So the next time any of us (myself included!) encounter a screaming child or adult on a shopping trip… let’s take a step back and remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean bratty kids or bad parenting. This may just be another day in the life for a special needs family.

When have you encountered a tantrum like this? What was your response?