When you live with a special needs person, one very frequent side effect of their disorder, their medications, or just life in general can be tantrums.

I already wrote about some of the reasons special needs children or adults can have tantrums. So I thought I would share some tips for passers-by on how to NOT respond to special needs tantrums. :)

TantrumImage by Andrew Steele, CC

1. Do not stop to stare or whisper.

We know watching an all-out tantrum is odd and annoying. TRUST ME–we know. Instead of making it worse by staring or whispering, feel free to come up to the special needs sibling or parent and ask, “Is everything okay” or “Can I help?” While they probably will not want you to get involved, they will likely feel relieved to explain the situation rather than continue fielding dirty looks. If you don’t want to approach them, that’s fine too! Just move on without much fanfare.

2. Do not try approach, bribe, or coax the special needs person without feedback from their parent or sibling.

The caretaker may appreciate the help, but can first inform you of potential aggression or limitations before you try to engage. For example, promising the individual ice cream if they stop crying is not helpful if being denied ice cream was what set them off in the first place.

3. Do not call the police. (Unless you see actual abuse taking place. In that case, please do!)

If you are concerned for someone’s safety, thank you for your concern. We appreciate it! Feel free to approach us to ask what is happening. Gather information before you act. One of the best experiences we had with Alyssa having a tantrum occurred when the manager came out to ask if everything was okay. As we explained, he quickly caught on. He shared that he had worked with special need kids, completely understood, and told us not to worry about being right outside his store. Meanwhile, he would explain to the customers what was happening so they wouldn’t worry or over react. Now that, folks, is how it should be done.

4. Do NOT start having your own tantrum.

Believe it or not, once Alyssa was having a meltdown in a Walmart parking lot. And a random stranger decided to start yelling at her before cursing out my my mom. His tantrum became worse than Alyssa’s as he shouted at my family to get Alyssa in the car. Oh, thank you random stranger. Getting her in the car never crossed our minds. We just bring her to Walmart to have tantrums in the parking lot for fun! (Sorry, I can get a bit heated).

Really, though, we know her behavior is bad. That never gives you the permission to act just as poorly. After all, you know better. she does not.

While I am sure none of you reading would ever fall into that last category, do keep in mind that this is probably far more embarrassing for the special needs family than it is for you. They would probably love the chance to explain why this is happening. If not, they will let you know, but rest assured they appreciated your concern. Meanwhile, following these “don’ts” can make a very hard situation for that special need family just a little bit easier.

Have you ever encountered a public tantrum? Siblings and parents: what is your worst tantrum story?