Tools to Help Manage Difficult Behaviour in kids with Autism

Managing behaviours in any child can be difficult, managing behaviours with children with Autism may sometimes seem impossible.

I recently attended a course by Professor Tony Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett from Minds and Hearts on “Challenging Behaviour in Classic Autism”. This one day course covered a range of areas that children have difficulties with, including communication, sensory processing and emotional regulation. They provided a “tool box” to help manage and reduce behaviours resulting from difficulties in these areas.

Every person has triggers that can frustrate, upset or anger the individual. We all reach a point or have a threshold where we can no longer cope. Children with Autism can often have “explosions”, where rather then letting things accumulate; they can “erupt” following exposure to a trigger and often have difficulties regulating themselves back to a settled state.

Triggers can be a range of things, including sensory stimulus (noise, smell, touch, sight), being told no, losing or being wrong, social situations, transitions, lack of routine and unexpected environment changes.

upset child.jpg

It is important to recognise your child’s triggers. Keep a diary/monitor when behaviours occur and identify what were the events prior to/what was the environment like. We can then avoid these triggers or aim to prepare the child and minimise the outcomes.

Professor T. Attwood and Dr M. Garnett identify “tool boxes” to help avoid, minimise and regulate challenging behaviours.

Physical Tool Box
We can use physical activity to help manage anger and depression, these can be used at critical times to help self-regulation. Activities might include:

  • Physical exercise such as running, jumping on a trampoline, going for a walk
  • Sports including basketball, light weight lifting, dancing, swimming
  • Playing on a dum kit
  • Going on swings and slides

happy kid

Relaxation tool box:
Relaxation tools can be implemented daily, in aid to reduce or delay/ behaviours from occurring. Activities might include:

  • Solitude or chill out time
  • Massage or deep pressure
  • Sleep
  • Time with a pet (patting/stroking)
  • Jigsaws
  • Drawing/craft
  • Stress ball
  • Lavender oil or relaxation candles (trial different smells, each child has different preferences)
  • Listen to music or an audio tape of reassurance from a parent
  • Time in nature
  • Mindfulness/deep breathing
  • Mediation


Sensory Tools
Many behaviours are a result of being overwhelmed to sensory stimuli. It is best to avoid or minimise exposure to these. Tools that can be used include:

  • Sound: Ear plugs, noise cancelling head phones
  • Light: Sun glasses, Irlen lenses, hat
  • Tactile: Seamless socks, being aware of the material and fit of clothing

Please feel free to contact us at the clinic to discuss how to manage complex behaviours for children with Autism. hannah lynch uniform

Hannah Lynch , Occupational Therapist

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