Anger can be a real issue for children with special needs. Whether your child is on the autism spectrum, has a reading disability, or struggles to pay attention because of ADD, frustration and anger can cause them to want to quit on their schoolwork. It is important to teach your child to deal with their anger in healthy ways. They may always feel angry about circumstances and events in their life, but they can learn to manage the anger instead of acting on it.
Take a Break
One of the best ways to keep anger under control is to take a break from what is causing the anger. You could teach your child to walk away from a situation and go to a quiet place (their room, the kitchen table, or a certain spot in their classroom). Teach them to stay in this spot until they feel calmer. Remember though that this is something you want them to learn to do on their own. It is not a punishment. You can encourage your child to walk away, but don’t try to force them to stay in the chosen spot. If a special needs child feels like he is being punished, the anger will probably get worse, not better. You can also ask your child’s teacher if your child can take a break from a subject that is frustrating them and go back to it later in the day.
Use Their Words
One problem that can cause anger is the inability for some children to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Imagine how frustrated you would be if you were trying to talk, but no one could understand you or you didn’t know how to tell someone what you were thinking or feeling. During times when your child is not angry, have them practice using their words to talk about their feelings. Role play possible situations that would upset them and have them tell you in words how they would feel or what they would tell their teacher about the situation. It could also help to give them a special feelings journal. Tell them that they can write in the journal anytime they want or about anything they want. Encourage them to write down things that bother them throughout the day. In addition to just writing in the journal, you could look at the journal with your child every night and talk with him about what bothered him during the day.
Think From the Perspective of Others
Many special needs students have a hard time putting themselves in the place of others. Because they tend to focus only on themselves, it can be difficult for them to understand things like why a child refused to give up a favorite toy or why they didn’t get to use the blue marker first. When you talk with your child about things that have made them angry, try to get them to see what made the other child act the way they did. (You may not be able to do this until your child has calmed down quite a bit.) Ask your child what he would have done if he was the other child.
Anger is a real problem for some children, but with your help your child can learn to control his anger. What other strategies do you use when teaching your children to manage their anger?
Photo by: greg westfall