Thursday 28 January 2021

Five reasons why my kids get frustrated

My kids can become frustrated for a variety of reasons and it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the underlying cause of their emotions.  Two of them have communications difficulties, but even our daughter can struggle sometime to explain why she's feeling frustrated.   As a parent of autistic kids I've learned to behave like a detective - what's causing the issue?  

Almost all of my kids outbursts are a way of communicating something so I to try and ascertain what’s triggering their upset.  Here are some of the most common reasons why my kids may feel frustrated:

1. Sensory Triggers

Many kids with autism to become upset, frustrated or angry if they’re exposed to sensory triggers. Some children can’t tolerate the feeling of certain fabrics, for example, but there's so many things.  It could be  the texture of specific foods, bright lights or loud sounds. My kids may be unable to explain exactly what they dislike about something, which is why they appear frustrated or uncomfortable. I have to look at the environment and try and figure out what's just happened or changed to figure out what's going on and hope to help them.

When there’s too much going on around a kid, it’s easy for them to become overstimulated, which leads to frustration. This is particularly common for kids on the spectrum, who can find everyday situations excessively stimulating. We try and ensure there is a quiet place to retreat to at home and use things like ear protectors and sunglasses to prevent overstimulation if we need to. 

2. Hearing Issues

Undiagnosed hearing issues can often present as frustration. If your child already uses hearing devices, a hearing aid repair may be needed if they’re showing signs of exasperation or irritation. Remember – if a child is born with reduced hearing function, they won’t necessarily realise that their hearing function is impaired, so won’t be able to describe the sensation to you, which is why regular hearing tests are important throughout childhood.  

3. Overtiredness

This is one I often forget about.  Two of my kids have sleeping difficulties which generally means they easily stay up late, but I often forget that's not that case for our daughter.  No matter how much she insists she's not tired or tries to avoid going to bed at a reasonable hour, it’s vital she gets enough sleep. If an infant misses a nap or an older child has too many ‘late nights’, you’ll undoubtedly see a change in their behaviour. Fortunately I've been dealing with sleep challenges for years and know how to wind things up and get her to sleep.

4. Hunger

If you’ve ever felt ‘hangry’ yourself, you’ll know just how much being hungry can impact your mood! It’s the same for kids.  With school timetables now being home timetables some things slip... like dinner time.  I'm not surprised if my kid's mood or behaviour takes a turn for the worse if we’ve pushed a meal back or not eaten much.  There is nothing like regular mealtimes to help with this and my kids all enjoy the routine of it, but sometimes growth spurts etc mean they need more.  It's ok to have to help ward off hunger between meals and can ensure that being ‘hangry’ doesn’t happen so much. 

5. Communication

I know I said most behaviour is about communication, but needing something to fixed, changed, stopped and not being able to tell someone who can help you about it is awful.  Our younger son is nearly 10 and can barely string two words together but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to express more than he can say.  A quarter of people with autism are non-verbal and frustration with not being able to communicate what they need to could lead to a meltdown where the status quo is simply unbearable.  

These can also happen with a sensory trigger too, but if it's due to us simply not being able to understand what our son is asking us to do we can try and stop a meltdown occurring by helping him communicate his frustrations before it gets to this point.  We offer our hand for him to lead us to problems, we say words or present him with pictures for him to be able to chose the ones to help him communicate his problem. 

Frustration and anger are normal emotions, and they can be healthy, in the right context - we've all seen Inside Out right (if not just google it).  Saying how we feel, singing a song about it, signing or pointing to an image of a sad face for example, all help them recognise their feelings.  It's the first part of being able to work through their feelings and figure out if they need support or what they should do next. 

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