I was reading an article recently about anxiety and methods that can be used in calming ourselves down. While reading, I realized many of these methods could be applied to autistic children who might be experiencing an episode in which they begin to throw tantrums, scream, etc. One major reason for this reaction we have been told is due to heightened reactions to auditory sounds or textures. For example: the sound of clicking pens or the rough feeling of fabric might cause a person to overreact to the stimulation whereas another person might not even notice the sounds or texture.
One particular method of calming a person who is in a heightened state is to take 10 very deep breaths and breathe out slowly. This will allow the brain to come back into a lower state and cause the front lobes to respond with logical thinking. When we are in a panicked state–by taking very short breaths it causes our fight or flight response to kick in at which time we become irrational, mean, maybe even aggressive.
A task that you might try is if your loved one is in a heightened state and progressing quickly is to have them take 10 very deep breaths and let their breath out slowly. Once you have accomplished this then ask them to state what they are wanting at which time they should be able to respond logically without the added anxiety and panic!
Once they have sufficiently calmed down, both of you can reasonably discuss the issue at hand. Now with some autistic children who are on the higher spectrum, it might be more difficult to help them understand, but even these children can eventually learn how to implement these calming techniques with practice. The biggest component of using this tactic is staying calm yourself. We have seen great progress with Nathan when we keep ourselves relaxed, which allows us to help him calm down and eventually vocalize what he wants or needs.