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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The rage and recovery stages

Following on from the previous post, the next two stages in the rage cycle include the rage stage, then the recovery stage (Myles & Southwick, 2005).

The Rage Stage

It is at this stage that you will see uncontrolled, explosive behaviour. It could be physical, such as hitting, kicking and self-injurious behaviour. It could be verbal, with screaming and yelling of abuse. It could also be withdrawal, where the child withdraws from contact and any interaction.

This is not the moment for trying to teach new skills or redirect the child.

What should you do?

Myles and Southwick (2005) suggest a range of things including:

  1. Protect: The child, property and others around the child. This could include finding non-harmful ways for the child to release adrenaline such as those suggested in the previous post.
  2. Plan: Have an "exit" strategy, one that allows the child to escape from the pressures of the situation without feeling humiliated or disempowered. Use this routinely, preferably having discussed it previously in a teachable moment. This should be your crisis management plan.
  3. Prompt: With as few words as possible, and very circumspectly, prompt the child towards there safe space (as discussed in the previous post).
  4. Prevent a power struggle: Don't argue or respond or try to negotiate. At this stage in the rage cycle the more you say, the more the behaviour is likely to escalate. In my experience, a simple and calmly repeated phrase can help diffuse a child's anger. This could be a simple prompt towards the child's safe space.
  5. Timer: Having a timer that provides the child with a visual prompt as to when they should stop can help them find an end to the rage stage.
As Myles and Southwick (2005) state, it is important (and difficult!) to remember not to take the child's behaviour personally.

The Recovery Stage

As with all stages in the rage cycle, every child will act differently at the recovery stage. Some will be so exhausted that they will fall asleep. Others will use withdrawal into fantasy or denial to remove themselves from the incident. Others will be apologetic.

What should you do?

At this stage it is likely that both adult and child are feeling fragile and emotionally drained. It is important that the recovery stage is just that - used for recovery. This stage is also not the time to discuss the incident. Don't place any demands on yourself or the child until you are absolutely sure that the recovery stage is over.

You could:
  1. Rest, and allow the child to sleep.
  2. Redirect the child into their special area of interest.
  3. Use relaxation techniques - for example: deep breathing, stretching, blowing bubbles.
  4. Give the child space if they need it.
  5. Use familiar structure and routine to help settle the child.

Once you have both recovered, then you will have teachable moments where you can plan, discuss and use tools like social stories to address the reason why the meltdown happened in the first place.


Myles, B.S. and J. Southwick (2005). Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns. Autism Asperger Publishing Company: Kansas


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