Knowing your child’s limits

No one knows your child better than you do… at least, that’s how it should be. That’s not true for every single parent but that’s a subject for another post. I digress…

All children have limits, Autism has a way of setting the bar a tad lower so that it’s hit a little sooner, a little more often. However, it’s still a bar to reach and as the parent, you begin to recognize where that bar is and how far away your child is from reaching it.

The terrible twos

angerIt’s usually around the age of two when that limit begins to show itself in a recognizable fashion. It’s around this time that afternoon naps stop happening as part of a routine and begin happening as a way to calm the storm.

For what ever reason, when children get tired… they do one of two things:

  1. They put their head down or against what ever they have next to them, unable to keep their eyes open any longer, then fade away into dream land
  2. They build momentum, gathering energy from the depths of their being and turn into very loud, very hateful little monsters that freak out at seemingly anything and nothing

Does any of that sound familiar? Do you remember those days?

Anyone that has a child older than 2 recognizes the “uh oh, I think someone is ready for a nap” part of the day where nothing can keep a child from getting upset.

Autism and the years that follow

The reason that it’s called the terrible twos is that children grow out of that, they stop having naps and hopefully stop testing you so much.

With Autism though, that may not be the case. Well, let me rephrase that… they may stop napping, they may stop testing you but they may still be reaching their limits just as easily as ever.

For example

My son Cameron, 6 with Autism has long outgrown afternoon naps. His little brother Tyler, 3 without Autism, has now outgrown naps as well.

However, there are still days when Tyler is very obviously tired in the afternoon and not happy with anything. On those days, he’s sent off to bed whether he likes it or not.

It’s much more rare but the same thing happens with Cameron, even to this day.

If he’s having a bad day, if he had a long day the day before, if he woke up too early, if he went to bed too late…. any number of things and in fact, sometimes it seems as though there’s no reason at all…. sometimes he’s simply just at the end of his rope far too easily, far too often.

Today was one of those days.

I work from home but we still have a babysitter during the day when my wife works… as I can’t really work and take care of them at the same time. Well, Cameron was at the end of his rope.. outright defiant and screaming at the baby sitter. So I had to step away from my computer and make an appearance.

It was very clear to me that Cameron had reached his limit and wasn’t coping with it.

Sometimes Cameron, and most autistics really, learn how to deal with it themselves… seeking out a quiet area to be by themselves, or even just sitting back and doing something so as to sort of “power down”, as I call it, to just relax for a bit.

Cameron was clearly not going to be powering down today on his own so I had to step in, get him to his room and inform him of his need to have a nap. He objected, quite loudly, but that was that.

Almost 2 hours later, he emerged from the room… a completely different child. TWO HOURS! So ya…. he was tired!

Pay Attention

You know your child and you know when they’ve gone beyond the point of no return. Meaning, they can’t calm themselves back down, they can’t seek out the quiet, relaxation they need on their own… you will have to be the bad guy and tell them that you don’t care what they want, they need to calm down.

Once completely out of control, they could hurt themselves or others… even if not, sometimes the grief is so strong after that they feel guilty for days for how they acted.

If you can’t avoid it from happening before hand, you have to step in and do something as it happens before it gets out of hand.

Know your child’s limits.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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6 Responses to Knowing your child’s limits

  1. Sabrina August 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Oh those terrible 2’s. When my oldest was on that stage I was pregnant already. And I used to think that was good I was already pregnant because after that stage I didn’t want more then 1 demon at home!. LOL. Now I have 2 great kids. :).
    We used to call her “the kraken” when she reached that point. She fighted the nap so much I stop having that battle. Instead I took her for a walk around the block, No car, no stroller, just walking. No matter the weather , snow or extreme heat, we went for a walk, we both calm down with it. Of course she used to go to sleep so early then , as she get so tired of the walk plus she was already tired. But was the only way I wouldn’t jump throw the window.

    With my little one, well he is just 25 mo. It has been different. He Knows how to calm himself down. He stimms. He does YOGA poses, and he calms down. When he is overtired he comes to me, starts making the tune of “go to sleep” and then I take him to his crib. I know those days will change soon. And he will be so overtired. As in September he will have 3 hours of therapies morning and then 3 hours of preschool afternoons. So.. yes, I’m so sure I’m going to have a hell of a month.. at least at the beginning. ..

    I will be the one needing a 2 hour nap I guess! πŸ™‚

  2. Soma Mukherjee August 4, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    You are so right. loved this article. we have to know when to stop.would like to add,kids do watch us quite closely so if we react aggressively to a situation they learn from it. My daughter used to look for signs of anger whenever she would throw or spill something and would be amused when she would find none. cos I would simply hold her hand and clean it up. and then say yuppeee the place is clean how easy. takes time but is really good longterm…and as you so beautifully pointed out calming them is important, knowing when is important..thank you so much for this beautiful piece.

  3. Angel G August 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I hear ya! My eight and seven year olds will sometimes get to the point where a nap is needed. Since they considered naps to be for babies, we started calling them siestas.

    Sometimes our minds and bodies just need a break.

  4. mylindaelliott August 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Hmm. Maybe that’s what is wrong with me some afternoons. I’d love a nap. πŸ™‚

    All kidding aside, I did get to the point where I could look at my daughters and tell she had enough. She needed to go home to be by herself.

    Great post. Thank you.

  5. Kevin O'Sullivan August 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Very good piece this and a timely reminder. Just for background I have three young boys, 4,6 and 8, my 8yr old Sebby is autistic whilst his younger brothers are not and a tired Sebby is more of a handful than the others. For what it’s worth recently I have discovered a relaxation method that works for Sebby (and me). Whenever the signs are there that we are close to breaking point I ask Sebby if he wants to do our breathing, all we do is lie down on our backs on his bed or couch, close our eyes and continuously breath, no pause just breath in breath out. At first I thought this would be a waste of time but over the past couple of months it has become almost a daily occurrence near bedtime that Sebby actually asks to do. It may not work for everyone but I have found it very good for both Sebby and me, it is now our little thing we do, and on the plus side I get a 10-15 min break just relaxing with my son.


  1. Knowing your child's limits | Autism Spectrum Disorders | - August 4, 2011

    […] Knowing your child's limits You know your child and you know when they've gone beyond the point of no return. You'll need to be the bad guy and step in. You will need to ensure they relax and calm down. Source: […]

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