During my observations I noticed once my daughter began to scream she was no longer able to think. Unexpected transitions set her off, and even though she has a very good vocabulary during times of anger she used few words. Rewards, time out, punishments hugs, natural consequences didn’t work. Anticipating situations that caused the rages did help.

So what did I do? First, we worked on learning feeling vocabulary. I made “feeling” and “needs” cards. In calmer times, we used the cards to talk about feelings regarding current situations or past unresolved ones. At first, I modeled responses using the cards but quickly she was able to pick out her cards and talk about them. We also talked about other people’s situations and tried to predict their feelings. The screaming continued.

Next, I gave her more warnings before transitions occurred. We managed the difficulty with transitions by using timers to help with preparing her to make the transition. I also tried to be more consistent when giving her warnings for approaching exits. A warning of 5 minutes before we left was actually 5 minutes. My daughter hates to rush, because like all kids she is in the moment. She continued to scream instead of using words to communicate.

Another tool I added to my toolbox was to give more choices. Do you want the red towel or the blue one? Do you want to go now or in 5 minutes? I found punishment and time outs didn’t help resolve the problems, but those strategies often only made matters worse. Now 3 years later, things are not perfect but much better. I am learning to live with a little bit of screaming, but there is much more talking. “I’m angry at you,” she says. She sometimes leaves the room to take time to calm down.