Characteristics of change triggered temper outbursts in children with PWS and ASD and how these may impact on the efficacy of behavioural intervention strategies.

Kate Woodcock, Clare McGeady, Glenda Preston, Aine Fitzpatrick, Nigel Robb, Katerina Dounavi, Leah Bull

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Temper outbursts are prevalent in individuals with PWS and are often triggered by unexpected changes to routines or plans. However, such outbursts are also common in individuals with several other neurodevelopmental disorders, including those with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We compared the profile of temper outbursts in children with PWS to that in children with ASD. We examined whether differences in the temper outburst profile predicted differences in the outcomes of two caregiver led intervention strategies aiming to reduce change triggered outbursts.
Methods and results
Thirteen 7-15 year olds with PWS – taking part in a larger study involving 60 children evidencing temper outbursts following changes – were individually matched for age to children with ASD (mean ages: 10.70; 10.76 yrs). Caregivers participated in a structured/semi-structured interview on children's outbursts; completed a web-based outburst diary over a 6 month baseline; and are currently using either a change signalling intervention to reliably warn children of forthcoming changes; or a planning ahead intervention to reduce children's exposure to unexpected changes.
As reported at interview, on average, children with PWS showed more frequent temper outbursts than those with ASD (closer to daily vs. weekly). For seven children with PWS and six with ASD, 60% or more of their temper outbursts were reported to be triggered by changes. Whilst outbursts had similar durations when triggered by changes or by other events in children with PWS; change triggered outbursts in children with ASD were generally shorter. The most commonly reported outburst components in children with PWS included indicators of heightened emotional arousal but this was not the case for children with ASD. Data on behavioural change associated with each of the intervention strategies will be discussed.
Change triggered temper outbursts can be a problem for children PWS and ASD, however subtle differences appear to exist in the profile of these outbursts. Some of these differences may be relevant for the expected efficacy of different behavioural intervention strategies that target outbursts.
Temper outbursts (tantrums) were compared in children with PWS or autism spectrum disorder before and during use of one of two helping strategies. Helping strategies were led by caregivers and aimed to reduce outbursts that follow changes to routines or plans by making such changes more predictable, or by reducing the quantity of changes. Characteristics of outbursts may be important to help us predict which helping strategies may be most effective.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational Prader-Willi Syndrome Organisation 9th International Conference - Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 20 Jul 201624 Jul 2016!2016-conference/c1yaw


ConferenceInternational Prader-Willi Syndrome Organisation 9th International Conference
Internet address


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