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Autism and the 'Soda Bottle' effect

What triggers unexpected outbursts?

Often, Flora, like a lot of children with ASD, can show challenging behaviours that cannot be directly linked or explained with what was happening at that particular moment.

For example, Flora comes back home from school and despite the fact that her food is ready and waiting for her as usual, when we say hello to her she starts crying and she displays behaviour that challenges.

What could have triggered this behaviour?

Flora, like a lot of children with ASD is finding difficult to understand her emotions and identify appropriate ways of communicating them, especially when these emotions are strong like distress. This difficulty can lead to frustration which can be expressed in an intense, delayed and without obvious reasons way.

In order to understand this delayed reaction, we will use the metaphor of the ' Soda Bottle'.

We know that the following factors can be stressful for Flora:

  • Sudden changes

  • Loud and busy places

  • Interaction with others

  • Communication with others

Let's look at Flora's day at school

Every time something different happens we shake the soda bottle ( The soda bottle symbolises Flora's stress):

Flora usually takes a certain route to school, but today there are road constructions and she needs to take a different route.

Flora arrives at school and when she is entering the classroom she sees a different teacher as her teacher is absent.

During break times she goes out to the playground. There is a lot of noise, and the bench she is usually sitting on is occupied.

During the lesson, Flora finds difficult to understand the activity and she cannot complete it.

The next lesson is Music which she doesn't like because it's too noisy.

Flora returns back home from the different route she used in the morning and she meets some children from school. She wants to play with them but she finds difficult to communicate with them.

After such an intense day and without Flora having managed to process everything that has happened, when she returns home and she thinks she will have her favourite pasta for dinner, she sees fish on the table instead, how do you think she will react?

What can we do to help her?

We would avoid opening the shaken bottle of soda quickly in order to avoid an explosion. We need to do the same in order help Flora with managing her stress during the day to avoid a delayed reaction

Some ideas:

  • Social stories/ preparation for the changes

  • Kinesthetic breaks

  • Adapting the programme

  • Symbols

  • Targeted interventions


We will share more tips and activities in the future, so keep visiting us.

We are looking forward to hearing your views and experiences. You can email us at

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