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5 Tips For Taming Autism Meltdowns

Updated on September 25, 2019

How To Tame Your Child's Meltdown

Those of us with children on the autism spectrum know how hard it can be to tame a meltdown. Most of us are as worn out as our children are after a long meltdown. When they happen in private, they stress us out. When they happen in public, we're even more anxious. We can all identify with the mother struggling to help her child who is melting down in public while dozens of judgmental eyes watch her, gauging how she handles it all. But taming a meltdown can feel insurmountable. I've compiled a list of tried and true techniques that may help you tame or even eliminate your child's next meltdown.

1. Try to prevent the meltdown from happening in the first place.

It may seem obvious, but if possible, identify and then avoid the stimuli that seem to trigger meltdowns. If your child melts down when he is around a lot of people and is uncomfortable with loud noises, for instance, try avoiding crowds when possible and invest in a good pair of noise cancelling head phones for those times you have to take him out to crowded places. Always try to identify a source and a solution that can reduce the risk of a meltdown occurring.

2. Remove the child from the setting where the meltdown is taking place.

This is not always practical, but when possible, remove the child from the environment where she is melting down so that you can minimize sensory overload. Get to a quiet place, preferably with dim lighting and try to calm her down. Getting away from an overstimulating environment can, at times, be enough to stop the meltdown. It's also important that her surroundings are safe, so that she's not able to injure herself or others during the meltdown.

3. Find something to pacify them.

Sometimes it's a security blanket, sensory toys or stuffies. For others it may be a book, a little bit of screen time, or some time working on their favorite hobbies. You should have a plan of ways to redirect your child's attention when possible. Also, if possible, bring items with you wherever you go that may comfort your child. When your child begins to meltdown, try and pull out those items and redirect their attention, giving them an escape from the sensory overload they may be experiencing.

4. If meltdowns tend to happen more at school, have a plan.

For my son, most of his meltdowns tend to occur at three times of day at school: lunchtime, recess and bus time. It makes sense that meltdowns would occur at these times because these are the times when the student to teacher ratio is most disproportionate. During these times, there are lots of loud noises, bright lights, and chaos and overstimulation can happen quickly and without much warning. Because we had issues with our son during those times of day, we spoke with our principal and obtained the clearance to have noise canceling head phones and a favorite book on hand during these times to avoid or minimize meltdowns. Consider speaking with your child's school faculty about permitting your child to have such items for the overwhelming times when they are most likely to meltdown.

5. If all else fails, let them sleep it off.

I find that when the above mentioned techniques don't work, the meltdown is more likely caused by exhaustion than overstimulation. Provide a safe area for your child to meltdown, and wait it out with them. It's likely that they will fall asleep and wake up feeling much better.

Of course, if your child is having a meltdown that presents a danger to themselves or others, consult his or her therapist or physician promptly on advice about how to proceed.

So, do you implement these techniques when your child is having a meltdown? Which techniques have you come across that really seem to work? Comment below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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