If your child has autism, one of the tasks you will face as a parent is managing meltdowns. An autism meltdown is decidedly different from a temper tantrum, and your response to it should be different as well. Today, we will define an autism meltdown, with an eye toward what distinguishes them from temper tantrums. Then we will give some tips to help you manage them as a parent.
What is an autism meltdown?
An autism meltdown can be defined as a reaction to sensory overload. The meltdown is how a child with autism responds to being overwhelmed, and can manifest in ways that appear deceptively similar to temper tantrums to an outsider. This could include crying, kicking, and screaming. However, they tend to be more severe and longer-lasting than temper tantrums. They are also different causally. For instance, temper tantrums tend to arise when a child cannot get or do what they want. Autism meltdowns occur because of sensory overload.
Frequently, stimming can precede an autism meltdown. They also occur not only in children with autism, but also teens and adults. Another key difference is that temper tantrums almost always have an audience. Not so with autism meltdowns; they will occur even if no audience is present.
What can you do?
As we’ve mentioned, autism meltdowns can be much harder to manage than temper tantrums. But don’t be discouraged, as there are still steps you can take to help your child. First, you have to stay calm yourself. From there, it’s all about empathy. Remember that your child is not melting down to get something they want. It’s just their way of dealing with feeling overwhelmed.
To help your child deal with these stressful circumstances, you should first take them to a new location, ideally away from what caused their sensory overload. Do not try to reason with them; instead, emphasize to them that you understand. If you have a calming device such as a sensory toy, headphones, or a weighted blanket, be sure to make use of those. You may have taught breathing exercises, counting, or other forms of meditation to your child. Now might be a good time to put those tools to good use.
As you help your child through more meltdowns, you will become more and more adept at helping them through it. Remember that every child is different, and what works for one might not work for another. You will also gain a better sense of their triggers and learn to avoid them as time goes on. You may find that they are especially sensitive to bright lights, or overwhelming sound. Avoiding whatever causes them to have meltdowns may be in their best interest.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.