Managing a meltdown can be challenging for parents especially out in public. Children with autistic behavior are unpredictable and cannot express their emotions properly, which in turn, makes them feel more frustrated and, in worst-case scenarios, react aggressively. Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition where people are faced with social and physical challenges daily. In extreme cases, a significant amount of support is required to manage and control their emotions every few hours.
Children with severe symptoms may not be able to perform activities well with others and may constantly be upset over the little things. For instance, some children may react to bright lights, loud noises, new tastes, and textures, or sudden changes in their routine, etc. This makes it challenging for the parents to calm them down.
In these extreme cases, there are a few tactics parents may use to prevent and manage future autistic meltdowns. They can try out different tactics and find out which methods work in calming the child and list out all the things that can trigger the child with ASD.
IDENTIFYING the CAUSES
Few autistic children throw tantrums possibly over something they desire, such as a new toy, a particular food they like, etc. In most severe cases, they throw a fit without any reason. It’s their way to show emotion when they are excited, happy, frustrated, or just anxious about something but cannot express it properly. However, autism meltdowns and temper tantrums are not the same. It happens when the person is completely overwhelmed – which is difficult to express for them appropriately.
To find out what causes their reactions, parents can keep a record or a journal of reactions that occur before, during, and after a particular event. They can follow the patterns and record how many times it happens and when. It will give an idea of why the meltdowns occur and what can be done to prevent it.
WHAT TO DO DURING A MELTDOWN
Managing situations for the child may be a good option but it will be limited for everyone else involved. Calming an autistic meltdown easily is the best way to keep their emotions in check.
Parents may not always be able to realize what would make their autistic child react. However, when they do react, parents can look out for changes in their behavior, such as, screaming, running away, flapping their hands, or biting into them, aggressive towards others, etc.
It’s not always easy for parents to recognize and remember what their child feels irritated about. Sometimes, a change in their food timing or a change of particular furniture they liked can spark up a reaction. Even the smell of fresh paint or diesel can act as a sensory assault for the child.
Generally, it is possible to recognize things that annoy the child. The challenge is how to minimize, prevent, and manage it so the meltdowns become a little easier to handle for both the child and the parents.
- Prevent sensory areas: Avoid going to places with loud noises or bright lights if that’s what affects your child. But if you still have to go, make sure you tell everyone around about the situation and manage accordingly.
- Plan, Discuss, Practice & Execute major changes: When making a major change to their daily routine, plan it out on how it should be introduced. Talk to your child about it and then practice it out every day so they can adapt and accept the change eventually.
- Get squeeze toys: Squishy balls and playdoughs or clay can be a great way to give them an outlet to relieve the pressure when they have a meltdown.
- Environmental Factors: During a meltdown, check to see if the child wants to go out. If not, try playing his favorite video or read a book to see if it calms him down. Even if it isn’t recommended to make him watch TV but if it works, why not? The goal is to calm him down.
- Hugs and Blankies: For some children, giving them a tight hug during meltdowns calms their nerves as they feel secure and safe. Even heavy blankets work too, but they need to practice with it first. If being covered in a blanket makes them feel calm, then that’s the way to go.
- Physical Exercise: Some children stay at home after coming back from school or go for therapy. Instead of being all cooped up, they need to stretch and play outside as much as possible.
- Pets: It has been shown that autistic children function well around pets. They use interactions with pets as a way to manage their feelings. That works wonders during meltdowns.
- Children will react differently in difficult situations; that does not mean embarrassing or shaming them in public is a good way to go. For starters, they have no impact on the child and the meltdown may escalate quickly and make it even worse.
- Trying to reason or argue with them will not work either as this will worsen the situation even more. They already find it difficult to communicate properly or to express their emotion appropriately, but arguing or reasoning with them, will just frustrate them more.
- Leaving a child alone during a meltdown is a very bad idea. This may lead to the child taking off and breaking things, (if outside) may run towards the speeding cars or hurting himself in some way.
- Never let others handle the situation. They may very well try to in their way, but most people don’t know how to manage or calm an autistic child during meltdowns. If your child is upset at someone, be it his teacher, uncle, aunt or grandparents, it is better for everyone if you step in and take charge.
There’s no fast or easy method to calm an autistic child. The most important thing is for the parents to remain calm and have patience when dealing with the situation. By following the above tactics, you can try and make it easier for your child and yourself. Making them practice and adapt, to calm themselves down on his own, can make them able to connect, work well with others, and perform daily activities without a hitch.