Help for overwhelming times!
- A meltdown is usually a sign of distress. The reason for the meltdown may not be immediately obvious but the warning signs are typically able to be detected. The warning signs will be different for each child. Some common alerts include asking to go, high pitched repeated language, covering ears, rocking, pacing, trying to leave, hitting things or themselves, biting hands, or picking at clothes.
- Avoiding the meltdown is much easier than when it has progressed to a full blown meltdown. Observing your child when he/she gets upset is really helpful. It will tell you situations that can trigger a meltdown and it will tell you what behaviors are warning signs before a meltdown. Make two columns on a piece of paper. One column is for things that are disturbing for your child and could act as triggers for a meltdown. The other column is for behaviors that are warning signs. This paper can be used to remind others. Keep it handy.
- Put together stress toolbox. Keep it in your car. It could include things like a favorite toy, sensory calmers like koosh balls, a ‘happy book’ (a book with pictures that they enjoy), weighted blanket, earphones, and music. These things can be calming and distract the child from the situation.
- Your reaction is really important. Children with autism are often challenged when trying to regulate their emotions. This is even harder for them if you are modeling upset or angry emotions. It can be difficult but it is important to remain calm. Being prepared by knowing the triggers, the warning signs, and having the stress toolbox really helps to keep you calm which will help your child calm down too.
- If a meltdown happens, this is time to go into safe mode. This is not a teachable moment. This is a calm down and keep safe moment. Stay safe by removing dangerous objects and making the environment as calming as you can. Ask people who may be ‘trying’ to help to nicely move on. Too many people giving commands or orders are a recipe for disaster. Assure them that you and your child are fine. If they persist, tell them your child has autism and you are working on self-regulation and you have a plan. You can even have cards made up that educate people. If you need help, ask for what you need specifically (i.e., “Please get that cart for me.”). It is important to remember when the meltdown is over that there is teaching to be done at the right time. Teaching self-regulation and self- management should be only be done when the child is calm. You can find how to do this in our self-management course.
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