It is not easy going through life parenting and a child who has ASD. There are many challenges parents need to prepare for when caring for a child with autism. One of these challenges is handling your child’s temper tantrums and meltdowns.
While many turn to ABA therapy for overarching autism support and guidance, in this article, we will look at what you might face when dealing with such a situation and how you can best prepare yourself to handle it.
What Can Cause Meltdowns in Children with Autism
A meltdown usually occurs when a person facing an overwhelming situation has an intense response to it. Often the person loses control due to the overwhelming situation. For children with ASD, a meltdown manifests in physical expressions such as biting or kicking or verbal ones such as crying or yelling. It could even be both.
There can be many reasons that can trigger an autistic child to have a meltdown. You must first identify and understand what is triggering your child to have the meltdown.
Some of the Common Issues That Trigger Meltdown
Meltdowns can occur when your child gets anxious when facing an uncomfortable situation. Your child might also get frustrated, trying to learn a new skill or lesson, causing an inability to learn. Not being able to focus and deal with boredom can also lead to meltdowns.
How Does an Autistic Child Behave When Having a Meltdown
Each child can have a different way of reacting to a meltdown. The more common examples are doing repetitive movements, shutting down, zoning out, withdrawing from others, and staring into space. Some also display actions like curling up into a ball, screaming, biting, or crying uncontrollably.
Many children can display symptoms such as asking repetitive questions, rocking back and forth, and pacing around when approaching a meltdown. They can also freeze just before a meltdown is starting.
Helping an Autistic Child to Calm Down During a Meltdown
The first step to dealing with a meltdown is to identify what triggered it. This way, future meltdowns can be prevented. You can also keep a diary to trace incidents or places that trigger a meltdown. However, you can follow many autism meltdown strategies to calm them down while they are having the meltdown. Some of them are listed below.
Many autistic children can behave in a physically destructive manner while having a meltdown. They could hurt you or others around them by hitting, throwing objects, and biting you. They can hurt themselves by falling or hitting their heads. So be sure to think of some strategies beforehand to combat such a situation.
Keep a Calming Routine
Establish a calming ritual. Identify the things (objects) or words that can help de-escalate the trigger and use them to calm the child down when they are going through the meltdown. This might be playing some soothing music they like, specific videos they enjoy, or maybe a weighted blanket they enjoy to curl up in. Toys like Fidget Toys can also help bring a calming effect.
Maintain Your Composure
You need to maintain your composure when your child is going through a meltdown. Children are very perceptive of their parents’ emotions. If you are getting worked up, chances are it is making your child more anxious as well. Understand that having meltdowns are a standard part of autism. So you need to learn to cope with this tough situation by having a strategy to help maintain your composure during your child’s meltdown.
Be Physically Present and Supportive
You must be available to your child when they need you during the meltdown. You must try to remain calm yourself and maintain a neutral face. You should remember that your child is going through a very stressful time, so you cannot reason with using logic. So be patient and wait for the meltdown o bet over before you try to reason with them.
How To Deal with a Meltdown
Meltdowns are tough for parents as they are also hurting for the child who is struggling with this. You must remember that your child is not doing this to get back at you. Think of it as a situation where they have worked up stressful energy in their body that they need to release. Here are some ways you can support your child if they are having a meltdown in public.
Help Them To Cope
Not much can be done while your child is going through the meltdown, but what you can certainly do is try to teach them later how they can regulate their emotions. You can try calming activities like going on walks. This can help calm them down before the meltdown even begins.
Bring a Sense of Love and Security
When you sense that your child is about to have a meltdown episode in public, you can assure your child that they are safe. Let them know that you are there for them. Stay close to them. When they are coming down from the meltdown, make sure they are not alone and afraid. Make them feel secured and safe.
Empathy is Essential
You must understand what they are going through by listening to them. They must be assured that it is ok to express their emotions. They will feel validated and secure once they see their feelings are being heard and taken into account. You can provide them with a few tools that make it easier for them to express their feelings safely.
Never Punish Them
Punishing your child while they are going through meltdown will not get you anywhere. Punishing them for this might result in your child feeling afraid or ashamed. You must understand they are not in control of the situation, so it is wrong to punish them. You need to help them feel reassured that you are there to support them no matter what they are going through.
Keep a Sensory Toolkit Handy
When you are out in public, you can keep a few sensory toys with you. If you see your child is getting overwhelmed in any situation, you can hand them the toys to divert their mind and keep them occupied. However, be sure not to force the toys on them while they are having a meltdown. Noise-canceling headphones, a fidget toy, or chewy and crunchy snacks just might do the trick.
You have to remember that your child is unique and how they handle a meltdown is not going to be the same as any other kid. Some of the strategies mentioned above might not work for you, although they might be helpful for others. Just see what feels natural with your child and follow your instincts while following the steps mentioned above. Happy Parenting!
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