Why These Meltdowns Happen
Autism is a spectrum disorder that impacts as many as 1 out of every 54 children. As a developmental disorder, symptoms of ASD include problems understanding emotions in both oneself and others. Language delays and communication deficits are aspects of autism that can lead to frustration and an inability to effectively communicate wants and needs. Sensory issues, emotional outbursts, and aggression are common in autistic children.
Temper tantrums are a normal method children use to gain negative attention or to impact their situation. An autism meltdown is different. It is not used as a tool to get something the child wants. Instead, it represents a loss of control. Autism meltdowns signify a complete overwhelming of the system and a loss of behavioral control as a result.
Autistic children have difficulties regulating their emotions and struggle with changes to their routine. They often have sensory issues and problems communicating effectively. All of these things can lead to a meltdown when their system feels overloaded and they can no longer control what is going on in their minds or bodies.
How Can You Support Your Teenager With Autism Spectrum Disorder If They Are Depressed
- Robyn Thom, MD, Contributor
As every parent knows, teenage life is full of challenges, from stress over academics to social relationships and physical changes due to puberty. This stage of life can be particularly challenging for those with autism spectrum disorder . A recent study found that teenagers and young adults with ASD are nearly three times more likely to develop depression than same-age peers without ASD.
Recognizing The Motivation Or Purpose Of The Tantrum Behavior
Here are a few examples of motivation children might have:
- to get attention
- delayed access to what he wants/needs
Once you identify WHY your child is tantruming, you can respond more appropriately.
Recognize your childs needs in the moment, without giving into them.
For example: Bobby wanted to choose the TV show but his sister put on Sesame Street before he got to the remote to turn on Dora. Bobby is now on the floor kicking, yelling, and crying . Bobby wanted to choose Dora as the TV show but didnt get his way . The adult could calmly, concisely respond with I see that you are because you didnt get to choose your TV show. When youre calm, well talk about it .
When Bobby calms down, he can then be engaged in conversation about how to solve the TV show problem but he does not get his Dora TV show immediately.
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Focus On What You Want The Child To Do Not What You Want Them To Stop Doing
How many of you have screamed at your child, STOP SCREAMING?!!!! with crazed eyes and clinched fists?
Minimize the use of dont and stop. For example, Walk on the sidewalk can be much more effective than Dont walk on the grass for a child who might not hear the dontor for one who isnt sure where the acceptable place to walk might be. This lets the child know exactly what you WANT them to do. ‘Stop screaming’ becomes, ‘Quiet please’, ‘Don’t color on the table’ becomes ‘Only color on the paper’. It’s counter-intuitive to the ways most of us usually parent but it works. There are times when there’s NO WAY around a don’t/stop statement. DON’T COLOR ON THE DOG. STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER. Use your best judgement- you’ll figure out when you need to lay down the DON’T law.
Here I ignore his screaming because he was mad that I gave one of his cars to his brother when he didn’t want to share.
Here I praise him, “Great job being quiet and playing with your cars.”I know, it feels a little weird at first, ignoring your child while they are screaming or throwing themselves on the ground. But when they do that, they are attention seeking and giving them any kind of attention reinforces that behavior. They will learn it doesn’t work and realize they get more attention when their behavior is good.
Tantrums Meltdowns And Takeaways
Both tantrums and meltdowns are manifestations of difficulty with emotional regulation skills and if they persist beyond the stages of typical development, can be associated with other diagnoses like ADHD, autism, sensory processing dysfunction, learning disabilities, depression, and anxiety.
While tantrums are behavioral in nature, meltdowns have a sensory, physiological basis that warrants different management strategies. While neither are fun outbursts to experience, focus part of your energy on proactively supporting your childs emotional regulation.
In the moments of tantrum or meltdown, use the guidelines weve outlined above to find what works for your child, and please share with Harkla what management strategies work for you!
“Autistic Meltdown or Temper Tantrum? by Judy Endow, MSW.” Ollibean. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May 2017.
“26 Sensory Integration Tools for Meltdown Management – Friendship Circle – Special Needs Blog.” Friendship Circle — Special Needs Blog. N.p., 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 May 2017.
Bennett, David D. “Decreasing Tantrum/meltdown Behaviors of School Children with High Functioning Autism through Parent Training.” Social Science. N.p., 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
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Coping Strategies For Dealing With Meltdowns
Meltdowns are something which many people with autism experience and which they may have experienced since childhood. Meltdowns can be distinguished from tantrums on the basis of having no end-goal in sight. You dont have a meltdown because you want to achieve something from it . You have a meltdown because you have absolutely no other way of responding to a situation. In terms of emotional regulation, youve completely lost your ability to maintain control.
Meltdowns may result in you screaming, crying, throwing things, shaking, and/or yelling hurtful comments. They can be scary and damaging to people around you and, when youve had a meltdown, chances are you feel pretty bad about it.
So how can you deal with the fallout? The following strategies may help.
1. Accept that you did not want to act in this way.
2. Have a safe place for the immediate aftermath.
3. Working with those people close to you.
Meltdowns have an impact on people close to you and witnessing someone who is having a meltdown can be a disturbing experience. When you are ready to, it is important to discuss your meltdown with those people who may have been affected by it. It could also be useful to show them some autistic resources which explain the experiences of other people with autism who experience meltdowns, as it can be a very difficult concept for other people to understand.
4. Recognise when a meltdown is coming.
How To Make A Calm Down Kit For Kids With Autism
Wondering how to make a Calm Down Kit for Kids with Autism? Looking for Calm Down Box ideas? Ive got you covered! I use Calm Down Boxes in my coaching programs all the time. They will be a valuable calming, sensory tool for your child or students. Calm Down Kits are easy to make and so helpful in regulating emotions and helping kids with autism calm down and focus. Make a sensory bin next!
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How To Recognize Reactions
Just as it’s challenging to predict the response of an autistic person, it can also be difficult to interpret autistic reactions to difficult emotions as these reactions may take different forms.
In some cases, reactions take the form of major temper tantrums, but other reactions can look very different. For example, they might take the form of:
- Screeching or other noise-making
- Bolting or eloping
- Intensive self-stimulation
- Aggression toward others
- Sensory avoidance
- Sensory seeking behavior
- Refusal to engage
- Compulsive behaviors such as touching the same objects in the same order over and over again
Some of these behaviors are actually attempts to self-calm. Others are simply physical manifestations of internal upset.
How To Help Any Autistic Behaviour That Occurs As A Child Becomes A Teenager:
- Take a calm, quiet approach when talking to the young person
- Give them their own space, while ensuring that they dont retreat from family life altogether
- Limit online activities to encourage face-to-face time with people
- Plan activities for weekends and holidays in advance and share those plans with the young person
- Keep to a routine
- When talking to your son or daughter, do so while engaging in a chosen activity, such as walking through the park or driving in the car with them as a front-seat passenger, rather than sitting looking at them
- Use lots of subtle and genuine praise, as children with autism generally have low self-esteem and need more genuine praise then neuro-typical children. But remember that many autistic children dislike being singled-out in front of others and praised
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Activities Teaching Strategies And Resources For Teaching Children With Autism
Because approximately 1 in 59 students are diagnosed with autism, learning how to help students with this disorder in the classroom is so important. Teaching young students with autism communication skills and learning strategies makes it all the more likely that theyll reach their academic potential later on. And the more you learn about autism spectrum disorder, the better youll be able to prepare these students for lifelong success.
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that causes hypersensitivity to sights, sounds, and other sensory information. Symptoms of autism generally fall into three categories:
- Communication issues
- Social impairment
- Repetitive behaviors
Here are 15 fun activities to help children with autism feel welcome in your class while addressing their symptoms and individual learning styles. Whether you play them one-on-one or as group activities, these are excellent ways to keep students with autism engaged and ready to learn.
What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder
No one knows exactly what causes ASD. It probably has something to do with DNA the genes passed down from your parents and other things, like infections or toxins that change the way the brain develops. Problems during pregnancy and around the time of birth raise the chance of getting autism.
Vaccines do not cause autism.
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Ways To Calm A Child With Autism
This blog is the fourth in a support series for parents by Marci Lebowitz, occupational therapist and autism specialist. Find out more about how Marci supports autism parents and professionals at www.marcilebowitz.com.I want to give you a few more suggestions of simple steps to calm your child.In past entries, weve looked at:
I want to encourage you to remember that before you go to calm your child, to please calm yourself first. If you have ever read the safety card on an airplane it says, In the unlikely event of losing cabin pressure, a mask will automatically drop. It is important to put your own mask on first and breathe before attending to anyone else. It is the same process to calm your child.
The starting point for calming is the same whether you child is tantrumming or in a meltdown. To calm yourself first. However, the actions you need to take for your child will differ depending on whether they are experiencing a tantrum or a meltdown. Lets do a quick review of the tell tale signs for each and then we will discuss specific suggestions, okay?Evidence of Tantrums:
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Soothe With The Senses
Certain sensory tools can help relieve stress in a child with autism, so find out what works best for your students and keep these tools within reach. For example, they may feel soothed by squeezing a squishy ball of clay or fidgeting with a toy or other trinket. Others may enjoy rocking back and forth or bouncing. Substitute large balls for chairs and the child may naturally be able to calm themselves by gently bouncing during class.
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Look For The Early Signs
Clearly, its better to avoid an explosion than find yourself dealing with one. Sometimes an attentive parent can learn to recognize triggers and spot signs that tension is escalating. Your childs behavioral therapist may be able to help you here. I find that parental attentiveness to emotional clues is particularly important for children with autism, who tend to have difficulty self-monitoring.
Reframe The Situation For A Better Perspective
Another powerful reframing question is Whats perfect about this? Meaning, how might whats happening in this moment be exactly what needs to happen for my child, for me, or both of us? Often my response was, I cant think of a single thing. But then I discovered there is always a way to flip a situation around and consider the gifts that might be hidden within it.
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Difference Between Meltdowns Tantrums And Aggression
Aggression in kids with ASD refers to violent behavior that may include kicking, hitting, throwing objects, punching, and biting. Aggressive behavior can be directed to others or oneself. Both a meltdown and a tantrum can involve aggression.
Outside of sensory overload that leads to a meltdown, there are other reasons why a child with autism uses aggression. Some children become violent when an object of comfort is taken away from them, or when they are forced into something they do not want to do.
The key goal of handling aggression is to ensure the safety of the child and others around him/her. Some strategies would be removing the cause of aggression, providing calming toys and/or activities, and giving your child a safe space where he/she can calm down.
Tips For Managing Autistic Meltdowns
Since no two individuals with autism are the same, managing autistic meltdowns can be quite individualized and it will take some trial on error on your part to figure out how to calm an autistic child successfully. The good news is that many parents, therapists, and teachers have walked the walk before you, and there are certain tools and strategies you can use to help keep big emotions under control when a meltdown threatens to erupt.
Be consistent and stick to a schedule. Children with autism tend to thrive best when their life follows a regular routine with consistency across the board. While this isnt always possible, maintaining a predictable schedule wherever possible will be helpful to your child. Talk to her therapists and teachers to ensure you are working in tandem, and when events threaten to disrupt your routine , give your child as much advance warning as possible.
Give warnings before transitions. Giving warnings before transitions is another great strategy for managing autistic meltdowns. This is especially important when a child is moving from a preferred activity to something he or she finds less interesting. A Time Timer is a great tool to use as it visually shows kids the passage of time, and providing a 10-, 5-, and 3-minute warning can also help make transitions easier.
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Do You Know The Signs Of An Autistic Meltdown
Sarinah discusses autistic meltdowns what they are and how to identify them.
Common signs of a meltdown include hand flapping, head hitting, kicking, pacing, rocking, hyperventilating, being unable to communicate, and completely withdrawing into myself. All of these behaviours are methods of coping.
There are many things that can cause a meltdown but perhaps the most prevalent is heightened sensory processing. This can increase sensitivity to light, smell, heat, sound, taste and touch. An example of this can be the increased awareness of feeling your clothes against the skin. Underlying feelings of anxiety, stress or ambivalence can often make the sensory overload more severe.
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What Would You Do
For a take-home activity you can share with families, try this What Would You Do? game. Families can go through different scenarios together and decide how they would react with questions like How would you help? or What would you say?
This activity keeps social skills sharp and reinforces relationship-building skills.
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Autism And Social Anxiety
If you re-read the anxiety triggers list, you will see a clear and important theme: socially related triggers. Even some of the triggers I´ve mentioned as others could well fall under the social denomination .
Social anxiety commonly co-occurs with autism spectrum disorders . Many teens with ASD are aware of their social difficulties and experience social anxiety.
Keep this in mind as your kids become teenagers.
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What Should I Do If My Child With Autism Hits Me
If youre here, you likely need answers regarding your childs aggressive behavior. Before we dive into our tips for how to stop an autistic child from hitting, you must understand why this occurs in the first place.
Unable to express their thoughts or feelings in words, children with autism may lash out and hit, scratch, or bite their parents or siblings. Hitting can range from an open-handed slap to a closed-fisted punch, and some outbursts may even injure themselves or others.
Many things can trigger aggressive behaviors like hitting, scratching, and biting, but these are some of the most common in children with autism:
- Feeling very anxious or stressed
- Trying to communicate
- Sensory overload or sensitivity
- Not understanding whats going on around them.
Once we understand why children with autism behave this way, we can work toward prevention and treatment. First, we need to discuss appropriate ways of dealing with aggressive and violent behaviors in children with autism.
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