Make Them Feel Safe And Loved
Sometimes our children are so lost in their emotions that they cant hear us. In these situations, all we need to do is simply sit with or be near them.
Many times, we try to talk them down from their panic, but its often a waste of breath when a child is in the throes of a meltdown.
What we can do is let them know that theyre safe and loved. We do this by staying as near to them as theyre comfortable with.
Ive lost track of the times that Ive witnessed a crying child be told that they can only come out of a secluded space once they stop melting down.
This can send the message to the child that they dont deserve to be around the people that love them when theyre having a hard time. Obviously, this isnt our intended message to our kids.
So, we can show them were there for them by staying close.
What Is A Meltdown
A meltdown is an intense response to;an;overwhelming situation. It happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses;control of their behaviour.This loss of control can be expressed verbally ,physically or in both ways.;
A meltdown is not the same as a temper tantrum. It is notbad or naughty behaviour. When a person is completely overwhelmed, and their condition means it is difficult to express that in;another;way, it is understandable that the result is a meltdown.;
Meltdowns are not the only way;an autistic person;may express feeling overwhelmed.They may also;refuse;to interact, withdrawing from situations they find challenging or avoiding them altogether.;
Tantrum Vs Autistic Meltdown: What Is The Difference
Many parents and caregivers have witnessed the fireworks of anger and emotion from a person with autism, and from the outside;they look exactly like the tantrums of young children. While they may look similar in external behaviour, its important to understand the difference between the two. A tantrum is willful behaviour in younger children and therefore can be shaped by rewarding desired behaviours, whereas a meltdown can occur across a;lifespan and isnt impacted by a rewards system. Tantrums slowly go away as a child grows up, but;meltdowns may never go away. Of course children with autism can also have classic temper tantrums, but understanding the difference is important because tantrums need one kind of response, but that same response will only make things worse for a person have an autistic meltdown from being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
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Great Strengths And Abilities
In general, people with autism are honest and dependable; most are focused on their work and are rarely distracted by social activities or outside interests.
Quite a few have exceptional talents in areas such as computer coding, mathematics, music, drafting, organizing, and visual arts. While it can be tough for autistic adults to set up and manage their own space and schedules, many are outstanding employees.
Some corporations have started to recognize the value of actively recruiting and hiring autistic individuals; a few include:
- Freddie Mac
Screaming Loud Noises Verbal Stimming
These are the sounds we autism parents hear all too frequently in our;homes.
They never seem to stop.
They drive us to distraction.
They can destroy the peace and quiet of the family.;Sometimes they can destroy the family itself.
When my son was little, he did a lot of screaming and verbal stimming. I discovered that with the positive behavioral method known as TAGteach I was able to reduce these sounds, increase appropriate vocalizations and get some of that precious peace and quiet.
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Parents Of Child With Autism Seek Help With Public Meltdowns
You recently posted two blogs on managing recurrent behavioral crises. This isnt a chronic problem for us. But there are times when our son has public meltdowns. Can you offer some effective strategies for handling the situation?
This weeks Got Questions? answer is by child psychologist Lauren Elder, Autism Speaks assistant director for dissemination science.;For the blogs referenced in the above question, see “Help for Child with Recurring Behavioral Crisis”;Part 1;and;“Help for Child with Recurring Behavioral Crisis”;Part 2.;
A behavioral crisis is difficult anywhere. It can be particularly challenging to handle in public. While many of the tips in the;previous blogs;still apply, here are some additional suggestions tailored for those public meltdowns.
Clearly, the best strategy is prevention. A child is more likely to have good behavior if he or she clearly understands whats expected.
Sensory Processing: Sensory Strategies For Head Banging
Senses are often acutely affected in people with ASD. Kids with autism may have increased or decreased sensory sensitivity .;An individual can even present both reactions to a different range of stimuli.
Tips to Prevent Self-Harm due to Sensory Overload:
11. Remove stimuli that are causing the sensory discomfort:
- Ensure he wears comfortable clothes
- Remove a smell that may be overpowering
- Remove noise with noise-cancelling headphones. A couple of examples:
- B-Calm GP;headphone that comes preloaded with an Autosedation track, for relaxation.
Tips to Prevent Self-Harm due to Under-Stimulation
12. Provide sensory alternatives that provide a similar experience to head banging:
- Jumping on a trampoline
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Autism Meltdown Strategies For Children
Youve heard the saying: When youve met a child with autism, youve met one child with autism.
Because every autistic child presents differently, with varied skills, levels of relatedness, communication, and sensory processing profiles, it is impossible to have a one-solution-fits-all approach to managing meltdowns.
The following are some tips and strategies that have helped other parents, but you will have to consider these in terms of your individual childs needs.
Wed all like to avoid meltdowns completely, but thats not possible. Instead, some parents find it helpful to put strategies in place to minimize the stress and anxiety of daily life that may contribute to a meltdown.;This is typically referred to as a sensory diet and can be beneficial in preventing and managing autism meltdowns.
Some common ones that support regulation across the day:
- Visual schedules
- Check off lists
- Activity or task schedules
- Routine sensory diet activities, for example, using a weighted blanket during sleep, engaging in deep pressure activities at certain times in the daily routine, etc.
Some parents find it helpful to schedule quiet time for their child, in order to allow for the downtime proactively before the activity of the day gets to be too much. Building in a surprise or question mark to visual schedules helps to shape behavioral responses to unexpected changes in routines that are often stressful.
Techniques For Calming An Upset Child
While it’s great to simply avoid getting upset, real-life can make it impossible. When that happens, these tips for calming may help:
- Recognize signs. Very often, children with autism show signs of distress before they “meltdown” or become very upset. Check to see if your child seems frustrated, angry, anxious, or just over-excited. If she can communicate effectively, she may be able to simply tell you what you need to know.
- Look for environmental issues that could be causing your child’s discomfort. If it’s easy to do so, resolve any problems. For example, close a door, turn off a light, turn down music, etc.
- Leave the space. Often, it’s possible to simply leave the situation for a period of time, allowing your child time and space to calm down. Just walk out the door with your child, staying calm and ensuring their safety.
- Have a “bag of tricks” handy to share with your child. Chewy or sensory toys, favorite books or videos can all defuse a potentially difficult situation. While it’s never ideal to use TV as a babysitter, there are situations in which a favorite video on a smartphone can be a lifesaver.
- Travel with a weighted vest or blanket. If your child does well with these calming tools, bring an extra in the car at all times. If you don’t have weighted items, you might want to consider rolling your child up in a blanket like a burrito. For some autistic children, the pressure can be very calming.
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Wandering In Children On The Spectrum
The tendency of children on the spectrum to wander off impulsively is a huge safety issue. Wandering off without warning also known as elopement or bolting can have tragic results, as children attracted to water have drowned. The behavior is in part attributed to an impaired sense of danger, which might inhibit a neurotypical child from leaving caregivers. Other explanations for bolting range from goal-directed to escaping a stressor .
In a survey, more than 800 parents reported that roughly 50 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 10 with an ASD wander at some point, four times more than their unaffected siblings. The behavior peaks at 4, but almost 30 percent of kids with an ASD between the ages of 7 and 10 are still eloping, eight times more than their unaffected brothers and sisters.
Aggression As A Method Of Communication
Problems with verbal and nonverbal communication are some of the main indicators of autism. When a child is unable to effectively express what they want, it can lead to frustration, anger, and eventually aggression.
Aggressive outbursts can signal that an autistic child does not want to do something, or they are unhappy with changes in their schedule, environment, or routine. They may have a tantrum and destroy the room in response to an unexpected change in their daily regime.
Aggressive behaviors can be directed toward a peer who disrupts an autistic child. They may be directed at a caregiver for trying to move a child from one activity to another.
Anger related to autism is generally impulsive. Aggressive behaviors are not thought out ahead of time. Its the child reacting in the moment.
Aggression can be used as a tool for an autistic child or adolescent to get what they want. For instance, aggressive outbursts can lead to the child getting to engage in the repetitive behaviors in which they are seeking comfort. In some cases, these repetitive behaviors can be potentially harmful in and of themselves, such as head banging against a wall.
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Handling The Public Crisis
Planning can help reduce public meltdowns. But it probably wont prevent them all. Heres my advice on how to handle a behavioral crisis in a public place:
Stay calm. Take deep breaths and a minute to assess the situation.
Stop and help your child.;If at all possible, stop what you were doing and focus on helping your child calm down. Use his coping techniques and/or try a distraction.
Tell bystanders what you need them to do.;If needed, say something like, My son has autism. Please step back. Space helps him calm down. Some parents carry business cards that explain autism and their childs behavior. You can simply hand the card to a bystander to signal your need. Most people want to help once they understand whats happening. So dont be afraid to ask someone to fetch the store manager for assistance or ask bystanders to help move dangerous objects out of the way. In an extreme situation, you may need to ask someone to call 911. No one likes this option. But remember that your first priority is ensuring safety for your child and those around him.
If public behavioral crises continue to be a problem, I urge you to consult a behavioral therapist who can customize a plan to improve your childs behavior. You also may want to consult the;Autism Speaks Challenging Behaviors Tool Kit;and;“Help for Child with Recurring Behavioral Crisis”;Part 1;and;“Help for Child with Recurring Behavioral Crisis”;Part 2.;
How To Calm Down An Autistic Child During A Meltdown
A meltdown is generally a reaction by the individual as they are overwhelmed. The first thing in learning how to calm an autistic child is to identify what is actually overwhelming for them.
By identifying the trigger, the meltdowns could be prevented later on. Keep a diary to see if meltdowns occur at particular times or places.However, there are also things to try while the autistic child is having a meltdown to calm them down. Here are some tips and strategies:
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What Causes Meltdowns In Autism
There are many potential reasons to explain why a meltdown in autism happens, such as a change in their usual routine, bright light or loud sound. An autistic persons brain is wired differently so many times their brain goes into hyperdrive when they are having a meltdown since they can have sensory overloads.
How Else Do You Discipline A Child With Autism
Each offense should be dealt with in the same manner, as this gives the child a clear picture of what will happen when they do something that they should not be doing. Any delayed punishments will not work with a child who has autism.
It is also important for parents to remain calm.
Try to avoid yelling or out of control actions. If youre feeling frustrated should walk away from the situation to calm down. Parenting is hard for any parent, but with the extra stress of autism, things can easily get out of control even for the best of parents.
Each child will learn about discipline in a different way, and as long as the punishments are just, immediate, and consistent, there should be some progress being made.
Dealing with autism and discipline is never easy, but with practice, you can learn to cope.
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next months Voices of Special Needs Hop? !
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Tantrums & Outbursts: Parent Strategies To Eliminating Outbursts
Tantrums and outburst for children affected by autism can be one of the hardest, most pressing issues for parents and professional team members to address. These often crop up at the worst times, in most public locations and can go on for hours. These outbursts can also generate much more intensity than a typical childs tantrum and can last 1 to 12 hours. And if not addressed, as the child on the spectrum ages, these can become violent and dangerous for everyone involved including the child.
Tantrums of children on the autism spectrum typically dont start overnight they take a little time to develop in frequency and intensity. These outbursts build up from frustration usually based on communication issues or lack thereof. The time it takes to tame, trouble shoot, and find a solution to these tantrums takes time, consistency and hard work.
Providing ways for a child affected by autism to communicate, understand their daily schedule and make choices can prevent tantrums from cropping up. It is also important to have behavioral support and services for shaping and encouraging desired behaviors while minimizing the undesirable ones. Understanding your child and knowing the signs of a potential tantrum can yield important clues for heading off potential tantrums before they happen.
Aba Techniques For Dealing With Anger
ABA therapy is a highly adaptable and flexible intervention that can be used in a variety of settings and tailored for the specific needs of your high-functioning autistic child. A therapist will start by spending some time with your child to analyze the behavioral patterns and determine his/her specific strengths and challenges. This functional behavior assessment will represent the basis for the work your child will do in therapy.;
The ABA therapist will use a range of techniques to help your child with anger management. ABA therapy offers two effective ways of handling problem behaviors: proactive interventions and consequence-based reactive interventions. When used in combination, these two tactics will give you and your child all the necessary tools for preventing and managing anger issues.;
Anger triggers are prevalent in an autistic childs surroundings. Thats why its extremely important to use proactive strategies that will help prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated. Strategies to minimize anger and aggression triggers include creating an environment that is calm, predictable, and as rewarding as possible for your autistic child.
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Theres A Difference Between Forcing Behaviors And Encouraging Independence
Ive learned from experience that trying to force independence is counterintuitive, whether or not your child has autism.
When we push a child, especially one prone to anxiety and rigidity, their natural instinct is to dig their heels in and hold on tighter.
When we force a child to face their fears, and I mean screaming-on-the-floor petrified, like Whitney Ellenby, the mother who wanted her son with autism to see Elmo, we arent actually helping them.
If I was forced into a room full of spiders, I would probably be able to detach from my brain at some point to cope after about 40 hours of screaming. That doesnt mean I had some kind of breakthrough or success in facing my fears.
I also assume Id store those traumas and theyd invariably be triggered later in my life.
Of course, pushing independence isnt always as extreme as the Elmo scenario or a room full of spiders. All of this pushing falls on a spectrum ranging from encouraging a hesitant child to physically forcing them into a scenario that has their brain screaming danger.
When we let our children get comfortable at their own pace and they finally take that step of their own volition, true confidence and security grows.
That said, I understand where the Elmo mom was coming from. We know our kids would enjoy whatever activity if they would just try it.
We want them to feel joy. We want them to be brave and full of confidence. We want them to fit in because we know what rejection feels like.