Sensory Processing Sensory Overload And Anxiety
While its a bit of the chicken and egg discussion, it is an important question to consider as we talk about the topic: Given the sensory processing disorders associated with an autism diagnosis, can/do sensory processing difficulties cause anxiety? Or, does anxiety contribute to a sensory-based response?
How much sensory input it takes to reach your threshold depends on your individual sensory profile, whether you over-respond or under-respond to sensory information.
Meltdowns are reactions to feeling overwhelmed and are often seen as a result of sensory overstimulation.
When a person experiences too much sensory stimulation, their central nervous system is overwhelmed and unable to process all of the input. Its a physiological traffic jam in your central nervous system and the sensory overstimulation causes a physiological response and sometimes even a sensory meltdown.
Because many children with autism are unable to self-regulate, sensory overload can result in sensory-based meltdowns.
Causes Of Anxiety And Challenging Behaviours
If your child displays many challenging behaviours, for instance screaming non-stop, can become a very frustrating and overwhelming situation to deal with as a concerned parent. Challenging behaviours or tantrums can make it very difficult for children with autism to participate in typical activities or even prevent them from leaving their home.
Certainly, it is not an easy task to calm a child with autism but there are certain techniques on how to help them calm down. However, we need to consider how children with autism react to physical and emotional distress differently than typical children. For instance, they may not be able to say I want a toy or I dont want to do it, instead, they will throw fits to get what they want to avoid doing something they simply dont feel like doing.
Subsequently, as a result of feeling stressed, anxious, excited, frustrated, etc., they will display behaviours that we consider challenging and for them have become adaptive. You can predict some of the stressors that generate the sensory assaults that provoke the screaming such as a loud noise or a major change in their routine but some are less obvious.
Amazing Autistic Meltdown Strategies
Follow these tips to help de-escalating sensory meltdowns in the future
Come up with a signal – If your son or daughter is in a classroom environment or at home come up with a signal so that you know they are beginning to have a meltdown.
Schedule in breaks – In my opinion the school days are long enough so why not schedule in breaks for the special needs classrooms for 10 min breaks? Even when your kids are home let them take breaks before the next even or task.
Keep calm and cool – I dont know if you like to be yelled at by your boss at work? But kids in general dont like getting yelled at by their hot headed parents even the kids who have Autism. Always remain calm and cool.
Make sure you pay attention – Everyone likes when everyone pays attention to them when they are talking. Even if it takes your son or daughter a few extra mins to finish a thought, dont interrupt them.
Setup a reward system – Everyone likes being rewarded, even at work. Its like when you get your promotion at your job. When your son or daughter does something good setup a reward system.
Dont overload their day – When I was in my teenager years I no longer let my mom set up doctor appointments for me. Sometimes I had back to back appointments it was so unpleasant. So dont overload your kids day.
I think the first one should be on the list on how to calm an autistic child list.
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How To Help Calm A Child With Autism
There are certain things that we can do and there are others we will need to avoid. Most of the techniques are based on commonalities among children with autism, for instance:
- Social conventions and norms are difficult to understand.
- Using or following spoken language can be challenging or non-existent.
- Communicating non-verbally can become difficult for some children.
- Lack of social motivation or wanting to engage in social situations.
- Sensory challenges when trying to increase positive behaviours.
First of all, you must remain calm and model this kind of behaviour whenever you can. Many of the techniques are based on sensory integration therapy, which is an approach that helps people with sensory dysfunction to manage situations that are challenging to them. Even if they are not failproof, they can make a big difference when you feel like nothing else is working.
What To Do And What Not To Do When Your Autistic Child Is Experiencing A Meltdown
You can follow these 5 tips to help a child experiencing an autistic meltdown:
1. Make sure the child is safe:
The most important point in helping a child or an adult who is having an autistic meltdown is to ensure their safety! Due to the magnitude of the sensory overload, there is always a possibility for the child to get hurt while having a meltdown. Therefore, we need to try to protect them and make sure they are safe. It might be necessary to remove the child from the environment and take them somewhere quiet, so they feel safe.
- Get them to a place where they feel safe. It is often the most effective way to deal with a meltdown.
- Get them to a corner or to the car, can be a good option when you are out.
- Try to hold them if there is a possibility of them hitting their head or injuring themselves.
2. Make sure you are staying safe as the childs helper:
It is not uncommon for kids to unconsciously hurt others while having a meltdown. Especially when they grow up it can be very possible to hurt their parents who are trying to help them. So, make sure you wont get hurt while you are helping them. If the child is physically large, often this requires more than one person to move the child to a calm and quite place without causing any injury.
3. Dont try to talk to them and reason with them during a meltdown:
4. Try to stay calm:
5. Dont try to discipline them during a meltdown:
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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.
How To Calm Down An Autistic Kid
clarie94958631 over a year ago
perrine136558630 over a year ago
Reincarnate158868 over a year ago
Guest over a year ago
my brother has autism and its really hard to take him out with out him throwing a tantrum and he will start hitting people and breaking things, if there one thing i learned is that every time i find a way to calm him down eventually it will stop working. try to find out what the child is interested in or if you can personally communicate with the child then tell them that if they behave they will get a reward. but dont all ways rely on it, autistic child are very clever and its hard to keep up with them. the best way is to make a strong bond and NEVER let them get their way if they know they cant win against you then they will give up and behave, having a strong personal bond will make a child want to behave around you.
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How To Calm A Child With Autism
There are certain calming do’s and don’ts that apply to most children with autism. These are based on the factors that autistic children have in common, specifically:
- Difficulty with understanding social norms and conventions
- Difficulty with following or using non-verbal communication
- Unawareness of others’ likely reactions to behaviors
- Sensory challenges that can get in the way of positive behaviors
- Lack of social motivation
How To Discipline A Child On The Autism Spectrum
The purpose of discipline is to set healthy boundaries and clear expectations of appropriate behavior, not to punish or embarrass your child.
While there are certainly challenges to disciplining a child on the autism spectrum, discipline instills valuable lessons that the child will take with them their whole lives. Keep reading to learn safe, effective, and compassionate strategies for how to discipline a child on the autism spectrum.
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Break Out Your Sensory Toolkit
Keep a few sensory tools or toys in your car or bag. You can offer these to your kid when their mind is overwhelmed.
Kids have different favorites, but some common sensory tools include weighted lap pads, noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget toys.
Dont force these on your child when theyre melting down, but if they choose to use them, these products can often help them calm down.
New Forms Of Communication
Video modeling, social stories, check-off lists, and visual activity/task schedules will be helpful in communicating to your child what is planned, and what the expectations will be.
Social stories that walk a child through the plan, from beginning to end, will offer predictability and a sense of control that may reduce anxiety
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Empathize Instead Of Rationalize
Ever been extremely upset and had someone sayCalm down? It probably made everything even worse. Similarly, when a person is anxious due to a meltdown, emotion has hijacked their brain. You may be frustrated, but telling them about how theyre going to miss the bus if they dont hurry will likely be unhelpful at best, counterproductive at worst your childmayfeel their pain is being dismissed. Instead, try to get inside their head and feel what they feel. Say things like, I know all these noises and lights hurt, or I know youfeel like the world isending, or I know youre scared. Be sure to speak very softly, too!
Identify And Remove Sensory Triggers
Youve probably already identified stimuli which tend to trigger meltdowns for your child. For some children with special needs this can be a visit to the town pool or a ride on a crowded bus to camp. The important thing is to be aware of your childs sensory sensitivities so youll be prepared to act should a meltdown occur. In addition, youll want to keep record of stimuli which make a meltdown worse. This could include loud noises or flashing lights. You may even find that talking to your child during a meltdown can exacerbate the symptoms.
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Try Distracting Your Child
This will only work if you spot the tell-tale signs of a meltdown before your child loses complete control. You can distract your child by doing anything which makes your child happy. The aim is to focus on something which is comforting but not over-stimulating. This could include something like making silly faces or singing your childs favorite song.
Try To Prevent Autistic Meltdowns
You may be wondering how you could possibly prevent meltdowns, when there are so many different triggers. Wouldnt that be like looking for a needle in a haystack? Well, it may not be the easiest thing to conquer, but you can definitely prevent a lot of meltdowns if you know what is causing them. Here are some tips to find out what is triggering your childs meltdowns.
Track your childs tantrums
It doesnt have to be anything fancy, but start tracking your childs meltdowns in a journal, or on a calendar. Jot down details like what happened before and after the meltdown, the time, the weather, people involved, location, foods eaten that day, obvious sensory factors, and what calmed them down.
You may find out that your childs meltdowns occur at a specific time of day, or when you go to a certain place, or after eating different foods. Barometric pressure can also have a big impact on children with sensory sensitivities, so dont rule out changes in weather. Certain smells may bother your child at a friends house. Whatever it is, tracking these details will help figure out the root cause of your childs meltdowns.
Have a routine
I cant stress this one enough. Routines give children a sense of safety. They help them to know what is coming next. This also gives them the feeling of having some control, because they can plan things based on their routine.
Letting your child know what to expect on a regular basis can prevent a lot of unnecessary meltdowns.
Use visual aids
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Tone Down The Environment
Reducing sensory inputmay seem pretty basic, but its bigfor those with Sensory Processing Disorder. Dim the lights. Bring down the noise. If possible and appropriate, remove yourchilds clothes if theyre contributing to sensory overload. If none of that is possible, do your best to remove your childfrom the situation.
What Can I Do To Prevent Meltdowns
Once a meltdown happens, there is not much to do. But there are many ways to prevent a meltdown and to support the child to have better self-regulation and calming down skills.
1. Know their triggers:
For example, if we are out in a crowded supermarket and our child is sensitive to noise, we can imagine them experiencing a meltdown caused by sensory overstimulation. We can also predict a possible meltdown if plans change, or we are going to do something out of the routine. By paying attention to the situations in which the meltdowns happen, we can identify the triggers and we can try to help children to avoid being exposed to these triggers. Also, if it is necessary to deal with a situation that might overstimulate them, we can be prepared to make interventions to reduce their overstimulation and reduce the exposure duration before a full meltdown starts.
2. Build a toolbox of calming down activities:
If you are at the point that you are predicting a meltdown, you can use many strategies to help your child to calm down. A first thing to do it to take the child out of the place that is making them feel overwhelmed. A warm bath, a quiet and dark place and some sensory tools that allow them to release stress can be good solutions to use.
What To Put In A Calm Down Box
Children can begin to understand the concept of calm boxes when theyre toddlers and continue using their calm boxes into adulthood. Please note: as your child grows older, you will need to help them adapt the contents of their box as our interests change overtime. Here are some suggestions for every age group.
How Can You Say If Your Child Has An Autistic Meltdown Or A Tantrum
Tantrums and autistic meltdowns may look similar at the surface. They both can represent with screaming and crying, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. There are several points that can help us to differentiate meltdowns from tantrums. However, often the most important way to identify them relies on the parents experience. The parents know their children the best and over the time, often they are quick to discriminate meltdowns by experience.
Next, we go through 3 main points that can help to identify tantrum vs autistic meltdown:
1. Pay attention to the underlying situation and what has happened before the behavior:
A tantrum is a goal-oriented action, so there is always an unmet request before the tantrum. The child may be asking for a sweet or a toy, want to play games or not to leave the playground. Tantrums may happen in any situation if the child is tired or hungry or bored, but at any situation there is goal for the tantrum!
An autistic meltdown, however, is not related to a specific goal but rather caused by too much overload. It shows that the child is not able to handle the situation. There may be too much sensory stimuli in the environment, too much information, or the child just feels too much pressure from unpredictable situations and getting out of their routines.
2. There are often signs of distress before a meltdown:
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We Need To Hear We Are Doing A Good Job
This is, of course, true of every parent, but it is especially true of parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. Raising a child with autism is a lifelong learning curve. As more and more is learned about the biology of autism, parents must keep up with new therapies and decide if they would be right for their child. For instance, there are new supplements, dietary concerns, and feelings about a new friend or teacher. The list of things to keep parents up at night is a long one.