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.
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.
Instruct Us But Nicely
Are we offending you? Tell us. People with autism may experience avalanche-style misunderstandings. This hinders the formation and maintenance of lasting relationships, and can make for a very lonely life.
For us, cultivating social skills is imperative to bridging the gap of misunderstandings. We arent born with these skills, and some of us werent properly educated on social etiquette or coping mechanisms. Not knowing that stuff instinctively makes forming connections more difficult.
When were processing social cues, we might miss something and accidentally say something that comes off as stupid, mean, or offensive. Without those physical emotional cues to guide our response, were left with just the words, sometimes making it an awkward experience for a neurotypical.
To demonstrate the difficulties this imposes, try closing your eyes the next time somebody is talking to you. Itll give you an idea of how much were missing out on. Its believed that over half of all communication is nonverbal. If youre the neurotypical in the conversation, its your responsibility to make sure youre clear in your meaning. Letting us know if weve offended you will get an apology from us a lot faster than making an offended face at us.
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Children On The Autism Spectrum Are Not Dumb
Kids with autism have the potential to be absolutely brilliant. Theyre also talented, philosophical, kind, and creative. This is something much of society fails to see, but in truth, the autistic mind is simply wired differently than those not on the Autism Spectrum. Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Michelangelo, Mozart, and Sir Isaac Newton all are said to have exhibited autistic tendencies.
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Tips To Help Avoid An Autistic Meltdown
While temper tantrums can seemingly come out of nowhere, autistic meltdowns typically follow a predictable flow rumbling, rage, and recovery and there are certain things caregivers can do to help prevent them from occurring and lessen the intensity of meltdowns when they do happen. Here are 7 ideas to consider.
Use an ABC chart. If you want to know how to calm an autistic child, the first thing you should consider doing is tracking his or her behavior over the course of a few weeks using an Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence Chart, or ABC Chart. Its incredibly easy to create and use, and can be very powerful in determining the root cause of challenging behaviors. Each time your child has a meltdown, take a few minutes to write down the ABCs of that specific event and the behaviors that occurred:
Antecedent: The events that occurred before the meltdown happened.Behavior: Your childs response to the antecedent.Consequence: What happened after the behavior to either encourage/hinder a repeat of the situation.
The idea is to track the same behavior in this case, the meltdown multiple times to determine if there are any consistencies, and then formulate a plan to change the antecedent and/or consequence to ensure the meltdowns stop happening.
Redirect and distract. Once youre able to recognize the warning signs of an impending meltdown, redirect and distract your child to the best of your ability to help keep his or her emotions from escalating.
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Tips To Help Calm Anxiety In Kids With Autism
by Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATPJune 06, 2019
If youre a parent of a child with autism, you have spent much time trying to understand the subtleties of what causes or contributes to his stressful, anxious responses. These responses could be outward signs of anxiety like: increased stimming, self-injurious behavior, bolting/eloping/running away, repetitive behaviors, or verbal responses. Or, the anxious response could manifest as physical symptoms that your child may or may not be able to give voice to.
Whether you try to identify patterns of behavior or avoid triggers, its natural to want to minimize the anxiety in our children.
Children with autism can experience anxiety just as typically developing children do. Separation anxiety, OCD-like perseverations, social anxiety, and sensory-related anxiety are all frequent occurrences in children with autism.
Because of the communication difficulties associated with a diagnosis of ASD, the way these feelings of anxiety manifest may look different, as will the strategies to support the child.
To better understand the connections between autism and anxiety, it is important to consider your childs sensory system and how sensoryoverload may be contributing to his overall behavioral and emotional regulation.
What Is An Autism Meltdown
A meltdown is defined as an intense reaction to sensory overwhelm. When a child with autism is overwhelmed, he/she knows no other way to express it other than with a meltdown. This might involve emotional verbal outbursts such as screaming and crying or physical reactions like kicking, biting or hitting.
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Anxiety Triggers: How To Identify Them In Autistic Children And Teenagers
Finding out what makes your autistic child anxious is a first step in reducing your childs anxiety and helping them to manage it.
Because autistic children and teenagers can have trouble with understanding and communicating emotions, you might need to read your childs signals and work out what makes your child feel anxious or stressed.
Some of the common triggers for anxiety in autistic children include:
- changes in routine for example, not going to a weekly piano lesson because the teacher is sick
- changes in environment for example, a new house, new play equipment at the local park, or furniture in different places at home
- unfamiliar social situations for example, a birthday party at an unfamiliar house
- sensory sensitivities for example, sensitivities to particular noises, bright lights, specific flavours or food textures
- fear of a particular situation, activity or object for example, sleeping in their own bed, going to the toilet, balloons or vacuum cleaners.
- times of transition for example, moving into a new school year, starting secondary school, or the start of puberty.
Once youve worked out some of the things that make your child feel anxious, it can help to make a list of them, so that you can find ways to help your child manage these situations.
Give your child lots of opportunities to practise dealing with these things and situations in safe environments.
Calming Strategies For Kids With Autism
These 10 calming strategies for kids with autism will help your child relax, decrease tantrums and increase family peace & harmony! They are perfect for use in the classroom too. Pick your favorite calming strategies for kids or try them all. Many of these techniques are quick ways to calm down, although some of them will take a little longer to set up and get going. Make sure you print out your Calm Down Strategies PDF Checklist to get the most out of this post!
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No I Dont Just Need To Discipline My Child More
Meltdowns are not tantrums. They are not the result of a lack of discipline on the part of the parent. Children on the Autism Spectrum have sensory issues. One child may be a sensory avoider, while another is a sensory seeker. And kids with sensory issues do not respond well to physical punishment. Spanking, time out, and yelling are not usually effective tools of discipline for a child with autism. Rather, parents of children on the Autism Spectrum rely on routine and repeated exposure to teach their autistic children rules and boundaries.
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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Additional Resources For Your Special Needs Child
Children with Autism and ADHD need stability during this time more than ever. Just remember you are their calm, and they will never forget the days you broke out the slime, volcano, and other fun family activities.
Times right now are complex. But we can still help the children in our lives live a little easier by giving them routine, having fun activities, and just being there for them.
How have you kept your child calm while at home? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Here are additional resources right here on our website for your special needs child:
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.
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Expert Advice And Steps Can You Take Today To Help Reduce The Stress Of Caring For A Child With Autism Learn More
A day in the life of a caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder can include any number of challenges and stressors. A caregiver might be driving their child to various appointments, advocating for the childs educational needs, helping their child avoid sensory overload, or dealing with an unexpected tantrum in public. At the end of this long day, they may even be discouraged to find that their child is unable to sleep, keeping the caregiver from getting the rest they need.
Though parents of children with autism face many unique challenges, they are not necessarily doomed to a life of stress. Research has shown that caregivers who engage their support systems and actively solve problems experience much less stress than those who disengage or cope in unhealthy ways. Its no secret that a less-stressed caregiver is much more likely to raise a well-adjusted and less anxious child.
Meltdown Vs Temper Tantrum
Although they may look similar, meltdowns are different from temper tantrums. A temper tantrum is usually a childs method for getting what he/she wants. A meltdown, however, has no purpose and is beyond a childs control.
To be more specific, a temper tantrum happens when a child is:
- Frustrated with not getting what he/she wants
- Not able to do what he/she wants
- Not able to properly communicate
A child might stop a tantrum after the following responses:
- Being comforted by a parent or caregiver
- Being given what he/she wants
- Being ignored and giving up on his/her own
Youngsters who throw temper tantrums are aware and in control of their actions and can adjust the level of their tantrum based on the response they get from a parent or adult. Here we can use behavioral strategies to manage tantrums.
Meltdowns have entirely different causes. Because they are triggered by sensory overload, a child on the spectrum having a meltdown can have a few defining characteristics.
Autistic meltdown symptoms may:
- Start with pre-meltdown signs called rumblings which can be verbal or physical behaviors that signal an imminent meltdown
- Be preceded with stimming
- Be caused by overstimulation or an undesirable sensory input
- Not be limited to young children and can also happen to teens and adults
- Happen with or without an audience
- Last longer than tantrums
Once you can tell the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown, then you can apply the right strategies to deal with the situation.
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Teach Them Coping Strategies Once Theyre Calm
There isnt much we can do during a meltdown as far as trying to teach our children coping tools, but when theyre in a peaceful and rested frame of mind, we can definitely work on emotional regulation together.
My son responds really well to nature walks, practicing yoga daily , and deep breathing.
These coping strategies will help them calm down perhaps before a meltdown even when you arent around.
Empathy is at the heart of all of these steps to dealing with an autistic meltdown.
When we look at our childs behavior as a form of communication, it helps us view them as struggling instead of being defiant.
The word defiance can drop from our meltdown vocabulary entirely, replaced by empathy and compassion. And by showing our children compassion, we can more effectively support them through their meltdowns.
Is Melatonin Recommended For Kids With Autism
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Many people take melatonin supplements to help improve their sleeping habits. One of the biggest challenges with melatonin is that it cycles through the body quickly, so while it may help someone fall asleep, it may not help them stay asleep.
Multiple studies have looked at the use of melatonin in kids with autism. One double-blind study involving 125 children with autism investigated the use of a slow-release formulation. The kids assigned to the melatonin supplement group slept nearly an hour longer and fell asleep 40 minutes faster than the placebo group.
If youre wondering if melatonin may be right for your child, speak to your pediatrician.
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How To Keep Your Child Calm While At Home With Adhd Autism High Energy
Keeping your child calm while at home while schools are on a break can be a challenge. Keeping children with ADHD, autism, or high energy calm can feel impossible!
In 2020, parents found themselves taking on additional roles at home such as:
Children with special needs such as ADHD or autism need consistent structure and just plain out exciting activities to keep them entertained and keep them learning!
Tips And Techniques For Calming An Upset Child
While its great to simply avoid getting upset, real-life can make it impossible. When that happens, these tips for calming may help.
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The 3 Challenges For Parents Of Adult Children With Autism
4. Deal with the comedown.
Meltdowns are exhausting and troubling. Some people deal with them best by simply being alone. Adults with autism benefit by recognising in advance what makes it easiest for them to recover from a meltdown and having a strategy in place for the next time they have one.
5. Have coping strategies in place.
Sometimes, its not possible to avoid being in situations that are potentially going to trigger a meltdown. Perhaps someone has to deal with a barrage of emails, or be in a busy city centre, even though theyre already feeling burnt out. Instead of continuing to push themselves and hope for the best, its important to have strategies on hand for coping with sensory overload or emotional overwhelm.
Another client, Sarah, described how she used headphones whenever she was in crowded places. If I listen to music, I can shut off better from whats happening around me. It gives me something to focus on.
Personally, most of my meltdowns come on when I have too much information to deal with. Ive become very good at telling people that I simply cannot deal with whatever it is they want me to sort out at this current time. I also write lists and flow charts to help me prioritise what needs to be prioritised, so Im less likely to lose control.
Having a plan in place isnt going to stop the meltdowns, but it can help mitigate the fallout and help autistic adults, and others, normalise those meltdowns that are a part of their autistic experience.