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How To Stop Autistic Meltdowns

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Behavioral And Emotional Meltdowns Can Be A Hallmark Autism Trait

How To Help Stop Autism Meltdowns

The serious behavioral challenges posed by many children with autism are referred to as meltdowns and are not learned behaviors. In other words, they are not tantrums.

The signs and symptoms of autism become quite apparent between ages 12 months to 18 months. Yet, those unfamiliar with the disorder might think their child is just going at his/her own pace and dont attach much importance to delayed milestones at such a young age.

Nor, to the severe behavioral outbursts, thinking they are just an early manifestation of what are commonly called the terrible twos.

However, when these symptoms have not improved around the age of 3 years or so, parents commonly seek medical input, and may learn their child has a type of ASD.

Lets take a deeper look at the behavioral meltdowns experienced by many children diagnosed with ASD.

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Managing Autism Meltdowns Tantrums And Aggression

By Kim Barloso, AB

May 7, 2021

To an outsider, a child with autism having a meltdown might appear like a child having a temper tantrum, but the circumstances are often more complex than what meets the eye. Those who have cared for a child with autism spectrum disorder will know a meltdown is handled differently and with intimate knowledge of the childs personality.

Getting Ready To Shop

Before leaving the house, consider prompting your son with a finer breakdown of what youre going to do on this shopping trip. For instance:

  • We will drive to the store.
  • We will park in the lot.
  • We will walk into the store.
  • We will find the items we want.
  • We will pay for them at the register.
  • We will walk back to the car.
  • We will drive home.
  • And we will play a game of Uno.

If, like many people with autism, your child responds best to visual information, try making a personalized story with pictures about the above steps. Autism Speaks has partnered with the University of Washington READI Lab to provide a series of personalized story templates that include going to the store.

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Be A Safe Space For Your Child

Meltdowns cannot be stopped, but they end quickly once the autistic is allowed space and freedom to let it happen. Your screaming autistic child going through a meltdown has zero emotional control during this time, and all they can do is feel it.

Your job as the parent is to be a safe space for them. Be the number one person they can be themselves with instead of the person theyre afraid to experience this with. This is the side of autism no autistic person wants anyone to see because it is so embarrassing.

Focus On Your Yelling Child

How to deal with autism: 21+ tools to calm an autistic meltdown ...

When your autistic child starts screaming or high-pitched squealing, your first instinct might be to look around at how people are reacting if you are in public. How your autistic child is behaving says nothing about your parenting. How other people react or judge you in this moment says everything about them.

The most valuable thing you can do in this moment is take a minute to quickly assess whether this is a tantrum or a meltdown.

An autistic tantrum usually happens right after an interaction that doesnt go the childs way.

An autistic meltdown happens out of nowhere, after signs of overwhelm and excess stimming. Meltdowns can also occur if routine changes too quickly or a promise is revoked.

If the interaction is the routine change, or the screaming autistic child finding out something they were looking forward to is no longer happening, this is a meltdown every sensory aspect is weighing down on their shoulders like a pile of bricks. It is physical and emotional distress.

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Here Are Some Ways To Find What You Were Looking For

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  • Advice and guidance about a wide range of autism-related topics from what autism is, to diagnosis, to socialising and relationships
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Alternatively, you can search our site in the menu at the top of the page, near the Donate button. Or, to browse our entire site, you can:

Veneer Of Coping: Shutdown

A shutdown is a particular sequence of behaviour involving the senses, language skills, motor skills and memory which we observe in children diagnosed as high-functioning within the autism spectrum. In academic settings, when pressured by an adult to perform tasks that were difficult, these children may become unresponsive, sleepy, immobile, limp to the touch for several minutes and then fell asleep in a chair for as briefly as 10 minutes and up to two hours.

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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.

A Complete Guide On How To Prevent And Manage Meltdowns

How to stop autistic meltdowns.


  • While its not always possible to avoid a meltdown, there are strategies that can help
  • Prepare your child for outings by ensuring theyre well rested, well fed, and have used the restroom before leaving the house
  • Teach your child coping strategies and practice when theyre feeling calm so your child can learn to manage their reactions
  • When meltdowns happen, try your best to remain calm and make sure your child is in a safe place

Meltdowns can be a scary and exhausting experience for parents and children. An autistic child can experience an intense explosion of emotions if triggered by change or unexpected situations. They can cry uncontrollably, scream, hurt themselves, or zone out. Meltdowns can last for a few minutes to a few hours.

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Behavior Is Communication Although Not Necessarily Direct Communication

Almost everyone involved in this field has heard the old adage behavior is communication. Technically, this is very true.However, keep in mind that sometimes the behaviors are reactions that are completely involuntary. React kindly and keep this in mind.

Now for the big issue: whats the best thing to do when someone has a meltdown?

For this one, I recommend the S.C.A.R.E.D. Method. From what Ive read, this is attributed to an autistic first responder named Deborah Lipsky.

  • Focus first on getting people out of the way or getting the person out of the room. Safety is a priority.
  • Breathe this will pass. Use simple instructions and short sentences. The individual may struggle to process information during this time.
  • Positive and calming words should be used. You have to de-escalate, not agitate.
  • If you know of any calming routines or activities that the person deems safe help guide them to it. Examples include using a weighted blanket or even playing a preferred calming song that they have chosen and asked you to use. Re-directing harmful stims to something more soothing is a good idea.
  • Remember to be kind and empathetic. Work from a trauma-informed perspective.
  • Make an intervention plan BEFORE the meltdowns happen.
  • What To Do When My Child Is Having A Tantrum

    1. Tantrum vs. Meltdown

    Before you intervene in any way, try to figure out whether your child is having an autism meltdown or tantrum. As we discussed earlier, they may look similar but they need different approaches.

    Meltdowns are a response to external stimulation, while tantrums can occur when a need is not being met.

    It is important to distinguish the two before having a strategy to manage the situation.

    2. Figure out the motivation

    Understanding what lies behind the tantrum behavior will give you the key to manage it.

    You will be able to respond to it more appropriately. They may want something, like a toy or attention. Recognize this want without giving it to them.

    3. Remove the audience

    Sometimes removing the audience from the environment, the tantrum will stop. If you noticed this pattern, like your child tends to have tantrums in crowded areas, teach them coping mechanisms in small gatherings.

    Try removing yourself from the environment . It could also help reduce and stop tantrum.

    4. Praise and reinforce positive behavior

    Acknowledge the feelings of your child and praise them for their good behavior.

    You can give them a hug, or tell them how they managed to do the thing well. These will avoid tantrum outbursts as your child will learn that they have your attention and can be successful in doing things.

    5. Build the necessary skills

    We have discussed before that tantrums can be caused by lack of certain skills like problem solving or negotiating.

    • impulse control,

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    Calming Activities For Autism

    Managing autistic meltdowns isnt always easy, especially since each childs triggers are so different and the calming strategies that work for one child may not work for another, but incorporating different calming activities for autism into your routine is a great way to teach your child effective coping strategies.

    Mindful breathing. When a meltdown is starting to brew, your childs breathing pattern will change. Often, he or she will begin taking short, fast, shallow breaths, which can make them feel even more overwhelmed than they are already feeling. Mindful breathing is a great tool you can use to teach your child to use when their emotions threaten to take over their bodies. There are many different techniques you can try, and I suggest starting with the Bubbling Blowing Technique. When your child is calm, give him or her a small container of bubbles so he or she can practice blowing bubbles with a wand. You child will quickly learn that if he or she blows too hard or too fast, the bubble will burst before it has time to take shape. But by blowing slowly and with purpose, he or she can blow a perfect bubble. Have your child practice the technique with real bubbles before removing the bubbles and letting him or her use only his or her imagination. Once this skill is learned, you can ask your child to blow pretend bubbles when you sense your child feeling overwhelmed.

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    Remove Any Dangerous Objects

    Autistic people do not have tantrums. Be educated to prevent making ...

    Its important that you remove any objects from the vicinity which could harm your child. This includes everything from glass shelves to hard objects which your child may throw. Its best to take your child to a room or space free of clutter and other people. However, its not enough to simply isolate your child. To prevent injury during a meltdown, youll need to monitor your child closely until theyve calmed down completely.

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    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.

    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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    Focus On Your Child Not Staring Bystanders

    Meltdowns for any child can get noisy, but they tend to go to a whole other level of loud when its an autistic child.

    These outbursts can feel embarrassing to parents when were in public and everyone is staring at us.

    We feel the judgment from some saying, Id never let my kid act like that.

    Or worse, we feel like our deepest fears are validated: People think were failing at this whole parenting thing.

    Next time you find yourself in this public display of chaos, ignore the judgmental looks, and quiet down that fearful inner voice saying youre not enough. Remember that the person who is struggling and needs your support the most is your child.

    How To Handle Meltdowns

    How to Stop Autism Meltdowns! – Strategies by Best Selling Author with Autism Tyler McNamer
    • Use a low, quiet voice to speak to your child.
    • Speak with few words and with each word slowly. Their language processing is generally slower than those that are neurotypical .
    • Offer choices. In your quiet, slow speech, give them a couple of choices that they can choose to do now to feel better. Say the choices in the fewest words possible. . These first choices are nurturing and caring showing them that your first wish is for them to know they are OK and its over now. Do not talk about the meltdown at all now.

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    Managing And Preventing Meltdowns

    This past Saturday, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Autism Society of East Tennessees Autism Educational Conference.

    I felt a bit out of place , but thats okay. My topic that I presented on was the management and prevention of meltdowns, as well as how to better support healthy emotional regulation. Considering how many meltdowns I had preparing for this session, the irony has not been lost on me.

    Since I know a lot of people are unable to afford attending the conferences, I figured it would be helpful to post the information on here. I want to make sure the information is as accessible as possible.

    Meltdowns are easily one of the most difficult parts of being autistic.

    I love being autistic , but meltdowns are honestly the worst.

    The best way I can personally describe a meltdown is like a Blue Screen of Death crash on a computer. Of course, I am a human being and not a computer but I think it gets the point across. Others have also compared it to a more intense and painful panic attack.

    How Can You Tell An Autistic Meltdown From A Tantrum

    1)Goal oriented vs overload. A tantrum in a young child typically stems from frustration from not getting what they want in that moment: wether it is a toy, being able to button up their own shirts, or not wanting to go to bed . While tantrums in young children can be more frequent when they are tired, hungry or not feeling well, they are always goal oriented. Either the frustration at not getting what they want, not being able to do what they want, or even not being able to communicate what they want properly. An autistic meltdown on the other hand is all about being overwhelmed. For someone with autism, when they reach the point of sensory, emotional, and information overload, or even just too much unpredictability, it can trigger a variety of external behaviours that are similar to a tantrum , or it can trigger a complete shutdown and withdrawal.

    2)Tantrums need an audience. Tantrum behaviour will usually stop when the parent ignores the behaviour, when the child is removed from a public space where the behaviour is occurring, or when the child gets whatever it is they want . An autistic meltdown will occur with or without an audience. They can occur when the person with autism is entirely alone. They are the response of an external stimulus overload that leads to an emotional explosion .

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