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Emma Dalmayne, an adult on the spectrum and a mother of autistic children, says, When you have a meltdown, its as if the world is ending. Everything is too much and you feel like overwhelming. Stress, isolation, and increased alcohol use are all likely contributors to this enraged state of affairs. Hopefully these incidents will die down as the pandemic loosens its grip. In the meantime, here are 4 1/2 strategies to cool off a meltdown. 1. Whatever you do, dont tell the person to calm down.
PMS may be one of the top reasons youre having meltdowns as an adult. There are some things you can do to help such as avoid simple carbs before your period and get some daily exercise. Add a comment 2 Youre Tired Very few women actually get the amount of sleep that they need each night.
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Learn Everything About Your Teen
Most parents do this anyway . But if your teen is autistic and youre not sure what to do, ask them!
Keep an open conversation going with your teen. Ask them to tell you what theyre thinking or write down their thoughts.
If your teen may not have the verbal or writing capacities to share their thoughts or emotions with you, its crucial to observe their behavior and take note of what might trigger certain behavioral responses.
Find what does work to help minimize behaviors that may be disruptive or challenge their ability to get the most out of the resources they have access to.
If you believe their behavior is disruptive or hindering their ability to succeed in ways that theyve expressed interest, try to minimize those triggers or help your teen find coping mechanisms.
Here are some ideas:
- Bright lights a trigger? Keep the lights dim in your home.
- Loud noises disrupt their focus or overstimulate their senses? Buy them some noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
- Is your teen feeling intense emotion? Give them space, and be understanding. Dont yell, make them feel ashamed, or respond with hurtful language or violence.
Prevention Strategies And Treatments
Contemporary meltdown treatment and prevention strategies include various therapy and medical techniques. Many approaches incorporate behavioral and physical therapies to help with bodily autonomy and emotional control. Before any treatment or prevention plans are created, your patient/loved one will likely need to complete a Functional Behavior Assessment or a similar screening process to identify the functionality of meltdown symptoms.
Creating a behavior log to find patterns in context and surroundings leading up to meltdowns can help the evaluation. Behavior logs also assist parents and caretakers in understanding signs leading up to meltdowns. Learning these timelines allows greater insight into what sensory issues or comorbid conditions may cause meltdowns. Once the context is better understood, you can begin to practice calming techniques before meltdowns occur and teach your loved one or patient to identify their feelings before they happen.
Treating underlying comorbid conditions associated with autism is also essential. Sensory or emotional issues are often the result of uncommunicated pain or discomfort related to such conditions . If you have tried cognitive behavioral therapy and meltdown severity or prevalence hasnt decreased, consider speaking with a gastroenterologist, psychologist, or other medical specialists to address underlying issues.
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Calming And Recovery Techniques
Meltdowns continue until the individual feels safe and calm. They can be challenging to navigate for everyone involved, and it is essential to know what to do when these situations occur. Meltdowns can create uncomfortable or dangerous situations if the stressor continues and proper recovery time isnt possible. As a parent or caretaker, it is essential to remember that your loved one is experiencing difficulty with their emotions and that they may look to you for support or assistance. Try to take each incident as it comes, and remember to stay calm and provide meaningful support.
Keeping yourself regulated and alert is essential for ensuring your safety and the safety of the individual experiencing dysregulation. You need to meet the individual at their energy level and react quickly to their needs, recognizing when to call for help. A positive response to meltdowns can be simplified into three steps: regulate, relate, and reason.
Tantrum Vs Autistic Meltdown: What Is The Difference How To Deal With Them
Many of us have witnessed a child having a tantrum in public places. It is easy to judge children and their parents for such behaviors. However, not many of us would think about autism spectrum disorder at those times. The explosion of anger and emotions accompanied with screams and other disruptive behaviors can be an autistic meltdown. So how to tell the differences of tantrum vs autistic meltdown?
Even though in many approaches there is no distinction between meltdown and tantrum and they are both considered as undesirable behavior, often parents and professionals use these terms to specify two different situations.
In this blog, we review 6 important points that can help us to differentiate a temper tantrum and a meltdown in a child/person with autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, we give 5 tips to handle meltdowns and 4 ways to prevent them.
We will discuss:
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Other Signs Of High Functioning Autism
- You are often regarded as quirky and eccentric.
- You are hypersensitive to sensory input like pain, sound, light, touch or smell.
- You are extremely intelligent and knowledgeable about certain specific interests of yours, such as, mathematics, history, books, politics, sports etc.
- You want to do things for yourself most of the time, instead of for others.
These are some of the most common traits of high functioning autism in adults, and being aware of these signs can help you understand all of this better.
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Restricted Or Repetitive Behaviors Or Interests
People with ASD have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual. These behaviors or interests set ASD apart from conditions defined by problems with social communication and interaction only.
Examples of restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests related to ASD can include
- Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Plays with toys the same way every time
- Is focused on parts of objects
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
- Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
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Strategies For The Aftermath Of A Meltdown
Meltdowns have impacts in our lives before, during and after they occur. These are things such as making us miss work, physical exhaustion and pain, and hurt feelings. This is the part of the guide with resources to deal with the aftermath of a meltdown.
Repetitive Behaviors Or Stimming
Engaging in certain physical motions or making certain sounds repetitively can relieve stress or anxiety for an adult living with autism or ADHD.
This is self-stimulating behavior, also called stimming, and people with ADHD and throughout the neurotypical spectrum do it as well.
The difference is that autistic adults may have more visible/obvious ways of stimming: Instead of drumming their fingers on a table, a person with autism may rock back and forth or flap their hands.
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How Can You Help
If you, they or others are obviously at risk physically call the police.
Otherwise first and foremost please do not PERSONALISE the behaviour. Pulling away. Withdrawing. Not being able to verbally communicate what is going on for them. Screaming. Trying to run away. Shouting insults. These are all part of the meltdown. They are not a personal attack or because we dont love you.
If it is your partner or loved one and they will allow you please just BE WITH THEM. Hold them if they are open to that. Stroke their hair if they are open to that . DO NOT expect them to talk. Ask instead if they would like to write it down or text/message you. If not be ok with that. You do not need to fix. Just be there. They need you but they cant express this need. For me just being held until I calm is best.
If they are open to it apply essential oils to their feet, Balance and Vetiver can be particularly helpful and Peace to the heart chakra, back of neck and wrists.
If you dont know the person again, be with them, maybe sit beside them quietly, dont ask them to verbally communicate. Offer them your phone or a notepad to see if they would like to write. If not again just be with them until it passes. Again offer to apply essential oils if they are open to it or if you know reiki or another form of energy healing offer that. Otherwise just quietly being with them is good.
If the behaviour is abusive again seek outside assistance.
I hope this is helpful for you.
What Is A Neurodivergent Meltdown
A Neurodivergent Meltdown is a reaction to feelings of intense overwhelm and is NOT a tantrum1. It is not a behaviorthat can be changed. It is not a manipulative action and has no end goal other than to communicate frustration and to help the ND person survive.
Meltdowns are usually impossible to stop once they get going and can vary in intensity. They can look like:
- Crying, sobbing and wailing
- Hitting, kicking, punching, biting
- Intense stimming like rocking, muscle tensing, vocal stims, or joint cracking
Meltdowns can be a way for Neurodivergent people to release pent up frustration, help them process and/or express their emotions .
All Neurotypes can experience meltdowns. ADHD meltdowns are common and are often triggered by rejection sensitivity, distress intolerance2, and emotional regulation issues.
Sensory meltdowns3 happen when there is too much external stimuli for the ND to process at once. They are often attributed to Autism but can occur in other Neurotypes as well.
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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.
Reasons Why Autistic Burnout Might Occur
People described a collection of life stressors.
- Masking their autistic traits, for example by suppressing autistic behaviours, pretending to be non-autistic, or working very hard to act in a non-autistic way.
- Difficult or unreachable expectations from family, school, work, or society in general.
- Stress from living in a world not set up to accommodate autistic people, for example managing the stress of having to be in noisy environments.
- Life-changes and transitions that are stressful for anyone, for example transitioning from school to work, experiencing a mental health crisis, or the death of someone close.
They also described barriers to getting support or relief from the stress.
- Gaslighting or dismissal when attempting to describe the autistic burnout, for example being told that everyone has these experiences, that they just need to try harder, or that they are making it up.
- Poor boundaries or self-advocacy with respect to saying no, taking a break, or asking for help. This may be due to trauma, fear, lack of assistance in learning how, and a history of negative responses from others when they tried.
- Inability to take a break from stress that is so pervasive .
- Insufficient external resources and supports, for example inadequate disability services, lack of useful social support.
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What Meltdowns Feel Like To Me As An Autistic Adult
This cant be said enough an autistic meltdown is not a tantrum!
Sure, some of the outward exhibited behaviors may appear the same, but the causation of an autistic meltdown is often vastly misinterpreted.
So whats the difference?
A tantrum is intentional, manipulative behavior someone exhibits in order to get something they want that they are told they cant have. If they are given that thing, the unpleasant behavior ceases. On the contrary, there is nothing manipulative about an autistic meltdown, nor is it in any way intentional.
An autistic meltdown is a physiological, autonomous response caused by prolonged exposure to cognitive distress, conversational difficulties, social pressures and anxieties, transitions, sudden and unexpected change, and sensory integration issues. Any one or any combination of these stresses can overload an autistic persons mental and physical abilities to cope or compensate.
Once an autistic meltdown begins, there is nothing that can be given to the individual to stop it, as they were never seeking anything in the first place. It has to run its course until its over, and the only thing that will end it is the passage of time.
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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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How Many American Adults Live With Autism
In 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 5.5 million American adults are living with autism spectrum disorder .
Celebrities and prominent public figures who have opened up about being diagnosed with ASD include:
Actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah
New York state assembly representative Yuh-Line Niou
Scottish singer and Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle
Men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than women, according to Autism Speaks.
However, as the authors of a 2017 meta-analysis conclude, the true male-to-female ratio is not four-to-one, rather, it is closer to three-to-one.
The review’s authors call attention to gender bias in diagnosis from pediatricians and mental health professionals.
“There appears to be a diagnostic gender bias,” they write, “meaning that girls who meet criteria for ASD are at disproportionate risk of not receiving a clinical diagnosis.”