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What Does An Autistic Meltdown Feel Like

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Lots Of Autistic Children Will Experience Meltdowns And Watching Them Go Through It Can Be Really Distressing For Parents Especially If You Dont Know How To Help Them Here We Talk To Libby An Autistic Adult Who Experienced Daily Meltdowns When She Was A Child If You Want To Know What A Meltdown Really Feels Like For A Child Read On

People on the Autism Spectrum Describe What a Meltdown Feels Like

Meltdowns are a common behavioural trait for autistic people but little is known about what actually happens during a meltdown and how that person feels when experiencing this sort of behaviour. I hope to explain meltdown behaviour as best as I can based on my own personal experiences as a child.

Meltdown behaviour is expressed by an individual when they are unable to cope within their environment and have become overwhelmed, usually there will be something to trigger this behaviour. Commonly, my triggers are bright lights, crowded areas and loud noises. The more unusual triggers of mine include objects which are out of place or when there are odd numbers of objects instead of even numbers. Everyone will have different triggers and unfortunately those triggers can be difficult to identify.


Let me introduce myself, my name is Libby and I am an autistic adult. I was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, shortly after I was diagnosed with selective mutism disorder. I am twenty-three years old, I study animal science at university and I actively share my experiences online. I have a Twitter page called GrowingUpAutistic which has allowed me to share my story with others and provide support to others.

My meltdowns

What do meltdowns feel like?

Depersonalisation disorder

Can you control meltdowns?

Taking notice of triggers

Fear of judgement

Raising awareness

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.

What Are The Different Types Of Autistic Shutdown

Autistic people may appear cool as a cucumber when in shutdown mode . However, not all is how it seems as, unlike an autistic meltdown which sees the mind reboot our bodies, a shutdown will see our minds rewire our senses, to protect us from what is causing the distress.

According to Autism: An Inside-Out Approach, this can result in one of two autism shutdown subdivides:

  • Temporary Partial Shutdown
  • Extended Systems Shutdown
  • Both of which may seem preferable to the destruction that is a meltdown, but dont let this deceive you into thinking that they dont have strengths and weaknesses of their own. For example:

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    How Autistic Meltdowns Differ From Ordinary Temper Tantrums

    Many parents of typical children refer to their child’s tantrums as “meltdowns.” The word “meltdown,” of course, comes from the catastrophic, dangerous exposure of radioactive material in a nuclear power plantand few typical temper tantrums rise to that level of intensity.

    Autistic meltdowns, however, come closer to the euphemistic meaning of the term. In addition, autistic meltdowns have specific qualities that make them different from the average temper tantrum.

    What Should You Not Say To Someone With Autism

    What does an autism meltdown look like?

    5 things to NEVER say to someone with Autism:Dont worry, everyones a little Autistic. No. You must be like Rainman or something. Here we go again not everyone on the spectrum is a genius. Do you take medication for that? This breaks my heart every time I hear it. I have social issues too. You seem so normal!Dec 13, 2017

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    Concentrate On Your Affected Child Not Staring Bystanders

    Your concentration should be your child who is going through the natural sign of a meltdown.

    You might feel overwhelmed when the affected child is having a meltdown in public.

    You might think that they are judging for having a child who is having a meltdown and question your parenting skills.

    You should ignore these thoughts and remember that your affected child is suffering and he or she needs your support.

    Is Level 2 Autism High Functioning

    Yes, level 2 autism is high-functioning. This kind of autism is also called Aspergers syndrome by doctors.

    People who have this kind of autism would need more support such as psychological therapies like speech therapy or social skills training.If you want to learn about this condition and how to implement effective strategies to improve their quality of life, check the Best Books for High Functioning Autism.

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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.

    Qualities Of An Autistic Meltdown

    What Does An Autistic Meltdown Feel Like? (meltdown – An Autism Short Film)

    An autistic meltdown is bigger, more emotional, longer-lasting, and more difficult to manage than the average temper tantrum. They are also qualitatively different from the average tantrum because they generally occur for different reasons, are surprisingly predictable, and have different outcomes in children with autism.

    Specifically, autistic meltdowns are characterized by the following features:

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    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.

    Whats The Difference Between A Tantrum And A Meltdown

    The Difference Between Meltdowns and Tantrums. Tantrums and meltdowns are hard to understand,tough to prevent,and seemingly impossible to handle when they happen.

  • About Tantrums and Meltdowns. A child may have a tantrum when he is trying to get something.
  • Differences between Tantrums and Meltdown.
  • Handling Tantrums and Meltdowns.
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    What Its Like To Have A Severe Autism Meltdown

    One of the biggest fears a person can have is loss of control of self. The other is fear of the unknown. For many with autism, the unknown can trigger a loss of control. One great fear leads to another.

    There are many sources out there that will tell you why we do what we do. . Articles will explain why we cannot handle change. Speakers will express the process of transition. Trainers will teach the need for scheduling and routine. However, there comes a point where none of these suggestions is helpful, and a meltdown still occurs. Like a seizure, it can happen out of nowhere, and it can be very frightening and traumatic for the autistic person . Especially when the cause of the meltdown is unknown. It is terrifying!

    You may be very used to meltdowns that your child or adult child may have. However, a meltdown can look quite different in another person. Meltdowns can look like any of these actions: withdrawal or outward distress . Since you have experience with autism, you can offer help to that person in distress.

    How Can Adults With Autism Deal With Meltdowns

    What does a meltdown feel like?

    These five strategies can help autistic adults better cope with meltdowns.

    1. Identify triggers.

    I have written before about considering emotional regulation as a timeline. Autistic adults are advised to develop strategies to notice where they are on that timeline in order to get a sense of how easily triggered they might be at a particular moment. They should pay attention to their mood, as well as notice how tired or stressed they already are.

    Ask: Is there a potential for me to be more easily triggered? Is the type of situation I’m going into the same type of situation that has triggered a meltdown in the past? Can I avoid putting myself into that situation until a time when I feel more rested and less stressed?

    2, Get the right support.

    No one likes losing control. If our actions have affected someone else, were probably going to feel bad about it. However, its important for autistic adults to explain to those people close to them whats happening when a meltdown occurs to ensure theyre supportive and understanding.

    Several of my clients have shared the criticism they receive from relatives, friends, and partners when they have meltdowns. Elaine, for example, told me, I recently went into total meltdown after being grabbed unexpectedly by a friend. I managed to get out of the situation and ended up outside, banging my head until it bled. My husband was so embarrassed and critical of me afterward.

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    How Is A Meltdown Different For An Autistic Child

    Its not your imagination.

    Your child has more meltdowns than most children. The question is why? Why does everything seem like such a big deal???

    The answer to that question is all about the nervous system. The nervous system pretty much controls everything that we think, say, feel, and do.

    Its the system that is made up of our brain and all of our nerves. For our Autistic kiddos, this system is not running like a well oiled machine.

    Its more like a cell phone trying to get service in the middle of nowhere.

    If you stand in just the right place, at just the right time, you get a signal. Face the other direction or shift your weight and you catch every other word. Or worse yet, maybe you just get disconnected.

    Not receiving accurate or consistent information is exhausting.

    Which meansyour child can more easily become completely overwhelmed by just about anything .

    Now, dont get me wrong, no one has the same nervous system as someone else. Autistic or not autistic. If we stick with the cell phone analogy, every person has a different plan.

    Thats why there is a saying if you have met one person with Autism, you have met one person with Autism. What is a stressor to one person, very well might not even bother another person.

    Coping Strategies For Dealing With Meltdowns

    Meltdowns are something which many people with autism experience and which they may have experienced since childhood. Meltdowns can be distinguished from tantrums on the basis of having no end-goal in sight. You dont have a meltdown because you want to achieve something from it . You have a meltdown because you have absolutely no other way of responding to a situation. In terms of emotional regulation, youve completely lost your ability to maintain control.

    Meltdowns may result in you screaming, crying, throwing things, shaking, and/or yelling hurtful comments. They can be scary and damaging to people around you and, when youve had a meltdown, chances are you feel pretty bad about it.

    So how can you deal with the fallout? The following strategies may help.

    1. Accept that you did not want to act in this way.

    2. Have a safe place for the immediate aftermath.

    3. Working with those people close to you.

    Meltdowns have an impact on people close to you and witnessing someone who is having a meltdown can be a disturbing experience. When you are ready to, it is important to discuss your meltdown with those people who may have been affected by it. It could also be useful to show them some autistic resources which explain the experiences of other people with autism who experience meltdowns, as it can be a very difficult concept for other people to understand.

    4. Recognise when a meltdown is coming.

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    Is Autism Inherited From The Mother Or Father

    Clues to the first two questions come from studies that have shown that at least 30% of individuals with autism have spontaneous de novo mutations that occurred in the fathers sperm or mothers egg and disrupt genes important for brain development, these spontaneous mutations likely cause autism in families where

    How Do You Calm An Autistic Tantrum

    AUTISM | meltdown & shutdown – what does it mean and how do I help?

    What to do during a very loud, very public meltdownBe empathetic. Empathy means listening and acknowledging their struggle without judgment. Make them feel safe and loved. Eliminate punishments. Focus on your child, not staring bystanders. Break out your sensory toolkit. Teach them coping strategies once theyre calm.Apr 18, 2018

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    What Does A Meltdown Feel Like

    I know everyone is different but I’m curious, what do people’s meltdown feel like, consist of?

    For me before a meltdown the world around me seems to shrink, so my personal space zone etc and everything gets louder. I have to hide and get away from the place I’m in. If I’m lucky and caught myself in time I just step away and can sit and breathe for a few minutes but if I’m not I end up sitting somewhere and crying 🙁

    My place of work doesn’t have a prayer/quiet room at the moment which means the only place I can go to hide for a few … A toilet cubicle which is accross the hall from my office and through a big open plan area, so in order to get to it I have the leave my shared office which was noisy and crowded then enter and cross a much larger and also noisy area … Fun times.

    I’m in discussion with work for some noise cancelling headphones and to see if the lights can be changed or dimmed.

    So that’s my meltdown, what about you guys?

    What It Feels Like To Have A Meltdown

    Lets get this over and done with.

    Ive talked a lot about what causes a meltdown, but for this blog post, Ill talk about what it felt like to have one. I dont have them today, though I do get mad easily at times not gonna lie. Mostly over the stupidest of things and for the fun of it to use that energy to get stuff done by letting off all that steam.

    The vast majority of children with autism do not want to have a meltdown, same with everyone else that does not have autism. No one wants these things to happen. Here is why.

    When a person doesnt keep it together as hard as they try, eventually, the brain starts to explode! I like to think of a meltdown as a ticking time bomb. I know the old saying that relates to having a short fuse in the topic of temper I know I get that way when Im starving. Meltdowns are a lot like having a fuse and the length varies on everyone. Keeping a meltdown from happening is like putting out the fuse however way they can before it all goes off.

    What happens when the bomb explodes? This is when the meltdown truly starts happening, and it is not pretty. I will do my best to tell you what it was like as much as I do not like talking about it. Least for here, I can talk about it once on the blog. Here we go.

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    What To Do During A Very Loud Very Public Meltdown

    When our child has a meltdown, parents often want to stop the tears because it hurts our hearts that our kids are struggling. Or were running low on patience and just want peace and quiet.

    Many times, were coping with the fifth or sixth meltdown that morning over seemingly simple things like the tag in their shirt being too itchy, their sister talking too loudly, or a change in plans.

    Autistic children arent crying, wailing, or flailing to get at us somehow.

    Theyre crying because its what their bodies need to do in that moment to release tension and emotion from feeling overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations.

    Their brains are wired differently and so its how they interact with the world. Thats something we have to come to terms with as parents so we can support them in the best way.

    So how can we effectively support our children through these often loud and thrashing meltdowns?

    Autism Therapy Services Offered At Open Doors Therapy:

    What it

    Our autism therapy clinic located in the South Bay Area serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. We help high functioning individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed ASD traits, and their families.

    Right now, we are providing all our autism counseling services online. Our autism therapists offer a variety of counseling services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. Also, we run several different social skills groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, neurodiverse adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Contact our autism therapy office for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.

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