Monday, May 20, 2024

What Does An Autistic Meltdown Look Like

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what my autistic meltdown can look like

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 To Support Your Child

Taking steps to support your child may reduce or prevent meltdowns. It can help to:

  • Have a visual system to show them whats coming up that day. Timetables or visual timers can be useful.
  • Use emotion thermometers or labelling to help communicate.
  • Be consistent. Put routines in place. Make sure your child knows when things are happening. Try to keep the routines every day.
  • Think about how you will support your child if unexpected events happen.
  • Help you child understand what to expect in certain situations. Social Stories can support with this.

Do You Know The Signs Of An Autistic Meltdown

Sarinah discusses autistic meltdowns what they are and how to identify them.

Common signs of a meltdown include hand flapping, head hitting, kicking, pacing, rocking, hyperventilating, being unable to communicate, and completely withdrawing into myself. All of these behaviours are methods of coping.

There are many things that can cause a meltdown but perhaps the most prevalent is heightened sensory processing. This can increase sensitivity to light, smell, heat, sound, taste and touch. An example of this can be the increased awareness of feeling your clothes against the skin. Underlying feelings of anxiety, stress or ambivalence can often make the sensory overload more severe.

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Having A Mini Meltdown

The last couple of days I tried to look for a job the same way a neurotypical person would, or at least how I imagine they do it. That means applying for every job that I think I have chances of getting, even if I dont particularly want to work in that place. And the result is, Im having a mini meltdown now.

Its really not a good timing as Ill have an interview for a job I really want to do in just over an hour. It will be over the phone so at least I dont have to go anywhere.

I already had a couple of interviews and will also have another three tomorrow. One of them was arranged yesterday, when a recruitment consultant called me. The job is in a care home. I told him Im not looking for permanent job and then he asked me if I can work 3 long days a week. I suppose I can, I said, and this way I will have an interview there.

I feel horrible now, arranging interviews for jobs I dont really want to do for various reasons feels like Im disturbing other people order of things. I guess this is autistic equivalent of emapathy: I may find it difficult to imagine how other people feel but Im really focused on not messing up the system that they are part of. I imagine that theyll get confused and irritated if I turn up for the interview, theyll offer me the job and Ill reject it.

Not messing up the things for them seems much more important than finding a job that Ill be really happy with .

What Happens In The Lead

What Is a Autism Meltdown? A Meltdown Is an Intense ...

Let it be known that the autistic mind is a fantastic place. Whereas non-autistic people are great at making little connections across a range of different topics, the autistic mind loves to dig deep and discover everything it can about one specific subject. This is the reason autistic people can often come across as obsessive/highly informed, however, this fantastic mind also comes with a catch.

Due to what can only be described as the ultimate thirst for knowledge, autistic people are a lot more likely to become overwhelmed than those without the condition as, when put in a position where information conflicts with the tightly linked understanding that our brains have built up, we become uncertain, lost and subsequently panicked.

While Im not particularly fond of comparing autistic people to machines, I have seen the beginning of an autistic meltdown quite accurately likened to how most people react to something going wrong with a computer where instead of letting the computer/the problem calm down, a person/the autistic mind will continue to put in demands: throwing everything they know at it in the hope that they will miraculously fix it.

As most know by now, this usually has the opposite effect as, during this build up , things go from uh-oh to oh-no in a split second.

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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 .

Our Aba Therapy Can Help You And Your Child With Autism Deal With Challenging Behaviors

Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is one of the most proven effective treatment approaches to helping children with autism achieve their full potential. Board Certified Behavioral Analysts like ours at The Autism Therapy Group work with you and your child using a personalized treatment plan to overcome difficulties in:

  • Communication
  • Learning and academic skills
  • Play skills

ABA therapy and early intervention in your childs life is an excellent way to better understand your childs autism behavior triggers and how you both can learn how to deal with them at home and in public.

Through ABA therapy, your child can build the emotional self-management skills they need to help minimize the chances of challenging behaviors. What your child learns through their personalized treatment plan can also aid in their ability to effectively communicate their needs and wants, which will, in turn, lead to fewer meltdowns too.

If you are in the Chicago area and looking for help dealing with and avoiding as many autism meltdowns as you can, reach out to us. Our team of high-quality autism experts is here and ready to walk you and your child through a customized treatment plan that can help.

Also Check: Does Autism Come From The Mother Or Father

How To Handle A Meltdown In Public

This can happen to anyone. Parents and caregivers could be low on patience while also hurting for their struggling child.

Remember that autistic children do not have meltdowns and cry or flail just to get at you.They cry because they need to release tension from their bodies in some way. They are overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations.

There are some ways to effectively support your child when they are having a meltdown in public. Here are some of them.

Equip them with coping skills: Meltdowns cant be helped at that very moment. But afterwards, you can teach your child how to regulate their emotions. Try relaxing activities like going for walks. These calming activities will help them calm down even before the meltdown happens.

Feeling safe and loved: Trying to talk a child down from having a meltdown is not a great strategy when it comes to calm an autistic child. Be there for them. Let them know that they are safe at that moment. Stay close as much as their comfort allows. Dont leave them alone to be out of a meltdown and find no one in the room. This could send a message that they dont deserve to be around the people they love when it gets tough.

Empathy is key: Listen and understand their situation. Tell them expressing emotions is okay, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. If your child with autism can feel like they are being heard, they will feel that their experience is validated. Try to give them tools to express themselves in a safe way.

How To Handle Autism Meltdowns

Why do autistic meltdowns happen? A look at the autistic brain

When considering how to deal with meltdowns in children with autism, its crucial to remind yourself your child isnt having a meltdown to get attention or get their way. They arent naughty. They are trying to communicate to you that they feel overwhelmed and distressed. You may want to explain this to your family members and the families of your childs peers.

Tips for how to deal with autism meltdowns and challenging behaviors:

  • Move to a quiet, safe space.

If possible, try to move away from the stimulation that led to the meltdown. If you are in a public area, you may have to plan for where you may go if challenging behaviors happen. If you are in a situation where you have control over loud noises and bright lights, do your best to eliminate them to create a calm environment.

It is also a good idea to pack an autism meltdown survival kit for possible public meltdown situations. Include soothing items your child likes to use to feel safe and cope with feeling overstimulated. These could include noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, or a weighted blanket or lap pad.

  • Give them time

And if your child doesnt respond to you right away during their meltdown, dont take it personally. Theyll respond when they are ready.

  • Focus on your child

Challenging behaviors can undoubtedly get loud and attract unwanted attention from onlookers. You may hear judgmental comments and see wide-eyed dismay on the faces of others.

  • Teach coping strategies

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How Long Do Autism Meltdowns Last

They might fall down, act out, cry, swear, scream, throw things, hit themselves or others, run away from you, or bite. Meltdowns can last from minutes to hours. Meltdowns are not your childs way of manipulating you: Meltdowns are emotional explosions. Your child is overloaded and is incapable of rational thinking.

Carry On The Conversation:

Shutdowns are so understudied within autism that much of the information taken today comes from only 1 or 2 sources. As such, if you want to contribute to the understanding, I encourage you to share your personal or second-hand experiences of autistic shutdown, as well as any good practices for dealing with them, in the comments below.

Additionally, if you would like to read more about how autistic people regulate and process our senses, check out this article titled: Autism and Emotion Recognition: What is INTEROCEPTION?

As always, I can be found on Twitter and via my email:

f you like what you have seen on the site today, then show your support by liking the . Also, dont forget to sign up to the Autistic & Unapologetic newsletter where I share weekly updates as well as a fascinating fact I have found throughout the week.

Thank you for reading and I will see you next week for more thoughts from across the spectrum.

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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.

Children with autism 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?

Meltdown Warning Signs And Prevention

What does an autism meltdown look like?

As careful as you might be with avoiding activities or situations that can lead to meltdowns, it just is not feasible to duck away from meltdowns entirely. You can, however, try to intervene and stop a meltdown in its tracks before it goes full-force by picking up on your childs warning signs.

Common meltdown warning signs in children with autism are:

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Neuromodulation Of The Cerebellum Influences Social Behavior

Allowing yourself to engage in stimming behaviourssuch as rocking, rubbing feet, and hand-flappingcan also have a calming effect on people in the pre-meltdown phase. Thinking about the meltdown as a peak in terms of a timelineone that starts from having self-care strategies, such as ensuring youve had enough sleep and are finding ways to manage stress, to the immediate build-up, to the calming down phase can help you regain control. This is in stark contrast to simply hoping that it wont happen again.

Although meltdowns and autism tend to go hand in hand for many people, it is possible, with the right strategies in place, to reduce their intensity and frequency.

For information and support, please visit


1. Mazefsky, CA, Herrington, J, Siegel, M, Scafa, A, Maddox, BB, Scahill, L, White, SW The role of emotion regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 52, 7, 679-688

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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How To Calm Down An Autistic Child During A Meltdown

A meltdown is generally a reaction by the individual as they are overwhelmed. The first thing in learning how to calm an autistic child is to identify what is actually overwhelming for them.

By identifying the trigger, the meltdowns could be prevented later on. Keep a diary to see if meltdowns occur at particular times or places.However, there are also things to try while the autistic child is having a meltdown to calm them down. Here are some tips and strategies:

How To Use An Autism Meltdown Kit

People on the Autism Spectrum Describe What a Meltdown Feels Like

A meltdown kit or a calm down kit is a customized set of objects that help prevent or de-escalate a childs meltdown.

To create your own meltdown kit, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

What kind of toys/activities does my child like to do?Can this item help stop or lessen a meltdown?Does this item have the texture/shape/color my child likes?

Based on the answers to your questions, here are some items that can be included in your childs kit:

  • Fidget toys
  • Sensory objects
  • Sunglasses
  • Puzzles
  • Musical instrument

Note that giving this kit to your child is ideal for preventing a meltdown. It might not work if the child is already in the middle of a meltdown.

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What To Do If Your Child Has Shutdowns

The best thing you can do for your child is provide patience and support. Shutdowns are nerve-racking for you, but also for the person experiencing them. Do what you can to be a source of comfort instead of more stress. Dont panic, ask too many questions, or go overboard trying to comfort him/her.

Watch out for what triggers your childs shutdowns and avoid it as much as possible. If its something that cant be totally avoided, like social interaction, try to find a way to make it less stressful. For example, you can keep socializing brief and gradually work up to longer visits. Provide an opportunity for your child to take a break and alternate the trigger activity with a fun one.

Some kids show a specific sign before shutting down, so watch out for that, too. The girl in the case study, for instance, rubbed her eyes when overwhelmed.

If you see a shutdown coming on, or if its started, remove your child from the environment if you can. Go to a side room, outdoors, out to the caranywhere thats calmer and quieter.

What you do next depends on what your son or daughter wants. Some kids want to hold hands, hug, or chat while they recover from overload. For others, any extra sensory input is too much, and they would rather have space to be alone while they process.

Sometimes, special interests can be helpful. A favorite stuffed animal, fidget toy, book, or other belonging might comfort your child and redirect his/her thoughts.

What Triggers Autistic Meltdowns

An autistic meltdown is usually caused by a sense of overload. Your child will have no control over their reaction. They may not be able to tell you when they feel overwhelmed.

Learning what triggers a meltdown can help you feel more prepared. Every child is different, but some common triggers include:

  • Sensory overload or understimulation. This is when a child is sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell, visuals or movements.
  • Changes in routine or dealing with an unexpected change. People with autism often prefer to have a routine in place. They can be sensitive to even small changes.
  • Anxiety or anxious feelings.
  • Being unable to describe what they need or want. Communication is often non-typical for those with autism. It can feel frustrating for them when theyre misunderstood.

Keeping a behaviour diary can help spot possible patterns. Note down when meltdowns happen. Write down what you were doing, where, and your childs reaction.

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