Make Your Child Feel Safe
Your first priority during a meltdown is to remove any triggers. This may require you to switch off music or perhaps leave a store in search of a quieter, more soothing environment. You want to do everything you can to create a quiet, cozy space where your child will feel safe. One way to do this is to put up a tent somewhere quiet. While this will help your child calm down, it isnt always an option. For those times when you cant find a quiet place to soothe your child, you can simply cradle your child in your arms until they calm down. This may take time, but it should help keep them calm.
Acknowledge Emotions After They Are Done With Their Emotional Response
After or sometimes during an emotional response or tantrum I will acknowledge my toddler’s emotions. I wrote more in detail about acknowledgement in my post sharing my favorite tip for calming tantrums. Simple acknowledgement helps toddlers realize that their big emotions are OK and helps them release them and move through the emotions faster.
How To Choose The Right Activity
There are many ways for people with autism and their family members to enjoy hobbies and activities together. In some cases, accommodations are needed, but in many cases, autism is either no issue or is actually an advantage.
The key to success, however, is to choose an activity and a venue that is comfortable for and interesting to your autistic child.
To choose an appropriate activity, start by observing your child’s play and, if he is verbal, ask questions. What does your autistic family member enjoy? How does he or she choose to share interests with you?
Next, try joining your child’s activity. Rather than leaping in with your own ideas and direction, however, try following your child’s lead.
Many of us have been taught that there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to play a game or build a structure, and we want our child to “do it right.” But when you’re working with an autistic child, the first and most important step is engagement and communication, not instruction.
Think about ways to expand on your child’s interest. How can you take an interactive role in her favorite pastimes? How can you expand on her interests and help her to explore the world?
If she likes watching Sesame Street, might she also enjoy a puppet show? If he loves collecting baseball cards, would he enjoy watching a game on TV or in the real world?
If there are challenges think about ways to work around them to help your child to cope.
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Problems That Might Arise Due To Throwing Things
If throwing becomes an ingrained habit, it may become a behavioral attribute. A toddler who becomes habituated to throwing things may develop the following undesired traits.
Recognize The Behavior Is A Call For Help Or Trying To Communicate Something
The first thing you need to recognize is that toddlers are still learning and many of their challenging behaviors are their way of trying to communicate something. They may also just be exploring the materials that are around them and trying to figure out their uses. When you figure out why your child is doing a particular behavior it makes it much easier to help them stop it.
For example, I’ve noticed when I am distracted and ignoring my toddler, he sometimes throws toys at me to get my attention. I’ve also noticed that he’s thrown really hard round objects at his siblings that he thought were balls to throw and catch with.
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A Tantrum Is For Attention A Sensory Meltdown Isnt
Weve all seen a child throwing a tantrum and taking every chance they get to watch their moms reaction.
A tantrum can be fueled by the attention it receives, so many experts advise moms to ignore the child during the tantrum.
As a mama of four, I can tell you, this works with tantrums! Ignore them.
If youre at home, go to another room. If youre out and about, you will get mean looks from strangers, but ignore them too.
A tantrum is only effective if its given enough attention to give the child their way, so dont do it.
A sensory meltdown, however, doesnt care about attention.
A child in the middle of a sensory meltdown will have no idea who is paying attention to them because they truly dont have the energy to care.
But What Do I Do Right Now
IGNORE If you know the behavior isnt in response to true physical pain, and the behavior is non-harmful, seek to ignore it. For example, if your child is throwing crayons at you get up and walk out of the room. Any verbal discipline or chastisement actually reinforces what your child most likely wantedyour attention!
After some time away from the child, return to the room and offer your presence.
REMOVE Until you start practicing ABA principles at home and preparing your child for upcoming triggers, you may need to remove your child from the situation. This may mean that in the short term you leave the store without finishing your grocery list or your child goes to his room until visitors leave the house.
Remember ABA is all about working toward long-term changes in behavior, and sometimes short-term solutions will only prolong the change process.
For some children time outs are effective both at home and in public. However, they are only part of the story and alone will not result in long-term change.
Spanking is highly discouraged when working with children with autism.
Why? Because your childs final takeaway will be that when others do something they dont like, they can respond physically. This can lead to hitting other children or throwing rocks on the playground when they are upset.
In addition, spanking fails to take into account the reality that your child may be acting out because he or she is truly in pain or experiencing a valid need.
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Qualities Of An Autistic Meltdown
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:
Obsessions And Obsessive Behaviors In Autism
There is absolutely no one who has a child with autism and does not know what obsession is. No matter where the child is on the autism spectrum, it is not possible that a child with autism who has not been dragged in the vortex of obsession at least for some time in his/her life.
Obsessive behaviors seen in children with autism spectrum disorder are a condition that is minimized with early diagnosis and treatment and is extremely important in the socialization of the child. The parental factor is very important in the treatment of obsessive behaviors and obsessions. Being conscious of parents and being a patient and motivating an individual in resolving behavioral problems while living with a child with autism enables rapid progress in treatment.
All children have favorite toys, activities, and conversation topics, but for children and teens with autism, these interests are typically more intense and focused than developing children.
Young children may collect things like branches or balls, or want to know the birthday of everyone they meet. They can open and close the doors repeatedly or rush to each new place to find and wash the toilet. Older children may have very narrow interests or interests, such as needing to know everything possible about trains.
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Allow Their Emotional Response
Often my son will be super annoyed about the consequences . He may cry or get angry. At our house that is totally OK as long as he is being safe and not hurting himself or others. I can say supportive things or I can just be quiet and stay nearby while my toddler is angry. In our house I don’t put my toddler in time out because I don’t believe that time out is effective. I just move my toddler away from the item he wants to play with and stay close by.
Allow The World To Teach Them That Autism Is A Bad Thing
Right from the moment we hear about it, were instructed to believe that autism is A Bad Thing. Thats why people like me get so many messages from worried parents, asking what theyre supposed to do post-diagnosis because they dont know anything about autism.
But their worries reveal that they do know one thing about it: its supposed to be bad.
Speaking as an autistic man, my opinions differ somewhat. But I understand their panic completely. The unknown can be very scary if you feel somethings bad but you dont know why.
Now, non-autistic people seeing only the negatives is counterproductive enough. But imagine the damage that gets done when autistic people themselves are led to believe that their autism makes them deficient.
Heck, combine this point with #1 and talk about how terrible autism is right in front of them, and watch what happens to their self-esteem!
Ill give two examples that struck me greatly. First of all, theres Cadence.
For those who arent aware, and this picture below went sort-of-viral not long ago.
You may have already spotted the most tragic sentence , but Ill quote it anyway:
Grownups always say its hard being mum or dad if your kid is autism.
Looking at their page, it becomes obvious that Mum and Dad are doing a sterling job as parents. But other people- the TV, and perhaps even society itself- have led Cadence to believe that a large part of her personality is A Bad Thing. Which is absolutely not fair.
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Why Do Toddlers Throw Things
The simple act of throwing things could have several underlying reasons. A toddler may throw things for the following reasons .
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.
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Autism Meltdowns Come From Overwhelm Or Overstimulation
Next, lets answer the question. What is an autism meltdown? A meltdown is when the child loses control over his behavior and can only be calmed down by a parent, or when he reaches the point of exhaustion. These will sometimes be referred to as autism outbursts, but we will refer to it solely as an autism meltdown in this article.
Meltdowns are reactions to feeling overwhelmed and are often seen as a result of sensory overstimulation. Tantrums can lead to meltdowns, so it can be hard to tell the difference between the two outbursts if youre not attuned to your childs sensory signals.
For more information on sensory processing, check out Harklas article here.
When a person with autism experiences too much sensory stimulation, their central nervous system is overwhelmed and unable to process all of the input. Its a physiological “traffic jam” in your central nervous system and the sensory overstimulation is not unlike a maladaptive response to an actual traffic jam.
Weve all had the experience of happily driving to our destination, cruising down the highway singing along to our favorite song, when all of a sudden traffic comes to a dead stop. Now, instead of comfortably cruising , youre at a standstill surrounded by imposing big trucks, offensive exhaust fumes, blaring horns, and the blazing hot sun peeking through your windows.
The last thing you want is to be stuck in your car in that traffic jam – you want out!
Lawful Basis For Processing Your Data
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Ways To Handle Violent Autistic Behaviour
Responding to violent autistic behavior in toddlers and children requires significant parental considerations. Interspersions, not intensities will worsen the behavior further for the child. For example, lets take Adam, who likes hit the child next to him in school because he likes to hear the other childs reactionHe hit me! Or, lets talk about Sophie who, out of jealousy, throws her classmates stationaries off the table and on the ground.
For children with high functioning or borderline autism, it is often the attention they get from being difficult that keeps children into the habit. For parents, the time to act is now! If you dont intervene today, the problem would only grow, not to mention that there can be another child victimized tomorrow.
While many of you may have taken temporary measures to alleviate this problem, unless you have a longer-term autistic behavior control strategy in place, the child might end up hurting several others and in worst cases, him/herself.
Whats The Difference Between A Meltdown And A Tantrum
A good place to start is by understanding the difference between a sensory meltdown and a tantrum. The two are easily confused which is why many dismiss meltdowns as nothing more than a badly behaved childs cry for attention. This couldnt be further from the truth.
Tantrums are behavioural outbursts which are a deliberate attempt to get something. A child could have a tantrum for many different reasons. They could, for example, want their parents attention or perhaps they want their parents to buy a specific toy. Unlike meltdowns, a child having a tantrum is in control of their behavior, and will most likely stop acting out when they get what they want. Tantrums and meltdowns are very different and cannot be handled in the same way. By simply dismissing a meltdown as a petulant child acting out, you can cause severe harm to a child with special needs.
We put together some tips which may help you calm your special child during these trying times. But remember, what calms one child with special needs may not work for another. The important thing is to be understanding, patient and loving. That is after all what a child needs most during a sensory meltdown.
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And Finally Theres An Extension To This Article Containing Points 6
Yeah, I originally planned to just extend this article, but instead Ive doubled it.
Writing for Autistic Not Weird has now become my job, thanks to those who support me via Patreon. The extension to this article is a thank you to anyone who thinks my work is worth $5 per month or more, and allows me to spend my time helping the autism community worldwide. To those interested: