Does your child have autism spectrum disorder? Both of my kids do and so do I. In our home we live and breathe autism. But there are some really unpleasant times where autism really takes over and our kids suffer from autism meltdowns.
What’s an Autism Meltdown?
An autism meltdown occurs when a person on the autism spectrum becomes overwhelmed and loses control of their behavior. And most of the time the person having the meltdown is not aware why they are having the meltdown.
Although autism meltdowns are not as easily recognized by everyone here are a few autistic meltdown symptoms to look out for.
- hurting themselves
- breaking things
My daughter used to pull out hand fulls of hair during her autism meltdowns, and it truly is difficult to watch.
*I am not a doctor or a medical professional but this was my experience of raising two children with autism spectrum disorder while also having autism myself. This page may contain affiliate links, however, I will never recommend anything that I do not believe in and use myself. You can read more about my disclosure policy here.
What is the Difference Between a Tantrum and Autism Meltdown?
There have been many occasions where people have assumed that my autistic child was just having normal toddler tantrums, however, very often that was not the case at all.
Of course, every child has a tantrum, but there are some big differences between a normal toddler tantrum and an autism meltdown.
- Tantrums are attention seeking behavior.
- A toddler throwing a tantrum is trying to manipulate their parents into giving them what they want.
- During a tantrum, the child is in complete control of themselves and will calm down right away once they get what they want.
- Autism meltdowns are out of your child’s control.
- During an autism meltdown, the child is not looking for attention.
- Once the meltdown has started it’s gone too far so, even giving your child what they want will not calm the meltdown.
What Triggers Autism Meltdowns?
In an autistic mind, things are being processed much more quickly than “normal.” And because of this many people on the autism spectrum experience autism meltdowns caused by the ever-changing world around them.
Here are a few things that could be causing autism meltdowns in your child.
Change in Routine
Routine is literally everything for most children on the autism spectrum. Literally, they need to have that consistency to be prepared for what is going to happen next throughout their day.
And unfortunately sometimes no matter how consistent we try to be the routine gets changed. This is when the fear of unpredictability sets in and your autistic child could suffer an autism meltdown.
Many children with autism spectrum disorder have sensory issues and often get sensory overload – where your child has received too much sensory input in one way or another.
This often happens with my kids with too many loud noises or screaming in the house.
Childhood can be emotional whether you are a “typical” child or even a child with autism. But being overloaded with emotions can really cause an unexpected autism meltdown in your child.
Most children with autism also suffer from some anxiety that can truly take over and cause them to be overwhelmed. Just that constant worry is truly debilitating. This can also lead to an autism meltdown.
1. Try to Stay Calm
Although witnessing an autism meltdown can really make you anxious and upset, try your absolute best to stay calm for your child. During an autism meltdown your child cannot stay calm no matter how hard they try, so keeping your cool can help to avoid any extra fuel for the meltdown.
2. Be Understanding of Your Child’s Feelings
Always try to remember that your child is not in control of their behavior during an autism meltdown, and it is just as scary for them as it is for you. Just being understanding can really make a huge difference in how you and your child handle the meltdown.
3. Ask for Help
They say that raising a child takes a village, and I certainly feel like that is even truer when you are raising a child with autism spectrum disorder. Dealing with all of the autism meltdowns can really weigh you down. So ask for help wherever you can.
My husband and I are united in our parenting and when one of us needs a break we can rely on the other to take over for a minute.
4. Give Distraction a Try
Of course, once a child has entered into an autism meltdown just giving them a toy or something to distract them will often not diffuse the meltdown. But taking them into a different room or if you are out of the house sometimes a change of scenery can take them away from whatever caused the meltdown.
5. Do not Punish Your Child for an Autism Meltdown
Autism meltdowns are no one’s fault. They simply happen when people with autism become overloaded and just explode.
Always remember that your child is not acting out and they are truly suffering through each and every autism meltdown. So punishing them is not going to do anyone any good.
6. Take Your Child to A Safe and Quiet Room
One great way to help your child to get through an autism meltdown is to take them to a safe and quiet room to let the meltdown run it’s course and allow your child to calm down.
By setting up their room as a safe place they can go, they will eventually learn that when they are overwhelmed this is a place they can go before getting to the meltdown stage.
7. Remove Dangerous Objects
When you notice your child is getting close to an autism meltdown, make sure there are no dangerous objects around that can be thrown or used to hurt anyone.
This is one reason that we often take our children to their bedrooms during an autism meltdown since it’s safe and they cannot hurt anyone.
8. Use a Weighted Blanket
It has been proven that weighted blankets can help to release calming hormones in the body when laying under them. This is called deep pressure therapy.
Keeping a weighted blanket for your child to get under during an autism meltdown is a great way to help them calm down.
- 10 Lifesaving Tips for Helping Your Child with Autism Sleep Through the Night
- Can a Weighted Blanket Truly Help My Child with Autism Sleep?
9. Give Them Time to Recover From the Meltdown
Sometimes after you’ve tried everything else, all you can do is give the meltdown time to run its course. Your child will calm down. Believe me.
And once they do calm down, they will be responsive and may be able to talk to you about what caused the autism meltdown.