6 Things You Can Do To Reduce the Frequency and Intensity of Autistic Meltdowns
BY DYAN ROBSON, AND NEXT COMES L
Photo © feverpitched/123RF
Jan 17, 2019
Meltdowns are hard.
If you're raising an autistic child, or are autistic yourself, then you know that.
Remember, a meltdown is communicating to you that something is too much for your child to handle.
You know that a meltdown is an intense reaction to being overwhelmed or overstimulated and can result in tears, screams, aggression, or even shutting down. Sometimes you feel like you can predict the onset of a meltdown and other times, you feel like you've been completely blindsided by them.
But if you look closely, you can identify patterns or triggers that cause these meltdowns.
Remember, a meltdown is communicating to you that something is too much for your child to handle. Your child is not being bad or bratty on purpose. They're completely overwhelmed.
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Something somewhere has triggered this response. I promise, if you dig deep, you can determine what those triggers might be.
But, let's be honest — meltdowns aren't just going to disappear. However, there are some things you can do to help reduce the frequency and sometimes even the intensity of these meltdowns.
Here are six things you can start doing today to help:
1. Use visual schedules.
Provide your child with a written schedule of what they will be doing during the day is a great strategy to help reduce meltdowns. Many autistic children struggle with transitions, but, by using a visual schedule, your child can see what is coming up next in their day.
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2. Provide lots of sensory activities throughout the day, especially heavy work.
Remember that meltdowns are a response to being overwhelmed by sensory input. By providing your child with lots of sensory activities throughout the day, you can help them regulate their bodies. Heavy work activities such as climbing a tree or putting clothes in the dryer are especially helpful because of the deep pressure they provide to the joints and muscles.
3. Track behaviours and watch for triggers.
I mentioned earlier about tracking behaviours so you can identify potential triggers. It's so important it's worth repeating again. Once you identify some of your child's triggers, you can start to watch for them and hopefully step in to help your child regulate before they get overwhelmed.
4. Minimize triggers.
Once you know your child's triggers, you can try your best to minimize them. For example, one of my son's triggers when he was a preschooler was seeing a countdown timer reach zero and hearing the buzzer go off at his dad's basketball games. The sound of the buzzer was much too loud for him, so we agreed that when the timer reached zero we would cover his ears with both his hands and mine to help mute the sound. Obviously we could have used noise reducing ear muffs, but using our hands worked perfectly fine.
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5. Provide consistent routines.
Autistic kids thrive with routines. Routines provide them with the predictability that they need to help reduce potential overwhelm.
6. Teach your child coping skills and calm down strategies.
Teaching your child how to do deep breathing or use a fidget when they start to get overwhelmed is so important. I cannot stress this point enough. Your child needs to learn ways to help them self-regulate so that they can potentially ward off an incoming meltdown themselves.