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  • 5 Tips to Help Autistic Children During a Meltdown

    Contrary to popular belief, children are often not manipulating us. As they grow and develop, they will begin to push boundaries and learn more about how to communicate their needs and wants. Autistic children in particular, may experience even more difficulty than average with expressing needs and wants, and managing overwhelming responses.

    Meltdowns in Autistic children can be caused by sensory processing difficulties, where some sensations may be too strong or not strong enough. Similarly, anxiety from unpredictability in routines and others’ moods may also build up and lead towards a meltdown. Overall, an accumulation of stressors that may be difficult to communicate, could all lead towards meltdowns.  It is important we maintain empathy in order to understand how to help mitigate meltdowns, rather than exacerbate them.

    Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind in order to help an Autistic child navigate past a meltdown:

    1. Keep yourself calm so you can co-regulate with the child

    If you yourself are frustrated and overwhelmed, it may be difficult to find the calm needed to be safe for the child. Find ways to be mindful, so that you may think clearly and co-regulate rather than escalate the situation.

    1. Be aware of the child’s own sensory profile

    Every autistic child is different, so we cannot make assumptions. Be mindful of the common triggers so that you may remove the trigger, adapt, or move away from the trigger.

    1. Use tools to help adapt to the sense of being overwhelmed

    Many autistic kids thrive on routine and predictability, as this can reduce anxiety. Keeping a visual schedule can help create an expectation for the next transition. Headphones can help block out noise, and going to a kid-friendly area can help them move their bodies in a way that is necessary to regulate. These are just a few examples of adaptations to common triggers.

    1. Give the child time to regulate, rather than rushing
    Although well-intentioned, by rushing them or trying to quickly find a solution, you may be adding more stress to the situation. Let them know you are available to help them regulate, but then step back and let them calm down enough to be receptive to help.

    1. Use visual tools

    If the overwhelming feeling of anxiety and or sensory overload is too strong, then it may be difficult to communicate what they need in order to continue regulating. Using visual tools such as writing or texting, or drawing could help facilitate communication.