Meltdowns… that moment when everything just gets to much, someone with autism gets overwhelmed and can react in a variety of ways.
- Crying… sometimes looking like a tantrum
- Withdrawing… going very quiet and into themselves
- Flapping/ Spinning or repetitive behaviours
- Shouting and Screaming
- Hitting Out
- Running Away
This list is not exhaustive, as autism is a spectrum and each person is an individual the way that one person acts when overwhelmed can be very different to the way that another acts.
My son has 2 things that he does, the top 2, he either gets very upset, very quickly, its like a bomb has gone off in his mind, this isn’t a tantrum this is different, and it is important to recognise the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.
If a person is having a meltdown, a distraction won’t stop it, bribery won’t stop it, kissed and cuddles won’t stop it, and putting a child in time out for doing it, is not going to fix it.
The only way that we have found to help my son come out of any meltdown is to let him sit on his own with a blanket wrapped right round him, usually over his head aswell, until he can reset and start again.
Withdrawing is more common at school than at home, his face looses all expression, and he goes deadly silent and still, he just freezes unable to react to anything and it takes a lot of time for him to come out of one of these. Again he needs the time on his own to reset, the problem is that as this is a quite withdrawal rather than a screaming episode, much of the time this can get missed, he can come across as just being quiet.
He has a lovely 1:1 at school now, she is very experienced and she can spot one of these before they develop into something that might take ages to come back from. Previously he could have been in this withdrawn state for most of the day and then come home and explode.
There are a number of places and things that are likely to cause meltdowns, and as much as it is human nature to want to protect him from anything that might cause him upset, some small exposures to help him build up his tolerances are actually needed.