For children with autism, managing their behavior can be tough. It’s not just the kids, parents can also feel challenged when their kid who has ASD suffers from a meltdown. With children on the spectrum, a mildly challenging situation can cause enough upset. When this happens, a child with autism may find it really hard to participate in regular activities. They will also find it difficult to cooperate and deliver what is expected of them.
It’s never easy to calm a child with autism, especially if they are feeling extremely upset or anxious. But the good news is, it is doable with the help of certain techniques.
Autism meltdowns are not tantrums
The truth is, children with autism seldom throw fits to gain attention or get what they want. Instead, it’s their way to express their stress or frustration over “sensory assaults” that kids their age don’t experience the way they do.
When it comes to meltdowns, children with autism have very little control over their emotions. Even a simple thing as changing their daily routine can get upsetting to children on the spectrum. If your child has ASD and they suddenly throw a tantrum, they’re not doing it out of spite. They’re feeling overwhelmed by their present emotions, but have no way of communicating it properly. When this happens, your job as a parent is to offer them calm and comfort, instead of anger and judgment.
As a parent or guardian of someone with autism, knowing these tips that we’ll discuss in this blog can help you a lot in calming down your child when he or she seems to throw a fit out of nowhere.
Ready to know what these calming tips are? Here we go.
Follow the schedule or routine that your child is used to.
For some kids, doing the same thing over and over again can be boring – or tiresome. But for children on the spectrum, one of the best ways to make sure that they are less frustrated is to help them stick to a certain routine, every day, every single time.
The best way to do this is to structure your child’s day to day activity in a certain way where they can follow a certain schedule with you at a certain time. This is important because a child with autism can easily get upset even with just a very “minimal” change in their usual schedule or routine. If a change in routine cannot be avoided, especially if your child has to go to school, you should let them know beforehand of the changes that may occur to help prepare them.
Make the escape a “game” for your child.
Your child is bound to feel upset at some point. While not having any meltdowns is ideal, you can’t really say when your child becomes frustrated or anxious over something they heard, saw or smelled.
When a meltdown happens, you’re not supposed to berate your child for doing so or embarrass them in public or start a shouting match. Instead, you can make a “game” plan from when your child becomes frustrated or anxious about something.
That is, you can teach them to do deep breathing, read a comforting book, give them an “escape” hatch so that they can hide from the moment or do some sort of exercise. Petting a dog or a cat can offer some comfort too for some kids on the spectrum.
When your child feels upset, he or she can do any of these things to help deal with what they are feeling at the moment. Of course, they will only be able to do these game plan when you help them practice it every time they experience a meltdown or a stressful situation.
Here are a few more exercises you can do to help cam your child with autism.
Use sensory play as a coping mechanism.
Children with autism express their frustration over sudden changes or routine, or even as simple as a loud noise, flickering lights or a new smell that they’re unfamiliar with.
When it’s the senses involved, soothing their anxiety with certain sensory tools can help a lot. It’s even better when you have sensory tools that are readily available at home or if it’s something that you can always carry. A fidget toy, a squishy ball, clay or any other similar sensory tool can help your child overcome their anxiety. You can even use chewy snacks, scented hand lotions, weighted blankets or even hand wipes depending on what you think will best calm your child at the moment.
If they suddenly choose to bounce like an excited kid without any reason or rock back and forth, let them. These are actually things that your child can do to calm down and release the stress that they’re feeling at the moment.
Give them a quiet space to be themselves.
Sometimes, the crowd can easily trigger a meltdown for your child with autism. The reason being the overload of noises, smells, lights, or movements.
When you notice this pattern of meltdowns due to a crowded environment, it’s best to keep your child away from really big crowds. Unless it can’t be avoided or it’s really important. On a side note, you can teach your child some coping mechanisms to help them survive crowded environments or small gatherings.
If they are having a hard time doing this, it’s best to remove them from having an audience and giving them a quiet space to settle and calm down.
Check out these social skill activities you can teach your child to help them calm down.
Be patient and be there for them
Meltdowns will always be unavoidable in the case of children with autism spectrum disorder.
The best thing you can do at this point? Be patient.
Just be there for when your child needs you. If you can, be calm and keep a neutral face. Make your child feel safe and loved so that they would know that you are there for them.
If possible, give them a hug or let them know that what they are feeling is valid. Let your child know that while you may not know exactly what they are going through, you know they can overcome it. Let them know that you are there to help them get through it. Let them feel that you love, care and support them.
If anything, stay calm.
Perhaps one of the most important tip you can apply as you try to calm down your child with autism meltdown is to be calm yourself.
Your kid is already suffering from a sensory overload. Adding yourself to the mix will not help them – or you – in the long run. Meltdowns can be tough to handle. But they are even harder to manage when you lose your cool as a parent due to lack of awareness why it happens. To help your child cope, you should be the first one they can turn to for calm and comfort.
It won’t do any better if you try to reason with your child at this point. A meltdown will seriously cause them to not listen to you because all they are feeling at the moment is the stress and anxiety that is causing their meltdown.
Overall, calming your child who suffers from autism meltdown boils down to a lot of understanding and caring on your part.
As a parent, your job is to help your child overcome the overload of senses and anxiety that they are feeling and can’t express in any other way except through a meltdown.