Ever since Billy was little, he would have several meltdowns a day. He would have them if he was overwhelmed, needed something and didn’t know how to tell us, if he was upset or even got hurt. Any little thing seemed to throw him into a full on, 30 minute to 1 hour or more, meltdown. It was very stressful to me when he was first diagnosed, even before that, because I wasn’t sure how to help him. Now, over 2 years later, I have a greater understanding of what may cause a meltdown and how I can help him to get through them. Whether I am helping to calm him faster or to keep him from harming himself, I have a better understanding for what he needs.
These are 10 ways that you can help your child during a meltdown:
1.) Use Pressure. Things like hugs, arm and leg squeezes and weighted blankets, can all help a child during a meltdown. I will wrap my arms around Billy and hug him tight, this seems to calm him fast.
2.) Noise-Cancelling Headphones. If your child is affected by loud sounds, at home or in public places, noise-cancelling headphones are a great thing to help your child. We are looking in to getting Billy his first pair now, because he is just starting to be bothered when in public places.
3.) Act Calm & Speak In Whispers. I know this sounds silly, but it always works for my son. If you are stressed during your child’s meltdown, they will feel that and the meltdown may get worse or continue longer. I try to stay calm, hug my son and whisper in his ear that Mommy is here and it will be okay.
4.) Remove Your Child From The Stressor. When we have been out in public and my son starts having a meltdown from being so overwhelmed with the noise or crowd, I have removed him from the place. We go outside and sit in the car for a few minutes, take a walk in a less crowded area or outside, or even just go to the nearest bathroom for a quick breather. Sometimes walking away from the stressor can help.
5.) Distract/Divert Their Attention. Sometimes I find if Billy is having a hard time calming down during a meltdown and nothing seems to be truly working, I can distract his attention by diverting it to something else. I will either give him a special lollipop, a fidget toy or let him play games on my phone, anything that can get him to focus his attention on something else for a minute and eventually help calm him.
6.) A Tent Or Blanket Fort. Another thing that seems to calm many Autistic kids during a meltdown is spaces that they feel is “enclosed” and secluded from everything. We have a special tent that my son likes to go hide in when he is feeling stressed. I find during a meltdown this helps him to settle quicker and feel like he isn’t overwhelmed by everything around.
7.) Learn The Differences Between A True Meltdown & A Temper Tantrum. One important thing you need to do with your ASD child is to learn the difference between a true meltdown and them just having a tantrum. This was tough for me and took a little while, but now that I know there is a difference, I know when to just ignore his tantrum and when he needs my help for a meltdown. I will be writing a blog soon on how to tell the differences.
8.) Turn Off TV, Lights, Music & All Background Noises. Noise and lights tend to sometimes not only cause the meltdowns, but make them continue for a long time. Sometimes your child just needs it to be dark and quiet, like with a tent, but you can do that also by turning everything off. I turn off the TV, my phone and if the lights are on, they go off too. Than I will sit and cuddle my son to help him settle down. The quiet helps take an hour long meltdown down to 15 minutes.
9.) Take A Step Back, But Not Too Far. Sometimes the child needs to just to get themselves through the meltdown. There are times you can do everything on this list & more and the meltdown will continue to go on for what seems like forever. When you have tried everything, sometimes it is best to just take a step back. Let the child try to calm themselves. But, don’t go too far. With my son I make sure to stay close by, so if he tries to harm himself in some way, by head banging or scratching, I am here to stop him. I will stay close in the room, but far enough to give him some space.
10.) Know That You’re Doing A Great Job. Okay, so this may not be a way to help the meltdown, but it’s something that I struggled with for a long time. I always felt embarrassed in public when Billy had a full on meltdown or felt like a bad parent at home because I couldn’t calm him no matter what I did. But, know this, you are doing an amazing job! Your child knows that you love them and even though you may not realize it, they know you are there if they truly need. Just keep doing the amazing job you are!
These are 10 of my tips for helping your child during a meltdown. These seem to be the best for my son and have helped other’s that I know. These steps don’t all help for each meltdown, but I have found that I can usually calm Billy a lot faster using one or a combination of a few of them during a meltdown.
What are some things you have done to calm your child during a meltdown?