Autism spectrum disorder is the term given to describe a range of conditions that can impact a person in a multitude of ways. Often, children with autism have difficulties with sensory processing, which can lead to overstimulation. For example, hearing a loud noise or feeling something too rough can be overwhelming for a child. Additionally, children with autism are often accustomed to certain routines and cannot cope when those routines are disrupted.
Whether it’s a reaction from a sensory experience a result of a change in routine, meltdowns are not uncommon for children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. These meltdowns can occur at any time, in any place, and they are often scary. Many times, these meltdowns can result in injury to the child or to someone else, and they can also be extremely embarrassing.
When a meltdown occurs, it can be difficult to calm the child, as he or she can have a hard time detaching from the item or experience that has caused the agitation that has lead to the meltdown. As such, parents, educators and caretakers of children with autism should be aware of strategies that can help to calm a meltdown.
Here are some tips from a renowned long island autism center that may help to calm an autistic child.
Modify the Environment
Modifying the environment can be effectively help a child with autism avoid being exposed to an overwhelming experience that could lead to a meltdown; thus, you can help the child remain calm and avoid the potential for a tantrum to occur. For example, if the child finds scratchy fabrics displeasing, feel all clothing to make sure they are soft to the touch and remove all tags before dressing the child in them.
Assess a situation to identify any triggers that could lead to a meltdown. If you spot anything that could be displeasing, try distracting the child from it. For example, if you see something that could lead to overstimulation, try making funny faces, singing a song or talking about a subject that the child enjoys before he or she notices it. Doing so will focus attention away from whatever it is the child could find displeasing and instead place attention on something the child finds comforting or enjoyable.
Remove Dangerous Objects
Autistic meltdowns can often result in harm to the child or to someone else. To prevent any injuries from occurring, make sure you remove any objects that have the potential to be dangerous; any sharp objects or items that could be thrown, such as glass, hard toys, scissors, pens and pencils and knives, for example.
Removing the items from the area can help to prevent an injury; however, you should make sure to closely monitor the child until he or she has completely calmed down to full prevent an injury from occurring.
It is easy to become overwhelmed, upset and frustrated when a child with autism has a meltdown, especially when the meltdown occurs in public; however, it is so important for you to stay calm when a meltdown occurs. If the child sees that you are frustrated, angry or embarrassed, he or she could feed off of your tension, which could make the meltdown worse. In other words, if you overreact, it could make the situation even worse.
For more tips to help calm an autistic child, speak with a medical health professional who works at an autism center. The more tips and strategies you have, the more successful your attempts to calm a child during a meltdown will be.