The visible symptoms of meltdowns are as varied as the Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) kids themselves, but every parent is able to describe their youngster’s meltdowns behavior in intricate detail.
Meltdowns can be short lived, or last as long as two hours. They can be as infrequent as once a month (often coinciding with the lunar cycle/full moon) or occur as frequently as 4-6 times a day.
Whatever the frequency and duration, an Aspergers youngster having meltdowns is difficult for parents/care-givers/teachers to deal with.
Meltdowns in Aspergers kids are triggered by a response to their environment. These responses can be caused by avoidance desire, anxiety or sensory overload. Triggers need to be recognized and identified.
So how do we deal with meltdowns? What should you do when meltdowns occurs?
An adults’ (parents/care-givers/teachers) behavior can influence a meltdown’s duration, so always check your response first.
1. Calm down
2. Quiet down
3. Slow down
4. Prioritize safety
5. Re-establish self-control in the youngster, then deal with the issue
1. Take 3 slow, deep breaths, and rather than dreading the meltdowns that’s about to take place, assure yourself that you’ve survived meltdowns 1000 times before and will do so this time too.
2. Keep your speaking voice quiet and your tone neutrally pleasant. Don’t speak unnecessarily. Less is best. Don’t be “baited” into an argument. (Often Aspergers kids seem to “want” to fight. They know how to “push your buttons”, so don’t be side-tracked from the meltdowns issue).
3. Slow down. Meltdowns often occur at the most inconvenient time e.g. rushing out the door to school. The extra pressure the fear of being late creates, adds to the stress of the situation. (Aspergers kids respond to referred mood and will pick up on your stress. This stress is then added to their own.) So forget the clock and focus on the situation. Make sure the significant people in your life know your priorities here. Let your boss know that your Aspergers youngster has meltdowns that have the capacity to bring life to a standstill, and you may be late. Let your youngster’s teacher know that if your youngster is late due to meltdowns that it’s unavoidable, and your youngster shouldn’t be reprimanded for it.
4. Prioritize safety when your Aspergers youngster is having meltdowns. Understand that they can be extremely impulsive and irrational at this time. Don’t presume that the safety rules they know will be utilized while they’re melting down. Just because your Aspergers youngster knows not to go near the street when they are calm doesn’t mean they won’t run straight into 4 lanes of traffic when they are having a meltdowns. If your Aspergers youngster starts melting down when you’re driving in the car, pull over and stop. If your youngster tends to “flee” when melting down, don’t chase them. This just adds more danger to the situation. Tail them at a safe distance (maintain visual contact) if necessary.
5. When your Aspergers youngster is calm and has regained self-control, he will often be exhausted. Keep that in mind as you work through the meltdowns issue. Reinforce to your youngster the appropriate way to express their needs/requests.
Remember that all behavior is a form of communication, so try to work out the ‘message’ your Aspergers youngster is trying to convey with their meltdowns, rather than responding and reacting to the behavior displayed.
Ways to help your Aspergers youngster calm down:
1. Another effective mediation method is to have the youngster sit or lay down with eyes closed and visualize a scenario that the youngster chooses. It should be something that is comforting to the youngster such as a fun vacation or a day at the park. Talk the youngster through the meditation and tell the youngster to feel as if the scenario is actually happening. Have the youngster picture him or herself interacting with other kids in a positive manner. This will plant the idea into the subconscious and can help with the youngster's actual peer relationships.
2. Establish a certain time as quiet time. This can be after dinner a little before bed time. Kids with Aspergers like routines and this is a good way to help him or her to get used to settling down for the evening. The youngster can read or draw or write his or her thoughts during this time. Writing can be very effective in helping the youngster learn self expression.
3. Have the youngster listen to classical or soft music. Just having this type of music playing in the background at home can create a sense of calm.
4. Have the youngster meditate. There are two ways to do this. One way is to have the youngster sit or lie down with eyes closed and take long slow deep breaths in through the nose and hold his or her breath for four seconds and then slowly exhale through the mouth. You can guide your youngster through this by saying, "Take a long, slow deep breath in through your nose, hold, hold, hold, hold your breath. Now slowly breathe out through your mouth." Try this for ten minutes either right before bed time or first time in the morning.
My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children