I have three teenagers with Asperger's and my spouse does also. Needless to say, our home is stressful at least once a day---usually more---every day. The conflict upsets our preschooler and leaves me in the middle to maintain peace and order. It is challenging to keep them from misreading, reacting to, and feeding off of each others' moods/verbalizations. Is there any method I can use during the meltdowns, especially if I come in when it's already angry and chaotic? I've tried getting them to separate and cool off, but they seem locked into engaging with each other. And, if I leave the room or the house I often end up with holes punched in walls, broken items, etc.
The parent’s behavior can influence a meltdown’s duration, so always check your response first:
- Calm down
- Quiet down
- Slow down
- Prioritize safety
- Re-establish self-control in your son/daughter, then deal with the issue
1. Take 3 slow, deep breaths, and rather than dreading the meltdown that’s about to take place, assure yourself that you’ve survived meltdowns 100 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 (high-functioning autistic) kids seem to “want” to fight. They know how to “push your buttons,” so don’t be side-tracked from the meltdown issue.
3. Slow down. A meltdown often occurs 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 he or she is late due to a meltdown -- it’s unavoidable, and he or she shouldn’t be reprimanded for it.
4. Prioritize safety when your Aspergers child is having a meltdown. Understand that he can be extremely impulsive and irrational at this time. Don’t presume that the safety rules he knows will be utilized while he is "melting down." Just because your Aspergers youngster knows not to go near the street when he is calm doesn’t mean he won’t run straight into 4 lanes of traffic when he is having a meltdown. If your Aspergers child starts melting down when you’re driving in the car, pull over and stop. If he tends to “flee” when melting down, don’t chase him. This just adds more danger to the situation. Tail him at a safe distance, and maintain visual contact.
5. When your Aspergers youngster is calm and has regained self-control, she will often be exhausted. Keep that in mind as you work through the meltdown issue. Reinforce to your youngster the appropriate way to express her needs and requests.
Remember that all behavior is a form of communication, so try to work out the message your Aspergers son or daughter is trying to convey with his or her meltdown, rather than responding and reacting to the behavior displayed.
Note: A meltdown is not the same as a tantrum. Tantrums are caused by kids not getting their own way and then "acting out" in order to try and get what they want. A meltdown is often triggered by sensory overload (e.g., hypersensitivity to noise, light, heat, etc.). This leaves them feeling irritable, agitated, and stressed.
How to PREVENT Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children and Teens