A meltdown appears to most parents as a tantrum. However, a meltdown has more to do with the child's temperament, whereas a tantrum has more to do with the child's anger at not getting his or her way.
There are nine different temperaments in children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism (HFA):
1. Poor Adaptability: This shows itself when Asperger's and HFA children resist, shut down, and become passive-aggressive when asked to change activities. Change in routine is very difficult for kids on the spectrum.
2. Negative Persistent: This is seen when the Asperger's or HFA youngster seems stuck in his or her whining and complaining. This occurs because he or she hasn't learned any other way to deal with frustration yet.
3. Negative Mood: This is found when Asperger's and HFA children appear lethargic, sad and lack the energy to perform a task.
4. Low-Sensory Threshold: This is evident when the youngster complains about tight clothes and people staring and refuses to be touched by others, for example.
5. Irregular: This moves the youngster to escape the source of stress by needing to eat, drink, sleep, or use the bathroom at irregular times when he or she does not really have the need.
6. Initial Withdrawal: This is found when Asperger's and HFA children get clingy, shy, and unresponsive in new situations and around unfamiliar people.
7. Hyperactive: This predisposes the youngster to respond with fine- or gross-motor activity.
8. High-Intensity Level: This moves the youngster to yell, scream, or hit hard when feeling threatened.
9. Distracted: This predisposes the youngster to pay more attention to his or her surroundings than to the parent.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot parents can do when a meltdown occurs in a child on the autism spectrum. The best thing they can do is to train themselves to recognize a meltdown before it happens and take steps to avoid it. This task is made much easier when parents identify their child's predominant temperament.
More on this topic can be found here: Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism