Is there any method I can use during the meltdowns...?


I have three teenagers on the autism spectrum 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:
  1. Calm down
  2. Quiet down
  3. Slow down
  4. Prioritize safety
  5. 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 ASD (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. ASD 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…


Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...


Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…


Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…


Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...


Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...

Anonymous said...Thanks Mark -I have actually joined because I have a 12 year old nephew who has Asperger's and he is so full of anger. I really feel that alot of it is caused by his Dad (my brother) and his Mum not handling the situation very well. They talk about punishing him and he has to realise that he cannot behave the way he does when he swears at them and tells them that he hates them etc. I feel that alot of this would be helped if he had plently of exercise. He is a very active boy and loves the outdoors but they are always busy and he seems to spend most of his time inside. He is on the school bus at 7.30 a.m. and doesn't get home until 5 p.m. He is then inside, although he lives in the country. He desperately wants a small pond or water trough for his birthday and they won't let him, no explanation, just that they don't want one, which has really made him angry as he has no real reason why. If I am honest they frustrate the hell out of me and I'm 43!!! I don't know how they will react to your CD's but I can only try. I feel like I am watching an animal being cruely treated and it kills me. Unfortunately the Mum is jealous that he behaves more when he is with me and my husband but that is only because we are outdoors people and he loves it, but she stops him from seeing us. Anyway, watch this space!!! Thanks - Angie

Anonymous said...One of the difficult things, though, is although the meltdown is not JUST about getting his way (i.e., a simple tantrum), it is often precipitated by a parent saying no to something, or other frustration of his desires. The fuel may be all the other stresses and frustrations, but the match is a parent not allowing something he wants, or requesting he do something he doesn't want to do. So from our viewpoint, it often *feels* like a tantrum and direct challenge to our authority, although our son will (when he's calmed down) insist that it was not.
Anonymous said...What has worked for us during a meltdown is telling him that he is not allowed to punch the walls or break anything. We make him go to a certain room in the house until he calms down. We take turns supervising him so he doesn't hurt himself and so wee each get a break. We let him hit only pillows on the couch but am trying to get him to stop that. It is best not to talk to him during these meltdowns, anything we say makes it worse and it usually is over within an hour. We have his favorite TV show on during the meltdowns which helps him get his mind off whatever was bothering him.

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