How can I stop meltdowns when routines change?

Kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism) need to have a routine and need to know what is going to happen next at all times. Routine is stabilizing and essential to kids with Aspergers; they get very anxious when they are not prepared for what will happen.

Having a routine and predictability helps kids with Aspergers feel safe. Whether you're trying to figure out how to best help a youngster, creating a routine, using explicit, literal, verbal language to communicate, being aware of sensory issues and trying to minimize them as much as possible, and having lots of love and understanding will go a long way to helping kids with Aspergers navigate the world.

What are some things a parent can do to help?

The most important thing is to be consistent. Kids with Aspergers thrive on routine. Everything needs to be done at the same time, in the same way, every day, as much as possible, to give a sense of safety and security. When there will be a change in routine, tell your youngster as far in advance and explain what will happen.

When you talk to your youngster with Aspergers, you should use a calm and even tone of voice, and use explicit language that says exactly what you mean.

Do not make requests too complicated or ask an Aspergers youngster to do things with too many steps at once. Try to keep your language as literal as possible.

Try to be very verbal. If your youngster does something right, praise them for it. But this advice is definitely not just for kids.

I received this email from an adult which describes how he feels when things get complicated and he begins to meltdown:

“An Aspie is like a juggler who can keep one ball in the air at a time, but struggles with more than one. Right now I am battling with four or five balls (problems) that just do not seem to get resolved and at times, like today, and my mind is on overload and cannot cope - it just goes blank, I forget things, lose things, which are uncharacteristic. Can you recommend anything to help me, please?”

If your youngster has a meltdown, the most important thing to remember when dealing with these situations is to try to figure out what caused them. Your youngster is not doing this to intentionally annoy you; he is doing it because he has reached his limit of tolerance in whatever he is dealing with. If you feel his meltdown was caused by a change in routine, reassure him of the routine for the rest of the day and that the routine will not change the next day, if that is the case.

In the research I conducted for my ebook entitled My Aspergers Child, I interviewed hundreds of parents. The following are specific actions that parents of Aspergers kids told me helps minimize or reduce the likelihood of meltdowns:

"We try not to change anything around him. I try to be with him as much as possible."

"Keeping on a strict schedule and explaining if something will be different, aside from the normal routine."

"We have added visual cues where possible we try not to stray from routine, even when something exciting is happening we created 'retreats' where our son can go to calm down."

"I try to keep some kind of structure. Any change in his routine, will result in a meltdown - from his morning routine all the way to his bedtime."

"We provide warnings (30 minute, 10 minute, 5, etc.) when we know a transition is approaching. We have ‘do overs’ as an opportunity to ‘go back in time’ and make things the way she likes them. We don't raise our voice with her because that causes her to become highly agitated. Instead, we try to be silly and cajole her into calming down."

"We have tried to ‘slow down’ and work around his temperament. We no longer ‘rush’ to do things and try to allow plenty of time because we found that by telling him we were ‘running late’ it only caused him to get more upset. We have tried to cut down/eliminate those items that we know send him on ‘sensory overload.’ We have altered his diet and we are still working at how to lessen/shorten the melt downs as well as what other things trigger them."

"Making changes would be the wrong thing to do in Sara's case. We have had the same routine since she was 2 and any change would pretty much destroy her perfect world."

"We tend to follow the same routine, or sequence of activities, we have to be careful about transitions, make sure that preferred foods are available, he needs very close following to see that homework and other non preferred activities are completed well so use picture schedules at times."

 An email from a parent who has tried the strategies outlined in the My Aspergers Child eBook:

"My grandson is 12 and a half. Before the ebook, he would have anger and aggression issues. He would go into his own world and block everyone completely out. He would not listen. He would stare completely right through you as if you were not even there. He would freak out and basically have a temper tantrum. It was a severe temper tantrum like you were dealing with a two year old – like the terrible twos.

You can't go to restaurants. You can't go to the grocery store. You can't go to the movies. You are afraid to go to family functions. You're actually afraid to go anywhere. You get constant phone calls from the school because he is labeled as a problem child. That has been my son all of his life.

After the ebook, he no longer has any meltdowns. I immediately started implementing things and the way that I handled things and I started focusing on all of the positives in his life. The My Aspergers Child eBook helped establish the understanding of what my son goes through – how he sees the world – because I had absolutely no clue. Then around family he is fine because now the family understands because I have explained the situation with them.

The greatest thing that I got out of the My Aspergers Child eBook would be Mark Hutten’s detailed solutions on how to cope with Aspergers, the way he puts it into laymen's terms and understanding how my son sees the world by giving examples. And I think it helped that he has a grandson with Aspergers as well."

==>  My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Meltdowns


Anonymous said... Please help us our twelve year old son is out of control!!!! We have tried everything... except the online 90 min. seminars with you. Our son lives in Marathon, Florida and Todd(his dad) works 24/7 and has a hard time getting him to counselors, doctors, etc. He was diagnoised with Asp. Syn. when he was six and has been on Concerta and Risprodol for quite sometime but has recently been switched to Ambilify then to Seriquil but still stays on the Concerta. He is absolutely out of control, he is defiante with everything and cannot be left alone with his siblings for fear of hurting them. I am Melissa the girlfriend to Todd, the dad and I have had to recently come back to my hometown of Franklin, KY. to care for my mother and Todd is left taking care of his three children and it is getting to be to much for him! I want to help him with whatever I can do... please give us some insite to what to do as Todd is at whits end with Mitchell and we love him very much he is just very unruly right now and needs help and we are unsure what else to do!!!

Anonymous said...I suspect my son has asperger's I have read loads of info on My Aspergers Child taken the CAST test on which he scored very highly & I have ticked "many" of boxes in sensory sensitivities checklist. This boy displays so many of the traits it is quite scary, & to be honest the more I read the more convinced I become, so I have made a doctors apointment & had a meeting with his class teacher yesterday who was dismissive & told me it couldn't be Aspergers because he has discussed aspergers with his wife in the past & she is a nurse & she says if it was aspergers there would something very obvious (outstanding about the child). My understanding is that at a young age it is very easily over looked because the children are bright. Jack is bright.......had an enormous range of sounds as a baby spoke early & did not sleep. He is often called a little professor or young Einstien. Reads well above his peers but just doesn't get math, loves facts is obsessed with guns & cars. video games, movies (only guns & cars), when he plays he just re enacts a movie or a video game & only plays games that envolve guns. Give him anything to build with ie lego, connector pens & he makes a gun! When he talks which is constantly he only talks about video games & movies (all guns) in great detail he'll recount the entire movie/game, it's like he does not know when to stop,(when he has made his point) or that the person is no longer interested & I often tell him..... ok stop talking now. He cosntantly interupts our conversations. No matter how many times I tell him it's rude or to say excuse me & wait his turn he doesn't get it. He has extreme inflexability of thought is anxious & worriesome & wont ask for help. Is fearfull of strange things ie Hand drier in public toilets. Comes across as rude & selfish but is shoked or confused when told so. Has meltdowns over socks & shoes etc. Can not tolerate certain fabrics & materials. Eats the same thing for breakfast every day. Freaks out over the slightest change in routine & wants to know all of the details. You can never tell how he will react to certain situations often I think he will react one way but he reacts the opposite?? Says he has difficulty making friends & has strong neg reactions to new environments & new situations ie frequently rushing to the toilet & avoiding eye contact. He says he feels like he is different to the other kids. Tries to set or change the rules of games to suit himself & tells other children & or adults what they must do, like he is trying to control the game even if its free play. Does not allow different foods to touch on his plate. & the list goes on & on. He is afraid of certain strangers for no apparent reason & when he was little would get hysterical if strangers were just to look at him. Regular forms of discipline don't work on him as with his brother. Am I imagining things? am I waisting my time going to the doctors?? is he just a difficult child? I know you cant diagnose him one way or the other via email but please what are your thoughts? Incedentally his father & I both scored 27 on the adult aspergers test & his father was extremely shy as a child & still has trouble with social situations. I would really love it if you told me that he was just being difficult & that I should just stop trying to understand why he does odd things. I have been trying to work out why I cant understand him.... what is wrong with me, him, us since he was a baby & eventually just became dismissive of his behaviour & have been for so long now that I just feel like a terrible mother.

Anonymous said...My best recommendation is to find a certified Rhythmic Movement Training consultant and set up an evaluation appointment for your child. They are trained to teach kids and parents an exercise program that is proven to give kids self-control and social skills. My husband and I are two of only twelve consultants in the US; we are located in Tulsa, OK. Search Rhythmic Movement Training and Brain Fitness Strategies to learn more about the program.  If you are exhausted from managing a teenager who is out of control, depressed, and unable to stay focused, you need a solution and you need it fast. All of our clients have seen improvements in attitude in the first week of doing the RMT program for 20 minutes a day. Ninety days can give you relief and confidence that you have found the right solution in RMT.

Anonymous said...I hope you've already found help, but wanted to say you are not a terrible mother or you wouldn't be worried or wondering about AS. You clearly know your son. He'll do well in life with you to guide him. Would love to chat more

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