Managing Aspergers Meltdowns: Tips for Parents

Sometimes, little emotions are not so little with Aspergers (high functioning autism) children. All of us struggle with emotions – and all of us "lose it" from time to time; however, it's helpful to understand why Aspergers kids may be susceptible to being “driven along” by emotions, rather than being “in charge” of their emotions.

Possible Causes of Meltdowns—

1. Long Term Stress— Combine long term stressors of sensory overload and social challenges, along with all the regular hassles that make up daily living, it's not surprising that Aspergers children may "lose it" over seemingly small situations. As a parent of this child, you may feel bewildered at the intensity of the meltdown.

2. Sensory Overload— Some children with Aspergers are affected by noise, others are affected by smells, textures or lights. It can be any number of things, but too many sensory inputs can lead to meltdowns or shutdowns. It can all happen when the senses get into a major traffic jam.

3. Social Challenges—I was once a tourist in Columbia. The streets did not have signs, and I didn't understand what people were saying. Needless to say, it was stressful. Yet this is what Aspergers kids may go through on a regular basis. Of course, each child is unique, so he may experience more or less of this social confusion, but the stress can take its toll over the course of the day. Too much stress – and the boiling point can be reached.

4. More Stress— If over time an Aspergers child feels that meltdowns are inevitable, random, and uncontrollable, she can feel somewhat stressed out! Imagine not knowing when you will lose it next, or what the consequences may be.

What Can Be Done? 

Here are a few suggestions. Some will work, some won’t. Just as the senses can be bombarded, now your child can use them to self-soothe:

1. Hearing— Have you Aspergers child listen to some beautiful and soothing music. Consider purchasing some meditation CD's. Consider buying CD's with sounds of nature. He may savor the sounds and let them calm him down.

2. Smell— Buy some potpourri or a scented candle and put it in your child’s room. She may enjoy the smells, savor them, and let them calm her down.

3. Taste— Notice what your child’s favorite foods are. Keep some of his favorite foods on hand in small portions. He may really savor the taste, and let it soothe his restlessness.

4. Touch—Massage your child’s shoulders, or go for a walk with him. Maybe he would enjoy lifting weights, martial arts, a warm bath or soft clothes. He may let the touch soothe him and take away his stress.

5. Vision— Buy a beautiful painting or flower. Design a beautiful space in one of the rooms in your house. Light a candle, and watch it quietly with your Aspergers child. Go out in the middle of the night and watch the stars. Be creative. You know best what sights your child will most enjoy. She might notice them, take them in slowly, and let their beauty calm her down.

Tell your child to think of his emotions as wild horses. Untamed, they can wreak havoc. But, once understood and worked with, they can be of great service and power to your Aspergers child.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns


Anonymous said...

My daughter in law sent me your website as I watch my 6 1/2 year old grandson at his house after school and when he has a day off or is ill. He is a great little guy and we love him beyond measure. We have been very close since he was born and he has stayed overnight etc. He was diagnosed with AS at about age 4. He is very bright and does well in school but his handwriting is really bad and that he doesn't do well with independent study. He is in the first grade. He has been reading since he was about 3 years old. He stimms by flapping his hands when he is excited. He also takes deep breaths sometimes. My problem most recently is that he has stopped communicating with me on the day's I pick him up from the bus stop. He gives me the silent treatment for the entire 2 - 3 hours I am there. It is very difficult for me but he asked me to sit in the kitchen that last time I was there so he could do his homework and watch tv by himself. He has been so good in the past about leaving the tv off until homework was done but he seems to be regressing. I do not use a firm hand with him and I am wondering how I can break into his shell he is creating around himself. When he visits our house he is great and always gives us hugs when he leaves and he gets along great here but at his house he seems to want to be in control.

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to your story, my son is 9 and does not want anyone to talk to him after school for a while, I think that it is so stressful for them to contain everything during the hours of school that they just need to 'decompress' after school. My son also had a really hard time with his handwriting, it still is not that great, but it does not seem to aggravate him as much now, homework is a real issue, you have to stay on top of him the whole time, he is very bright and has a high IQ, but school has always been difficult for him. He has an amazing support system at his school that offers him as many 'sensory breaks' as he needs. I would recommend trying a program like that and he has had a social skill class thru his doctor's office. I have seen some improvement lately, maybe he's maturing a bit, but he did just have a major meltdowmn at his granparents house this weeekend, so I am going to share with them this article, so we can ALL learn to cope better with him.

Anonymous said...

My son Lucas (8 yo 1st Feb this year) was diagnosed with Aspergers (mild) a month ago. He is your typical jeckyl and hyde presentation. Well behaved and follows the rules at school and never gets in trouble. However, at home he can be at times difficult. Lucas is either beautifully behaved, compliant, easygoing and generally just gorgeous or very difficult. This is usually after school, or after too much social interaction. On the social front he seems to do quite well on the surface adn copes well, but gets incredibly tired afterward. This tiredness can manifest in inflexible and angry behaviour. I guess it may have something to do with the end of school term here in AUstralia, but I am finding him very difficult after school at the moment with constant angry behaviour and meltdowns. An example of what happened today - I said to Lucas that I would take him to look at Guitars at the music shop. He yelled at me when I asked him to take his school bag inside and put !
his lunch box and drink bottle on the desk. I responded with if you yell at me again there will be no music shop. Less than five minutes later he screamed at me about something else so I carried through with my threat of no music shop and he went into full meltdown - screaming, swearing, knocking chairs over, pulled a paint off the wall, callikng me an idiot, saying he wants to die, he hates himnself, why don't I kill him because he wants to be dead. I have got to the point where I don't know how to teach Lucas to stop screaming and calling me an idiot when he gets angry. I know that it is anxiety based because when he is travelling along well he woujldn't dream of acting or speaking that way, but I don't know what to do about it. I have two other children a 9 1/2 and 5 year old girls who find the siutation quite difficult.

Anonymous said...

My DS, 15, is Aspergers & ODD. Yesterday he yelled at my DD, 6, because she was singing in the car. We know her singing (or another child singing) is a trigger of his but she was quietly singing under her breath. I was thinking about asking her to not sing around him but at the same time he is running our house with his rules already. He was recently done and we are just learning how to deal with him. Since we've started making changes and he is on meds, Residue (sp?), things have been better. But I realized that he is doing better because we are tip-toeing around him to prevent meltdowns and not punishing him for just about anything anymore because it doesn't work anyway. So in reality he is running our house. Oh, and he will change the rules to fit his needs. Example: We had a rule for a few days that no one would sing including him then he changed it when he wanted to sing then yells at DD for singing. Garr.....

He is seeing a Psych (he is not us, not even sure what they are doing.) and we are in the middle of an IEP at his school. He is almost always in a bad mood. When he is not in a bad mood he is so annoying. (Does happy dances, licks me, soft bites me, and wipes his head on me, barks at me...)

Any suggestions? I want to get started on making changes but don't even know where to start.


Anonymous said...

My oldest do (now 22 you!) used to have problems with noises/singing/music. I remember those days! For your situation, I would buy him a pair of headphones or ear plugs to wear when someone wants to sing. Leave a pair in the car and then he can wear them when he needs to.

Sensory issues get better over time so I would not completely give in to them. A little exposure is a good thing and then you can increase it over time. If he still is complaining with headphones, you could do a variety of things such as attaching his headphones to a MP3 player filled with his own music so he can drown out the other music. Or you could say, "Ok, this is bothering you. We will finish singing this song and then stop for now."

At home, when things start bothering him, he should be taught to take himself to his room or to another room to do something else instead of making everyone else stop what they are doing.

You might have better luck finding a behavioral therapist to work with you at home on behaviors.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutten,

I recently discovered your website of information on the Aspergers Child. I have a 15 yr. old son who we are suspicious that this is his problem. We have a doctors' appointment next week, May 24th, for testing for this.

I am writing to you because our family is at wits end in trying to help our son, Daniel. I watched your video clip on the meltdowns and felt like I was reliving my son's tantrums as a toddler. He struggles today with depression, anxiety, and add. He takes medicines for all three. I have often felt that we didn't have all the right pieces of the puzzle for a correct diagnosis. It's been a journey and I want my son to have the best life that he can. Today his diagnosis is undetermined mood disorder.

My husband and I have been taking him for treatment since he was in the first grade. We noticed as a toddler he would just have these terrific meltdowns only at home. Raging in his room, tearing sheets off his bed, throwing toys out of his room or throwing them at us. They diagnosed him with depression and anxiety at that time. He also exhibited signs of great aggression. Today he has very few friends. 1 or 2. No one calls hardly or texts him. He seems to be okay with it, but it greatly disturbs me as we are a social family. His 13 yr. old brother has a lot of friends and he hangs with his brother and his friends.

We are experiencing today his moodiness on a daily basis. I live on the edge of playing referee between him and all the kids that come over because he is very argumentative and combative. We constantly live in fear that he will drive all the friends away of our other son. He often cannot see he is the source of contention around the home and feels that we constantly punish him and not his brother. He rarely takes responsiblity for his actions but rather would blame his brother or someone else for the conflicts that arise.

To his credit, he is very remorseful after a blow up and will apologize. He has always been that way. He is a smart kid, does fairly well in school as long as he takes his add med., and doesn't get into trouble. We have tried to create a very structured environment for him because he does better. We've had him in sports his whole life which he loves.

I apologize for writing you a book, but wanted to give a small picture of what we are dealing with. Any help or advice is appreciated. I am really tired of going to doctors who aren't sure and just guess at meds. and treatment. I want my son to have a fulfilling life and be able to learn how to cope without arguing, make a few friends, or whatever he is capaple of.

Thanks so much in advance,



Mark said...

Hi Susan,

I can – and will – help you, but you’re the one who will have to take some action.

The parents I work with have tried very hard to address their Aspergers child’s emotional and behavioral problems on their own, but with little or no success. And it seems the harder they try, the worse it gets.

Every Monday night at Madison Superior Court [Div. 2], I meet with a group of parents who are at a loss on what to do or how to help. We meet for 1 hour each session for 4 Mondays.

During our brief time together, I show the parent how to use some highly effective “unconventional” parenting strategies to use with their out-of-control, “unconventional” Aspergers child.

I follow up with these parents weeks and months after they complete the program to track their success, and 80% - 90% of them report back to me that problems in the home have reduced in frequency and severity, and that the parent-child conflict is finally manageable.

Now I want to show YOU what I show them. I want to teach YOU how to approach your child – in spite of all the emotional and behavioral problems.

There is no need for you to continue living as a frustrated, stressed-out parent. I will help you resolve most of the behavioral problems, but I can’t do it for you!

I have put my entire program online! So it doesn’t matter where you live. If you will read my eBook, listen to my talks, view my videos and power point presentations, and email me with specific questions as you go along – you WILL get the problems turned around. If you will take a step of faith here, you can experience the same success that thousands of other parents are now enjoying.

After years of dealing with defiant Aspergers children, many parents feel so defeated that they believe nothing or nobody will be able to help them – they think it’s simply “too late.” But I promise you – it is NOT too late!!

If you’re tired of disrespect, arguments, tantrums, etc. – and if things are steadily getting worse as time goes by, then you may want to get started with these parenting strategies today.

I'm not a “miracle worker,” but you don't need a miracle to get your child on a good track behaviorally and emotionally – you just need the right combination of strategic parenting strategies that apply specifically to the strong-willed, out-of-control child.

I’m here for you should you decide to Join Online Parent Support…

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Online Parent Support

Madison County Youth Center

3420 Mounds Road

Anderson, Indiana


Cell: (765) 810-3319

Email: mbhutten@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

My daughter is 12 and just about to start high school here in Australia. She has about 8 weeks left a school until we break for Xmas and then onto high school. Every morning she is a nightmare to get out of bed and when I do get her out we all have to be very careful what we say and do around her as she will go into a meltdown. She is scared to go to school. She starts at 9 and by 8 ish she is going into her room hiding under the covers and not wanting to get dressed, she says she feels sick and starts the heavy breathing. She is on anxiety meds but they are not helping much. Does anyone have any ideas as to help calm her in the mornings? I am reluctant to walk her into school as I am trying to get her to be more independent for her senior years at school. Anyway this only tends to make her worse and more clingy. After school she is always in a good mood saying she had a good day, and I have been trying to get her to say to herself that she is worrying about nothing as she knows she will be fine once she gets there..... feeling very depressed at the toll this is all taking on my family. My daughter also self harms when she has a stress attack!

Anonymous said...

Here's my question: a lot of my son's "challenging"/aggressive behavior gets saved up for when he gets home from school. I am currently not getting any training from the school on how to cope with this at home to spite my repeated request...s. Is this something they should be providing? Any ideas? I know that this is an important part of the equation. I feel like he has a lot of the supports he needs at school, but I don't feel like I have the support to give him what he needs at home.

Unknown said...

My son (8) sounds exactly like yours - model behaviour at school, incredibly bright but huge anger issues at home to the point of actually scaring me during his melt downs, again over little things like asking him to do something straight away. Thing is I have never suspected Aspergers because he is sociable, well behaved and polite outside the home and empathetic (as long as he is not losing his temper over the unfairness of his life). He is very pedantic, however, but other than that and the temper, I am sure he cannot have Aspergers. What other signs did your son have that caused you to get diagnosis?

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