Strategies to consider include distraction, diversion, helping the person use calming strategies such as fiddle toys or listening to music, removing any potential triggers, and staying calm yourself.
A meltdown is a reaction to an overwhelming experience. If your family member or the person you support has meltdowns, identify what is overwhelming for them.
Record what happened before, during and after each meltdown. Patterns may emerge. You may find that meltdowns occur at particular times, in particular places, or when something particular has happened.
Once you have a clearer idea what may be triggering meltdowns, think about ways you might minimise that trigger. Many autistic people have sensory differences. They may be over-sensitive to some senses, under-sensitive to others and often a combination of both. For example, for someone who is over-sensitive to touch and sound, people brushing past them and a loud announcement at a train station could cause pain and sensory overload, leading to a meltdown. In this situation, it could be helpful to listen to calming music on headphones to block out loud noises and to wait until everyone has got off the train before approaching the platform to avoid crowds of people.
In other situations, consider creating a low arousal environment eg remove bright lights, soundproof walls or using sensory equipment eg glasses with dark or coloured lenses, ear defenders, a weighted blanket. For example, the panic caused by needing to drive a different route to school due to roadworks could trigger a meltdown.
Table of Contents: Managing family meltdown :
It may help to increase structure around ordinary transitions, helping the person to navigate the change from one activity to another throughout the day. Using a clear timetable explaining when the transitions will be, using timers to countdown to transitions, using a favourite toy or character to be part of the transition, can all help. With its unwritten rules and unpredictable nature, the world can be an extremely challenging environment for autistic people and many experience anxiety.
If a person does not have the tools to calm down when anxious, they may have a meltdown. Develop strategies to manage anxiety, such as introducing our Brain in Hand app.
Mrs Linda Woodcock
Have a plan beforehand of what to do if the person feels anxious, such as a calming play list to listen to at the shops or a stress ball in their pocket. Build relaxation time into the routine. The person will generally feel calmer and therefore better able to cope when something that could trigger a meltdown, occurs. What that means will vary from person to person, and may consist of quiet activities, eg taking a walk, listening to music, reading, doing puzzles, using fiddle toys, or more strenuous activities, eg jumping on a trampoline, going to the gym, playing a computer game.
In the case of more strenuous activities, observe whether the activity really does calm the person down.
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Autistic people can find it difficult to express their wants and needs, from a non-verbal child struggling to express their need for a drink to a teenager finding it hard to express their emotions. This can result in overwhelming feelings, such as anger and frustration, leading to a meltdown.
Support the person to find ways to understand and express their emotions appropriately before they get overwhelmed, and find ways to make your own communication more easily understandable. Verbal communication can be challenging to autistic people due to the potential to misunderstand body language, tone of voice, irony and sarcasm.
The Autism Helpline provides impartial, confidential information, advice and support for autistic people and their families.
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Managing Family Meltdown: The Low Arousal Approach and Autism
Greene Paperback, About this product Product Information This book offers strategies to resolve common challenging behaviours using a low arousal approach - a non-aversive approach based on avoiding confrontation and reducing stress. It explains challenging behaviours, and offers guidance on how families can manage different types of challenging behaviour, such as physical aggression and self-injury. Additional Product Features Author s. Linda also has a son on the autism spectrum with challenging behaviours. She also supports community nurses in assessing, devising care plans and teaching parents, other family carers and siblings practical techniques to manage challenging behaviour.
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