Let me introduce you to an amazing man, my husband! He is absolutely the most loving, awesome Daddy. He has patience that I wish for, and loves these squirrels with a fierce, daddy squirrel kind of love.
I asked him a while back to write a post for my blog. I thought he was going to write something warm and fuzzy, but instead he chose to write something that many parents of a child with autism have to deal with, something that is often swept under the rug, something that is hidden behind closed doors because no one wants to acknowledge the reality and gravity of these moments in time…how to handle an autism meltdown.
Autism meltdowns are a whole new magnitude of meltdown! So, here are ten real life ways to handle an autism meltdown.
I am not versed in autism speak. I haven’t done a lot of research besides the everyday experiment that is living with my high functioning child. So, without further ado, I present 10 ways to handle a Meltdown.
10. Call the Cops:
Not an ideal solution, but sometimes the only one. We have had to make this call a few times. The worst part of this is that the it inevitably leads to longer term issues. With D we find that the arrival of the police sometimes does the trick.
9. Ignore the Meltdown:
This isn’t my strongest suit. I tend to be more hands on when D falls apart. I have a hard time leaving him to his own devices when he is kicking things, hitting things, or threatening to break things. It takes a strong person to hold back when things are being destroyed.
8. Protect Yourself and Others:
Defending yourself becomes essential. How you do that is very important, as you can’t let your emotions run away.
7. Learn Restraint:
This one probably goes along with protecting yourself, but not. Its a figurative, not literal, restraint. Be able to walk away from things your kid is doing, while remaining engaged in the battle going on. There is always a battle going on, so pick which one you fight.
6. Learn Restraint…literally:
Ok, so the Meltdown is happening, what now? Restraint techniques are valuable to protect life and property, and keep the child safe from themselves. There is a fine line between restraint and hurting. You can’t be effective in this unless you know the proper way to do it. You WILL hurt yourself or your kid if you do it wrong. It provides the sensory feedback your child needs if done right. If not, it will escalate things and end up with someone hurt. (Crisis Prevention Institute is an excellent resource for training.)
5. Tag Team:
In our situation, my wife and I are able to work together. Keeps you fresh during the long meltdowns. We have, in the past faced multiple hours of meltdown. We take turns keeping him isolated, take turns keeping the other kids away, work together to remove his potential weapons away from him. We also support each other and try to calm D verbally. Be on the same page with your partner and have a plan.
4. Plan Ahead:
You know it is going to happen, it is inevitable. Meltdowns and tantrums are a part of life. Plan your response ahead of time, either for yourself or with your partner. Know where you will send your other kids (safe room), know when you will call for back up, know where your phone is, know where snacks or meds are that will help during the meltdown. The plans don’t always work, but not having one never works.
3. Be Proactive:
Know what’s going on with your kid. It is easier, I guess, with a verbal and high functioning child. We can hear the arguments, and might have an idea that something is coming. Be ready to redirect. Try to stop the tantrum before it turns into a Meltdown. Be ready to offer alternatives and make concessions in the short term, to meet the needs of your specific situation.
2. Talk to Your Child:
In many cases your child can understand what you are saying to them. Let them know during calmer times that there are consequences to their actions. Make them age appropriate and meaningful. Give them incentive to NOT have a tantrum, and give them the opportunity to pull back from the edge. This makes for less painful endings when it works. Sadly for us, it doesn’t always work.
1. Go With The Flow:
There is no one way to always handle a Meltdown. Like every child with autism is different, every response is different. Be flexible, be open minded, and be able to act reciprocally to what’s going on. Your kid may have lost control, but you can’t.
Be aware of what’s going on with your kids. Know the signs of a meltdown in your kid first and foremost, then respond accordingly. And once the emergency is over, decompress yourself and your child so you both understand what went on.
It is not simple.
It is not easy, but…
It is our life and we live it.