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Looking Beyond an Autistic Meltdown

An autistic meltdown can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for both the autistic individual as well as their caregivers. While preventing meltdowns through proactive measures is important, it is also crucial to understand how to cope with the aftermath of a meltdown. In today’s blog let’s discuss how to provide emotional support after a meltdown. We will also discuss easy ways to create a safe and calming environment to promote healing and recovery.

Let’s Understand: Autistic Meltdown vs Tantrum

Navigating meltdowns and tantrums can be challenging due to their similar characteristics. However, it’s essential to recognize that these behaviors stem from different underlying causes, and managing them appropriately is crucial. 

A tantrum can be described as an emotional outburst that serves a specific purpose or goal. It is a learned behavior that an individual uses to achieve a desired outcome, such as getting out of an activity or obtaining a toy. During a tantrum, the individual typically remains in control of their body and mind and is aware of their actions. The behavior is intentional and deliberate, and once the desired outcome is achieved, the outburst usually stops. Therefore, recovery from a tantrum is typically quick and nearly instant.

On the other hand, a meltdown in autistic individuals is an intense response to an overwhelming situation. It happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses control of their behavior.

It is particularly important for parents and caregivers of individuals with autism to understand these differences so they can help provide more effective support.

The cause of meltdowns varies from individual to individuals. Managing meltdowns and supporting an individual through it involves a range of strategies that can help address the underlying causes of the behavior, provide emotional support, and promote a sense of safety and security. Here’s how you can manage autism meltdowns

Coping With the Aftermath

Autism meltdowns can be overwhelming and exhausting. Here are a few brief tips on supporting the individual in coping with the aftermath:

Provide a Safe place for the Immediate Aftermath

Studies suggest that people with autism need more time to regain composure and regulate their emotions after a stressful episode. Therefore, it is important to have a well thought out plan to support them in their “calming down” period and prevent further escalation of stress. It may be a space they prefer without company,listening to music, guided meditation, or even someone they would most like to have around at such times.

Validate their Feelings

Let them know that you understand how difficult the meltdown was for them and that their feelings are valid. This can help them feel heard and supported.

Reflect on Triggers

Understanding what triggered the meltdown can help you avoid similar situations in the future or develop coping strategies for when they face similar situations.

Be Patient and Understanding

It’s important to remember that meltdowns are not intentional and that they may need time to recover. Be patient and offer support as needed.

Seek Support

Talking to other parents or caregivers who have experienced similar situations can be helpful. Consider joining a support group or connecting with other parents online.

autism acceptance month 2023

Gentle Reminder

The time it takes for an individual with autism to recover from a meltdown can vary. It could be a few minutes, hours, or even days. Caregivers and parents should use a gentle approach to avoid upsetting them further. Even though meltdowns and autism often occur together, it is possible to reduce the frequency and intensity of meltdowns by using appropriate strategies. 

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1 thought on “Looking Beyond an Autistic Meltdown”

  1. Understanding autistic meltdowns goes beyond surface reactions. It’s crucial to recognize them as a response to sensory overload and triggers, not intentional behavior. Let’s prioritize empathy, support, and inclusion for individuals on the autism spectrum.

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