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Neurotypical individuals especially parents of children on the Autistic spectrum are in need of explanations as to how a meltdown feels, the triggers and how to help.
A child in a meltdown state may have no awareness of danger and may strike out indiscriminately. They may fall to the floor refusing to move, and they may rumble ie. pace up and down vocalising aggressively. Here is some insight from an individual on the spectrum as to how a meltdown feels and how you can help someone having one.
There are two types of meltdown. One is the angry meltdown, the child screaming on the floor in the supermarket furious at the world and seemingly inconsolable.
Then there's the depressive meltdown, the type that brings such crushing depressive thoughts that the end of the world seems preferable to the current situation you are in.
For me the angry meltdown and how it may start is as follows:
I need to access my online banking, so I put in the pin then put in the required numbered letters of password.
But I get it wrong.
I'm tired and getting aggravated, and now it's saying I have to do a long process filling in my bank account number. I do it and try re entering my pin. I again get it wrong.. I'm feeling pressure in my stomach and a flight or flight response is kicking in. I try to remember that it's just a number and it's just a few words but reasonings ebbing. I try tapping away a bit more but I'm now feeling like putting my fist through the iPad! Throwing the iPad down i rock desperately trying to calm myself as a rage so all consuming engulfs me that I want to tear the room apart.
Another child murder or child abuse case let's say for example.
I leave and it replays in my head all the way home. I get home and put the kettle on but begin sobbing, as every line I saw flashes visually in front of me. I sink to the floor and lean my back firmly against the cupboard doors as now my mind is whirling in different directions.
Would those children be ok? Am I a good enough mother? I remember every negative to my life and feel worthless, helpless and unable to help anyone. My despairs complete.
Cause? Depressive trigger.
To fully understand a meltdown you must understand that at a certain point there is no reasoning, there's no awareness of what's happening. But if you can catch it before it's to late an onset occurs , it can be diverted.
Rumbling is a very clear trigger. Envision it as gathering clouds, a darkness before the storm.
Pacing or rocking vocalising and getting very repetitive in speech or noises. Getting more aggressive with each passing second are all indicators of an incoming meltdown.
To try and redirect is a a good tactic. To leave the room if the person is non self injurious is another as eye contact or reasoning may make it worse.
If the meltdown has taken hold then do not attempt to restrain unless near a road or at risk to themselves or others. To touch someone in this state is like reaching into their soul, it feels extremely invasive. If they do seem touch make sure it's firm like a pressure massage, as light touch can trigger more reaction as its aggravating.
If they rock they are seeking vestibular input, if they pace with a heavy tread it's for priopreceptive input.
For after a meltdown you can help the person calm and regulate by offering a weighted blanket or a weighted body warmer. A deep pressure massage and firm hug will help if they like pressure.
A cool drink and low stimulation atmosphere also is very helpful.
A card stating that the individual is on the spectrum and may display aggressive behaviour due to frustration and communication problems is very helpful to have when out and about.
Something identifying them and your relationship to them is also helpful as to restrain someone to remove them to a quieter safer environment could to an outsider look like abduction. If they are aggressive provide a punchbag and crash mats. If they head butt use a helmet.
A chewing device is also helpful, there's a wide range of chewlery and chewys available with a clean flannel or wristband for those who prefer to chew material.
Punishing or reprimanding an individual who is having or has had a meltdown is unfair and wrong. We cannot control it and it is not intentional, we may say and do things that are hurtful. This is unintentional.
Get a grip
As they trivialise and patronise how we are feeling, we would stop and don't do what we’re doing and get a grip if we could.You wouldn't say to a wound “stop bleeding?” And expect it to stop would you?