It can be very stressful and embarrassing when your autistic child has a meltdown in public. But with a little preparation, you can help make it a less frequent occurrence. In this blog post, you’ll learn about some of the most common signs that your child is on the verge of having an autistic meltdown and how to prevent it from happening in public or at home.
Understand the signs of an autistic meltdown
Be prepared for a meltdown by familiarizing yourself with the symptoms. These can be vocal, physical, or both. Some common symptoms include screaming and repetitive sounds, such as whining or headbanging. Your child may also show aggression by hitting himself or scratching his own skin so hard that it bleeds. He might also become destructive and damage property, such as ripping up his clothes or throwing things.
Children with autism spectrum disorder have meltdowns because they are feeling either overwhelmed or stressed. Before you go out with your child, be sure to establish a consistent routine for him so that he knows what to expect. Create an environment where it is safe for him to let his feelings be known and don’t minimize how intense his emotions can get. Going out or going camping may seem impossible but I assure you it is not.
Understanding the root cause of an autistic meltdown will help you prevent it from happening. Some kids have meltdowns because of sensory overload, so be sure to avoid bright lights, loud noises, and crowded places where you are more likely to bump into people. Your child may also have a meltdown if he has an illness or is hungry or tired.
8 Tips for Managing and Preventing a Public Meltdown with Autistic Children
If you suspect that your child is on the verge of having a breakdown, remove him from his current environment and find somewhere quiet to calm down. Meltdowns for us mean Jonah is looking to break something or cause damage. Safety first, so we remove him from any possible harm.
Prevent a meltdown by having a routine
Having a routine is my best advice. Unfortunately, this means going through some rough times to understand what may set your child off. We may have the only 10-year-old in the world that refuses to go into the toy section at Target.
Food is a great distraction from having a meltdown. If we sense a meltdown coming on we may use food or gum just to distract Jonah if we think things may get too overwhelming.
We also try to be mindful of what we feed Jonah, or any of our other kids before we go somewhere that may be high stress or meltdown inducing. No need to invite large amounts of sugar to the party.
Have a safe spot in public to go if things get too overwhelming
Jonah and I spend a lot of time in the car and we are learning to be ok with it. As he’s grown older, his sensitivity to social settings is getting more intense. We don’t push him to go into places that seem to be upsetting him. It’s not like a child trying to fight through their fear of the dark. I can see it on his face and in his expressions that certain situations bother him so much to the point it pains him.
Prioritize your child’s needs over others’ when it comes to personal space, noise levels, and more
I wasted far too much time trying to explain to strangers why my son is freaking out or screaming. It was just a defense mechanism of mine to protect me from further embarrassment. In the scope of things, it doesn’t matter what other people think. It also doesn’t do much good. “Sorry sir, my son doesn’t like ponytails. Can you kindly ask your daughter to remove it?”.
Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap
There’s a saying that if you’ve met one autistic child, you’ve met one autistic child. Every person with autism is different and will have different needs. You can’t compare your child to any other autistic child, as they may not share the same needs.
It’s hard not to wonder and question why your child is melting down and other autistic kids aren’t. You learn over time and some things just remain a mystery. Instead, focus on progress and what your child does well.
There are many reasons I’m grateful to be a parent, even in the middle of a meltdown. Hands down this is the best advice I can share with you. Try not to take it personally, either. There is something bigger at play when an autistic child melts down that has nothing to do with you. You were chosen to be a parent.
Focus on Empathy
If your child is having a meltdown, try not to get caught up in the heat of the moment or think about how embarrassed you are. You can just imagine what they’re going through and that it’s incredibly uncomfortable for them. Meltdowns are exhausting and feel never-ending. It also feels like all eyes are on you but think about it, if all eyes are on you, wouldn’t you want to show those eyes your expertise in parenting and patience? Close your eyes and take a breath.
Encourage and be encouraged
We’ve had so many people share encouraging stories about their own personal journey with special needs. We were at a wedding not too long ago and an older woman we didn’t know must have figured out that Jonah was Autistic. She specifically pulled my wife and I aside and told us that her son used to bounce around just like Jonah. Then she told us about him graduating college, getting a job, and living an independent life. I tear up just thinking about it.
That lady took two minutes out of her life to talk to us and encourage us because she knew at that moment we needed it. Don’t waste the moment to not do the same and don’t dismiss it when someone extends the same kindness. This perspective goes a long way in the midst of a meltdown.
Need help with navigating a meltdown? You’re not alone. Make sure your child has a consistent routine, carry snacks and water with you, and have a designated safe spot to go to if things get too overwhelming. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. You got this! We hope these tips will come in handy! And don’t forget to subscribe now so we can send you our latest posts as soon as they are published. Thank you for reading!