What is a meltdown in Autism?
Melt down is an response to over whelming situation. It happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses behavioural control. This loss of control can be expressed verbally (eg shouting, screaming, crying), physically, (eg kicking, lashing out, biting) or in both ways.
A meltdown is not the same as a temper tantrum. It is not bad or naughty behaviour and should not be considered as such. When a person is completely overwhelmed, and their condition means it is difficult to express that in appropriate way, it is understandable that the result is a meltdown.
Meltdowns are not the only way a person with autism may express feeling overwhelmed. Other behaviours that may appear are less explosive but are equally common, such as refusing to interact, withdrawing from situations they find challenging, or avoiding them altogether.
Providing a calming environment is the priority when an autistic person is experiencing a meltdown.
If we are unable to take them to a more relaxing place, where they can calm down, holding them or reassuring them may help.
Ensure the person is kept safe, and soothe them until they are able to recover.
Diversions such as silly faces, singing a funny song, or talking about something they will find amusing, can help to distract them from how they are feeling.
Keeping aromatherapy oils, such as lavender and chamomile, can help, if the person responds well to calming scents.
If the trigger was auditory, keeping noise-cancelling headphones to give out may help to block out any further noises that could keep the meltdown going.
Comforting items from home may also bring down their escalated mood.
In some situations, an autistic person may engage in self-injurious behaviour, such as banging their head against the wall or floor.
To prevent the person from harming themselves, place a padded object between their head and the surface, we should calmly reassure them until the behaviour stops.