Coping with Autistic Children Screaming, Tantrums, & Meltdowns
Parents may often feel powerless when an autistic child has an outburst. Autism meltdown symptoms may be many and autism meltdown triggers may be few. Here’s some help: my top 6 tips for handling outbursts and loud meltdowns:
1. Be Empathetic
Empathy translates into listening and acknowledging his/her struggle without judging.
Guide and provide your child with the tools to express him/herself in a manner that harms nobody.
The child feel heard when you empathize and validate his/her experience.
2. Make the Child Feel Loved and Safe
Occasionally the child is completely lost in his/her world of emotions that s/he cannot hear you.
Talking them down from a panic is usually a waste of time while a child is still in the middle of a meltdown.
You can make your child feel loved and safe by staying within sight.
A crying child who is told that s/he can leave a secluded room only if s/he stops melting down, sends the wrong message that s/he doesn’t deserve to be present around anyone who loves him/her when s/he is having a difficult time.
Show the child you are there for him/her by staying close.
3. Eliminate Punishments
Children often feel fearful, anxious, resentful, and shamed when punished.
Since an autistic child cannot control his/her meltdowns, s/he should not be punished for it.
Rather, a child should be given space and the freedom to express emotions with an adult nearby, letting him/her know s/he is supported.
4. Focus on Your Kid; Not on Staring Bystanders
The meltdown of an autistic child goes to a much higher level than a non-autistic kid.
Such outbursts may embarrass parents during a stroll in public with people staring at the scene.
You may feel judged by strangers commenting and thinking you are failing at parenting.
Next time you are stuck in such an unexpected public situation of pure chaos, just ignore all the judgmental glances, and silence the inner voice that says you are not enough. Bear in mind that the one person struggling and needing your support urgently is your child.
5. Bring Out Your Sensory Toolkit
Always keep three or four favorite sensory toys or things handy in a bag or car. You may give these items to your child when his/her mind is overwhelmed.
These sensory toys or tools can be sunglasses, a fidget toy, a weighted lap pad, or noise-suppressing headphones.
Don’t force your child to use these items while melting down; but if s/he opt to use them, the items may help him/her calm down considerably.
6. Teach the Child Coping Tips Once Calm
There is not much you can do when a meltdown is occurring, such as teach your child coping tips; but when s/he in a pacified/rested frame of mind, you can certainly work on emotional control together.
Some autistic children respond favorably to nature walks, deep breathing exercises, or practicing yoga everyday.
These coping methods will assist your child calm down, before a meltdown, and even when you are absent. You must learn to recognize autism meltdown signs when they first occur.
By concentrating on the real cause of his/her actions, fathers and mothers might realize that autistic children may be communicating: “My stomach is hurting, but do not know what my body is saying to me.” Or: “I’m sad because no kid will play with me.” Or: “I need less stimulation.” Or: “I must know I’m safe and that you will be there to assist me through this thunderstorm of emotions that frightens me too.”
If you truly realize how your child can’t help reacting because of bodily pains yet not fully understood, you would understand that s/he needs your love more than a hard hand.