To the average person in the community a meltdown will look like a child having a tantrum. They will not necessarily understand the complexities around what is going on, and to be honest, it’s really none of their business. Most people will see a child having a meltdown and will simply dismiss it as a naughty child who needs discipline. Autism parents, know that this is not the case at all, nevertheless we can often feel judged and ridiculed by society.
When your child has a meltdown in a public place it can be really frustrating and I’m sure, like me, you find it slightly embarrassing. However, it’s not about what other people think of you, your child, or the situation. This is the time you need to stay calm, in control and be there to support your child no matter what.
In that moment your child is most likely feeling overwhelmed and frightened. They are having difficulty understanding and controlling their emotions. Something has triggered them to reach this point. It may not seem like much to the rest of us, but often the smallest trigger can set off heightened emotions which can take some time to get under control.
It’s really handy if you can understand the triggers. It could be loud noise, flashing lights, a certain word. By knowing what can trigger a meltdown, you can help to avoid situations and scenarios to prevent future episodes.
Meltdowns can happen at any age, even adults with autism can suffer from meltdowns. They may look a bit different as an adult, but the same triggers can still apply regardless of age. It’s a reaction of the nervous system that is difficult to control, and sometimes no amount of willpower will prevent it from happening.
Have you ever felt anxious about a situation? Perhaps you have had a job interview to go to and you’re really nervous to the point where your hands are sweaty, your face is red and you’re finding it hard to provide an answer to a simple question. These are all reactions from your nervous system, and at that point in time you can’t control the sweat or the redness of your face. With time and practice, perhaps some breathing exercises, you may be able to get past this type of nervousness for future interviews. However, this is not the case for someone with autism. An autistic person simply can’t prevent a meltdown. Once it has been triggered, it’s going to happen, no matter what.
All we can do as parents, teachers, carers or friends, is to be there to support them through it. Not to judge, but to simply have compassion, caring and understanding, and to appreciate that whilst things may be out of control at that moment, all they need is love.
SASI Guest Parent Blogger
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