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Autism Meltdown Symptoms And Coping Techniques In Adults

Autism Meltdown Symptoms And Coping Techniques In Adults

If a person with autism becomes so overwhelmed that they cannot control their behaviour, this response is known as a meltdown. A meltdown can be presented in different ways – verbally or physically. For example, a person might shout and cry or they might lash out, kicking or biting. It’s important to recognise that an autism meltdown is not intentional bad behaviour. It is a reaction that they cannot control due to their autism and is the only way that they can express how they are feeling at that time.

Identifying a meltdown

It is not always easy to identify when a meltdown is going to occur because you can’t always predict the environment you are going to be in or how a person is feeling. However, it is useful to know potential triggers so that you can avoid meltdowns as much as possible. Sharing these triggers with others is helpful so that everyone can work together to help. It can be helpful to write a diary so that you can identify patterns and whether meltdowns occur at a particular time or place.

Potential triggers include:

  • Loud sounds and music
  • Bright and/or flashing lights
  • Busy places
  • Certain textures
  • Certain smells
  • A change in routine

Coping strategies that can help

Once you have identified triggers, it is important to recognise different coping strategies that can help a person with autism to feel safe and secure so that they can avoid a meltdown or come out of it in a way that helps them to feel less anxious and at ease. Here are some coping strategies that you may find helpful.

  1. Finding a quiet space - a low arousal environment can help to reduce anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed for an autistic person. It is good to have a quiet space at home and to identify one at places that are regularly visited.
  2. Use communication aids - If the autistic adult has difficulties communicating, then it is important that you use communication aids in order to help them communicate. This might be an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device, PECS (picture exchange cards) or by using ‘now and next’ boards or a social story. This can help them to understand what is happening and explain how they are feeling. It can also help to explain any change in routine, which can be difficult for many autistic adults.
  3. Use sensory aids - If helpful, use sensory aids such as noise reducing ear defenders, fidget toys or weighted blankets. These can all help to reduce anxiety and provide great comfort in potentially overwhelming situation.
  4. Have some downtime - It’s a good idea to build relaxation time into your day or routine to help create some calm. This could be the difference between someone feeling overwhelmed at an upcoming situation or being able to manage it. Different people have different ways of relaxing. For some it might be sitting with an iPad, for others it might be jumping on a trampoline. Find what works for you.

We hope that these suggestions are helpful. Please share your experiences and coping strategies in the comments below. We would love to hear them.

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