People with this neurodevelopmental disorder often demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped interests or patterns of behavior. When these patterns are disrupted or something unpredictable happens, your child can feel overwhelmed with stress, which can lead to a meltdown. Making sure your child is supported and comforted before, during, and after a meltdown is key to getting through it safely.
Accept That This Is Happening
The more you resist the meltdown, the more anxious your child might feel. During the heightened emotions of a meltdown, your child will pick up more on your state of mind than anything you say or do. Resisting, punishing, or getting stressed out could make things worse. Acceptance can help you stop denying the situation and find ways to embrace positive change.
Draw Nightly Epsom Salt Baths
If your child is comfortable taking a bath, add a cup of Epsom salt to the tub each night. Epsom salt has been known to relax the body and reduce stress. A nightly Epsom salt bath can actually help build a foundation of relaxation that may, over time, help lessen the length and severity in your child’s reaction to overstimulation.
Create a Sensory-Safe Space
When your child is on the verge of a meltdown, removing stimuli that can feel overwhelming can hold back the tipping point. That’s where a calm, low-sensory room can come in handy. Consider decorating a bedroom with soft colors, few distractions, dim light, comforting textures, and limited clutter to create a relaxing environment.
Breathe Deep and Slow
Coach your child to engage in some breathing techniques to lower the rising heart rate and blood pressure that often accompanies a meltdown. Slowing down the breath and breathing with intention can help kick off a calming response throughout the entire body — and mind.
Prepare for Triggers and Routine Disruptions
As best you can, help prepare your child for an upcoming disruption in routine or schedule. If you know going to a certain place can be a trigger for a meltdown, put a plan in place — and practice it — to help your child prepare for the stimulation they may encounter.
Break Out a Distraction Toolkit
Some children with ASD find the distraction of certain stimuli enough to stop or even ward off a looming meltdown. Put together a toolkit with several of these sensory distractions, such as a crunchy granola bar for oral stimulation, a soft hoodie to create a cocoon-like feeling, and sunglasses to help offer privacy and limited light stimulation. Noise-canceling headphones can also help reduce stimuli and create a sense of safety, too.
There are a lot of good reasons to try simple, holistic, and behavioral approaches to addressing ASD meltdowns, but it’s always a good idea to consult your child’s doctor or therapist before initiating a major change. While it can be tiresome to work your way through meltdowns, you’ll be grateful when you arrive at a solution that makes life a little easier.