How many times do parents of children with autism wish we knew a meltdown was on its way? How many times have parents said, I never saw it coming! If I had, I would have gotten in, and reminded my child about using their calming down strategies to nip it in the bud.
Our children are unique human beings, and there is no one solution that fits each and every one of them, autistic or not. There is also no one way to tell if they are nearing sensory overload. However, even though there are times when everything you do will still not prevent them avoiding an overload completely, most of the time you can help your child stop a meltdown and gain their control back by being a bit of a detective and following the tips below:
5 Ways to Spot a Meltdown Coming and Help Your Child with Autism Gain Control
1. Watch their body language: This sounds obvious, but a lot of times as parents, we are busy and not really looking at things like rocking, spinning, jumping or twitching excessively as more than just autism stims. If your child is doing this more than usual, however, it is one of the first signs that anxiety is increasing.
2. Overly hyper/silly laughter or becoming excessively quiet: Depending on your child, he/she could fall into either category. My son gets REALLY loud and hyper most of the times before a behavior occurs or occasionally will become silent. Some kids do both.
3. Repetition of words or echolalia behavior: If your child is repeating things back that you said, others said, or just mumbling and repeating other things over and over, agitation is growing.
4. Complaints of headache, pain in stomach, or other pain: This is particularly telling if the other signs are present, but may be the first sign of increasing stress on their nervous system. Stay vigilant.
5. Complaining of either feeling hot, cold or looking flushed or pale: Changes in body temperature too signify increasing stress levels. Try and go off to a quiet corner or room with your child to help them focus, breathe and calm down. Alternately, offer than a chance to go off on their own if that is easier for them.
If you notice any of the above signs, or a combination of all, it is important to gently remind your child to use whatever tools they are comfortable with to calm down. The sooner you can do this, the better the result will be. You may still be able to lessen the meltdown’s intensity, and your child will see how they have control over their emotions.
Joanne Giacomini is a writer, speaker and parent coach, at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance,” www.exceptionalparenting.net. She also blogs about how her son with autism is raising her at “Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child,” www.exceptionalmomchild. com. She writes regularly about parenting and autism at “Huff Post Parents Canada”, “M List by the Suburban,” and “Parenting 101” by the Suburban. She has also been featured on “BlogHer Family-Special Needs,” “Yummy Mummy Club Canada,” “Scary Mommy”, “Her View From Home”, “Romper”, “KidsOutAndAbout,” and many other publications. She writes about parenting and lifestyle issues at “The Things” and “Baby Gaga.”