The term meltdown - does it cause offence?

I’ve been told that the term meltdown ought not to be used because it’s offensive and the term sensory overload should be used instead.

To my mind sensory overload and meltdowns are two different things. I have suffered sensory overload today but I didn't have a meltdown, I left the overstimulating environment for a quieter environment to recover. I do believe though that prolonged sensory overload will usually result in a meltdown.

I don't think this is coming from the autistic population, I could however imagine parents saying it.

I do find it offensive when neurotypicals use it to describe being angry/upset/frustrated because it diminishes its meaning to what we experience as a meltdown.

What do you think?

No Data
  • I don't find it offensive... but I don't like the term.  I always think of it in terms of other colloquialisms that get used: 'going mental', 'going loopy',  'throwing a wobbly'.  I suppose it's because you often hear people using it in that colloquial sense when talking about kids having temper-tantrums: 'She had a right meltdown this morning.' (Actually, there was a news item sometime last year, about the mother of an autistic child who took a supermarket to task for selling a kids t-shirt that said 'I'm just having a meltdown!'  She argued that it demeaned the term as it applied to autism).

    It's a personal thing, though, and I know everyone won't agree.  I admit that I'm quite sensitive to language like that.

    Further to this, though - I work in autism care, where we also don't generally use the term 'meltdown'.  Usually, we refer to 'incidents', or something similar, when doing incident reports.  We also have to be very careful with the type of language we use to describe behaviours, etc, because of the risk of making assumptions about what triggered the behaviour, and its intentions.  The language needs to be as neutral as possible.  This might all sound like nit-picking, but I think it's good if we can make progress towards using a more appropriate type of language - especially in autism care, where it's very easy (for the uninitiated) to make assumptions and judgments because they aren't fully understanding the behaviours.

    Incidentally, I recently had training in handling epilepsy - given by an epileptic.  Someone mentioned 'fits', and the instructor said she preferred the term 'seizure', which is fair enough.  But then I piped up and said 'Would you describe it as a kind of short circuit?'  She definitely didn't like that!