Helping with meltdowns


i wonder if any parents can offer advice on helping with meltdowns.  Our daughter will have a meltdown every morning.  Or when there is a change.  We try to avoid them thinking ahead etc, one was caused as she couldn’t find her socks.  The meltdowns are crying and wailing and screaming, punching herself, biting a towel.  I stand out of the room and tell her to hit the pillow instead but that also annoys her.  So usually we leave her and say when you feel better come and see us and we’ll have a drink etc.  She often apologetic about her behaviour but we just move on.  

I am concerned as the meltdowns are getting worse and she doesn’t understand why she has them. 

How does your child meltdown ? Is it similar to our daughter ?

What works to help your child? 

I know everyone is different but any advice would be most welcome x

  • When I have meltdowns (and mine have always been similar in nature to what your daughter does) I find deep pressure works well as a soothing aid to help them pass more quickly; e.g. being wrapped tightly in a blanket does the trick. 

    Out of the moment, helping with her self-understanding is a good idea too in the long run. If she can notice when she's building up to a meltdown (they are rarely as single-trigger as they appear to an onlooker; it's often hours or days of sensory overstimulation or minor frustrations building up) and discover depressurisation strategies that work for her (e.g. mine are; immersing myself in loud music, eating very spicy food, going for a walk alone or spending some time alone in a quiet room) then she can try to head them off before they happen.

    Encourage her to self-reflect afterwards re. what factors led up to the meltdown if she can without distress. Reassure her that it's a normal thing to happen for an autistic person. Depending on her age read some books/watch some videos about ASD with her so that she can increase her understanding of what it means to be autistic and get some ideas that might help her cope, or notice things she hadn't consciously realised that could be a trigger. (Obvs watch/read anything you'll be using by yourself first to check it's suitable and accurate, the ones made by autistic people tend to be best).

    Successful meltdown management is very much more prevention than cure and you can never get rid entirely because the world is unpredictable; I still have one or two a year in my late 20s despite knowing so many strategies that work for me when I get overstimulated or distressed.

    It sounds like you're doing well so far with the thinking ahead and letting her have space to recover. :) 

  • In terms of better managing and reducing the ocurrance of having meltdowns, or stress induced flake-outs, lock-ins or seizures for those so "blessed" to have them ~ here is a PDF transcript of an NAS interview with Maja Toudal (of Youtube fame) on the subject of 'Energy Accounting':

  • Hi, I want to offer my advice but also with caution as I’m aware that different methods would work better with different age groups. My 2 year old daughter isn’t diagnosed yet, she has her first autism assessment appointment next Tuesday. She can have meltdowns though, she had one this morning. Kicking, wailing, shaking her head (she does this as a stim) and pulling her hair out in clumps. I went down the deep pressure route. As she is still quite small I grabbed her and sat her in front of me with her back to me (admittedly the fact that she has global hypotonia makes this easier, don’t think I could have managed it if she’d been going rigid!) and bear hugged her from behind but wrapping my hands under to apply deep pressure to the top of her upper arms at the same time. The deep pressure is something I was taught by her OT as a response to stimming but it also works for meltdowns as the deep pressure gives proprioperception feedback which apparently helps to calm them. It works with her anyway. She calmed down reasonably quickly, I could tell that she was sort of still trying to meltdown but the deep pressure was keeping it contained. When I myself meltdown, I just need to be on my own for as long as it takes for me to calm down. Any interference from anyone else just further aggravates me. As an adult I can usually reflect afterwards and see what has triggered the meltdown, sometimes this proves useful for knowing what to avoid to reduce future incidence of meltdowns. However, I understand that reflection and understanding might be more difficult for a child. However, if she is able to reflect and try to see the triggers that led to the meltdown then it could help to avoid some meltdowns in the future. I’ve just read what  was saying about deep pressure helping with her meltdowns and actually I was thinking a couple of weeks ago that I could see how I might benefit from a weighted blanket, I might see if deep pressure helps with my meltdowns too.

  • With my son it changed with age. From drop to the floor and bear hug to just laying on the floor with him. If my husbands home he beat hugs me. Sometimes I ask for it if I feel a meltdown getting close z