A “Meltdown” is the common term used by parents and therapists to describe the fight-or-flight moments when a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder displays behavior that goes well beyond a tantrum. A meltdown is not bad behavior or pouting because the child did not get his or her way — those things can trigger a meltdown. An Autism Meltdown is a whole other thing.
A Meltdown can be frightening for the child and others. A Meltdown can actually cause PTSD in both the child and people affected. Meltdowns are one reason some parents are fearful about taking their children out in public. The fear of injury and stress discourages parents. Sadly, people who see Meltdowns often make unhelpful comments about the parent or the child. (Those people are idiots!)
Helping a person in Meltdown is like trying to save a panicked swimmer. They will grab anything or do anything to be safe, and they may not realize they are in shallow water. They can hurt themselves and they can hurt others. Parents of kids with ASD find it puzzling why people will make unhelpful comments in these moment. They would not say something like “well, my kid never drowned.” Or, “They need to take him home and whip him.”
If you see a child with in distress, one of the best things you can do is watch the area around him or her to make sure there are no safety issues like traffic. If a child bolts, grab him or her if you can. It’s often helpful if you ask the parent “how can I help?”
Sometimes, getting a security guard or a police officer helps.
Sometimes talking to the child helps.
Ask a question like “I see you have a Tampa Bay Rays shirt on. Do you like Baseball?”
If you have other tips, please leave them in the comments below.
Add questions or comments in your choice of Facebook or our website. We monitor both. Facebook should be listed first, scroll down for website commenting.