Autism makes all the incoming and outgoing information difficult for our children to process. This can lead to a lot of stress, frustration, and anger on their part, and often that boils over into a meltdown. Since you can’t always predict where, when, or why a meltdown occurs, it’s best to have some calming strategies in place to handle it as well as possible.
As many children age, their ability to cope with stress will improve, but at every step, having a plan to respond will help your family immensely. At Discover Camp Worth, we give you tips to help calm your children when they are stressed to their limit.
Autism Meltdowns Take Many Forms
It’s important to point out before we go on that autism outbursts and symptoms of overwhelm can look vastly different from child-to-child and even between moments. Signs your child needs calming strategies are (but are not limited to):
- Extreme outbursts of anger or physically striking others or self
- Self-harm in general
- Rocking, clapping, or other repetitive motion
- Repetitive vocalizations, including screaming, clicking, or humming
- Intense periods of quiet and focus in which they are not very responsive to direct communication
Just because a meltdown doesn’t “look bad” or directly affect the environment around your child, it doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling. It’s essential to be aware of your child’s emotional state and respond accordingly with stress treatment, autism therapy programs, and understanding.
5 Calming Strategies to Support Someone with Autism
1. Teach Deep-Breathing Techniques
In the times your child is calm, teach them how to de-stress with deep, calming breaths. Tell them that when they’re feeling bad, or sad, or frustrated, that these deep breathes can help them feel better. If you practice these breathing techniques every morning or evening before bed, it will help them be more accessible as a tool for your child when they need to calm down.
Deep-breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which really does slow your heartbeat and relax your body. It also gives them something inward to focus on while they’re overwhelmed.
2. Create a Safe Space
Establishing a place away from sensory overload and full of your child’s favorite items can provide an oasis in the middle of a meltdown. While this is hard when you’re out-and-about, at home, or in places you frequently go to, it can be reasonably easy to create one of these safe spaces.
Choose a dark room with very little decoration, or create a small space with blankets, partitioned off from the rest of the room and house. Put your child’s favorite toys, games, books in the space – whatever they love, and that will not overstimulate them. Whenever they feel too much pressure or frustration, help them escape to this place to calm down.
3. Maintain a Routine as Much as Possible
While this won’t necessarily help at the moment, creating a familiar routine and sticking to it is a great way to minimize the potential for meltdowns. Additionally, if you’re in the middle of a typical day and your child starts to be overwhelmed, reference the next point in their routine, especially if it’s something they eagerly anticipate. This, along with an individual therapy program can help them fixate on something other than their immediate feelings and also calm them down.
4. Find a Sensory Soothing Item
Many children with autism respond well to calming strategies that fixate on a sense that doesn’t overwhelm them. For instance, they might like to listen to their favorite music or see their favorite possession. For other kids, something to hold or fidget with can be a calming item.
5. Count to Ten
The same strategies that help adults deal with anger work for kids. Counting to ten helps alleviate anger because it gives them something else to focus on while they calm down.
Learn More About the Resources at Discover Camp Worth
If your family is having difficulty with too much overwhelm and you’ve exhausted other potential resources, autism treatment can help. Discover Camp Worth is an autism treatment center in Texas that accepts boys and girls ages 11-17 who are diagnosed with autism and need intensive stress treatment.
Residential treatment can help teach life skills to patients with ASD, teaching them calming strategies that they can use themselves. These techniques and skills can give them more confidence and allow these children to live happier lives.