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Autism - Support Across the Spectrum Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

Meltdowns in Younger ASD children

Posted by on May. 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM
  • 6 Replies

My son is 3 1/2, he's never really been much of a challenge behavior-wise, but his communication is slightly improving and with that his tantrums and meltdowns have gotten worse. He's still pretty good, but the occasional meltdown he does have is just...really hard. Probably moreso just because I'm used to him being so easy going and happy. 

I'm coming up with a few ideas for heading them off, for example, this morning I think he thought we were playing outside but then he saw the van that takes him to school and went crazy. I NEVER give in when he does that, but he's been sick this weekend, plus we didn't have the regular driver, and I couldn't get him in the carseat so I just brought him inside and told him that wasn't going to work again. My solution for that is to start using a schedule like he does at school so I can show him the van picture and when we head outside he'll understand. A lot of times I tell him what's going to happen and I can tell it doesn't register. He'll be happy and excited and think he knows where we're going and just not register what I'm telling him.

Anyway...I think I started rambling. My question is, how do you deescalate the meltdown once it's started in a younger kid? I'm not sure where he is age-wise developmentally. I try to get him to take deep breaths, because the jerky breathing when he's calming down sometimes starts him up again. I just don't know how to help him calm himself. I don't think understands when I'm telling him to take deep breaths. 

Man, that meltdown this morning took an hour to end. The fact that they aren't regular makes their occurance really stressful. I'm just kind of emotionally drained. I probably shouldn't complain too much, becuause I know there are mom's here that have to deal with many more meltdowns than I do. 

Thanks for any advice!

by on May. 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM
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Replies (1-6):
ineedcoffeemom
by Brittaney on May. 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM

My daughter just recently started having meltdowns as well .... she turns 3 next week. Hers are also sparatic and it completely throws me off when they happen because I too was used to her being easy going.

I think your idea of using pictures is great ...... I've tried a picture schedule with my daughter before and it didn't work well but maybe showing the pictures one at a time is better than a whole day of pictures at once.

As far as calming my daughter when she has meltdowns ...... I really don't have an answer. I have to let her get it out of her system. I move her to a safe place or try to hold her in a safe position if she's throwing herself around in a way that she can get hurt (and she has .... she's hit her head, scratched up her arm and then she gets even MORE upset that she's gotten hurt, ugh, it's rough). But mostly I let her scream and roll around, just in a confined area and I calmly talk to her if that doesn't upset her more (lots of times it does, so I stay silent) and if everything I seem to be doing is just making it worse and prolonging the meltdown, I walk out of her room and shut her door. I'll go back in 10 minutes later if she's still screaming and crying, and try to calm her down again.

Thank God we haven't had a major meltdown in a public place yet ...... other than places where I feel safe dealing with it (like the therapy center or the YMCA toddler time where the people working there all know my daughter has autism) ..... she had a pretty hard time at the ymca once and I just sat on the ground with her and held her so she wouldn't hurt herself and thankfully it didn't last very long. But in public places I also don't push anything. There have been several times where I'm attempting to walk into a store and my daughter starts losing control, pulling away, shaking her head and making upset sounds and I just turn around and we go back to the car. I don't care what I needed ..... it's not worth sending my daughter over the edge. 

krnelson04
by Member on May. 12, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Thanks for the response! That sounds about like what I do. Usually my attempts to calm him are pointless. When he's starting to calm down I just wish there was a way to help because sometimes he gets started up again. He's used to picture schedules from school. I'm gonna give that a try soon.

We've had ONE public meltdown. We were going to visit his cousin at the hospital and I think he got scared because he'd never been there. That's his big trigger, new situations where he doesn't know what's going on. Yeah. The public meltdowns suck too (obviously). Is your daughter verbal?

Quoting ineedcoffeemom:

My daughter just recently started having meltdowns as well .... she turns 3 next week. Hers are also sparatic and it completely throws me off when they happen because I too was used to her being easy going.

I think your idea of using pictures is great ...... I've tried a picture schedule with my daughter before and it didn't work well but maybe showing the pictures one at a time is better than a whole day of pictures at once.

As far as calming my daughter when she has meltdowns ...... I really don't have an answer. I have to let her get it out of her system. I move her to a safe place or try to hold her in a safe position if she's throwing herself around in a way that she can get hurt (and she has .... she's hit her head, scratched up her arm and then she gets even MORE upset that she's gotten hurt, ugh, it's rough). But mostly I let her scream and roll around, just in a confined area and I calmly talk to her if that doesn't upset her more (lots of times it does, so I stay silent) and if everything I seem to be doing is just making it worse and prolonging the meltdown, I walk out of her room and shut her door. I'll go back in 10 minutes later if she's still screaming and crying, and try to calm her down again.

Thank God we haven't had a major meltdown in a public place yet ...... other than places where I feel safe dealing with it (like the therapy center or the YMCA toddler time where the people working there all know my daughter has autism) ..... she had a pretty hard time at the ymca once and I just sat on the ground with her and held her so she wouldn't hurt herself and thankfully it didn't last very long. But in public places I also don't push anything. There have been several times where I'm attempting to walk into a store and my daughter starts losing control, pulling away, shaking her head and making upset sounds and I just turn around and we go back to the car. I don't care what I needed ..... it's not worth sending my daughter over the edge. 


ineedcoffeemom
by Brittaney on May. 12, 2014 at 1:37 PM

My daughter is non-verbal. And like you, I feel half the time the things i say to her she doesn't understand so I'm really unsure if she has any idea what we're going to do when I tell her.

As far as the meltdowns starting back up after your son starts calming down .... my dd's only done that a couple of times and it was me or my husband that caused her to flare back up. She doesn't like to be talked to or touched much after a meltdown and if I try to pull her into an activity too soon after the meltdown, it starts all over again. The first few meltdowns she had, I would think she was ok and so I'd try to take her by the hand and go in another room and she'd throw herself on the ground and we'd start all over again. The thing I've found that helps my daughter the most at the end of a meltdown is I place a musical toy in front of her (don't actually try to hand it to her, just put it nearby so she sees it) and make it play something. Or she has a Nabi tablet and I'll put on one of the musical apps and put that in front of her. Usually it helps her finally snap all the way out of her frustration and she sits up and starts playing with the toy or app. I let her do that by herself for several minutes, then when she looks away from it and up at me or stands up to leave the room I know she's completely over it. 

Quoting krnelson04:

Thanks for the response! That sounds about like what I do. Usually my attempts to calm him are pointless. When he's starting to calm down I just wish there was a way to help because sometimes he gets started up again. He's used to picture schedules from school. I'm gonna give that a try soon.

We've had ONE public meltdown. We were going to visit his cousin at the hospital and I think he got scared because he'd never been there. That's his big trigger, new situations where he doesn't know what's going on. Yeah. The public meltdowns suck too (obviously). Is your daughter verbal?

Quoting ineedcoffeemom:

My daughter just recently started having meltdowns as well .... she turns 3 next week. Hers are also sparatic and it completely throws me off when they happen because I too was used to her being easy going.

I think your idea of using pictures is great ...... I've tried a picture schedule with my daughter before and it didn't work well but maybe showing the pictures one at a time is better than a whole day of pictures at once.

As far as calming my daughter when she has meltdowns ...... I really don't have an answer. I have to let her get it out of her system. I move her to a safe place or try to hold her in a safe position if she's throwing herself around in a way that she can get hurt (and she has .... she's hit her head, scratched up her arm and then she gets even MORE upset that she's gotten hurt, ugh, it's rough). But mostly I let her scream and roll around, just in a confined area and I calmly talk to her if that doesn't upset her more (lots of times it does, so I stay silent) and if everything I seem to be doing is just making it worse and prolonging the meltdown, I walk out of her room and shut her door. I'll go back in 10 minutes later if she's still screaming and crying, and try to calm her down again.

Thank God we haven't had a major meltdown in a public place yet ...... other than places where I feel safe dealing with it (like the therapy center or the YMCA toddler time where the people working there all know my daughter has autism) ..... she had a pretty hard time at the ymca once and I just sat on the ground with her and held her so she wouldn't hurt herself and thankfully it didn't last very long. But in public places I also don't push anything. There have been several times where I'm attempting to walk into a store and my daughter starts losing control, pulling away, shaking her head and making upset sounds and I just turn around and we go back to the car. I don't care what I needed ..... it's not worth sending my daughter over the edge. 



krnelson04
by Member on May. 12, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Dylan's non-verbal also. One of our tricks, that we can't always get to work is if we can get him to take a drink it actually calms him down IF we can get him to do it. If he's just starting up and we give him a juice box. After he's calming down if we can get him to drink it helps his breathing slow down. Sometimes even right in the middle, but most of the time he shoves your hand away then. 

Quoting ineedcoffeemom:

My daughter is non-verbal. And like you, I feel half the time the things i say to her she doesn't understand so I'm really unsure if she has any idea what we're going to do when I tell her.

As far as the meltdowns starting back up after your son starts calming down .... my dd's only done that a couple of times and it was me or my husband that caused her to flare back up. She doesn't like to be talked to or touched much after a meltdown and if I try to pull her into an activity too soon after the meltdown, it starts all over again. The first few meltdowns she had, I would think she was ok and so I'd try to take her by the hand and go in another room and she'd throw herself on the ground and we'd start all over again. The thing I've found that helps my daughter the most at the end of a meltdown is I place a musical toy in front of her (don't actually try to hand it to her, just put it nearby so she sees it) and make it play something. Or she has a Nabi tablet and I'll put on one of the musical apps and put that in front of her. Usually it helps her finally snap all the way out of her frustration and she sits up and starts playing with the toy or app. I let her do that by herself for several minutes, then when she looks away from it and up at me or stands up to leave the room I know she's completely over it. 

Quoting krnelson04:

Thanks for the response! That sounds about like what I do. Usually my attempts to calm him are pointless. When he's starting to calm down I just wish there was a way to help because sometimes he gets started up again. He's used to picture schedules from school. I'm gonna give that a try soon.

We've had ONE public meltdown. We were going to visit his cousin at the hospital and I think he got scared because he'd never been there. That's his big trigger, new situations where he doesn't know what's going on. Yeah. The public meltdowns suck too (obviously). Is your daughter verbal?

Quoting ineedcoffeemom:

My daughter just recently started having meltdowns as well .... she turns 3 next week. Hers are also sparatic and it completely throws me off when they happen because I too was used to her being easy going.

I think your idea of using pictures is great ...... I've tried a picture schedule with my daughter before and it didn't work well but maybe showing the pictures one at a time is better than a whole day of pictures at once.

As far as calming my daughter when she has meltdowns ...... I really don't have an answer. I have to let her get it out of her system. I move her to a safe place or try to hold her in a safe position if she's throwing herself around in a way that she can get hurt (and she has .... she's hit her head, scratched up her arm and then she gets even MORE upset that she's gotten hurt, ugh, it's rough). But mostly I let her scream and roll around, just in a confined area and I calmly talk to her if that doesn't upset her more (lots of times it does, so I stay silent) and if everything I seem to be doing is just making it worse and prolonging the meltdown, I walk out of her room and shut her door. I'll go back in 10 minutes later if she's still screaming and crying, and try to calm her down again.

Thank God we haven't had a major meltdown in a public place yet ...... other than places where I feel safe dealing with it (like the therapy center or the YMCA toddler time where the people working there all know my daughter has autism) ..... she had a pretty hard time at the ymca once and I just sat on the ground with her and held her so she wouldn't hurt herself and thankfully it didn't last very long. But in public places I also don't push anything. There have been several times where I'm attempting to walk into a store and my daughter starts losing control, pulling away, shaking her head and making upset sounds and I just turn around and we go back to the car. I don't care what I needed ..... it's not worth sending my daughter over the edge. 




darbyakeep45
by Darby on May. 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM

My son's meltdowns are more because he isn't getting what he wants.  Typical toddler type behavior.  He doesn't usually have them when he's frustrated from not being able to communicate.  When he gets frustrated from not being able to be understood, he will scream or grunt, but not necessarily meltdown.  Hugs!

lady_katie
by Silver Member on May. 12, 2014 at 3:41 PM

My son will be 3 in July and meltdowns have always been a huge issue for us. As his receptive language increases, they are decreasing, and I think that is because he is mentally prepared for what's going to happen. There are a few things that help though:

1) Having a very strict routine with lots of down time in a safe, quiet and predictable environment (our house). As soon as his routine is off, he immediately loses his abiity to regulate and the meltdowns increase. 

2) Not touching him, or getting him to a place where I can stop touching him quickly. I'm sure it's just way too much input for him to process when he's already overloaded. 

3) Figuring out exactly what he can handle and not expecting him to do more. I know that he can handle 45 minutes at a familiar park, so I don't expect him to stay an hour, because I *know* what is going to happen if I do. 

4) Having him wear a compression vest in overwhelming situations. He responds well to deep pressure, so this seems to help him feel more organized for longer periods of time. Or, if he's just had a melt down, I'll put the vest on to help him to recover. We also have a weighted blanket for this purpose. 

5) A visual timer helps him to deal with transitions better. Even if he has a melt down at the transition point, it's usually a little more manageable when he knew it was coming. 

These are some of the strategies that are working for us at the moment. It's a pretty rigid lifestyle (which I prefer, but maybe not to this extent), but it's way better then dealing with the constant behavior issues. Good luck!

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