When my son, James, has a meltdown, there can be a wide range of things that trigger it. James has Autism and Associated Learning Disability, so a meltdown may spur from being overwhelmed by sensory input, or he might be frustrated that he can’t communicate something to us (he is mostly non-verbal), or it could just be that his iPad battery has gone flat!
The first thing we do is let him know we are there with him. Reassurance that he will be OK (regardless of what’s causing him to be upset) and that we love him very much helps a great deal. It can be as simple as holding him and gently speaking comforting words to him—even if those words find it hard to make their way through the meltdown—the sound of our voice soothes James.
If we can identify the cause of the meltdown—for example, a flat iPad battery—then we can fix the problem and the meltdown will slowly lessen. If it isn’t an easy fix, we’ll look for other calming techniques such as pressure therapy: gently squeezing James’ thighs or arms, rubbing his back, or maybe using a weighted blanket. A sensory chew toy often helps, too.
And if all else fails, offering James his favourite snack, or putting on a much-loved film can provide a much-needed distraction.
Of course, it’s important to remember that it might take James a while to calm down from the meltdown, even once the cause has been identified and fixed. Simply being there with him, offering unconditional love and comfort, helps him to regain his confidence that he is safe and cared for and that there is nothing to fear.
– Mark Arnold, Springible Contributor
Read our interview with Mark and learn about all of the amazing things he has done for Autism awareness and support in the UK!