Often, autistic people can have meltdowns, shutdowns, or breakdowns if they get upset or overwhelmed.
If you’re with them, it’s important to know what to do to calm them down.
If you were with me or you witnessed me having one would you know what to do?
Here then is my eight step guide to assist you in being more aware and knowledgable;
If the person is verbal, ask them what is bothering them. Dependant on what it is; say for example it’s a loud noise, take them away from the area (move them somewhere quiet if possible).
During severe sensory overload, people who are ordinarily verbal may suddenly lose the ability to speak.
1.This is due to severe overstimulation, and will pass with relaxation time. If someone has lost the ability to speak, ask only yes/no questions that they can answer with thumbs up/thumbs down motion.
2. Turn off any television, music etc. and avoid using light touch. Often, it is the case that as an autistic person have problems with sensory input; they hear, feel, and see things much more intensely than others do. It is as if the volume for everything has been turned up when it needs to be muted.
3. Offer a massage. Many autistic people have benefited from massage therapy. (Please ask permission before doing this as some of us don’t like being touched in any way)
4. Don’t try to prevent stimming. Stimming is basically a series of repetitive movements that are calming mechanisms for autistic people. Examples of stimming include: hand flapping, finger flicking, and rocking. Stimming can help prevent or reduce symptoms of meltdowns etc. If however you find that the person is hurting themselves (e.g. they are hitting their fists on things, or they are banging their head against the wall etc.) then do your best to stop this.
5. Offer to apply gentle pressure on their body. If the person is sitting up, stand behind him/her and cross your arms over their chest. Again please make sure they you have that person’s full permission, don’t assume that you can just go ahead an perform this.
8. If you can, carry or escort them to a quiet place. If you cannot, encourage any people in the room to leave. Explain that unexpected noise and movement are hard for the autistic person right now and that they can come back once the person has calmed down.