A meltdown is common place when it comes to raising an autistic child. Here are 5 calming strategies for meltdowns to try.

5 Tried and True Calm Down Strategies for Autism Meltdowns

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As a parent of an autistic individual, meltdowns are something that we deal with. These calming strategies for autism meltdowns are ones that we have used time and time again in our household. It’s just part of life, you get used to it and develop autism meltdown strategies to help. These calming strategies have helped our family in the past and I hope that they will help your family as well.

Eventually, who knows, you may even get to a point where you’re prepared enough that you can intervene with a meltdown before it becomes full blown.

It’s all about timing and getting to know your child’s needs.

With Sweet B there are certain things that just work and here are 5 calming strategies for meltdowns that have worked for us. We’re also experimenting with using essential oils with her, so I’ll keep you all updated on that.

Individuals with autism have meltdowns for various reasons. Yours might be different from ours, and that’s to be expected. Autism, after all, is a spectrum disorder.

Find more tips for how to parent an autistic child.

Meltdowns are an expected part of parenting an autistic child. Here are 5 calming strategies for autism that have worked for our family in the past.

Meltdowns come with the territory of having an autistic child. But how do you know when it's a meltdown or a tantrum? We'll take a look at the differences and also share a few calming strategies that have worked for us.

What triggers an autism meltdown?

That depends on a few things such as: environment, time of day, how much sleep, if they’ve eaten recently, etc. 

When Sweet B has a melt down, it’s usually triggered by sensory overload and she has developed several strategies on her own for dealing with them. We’ve tried many other calming strategies for autism at the advice of her therapists or classroom teachers.

You can also consider these Calm Down Kits from Etsy

Some have been incredibly successful (music and exercise ball) while some haven’t.

Regardless of what method we’ve used, we then made it a part of her PECS cards so she could incorporate it into her routine. In fact, straying out of her routine is usually what causes her meltdowns lately. She’s a teenager and at this point, she has thrived on predictability in her day. We try to stick with the same routine every day or at least take steps to incorporate something new.

So what are those tried and true calming strategies that have worked the best?

Her top favorite method is to use her exercise ball. By using this, she can get her excess energy out and decompress easily.

Another way to deal with her meltdowns is by listening to music. Of course, she likes to listen to her music quite loud so we did get her a decent pair of headphones so she’s not disturbing anyone else.

We’ve also made a few homemade fidget toys by filling used plastic water bottles with rice, beans, beads. Sometimes we’ll put water in there as well, but usually we just put in the dry items. She enjoys shaking them and it seems to calm her down quite a bit.

To that extent, a simple sensory bin using rice as a base also works well for her. She can sift through it or use provided cups and spoons.

And, when she’s at home, one of the quickest ways to get her to calm down is to give her a bath or let her play in the bathtub. Water has been a huge calming factor for Sweet B since she was younger and it’s one of my favorite resources to use when we’re at home. It ties into our general process of creating a calming environment for her.

And since she’s non-verbal, I’ve also developed a simple set of calming cards for her to use. You can also take a look at these calming cards in case your child is more of a real-people picture person.

More Autism Meltdown Strategies to Consider

Other things that we’ve used in the past are weighted blankets, weighted vests, and a Slinky. Or other smaller items to put into a calm down kit.

These are just a few of the calming techniques for autism meltdowns that we’ve tried and still turn to.

When we have the space and the budget for it, I would love to create a sensory room. If you don’t have the space for that just yet, consider a calm down corner.

Want more resources for helping with your child’s behaviors at home? Check out my Behavior Management Bundle! Designed for parents & children to use at home, this bundle includes a calming strategies workbook to help develop strategies that work for your child.

A meltdown is common place when it comes to raising an autistic child. Here are 5 calming strategies for meltdowns to try.

What is a meltdown in autism?

But how do you know when it’s a meltdown or when a child is simply having a temper tantrum?

Well, for all intents and purposes, a meltdown does look very similar to a tantrum. Often, it’s difficult to tell the difference- especially to the untrained eye or for someone who might not be familiar with autism.

Or in those early years, when toddlers are particularly prone to throwing tantrums, you may think that your autistic toddler is just being a toddler. But I believe that there is a significant difference. In fact, I know there’s a difference. Not coming from a child psychology standpoint here, but speaking entirely from experience.

Especially now that my youngest is capable of throwing epic tantrums? Oh yes, I can tell you that there is definitely a difference between a temper tantrum and a sensory meltdown.

5 Key Differences Between an Autism Meltdown vs. Tantrum

Is it a temper tantrum or an autism meltdown?
Temper Tantrum Autism Meltdown
With a tantrum, the child is looking for a reaction With a meltdown, the child does not care if you are reacting or watching
With a tantrum, a child is trying to communicate to you that they want something. With a meltdown, a child has simply reached a point where they have lost control.
With a tantrum, a child is aware of their environment and personal safety. With a meltdown, a child has lost control and awareness.
With a tantrum, a child is very much in control of their behavior. With a meltdown, they simply are not.
With a tantrum, you can usually calm a child down. With a meltdown, you might not always be able to do this. Sometimes you just have to let their meltdown run it’s course.

 

Can autistic children have temper tantrums?

Children with autism are more prone to meltdowns than they are to tantrums, but that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to having tantrums. Sweet B has those too, especially when she’s being denied cookies or candy. The key is knowing which is which and handling them effectively.

Sensory meltdowns in autistic children come with the territory of parenting. Here are 5 tried and true calming strategies for meltdowns that work for us.

What calming strategies have been most effective for you and your family?

Meltdowns come with the territory of parenting an autistic child. As parents we develop strategies to best help our children cope. Here are a few calming strategies that have worked for us and we invite you to share what has worked for your family.
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Kori

Content Creator at Kori at Home
Kori is an autistic mom who also happens to have ADHD and Anxiety. She is currently located in Albany, NY where she is raising a neurodivergent family. Her older daughter is non-speaking autistic (and also has ADHD and Anxiety) and her youngest daughter is HSP/Gifted. As an empath, HSP, and highly intuitive individual, Kori brings her own life experiences as an autistic woman combined with her adventures in momming to bring you the day-to-day of her life at home. Kori provides life coaching services for neurodivergent women (and those who identify as women) as well as Oracle card reading, Tarot card readings, and energy healing.

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KelseyDiane
6 years ago

I love this!! I work with a boy who is on the autism spectrum and deal with meltdowns a lot! I am going to have to try some of these tips!!!

Jill
6 years ago

These are great tips. Meltdowns happen, a calm adult that knows how to help makes all the difference in the world!
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