Don’t let Meltdowns get you down!
Asperger’s Syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism and more and more people are being diagnosed with this life long condition.
There are many up and downsides to being neuro-divergent. For many autistic people, the downside includes having meltdowns.
A meltdown is completely beyond a persons control and happens because their brain is overstimulated. It is an extreme response to overwhelming circumstances including their own emotions, an autistic person may feel overwhelmed by fluorescent lighting, smells, the sound a fridge humming, or a texture such as scratchy wool jumper, they can even feel overwhelmed by nice aromas such as cooking.
These sensations may persist all day, until the autistic person is exhausted, their frustration tolerance whittled down, which could possibly cause them to have a meltdown.
A meltdown is unfortunately one of the challenges that people with Aspergers Syndrome have to face.
It is not just a tantrum, it is an out of control behaviour that happens when a person is overwhelmed by their emotions.
They can happen to people of all ages on the spectrum, in childhood through to adulthood.
Prior to a meltdown, there are warning signs. These warnings are known as ”Rumblings”. A person about to go into meltdown may outwardly show that he / she is getting distressed.
One thing to bear in mind is that not all meltdowns look the same and can last from minutes to hours. It can also involve becoming quiet and imploding in on oneself, rather than exhibiting explosive behaviour.
For my partner who has Asperger’s, most recently, I noticed that he was frowning when on the way to the park, and then he went really quiet and it wasn’t until we got out of the environment with all the chitter chatter of people that he became his normal quirky chatty self. It wasn’t until then that I realised that he’d had a melt down.
The person experiencing the melt down can no longer think properly because they have gone into fight or flight mode, they literally shut down until the meltdown continues.
A meltdown may look like a tantrum, the difference is it is NOT being used to manipulate the parent in any way.
Signs that someone could be experiencing a melt down:
- dropping to the floor
- rocking back and forth
- hitting and screaming
Tips on how to help children and those who struggle to regulate their emotions
In some cases it is essential that young people are supported to create some space from the stimuli, i.e. if fluorescent lights are too bright, it may be best to go out of the building or find a quiet area to reflect and gather their thoughts.
At times, escaping the triggers may not be suitable so here are some things you can try:
- Stay calm – some breathing activities might help to reduce anxious thoughts
- Use a low, slow voice to talk to the child as during meltdown they have difficulty in processing information.
- Have empathy and kindness, they are going through something very unpleasant and blaming or judging could make things worse.
- Adapt the environment to create a safe , calm space for the person in meltdown.
- Turn the lights low, take them away from people, turn down any loud noises, and avoid making demands to them.
- Bear in mind that this behaviour is not chosen, it is a reaction to distressing stimuli, so do not judge or punish them for their behaviour.
- Tell them to let it out.
- Lie on the floor next to them, this helps you to be other level and to connect with them
Acting in this way with people that have Asperger’s is non – confrontational and can help them to come round from this distressing experience in the most loving way.
Contrary to what you may think, having Asperger’s is not all doom and gloom. As well as the more challenging aspect of Asperger’s i.e. Meltdowns, I think it is important to acknowledge that having Asperger’s can also be a blessing.
Some of the most famous people with Aspergers are:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The classical composer
- Isaac Newton – The discoverer of gravity
- Andy Warhol – Artist
- Daryl Hannah – Actress (image above)
- Hans Cristian Anderson – Children’s author
- Bill Gates – Co founder of Microsoft
- Lewis Carroll – Author of Alice in Wonderland
- Tim Burton – Movie director
- Stephen Fry – Actor
- Courtney Love – Actor – wife of Kurt Kobain
- Sir Anthony Hopkins – Actor in Silence of the Lambs
- Susan Boyle -Singer
Without people who have Asperger’s (Aspies), we would not of had some of the profound and monumental contributions to humanity. Can you imagine a world without knowing about gravity?
The world would not be the same place. We need you Aspies!
Talk to us at The ME Project for more information about what we do.