How to Manage Autism Meltdowns

How to Manage Autism Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Aggression

All parents have been through the phase when their child breaks into tears, rage, and throws tantrums at home, at the park, at other places. However, having an autistic child means you witness these tantrums and meltdowns more often. For someone unaware, an autistic child having a breakdown might look like a child having a temper issue, but the situation is often more complicated than what appears. Those who have or look after a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) know that dealing with a meltdown is different and requires knowledge about their personality.

Child Meltdown

Difference between autism meltdowns, tantrums, and aggression

Though meltdowns, aggression, and tantrums are different from one another, they are somewhat related. Aggression in autistic children refers to violent behavior, including kicking, throwing objects, hitting, biting, and punching. This behavior is often directed to oneself or others. Both meltdowns and tantrums can involve aggression.

It is crucial to differentiate meltdowns from temper tantrums. Although they look similar, both differ from one another. Children use temper tantrums as a method to get what they want. To be more specific, temper tantrums occur when the child is frustrated with not being able to do what he/she wants or can’t communicate properly. Children who throw temper tantrums are usually in control and aware of their actions. The response they receive from a parent or caretaker can help them adjust the level of their tantrum.

Meltdowns, however, are beyond their control and occur due to sensory overload. They usually have some defining characteristics and indicate an imminent meltdown. Unlike tantrums, meltdowns may occur without an audience as well and last longer. They are not limited to children only and can occur in teens and adults with autism. Once you can differentiate between a meltdown and a tantrum, you can apply the right methods and strategies to deal with the situation.

Managing Autism-Related Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Aggression

Deal with a temper tantrum

Children usually throw tantrums when they want something. However, it’d be best if you didn’t give in to every demand behind a tantrum. Some successful strategies for managing autism aggression and tantrums include the following:

  • Keep your calm and try not to get upset if your child throws a tantrum. It will help if you keep yourself calm first before calming the child down. 
  • Tantrums are typical behavior when children don’t get what they want. Giving in to such behavior will only strengthen it. Though the fastest way to stop a tantrum is to accept the child’s demand, it is not an ideal strategy in the long-term. Your child will learn to throw a tantrum every time. 
  • Acknowledge your child’s emotions instead of ignoring them. Don’t ask your child to “Stop crying. You’re silly” instead, show that you validate his/her feelings. For example, you can try saying, “I know you want to play with the water gun, but we can’t buy it today. Maybe next time.” saying this allows your child to understand that you acknowledge their feelings but can’t do anything right away.
  • Try changing the topic. Diverting the child’s attention may help. For example, if your child gets angry while brushing teeth, talk about something fun like reading a story before going to bed.
  • Praise your children once the tantrum ends might help them to cope with challenging emotions.

Deal with a meltdown

Knowing every child with autism is different is crucial. Therefore, no strategy applies to all while handling meltdowns. Secondly, not all strategies are meant to deal with meltdowns work. However, some general techniques can be used and improvised according to your child’s behavior and personality. During a meltdown, you can use the following approach:

  • Leave the area to calm your child down.
  • Try incentives by playing a short game or bringing out a particular toy. Calming devices like fidget toys, weighted vests, and noise-proof headphones can be helpful.
  • Try adding meditation and relaxation exercises to your child’s routine. During a meltdown, ask your child to practice deep breathing and count from one to ten. This will help him/her relax and calm down.
  • During a meltdown, keep your child safe from injuries. Prevent injuries to your child or others during a meltdown by being in a safe place.
  • Keep yourself calm as your child can feel your frustration, and it can worsen the meltdown.
  • Try to keep your expressions regular and voice tone neutral. Be at an arm’s length to the child.

Tips to prevent meltdowns

Dealing with autism meltdowns can be challenging. Therefore, instead of responding to one, trying to prevent it all together is a better strategy. You must be aware of some common triggers like sensory sensitivities to loud noise, strong smells, and bright lights. Daily routine habits like bedtime stories and special breakfast, also count. Once you have all the relevant information, identifying what triggers meltdowns get more manageable, and you can avoid them.

Though averting meltdowns every time is not possible, here are some ways that help:

  • Prepare the child beforehand for changes in routine
  • Always remain supportive
  • Show your child that you fully understand their emotions
  • Try communicating with your child
  • Use a meltdown kit
  • Check for any discomfort like being cold or hungry
  • Learn from the experience and modify your coping strategies accordingly

These simple techniques allow you to prevent meltdowns. However, seeking professional help is always a good idea.


Upset Child


Get Professional Help

If you’re looking for professional help for managing autism, meltdowns, and aggression in Riverside, California, Orange County, California, Corona, California, or Los Angeles, California, you can consult Therapists  /  Psychologists near me at  MindShift Psychological Services. Meltdowns, tantrums, and aggression don’t define people living with autism. While these behaviors exhibited by children on the spectrum may be difficult to manage, the right strategies and guidance from professional Therapists / Psychologists can significantly improve their ability to regulate emotions. Therapy sessions near me like Dialectal Behavioral Therapy DBT and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT may help manage emotions and behavior in people with autism. If you’re a parent feeling mentally exhausted and looking for support, don’t hesitate to consult a professional. You can also take Teletherapy sessions online to heal with MindShift Psychological Services from the comfort of your house.