The word meltdown has been used numerous times and has expressed different meanings relating to children with autism. What is meant by a meltdown and what causes the more common attributes of meltdowns?
The most common cause of a meltdown is an emotional response to stress or overstimulation. Most autistic children have a challenging time to understand where their stress level is and how to handle it, in addition, to overstimulation. Some children will express their relief by throwing things, running away from a situation, such as out the door, in an area that is not safe, such as a street, with cars coming and the child is not aware of the danger.
Meltdowns are reactions to severe stress, when a child with autism, is not taught or is unable to redirect his or her stress in a positive way by understanding that the situation can be changed and managed.
Every individual is different in their own unique way. Many children come from families that react differently to their stress and in their culture, which may influence a child with the disorder of autism in a particular family.
The more common attributes of meltdowns in children with autism, are for example, too many people all at once, frequent changes, asking too many questions, change in topics too quickly, going to unfamiliar places and appointments, with no explanation and going from class to class, with new teachers.
Most of the of meltdowns are caused by the fact, that the individual is autistic and is taken by surprise, given too many choices, does not understand the reason for all of the sudden changes, emotion overload, sensory overload, given too many tasks to do and is unable to process all the information.
You can observe with meltdowns, that there are warning signs. These many include repeating words or phrases over and over again, having difficulty understanding and answering questions, not wanting to stop repetitive rituals or routines, pacing back and forth, and flapping hands.
The meaning of meltdowns are uncontrolled reactions to overwhelming stress. They are not temper tantrums, but they can lead to meltdowns. Furthermore, there may be a high risk of self-injury during meltdowns. For instance, banging their head, and some individuals with autism gravitate towards running water, near lakes, creeks or dams, which can be dangerous and cause drowning.
After defining and understanding what is meant by a meltdown, many individuals with autism will grow up in our environment and try to adapt to our society, that does not understand what a meltdown is, in the people with autism. The individuals with autism, will try to develop coping skills and redirect their struggles to manage their every day challenges.
Remember, people with autism will always have autism, so they too will experience their off-days of not always being able to cope with their struggles, which might catch them off- guard and cause a meltdown.
It is imperative to realize, individuals with the disorder of autism have meltdowns, due to the fact that they do not always know how to direct their emotions in the proper channels. Be patient with them and learn about their disorder and meltdowns, to gain a better understanding of what they are experiencing.
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