Are you the parent, caregiver, or teacher of a child with autism? If so, you’re familiar with the unique day-to-day challenges that arise. One example is the meltdown that results when the child is overwhelmed.
Each child’s behavior is unique. Their intense reaction may include verbal outbursts with screaming and crying. He or she may respond physically by biting, kicking, or hitting.
Remember, they’re not using this meltdown to manipulate you. The child has reached the point of overload and can’t think rationally. It’s important to learn how to help a child with autism calm down.
Keep reading this comprehensive guide to finding different strategies. You can try these different approaches and see what works best for your child.
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for Autism Treatment?
ABA autism therapy focuses on managing and improving various behaviors. It includes verbal and social communication, fine motor skills, and education. The child can use what they learn in many different settings. At Dream Big, we like to center our ABA therapy around play. Each session (both center and in-home sessions) is filled with fun and creativity.
A fundamental component of this approach is positive reinforcement. The therapist will develop individualized behavioral goals for your child in a meaningful way.
Each time the child demonstrates the skill being taught they’re “rewarded”. This means they receive something that they want, such as a toy, book, or game.
Understanding the ABC Approach
One technique used in ABA therapy is the ABC approach. This is the acronym for antecedent, behavior, and consequence. It takes a more in-depth look at behavior challenges than other methods.
First, the parent learns to identify the triggers for positive and negative reactions. This trigger, called the antecedent, describes anything that leads to a behavior. Examples may include specific situations, visual stimulation, or verbal responses.
The resulting behavior can be something minor or escalate to aggression or a major tantrum. The consequence describes what happens in response to this behavior. Since ABA uses only positive responses to behavior, there shouldn’t be a reaction.
By learning these “ABCs” parents gain insight into why their child is having a meltdown. They also develop a consistent plan for managing these situations. Parents feel more confident which helps them remain calm as they offer support.
How to Help a Child with Autism Calm Down
It’s important to focus on your child’s unique ABCs when developing a plan for meltdowns. The following describes different strategies for calming down a child with Autism.
Consider What Has Helped Your Child Before
Start by thinking about what soothes your child when they become restless. Make a list of their favorite items or activities. What has helped calm them down in the past?
Assemble a Comfort Kit
Do certain sounds, tastes, sights, or touch sensations create a calm feeling for your child? If so, put together a bag containing these items and always keep it with them. When you recognize an antecedent, open the kit to prevent or resolve the behavior.
The following is a list of ideas that have worked for other children with autism.
- A bottle of soap for blowing bubbles
- A soft and/or weighted blanket
- Fidget toys
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Toys that they can chew on or squeeze
Another good addition is small bags filled with different tactile stimulating items. For example, pasta, kinetic sand, oatmeal, rice, and pine nuts.
Follow These Steps When Interacting During a Meltdown
When talking to the child, keep your voice low and quiet. Speak slowly and use only a few words.
Offer a couple of items or activities that they can choose to feel better. For example, “Do you want your blanket?” or “Would you like to wash your face?”
This shows that you care and helps them know they’re going to be okay. You’re will take care of them. Don’t talk about what happened during the meltdown at that time.
Once they feel calm, you can give them simple directions. Use relaxed, quiet actions to show your child that the family’s life is okay.
Participate in a Support Group
Don’t forget to care for yourself. You are not alone in the challenges of raising a child with autism. Find a support network of other parents facing the same struggle.
If you’re tired and stressed, it’s harder to remain calm during meltdowns. Talking with others in a similar situation can also help you find new approaches.
What to Do Once the Situation Is Completely Resolved
It may prove helpful to make some notes about what you think the antecedent was. Were they hungry, tired, or did their situation overwhelm them? Also, describe which actions or activities were helpful and which were not.
Many times, the meltdown can cause a mess in the room. At this time, using simple instructions, you and your child can clean up together. Never scold your child for the event.
If appropriate, you may discuss some of your thoughts about the triggers. This can help older children learn to recognize when they start feeling overwhelmed. Taking the practiced actions can help them feel better and avoid meltdowns.
Are You Looking for Autism Services in the Los Angeles Area?
This article provides an overview of how to help a child with autism calm down. Dream Big provides excellent, play-based services for children with autism in the Los Angeles area. Our region includes High Desert, Monrovia, Ontario, Riverside, and Palm Springs.
Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA’s) provide ABA therapy services for our clients. This includes exceptional center-based and in-home early intervention. We offer a welcoming, fun, playful environment with inclusive playgroups for growth and learning.
Our caring staff believes that a child’s parents are their most important teachers. Thus, we involve you in your child’s care planning and therapy sessions. Contact us today to learn about our program.