Category Archives: Sensory Issues

Coping With Meltdowns

Have you ever had one of those days where you count the hours till bedtime?

3…2…1… Bedtime yet?

Where all you do is deal with MELTDOWNS?? I have to admit it’s truly been one of ‘those days’ here.

I long for warm days and sunny skies usually. However, today I’ve been struggling with a bad migraine which makes those sunny days barely tolerable. It would have been a great day to catch some rays and build a snowman with the kids, but with my eyes having this light sensitivity – not a go! Anyone that’s ever been in my shoes wishes to lay down in the dark with an ice pack on their head in peace and quiet! I get to compromise – curtains closed, lights off, head back on the couch with loud noise going on around me.

So goes the battle of having 4 kids in one space and trying to coexist around each other. While the noise level keeps getting a little bit higher.. then a confrontation happens, then the screaming, and then the meltdowns.

= ONE FRUSTRATED PARENT

What do you do? How do you manage? I cope like I always do and just exist on these days… and hope that bedtime comes quicker! Isn’t that what we all do?

I want to talk very quickly about children with autism and what to do when there are frequent meltdowns. When Beverley has trouble sharing and processing information, she very quickly becomes anxious – which in turn then leads to head banging or head punching.

I’d love to share with you some of the coping mechanisms I implement in the home, in the car, or if we are in a public environment.

#1. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO BREATHE.

What I mean by that is have them take a couple deep breaths in and out. Get them to repeat after you. Sometimes when I was first teaching this I had to gently grasp the sides of her face and turn her towards me so she could see what I was trying to do. Say the word and then do the action and repeat that.

Try have a feather, a balloon or a mini windmill close and get them to blow on one of them if they seem stuck. If you don’t have any of those handy – teach your child to blow on their pointer finger. Again use the word and then the action. This expels all the pent up anger and frustration in their bodies and directs it outward.

#2. DEEP PRESSURE VS. LIGHT PRESSURE.

Stand behind them and gently apply pressure with your hands down on their shoulders. Their little bodies are out of control and need something to calm them. Or you can look into weighted vests for them.

For example: in the mornings is when Michael is at his highest level of agitation – so he used to have to walk around with some heavy books in his backpack while wearing it till he felt more calm. Now his classroom has a separate room where there are mats on the floor and attached to the walls, so he can run at them and get that pressure he so desires.

When he was small he used to head bunt all the time. He was on a sensory overload unless he was head bunting me.. now when he gets anxious I’m his sounding board and he slams into me!

Michael also loves hard hugs. Each child is different, so test different things out. For instance, Beverley still loves having me stroke her back with my nails lightly up and down under her shirt, or along the back of her neck. She seems more apt to light pressure.

Another thing to try is getting them to press their hands together hard or tighten their hands into fists and then relax them. Then repeat. If you are sitting by a table get them to press down on the table.

#3. TACTILE INTEGRATION.

This would be where you maybe take them out of their comfort zone a bit. So for example let them play with play dough or sand.

Have extra rice on hand for this occasion. I have a big container that is their play pile and I purchased some cheap butterflies or pretty sparkly beads and mixed them all up together. Throw down a plastic tablecloth on the living room floor and give them an egg carton to separate the items ‘hidden’ deep in the rice into. Give them a small strainer. Be creative!

Get some long string and get them to string beads on it in a long rope… Just some ideas to try!

#4. DISTRACTION.

Whenever possible try to divert their attention with what I like to call tinker toys!

  • things that spin
  • things that light up
  • things that bend or move a certain direction
  • things that are slimy or sticky
  • things that have tactile feelers on them
  • things with buttons or dials
  • things that you can stretch

Again make sure you know something of what your child likes and run with it. My purse, my van, my shelf at home is filled with tinker toys that appeal to their senses. Whether it be calculators that when you push the buttons they beep, egg timers, spin toys, windmills, feathers, balloons, cars, mini light up wands, palm squish balls!

#5. HAVE A FUN TIME.

This is where in our house we bring out blankets and wrap the child up in one and then roll them back out. We have HUGE tickle fests where we get down to their level and just laugh and tickle them. Give piggy back rides or horsey rides. Whatever it is – just something that is high energy if only for ten or fifteen minutes. Our children feed off of excitement and energy!

I hope this gave you some ideas to try when coping with meltdowns. Please leave me a comment and share this with others if you’ve found it helpful! Bless you. Judy