You are blissfully walking down the supermarket aisle when the inevitable happens, your autistic child starts showing the early signs of a meltdown. You know if you do not do something it will escalate leaving you guys a public spectacle.
Public meltdowns are inevitable and you should never feel embarrassed about them. It just means that your child was exposed to something that triggered their reactions or his senses were over stimulated and they couldn’t control themselves.
Below are tips and strategies on how you can best handle these tricky scenarios.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
As a parent of an autistic child you have to prepare for the worst case scenario. Even mundane things like going grocery shopping or eating out in a restaurant may spark your child’s meltdown. Always talk to your child way ahead of time about what you will be doing, what they should expect to see as this helps them create a visual picture hence they will not be overwhelmed by the new environment.
Keep them busy
Give your child a task to focus during your outing that will distract their attention from their surrounding. Try giving them basic responsibilities like marking off items in your shopping list, pushing the shopping cart, comparing prices on the menu which will decrease the chances of your outing ending up in a meltdown.
This is your go-bag which contains items that calm your child. Items like their favourite teddy bear, toy car, sensory fidgets and most important medication your child takes.
Train your other children
plan ahead for what the other children should do in the case of a sibling’s meltdown. “Create a safety word beforehand and teach your other children that it means they need to listen to other adults who help while you deal with the meltdown,” she says. “It’s also their signal that they need to be using their own calming tools to stay under control in the situation.”
When a meltdown happens
Okay, so you have not been successful in preventing your little one’s public meltdown. We know its messy, you want to scream at the top of your lungs and wish the earth could just open up and swallow you. Take a deep breath. Try and speak softly but firmly using short and easy to understand sentences. Remember your child feeds of your emotions and if you start panicking or getting angry, it will just worsen the situation.
Do not be afraid to ask those around you to help you clear the area or watch your other children briefly as you calm your child. If you demonstrate a knowledge of how to control the situation, it will make it easier for those around you to help you and follow your instructions.