10 Tips to Calm Down an Autistic Child in Meltdown

2013-12-01 03:56
Autistic child calming down

Possibly the most difficult and exhausting aspect of being a mother of an autistic child is dealing with meltdowns. Sometimes every day. Definitely at the wrong moments. Chances are, these meltdowns have kept you at home during family holidays, away from the merriment. Walking in a mall, even when not very busy, could end up in an hour-long screaming fit with a sprinkle of aggression to make your day complete. Tips that could help are very much appreciated.

Autistic children are special, different, but never less than others. They are perfect in the eyes of their parents, with all the problems that they drag in the door with them. It matters not if the child is high-functioning Asperger's or low-functioning ASD with Rhett's Syndrome. The strange things that they do can be quite amusing, including when they claim to hear colours. None would ever replace their children, finding methods of preventing the disorder, such as through embryonic selection, utterly despicable.

Christmas is coming on a train full of other holidays as well, including Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Kwanzaa and Yule. Between appropriate gifts and pictures at the mall, parents can be seeing either full blown meltdowns or utter excitement in the eyes of their children. If it is the latter, there are ways to deal with it.

A meltdown is not the same as a tantrum for the following reasons:

  1. Autistic children don't look or care about another's reactions during a meltdown, but tantrums are thrown with attention-seeking in mind.
  2. Meltdowns often also include-self harm while children in a tantrum take care not to get hurt.
  3. Meltdowns can occur anywhere and autistic children don't want a social situation, while tantrums are done in public for optimal exposure/using the audience to their advantage.
  4. Meltdowns will wind down slowly on their own, but tantrums require a situation to be resolved.
  5. Meltdowns have the child feel out-of-control, while tantrums have the child feeling all-so-powerful.
  6. Meltdowns will continue even after being given what was denied in the first place, but tantrums will end the moment their goal is achieved.


Often, it's extremely hard for a stranger to distinguish between a meltdown and a temper tantrum, mistaking an autistic child's behavior with terrible parenting. They will find themselves feeling obligated to give you advice that "should help" with your problem, but often leave you feeling even more frustrated with the situation. It is not easy, but the best thign to do is to smile, ignore those words and walk away. You will be doing everyone a world of good.

How to calm down a child having a meltdown

AutismFile has some rather useful tips:

  • Take steps to prevent from the beginning by removing potential triggers
  • Make a list of all the things that seem to affect a meltdown, researching as it occurs
  • Use pressure with weighted blankets and massages
  • Use a diversion that often makes your child happy, whether it's silly faces, singing a funny son, etc.
  • Keep yourself calm so as to allow for a safe spot to come back to
  • Lavender and chamomile oils are great aromatherapy
  • Positive verbal feedback and an accepting body language work wonders
  • Noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce auditory stimuli and quicken the end of a meltdown
  • Pop up a tent or create a small but cozy space for alone time with items of comfort for the child
  • Ensure you provide a proper diet without foods that could potentially increase likelihood of meltdowns
  • Try out a really hot bath or eating worm eggs


I completely agree with this article, just wanted to point out that when children "claim to hear colors" there is actually a valid medical reason for this called synesthesia. There are many forms of it - one of which I personally have - including a person having a link between the visualization of colors and their auditory receptors, resulting in literally "hearing colors."
Yep! hence why I linked to my article on that issue :D It's one of the coolest conditions I've ever heard people can have, and autistic children seem to be at a higher "risk" of showing signs of it :D
What about smelling colors. My daughter is always claiming she smells things that are odorless.
Synesthsia is when any two senses get mixed. However, people with autism also tend to have higher sensitivities (sensitivity to sound, light, etc.), so it is possible that your child could smell something that other people don't.
Some of these seem not to have affect when the child is a teenager. My younger brother is out of control and he is old and strong and there isn't much I can do. There usually is no trigger, he just flips out whenever he wants. What do I do?
my 11 year old step son is sometimes completely out of control. When he does something that requires a punishment he melts down and hits or kicks me. I have 6 other kids at home and can not allow this violence. He hits his brothers and sisters with objects. No one has any answers for me. I feel so overwhelmed sometimes. His behavior like this is maybe once or twice a month.
hi... my name is Allison I recommend putting the other kids in a place he cant get to when he is having a meltdown so he will see he cant do that and he wont be able to hit him but don't yell keep calm because autistic kids sense anxiousness and depression etc.
I've been told my lil boy has autism bye some who has 2 autistic children but I can't seem to find someplace to get him tested any advice?
Talk to your child's pediatrician. They should be able to guide you through the proper steps for early intervention.