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10 Tips to Calm Down an Autistic Child in Meltdown

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.

ALSO SEE: An Autism Breakfast That Changed Mom’s Perspective: How an Unexpected Encounter Helped One Parent To Cope With Autism Stress.

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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


Hi my 3 year old daughter never used to have a problem going on the bus she used to love it now if she can't sit in certain places she screams and has a meltdown and doesn't stop till she gets off I need to go on the bus as her pre skool is to far but I can't change her skool as there great with her and have done a lot to help with when I send her to primary school any tips on how to get her to sit in seats that are not taken and not I the seats she wants all the time thanx
hi i work with a autistic girl who is 5 years old in a primary school. this is my first time as a teaching assistant to work with a child who is autistic. she is a very demanding little girl, who doesnt speak at all. I had gone for my break and when i had come back the little girl and a tantrum in nursery class. the class teacher and an other member of staff where trying to clam her down. Unfourtunatley they couldnIt calm her down .As i was walking back to the nursery the little girl was very stressed, she was screaming and pulling at the class taechers shoes. To distract the little girl from having tantrum i took her hat of her head to defused the suasion down. The liitle girl ran after me and i put her hat back on her head and she held my hand and we walked of to are next lesson.As a T/A have i done any thing wrong in this suasion? please reply back because i need the feed back to take to school. As this has been classed as unprofesstional in my job role.
I have an autistic son who is about to turn 5 and i loved your story. My son is getting ready to start school and of course i have so many diff concerns and for so many reasons. Fortunately you wont be one of them. I can see how a supervisor would mabye say maybe we shouldnt agravate but i do stuff like that to my son to lighten up and he gets mad sometimes but you know i watch my son constantly i have full custody and i wish more people would actually play and really interact with these kids the way you did in your situation. Nice quick thinking and its just my opinion but you did a good job and thogh that wont work all the time it seemed ok to me
For those who have discussed Synesthesia, I was wondering if there is a color that is more calming (sight and sound) then say red which is clearly an exciting color visually. It would be interesting to know if the visual and auditory experience of color relate in a traditional manner. I'm hoping to help in anyway I can to make life a little more hospitable for my granddaughter, life presents so many more challenges for these children and their parents.
I found out with my little sister that light blue (like a sky blue) it a bit more calming tan most colors
Hi people I'm just after some much needed advice my son is 4 yrs old very hyperactive gets angry and frustrated easily when he talks he will start a sentence get half way through and start again numerous times and then he will get angry if he can't get it out he will pick things up and sniff them or sniff his hands he hits his sisters and myself and his dad when he's angry and laugh at us when we growl at him although he will sit and play his PlayStation until he is bored of it of his accord he will ride his motorbike continuously for hours but to try and get focus and attention when I am speaking to him is near impossible he sometimes runs in to doors and if and when he loses his temper he will headbutt things punch kick he even threw a bucket at me at one stage and a cup at his dad and split his eyebrow open please someone give me something he is only at the beginning of being tested I feel like I'm falling apart
Try to find out if there is an autism society in your area, google "Autism in (your city)" many times you can find resources in your area as well as support groups. If he is going to a behavioral health agency, ask if they have a family support service that they can put a referral in for, that is what I do. I go to people's homes and work with the parents/guardians one on one, the support is key.
My son responds to hemp oil. I burn it throughout the home and put it on the nape of his neck when I see he is starting to feel anxious. I also use stress relieving oils like lavender. They work wonders.
hi I have a son that is autistic he is 18 now and started hitting his self what do I do dad is disabled and he's getting to strong for me mom any help tips would be very appreciated he's done this a few times but never to this extent should I put him a some kind of medicine?
My son is 20 and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome a year ago. We are new to this, but we took him to a Psychiatrist at MUSC in Charleston. My son has extreme anxiety and has had many suicidal thoughts with plans in his mind...although he has never attempted anything. They recommended Gabapentin. It's a very safe drug and you can take it daily, and/or as needed. My son has a rating scale he uses. It's from 1-10 and he is okay at a 5. When he gets to a 4, I give him a Gabapentin to bring him back to normal. If he is at a 3, I give him 2 and so forth. the most he has ever had at once is a 4. I think that's the max. Most people are prescribed 3 times a day, but it can make you very tired if you're not used to it. Gabapentin has saved my son's life many many times. I highly recommend it!
Thank you i am going to ask his doctor as bad as i didnt want to put him on any medication I believe Im going to have to his fits come from nowhere and this last time he really scared me he just keept hitting his self in the face i restrained him as much as i coud but he just gets madder i shure hope the doc.has some answers for us thank you jodie and god bless you and your family
My grandson claps for hours. He is driving his mom and teachers crazy! What can we do to stop him? HELP!
give him something soft to play with like a small baby blanket or like a toy that is foam or very soft
Worm eggs? Sounds gross, I'll skip that one.
To transition an autistic child for different places school church grocery shopping beach etc especially with a non verbal child using a different backback or colourful bag with each different event. ie going to school use the green backback - going to store use the bag with veggie logoes for him (her) to carry etc. So the child can associate with the different events and help with transition.
I have an autistic sister shes 14 and im 15 no one in the house is really able to get her calm when she as a melt down does anyone have any tips on how to calm her down? she also gets really clingy when she gets scared or upset why is that?
Omg this is my son his meltdowns are out of control and when he has his meltdowns he hits his head on things and scratches his face and stuff and his meltdowns last hours.
Good job