Children with autism tend to have difficulties interacting socially. That’s why they may act out or have a full meltdown when stressed, confused, afraid, and anxious about something.
5 Strategies To Calm Children With Autism
Different from tantrums, autism meltdowns are an intense response to overwhelming circumstances. The common triggers include changes in routine, sensory differences, communication difficulties, and anxiety. Getting overly anxious leads to a meltdown or involuntary coping mechanism.
In this article, you’ll learn some effective strategies to calm children with autism. See below:
Have Your Child Wear A Weighted Vest
A weighted vest for kids can hold weight. This special vest designed for autistic children has pockets inside where you can place small ½ or ¼ pound weights. An anxious child with autism felt calmer and focused wearing a weighted vest because of the compression and weight, providing deep muscle and joint pressure that resembles a firm hug.
Start with light weights and gradually increase them. Ensure that the vest is not more than 5 to 10% of the child’s body weight. Also, distribute the weight evenly throughout the vest to snugly fit the child’s body. Schedule your child to wear a weighted vest twice or thrice a day, no longer than 15 minutes for each instance.
Children with autism have difficulty processing sensory information. They can be under-reactive (hypersensitive) or over-reactive (hypersensitive). A weighted vest helps an autistic child calm down when feeling stressed because of the sensory input. It makes the child feel more comfortable, and the same principle applies to a weighted baby blanket.
Children with autism can benefit from wearing weighted vests, such as the following:
- Increase focus
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve communication
- Promote problem-solving skills
- Regulate emotions
- Increase body awareness
- Promote better coordination
Stay Close To Your Child
A tantrum is triggered by anger or frustration. But, an autistic meltdown is a reaction to overwhelming feelings. Autistic meltdown can be triggered by transitions, sensory overload, informational overload, and emotional overload. Autistic children can’t control meltdowns, so strategies like distractions, hugs, or incentives that work on tantrums won’t be practical for meltdowns.
During a meltdown, the child is unlikely responsive to any request or command, and punishing won’t help. But, don’t panic. Ignore bystanders who might utter negative statements. Instead, focus on your child. If your child is having tantrums or melting down, stay close to comfort and calm him down. Make your child feel loved and safe.
Teach Your Child Coping Strategies
During tantrums, your child may cry, scream, stiffen up, run away, kick things around, or fall. Some break things and could get very aggressive. Some triggering factors include hunger, thirst, and tiredness. That’s why it’s crucial to assess your child’s need to avoid tantrums.
You can work on your child’s emotional regulation by teaching him good coping strategies. Introduce these coping strategies when your child is well-rested. Think of and try activities that make your child relaxed, such as the following:
- Deep breathing
- Nature walks
- Stretching exercises
- Practicing yoga
Stay Calm And Be Patient
As a parent, show your child your love and empathy. Don’t overreact or get angry regardless of your child’s behavior. Many children with autism show signs of distress or undergo the so-called rumble state. They try to keep themselves down by pacing around, asking repetitive questions, rocking back and forth, or staying very still.
When you notice these signs, this is the best time to prevent a meltdown. Try to de-escalate the situation by reminding your child of deep breathing or giving your child items he is comfortable with, such as a weighted blanket. In this way, the situation won’t get worse.
Here are the benefits of staying calm and patient when your child is having tantrums or autistic meltdown:
- Your child feels more loved.
- Provide a sense of security for your child.
- Prevent the situation from getting worse.
- Prevent hurting your child.
Keep A Diary
Note down where and when your child experiences temper tantrums or meltdown to help prevent future occurrences. In this way, you can determine the meltdown signs beforehand to create a calming routine and de-escalate the situation.
Strategies To Calm Children With Autism
You’ve just learned the different strategies to calm a child with autism when triggered by stress, anxiety, and fear. Some of these strategies include having your child wear weighted vests or use weighted blankets. Stay close to your child and teach your child effective coping strategies.