So I’ve been speaking with Autism Hippie…. because she’s intelligent, funny, and has a boat load of autism experience. She’s trained in several different therapeutic teaching strategies, including RDI – we’ve been doing a lot of RDI, floor-time/play therapy at our house since Lila was 15 months old, and it has worked wonders so far.
For this first installment, we focused on how to handle meltdowns.
Autism Hippie has two wonderful blogs about meltdowns, located here:
Autism Hippie’s advice included the following:
- Set up a predictable framework for meltdowns – always act the exact same way, every single time.
- Breathe slowly and stay calm, keep saying the same things over and over (you can even use a sing song voice – which we did).
- STAY CALM. I just said it but it warrants repeating, this is incredibly important. The more worked up SHE gets, the calmer you get.
- If she attacks you, just gently take her hands in yours, and direct them downward.
- Rub her back, stay connected if at all possible – if you need to and can, redirect her to something soothing, helping to create a sensory pattern of calm.
- Finally, set her up to HAVE a meltdown – in the house and outside.
Here’s what ended up happening. Fortunately (or unfortunately), we ended up with the perfect scenario in which to try this out. Last Saturday we attempted a trip to iHop. She’s been successful in prior trips to iHop – they have a couple of things which help tremendously: booths and free wifi. However once we got there, there was a wait. Standing room only – Lila quickly became overwhelmed and lost it. We moved outside on a bench to try and calm her, and then she somehow managed to clock me in the face. She was in meltdown mode at this point, so we decided to just head home.
Once we got home, she calmed a bit. Then she asked for some new play doh. I gave her some, and she wanted more. I gave her a couple more pieces (she had two handfuls at this point), but she still wanted more – and when I told her no, she started throwing a tantrum. I told her that was all the new play doh she could have right then, that we should go play with it – and she was livid.
It quickly escalated into a full-blown meltdown. Bill was there with me and I started using the techniques above from Autism Hippie. She tried to hit me in the face and pull my hair a few times, each time I just gently took her hands in mine and directed them downward. The more amped up she got, the calmer I got (I really had to focus on that part to make it happen – I’m a high anxiety person by nature). When she was dialed up to a 10, I was at a 1. I kept rubbing her back and saying “everything’s OK, you’re a big girl, and you can do this” in a sing-songy rhythmic pattern.
The meltdown lasted for 20-30 minutes (my sense of time tends to get a bit skewed during a meltdown), but by the end she had grabbed her blanket and was cozied up on the floor with some milk and a fidget toy. She was able to self-soothe and calm down after about 5 minutes of that. Then we were good to go for the remainder of the day.
Thanks to Autism Hippie, I feel much more confident having a set plan for dealing with her meltdowns. If you would like to speak with her as well, you’re in luck – email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org , and she will place you on the webinar e-mail list for the next round of webinars. Do it – I highly recommend speaking with her, she has so much knowledge and a obviously a ton of experience!