Despite all of your efforts and planning there may come a time when an escalated situation becomes out of control. Here are some things to consider if a meltdown goes too far:
1. Don't try to reason with your child about why they shouldn't be upset. It may seem trivial and slight to you but whatever has gotten them upset is very important to them. Invalidating their feelings will only make the situation worse.
2. Avoid eye contact and unless absolutely necessary, don't talk. The difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a tantrum is typically an attention seeking tool, a meltdown is a complete loss of control that has to run its course before it ends and will escalate further with additional external stimulis. No amount of talking or reasoning will stop a full blown meltdown and will almost always make it worse.
3. If you are in public then expect a scene. People will stop and stare and judge and there is nothing that you can do about it so as embarrassed as you may be, ignore the audience.They don't know your child and likely have no idea of the syndrome. Some parents have told me that they tell bystanders that their child is autistic because most people are aware of autism and that their presence is making the situation worse. Don't let an audience alter your actions. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is a bad situation that will have an end to it.
4. This is their meltdown, not yours. You need to stay calm and strong, joining in the heightened state of anxiety and frustration will most certainly add to your child's already upset state.
5. If your child is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or someone else you may have to hold them. Depending on many factors, including your own or their physical strength, this may not be possible and you may need to call 911. Their safety is your number one concern. There are a number of programs nationwide that teach physical holds. If you are interested or feel that this may be necessary for you I recommend contacting one of these programs and taking a course.
6. A bystander may call the police. It is always helpful to have the police involvement cards available through PWSAUSA handy as these explain PWS succinctly.
7. After your child calms down they will likely fall asleep. Let them. Their bodies and minds have gone through a lot and this is a necessary crash.
After the incident, refrain from judgement or punitive actions. It was a lack of skill that caused the problem, not a conscious decision to misbehave. Think through the events that led to the incident and determine which skills were lacking and focus in teaching those rather than spending too much time rehashing the event with your child. They will probably not be able to verbalize what caused the dis regulation in their emotions and will already feel shamed by acting out. Most importantly try to remember that no matter how bad the situation gets it will end and it is not something that they would chose to do if they were thinking clearly. No one wants to see their child suffer but staying steady and in charge will help move the situation to an end and allow everyone to get back to the good stuff. And there's so much good stuff!
Manager PWS Services
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