What Helps Me During a Meltdown as Someone on the Autism Spectrum


I was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when I was 15 years old. Back then, meltdowns were common for me. Even now, meltdowns can be hard for me to handle. What may have helped when I was a child doesn’t help as much as an adult. But over the years, I’ve learned what has helped the most and why.

When I was a child, I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was having a meltdown. I just knew I was upset. So the first thing I needed help with was finding the coping skills that worked best for me. This included strategies such as wearing headphones to block out overstimulating noises, stimming — a form of repetitive movement to self-soothe — in a safe way, and focusing on my breathing.

Once people helped me to come up with these ideas, I had the strategies. The issue is that during a meltdown, I can’t think straight. So I would forget to use those coping skills right away. This meant I needed help in a different way. I needed people to gently remind me to use the coping techniques. There were times I felt so upset, I couldn’t stop thinking about the issue that caused the meltdown in the first place. It helped when people reminded me of the situation once I’d calmed down a bit so we could work on solving the problem again. In fact, this is still something I need to be reminded of occasionally.

As I got older, I started to recognize on my own when I was beginning to have a meltdown. This takes a lot of self-awareness, which came with maturity for me. At this point, it helped to have a codeword or a phrase to say to others when I needed a break to prevent it. (Just make sure the people who need to know about it are aware.) Eventually, my parents and even close friends were able to figure out when I needed a break without me saying a word.

In the end, if I do happen to have a meltdown, the most important thing you can do to help me is be patient. Understand I’m not trying to be difficult. Once I’ve learned to use my coping skills, allow me the time and space to use them. And once I’ve calmed down, we can work on solving whatever issue caused the meltdown in the first place.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image via PhenomArtlover



What Helps Me During a Meltdown as Someone on the Autism Spectrum
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Woman sitting in chair, looking at cell phone

Why I Share I'm Autistic on Online Dating Profiles

I’ll be going out on a date soon. I really dislike dating because it generally feels like an interview. I feel like I must make eye contact, be “bubbly,” ask a lot of intriguing questions, and more. I wish dating could be skipped altogether and that one and another could just automatically be part of each [...]
Boy wearing yellow shirt and holding a sippy cup with a matching yellow top playing inside a wooden play structure.

What I Wish for My Son on the Autism Spectrum

A wave of nostalgia swept over me as we drove past my 15-year-old son’s former daycare on a cold, dreary January day. It seems like just yesterday I was dropping off my boys (and most of my paycheck) to that glorious setting where they were cared for and loved. But those days have disappeared as [...]
Mother and daughter in front of sink in kitchen

Creating a List System to Help My Children on the Autism Spectrum Learn Life Skills

I am a single mum to three children, two of whom have a diagnosis of autism. Juggling the needs of my children takes time, patience and a well-structured tick list. For my children, routine is not only fundamental — it is a necessity. The systems in place at my house are steps and guides on [...]
Feminism hands raised.

What 'My Body, My Choice' Means for Me as a Woman With Autism

I attended a women’s march in my city because I am scared. I watched Trump get elected, horrified with much of the rest of my nation and the world. Like many others, I found myself in disgust over his misogynistic comments and actions, both historically and throughout the campaign. He has made sexual advances towards [...]