After a few close together meltdowns these past few weeks, I’ve realised that perhaps the majority of people around me do not know how to handle this situation. If you’ve read this and still feel confused, I’ll explain a meltdown.
It’s basically getting overloaded with too much information and the only way I can cope with this or to regulate my emotions is to completely shut down and stim (repetitive behaviours such as rocking, verbal sounds, hand flapping etc). In these meltdowns I pretty much turn into a toddler – mostly non-verbal, no eye contact, no compliance with direction and self-destructive behaviours.
Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:
- “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
- Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
- Gets agitated or upset
- Covers eyes around bright lights
- Makes poor eye contact
- Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
- Complains about noises that do not affect others
- Has difficulty focusing
- Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
- Has trouble with social interactions
- Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
- Muscle tension
- Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
- Fidgeting and restlessness
- Panic attacks
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty concentrating
So now you know what my meltdowns are, you’re probably still a little uncertain on what you have to do. This is why I’ve created a sensory bag that contains everything that will keep me calm and help shorten the meltdown. See below for some useful tips.
- Do not stop any stimming behaviours – they help me regulate my emotions. Only intervene when I could possibly cause danger to myself. If I am rocking too close to a wall, move me instead of stopping me rock, for example.
- Understand that there may not be a reason for my meltdown. If I cannot give an explanation, be at peace with that.
- Sit close to me or even hold me unless I resist this (depends on my mood). Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to these parts of the body allows me to know you’re there whilst keeping me with reality.
- Whenever possible – go for my sensory bag! If its not on me, it will be in my room. These items will calm me. There will be communication cards in here that will help me communicate with you when I become non-verbal.
- Talk everything Gruffalo. I am utterly obsessed and in a meltdown the Gruffalo becomes an anchor. Find the story on youtube and play it for me – Find it here. My sensory bag contains the books – let me read them. If you don’t have the books, encourage me to say them (I know them off by heart).
- Let me walk, run or spin. Follow me as I tend to wander. This lets me release my energy.
- I may have panic attacks during meltdowns. Watch out for fast breathing.
- Know the meltdown will pass and I’ll return to normal 🙂