You’re out shopping or out to eat at a restaurant when the inevitable happens- your autistic child just can’t take it anymore and the telltale signs of a meltdown are starting to appear. It could be triggered by any number of things. As parents we all know, it could be one thing that starts it or several things that contribute to it. Meltdowns in public, while avoidable, are sometimes just bound to happen and when it does happen- we can feel our stress level starting to rise.
But, one of the keys to handling meltdowns in public is to keep your own cool so you don’t inadvertently make the situation worse.
Easier said than done, I know.
So let’s talk about strategies for handling that public meltdown- for sake of both you and your child.
Handling Meltdowns In Public: Advice for Parents
1. First, don’t draw anymore attention to the situation than necessary. People will probably stop and stare. There will more than likely be the occasional rude comment. And you may even have to deal with security or store workers. Whatever the case may be, this meltdown might draw a crowd. Who knows, you may just get a sympathetic soul, which is also great for your own peace of mind.
For the time being, try to tune that all out and focus on your child.
2. If your child is in the beginning stages of a meltdown, try to remove them from the situation as quickly and calmly as possible. Obviously you’ll know if this might just escalate the situation or make it worse. But if you can remove them from the area, great.
3. Try to make the environment around your child as safe as possible. Your child is not aware of what they are doing and has lost control. Do whatever you can to help create some semblance of control around them. If you have those around you asking if they can do anything to help? Ask for their assistance.
4. Finally, don’t be afraid to let it all out when you get home or when you’re in the car. Cry, scream, curse, write it down… do whatever it is that you need to do to get this out of your system. If you hold on to this pent up stress, it will only continue to build and then the slightest of things will set you off later.
Another thing that you can do is create a meltdown kit. If you can catch this meltdown in the beginning, you may be able to stop it before it escalates too quickly.
What can you put in your meltdown kit? I have some suggestions, based on personal experience, with what has worked for us in the past: