How to Deal With an Autism Meltdown

If you are a parent of an autistic child, chances are you deal with tantrums or meltdowns daily and may have learned How to Deal With an Autism Meltdown.

They are unpredictable and are one of the biggest challenges that parents of autistic children come across.

They are not pretty and sometimes they give you the feeling that you want to pull out your hair.

In this article, we will place emphasis on understanding tantrums and meltdowns, and tips and strategies on how to deal with an autism meltdown, when your child doesn’t get their way.

photo of autistic child having a tantrum

What are they?

Although it is common to use the two terms interchangeably, they are different and should be handled in different ways.

To determine what strategy or strategies are most effective, you should first decide what type of outburst your child is having, and the purpose or motivation of the outburst.

Autistic Tantrums

These are considered controlled outbursts to get what they want because of learned reactions to past situations.

They can lead to meltdowns if they are not addressed or handled and the outburst escalates.

If your child is in a tantrum, it will stop once your child gets what they want.

Here are some reasons your child may have them::

  • Seeking attention
  • To get their way or get what they want
  • Told they can’t have their desired want or need, or they have to wait for what they want or need.

Autistic Meltdowns

These are uncontrollable reactions to being overstimulated.

They can last for a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the severity.

They come from sensory overload, or not having control of things around them.

Oftentimes, they are dismissed as such and looked at as a child misbehaving. This does more harm to your child than it does good.

Tips & strategies

It’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t a one-answer-fits-all solution to handle these outbursts.

What works for one child, may not work for another.

Here you will find strategies and tips on minimizing sensory distress, and approaches that have been successful with other parents to calm their child down.

  1. Encourage regulation daily through a sensory diet. It is a series of physical activities scheduled daily to help with your child’s sensory responses, such as attention, arousal, and adaptivity. Try using social stories or role-play, a weighted blanket to sleep with, or putting aside quiet time so that your child can recoup from a busy day.
  2. Recognize the behavior(s) your child exhibits before he or she becomes overstimulated. You should know what they are sensitive to(light, touch, smell, taste, and sound), what triggers disruptive behavior, as well as what stresses them out, calms them down, or makes them uncomfortable.
  3. Make sure that your child has a safe space or room, where they can be alone and reduce stimulation. If there are people around, have them leave, or turn off the lights, anything to remove any distractions in your child’s environment.
  4. When your child is having meltdowns, it’s important that you are empathetic to their situation, and you remain calm. Towards the end of the outburst, try to speak to your child in a low and quiet voice,
  5. Put together a sensory toolkit, or an emergency kit for meltdowns on the go. Include a variety of sensory tools and toys, weighted lap pad or blanket, noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, snacks chewy or crunchy, or anything else that your child may use. This will help if you are at the grocery store or any other public place when the outburst occurs.

Personal Tip:

I have an autistic toddler that dislikes being in public and will throw a tantrum every time we are out too long, and one of the things that helps calm him down is the crinkling sound from an empty water bottle. I painted a few of them with bright colors and I take it everywhere we go, along with his plush blanket.

It is important to stick to your child’s daily schedule or routine, if you don’t have one, create one. Most autistic children need to have consistency and repetition.


This article should have given you enough tips, strategies, or ideas to handle most meltdowns or tantrums when your child doesn’t get what he or she wants or needs. The key is to recognize the behavior, remove sensory triggers, and make sure that your child feels safe.

The most important thing to remember is to relax and help your child work through their tantrums or meltdowns. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, seek out support groups in your area.

Related reading; An Overview of the high potent A-Dub Cannabis StrainHow to Cope as a Parent of an Autistic ChildWhat is Autism,  How Autism affects my Family and 10 Tips for Traveling with an Autistic Child.

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