hello  welcome  or welcome back to the autism 360  podcast the 360 method a weekly podcast  where we talk about everything autism  360.  each week i’ll be catching you up with  what’s going on in the program chatting  with team members and talking all things  mindset as well as exploring relevant  ideas that autism parents think about so  it’s lovely to have you i’m your host  ella bailey i’m an autism 360 veteran  coach and explorer of all things  parenting so welcome  to you our lovely listener  um we really care about your thoughts  and experiences here on the autism 360  program so we would love to hear from  you whether you’re a program member or  not we would love to hear from you so  please reach out drop us a line at hello we’d love listener  feedback and i’ve got some awesome  questions coming up at the end that have  been submitted through  uh  email so please do um  get in touch that way  before we start on our topic  today of meltdowns um i want to  acknowledge the uh gadigal people of the  nation on whose land i live and work and  from where this podcast is being  broadcast today and give  respect to their elders past present and  emerging  i also want to mention that  this podcast is not a substitute for  medical or allied health advice if you  are worried about  your child or yourself please do reach  out to  your medical or allied health  professional or please reach out to us  at autism 360. we would love to be able  to support you  in your journey



so today  our uh the most asked question the most  common um struggle that parents come to  the autism 360 program with or indeed to  my own  sessions with  meltdowns  meltdown struggles tantrums  um  dysregulation you know how can we  essentially parents want to know how do  we prevent um our child from having  meltdowns  and um i would say um that  my response to this is uh can be really  boiled down into three main points so  we’re going to chat about those then  we’re going to talk about  your child’s escalation cycle  um we’re going to talk about um what  your response should look like and then  we’re gonna answer some questions um  from parents talking about this  particular topic so meltdowns  you know meltdowns are one of those  things that are um  pretty uh  ubiquitous across the parents that i’ve  worked with here at the the autism 360  program they look different um for many  different um experiences of autism some  kiddos um  totally explode outwards some kiddos  internalize inwards take it out on  themselves internally  but um  all parents want to be able to improve  their child’s quality of life and do  their best to manage meltdowns um and  dysregulation so the first thing that i  would say is that um  if your child was able to cope with what  they were being asked uh with the  demands that were being placed on them  they would be  so it’s not that your child is not  wanting to do the best they can it’s not  that your child is um wanting to  um feel disregulated or feel so out of  control that they need to  um  you know have this explosive meltdown  it’s a  matter of can’t cope not won’t cope  um so i really want to establish that as  our grounding principle for going  forward while we’re talking about  meltdowns


so there are three main things that i  would like you guys to take home when  talking about autistic meltdowns so um  the first one is once your child is in a  full-blown meltdown you have missed your  opportunity of window to divert it your  window of opportunity rather to divert  that  that is the first and most important  point  the second point  your response is the only thing you have  control over  in that moment  you don’t have control over your kiddo  you only have control over yourself and  what you do  to respond to that uh meltdown  and then third one is  tune into and manage your own expect uh  your own escalations  so something that i see a lot is parents  who  um are saying to me oh you know i want  to reduce meltdowns or  you know uh it’s so stressful when my  kid haven’t had a meltdown and that sort  of thing and the thing is it’s meant to  be  you know those signals that your child  is sending to you  um are of extreme distress and as  parents and caregivers we’re  biologically primed to find that sort of  stimuli extremely aversive that’s why  it’s so hard to ignore a baby crying  right because  um over you know millions and millions  of years um  infant children and you know young  developing children um  have honed the skills of attracting a  caregiver’s attention when they’re  dysregulated because that’s a survival  strategy for them so  we  in that situation are biologically  primed to become escalated and  dysregulated in our own right  so knowing that about the situation what  are you doing to manage your own  escalation so that you can be there to  support your child it’s totally fine to  be escalated you sh you know  biologically speaking you should be  being escalated by your child having  that sort of struggle but knowing that  about the situation what are you doing  to prevent it and to support yourself so  that you can support your child


so let’s go into a little bit more  detail  about um that window of opportunity for  diverting meltdowns so  what is key here is to understand that  um once your child is in a full-blown  meltdown state  they are in a stage of their escalation  cycle where their  capacity to hear and process language  to be able to be responsive to  communication of any form  or to or even to think sort of um  quote unquote rationally um or reason  themselves out of this situation  is totally gone and the reason for that  is really biological and very  neurochemical so the reason that that is  is because their body is in full  blown fight or flight and what that  actually does is cuts out a lot of the  activation of your prefrontal cortex  brings all the blood flow all the  neurochemical activation all the  electricity back down into the uh  brain stem so this that’s kind of  oldest part the most uh the earliest  developing part of the brain um and  that’s not a rational um communication  driven part of the brain that’s a really  um kind of primal part of the brain  they’re not going to be able to hear you  they’re not going to be able to be  responsive or rationalized with you and  i mean you know as a parent  of a child who has meltdowns you already  know that right you already know that  they can’t hear you you’ve tried  etc and so that is why  once your child is already in full blown  meltdown your window is closed your  window to divert that meltdown is closed  and while your child is in peak  escalation you should be focusing on  safety you know you can’t  stop you know you don’t have control  over um where that child is at with  their escalation all you can do is keep  them safe while they’re processing  these really big feelings that they’re  having you need to notify whomever  it is that’s necessary to keep that  person um who’s having the meltdown safe  that child who’s having the meltdown  safe  and if needed you need to keep the  people around them safe by asking them  to exit giving your child space and  giving you the space and support that  you need to support your child  while they’re having that meltdown  so that’s what i would say um is the  first uh the first thing that i want to  bring your attention to  while we’re talking about  meltdowns so let’s talk about our kiddos  escalation cycle and by the way i’m so  sorry if you can hear my dog snoring in  the background that’s just our our nice  soothing little background noise you’re  welcome for that  so


let’s talk about our escalation cycle  let’s think about our escalation cycle  as sort of like um  a mountain with a curved top  um that on one side has a little gully  right so we’re coming from we’re  starting on a nice even plane that’s our  calm um regulated state then as we start  to go up into the foothills of the  mountain that’s our trigger point that’s  the um  either internal or external stimuli that  starts a person towards  the summit of that mountain the summit  of the mountain being the meltdown all  right so when they’re calm um we can or  you know to bring on that calmness  that’s when we’re sort of uh we’ve got  those established routines and  expectations we’ve planned ahead really  well  we’re giving that kid their um you know  their space their independence their  their thriving right and then they come  to the foothill they get their trigger  you know um we are  uh there’s something either internal or  external that is changing them from that  calm state up into a state of agitation  right so when our child is getting  agitated they’re going to be showing us  signs that they are no longer in that  calm state and so you might notice that  they um start to fidget or stim more you  might notice that they start to um walk  on their toes when they don’t normally  talk on their toes you might notice that  they are more um  snappy than usual that they are more  um  short-tempered or um  aren’t able to tolerate things that  they’re usually able to tolerate


that’s they are signs of agitation  right so when they’re in that stage  what we need to do  is show empathy  right we need to recognize that they are  um  in a state of agitation this is our  really prime window  um for um diverting from a meltdown  so we start we use um start rather than  stop directions so instead of saying  stop stimming  which we would never do anyway we don’t  want to stop a child from stimming to  regulate themselves but instead of  saying oh stop  i don’t know whatever it might be  walking on your toes we would say  something like um hey do you wanna  walk over to your crash mat hey let’s  start  swinging so that what we’re doing is  giving them that positive instruction of  something they can do  to regulate themselves and in doing so  we’re swerving and hopefully um  de-escalating  from going up towards that peak of a  full-blown meltdown  right we’re continuing on say that  didn’t work we’re continuing on up the  mountain towards the peak meltdown phase  after agitation comes escalation right  that’s when you can tell your kiddo is  on the way you can tell that they’re not  coping um they might start to um  i mean every child’s signals are  different and that’s something that as


parents and carers of um kiddos who  struggle with this sort of thing  we need to be really aware of um  the signals of each of these stages of  the escalation cycle  so i would say um  you know  agitation is when you know okay if i  don’t do something about this imminently  we’re gonna we’re gonna  go right over the top there into a  full-blown meltdown  and um often uh one of the most common  ones that i see um parents coming to me  with is my kid are having meltdowns in  um like a westfield or a busy place you  know uh the easter show that’s a big one  and so i think you can see  um  your kiddo getting escalated they’re  running around they’re frantic they are  they’re  respiratory rates might be going up um  they’re sweating they’re getting  hyperactive sometimes it can look like  that  um so we need to provide that kiddo with  the space and time and  resources that they need to be able to  prevent them from going into full-blown  meltdown so what that might look like is  you’re at the easter show your kiddo’s  gone  from calm  to triggered by all the noise and the  lights and the people to  super agitated not able to to  um concentrate on where they’re walking  not able to listen to instructions to  escalated getting really um hyperactive  and frantic  feeling really um  overstimulated  and if we can do something like find a  quiet space to bring down the sensory  input to slow down their body systems  for them to co-regulate with you you  might  um speak in a low slow voice  to bring down their um  uh their escalation  somatic symptoms their bodily symptoms  and  that is going to be your most powerful  tool in preventing that child from going  over the edge into full-blown  meltdown not able to cope with  what they’re being asked to cope with in  the environment  so  say you know the worst did happen you  weren’t able to play you weren’t able to  find a quiet space to be able to help  your child to regulate what do you need  to do as i’ve said there’s nothing that  you can do in the moment to make that  child calm down any more quickly than  they’re going to anyway you need to give  their child a safe space  to be able to process that those  emotions um in whatever their the way  that their body is going to  um  uh going to allow them to do that um and  this is the time when we um are looking  at our responses and we’re managing our  own escalation  and oftentimes you know this is when i  see parents who are really escalated um  who aren’t kind of able to actively  engage um in  managing their own responses  actually escalating their child further  you know this is when i see parents  doing things like oh please you know  just be quiet keep going you know um  moving their child along because they’re  so stressed out themselves and that is  without a doubt only going to make the  meltdown go longer harder more intense  what you need to do is give your child  a safe  space and environment that is calm in  order to calm themselves down  generally  we’re kind of coming over the other edge  of the escalation cycle mountain now and  we’re coming down the other side into um  into our de-escalation mode all  uh meltdowns will at some point start  naturally to start to um de escalate  naturally  once um a whole bunch of the  hormone floods that have been raging  through your kiddo’s body have started  to become naturally depleted  right so when they go into a meltdown  when they’re in that peak of their  escalation cycle they get this rush of  adrenaline and cortisol but those um  those endocrine system um cascades those  hormones um they only last for so long  you know they’re only going to keep our  keto um having enough energy to  um  you know be maintaining that meltdown  for a certain amount of time and then  naturally as those hormones become  depleted in the system they’re going to  be replaced by  soothing depressive hormones um a  cascade of de-escalation right so we’re  coming over the top of our mountain and  coming into the de-escalation phase of  the escalation cycle  so  we really want to monitor safety  continuously while we’re in this  situation you know there um it can be  and i’m sure i’m sure that parents have  seen this as well there can be lots of  times where you know your kid has come  up through their peak you think they’re  starting to de-escalate and then  something sets them off again they’re  doing they’re doing a whole mountain  range of escalation cycles and so we  want to be able to help our kids follow  through that whole flow  of de-escalation to come back to that  calm baseline  so  monitoring safety so you say your child  starts to  come down from that  full-blown meltdown we are not  pressuring them to get themselves up and  ready to go again we are not getting  them to move we’re not introducing  stimuli we’re keeping things really calm  and positive we’re not enforcing time  deadlines we’re just letting everything  go so that we can be there with our  child to support them while they are  coming down from they from their um  really heightened meltdown  stakes a lot allow time and space for  them to do that um and also start to  think about in this moment what happened  here you know was really fresh in your  mind what happened here how could i have  picked up better on my child’s  escalation cues earlier so that we  didn’t have to go through this really um  stressful moment  right so what happens after your  de-escalation is that um people kids  will go into what’s called your  post-escalation depletion stage so  that’s when you know and lots of people  say that they see this with their young  toddlers um  you know either neurotypical or  neurodivergent you know they’ve had this  big outburst this big meltdown this big  uh moment of of dysregulation and then  they get exhausted they’re tired they’re  lethargic they might get weepy and they  just feel sad you know it is  um  it’s such a big expenditure a big um ex  expensive um bodily speaking expensive  episode that they’ve just been through  and so they’re going to come into this  moment of oh my gosh i’m exhausted i’m  lethargic and i’m not  i’m not feeling good about what’s  happened and i just want to state that  this is not the time to talk to your  child about their meltdown this is not  the time don’t do it  it’s very tempting right because they’re  starting it feels like they’re sort of  coming back to you after that moment  this isn’t the time all we want to do  during this  um  kind of post escalation just uh  depletion  is to  ready them to  bring themselves back to baseline  whatever that might look like  right so let’s use our easter show  example here i’m talking about the  sydney easter show they are you know  they’ve had this big meltdown we’ve been  able to bring them through the  de-escalation phase  and instead of getting them to get up  and move around or anything  what we’re doing is we’re just  talking to them about what you what they  feel like they might want to do what  feels doable  do they want to go home are they hungry  i’m not saying you know fire all these  questions at them i’m just saying  um helping them to return to that  established routine and expectation that  they already had is what we’re aiming  for in this phase and that’s hopefully  going to bring us back up out of our  little gully um into that plateau um you  know recovery and return to our calm  baseline so  we are once again once we’ve come  through that de-escalation phase we’re  then going into the dip  of that um  post-dysregulation depletion  we are not talking about um  uh we’re not talking about what’s  happened we’re not dissecting the  behavior or anything like that all we’re  doing is focusing on bringing things  back to baseline re-establishing the  routine um and hopefully moving that  person on from  moving that kiddo on from there um  dysregulated moment  so that’s um the details of the  escalation cycle what we can do in each  phase to support our child who is  struggling with that  and also what we need to do in those  phases  and i think that kind of leads me really  nicely onto more details about my second  point which is our response  you know um our children are their own  people they have their own free will and  as you know as you know  um  parents of neurodivergent children know  they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do  and we can’t control that the only thing  that we can control  is how we respond all right so and just  like i mentioned before when we’re  seeing parents try to get their children  to push through the dysregulation trying  to get their trying to continue placing  the demand that is causing the  dysregulation  that’s when we see our child continue to  escalate turn to you know um  self-injurious behaviors really show  those signs of frustration that are so  unhelpful for our children  and so  i think  what is key here is  knowing how you feel  when your child is melting down so that  in the moment  you can keep a cool  head what is key is that we do not lose  our cool and i know that i’m constantly  um coming back to this i talk about it  in podcasts all the time but  if there’s one thing that i try to get  parents to take away from  their time with me in the program it is  that almost more important than any  skill that you can teach your child is  you developing the skill of keeping your  cool when your child is escalated  whatever that might look like you know  that is the most important um and  deciding factor in how intensive that  meltdown is going to be  so we’ve got um


something that i think not a lot of  parents think about in terms of their  own escalation is have you thought about  your own sensory needs in that moment  we’re primed biologically to find  screaming and crying especially of our  children really stressful so what are  you doing to counteract that um  that  that stressful stimuli you know um we  are setting ourselves up to struggle if  we don’t preempt that right  so do you have your own  um  strategies to  calm your nervous system do you have  your own um  [Music]  i don’t know stress management tools  that you can use in the moment so  something that um i had some really good  success with uh with one of my um  parents here on the program was  she herself found that she had um a lot  of auditory um sensitivities um that she  that were really triggered when her  kiddo was having a meltdown  and i kind of had a look around to see  what tools might be available for her  and we ended up stumbling across a  couple of different brands of um  earbuds that didn’t stop the sound  coming in there was nothing unsafe going  on in terms of blocking our children out  or whatever but what it did do  was reduce the decibels by a certain  amount so that she was able to um retain  um calmness um and not be triggered by  that auditory sensitivity um we just  lowered the decibels by a certain amount  so that she felt like she could cope  even when that um that you know sound  landscape was going to be something that  was triggering to her there are also  headphones out there that  um can block out just certain  frequencies of sound so that you know  okay i have this particular  i don’t know this particular stressful  auditory stimuli um and i have uh my  headphones tuned in to block that out so  that i’m managing my own arousal so that  i then have the opportunity to uh  support my my child better um  no matter what stage they’re at at the  escalation cycle but particularly when  they’re um you know at that peak of  their escalation cycle so  i mean i guess i would say  give yourselves and your kiddos a little  bit of grace on this one um  unfortunately the world we live in can  be extra challenging for um a kiddo who  isn’t neurotypical um and so sometimes  there’s  not a lot we can do um  to  uh manage  the environment that they’re in um to  reduce the stresses that are gonna be  just regulating to them what we can do  is do a really good job of setting them  up for success with preparation  do a good job of knowing them well so  that we can read their signals of  escalation no matter where they’re at in  their regulatory cycle and do a really  good job of  providing a safe space for them to


work through whatever big feelings  they’re having and then to re-regulate  afterwards  so i hope that’s helpful  as always please just like  get in touch uh when you uh have time to  think about this if you have any  questions  you know where to email i wanted to  answer a uh question that came in um to  hello uh from swati in logan in  the gold coast asks what do i do when my  child has a meltdown in the supermarket  i feel like everyone is staring at me  and all i want to do is get out of there  oh my gosh swati i totally  get that i know so many parents who find  that um just a really horrible situation  you know um and i don’t think that  there’s unfortunately any easy  way to kind of  problem solve this without kind of  asking further questions but what i  would say  is clearly there’s something about you  know that situation if it’s really  predictable that every time you go into  the supermarket your child has a  meltdown there’s something about that  environment that’s super dysregulating  for your child that you need to kind of  be a bit of a detective and problem  solve  so that you can figure out  what the trigger is it’s taking him from  that calm baseland up into his agitation  cycle mountain  um if we can eliminate that trigger find  some sort of tool to help him manage  that trigger we’re going to do a much  better job at getting in and out of the  supermarket without a meltdown in the  toilet paper aisle so  swati  um do it put your detective hat on  figure out what is it about this  situation it could be that it’s just  really visually over stimulating it  could be  there’s a noise that your child can hear  in that supermarket context that we  aren’t aware of that’s extremely  aversive and he’s not coping it could be  um  you know we’ve accidentally reinforced  the pattern that every time he goes in  he gets a  i don’t know a lollipop that um  sometimes  um you know that the behavior is being  reinforced by that and he’s getting  dysregulated so there could be a bunch  of reasons we need to take um  a good look at what’s going on there um  and see what it is it’s triggering that  and put in place a strategy to  um to help your child cope better with  that and there’s lots of things there’s  lots of ways that could look like um get  in touch with um you know if you’re on  the program ask your coach about it  um if not um you can please feel free to  email in more details that would be  great hopefully i can give you some more  helpful answers but i hope that helps  um swati um it’s always great to hear  from people um who kind of reach out and  and let us know that  um we’ve been helpful or whatever it  might be  so thank you so much for joining us this  week uh it’s been uh great to be able to  um chat about this particular topic that  i know affects a whole range of um  individuals  who  are either on the autism spectrum or  supporting somebody on the autism  spectrum so  um i can’t wait to chat with you again  next week about another topic  relevant to autism parenting and the  autism 360 program  i will see you there and until then  think 360.

The 360 Method:  Meltdown prevention!
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The 360 Method: Meltdown prevention!
This podcast hosted by our team member Ella Bailey talks about Meltdown prevention.
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Autism 360
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