Meltdowns are very much common ordeals with those on the spectrum. It’s an intense response to an overwhelming situation, like an environment of loud sounds and bright lights. After being overstimulated, a person may temporarily lose control of their behavior, and may express their discomfort verbally and physically. Meltdowns may worry onlookers, but it’s an especially uncomfortable experience for the person enduring it.

There are several things to realize about meltdowns. First - they are all not the same. Meltdowns could stem from several different reasons. Some could last for minutes; others could go on for hours. Expressions could consist of cursing, yelling, hitting, crying, falling, and more.

Secondly - meltdowns are not tantrums. The latter is mostly used to manipulate people - meltdowns are not that. Meltdowns are emotional reactions to outside stimuli. The victim does not wish to react in such a manner, but is ultimately forced to due to the environment they’re in. If anything, do not regard a meltdown as a selfish act, but as a coping mechanism.

With these in mind, one may be able to help someone enduring a meltdown. There’s certainly no surefire way to resolve an episode, but here are tips that could help better manage one.

1. Use a Calm Voice. If loud sounds is a cause, then it’s easy to realize why speaking in a loud voice could exacerbate the issue. One shouldn't ever yell out of frustration or scream out of fear - this will only heighten the person's pain. If anything, adopt a soft, gentle cadence that'll bring the person to ease. This will allow an effective line of communication to help dispel any negative emotions.

2. Make the Person Feel Comfortable. Meltdowns are products of feeling unsafe. Don’t perpetuate that feeling by telling the person to stop their meltdown - or you'll only worsen their reaction. Always use a gentle demeanor and tell them they’re in a safe space. Not only would this improve their mentality, but it’ll strengthen the bond between you two.

3. Remove the Stimuli. There are some meltdowns caused by face-to-face encounters, but most are caused by environments. Bright lights could affect the sensory processing disorder and spiral into a meltdown. Loud sounds could cause physical pain to those on the spectrum, which turns into a meltdown. If someone in the room is suffering from a meltdown, identify any possible triggers - the stereo, lamps, tv set, etc. - and deactivate them quickly.

4. Give Them Space. Finally, it’s important to remember that meltdowns are sensory overloads. They’re products of excessive triggers. If one is suffering from a meltdown, they need to be taken away from the triggers - even if the trigger is you. Just simply walk away and allow the person to collect their thoughts for some time. When they're ready, they'll return to you with a new and calm mindset.

Again, they’re several reasons for an episode, but at least learning the causes and recommended methods will help you become a better ally during a meltdown. Overall, all the person needs is support. If you can offer that, you can already assist someone during the darkest moments of a meltdown.

For more information, please write to