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After school meltdowns with kids on the Autism Spectrum : why they occur and how one can help

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After school meltdowns:
It’s the new school year, and with that comes the possibility of after-school meltdowns for many a kid on the spectrum. From early childhood to high school (and beyond), days are packed with a plethora of challenges that can result in an explosive need to “let it all out” the minute the day ends. A child that outwardly seems together during the school day may internally be struggling with one stressor after another, resulting in a need to “explode” once home. If you are the care-giver, know that this release with you is because the child feels safe to let it all out. During the day the stressors are bountiful (listening and following directions, sitting still for extended periods, trying to focus amidst distracting smells and sounds from nearby desks/chairs/classmates, dealing with loud and crowded hallways, bright lights in the classroom, reading social cues….you get the picture) , and the need to release all the built up tension can result in a volcanic explosion of various emotions. Here are some ideas that may help ease the transition from school to home: Try avoiding the impulse to immediately ask how the day went and replace that with a simple warm hello and welcome home. Offer a calming activity to help decompress and possibly prevent a full-on meltdown (does your child need to curl up under a weighted blanket and watch a show, read, draw, or listen to music? Perhaps your child needs the opposite and thrives when burning off energy via running around outside?) A well-rounded snack during that time can also help , especially if those lunches come home with barely a bite taken out of them ;). And if a meltdown does happen? Just knowing you’re near and letting them ride it out in a safe space may ultimately lead to a healing moment of opening up and talking about their day when they are ready (which for me was always the minute my mum turned out the light after saying goodnight and heading out the bedroom door...that’s when I decided to dump everything out ;) )

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