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How to help a person with autism feel calm

For children and people with autism, simple things and sensory stimuli can be overwhelming and trigger anxiety attacks.

While other people may not react to things around them such as bright light, noise, sounds, change in textures etc, people with autism may find these very disturbing.

People with autism are more sensitive to the environmental factors as compared to other people. In case of children with autism, it may result in meltdowns, nervousness, crying fits or other such behavior.

The help needed by a person with autism will depend on their sensory needs. I prefer to use a holistic approach as that has helped in keeping my child calm as well as resulted in his overall development. Seeking expert advice is a must to understand the challenges faced by children with autism and to be educated about them. Parents can help their child a lot more if they work in a transparent and open-minded manner with the therapist and experts. Jayanthi Mani, Autism parent, Scan member.

Here are some ideas that might help parents in such situations.

  1. If the child is not feeling calm and showing signs of nervousness, parents can remove the child from that particular place. The change in place can help the child feel better if they are taken away from the cause of disturbance.

  2. It is better if the child or person with autism can be moved to a quiet place during the meltdown.

  3. Let the meltdown end do not rush the child into coming out of it. It is advisable to give them some time to vent out or cry.

  4. In case moving away is not an option, try and reduce the sound, light intensity or any other factors that may be causing the anxiety.

  5. For most people with autism, water and music have been found to have a calming effect. Taking them for swimming or listening to their preferred music is a great way to bring calm.

  6. Parents need to stay calm throughout the time. If they also start to feel nervous and anxious, they will not be able to handle the situation in the best way.

  7. Do not shout at the child or person with autism if they are having a meltdown. People with autism may have severe sensory issues and they are not in control of their emotions.

  8. Let the person do what makes them feel comfortable like sitting in a corner, shutting their eyes, lying down.

  9. In case the person is not able to communicate due to sensory overload, be patient and ask simple questions to understand what is wrong.

  10. Keep the person or child safe during the meltdown. Do not be overbearing and offer help only if they seem to want it. Do not try and touch them if they are saying no to a hug or touch.

  11. Some people may not wish to talk or hear during the meltdown while for others, a calming tone or voice can be helpful.

  12. It is advisable to make a note whenever such anxiety attacks take place. This can help the parent identify the triggers or possible reasons that cause the anxiety.

  13. Parents can later take these notes an information to professionals and experts to seek their guidance and help.

  14. Getting advice from a professional such as a therapist is very important. It will help you understand how to handle such situations and identify triggers and to be prepared for such situations at home or other places.

Vijaya Gomathi is a mother of child with autism and SCAN member. She suggested that social stories are an effective calming tool.

She shared some other effective ideas as well, and said,We prepare social stories for calming down and read it to him every day twice or when the child is in good mood. Another trick is to practice some gestures that can help the child during difficult time. Most of his behaviors are due to communication difficulties and want of edibles or tangibles. We are working on developing his communication skills through AAC app called Avaz. For other tangibles, we'll give if he asks nicely using Avaz or sign language. If he shows any other challenging behavior, we don't give the item. We make sure that everybody around him follows the same.

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