Many any individuals with classic autism seem to have neurological movement differences. When these movement differences play out in our bodies, it is easy for onlookers to see, as we may get stuck in one position or in repetitive movement. Sometimes there can be difficulty in getting a body movement going, and at other times once our body is in motion, we cannot stop even if we want to.
I recently presented to a room full of people on the topic of Autistic People and Literacy. A few days later I again presented to another group of people on another autism related topic. It doesn’t matter the autism topic or whether the group I am presenting to be educators, therapists, or parents of children with autism – I am almost always approached by someone wanting to know how it is that I do not look or act anything like the autistic children they know.
Most young children have tantrums. Typically as they master new skills and become more savvy with expanded communication abilities the tantrums dwindle away. Autistic children have meltdowns and these meltdowns can happen across the life span. For some autistics they never totally disappear. To the casual onlooker an autistic meltdown and a temper tantrum may appear to be the same behavior. It is not. Here are some things to consider when trying to sort out whether the behavior is a temper tantrum or an autistic meltdown. The strategies helpful for tantrums versus meltdowns are different so it becomes important to understand what you are dealing with to effectively impact the situation.
As an autism consultant I am often asked how I sort out what to do when I see an autistic client who is struggling in school or in life. As an autistic person I know first hand if stabilization needs are not met, regardless of the supports in place an autistic person will struggle. Stabilization consists of three areas that interplay – internal and external regulation in the context of a positive relationship.
“As a child I eventually came to love being outdoors, but I didn’t always love it. In fact, I can recall the bright boldness of the sun being painful and of trying to duck away from it. By the time I was walking I knew this brightness was called the sun. Mostly I liked the sun sparkles, but some days I protested because the sun was so bright as to turn its sparkles into painful burning to my eyes. I became quite aware of which direction the pain from the bright sun came from at various times during the day (Right Sun and Left Sun). As a toddler I was tracking the sun and its amount of brightness so as to avoid the sensory impact of being hurt by this fireball as much as possible.