Re-framing the Role and Function of Meltdowns for People with Autism: A Case for Innovative Self-regulation (Session 2D)
Main Topic: Family and Community Engagement
Session Type: Skill Share
What if there were a reason and function for meltdowns in people with Autism? What if we could take a more innovative way to manage emotional regulation, so that the focus is not on preventing or suppressing the meltdown, but instead on harnessing the intense energy that a meltdown produces? What if a meltdown is just a surge of creative energy that can be used for positive outcomes? What happens when you make friends with your meltdown? Meltdowns can make people uneasy. Teachers can become frustrated and the possibility of a meltdown makes focusing on school work challenging. Meltdowns can cause parents and family members to go without sleep, change entire household routines around meals, sharing of toys and relationships with siblings. The constant fear of a meltdown happening can put pressure on marriages and relationships and be a source of self-loathing in young people and adults with Autism. This has never been more prominent than in current times where lock downs and home schooling has intensified an already problematic area of concern. But what do meltdowns actually feel like from the inside and is it possible that they serve a function other than letting out a build-up of anger and negative emotion? This session will ask how might we look at it from a different perspective. That the function of a meltdown could be an energy exchange that allows for the Autistic brain to function at its creative potential. In other words, if we were to harness this energy, before the point it becomes destructive, what else could it do or achieve? The intense energy of a meltdown could be channeled as a motivating force in learning, building, artistic expression, or writing, in an area of interest for the Autistic person To be able to reach their full potential a person with Autism must be able to self-regulate. Imagine the outcome if we were to teach children with Autism to view the overwhelm, sensitivity and emotional outbursts as a build-up of extraordinary energy in them. It could be understood as simply a collection of skills similar to how we would teach a young child to read, by gradually modelling to them the skills of decoding and comprehension and then guide them through frequent and regular opportunities to practice those skills. When a child has mastered reading they have an incredibly powerful and useful skill for life. So too, the skill set unique to people with Autism to manage their own meltdowns would be a purposeful and empowering pathway to life-long self-acceptance.
- Learn how to manage Autistic meltdowns in a respectful and strengths based approach.
- Reflect on a case study that explores innovative ways to channel intense emotional energy from out of control meltdowns to life-changing success.
- Take the journey of stepping through the stages of a meltdown and explore and discuss how it feels from the perspective of an adult with Autism who has lived experience and is parent of two children with Autism.
Keywords: Autism, meltdown, self-regulation
Mrs. Sim NewittEducation sector - Autism Advisor
Sim Newitt is an Autism Advisor for teachers and school leaders and a parent of two children diagnosed with Autism. Sim is an advocate for strength based education and has more than 20 years experience as a primary school teacher and inclusion teacher. In 2019 Sim received a nomination for the Australian of the Year awards for her volunteer work with parent and family support groups of children with Autism. She has been a presenter at national and international conferences sharing her lived experience as a person with Autism. Sim lives on a small farm in Queensland Australia with her husband and four children.