“I might hit developmental and societal milestones in a different order than my peers, but I am able to accomplish these small victories on my own time.” – Quote by Haley Moss, American pop artist and author.
Collin and Phillipa Kirrin of Kent County, Michigan are raising their young family with love: Dick aged 10, George who is 8 and little Anne who is 5 years old. They are a loving family in a decent neighborhood with good-paying jobs. They are your typical middle-class, American dream family. Their middle child George has diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder relatively early thanks to alertness showed by the Kirrins. They have enrolled him in ABA therapy from which he is greatly benefitting. One of the things they are most grateful for is learning how to calm him when things don’t go his way or there are unexpected changes in his routine or he is stressed about public/social situations.
Like the Kirrins of Kent County learned, here are some ways to calm a child with an ASD:
Empathy. Let them express their emotions without being harsh or judgmental. Let them vent as everybody wants to express their emotions (good or bad). Signs of distress are evident before “meltdowns” or before they get very upset. Look out for these signs.
No punishments. Children with Autism do not have control over their emotions. So they should not be punished for their tantrums, behavior, or ‘meltdowns’. Punishments trigger shame, anxiety, and stress among all of us let alone children with Autism.
Sensory tool kits. Keep or carry their favorite toys as well as sensory tools handy. Offer it to them when they are stressed, upset, or overwhelmed. Some popular sensory tools include weighted lap pads, noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget toys.
Practice deep breathing techniques. If you notice signs of your child being in distress or upset, have the child take deep breathing techniques. It works for all human beings and it works for children with Autism as well. You can practice this on a daily basis as well with them.
Stick to a routine. The best way to calm or prevent “episodes” is to stick to a well-structured daily routine which they expect whether at home or in a classroom setting. Try and eliminate stressors as much as you can.
Look for environmental issues that are causing distress. If they are easy to do, take care of them. It could be simple things such as loud music, harsh lights, closing a door or not making any changes to their immediate surroundings.
We hope that these simple calming techniques will help you to better look after a loved one who is living with ASD. The Kirrins as a family has benefitted tremendously from learning calming techniques as a part of therapy. Let us know of any other tips or suggestions which you would like to share with the larger community which has helped your family in calming a family member.