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How to Handle Meltdowns in Asperger's Children

by Cara Batema, studioD

Children on the autism spectrum, including children with Asperger’s, will find certain circumstances stressful or frustrating. While a neurotypical child might have the ability to calm himself during moments of stress, a child with Asperger’s might respond with a meltdown, characterized by aggression or unpredictable behavior. Parents need to know how to best diffuse this explosive behavior.

Remove your child from an area that could cause harm or in which your child could harm others. Avoid a room with objects your child could throw or take your child away from glass that could break from a forceful kick. According to the website Autism Causes, avoiding injury should be the top priority for handling a meltdown.

Use physical restraint, if necessary. Some physical restraint methods do not cause physical harm to your child. By swooping your arms over your child's arms from behind, threading your arms between your child's arms and side and placing your hands on your child's back, you restrain your child's arms without causing harm or injury. Hugging your child's legs below the knees allows you to restrain his legs and prevent him from kicking you or another person. Talk to your doctor or your child’s therapist about proper restraint methods.

Hold your child, rock him or put on a weighted vest to help comfort your child. Weighted vests are made for children with autism and other sensory disorders, and they provide a comforting heaviness or "hug" feeling to your child, which promotes calm. According to Care.com, kids don’t engage in meltdowns for attention, and children feel out of control when they are in the middle of a meltdown. Wait for your child to calm down or talk him through the meltdown in a soothing voice -- ask your child to breathe deeply with you or count to 10.

Attempt to divert your child’s attention. As you distract your child with a toy or a puzzle, talk softly to him about his behavior. Stay calm while you talk to your child and remind him about which behaviors are acceptable or not acceptable -- use the same language you use when you explain rules to your child.

Discipline your child with positive reinforcement. Your reinforcement can be as simple as saying, “It only took five minutes for you to calm down. I’m so proud of you!” Consider giving your child a cracker or a sticker in a sticker chart after he calms down.

Items you will need
  •  Toy or puzzle
  •  Weighted vest or blanket


  • Avoid meltdowns before they occur. According to Autism Causes, kids learn that they don’t want to have meltdowns -- they sometimes just can’t help it. You will begin to recognize your child’s triggers so you can avoid circumstances that cause stress for your child. If you know you’re going to be in a public place that might trigger a meltdown in your child, prepare your child in advance by talking about the trip.
  • Talk to your child regularly about what behavior you expect of him. You can use this language to remind your child of appropriate behavior when you talk him out of a meltdown.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images