I had a conversation last night about a potential collaboration project with a friend who has an autistic child. She asked me for advice in relation to meltdowns. As I’ve said before, I am not an autism expert nor am I a professional working in a clinical field. I am, however, a keen advocate on equality and integration for all and I have an understanding on how my own autism affects me and my life.
Where does my autism stop and my personality begin?
This is something of a difficult question to answer. Like anyone on the spectrum, the impact of living with a neurological difference impacts upon us in a myriad of different ways; each of being different but sharing some common ground, insofar as difficulties in communication, social interaction and compulsive or obsessive tendencies.
I don’t often have catastrophic level meltdown, in which things get thrown and damaged. I blame slam doors and such, but the only real damage is to myself. Meltdowns are hell, but we, as autistic people don’t have control over them, or our behaviour during these moments.
In reality, I am much more passive and I tend to simply ‘shut down’, this is my brain telling me to simply disengage in order to protect itself from over stimulus. The effect of this from the outside is that I appear to become sullen and disinterested in my environment. I’m neither, my brain has just too much processing and I need to take a mental downtime.
Some things which help me.
The old adage about knowledge is power, I’m not sure that it’s actually power, but it is empowering. I try and learn as much about the condition as possible, this allows me to understand why I react to things in the way I do and helps me to begin to find coping strategies.
Good headphones and music to help reduce the impact of the environment upon me. Music is very important to me, and as a former DJ I have a lot of it. Music is very subjective so I wouldn’t claim to have much in the way of bad music. If I’m using public transport, I will have music on. This allows me to have some control over the level of noise.
3. Fidget toys:
I have several items which allow me to move my hands and fingers.
4. Compression clothing:
I favour clothing which fits close to my body. If I’m entering a high stress environment, I will wear a t-shirt which applies pressure to my body. It’s like being hugged, I much prefer a firm hug.
Again, any or all of the above may help some people. It really is a case of trial and error. As an adult, I am finding coping strategies which reduce the sense of being completely overwhelmed.
I hope that this helps with further understanding.