I’ve spent the last several years teaching emergency responders how to recognize someone as autistic, whether it’s a police matter, medical emergency or search and rescue call. This training has changed the way responders assess and handle situations, ensuring safety for everyone involved. The number one rule, at least in EMS, is that we all go home at the end of the shift.
I also teach emergency preparedness to Autism families to help them be ready for the worst in their community. This training includes what kinds of additional items they should consider putting in their 72-hour kit, how to best accommodate loved ones with autism if the need should arise to go to shelter during a disaster or severe weather, and much more.
Being an emergency responder myself as well as a single mom of two autistic teens, I realized that many of the calls we respond to have already become a crisis because a meltdown of some sort has occurred, and the situation is now escalated to the point where the family can no longer safely intervene. I started wondering how to help families BEFORE meltdowns become a crisis. Before public safety has to be involved.
But first, what exactly is a meltdown?
Basically, it’s what happens when the brain receives WAY too much information – most often sensory input – and cannot process this information in a conventional, organized manner. “Sensory Processing” refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
As an autism parent, I’ve learned over the last 14+ years that when my children are overwhelmed by the sensory triggers in their environment they are immediately thrown into survival mode – it is pure physical and psychological torture for them. Their senses are on fire and they have little control over themselves.
Even for adults with autism, a meltdown feels nothing short of overwhelming, paralyzing and out of control…
It’s like their “browser” has too many tabs open and crashes, only it’s their entire body. Their brain hits Ctrl-Alt-Del automatically, causing fatigue, disorientation and the loss of ability to speak.
And it’s behind nearly all of what everyone else sees as “bad behavior.”
Here is a (credited) video I use in my training, created by Interacting With Autism, illustrating a simple day-to-day sensory meltdown a boy experiences in a coffee shop.
Sensory Overload (Interacting with Autism Project) from Miguel Jiron on Vimeo.
Stressful, right? Now, imagine a disaster or emergency situation – where lights and sirens and a crowd of uniformed people and nosy neighbors are gathered around – and add that in for good measure. It’s beyond chaotic; it’s completely overwhelming.
I started thinking about ways to broaden my reach and help educate autism families about public safety interactions… and then I took it a step further.
What if I could help families manage meltdowns as soon as they start? What if there was a way to calm the nervous system and help someone with autism regain control of their senses before they went all the way down the “rabbit hole?”
I found an amazing tool that does just that. Whether a meltdown is from sensory overload or anxiety that often accompanies autism, this unique method can literally stop a meltdown in its tracks and provide instant relief for the person experiencing it. No, I’m not talking about any type of cure, of course, rather a way to manage a meltdown before it escalates out of control. I’ve been working with families and autistic adults alike and the results have been truly amazing.
If you’re struggling with anxiety attacks and meltdowns, or if you want to help your child overcome debilitating sensory overwhelm, I can truly help. I even use this method on myself when I’m facing a stressful or dangerous 911 call on the job! For all the emergency responders on my mailing list, this may also be a good tool to learn to help calm patients or families on scene, even if it’s a bit unconventional.
For the month of November, as my way of giving thanks for the gifts I have in my life and the relief my children and I have experienced from this priceless technique, I’m offering a complimentary consultation for my next 10 clients. If it feels like a good fit for you or your child, I’m also extending a deeply discounted session rate of just $37.
For me, November is a time of gratitude, reflection and giving back to the community. If this resonates with you, click here to find out more. I’m so excited to work with you!