Preventing crises – eliminate irritating stimuli
Of crucial importance here is to observe the child and eliminate annoying stimuli from the environment. In case of hypersensitivity to sounds, it is important to place the child in a quiet place that is conveniently isolated from all noises. A perfect shelter can be a room with noise-reduced windows and doors where the child cannot hear any ventilators, a loudly ticking clock, vacuum cleaner, TV etc. If there is no possibility to sound proof the room, you can help the child by using earplugs or headphones with active noise cancellation.
Similar solutions ought to be introduced in case of other types of hypersensitivity, including to light and smell.
Conversation with the child during the crisis – yes or no?
Engaging in a conversation has no sense when the child begins to scream, cry or becomes aggressive. The child will be preoccupied with their own feelings therefore they will neither hear what the parent has to say nor respond to it. In such cases, it is worth postponing the conversation for a much calmer moment and limiting dialogue to short commands (i.e. stand up, give me your hand, sit down etc.).
Change of plans
Working with an autistic child resembles a constant tug of war. The child aims at maintaining its own order, known behavior and rituals while the parent moves the border a bit every day and introduces changes by means of small steps.
However, during an outburst of hysteria and screaming, it is worthwhile to give up a bit and resign from any new experiences. If the first symptoms of crisis appear in a new surrounding, it would be good to return to well-known places. If the child becomes irritable from being surrounded by a large group of unknown children, it is a good idea to leave the overwhelming crowd.
Weight is the way to calm down
A well-proven method for calming the child down includes stimulation with a weighted blanket, weighted vest or a weighted collar. Deep touch directed at neck muscles perfectly relaxes and accelerates achieving tranquility. The child will calm down much easier and focus on perceiving positive emotions.
Relax through muscle flexing and loosening
Flexing muscles, maintaining the tension and afterwards loosening them is one of the simplest ways to calm down. Parents can repeat this sequence with the child and, in case of need, muscle flexing can be replaced by entwining and relaxing of a mutual hug.
Exercises done together have the advantage that they calm down both children and their parents. This way adults do not transfer negative emotions on to the child and it is much easier for the little one to recover from the crisis.
Diverting attention from the stressful stimulus
How to calm emotions of a child that currently undergoes a crisis? Most parents agree with diverting the child’s attention. Focusing the child’s thoughts on something pleasant requires parents’ knowledge on the little one’s preferences. A good idea is to play either the child’s favorite music or white noise, or read a book as well as engage the child in an activity i.e. playing with play-dough or painting.
Tasks on concentration
Manual works can engulf the child’s attention to the point where it forgets about the unpleasant experiences. Besides drawing with crayons, paints or playing with putty, parents can also offer the child bead stringing, pouring rice into containers, tossing and catching sensory bags etc.
Seeking the reasons for the crisis
When both the child and parents calm down, it is high time to have a conversation about emotions and seek for the causes. It is worth to analyze what happened throughout the day in times before the outburst(s) took place. It would be best if the parents take notes of their observations on the activities the child performed previously, the surrounding of the child, their behavior and well-being etc. The notes will allow to detect repeating circumstances that accompany crises and help prevent them in the future.