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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health and Safety Guide

ASERT has put together some resources for those with autism and those who care for people with autism relating to the current Coronavirus outbreak.

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Mindful about Meltdowns: A COVID-19 Resource for Parents

While families are at home practicing social distancing or self-quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic, meltdowns of family members may occur as a result of individuals being outside of their typical routines and feeling confined inside the same space. Use this resource as a guide to identify what a meltdown looks like, how they can be avoided, and how you should and should not respond if a meltdown would occur.

What is a Meltdown?

  • A temporary loss of control of his or her actions and behaviors. This can happen when a person is completely overwhelmed.
  • Sometimes this can look like screaming, crying, kicking, lashing out, biting, engaging in self-injury or running away.
  • This is not the same thing as misbehaving or having a temper tantrum.

How to Avoid Meltdowns:

  • Try and identify triggers, or the target reason as to why the person is becoming overwhelmed. It would be helpful to make a note of particular times, places, or activities that are likely to bring on stress. While in a calm state, ask the person who has a history of meltdowns the following questions:
    • Do you know ahead of time when you are close to experiencing a meltdown?
    • When a meltdown is beginning, do you have any ideas as to how I can help and support you?
    • Are there signs of having a meltdown that I can look out for?
    • Can we come up with a signal, so that you can let me know when you are feeling overwhelmed?
  • Then, do your best to minimize those known triggers, such as overwhelming environments and changes in routine. However, totally avoiding triggers is not suggested, as that will prevent the person from learning how to problem solve in these situations.
  • Prepare for the meltdown with the individual ahead of time. You can try reminding them of one or two simple strategies to try, that have typically worked for them in the past.

How to Respond when Meltdowns Occur:

  • Try to redirect attention ahead of time if you happen to notice any warning signs or triggers present. Are you able to distract them with a calming activity such as a preferred hobby or game, fidget toy, listening to calming music, or taking deep breaths?
  • Reduce environmental noises by turning off music/TV, turn off overhead lights, and clear out other people.
  • Give them space and time.
  • Allow space for the individual to pace, jump, rock, or be alone.

How NOT to Respond when Meltdowns Occur:

  • Do not ask a lot of questions.
  • Do not ask how he/she is feeling or why he/she is feeling this way. But, you can help them understand by acknowledging their stress by saying “I can see that you are upset.”
  • Do not tell the person he/she needs to “calm down,” “relax,” or “just breathe.” Even typically developing individuals can rarely calm down on command and such statements can frustrate the individual which results in escalating the situation even further. Instead, try to model calming strategies, such as “Let’s breathe together.”
  • Do not demand eye contact during a meltdown.
  • Do not try to talk him/her out of a repetitive behavior/routine. Sometimes, familiar rituals can serve a calming purpose or restore a sense of self-control.
  • Avoid getting into a debate.
  • Avoid placing additional demands or insisting on completing difficult tasks during clear signs of increased stress.
  • Be careful about allowing meltdowns or behavior to lead to getting out of activities that they do not prefer to do, or the behavior can become a learned response. Instead, try to re-introduce the task at a later time, when supports are in place.

Recommendations compiled by: Susan White Ph.D., Caitlin Conner Ph.D., Kelly Beck Ph.D., & Carla Mazefsky Ph.D.

Other Resources to Reference:

Visual Schedule Resources

This collection of resources includes information about visual schedules and using visual schedules for individuals with autism. These resources have information for individuals with autism, their families, providers, and the community.

Visual Schedules

Be Well, Think Well: Supporting Individuals with Anxiety and Autism

This resource, part of the Be Well, Think Well resource collection, provides information about supporting individuals with anxiety and autism through panic attacks and various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding techniques.

Supporting Individuals with Anxiety and Autism

Mientras las familias están en casa cumpliendo el distanciamiento social o la autocuarentena durante la pandemia de la COVID-19, los miembros de la familia pueden sufrir crisis emocionales debido a que las personas se salen de su rutina habitual y se sienten confinadas dentro del mismo espacio. Utilice este recurso como una guía para identificar una crisis emocional, cómo puede evitarse y cómo debe y no debe responder si alguien sufre una crisis emocional.

¿Qué es una crisis emocional?

  • Una pérdida temporal del control de sus acciones y comportamientos. Esto puede suceder cuando una persona se siente completamente agobiada.
  • Como consecuencia de este estado, a veces la persona puede ponerse a gritar, llorar, dar patadas, golpear, morder, hacerse daño ella misma o salir corriendo.
  • Esto no es lo mismo que portarse mal o hacer un berrinche.

Cómo evitar las crisis emocionales

  • Trate de identificar los factores desencadenantes, o el motivo específico por el que la persona se siente agobiada. Sería útil tomar nota de las horas, las actividades o los lugares específicos que probablemente le causen estrés. Cuando esté calmada, haga las siquientes preguntas a la persona que tiene antecedentes de crisis emocionales:
    • ¿Sabes con anticipación cuándo estás por sufrir una crisis emocional?
    • Cuando estás comenzando a sufrir una crisis emocional, ¿tienes alguna idea de cómo puedo ayudarte y apoyarte? ¿Hay algún síntoma que me indique que estás teniendo una crisis emocional?
    • ¿Podemos acordar alguna señal con la que me hagas saber que te estás sintiendo agobiado?
  • Luego, haga todo lo posible para minimizar esos factores desencadenantes conocidos, como los cambios de rutina y los entornos que agobian a la persona. Sin embargo, no se recomienda evitar completamente todos los factores desencadenantes, puesto que se impediría que la persona aprenda a resolver problemas en estas situaciones.
  • Prepárese por adelantado para hacer frente a la crisis emocional con la persona. Puede tratar de recordarle una o varias estrategias sencillas que generalmente le han funcionado en el pasado.

Cómo responder cuando se presenta una crisis emocional

  • Trate de redirigir la atención con anticipación si observa la presencia de señales de advertencia o factores desencadenantes. ¿Puede distraer a la persona con una actividad tranquilizadora como un pasatiempo o juego preferido, un juguete tipo fidget, música relajante o respiraciones profundas
  • Reduzca los ruidos ambientales apagando la música o la televisión; apague las luces del techo, y saque a las dernás personas del lugar.
  • Asegúrese de darle espacio y tiempo.
  • Deje espacio para que el individuo camine de un lado a otro, salte, se meza o se quede solo.

Cómo no responder cuando se presenta una crisis emocional

  • No haga muchas preguntas a la persona que sufre una crisis emocional.
  • No le pregunte cómo se siente o por qué se siente así. Sin embargo, puede ayudarle a entender la situación diciéndole: “Puedo darme cuenta de que estás molesto(a)” como una forma de reconocer el estrés que está sintiendo.
  • No le diga a la persona que tiene que “calmarse”, “relajarse” o “simplemente respirar”. Incluso las personas que se desarrollan normalmente rara vez pueden calmarse cuando se les ordena hacerlo, y tales declaraciones pueden frustrar a la persona y agravar la situación. Más bien trate de utilizar estrategias tranquilizadoras, como “Vamos a respirar juntos”.
  • No exija que la persona lo mire a los ojos durante una crisis emocional.
  • No intente convencer a la persona de que desista de la rutina o el comportamiento repetitivo. En algunas ocasiones, los rituales familiares pueden servir para calmar o restaurar la sensación de autocontrol.
  • Evite entrar en un debate.
  • Evite imponer exigencias adicionales o insistir en la realización de tareas difíciles cuando haya señales claras de que la persona siente más estrés.
  • No permita que la crisis o el comportamiento se utilice como una excusa para que la persona abandone las actividades que no prefiere hacer, ya que el comportamiento puede convertirse en una respuesta aprendida. Más bien, trate de volver a introducir la tarea posteriormente, cuando se disponga de los apoyos necesarios.

Recomendaciones compiladas por: Susan White Ph.D., Caitlin Conner Ph.D., Kelly Beck Ph.D., & Carla Mazefsky Ph.D.

Otros Recursos de Referencia:

Visual Schedule Resources

This collection of resources includes information about visual schedules and using visual schedules for individuals with autism. These resources have information for individuals with autism, their families, providers, and the community.

Horarios visuales

Be Well, Think Well: Supporting Individuals with Anxiety and Autism

This resource, part of the Be Well, Think Well resource collection, provides information about supporting individuals with anxiety and autism through panic attacks and various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding techniques.

Apoyo para las personas con ansiedad y autismo

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.