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  • Kelly Tennant

Creating a meltdown safety plan

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Part of being autistic is having meltdowns. Yes, there are ways that you can limit their frequency, but there will be times that the world is out of your control and you will meltdown. One of the things that I like to teach clients is how to get through a meltdown. Like anxiety or panic, sometimes just letting it happen takes some of the power and intensity out of it.

So here's a guide to creating a basic meltdown plan:

1) Become aware of your triggers. The best way to do this is to work backwards in time from the point that your meltdowns start. Is there any consistency in the things that lead to meltdowns? Stress, noise, temperature, feeling discomfort somewhere in your body, not sleeping well, change in routine, etc? This will be different for everyone and multiple things may be triggers for you. The importance of this step is learning more about yourself and what causes dysregulation in your nervous system.

2) Notice what your instinctively seek out when you're melting down. Do you need to be alone or do you prefer to have a safe person nearby to co-regulate with you? Do you need to block out all noise or would a white noise machine or music be helpful? What types of sensations help settle you (deep pressure, soft bedsheets, cold water, etc)? Do you prefer to be inside or outside?

3) Create a meltdown safety zone in your environment. This will be the place where you know you feel safe to get through a meltdown and when you feel one coming on, you can go there right away. Depending on your life circumstances and whether you tend to have meltdowns in multiple environments, you may need multiple meltdown safety zones or an escape plan that helps you get to your meltdown safety zone quickly.

4) Equip your meltdown safety zone with the things you identified in step 2. If you need to block out noise, keep noise cancelling headphones there. If you need white noise, get a small white noise machine that always stays in that spot. If you have a special comforting stuffy, they can live in your meltdown safety zone. If you prefer to be outside during a meltdown, pack a "go bag" with these items that you can grab on your way to your comfort spot.

5) Communicate your meltdown safety plan to your support people. Often, autistic folx will lose the ability to speak when melting down. If your support people already know your plan, they will be able to help you enact it without you having to explain what's going on or give instructions in the moment. This will lead to less frustration for everyone involved!

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