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We accept  that  emotional  dysregulation  is  a  common  feature  of  autism,  HOWEVER,  we  can  reduce  the frequency  and  intensity  of  emotional  meltdowns  by  developing  insight  into  triggers,  protecting  ourselves  from triggers,  practicing  alternative  ways  of  coping  with  difficulty,  utilising  behaviour  change  rules  and  practicing key  tasks  of  distraction,  self  soothing  and  care.   

What  causes  severe  emotional  dysregulation  or  ‘meltdown’?

•  Biological  predisposition  (physiological  arousal,  neural  circuitry,  genetics)

•  Sensitivity  to  change  and  environmental  stimulation

•  Difficulty  reading  social  and  emotional cues

•  Poor  problem  solving  and  abstract reasoning

•  Lower  inhibition

•  Cognitive  rigidity;  poor  flexibility

•  Alexithymia;  a  limited  emotional language

More  specifically,  emotional  ‘meltdown’  may occur  with  the  following  ‘BUILD  UP’:

•  Internal  state  (e.g.,  fatigue,  illness)

•  Sensory  (e.g.,  loud  noise,  touch)

•  Lack of structure

•  Demanding / unfamiliar  task

•  Having to wait  or  not  get  what  I  want

•  Threat  to  self  esteem

•  Unmet need  for  attention 

The  actual  MELTDOWN  may  include  problem  behaviour  such  as  physical  or  verbal  aggression  (to  others  / objects),  self  –  injury,  threats,  crying  uncontrollably,  screaming,  running  away  or  bolting.

During  the  RECOVERY phase,  its  important  to  practice  self  soothing,  grounding,  have  time  out  to  breathe, engage  in  sensory  activities  and  finally…when  everything  has  settled  down  again,  creating  a  plan  for  repair.  

Each  individual  has  a  unique  set  of  vulnerabilities  and  strengths  so  it’s  important  to  reflect  on  what  things  in myself  and  my  environment  make  me  vulnerable  to  ‘meltdown’  and  then  consider  ways  to  reduce  vulnerability in  the  future.  In  addition  to  this,  its  helpful  to  have  a good  repertoire  of  Emotion  Regulation  skills  to  be  more effective  during  the  BUILD  UP  phase,  to  reduce  the  intensity  of  the  MELTDOWN  and  enhance  the RECOVERY phase.   

Melbourne  Centre  for  Women’s  Mental  Health  provide  structured  programs  of  treatment including  Skills  Training  for  Emotion  Regulation  in  Women  with  ASD.  

Book  online  with a psychologist for your  intake  assessment  at  www.melbournecentreforwomensmentalhealth.com.au