April 17, 2024

Autistic Meltdown vs Shutdown: What are They?

Being neurodivergent and dealing with intense emotions can be extremely difficult especially when it comes to explaining to your peers what’s on your mind. 

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Brain with different colored splattered paint

For the majority of autistic people there is a lot of input from the outside world. The intense fluorescent lights, the sound of cars on the roads, the sharp smells in the air are a lot for anyone to take in. It felt all at once, which is overwhelming when there’s no way to turn it off. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can be taken to eliminate a shutdown and meltdown. 

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The definition of an autistic meltdown, shutdown and burnout.

Shutdown and being burnt out are two experiences that neurodivergent people have. Meltdowns are where a person has heightened levels of anxiety and distress. For younger children this can be blown off as a tantrum but there is an end goal for a tantrum. They want a reaction out of their peers. Whereas with a meltdown, there is a reason for their behavior. It’s difficult to distinguish the two because when the brain is already overloaded, it can’t think clearly and can give people the wrong idea. A shutdown is where the person’s focus has shifted to the basic functions and they might not seem like themselves because of this. 

So what kind of approach can one take for these different kinds of situations? for severe cases, its best to remove the person from the environment. This allows them to eliminate the overwhelming intake and for some people, they may need several hours or days until they can resume to their previous self.

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Another option could be bringing the individuals current special interest. this can change over time as we all go through phases of likes and dislikes. these interest can vary from movies, tv shows, art, music, collections, ect. While it may seem weird for somebody to be interested in something “childlike” its not fair to judge because we have our own unique things that bring us joy. This shouldn’t be looked down upon just because its out of the ordinary.