Dealing with the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome is undeniably challenging for anyone who has it. Although the condition is high-functioning autism – meaning, a person can typically attend regular school and pass as a regular human being – there are still instances when it makes you stand out in a not-so-good way. For example, you may not understand when someone cracks a joke or react quite well to sarcasm. If you do realize it later, it might embarrass you and knock your confidence level down a notch.
Nevertheless, this particular autism spectrum disorder does not merely affect the mental health of the patients. It changes the psychological well-being of their loved ones too, primarily after witnessing someone with Asperger’s syndrome experience sensory overload. Hence, the latter yells, cries, throws and breaks stuff, and acts violently towards people. As explained by Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT “Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”,socially and otherwise.”
If you are a relative or friend of a person who has the same disorder, you should know what to do when he or she has a meltdown for the sake of your mental health.
1. Don’t Get In The Way
The first thing you should bear in mind when someone you love breaks down is not to try to hold or hug him or her. Sensory overload is tricky to handle, you see. Even laying a finger on that person might enable his or her fight-or-flight reaction.
2. Avoid Forcing The Individual To Speak
In case your sibling, child, or colleague seems okay one second and then melts down another second, you should not bother to ask “What happened?” You won’t be able to extract a sound answer from this fellow at the moment. If we are honest, your question might even aggravate the condition as it may sound much louder in their head now.
3. Keep An Eye On The Person
Take note of that fact that all meltdowns can quickly turn into dangerous situations. The individual cannot get a grip on reality due to his or her senses getting overwhelmed, and so it is possible for him or her to self-harm subconsciously. Though it may not happen often, it may still be best not to leave the person alone as a meltdown takes place. “It is important to help people with autism notice when they are stuck on details. Over time they can get in the habit of recognizing when they are focused at the detail level and learn to zoom out to see the big picture.” John Strang, Psy.D. said.
4. Help Your Loved One Remember Coping Mechanisms
Assuming you have been living with an Asperger’s patient for some time now, you likely have an idea of what movements will allow him or her to overcome sensory overload. For instance, vocalizing, scratching, blinking, head-banging, and rocking physically. If you notice that the individual seems to have forgotten any of that, you may offer a subtle reminder without getting in their way still.
5. Try Not To Feel Negatively When It Happens
Whenever you are in the room when your loved one’s Asperger’s is on attack mode, and he or she starts saying hurtful things, you should try not to let the words get inside your head. It is as if a wayward soul takes over his or her system at this point. He or she may not even remember whatever has been said when the meltdown stops. Thus, you should understand that the person does not mean anything he or she might talk about then.
“Healthy boundaries are necessary for self-care, and healthy relationships and most people are not equipped with these important life skills.” Janeen Herskovitz, LMHC said. Watching someone that you love deal with meltdowns because of an incurable disorder and being unable to make it stop for him or her may genuinely be unbearable for friends and family members of an Asperger’s patient. However, keep in mind that this person needs you now more than ever to feel as normal as possible. If you don’t take care of your mental health, you cannot help the disabled individual at all.