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  • Spectrum Gaming

Understanding Meltdowns

The NEST Approach

Supporting autistic young people with meltdowns.

Kids Do Well IF THEY CAN

This resource was created by the Spectrum Gaming community, as a result of autistic young people sharing the negative impacts of support that has been offered while they are experiencing meltdowns. 

We worked together with them to create this guidance around meltdowns, using the insight of the community, plus the best practice work of Studio 3, Ross Greene and the PDA Society. 

The key thing to remember here is that people do well "if they can". No one wants to experience meltdowns, and meltdowns in themselves are horrible to experience.

What do meltdowns feel like?

  • "They feel like an uncontrollable explosion of emotions. No coping strategy or convincing could be used or work. It makes everything harder and I can ’t do anything, nothing makes real sense and there is so much anger, confusion and sadness."

  • "I feel like my world is crumbling before me and feel as if I've lost control."

  • “It's like the raging monster in you lets itself loose."

  • "I feel like I’ m floating in the void, I cannot control my actions and every object around me feels like it needs to be destroyed. I feel like I could die."

  • "When inside my brain is exploding and I can't talk and everything everyone does makes me scream and cry and shout."

How do you feel after a meltdown?

  • "Guilty and reflective, and regretful that I would have just stopped it if I could."

  • "Really embarrassed, but I don ’t usually get over what I was thinking until 1-2+ days when I think 'wow, I really did that? I feel so bad'.”

  • "I feel like a different person and really negative about everything."

  • "Tired and my head hurts from tensing it and under my eyes hurt from crying. Even when I've stopped crying I will then go into shut down and just 'go live in another world' for a while."

  • "I feel guilty, upset and shameful."

  • "I feel like I've let my family and myself down, I have bad thoughts."

One thing that will have a huge positive impact on the long term wellbeing of autistic young people is supporting them with meltdowns in the right way.

There are also three things that are incredibly important to consider when supporting young people:

  1. What do we do after a meltdown to repair any harm that was caused?

  2. How do we reduce the chance of a meltdown happening again?

  3. How do we stop the meltdown from contributing to a young person ’s trauma?

The NEST approach is a four step approach that covers all of the above.

Note: It is impossible to follow the NEST Approach when you are highly stressed yourself. Self-care is an essential foundation to supporting young people in distress.

The NEST Approach is available as a pdf guide below:

SG Autism and meltdowns
Download PDF • 2.01MB

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