We’ve talked about meltdowns in the previous post. Now it’s time to known about something that is quite unknown by the general population. Shutdowns.
It’s the exact opposite of meltdowns.
The cause can be sensory overload, but anxiety and the inner feelings of the person do play an important role in shutdowns. Instead of screaming, or crying or whatever a person might do during a meltdown, in shutdowns someone becomes passive: maybe they stop talking, or do so in a confused manner, they may seem lost – looking with a blank stare and looking as if unaware of their environment. It’s literally that the person shuts down.
It actually may have to do with the “fight or flight” response.
(Fight or flight response is a term used to describe how a person reacts to a meltdown. Fighting means they try to stop it from becoming a big thing. Flighting means letting the meltdown take place) [Note: Fighting a meltdown is very very difficult]
In shutdowns, the person has been “fighting” a meltdown, and their organism reacts shutting down because it’s something beyond the person’s ability to handle.
This is a quite unknown process because shutdowns are less common than meltdowns, and consequently, you’re less likely to spot them.
Why? Because, for example, imagine that an autistic person is on a regular basis, a quiet person that seems rarely bothered; this means this person may not react violently to stimuli, if at all. How are you even going to know when she’s having a shutdown? It’s kind of impossible, we could say: her regular behaviour matches what happens during a shutdown.
In this situation is when knowing the person well takes the most important role.
Shutdowns make you suffer much more than a meltdown might do. In shutdowns you’re perfectly aware of what’s happening around you, but you simply can’t react.
Preventing shutdowns is difficult, but it is way easier than preventing meltdowns. Meltdowns can be triggered by anything. A shutdown doesn’t. A shutdown is usually caused specifically by sensory overload and/or anxiety, and strong feelings. So you can watch out for signs easily – as long as you know this person well enough –
It’s very common to have a shutdown as soon as a meltdown stops. Parents of autistic children may think that this is a “normal” stage after a meltdown, so they don’t take much care of it. But it still isn’t.
After a meltdown, it is “normal” to give the kid/teen/adult space to relax – sleeping for 30 minutes is also something really helpful – and afterwards, you should be ready to continue your day. Having a shutdown is not the same that relaxing, it’s something worse. That’s why parents should keep an eye on their kid after a meltdown. If you see the kid is totally “in their little world” or unreactive, try, slowly – and not forcing – to engage your kid with some activity that can “bring them back”. For example, if you’re at home, you can have your child to help with the chores. Put some music you like on and enjoy it.

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