Autistic adults have meltdowns too 

By | February 21, 2018

This is an anonymous guest post.


There is so much talk about children with autism having meltdowns these days. 

There is much more awareness that a child may not be naughty, that they could be autistic and the National Autistic Society  did a recent high profile campaign highlighting the issues when children with autism have sensory overload. 

Yet no-one seems to talk about adults with autism having meltdowns.

I have an autism adult friend.He is kind, gently, friendly and placid … until he has a meltdown. 
If you think seeing a child with autism having a meltdown is scary you should witness an adult autistic meltdown. Adult autistic meltdowns are terrifying. 

The causes are often the same as they are for children: high stress building up, feeling out of control, too much pressure placed on them and an overload of sensory stimuli all at once. These issues can build over minutes, hours, days or even weeks until they become like an over-inflated balloon and just pop. 

I have seen so many children have sensory meltdowns because I parent more than one child on the spectrum. I also attend events for families with children on the spectrum and see meltdowns of all shapes and sizes every week.  They are noisy, frightening, unpredictable, hard to manage and involve high emotions.  I see parents having to restrain their child for their own safety, some giving bear hugs and others strapping children into buggies or cat seats for everyone’s safety. 

In full autistic meltdown the person loses control of their emotions, reasoning, rational thinking and logic.  

They need to fight, let it out, scream it out or somehow release the build up of tension and stress that has mounted up within them. 

They lose control of all rational thought often putting themselves and others in danger. 

This is exactly the same for adults except the person is stronger, louder and potentially able to cause more damage. 

Watching my autistic adult friend have a huge meltdown was not pretty and I was scared. His very character changed and it was like a switch went off in his head while his body exploded in ways he would be utterly ashamed of when he recovered. 

His language changed. A man I had never heard swear cursed like a trooper.

His nature changed. He went from sweet and caring to aggressive and unpredictable. 

His body changed. He went from relaxed and calm to angry and defensive.

His volume changed. He went from quiet and subdued to loud and violent. 

Things were thrown, punched, kicked and broken. Exactly the same as I had seen happen with children but on a much bigger scale. 

I could have called the police but would that have helped?  I kept thinking what if this was my child?  The thing is in a few years time my autistic child will be an adult and what if someone calls the police on him when he has an autistic meltdown? My friend is someone’s child too. No-one deserves to be locked up because they had an autistic meltdown. 

My friend calmed down. He won’t talk about his meltdown because for him talking just brings it all back to his head again and causes it all to build up to explosion again. Neither of us want that to happen. 

I don’t want my friend to know I have written about him. I don’t want him embarrassed by that day or defined as some awful person because he has an autism meltdown. No-one would judge my son if it was him so why do we judge adults? 

I think it’s because we still have this expectation that you grow out of autism, which includes having meltdowns. 

Autism is a life-long disability and my friend proved to me that adults with autism can and do have meltdowns too. 

I only wish people realised this more.  

Facebook Comments


Marylin on 21st February 2018 at 4:40 pm.

Not gonna lie, this is what terrifies me about the future with Max. In general he can calm himself down most of the time but there is still the odd complete and total meltdown. What if it happens and he hurts himself, or me, or someone else? It’s a scary thought that I try to put to the back of my head as much as possible tbh. x


Jeannette on 24th February 2018 at 12:12 am.

Me too, my two are getting stronger and stronger x


Jeannette on 24th February 2018 at 12:04 am.

Thanks Ruby, for reading and commenting. I completely agree with your comment, society has a lot to learn regarding autism and in no way are autistics a burden.


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