Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New guide for first responders on how to recognise autistic meltdowns

A new guide for police officers and other professionals who may come into contact with people experiencing autistic meltdowns has been developed.

The book by autism advocate Viv Dawes gives practical guidance on recognising autistic meltdowns and shutdowns and how to respond appropriately. The book also explains what autistic burnout is, its causes, symptoms and what will and what will not help the autistic individual.

According to the National Autistic Society, a meltdown is an intense response to an overwhelming situation. It happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses control of their behaviour. This loss of control can be expressed verbally (eg shouting, screaming, crying), physically (eg kicking, lashing out, biting) or in both ways.

Common for many autistic people to reach crisis point

The guidance is aimed at first responders, such as police officers or emergency services, but it can also be used by social workers, mental health professionals and other professionals working with autistic people.

The author said it is important to understand autistic meltdowns, shutdowns and burnout as it is common for many autistic people to reach crisis point. They will then need very particular help and support, which differs from people who are in crisis but not autistic.

She added: “The suicide rate amongst autistic people is also very high, with autistic adults 10 times more likely to take their own lives, and autistic women 13 times more likely.”

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