It is very important that people that are close to a person with autism, to understand how invasive, confronting, uncontrollable, heavy and mentally exhausting a meltdown can be in the human brain. Most meltdowns start with an overdose of (earlier) sensory or stress overloads, which will shut down higher-order brain functions.
In a meltdown, (almost) all executive functions (like reasoning, memory, planning and decision-making) are shut down. Everything gets slower with no focus. Language is affected too and it becomes (almost) impossible to communicate adequately with others using normal structured sentences, while finding the right matching words. The brain becomes (very) chaotic because focus starts to wither. This is a moment where it becomes difficult to find a way out of the situation.
When not able to escape the situation, this neurological chaos in the brain can build up and result in a total internal cognitive shutdown or an explosive outburst, which is quite common during a meltdown. This explosive outburst may seem to come from nowhere, but it is mostly an end-result of an accumulation of sensory, cognitive and emotional overload, which may have started hours or even days earlier. Continue reading “When in meltdown, take care!”