Being autistic, I am prone to sometimes becoming overwhelmed, or, in severe cases, having a meltdown.

Sam Valavanis, one of our A List Ambassadors shares his love of trains

I have found that I most often become overwhelmed when I am exposed to really loud and extended noise, often in either a large or open space.

Some examples of loud, extensive noises that can make me feel overwhelmed include loud cheering, such as after a performance or speech by someone, in a large hall or stadium, and loud construction work, especially with machinery such as for drilling and sawing, in an open area like out on the street.

When I become overwhelmed, I use strategies to try and help me calm down on my own. These include covering my ears, taking deep breaths, and thinking about something that makes me feel happy. When the noise has stopped or I am no longer near it, I feel better and return to normal.

Before I found out I was autistic, I didn’t know why this happened to me, so I never used to ask for help. This is most likely why I have learned to cope with an overwhelming situation on my own.

When I have a meltdown, several things usually happen that make me really annoyed or angry leading up to it.

One of the other A List ambassadors, Summer, has already gone into detail about what can lead up to and cause a meltdown for someone with autism, so I won’t go into too much detail about it here.

If you’d like to read more about Summer’s experiences and strategies regarding meltdowns, please check out her article here.

Anyway, for me, when I have a meltdown, usually these things happen in the space of one day, sometimes even half a day (my PW (personal worst) was about an hour).

The event that pushes me to have a meltdown results in me either losing my temper and yelling at someone, crying uncontrollably, or most often one after the other.

When I cry, I feel like I am expressing my emotions and releasing them in an effective manner. I usually cry for about 5-10 minutes, then calm down and feel a lot better afterwards. I most often calm down with the support and encouragement of another person, usually a parent, teacher or another adult.

I often describe a meltdown as a “volcano of emotions”. Situations happen that cause anger and annoyance to build up and bubble inside me, and when the last situation happens, it causes the volcano to erupt.

This has happened many times in the past, although luckily it has subsided more recently, particularly after I got my diagnosis last year (quite ironic really). But it did happen quite recently, reminding me that I still have my demons to battle with some days, and that meltdowns are as much a regular part of autism as a love of trains (see my other article about that too if you’d like: The Art of Training – One autistic’s crazy love of the rail system)

In the end, being overwhelmed and having meltdowns is a normal part of autism, and you should not think of an autistic person any less based on their reaction to a situation that another person may not be affected by in the slightest.

Sam x

Sam Valavanis is an A List Amabassador – find out more about our A List Ambassadors

See more from Sam on his Facebook page.

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