After what happened yesterday, I’ve decided to teach you the single most important thing you will ever learn about dealing with autistic people, especially under stress:
A meltdown is a defensive response, not an aggression.
Meltdowns happen because we are in pain - either the direct sensory pain of too much light or too loud noise or terrible textures or what have you, or the emotional pain of just being overwhelmed by so much input we can’t handle it, of being told were horrible burdens who can’t love, etc.
Meltdowns are born of pain.
In particular, they’re what happens when we can’t escape that pain. Y’all know about the fight-or-flight response? Well… that’s what a meltdown is. And all of those stories of autistic people destroying things or hurting themselves or lashing out at people? That’s what happens when “flight” is no longer an option. That only leaves “fight.”
We’re trying to defend ourselves from things that are hurting us, and you won’t let us. You stand between us and an escape from pain. That’s what makes us lash out, as surely as if you cornered an animal and poked it with a stick.
So how do you prevent this from happening? Simple. Find out what’s causing us pain, and give us an escape from it. Too much noise? Give us earplugs or a quiet place. Too-bright lights? Maybe we need sunglasses or a darkroom. Draining social expectations? Let us be alone for a bit.
Just let us escape the pain. That’s all we need.
(The implication of this, of course, is that people who think autistic people are inclined to violence? Are people who hurt us and keep us in pain. They’re abusers. This is something that has held up literally every time I’ve heard someone talk about how terrible and violent we are, and then describe their interactions with us. Every. Single. Time.)