Hi everyone I’m Amythest, and welcome back to “Ask an Autistic” ♪ I want a renaissance ♪ ♪ To shine a light ♪ ♪ Be the change we want ♪ ♪ Set things right ♪ ♪ We’ve been waiting in the dark ♪ ♪ For so long ♪ Autistic shutdowns are similar to autistic meltdowns in that they are physiological and mental reactions to stress, to sensory overload to emotions, to an uncontrollable situation basically any negative sensory input that overwhelms and overloads your brain Shutdowns are similar to and sometimes interconnected and intertwined with dissociation Dissociation can occur in non autistic and autistic individuals and it’s a brain’s method of self protection When there is to much going on it’s a self preservation technique to withdraw and save yourself Some autistics who experience shutdowns will also experience dissociation at the same time or at different times and in different degrees Not every autistic will experience dissociation though Some signs of shutdown in autistic people include withdraw so suddenly an autistic person is making less eye contact and they are speaking much less, if at all Going non verbal is something that happens to a lot of autistic people in stressful situations When they’re sick or tired or when their about to shut down Someone who is experiencing autistic shutdown won’t want to be around people They may try to leave the area or leave the room They may not be able to explain why they’re doing so So it may look like, or appear to others, as if they are running away or withdrawing suddenly for no reason And autistic person who is shutting down, or has shut down may have a blank expression They may appear to be staring off in space or not looking at anything in particular and they may not be making any facial expressions It may almost seem like they are catatonic A very common behavior for autistic people going through shutdown Is to get under furniture or get under a blanket to cover their face or their head with something And to withdraw to a quiet, dark, safe place For me, I really like small dark places Um, a lot of autistics will either curl up in the fetal position when they’re shut down or just collapse and flop on the ground Some autistics will also become very stiff Very often when I experience shutdown especially if i comes on suddenly whatever position I was in I am kinda, I’m stuck in that position It just feels like it would take a tremendous amount of effort to move and I almost feel detached from my limbs as if I’m not really in control of them And so while some autistic people may curl up in fetal position or flop down, or hide somewhere I tend to just go completely stiff and stare straight ahead in whatever position I was in I stay in that position until I have control of my body again Well meltdowns are very outward expression um, emotion and energy and anxiety is kinda exploding outwards shutdowns are much more internal I find that my shutdowns are often triggered by emotional pain and even if they weren’t, if they were triggered by sensory overload or, um a surprise in my day or a change of schedule or just I’m anxious and overwelmed I would still have this emotional pain accompanying the shutdown It’s very frustrating for me it’s as if I know it’s happening and I know what’s going on around me I can hear people speaking And sometimes I understand the words but it’s like I’m so weighed down and my brain is shutdown completely that I can’t respond So that can be very frustrating Especially when I’m starting to feel more calm and I want to come out of the shutdown It can be quite difficult to, to come back and to move my body again to start looking around and taking in visual input and hear what people are saying Some autistic people have something called alexithymia and that’s where you have trouble identifying or feeling the emotions that are going on inside you So you might note that you feel bad You have a vague feeling where you know that you feel bad but you aren’t able to identify exactly how you feel bad Are you angry? Jealous? Frustrated? Sad? Some people with alexithymia can’t identify what they are feeling in the moment at all Only later will they maybe be able to identify it I’m speaking of alexithymia because it’s connected to shutdowns I find that a lot of autistic people who experience alexithymia will not know that they’re at the point of shutdown until they get there which is quite frustrating And autistics with alexithymia may have trouble coming out of their shutdowns and their time as shutdown may last longer and their recuperation time after may take longer than other autistics my husband Marvin is autistic and I’ve never seen him experience a meltdown but I have seen him shutdown And for him, when he shuts down he both experiences some alexithymia and shutdowns so what he describes it as feeling like is just empty or stuck but when he’s shutting down, or when he has shutdown the main symptom is a very pervasive difficulty difficulty in listening to what other people are saying difficulty in speaking or responding and in moving his body or motivating himself So shutdowns can be from very severe a person who, you know, collapses or curls up in the fetal position and doesn’t move for four hours or they can be more mild where a person could even still be walking around or nodding in agreement to someone who’s talking but inside they are beginning to shutdown and experiencing those internal symptoms So what can you do for somebody who is shutting down in your presence or has shut down The first thing to remember is safety If the autistic person is shutting down and they are in a crowded or noisy environment if they are somewhere unsafe like the side of the road or if they’re about to go off on their own You might want to make sure that they have access to a safe, quite, calm place where they can experience their shutdown and then come out of it The second thing is to try not to ask too many questions or to talk too much because a lot of the time what people will say to try to help an autistic person avoid shutting down or though their shutdown will actually worsen it or aggravate the problem make the shutdown last longer So keep the questions simple and try not to talk to much Keep in mind that a person going through shutdown maybe feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, very emotionally sensitive they may feel agitated or irritated and so they’re probably going to want some time alone no matter how they are feeling Every person is different So if your autistic friend, or family member, indicates that they want you to stay do so stay nearby and read a book or do something quietly and wait with them and you can support them in that way My last tip to help an autistic person through a shutdown is to keep in mind all their senses For myself, because I can’t move my body and I can’t respond like I’m completely shut down when I’m shutdown I really don’t like to be touched When I’m shutdown I feel very vulnerable I can’t protect myself, I can’t move my body And touch really just amps up my sensory overload and adds to my anxiety again every autistic person is different So something like a tight hug might be helpful or even wanted This is something you should discuss with your autistic friend or loved one before they are having a shutdown Ask them what type of things or stim toys or their favorite blanket or having a pillow or water what things help them through their shutdowns and what you can provide if it happens in your presence Keeping in mind all of an autistic person’s senses You want to make sure the environment is calm and quiet and that if there is anything they have that they need like a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket to cover their head or if they’re laying on the ground, maybe a pillow to make them feel more comfortable Try to make sure they have that and try to not have to much sensory input in the environment because that does directly feed into overload which can aggravate shutdowns and cause them to go on longer Like meltdowns, shutdowns are a physiological and emotional and mental response to overload They’re similar to dissociation and sometimes accompanied by dissociation in that the brain is trying to protect itself Just too much is going on Keep in mind that shutdowns aren’t voluntary and that they suck to go through too And like meltdowns, shutdowns can be an indication that there is to much going on in an autistic person’s life That there is underlying stress or anxiety that, um, that maybe steps need to be taken towards better mental and emotional health and coping skills for stress particularly if the autistic person in question is having a frequent amount of shutdowns or many shutdowns close together without a lot of recovery time in between This is my video on autistic shutdowns I hope it was helpful for you guys and that the examples from my own life and from Marvin’s experiences maybe helped you think a little bit what your shutdowns are like or about the autistic person in your life and what their shutdowns are like and how you can help them through it I am back from hiatus now so you guys can be expecting to see new videos on Thursdays I update for three weeks in a row and then I take a week off So every fourth week no video but you can expect a video next week If you have an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my “Ask an Autistic” episodes please feel free to post your suggestion in the comment section below or message it to me So if you want more stuff on autism and disability and living life on the spectrum please do check out my blog which I will link to you in the video description below Along with a few resources for you guys to take a look at Thanks very much for watching this episode of “Ask an Autistic” ♪ I want a renaissance ♪ ♪ To shine a light ♪ ♪ To be the change we want ♪ ♪ Set things right ♪ ♪ We’ve been waiting in the dark ♪ ♪ for so long ♪