By Marlee Neumann
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Camden County College hosted a slideshow that broke down the difference between tantrums and meltdowns in people with autism spectrum disorder as part of its 2019 autism awareness lecture series on April 16. About 75 people attended the presentation, which was sponsored by The Center and took place in Civic Hall.

Audience members attend the autism awareness lecture on April 16. By Marlee Neumann, CCC Journalism Program

Crystal A. Harms, clinical director at Connect Plus therapy, presented the slideshow. Each audience member received a printed copy of the presentation to follow along with and keep for future reference.

By show of hands, about half of the audience members were relatives of people with autism spectrum disorder and the other half worked with people with autism spectrum disorder.

The slideshow explained the difference between tantrums and meltdowns, detailed how to identify those behaviors in people with autism and gave strategies for responding to both.

A tantrum usually occurs in children ages 1 to 5 with autism spectrum disorder who are trying to get attention in ways such as screaming, crying and risking physical harm. A meltdown, which happens in similar ways, can occur in people with autism spectrum disorder through adulthood even if they are not trying to get attention, according to the presentation. To respond to a tantrum or meltdown, relatives and workers should stay calm and support the person in completing the task that prompted the acting out.

The slides featured images and charts that provided visual representations of what Harms was talking about. Titles of these slides included “How to Respond to Goal-Directed Behaviors” and “How to Respond to Meltdowns.” The slideshow finished with bullet points of reminders for workers and relatives to take away from the lecture.

Between slides, Harms shared personal stories about her experiences with tantrums and meltdowns throughout her career in working with children with autism spectrum disorder. She also frequently stopped to take questions from audience members and to give advice to help their situations.

“If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism,” said Harms, assuring the audience that each of their experiences with autism spectrum disorder was unique.

After the event, Renee Hurff, behavior analyst at Peak Center for Autism, who coordinated the lecture and has a teenage son with autism, said events like these matter personally and professionally.

“By providing information on how to help individuals with ASD to become independent and to give more understanding of what difficulties they face on a daily basis, I would hope that the attendees will take what they learned and implement it in their workplace and personal lives,” said Hurff.

The two-hour presentation was the third part of the five-session autism awareness lecture series. Each lecture features a different guest speaker and is open to the public. The lectures cover topics connected to autism spectrum disorder and provide professional guidance for people with autism spectrum disorder and for workers and relatives of people with autism awareness disorder.

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