One of the classic stereotypes of an autistic person is obsessively organized behavior. If something is out of order, a meltdown occurs.
A sudden change of plans, a parent cleaning their room, someone knocking over an organized pile of CDs, all can contribute to the stress that may cause a meltdown.
For the autistic person, the world is a startling and sometimes unfriendly place. Keeping some order often helps them to cope with the uncertainties of life.
There is a scene in the movie, “Rain Man” where the character, Raymond, who is understood to be autistic, realizes that he is not going to be able to watch, “Wapner” ("The People’s Court"). It is a scheduled, daily event that makes him feel calm.
When he realizes that “Wapner” is not coming on, the generally docile Raymond, has a screaming fit, that his brother cannot control.
A portable TV, prevents future meltdowns and Raymond’s world is once again peaceful and predictable.
Like stimming (self-stimulating behavior) organization is part of the autistic world. It is best not to disturb the organizer, but it is ok to open communication lines if that is possible.
If the person can verbalize, a caretaker might ask about their “system.” They can inquire which things are the most important and use that as a basis to prevent future meltdowns.
Do not try to change or ridicule the person's organizational system.
If the person has a space they like to use, set it aside for them if possible. If they like to watch a television show, have a TV free and schedule events around it when possible.
Of course, things will happen. One of the best strategies is knowing what to expect in a meltdown and what is the best way to handle it.
Whenever possible, allow some of these organizational quirks to take place. They are usually harmless and soothing to the person with autism.
A little understanding and effort on your part, can make a huge difference in the lives of friends and family members with autism.