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Tambourine-Man
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:12 pm    Post subject: What not to do during a meltdown - From an autistic adult Reply with quote

Meltdowns: What Not to Do

My meltdowns can be very frightening and confusing for those around me. I work very hard to appear as capable and composed as possible throughout each day, so when I finally lose it, people are shocked to see me act so "autistic." I cry, scream, break things, flap my hands, and pound my fists against my head. I haven't found the perfect remedy for my meltdowns, but I do know what makes them far worse...

If I am having a meltdown...

- DO NOT become angry with me or raise your voice.

Autistic meltdowns may be frightening to observers, but at their most intense, they are nothing less than pure psychological torture for the person experiencing them. I feel as if I am caught in a war zone, terrified for my very life. My senses are on fire and I have very little control over myself. I may feel threatened by intense emotional displays. This is very dangerous.

- DO NOT attempt to restrain me.

I understand that my tantrums are scary, as I'm well over six feet tall, but you must remember that I am far more frightened than you are. I would never intentionally hurt anyone, but if you approach me in a hostile manner, or attempt to use any force without my permission, I may lose the last bit of self-control I have.

- DO NOT ask me what is wrong.

Trust me, when I'm banging my head into the wall I do not want to discuss my emotional triggers.

- DO NOT taunt me, use sarcasm, or attempt to make me feel guilty.

This will confuse and enrage me. It also makes me feel threatened.

- DO NOT ask if I am drunk or on drugs.

This is incredibly insulting. I didn't ask to be autistic, and last I checked, drugs don't cause autism. Would you ask a crippled person if they were just too lazy to get out of their wheelchair?

- Most importantly, DO NOT tell me to "snap out of it."

Trust me, I would if I could. Don't patronize or belittle me by acting as if I could control myself if I only tried harder. This is a good way to make the situation ten times worse.
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Angel_ryan
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the same problem I try to shut down quietly and hide it from people by going to a different room. Sometimes being alone calms me down, but my parents get frustrated and confused when I get like that. My mother follows me around the house criticizing me, bringing me to the point where I'm struggling to suppress becoming violent. I begin taking it out on myself instead becoming confused and self injurious. Recently during a meltdown my mom got angry at the site of me curled up in a ball so she viciously dragged me out of the room while screaming at me. It took everything I had not to want to commit suicide after that. To distract myself I discussed the issue on this thread http://www.wrongplanet.net/postp4122638.html&highlight=#4122638. suicidal depression in the haven. My parents seem to be putting up a fight against understanding my condition. The bottom line is that they just don't want to deal with it and they'd rather blame me for everything including their relationship.
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aspie_giraffe
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

angel_ryan, that sums my meltdowns up perfectly, I agree
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Shellfish
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for this, any insight into what my son is going through is a great help to me.

Last week he was doing his favourite activity which is writing each letter of the alphabet (lower and uppercase) and drawing a picture and writing the corresponding words, so....A a Apple and draw an apple, B b Ball drew a ball etc got to F f drew a fish and forgot to write the word fish - it was pretty scary to see his reaction, he was screaming, and shaking as though he was in physical agony and I felt extremely helpless. I gave him a cuddle and told him it was okay...now based on what you have written, I think this may have been the wrong thing to do. Could you maybe advise me what you think I could do when this happens again?

thanks
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Angel_ryan
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shellfish wrote:
Thanks for this, any insight into what my son is going through is a great help to me.

Last week he was doing his favourite activity which is writing each letter of the alphabet (lower and uppercase) and drawing a picture and writing the corresponding words, so....A a Apple and draw an apple, B b Ball drew a ball etc got to F f drew a fish and forgot to write the word fish - it was pretty scary to see his reaction, he was screaming, and shaking as though he was in physical agony and I felt extremely helpless. I gave him a cuddle and told him it was okay...now based on what you have written, I think this may have been the wrong thing to do. Could you maybe advise me what you think I could do when this happens again?

thanks


I think cuddling helps I know I'd prefer to be cuddled than yelled at by someone who's also frustrated and doesn't understand. As long as you aren't restrictive or oppressive I think consoling him with encouraging words like "it's OK there's nothing wrong your still doing a great job", and yeah then a hug isn't that bad I don't mind being hugged as long as the person is not freaking out at me. I tell people when I don't want a hug. Like when I would have a meltdown and my parents would feel guilty about mistreating me or hitting me they'd try to hug me and make up after. That would make me even more angry I'd tell them to get away from me but they'd still try to, so I'd try to wriggle out of their arms kicking or hitting depending on how traumatized I was when they we being dis-encouraging.


Last edited by Angel_ryan on Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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gramirez
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All very good points, Tambourine-Man.
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SylviaLynn
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Definitely. DD doesn't have many meltdowns even at school anymore, but if she does the method to handle it is in her IEP. It's some kind of sensory overload. Get her into a quiet place. Be near her, but not touching. Don't touch. She hit a vice-principal once. Give her a tissue, then wait until she calms down.
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MagicMeerkat
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My parents made all those mistakes. I had a nervous breakdown at sixteen and we always attributed it to all the phyc meds I was on at the time, but I also wonder if the way my parents recated to my meltdowns played a role.
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Tambourine-Man
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MagicMeerkat wrote:
My parents made all those mistakes. I had a nervous breakdown at sixteen and we always attributed it to all the phyc meds I was on at the time, but I also wonder if the way my parents recated to my meltdowns played a role.


I too was pumped full of awful meds. People really need to understand autism better.
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aann
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My son generally likes to recover on his own or with a little assurance from an adult. Often he is talking nonsense so I tend to have to agree with or affirm what he is saying, even if it is not true. Then he'l take some time to calm down. Most often he took what someone said in the wrong way.
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jmom05
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading this is helping me understand how my son is feeling . He is 7 and was just diagnosed with Aspergers. The only problem I have with his meltdowns is that he attacks me. Not anyone else, just his mom. He will bite me, kick me, hit, pinch, scratch, etc. I am not sure how to calm him down. I will usually talk calmly to him, hold him in my lap and say "settle" as I pat his back. I just don't know how to settle him before he attacks. Do you have any advice on how to handle that?
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blondeambition
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmom05 wrote:
Reading this is helping me understand how my son is feeling . He is 7 and was just diagnosed with Aspergers. The only problem I have with his meltdowns is that he attacks me. Not anyone else, just his mom. He will bite me, kick me, hit, pinch, scratch, etc. I am not sure how to calm him down. I will usually talk calmly to him, hold him in my lap and say "settle" as I pat his back. I just don't know how to settle him before he attacks. Do you have any advice on how to handle that?


Both my kids (7-year-old with classic autism, selective mutism, anxiety attacks, learning issues, and chronic insomnia and 4-year-old with AS, OCD, and chronic insomnia) are now on Prozac during the day, which helps him a lot. They take Clonidine at night, during a severe anxiety attack, and right before extremely stressful situations.

(Incidently, I'm now on Prozac myself for anxiety, but that is another story).

Anyway, the meds help them a lot, but I totally agree with all of the suggestions given on what not to do during a meltdown. Screaming at the child, pressing him for an explanation if he doesn;t want to talk, and telling him to stop does not work.

A couple of things that I've always done are to plan my outings carefully--avoid crowded restaurants (go during off times or less crowded places) and go places early in the day before everyone is tired. Also, we never go to too many different outins in one day--sensory overload and too many transitions. I also just don't go some places or go to them, if I must, without my kids. Also, whenever we go to the doctor's office or some place where I know that we will have to wait, I always bring a bag of snacks, books, and small toys. In fact, I keep a supply of stuff for my kids to do in my car at all times.

Finally, watching my kids for pre-meltdown signs has become second nature. My oldest never just has one out of the blue. He always fidgets, starts looking around, acts inappropriately, and gets grumpy first. When either of my kids start showing the pre-meltdown signs, it is time to get in the car and go home or put on a children's video.
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jstriding
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agree with all your "what not to do's" -- as a parent I want to know what I "can" do, that will help.
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blondeambition
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jstriding wrote:
Agree with all your "what not to do's" -- as a parent I want to know what I "can" do, that will help.


Whenever my older son with high functioning classic autism had a bad meltdown pre-meds, the only thing that I could do was to put him in the playroom by himself with a Disney video on. Eventually, the video would make him laugh and take his mind off of whatever had upset him.

Sometimes, I could figure out a way to make him laugh, and that would help.

He once told me that upsetting thoughts sometimes get stuck in his head. I think that during a meltdown, this is one of the things that happens.

He is only seven and does not really have the cognitive ability to sort out issues except in a basic way. We can use social stories to tell him in advance what not to do, and I can gently tell him that this or that was wrong. He has also had a lot of ABA. However, a psychological discussion during the heat of the moment just blows things up further.

I think that my older son would actually lose touch with reality during a bad meltdown--incapable of listening or responding in a meaningful way. He would also start to hyperventilate. One meltdown at school lasted over an hour.

With my younger son with the OCD and AS, he would mainly flip out whenever someone did something in the wrong order, he couldn't wash his hands with warm water, couldn't have his 15th package of alphabet refrigerator magnets, etc. I used to either wait things out or give into his fixations. Sometimes, there was no good solution available because distraction did not work as well with him. Right now, in addition to meds, he is doing ABA therapy, which has helped with many of his issues.

Cuddling has always helped with my younger son, who never seems to get to the point of losing touch with reality.
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www.freevideosforautistickids.com is my website with hundreds of links and thousands of educational videos for kids, parents and educators. Son with high-functioning classic autism, aged 7, and son with OCD/Aspergers, aged 4. I love my boys!
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Tambourine-Man
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jstriding wrote:
Agree with all your "what not to do's" -- as a parent I want to know what I "can" do, that will help.


There are SO many variables here. The best thing you can do is learn the triggers, and warning signs and learn to prevent them. Once one is in full swing it just has to run it's course. Meltdowns are very dangerous and distressing.

I'm not sure I can offer general suggestions, as everyone varies, but I can answer specific questions.
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You may know me from my column here on WrongPlanet. I'm also writing a book for AAPC. Visit my Facebook page for links to articles I've written for Autism Speaks and other websites.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/JohnScott-Holman/267958723228267


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