What not to do during a meltdown - From an autistic adult

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MagicMeerkat
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12 Nov 2011, 10:30 pm

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?


I would attack my mother during meltdowns too. She still has scars. Everyone always told her it was becuase I trusted her enough to let my gaurd down around her. Bascialy the old "you only hurt the ones you love". My father would throw me into walls when my meltdowns got violent and was always threatning to punch my teeth out. I was always told it was my fault he reacted that way. I think being bullied all the time at school played a role in my being so agressive at the time but my stupid shrink's solution was to just dope me up on Prozac and not do a damb thing about the bullying. According to her, the bullying was my fault anyway.

Looking back, I do wonder if my nervous breakdown was really a result of the meds I was on, or simply my parents reacting to my meltdowns the wrong way. They also took my special intrest away and were trying to make me earn it as a reward. When I had a meltdown about not being able to acess my special intrest, they would yell at me, make fun of me, and take my special intrest way for an even longer period. I highly suspect that the nervous breakdown was because of that and not because of the meds.


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12 Nov 2011, 10:51 pm

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

Every person is unique so while the what not to do list is very good for us to hear, don't be too literal in applying it across the board especially things that may contrary to your personal experience. If your son is calmed by you cuddling him, then by all means that is a good strategy to use. If on the other hand he gets more agitated when you touch him, then stay close by but not touching him. Take your cues from how he reacts to you.



lovelyboy
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13 Nov 2011, 12:13 am

[
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.

The problem with my son is that I see the warning signs long in advance, like when he starts getting very bossy and aggitated towards his friends or picking fights with me.....When I try and prevent meltdowns by telling him that I can detect that his "engine is going in the red" and that I think it will be a good idea if he maybe go and take a warm bath or swing in the hammock or what ever....he REFUSES! :?

Any ideas.......It's easy to say, prevent it, but what if kiddo doesn't want to!?


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13 Nov 2011, 1:16 am

lovelyboy wrote:
[
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.

The problem with my son is that I see the warning signs long in advance, like when he starts getting very bossy and aggitated towards his friends or picking fights with me.....When I try and prevent meltdowns by telling him that I can detect that his "engine is going in the red" and that I think it will be a good idea if he maybe go and take a warm bath or swing in the hammock or what ever....he REFUSES! :?

Any ideas.......It's easy to say, prevent it, but what if kiddo doesn't want to!?


We use the engine system too. It took a long time for my kiddo to be able to identify his own engine level during heightened times. Then it took even longer for him to be able to choose to "take the other track" to calming down. He needed social stories to teach him that his engine is directly related to emotions, and that he can do things to calm down before it gets too fast. Having him label his engine (we moved to a 1-10 scale because green/yellow/red made him feel guilty when he got to a different color, numbers helped him keep things in perspective better) really helped him be more aware on his own as well as easier to talk to about it when he needed help calming down. We aren't quite to the point where he can say, "I'm really fast, I'm going to go calm down," but I suspect other kids his age wouldn't be able to have that much emotional control either. Just getting him to discuss his emotions can be hard because he thinks "negative" emotions = bad, and that he is somehow "bad" if his engine gets fast or he is angry, etc. Sllooowly getting there!



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13 Nov 2011, 2:17 am

I usually end up cursing & then removing myself from the situation. The second part is effective for me but I'm trying to work on the former.

I think that the hugging thing depends on the person. I mostly only want my mother to hug me if I'm like that. I melted down in front of my sister recently (we're close) & she said "I don't know what to do because you don't want me to touch you". I didn't know either.



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13 Nov 2011, 6:42 am

lovelyboy wrote:
[
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.

The problem with my son is that I see the warning signs long in advance, like when he starts getting very bossy and aggitated towards his friends or picking fights with me.....When I try and prevent meltdowns by telling him that I can detect that his "engine is going in the red" and that I think it will be a good idea if he maybe go and take a warm bath or swing in the hammock or what ever....he REFUSES! :?

Any ideas.......It's easy to say, prevent it, but what if kiddo doesn't want to!?


Maybe don't give him a choice or too much of an explanation.

Whenever my older son with hight functioning classic autism would start showing signs in public, I would always grab him and tell him that it was time to leave. Or I would just go put on a cartoon that he liked and take him in the room.

My younger son with AS is more willful and argumentative, though. He is harder to manipulate.

These things are tough.


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13 Nov 2011, 7:15 am

MagicMeerkat wrote:
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?


I would attack my mother during meltdowns too. She still has scars. Everyone always told her it was becuase I trusted her enough to let my gaurd down around her. Bascialy the old "you only hurt the ones you love". My father would throw me into walls when my meltdowns got violent and was always threatning to punch my teeth out. I was always told it was my fault he reacted that way. I think being bullied all the time at school played a role in my being so agressive at the time but my stupid shrink's solution was to just dope me up on Prozac and not do a damb thing about the bullying. According to her, the bullying was my fault anyway.

Looking back, I do wonder if my nervous breakdown was really a result of the meds I was on, or simply my parents reacting to my meltdowns the wrong way. They also took my special intrest away and were trying to make me earn it as a reward. When I had a meltdown about not being able to acess my special intrest, they would yell at me, make fun of me, and take my special intrest way for an even longer period. I highly suspect that the nervous breakdown was because of that and not because of the meds.


Your parents probably have their own issues and didn't know what on earth they were doing.

My husband's bipolar with anxiety but won't take meds or do therapy. My kids' issues set him off, and says insensitive things.

I end up doing the vast majority of the childcare, separating them from their father when they are or he is not doing well, and telling my husband to be quiet, and telling the kids to not listen to him. Most of the time, the kids are alone with me and my husband is doing something else.

He would like to use corporal punishment. I prevent that, but I cannot always shut him up.


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13 Nov 2011, 7:41 am

I give my Mom a lot of credit as she did not know that I had autism until I was diagnosed a few years ago at age 40. I remember having a really nasty meltdown when I was about 16 for being accused of lying which was very upsetting to me as I did not tell lies. I ended up kicking two holes in the wall and my Mom protected me from my Dad who thought it was insane for a 16 year old to have a "temper tantrum". When I was younger my meltdowns used to scare my Mom and I think over the years she learned how to deal with me. First she tried to punish me and I would get worse, she said one time that I seemed like I was having some sort of a seizure and she threw a glass of water at me and I stopped, looked around like I didnt know where I was, and then started to cry. She said she felt bad then and held me for awhile. The Autism comes from my Mom's side of the family and she has a lot of Asperger qualities herself so maybe its why she was way more understanding than my Dad. Fortunately he wasnt around a lot.



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13 Nov 2011, 9:45 am

Additionally, regarding preventing meltdowns , I always have the computer or computers on or a children's video or DVD playing whenever I am not leading the children in an activity. I also set up the next activity before the DVD or video or computer game or program ends.

Even if no one is paying close attention to the TV, it seems to have a calming effect. (Maybe it is the same way as it is for my mom, who says she needs the TV at night to calm her brain down and to stop her thoughts from racing).

Keeping the kids occupied seems to be key. Sometimes they play together very well, especially if they are being supervised. However, if they are left too long without being occupied and supervised, they begin to fight and provoke each other. Eventually, someone gets upset.


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lovelyboy
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13 Nov 2011, 11:50 am

[quote="blondeambition
I end up doing the vast majority of the childcare, separating them from their father when they are or he is not doing well, and telling my husband to be quiet, and telling the kids to not listen to him. Most of the time, the kids are alone with me and my husband is doing something else.

AGHHH this makes me so tired!
Ok....this is how it goes in our home.....Hubby and ghg will be doing fine....then hubby don't feel like taking the long road to explain things or don't prepair ghg for something or confront him directly...then ghg starts crying, hubby is upset and I burst in trying to figure out what's going on...explaining to hubby why ghg behaved the way he does....how to handle it differently...calming ghg....explaining....Hubby getting all upset with me, telling me why is he always the baddy.....WHAT A MESS!

Pdoc says...I must leave them alone....I struggle!! !!


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13 Nov 2011, 11:51 am

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.


You learn the signs in your child, as blond ambition noted, so you can divert your child into mitigation techniques before it gets too far and, hopefully, you can teach your child eventually to see this signs himself.

Tracker, one of our members, broke down the steps towards meltdown in his book for parents, free for download at ASDStuff.com

If you study that process, it will help you pick out what unique signs your child may give off.


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13 Nov 2011, 12:01 pm

SC_2010 wrote:
lovelyboy wrote:
[
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.

The problem with my son is that I see the warning signs long in advance, like when he starts getting very bossy and aggitated towards his friends or picking fights with me.....When I try and prevent meltdowns by telling him that I can detect that his "engine is going in the red" and that I think it will be a good idea if he maybe go and take a warm bath or swing in the hammock or what ever....he REFUSES! :?

Any ideas.......It's easy to say, prevent it, but what if kiddo doesn't want to!?


We use the engine system too. It took a long time for my kiddo to be able to identify his own engine level during heightened times. Then it took even longer for him to be able to choose to "take the other track" to calming down. He needed social stories to teach him that his engine is directly related to emotions, and that he can do things to calm down before it gets too fast. Having him label his engine (we moved to a 1-10 scale because green/yellow/red made him feel guilty when he got to a different color, numbers helped him keep things in perspective better) really helped him be more aware on his own as well as easier to talk to about it when he needed help calming down. We aren't quite to the point where he can say, "I'm really fast, I'm going to go calm down," but I suspect other kids his age wouldn't be able to have that much emotional control either. Just getting him to discuss his emotions can be hard because he thinks "negative" emotions = bad, and that he is somehow "bad" if his engine gets fast or he is angry, etc. Sllooowly getting there!


Yes, the child has to understand the connection, see the acceleration in himself, first, before he will willingly enter a mitigation process.

Unfortunately I don't remember all the details of how I got my son there ... Wow time flies, that was only 4-5 years ago, and I can't remember ... Mostly we felt our way through it. That is how we've done everything. Almost all pure instinct, stay focused on the child.


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13 Nov 2011, 12:07 pm

blondeambition wrote:
Additionally, regarding preventing meltdowns , I always have the computer or computers on or a children's video or DVD playing whenever I am not leading the children in an activity. I also set up the next activity before the DVD or video or computer game or program ends.

Even if no one is paying close attention to the TV, it seems to have a calming effect. (Maybe it is the same way as it is for my mom, who says she needs the TV at night to calm her brain down and to stop her thoughts from racing).

Keeping the kids occupied seems to be key. Sometimes they play together very well, especially if they are being supervised. However, if they are left too long without being occupied and supervised, they begin to fight and provoke each other. Eventually, someone gets upset.


My son is opposite. Screens actually agitate him. My daughter uses screens to calm, but if my son is getting tense, we have to shut it all down. He is very drawn to screens, and he hates the fact that he is, because he thinks things like TV shows are a mindless waste of time (loves his computer as a tool, and already knows two programming languages, however).

For my son, his room is his safe place. He calms himself down best if left alone in his room.

Pacing is his best stress relief activity, and an easy one to divert him into. I've also found nerf gun target practice to be good self-calming, just the right balance of physical and focused activity.


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13 Nov 2011, 1:13 pm

I know physical contact can be helpful for some children, but as I said, I'm over six feet tall and any attempt at physical restraint will frighten me... which can be dangerous.


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13 Nov 2011, 2:50 pm

Tambourine-Man wrote:
I too was pumped full of awful meds

If you don't mind me asking, what meds were you on and why were they so awful?


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