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InThisTogether
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15 Apr 2013, 8:21 pm

Can someone please describe extreme demand avoidance from the "experiencer's" point of view? My son has never had issues with this, but as of late, he melts down into uncontrollable tears almost any time he perceives a demand is being placed on him. He is 11 and in 6th grade and has never been like this in the past. I am having a hard time figuring out how to help him because I don't understand what is happening from his perspective and he can't tell me in the heat of it, then later, he doesn't seem to remember very clearly.

What happens is that a grown up (me included) will make a reasonable demand of him. Nothing that he can't do or hasn't done before. Do your math before playing minecraft. Pick the clothes up off of your bedroom floor. But for some reason, it makes him feel very upset. At first you can hear his voice get choked up. Then he starts avoiding eye contact. Then he starts arguing. Then he bursts into tears and sobbing, repeating things like "I can't stop! I can't stop! I can't stop!" Sometimes he hyperventilates. Sometimes he will start running around the house, howling because he is crying so hard. He appears genuinely distressed, so I don't think he is making it up.

I'm not even really sure what my question is. I am hoping someone will recognize the description and help me understand what might be happening. Is this a kind of meltdown? Could it be related to the onset of puberty? I see no overt signs yet, but maybe they are just around the corner?


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Dragoness
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15 Apr 2013, 8:56 pm

To be honest with you, I have no idea what this could be. My initial thoughts were that it is something triggered by puberty, though I think 6th grade is a bit early for a boy to go into puberty. Perhaps you should take this to a professional - they would be me more helpful than us WrongPlanet users, I think.

EDIT: Then again, this sound very much like my older sister. She has high-functioning autism, like me (though she is lower-functioning than I am) and sometimes she has meltdowns when she has to do something she doesn't want to do. She's mentioned that her face gets hot during these tense moments, and if she gets really angry, she says she can't hear after a while.



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15 Apr 2013, 9:50 pm

I can kind of relate to this, I've never had that big a reaction to it, but I've felt incapacitated by that specific thought and that feeling at times.

Digging deep in my memories and reflections about this, I think maybe the best way I can point you is that it might be fear of failure, like on an emotional level he believes he's guaranteed to fail. Which can reinforce feelings of guilt, shame and condemnation. And so he feels like he's in an impossible situation that feels like it's his fault.

Which might imply that this could be a kind of depression? It could even be neurological, I've had that same thought stick with me and keep coming back year after year, no matter what my age is. I felt it from my teens and I feel it as a mature adult sometimes.



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16 Apr 2013, 12:51 am

I too get a twinge of recognition... but not sure how to describe it or to convey any given situation to you... let me think on this and I will see if I can get my thoughts together.

**edit:

OK - I do what is called catastrophic thinking sometimes. It has changed through the years for me... but here is what one website says:

"Catastrophic Thinking

When the asperger child becomes overwhelmed because an upsetting situation seems incredibly terrible, catastrophic thinking happens. The asperger child believes a bad situation will go on forever and s/he cannot accurately judge the severity of problems because of black-and-white thinking. Reactions to situations can be intense because the child feels the situation is catastrophic. What is a relatively small problem becomes huge."

Maybe it isn't the demand per say... but if he has bulked and you insist and he doesn't want to pick up laundry right now, he wants to play his game... So catastrophic thinking sets in...

I can't make eye contact while in this frame of mind either and I can't give an accurate description of the events. It causes some sort of memory shut down - I can only remember what it felt like, but no thoughts or words come back to me.

This is just a thought...



Last edited by Valkyrie2012 on 16 Apr 2013, 1:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

ThetaIn3D
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16 Apr 2013, 12:54 am

I also want to add: I don't mean it's your fault for asking him to do things; the thing to do is help him get back to where he can do them if possible. Those requests are not unreasonable for people in most situations, but I wonder if depression is what's getting in the way.



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16 Apr 2013, 1:44 am

I can kind of recognize it. It could be him getting worked up ahead of time in anticipation of the forthcoming demand. That's one thing that can trigger a meltdown. The other could be being interrupted and thrown off course, by the demand. Could be a combination of both. Could be the onset of executive dysfunction where doing chores/assignments becomes an area of high stress which he's becoming resistant towards.

It's hard to describe, but there's times when doing anything task orientated is "painful" so to speak. Think of the number one task/chore/assignment that you absolutely hate having to do, and then apply that feeling towards everything you have to or need to do. Dread, pain, stress, duress etc.

Could be an onset of adolescence thing. I developed a lot of problems I didn't have before when adolescence started kicking in. People tend to focus on the body changes that take place with the onset of adolescence, but there's a lot that goes on with brain hormones too. And that can start way before anything below the brainpan starts.



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16 Apr 2013, 6:16 am

Thanks, everyone.

I think there is some fear of failure stuff going on. And I also think it is partially due to coming to terms with the fact that he is always going to have to work harder than his NT peers (he has severe ADHD that primarily presents in a lot of executive dysfunction and NVLD). So I do think that causes him to catastrophize. He is also very justice oriented, and I think the thought that this is not "fair" is also coming to a head for him. He sees a lot of "mean" kids and dishonest kids who he perceives as having a much easier go of things and he feels that it is not fair that he is honest and kind and always tries to help others and he is the one who has to be "different" and have learning difficulties.

He is right. It is not "fair," but when he is not in mid meltdown, he understands that compared to some other kids wearing his shoes, he is bright, which helps him to learn to compensate, and he has a mom who gets him, which means I am not yelling at him, insisting he do things that he can't, calling him stupid, beating him and many other things that happen to kids like him in unsupportive families. But I remember being in middle school and I remember the logic of those kinds of things does not outweigh the feelings associated with knowing you are different and knowing there is nothing you can do about it.

Is there anything I can do except continue to provide emotional support? Is this just one of those tough adolescent things that we just have to power through? I am certain I am not placing unrealistic demands on him and he even recognizes that when he is not overwhelmed. I asked him, for example, if he thought his teachers were being too hard on him and he said "No. They are being hard on me, but not too hard." I asked why he thought they were being hard on him and he said it is because they know he is smart and they don't want to give up on him and let him fail just because it is hard. So I know he gets it.

But I feel so powerless when it is happening.


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16 Apr 2013, 7:06 am

Quote:
What happens is that a grown up (me included) will make a reasonable demand of him. Nothing that he can't do or hasn't done before. Do your math before playing minecraft. Pick the clothes up off of your bedroom floor. But for some reason, it makes him feel very upset. At first you can hear his voice get choked up. Then he starts avoiding eye contact. Then he starts arguing. Then he bursts into tears and sobbing, repeating things like "I can't stop! I can't stop! I can't stop!" Sometimes he hyperventilates. Sometimes he will start running around the house, howling because he is crying so hard. He appears genuinely distressed, so I don't think he is making it up.


I understand him to be honest.

The best I can describe it is that he has in his mind a vision about what he wants to do, and being asked to do something else damages that vision and creates anxiety. It's very similar to the love of routine in people with ASD, and being upset at changes in routine.

I think it helps when demands are communicated in a gentle way that allows him to integrate that into his "vision". Instead of "do your math before playing minecraft", try "remember to make time tonight for doing your math in and around your minecraft". That will also help him develop executive function skills, self-organization and time management.

When my parents wanted me to clean my room, they would use an expression which translates into "make your room into a bouquet of flowers". It really made all the difference having such a lofty goal -- I would even feel motivated to go nuts and really clean everything, the shelves, etc.

Good luck.



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16 Apr 2013, 11:38 am

Is he already starting to play minecraft when you tell him to do math? If so, that could be a transitioning issue.

Also, if you're asking him to do something right after getting home from school, he may be too stressed out from school to handle it. For a lot of kids on the spectrum, holding it together all day long at school is extremely difficult, and they tend to fall apart as soon as they get home. I was definitely like this when I was younger. It was pretty much impossible to do homework because I was always dealing with so much lingering stress from school that I couldn't cope. Many kids it isn't this extreme, especially if they have understanding teachers and are not being bullied, but it can still take a hour or two to get over the stress enough to focus on something non-fun.



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16 Apr 2013, 12:56 pm

I hated homework and chores when I was growing up. I can't attribute it to any one thing, but I had a lot of anxiety leading up to beginning a new task, and hated to stop one thing and start another. If I was obsessing on something and was asked to stop then I would be very upset.

I still struggle with micromanagement and forced tasks. I don't keep jobs very long :oops:



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16 Apr 2013, 5:49 pm

We talked more about it again tonight. He had a "good" day today and was very relaxed, so I asked if we could talk more about it and he agreed. Here is what he said (and please tell me if you all think this is reasonable, or do you think he is just trying to answer my question so I will let it drop).

He said that when it happens, it is because someone is telling him something that he should have already known or done (this is true. He knows to finish homework before games, he knows he has math homework every night, he knows to pick up his clothes, etc), and when someone tells him to do it, he feels very angry. Not at the person, but at himself because it is something he knows he was supposed to do and forgot. He feels frustrated by repeatedly not doing what he knows he is supposed to do. Then, inside his head he starts to call himself stupid, which only makes him feel worse, so he gets more upset. Then he becomes more focused on how he "should" be able to do these things without being told and without arguing, so he gets even more mad at himself, then he feels like he is going to cry, which he doesn't want to do, but then the tension builds up so much that he "bursts" and "I just...lose it. I can't control it anymore and I lose it."

To me that seems like pretty remarkable insight. On the other hand, I do think sometimes he confabulates.


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16 Apr 2013, 7:39 pm

I do that sort of self talk... so to me it sounds like a truthful thing. I can work myself up right into selective mustism and lose my ability to talk. In my family growing up it was "children are made to be seen and not heard" so I learned to internalize everything and became selectively mute.. I could be crying and hearing myself cry in my head even.. but outwardly I looked like a stubborn child refusing to speak. Though when I became mute it was quite emotional and painful.

I believe entirely his explanation... I think as much as we are behind emotionally.. I think insights into our behaviors are much better... even as young children.



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16 Apr 2013, 7:52 pm

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I can be a bit like this when my wife asks me to do something unexpected. This is often a Sunday/Saturday morning thing, and I have an idea of what I am going to do, and then she suddenly reveals that she has planned for me to do something else--and I really need to do it. I cant explain why this seems so intolerable, but it does--it's something about the unexpected nature of the demand.

I am thinking, "I will drink this cup of coffee slowly while working through the next section of this chess book," then my wife says, "I need you to run out to Target and get X, Y and Z before we take the kids to piano class." It doesn't help that I hate target, but there is something else. I feel a wave of pressure in my chest and my thoughts churn incoherently for a minute--it's almost like a fight or flight kind of feeling. I recognize that it's altogether disproportionate to the size of the demand.

I have asked her to please tell me the night before--and that makes all the difference.



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16 Apr 2013, 8:13 pm

Adamantium wrote:
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I can be a bit like this when my wife asks me to do something unexpected. This is often a Sunday/Saturday morning thing, and I have an idea of what I am going to do, and then she suddenly reveals that she has planned for me to do something else--and I really need to do it. I cant explain why this seems so intolerable, but it does--it's something about the unexpected nature of the demand.

I am thinking, "I will drink this cup of coffee slowly while working through the next section of this chess book," then my wife says, "I need you to run out to Target and get X, Y and Z before we take the kids to piano class." It doesn't help that I hate target, but there is something else. I feel a wave of pressure in my chest and my thoughts churn incoherently for a minute--it's almost like a fight or flight kind of feeling. I recognize that it's altogether disproportionate to the size of the demand.

I have asked her to please tell me the night before--and that makes all the difference.


oh my you hit a bell of recognition in me here... oh I can so relate to this... Big time ++



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16 Apr 2013, 8:42 pm

Looks like you nailed it. I can certainly relate. To this day I become upset when someone has to point out or correct my autistic absentmindedness / scatterbrainedness . This continually happens to me at work. I always manage to forget something at the end of my shift (putting the company keys back, finishing out my report, leaving a personal item behind) and someone has to point it out to me as I'm getting ready to leave and it usually makes me furious.

Whoever: "Did you forget..........?"
Me: Arghhhhh!! ! %$#@&! !! all the way home sometimes (usually only in my head these days).



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16 Apr 2013, 9:07 pm

briankelley wrote:
Looks like you nailed it. I can certainly relate. To this day I become upset when someone has to point out or correct my autistic absentmindedness / scatterbrainedness . This continually happens to me at work. I always manage to forget something at the end of my shift (putting the company keys back, finishing out my report, leaving a personal item behind) and someone has to point it out to me as I'm getting ready to leave and it usually makes me furious.

Whoever: "Did you forget..........?"
Me: Arghhhhh!! ! %$#@&! !! all the way home sometimes (usually only in my head these days).


You are mad at yourself for forgetting...or the other person for pointing it out?


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