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Elaine33
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31 Jul 2011, 2:48 am

Are they really all that different?

My son is 11 and was just diagnosed this year with Asperger's, high functioning. He made it through elementary school without a diagnosis and without too many problems in school, but a lot of tantrums/meltdowns at home. When he was given his diagnosis, he was also given a diagnosis of possible explosive disorder for the level of rage in his meltdowns. They have definitely gotten better as he we have learned not to engage him and he has been building his 'toolbox' strategies for alternatives to explosive anger during meltdown.

Now, he gets obsessed with different things which I hear is normal for ASD. The latest incident was that he wanted to watch the show Family Guy, because his cousins watch it and his friend, and they talk about how hilarious it is. I always tell him that I need time to research things (he seems to be obsessed with asking me for things that are inappropriate for his age, arghh). He gets so obsessed that he sometimes can't even concentrate on things he normally can do for hours, like play video games. He was asking me every ten minutes if I had made my decision, or doing research on family guy and making a persuasive argument about why he should be allowed, etc. I told him that I really doubted my answer was going to be yes, but I really did need time to do some research as I have never watched the show. So he was driving me crazy and I went online and I asked some family and friends who watched it what they thought and they said no, that it was really inappropriate for a child his age.

So, I tell him in the car the other day, which wasn't my best idea, but I had workers in the house and I knew we weren't going to make it through another day of the torture. He flips out and immediately becomes hysterical crying, calling me names, kicking his feet, etc, tons of pleases, why nots, etc. So it feels a bit to me like a temper tantrum. He doesn't get his way and he cries for it. But it is also so immature for his age, and someone in a passing car saw him and he stuck his tongue out at them because they must have given him a dirty look.

So I feel like he should have some consequences for a temper tantrum vs a meltdown. He is very high functioning and I feel he can be manipulative, and I would like to curb that behavior, but I don't want to punish a meltdown.

So what do you think? Meltdown, tantrum, combination? To punish or not to punish. By punish, I mean I would most likely take something away for a bit.



Elaine33
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31 Jul 2011, 2:57 am

I wanted to add that in an NT child, I would obviously think this was a tantrum. I am leaning towards meltdown with this, though, because of his obsessive interest with it beforehand that is abnormal in my opinion and I imagine very stressful for him to have a need so badly for a tv show. I mean he was seriously stressed about it. I just want to make sure I'm not getting snowed. For the record and to add more information, this is something that happens fairly often around here. I say yes as often as I can, but I say no when I think that it is not appropriate and I very rarely waffle on anything so he had to know that I wasn't going to change my mind even with a temper tantrum, which makes me lean towards meltdown again. For a long time, I just thought he wasn't too bright and didn't seem to remember that I rarely give in when I make my mind up, so why have this awful scene every darn time!



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31 Jul 2011, 4:03 am

In the none ASD world, tantrums and meltdowns mean the same thing. In the ASD world, those two are both different things. But then again those two can also mean two different things in the none ASD world too so it makes it confusing when NTs use the word meltdown on their none autistic children. Do they mean meltdown or tantrum? Meltdown has become a PC term now for tantrum in the parenting community so it makes it darn confusing now. Now grown ups use that word on themselves. I have no idea if they mean tantrum or meltdown.

It could be a meltdown your son is having. I would normally say tantrum for not getting his way but after thinking about my answer, it could be meltdown. I can remember watching Rocko's Modern Life and mom saw the show one day and didn't like it and didn't want me watching it because she felt it wasn't appropriate. Because I had been watching it for so long, all of a sudden it was a nightmare it was being taken away from me, a show I liked, part of my routine. So I snuck it. I would throw a fit too when mom would make me turn it off but I always snuck it. I would just leave the room and watch it upstairs. Then I remember a radio station, lot of kids listened to it so I wanted to too and I would hate it if my parents tried to get me to not listen to it so I promised I wouldn't use bad language just like they do. The radio announcers used bad language on it. Maybe your son and you can come up with a compromise that he must not let the show influence him and if it does, you take it away from him. Luckily I didn't meltdown too much in my childhood. They didn't become more common until I got to 6th grade when my hormones changed.

Or you can just ignore his meltdowns like mine did.



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31 Jul 2011, 4:52 am

This is a good question.

The response your son had was a meltdown, and here is why.

1. He was obsessing about this subject...it wasn't a special interest obsession, but he was probably obsessing more than an NT child his age would...in fact he was probably thinking about it over and over again in his mind, and and it obviously meant a lot to him, probably because....

2. His friends watch the show and talk about it and he wants to be able to be a part of that social interaction. When children with AS see and recognize an opportunity to socialize that they are capable of taking advantage of, it can be a very cheerished thing. It's an opportunity to feel like part of something for once, instead of an outsider.

3. Your usually fairly reasonable, intelligent child threw a massive fit in the car over this. This is rather classic AS behavior.

So you see there was a very long, very emotionally intensive build up to this with a lot in the way of hopes, expectations, and more complex feelings.

Normal childhood tantrums, on the other hand, tend to be more spontaneous and transient I think. What the child wants is usually something that they didn't want 10 minutes before, and something they usually won't remember an hour later.

I think you should let him watch some pre-screened family guy episodes so he can discuss them with his friends and have a sense of belonging. They are all essentially brain rot but some are relatively benign and he likely hears worse things from kids in his age group anyway.

On manipulation, I don't think children with AS are intentionally as manipulative as they seem. To actually be manipulative one must be calculating and no matter how intelligent they are, when children with AS are upset, they are usually not calculating. It just happens that their stubborness combined with the way they react to things makes them appear manipulative when they're really not thinking of how they can get their way, but are just responding to not getting it, or the pressure of being forced to do something they can't do.

I think you can minimize meltdowns by becoming better at determining what things really mean a lot to him (what has he been obsessing about for days and what does he want to do because there is a social aspect?), and trying to handling the situation before it explodes by letting him know you know how important it is to him and show him you are trying to work with him on it before he gets upset.



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31 Jul 2011, 5:12 am

It's definitely confusing, because a lot of parents tend to use the terms interchangably.

For me, a meltdown would be more like a panic attack, something really out of conscious control.

Just now my kiddo (age 3) was crying and screaming. I thought it might be a meltdown but he often has tantrums because he cannot communicate what he wants due to limited verbal skills. This went on for nearly an hour. Finally he said "yogurt." So I gave him some yogurt and the whole thing stopped. So, it was definitely a tantrum, not a meltdown.



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31 Jul 2011, 9:20 am

I think they are different. When I refer to having a meltdown about myself it is more of an emotional response to sensory overload. Tantrum is a childhood attempt to control the world around them. In children the two can look very similar. A tantrum could lead to meltdown. I can't give advice on parenting since I never had children. But perhaps a little advice from memories of my own childhood. One I would never had dared have a tantrum with my mom but our relationship is still very close. Two I think his motivation was an attempt to fit in with his friends and fear of being on the outside. This can be a huge obstacle for aspie kids. It was the desire for social acceptance that fueled the vehemence of his tantrum. A.S. kids want to be part of the group too. TV shows are often a common interest. I remember being left out of many conversations because I had not seen the show everyone was talking about. Even at 41 I watch the sports reports even though I care very little about sports just to know what others are talking about. I would not give into tantrum but try to see what is the motivation behind the tantrum and perhaps a alternative compromise. Some other way he could feel reasured about social acceptance.



Elaine33
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31 Jul 2011, 9:41 am

Ha, ha. I am still confused. Boy is this confusing. Chronos, I really get what you are saying about trying to fit in. I do really try to give into things I would never have given into with my older daughter. I work really hard to understand him. But with him, it is so black and white. If I give in to a few 'screened' episodes, in his mind Family Guy is now okay and the debate and obsessing starts again. I feel like it is better to cut it off in a black and white sense when it comes to the obessive things. I am not comfortable with Family Guy yet at this age. So far, since then he has only brought it up a few times and I am trying to steer him into other things he can get hung up on. That was my goal for the summer, to 'broaden his horizons' and that is actually part of his IEP at school. But Family Guy is not exactly what I had in mind. lol I gave into the Simpsons in the winter and he was SO obsessed with it and I really regretted it so I think I'm probably on the right track with the Family Guy thing.

So, the question is, do we have consequences for a tempter tantrum in Aspie kids? And what do you recommend. I'm not sure I can tell the difference most of the time, mainly because of his obsessive tendencies. SIGH....



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31 Jul 2011, 9:43 am

FWIW, we have this issue all the time with my son, who just isn't mature enough to watch the kind of stuff his friends watch - and we do discuss that as the reason; he scripts off TV and it affects his behavior, and I've told him that certain kinds of TV will be restricted until he can control his behavior and not copy what he sees on television.

I'm aware that this isn't really fair, because of course his friends who watch Futurama and Family Guy and the like aren't really mature enough, either - and even though they're NT, they do copy the language and behavior. Unfortunately, things are a little different for a kid with a pragmatic speech issue: those kids will know not to mimic the show in front of the principal or their grandmother. Sigh. We have the same meltdown, and I do believe it is a meltdown. Most of my son's temper tantrums turn into meltdowns anyway, so it's hardly worth making a distinction...not getting his way means we are upsetting that extremely linear thinking of his. His brain is only prepared to accept ONE thing at a time, so if you can't offer that thing, it crashes.

So, the answer in our house is to expect a meltdown (which you did) and make room for it without punishing him for the meltdown itself (unless it involves physical harm of someone - we do have consequences for that, though it rarely happens these days) and stick to our guns about whatever boundary or rule we set. One thing we do to ease the social issues: we buy him the books from whatever it is he's not allowed to watch. For some reason, the books don't become part of his schtick, and he's able to talk about the episodes as though he saw them. I don't know if this will help you, but I'm pretty sure most of these sophomoric cartoon series are out there.



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31 Jul 2011, 10:01 am

I have posed that same question here, and I too have an 11 year old. Interestingly, we also have issues around family guy.

I look at the two terms like this - tantrum is something that if you give in and provide the desired outcome, the episode stops. Meltdown, would keep going. For us, tantrums turn into meltdowns. DS just doesn't have the skills to deal with his feelings, especially when he's locked in to an idea. This doesn't apply to sensory overload, when if you remove the cause of overload, the meltdown ends. That is still a meltdown.

We don't punish for either tantrums or meltdowns, we just don't give in, which is punishing enough for all of us!

I have relaxed so many of the rules which seemed important with my older NT son. While I now allow all sorts of media that I wouldnt have in the past, I don't refrain from providing my commentary while WE watch it.

For us, the rule is before I will give an answer, we watch the show, game listen to the song, together and I discuss the whole thing. I too use the, if it impacts your behavior or language, it's gone, rule. This has been pretty effective for us.



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31 Jul 2011, 10:41 am

Elaine33 wrote:
So what do you think? Meltdown, tantrum, combination? To punish or not to punish. By punish, I mean I would most likely take something away for a bit.


I'd consider it a tantrum, not a meltdown; it wasn't a sensory overload issue, but a response to denial of something he wanted. The best way of dealing with a tantrum is to ignore it, not punish it.



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31 Jul 2011, 10:44 am

I also wondered for a long time about this subject....then I saw this amazing video on you tube where the guy discuss the difference between meltdown and tantrums...
I can't remember all of it but what stood out for me was that he said a tantrum lasts a few minutes and a meltdown can last between 10 min and hours.
Also that just before a meltdown a child sometimes seems as if they have a silent seisure (I saw this with my son...he looks spaced out).
He also said that during a tantrum a child will try not to hurt himself or others but during a meltdown they could.
Further....a meltdown can't willingly be stopped by the child like a tantrum can.
What made the penny drop for me was that during a tantrum the parent still feel a bit in control but during a meltdown it's like the parent feels as if she is observing something that she doesn't understand and doesn't know how to handle or stop.
I finaly came to the conclusion that |I think my son starts out with a tantrum when he doesn't get his way and that the overwhelming emotions then lead a meltdown.



Elaine33
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31 Jul 2011, 11:01 am

lovelyboy wrote:
I finaly came to the conclusion that |I think my son starts out with a tantrum when he doesn't get his way and that the overwhelming emotions then lead a meltdown.


Thanks so much, everyone. This is so helpful and I am getting it!! ! :D I am thinking out loud. Correct me if you think I am heading in the wrong direction:

We usually have true meltdowns only after long days, bad foods or big schedule issues that has to do with sensory overload. I definitely know what that looks like. We have temper tantrums secondary to his obsessive needs that lead to meltdownsand how overwhelmingly disappointing it is in his brain to not get what he needs to satisfy his obssesion. Because he is more emotionally immature/incapable of children his age, his tantrum seems so immature for him.

I have to agree that I probably think it is best not to punish at least an obsessive type tantrum. I do feel like, for him and others like him, that the lack of getting what is ingrained in his brain, is punishment enough.

Okay, done thinking out loud. Do you do anything specific to guide them, soothe them, teach them, after a tantrum leading to meltdown?



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31 Jul 2011, 11:56 am

Kailuamom's answer is how we've always told the difference: what would happen if we gave in. And I really like the info in lovelyboy's post, too. Just hadn't looked at it that way.

So glad, Elaine33, that things are starting to click!

On the what to do after question, I think talking about it helps, getting your child to see the pattern of what he went through, and to consider what he might have done to stop the escalation. Logically they know the whole thing was a waste and they don't want to go through that again; they would much rather not meltdown themselves, after all.

At your son's age I think I spent a lot of time trying to slow down obsessions. I think with my son obsessive behavior is its own kind of reactive action, an attempt to control something in this world when everything seems out of control, and thus a sign that he may be headed towards a meltdown over the next few days if not today. So I started to encourage stimming or other self-calming, whenever I saw him get too obsessive, and that has proved useful for us. Getting him to start shedding off that negative energy before it all comes to a head.

I would also consider and discuss how having workers in the house may have contributed to the situation. That was something stressful for your child, and the reaction may have been to try harder to assert his will, to feel in control of something. He'll need to try to learn to identify and control that sort of stress as its own unique unit, instead of allowing it to scapegoat onto other issues.


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31 Jul 2011, 9:47 pm

Elaine33 wrote:
Ha, ha. I am still confused. Boy is this confusing. Chronos, I really get what you are saying about trying to fit in. I do really try to give into things I would never have given into with my older daughter. I work really hard to understand him. But with him, it is so black and white. If I give in to a few 'screened' episodes, in his mind Family Guy is now okay and the debate and obsessing starts again. I feel like it is better to cut it off in a black and white sense when it comes to the obessive things. I am not comfortable with Family Guy yet at this age. So far, since then he has only brought it up a few times and I am trying to steer him into other things he can get hung up on. That was my goal for the summer, to 'broaden his horizons' and that is actually part of his IEP at school. But Family Guy is not exactly what I had in mind. lol I gave into the Simpsons in the winter and he was SO obsessed with it and I really regretted it so I think I'm probably on the right track with the Family Guy thing.

So, the question is, do we have consequences for a tempter tantrum in Aspie kids? And what do you recommend. I'm not sure I can tell the difference most of the time, mainly because of his obsessive tendencies. SIGH....


Honestly if he is 11 and just now allowed to watch the Simpsons, maybe he is a little too sheltered? My parents didn't really moderate much of what I watched. I would get up at night and watch every horror movie I could find listed in the TV guide when I was 9 and 10 (because that's what time they were on) and I did not grow up to be a serial killer. I actually had a much better head on my shoulders, so to speak. He will be entering middle school soon and you don't want the bad influence of his less sheltered friends to be something he has an affinity for. If you remove the thrill factor that making certain things off limits introduces, then he is less likely to be influenced I think. Much like if you keep candy from a kid they just want it more. That's my thought on the matter anyway.

Initially my parents tried to discipline me with a time out but they quickly realized that I didn't mind sitting in the corner in a rocking chair facing the wall, and it was usually more difficult to get me out of it than into it.

If I had a tantrum or a meltdown I usually got scolded. If we were in a crowded place I'd be dragged outside and scolded. If we were in the car, they'd pull over and scold me. If we were going some place fun they would threaten to call it off and go home. Occasionally they would threaten to take something, or actually take something away but it's hard to take something away from a child who is content doing and having absolutely nothing. So most of the time I would just be scolded and left alone to finish my tantrum or meltdown.

I think this was probably the best approach because while my mother was fairly good at determining what was what, she couldn't always determine a tantrum from a meltdown, and she couldn't always be sure if whatever medication they happened to be experimenting on me with happened to cause the behavior, and a lot of times, it was the medication.



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31 Jul 2011, 10:08 pm

From the perspective of a parent, I have a difficult time believing the issue was really the show. Maybe it's the zillion shows he feels he has been denied, but one show? Not something to melt down over, unless there is a pile of stress and this one just collapsed the heap.

If it was ... I guess a parent could simply offer to screen the show first, and then watch it together. Chronos does have a point that from middle school on there won't be much you can successfully shelter your child from, but you can make sure that they get your message written over the exposure, instead of some hooligan at schools.

I am lucky that my kids have never disagreed with me on programming choices, they trust my assessment of what they are ready for, and they like being sheltered. But, then again, they know that if it was important to them i'd cave, as long as they let me watch with them. And they agree to listen to my assessment after ;)


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