Meltdowns: More than a Typical Tantrum

The other day, I watched a video posted on Facebook. The tagline was something like “what happens when have spoiled kids”. My heart ached as I watched this mother struggle yet maintain calmness during her son’s physical aggression.

What was more troubling was the comments made about the boy’s behavior. Many said that he should be beaten or he knows better.  I’ll admit the behaviors were bad. He was hitting and using profane language.

I thought about my child’s past and present behaviors.

In the beginning, Preston displayed extremely aggressive behaviors. It began in preschool. He didn’t always hit people but he threw objects in class. By 1st grade, he was knocking over desks and tossing chairs. For years, constant calls from teachers and countless meetings.

I made every effort to figure out why he was doing these things. I tried everything to discipline bad behaviors; timeouts, spankings, behavior charts, taking away favorite things. Some of them worked while others made the behaviors worse.

I received stares and judging glares from people when Preston had meltdowns in public. At first, I was embarrassed. I noticed people were looking at the both of us in disgust. On his end, I thought people were thinking he’s an unruly child. For me, it was easy to believe they thought I was a parent who couldn’t control my child’s “bad” behavior.

I had to get out of my head and focus on what/why my child was acting out. I had to learn his triggers. Still, meltdowns were difficult to prevent. Many of his caregivers didn’t make efforts to learn them.

At school, he had to be removed because his behavior would be deemed threatening to himself and others around him.

Some family members chose to use corporal punishment as a main form of discipline.

Meltdowns are different from tantrums. Children having tantrums are doing it to seek attention. They are careful not to hurt themselves and others.

In cases of a meltdown, children with autism have no control over their behavior. In some cases, they can hurt themselves and/or other around them.

Meltdowns are tornadoes of emotions; anger, frustration, anxiety, and overwhelmed.

It is important to know what to do and not to do during a meltdown.

Remove the child from any area that can threaten anyone’s safety. Avoid access to objects being thrown. Sometimes, physical restrains are needed. In the past, I’ve had to physically restrain Preston. I would wrap my arms around him until he calmed down. That wasn’t always easy to do because he struggled to get away from me but it helped him relax.

Be patient and keep calm. Nobody can stop a meltdown once its started. You have to wait it out. They can last for a few minutes to over an hour.

It is necessary for the caretakers to recognize and assist in diffusing the negative behavior. You have to learn what triggers these types of behavior.

Distraction is best for young children.

It is best to teach children what to do when their triggers begin to surface. Breathing techniques worked well with my son. Also, I taught him to verbally express his feelings. That doesn’t always work but it is another technique that been beneficial.

Don’t engage in conversation with the child during a meltdown. They are not hearing what you’re saying and it’s only adding to sensory overload. The behavior can be discussed once the child is calm. It be used to teach them what can they do differently.

Once you’ve learned what their triggers are, many meltdowns can be avoided. You have to be consistent. With practice and patience, children will learn to gain control over their emotions. The ultimate goal is to get the child to learn acceptable behavior patterns before or by adulthood.

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My Superhero has Autism

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Children on the autism spectrum usually has a thing that love and they’re completed dedicated to it. My son, Preston, loves Iron Man. I love what Iron Man means to him.

To Preston, Iron Man gives him strength and courage. My son, Preston a.k.a. Tony Stark is a charming, loving 12 year old who idolizes Robert Downey, Jr. He looks up to his character, Iron Man. Preston is on the Autism Spectrum and Iron Man has been his hero for over 5 years. Iron Man has even helped him during meltdowns.

He sees the good characteristics in Tony Stark and aspires to be just like him. He wants to save the world by helping others.

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Plus, he’s really funny!!

He will perform a song and dance in a heartbeat!

What I love even more about my superhero is that he’s decided to embrace having autism. He’s aware that it makes him different than the average person and wants to help others with it.

He’s become an advocate in his own right. He goes with me to every speaking engagement. Sometimes, he shares stories with the audience.

I love learning his perspective on life. He thinks outside the box and questions what is normal.

He doesn’t see the challenges of having autism. It’s a part of who he is. He’s not ashamed of it.

He loves his life and those close to him.

I’m so proud of him and the obstacles he’s overcome.

For that, Preston is my SUPERHERO!!!

Simply Different

Autism…what comes to mind when you hear that word?

Do you know someone with autism? Chances are you do or knows someone who does.

Those on the autism spectrum think differently. They behave differently. They see the world differently. They interact with others differently.

That doesn’t mean they don’t understand their surroundings.

They simply process things in a different manner.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is neurological. Their brains are “wired” differently. People with autism have difficulty processing societal norms. This doesn’t mean they lack empathy. They just may not always know how to act or respond. Sometimes, behaviors are displayed because they have no other way to communicate their feelings.

People with autism often don’t recognize non-verbal gestures or cues. Mostly because they don’t always make eye contact. Looking away aids in processing verbal communication.

Those on the spectrum require patience. Sometimes, it takes them longer to process information and complete tasks. For those who are verbal, they may repeat the question asked to them. It’s not because they don’t understand. Repetitive speech is a processing mechanism.

Social interaction is challenging for many with autism. It is imperative to understand that. Many people with autism can feel overwhelmed in social situations. They want to engage but may not know the proper way to do it. There are various social skills practices to help them learn and it requires many hours of practice. Even though when they have acquired some social skills, chances are there will be times when they fail to execute them.

Routines are helpful in functioning day to day. It is important to know what to expect and when to expect it. For some, sudden changes are hard to handle. Unexpected changes in routine can cause a meltdown because it pushes them out of their comfort zone and have little time to process it.

It is important to listen when they speak. People with autism are extremely literal. They say what they mean and mean what they say. Don’t assume they are attempting to say something else.

Most importantly, those on the spectrum deserve to be treated with dignity respect. Their feelings, just like anybody else, are valid. They don’t need sympathy. They need love, understanding, and acceptance.

Don’t think of someone with autism as weird or odd…they are Simply Different.

 

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