I have been trying to work on my meltdown post, but it is too long and I am not able to articulate exactly what I want yet. I need to keep working on it. It is exposing as well so I may be having a problem feeling so open and not realize it. Instead, I have decided to share about Daniel’s amazing job at self-control/ self-help. When Daniel has gotten upset, or gone into meltdown mode he has used me as his source of aggression release. Sometimes it is the house, or toys that he loves which turns into another ordeal. The majority of the time it has been taken out on me. I take responsibility for this to some extent because that is what I taught him to do. In order to protect the house, toys, Ariel and Joshua, and himself I guided him to use me as a punching bag. I did not know what else to do. At the time I would rather him come after me than pound his head against the wall, or destroy the house.
However, now that he is seven this cannot go on.
We have been working on self-help strategies without aggressive behavior for years now. He has progressed a great deal in this area, but there are times when he still is aggressive. A great resource that I found was Managing Meltdowns, (this is a quick read) and on this post Making our Way: Autism Video I have several other links to resources about meltdowns and tantrums. Deborah Lipsky has several resources that help a great deal with meltdowns, I have her book Managing Meltdowns. It is normally when he is overstimulated, and/or unable to verbalize what he is feeling. With his verbal communication and comprehension developing much more, we have been able to stop full-blown meltdowns before they turn into tornadoes bursting through the house. Not always, but much more nowadays. Daniel tries not to be aggressive — he is such a soft-spoken sweetheart that it is always a shock when he erupts. When he was younger, it was all day long, and turned into an everyday part of our life. I was constantly in protection mode for everything, everyone, and for Daniel. Because of this, I have residual anxiety about doing new things, or meeting new people. I do not stop trying new things or meeting new people, I try to prepare for it. He had no other way to communicate until we started occupational and speech therapy.
It can keep me on edge because of my own anxieties.
It can enhance my social confusion, and stress. Our play dates recently have been very good for all of us. I have been doing very well at not trying to explain every single detail of Daniel’s behavior. I have let him play and do his quirks and be himself. This has released both of us from stress. It is good because I have had to focus a little more on Joshua. He has been having confusion, and feelings of being left out. No one is leaving him out, but when he gets tired or overstimulated he has a hard time discerning the other kids’ behaviors. Geez! Where was I? Ok, we went out to play in the front yard on Friday with the neighbors. They had a wonderful array of bubble selections. When I saw the bubble fan, I had a slight panic. I have not let Daniel have a fan in a very long time. I do not know what it does to his brain, but he gets out of control, obsessive, and then very aggressive if the slightest thing goes wrong when he has a fan. Additionally, he was having the anxiety, and excitement of new people and being social. He also tried a Popsicle so add texture, taste, temperature, new food in general to the mix.
I swallowed my anxiety and decided to see how it would go.
He took to the fan right away and did not want to share, but he did and that was impressive. However, he was fixated on it. The kids all had a blast making bubbles all through the yard. I loved watching them play and have so much fun. Impressive things for me was that I had to continue to go in and out of the house to get water, band-aids, put things away, and take little ones potty, whatever else popped up. I left the children in the care of our neighbors! Yes, it may have been for a couple of minutes — a couple of minutes is huge for me! I felt comfortable enough to let Daniel be outside without me for a few minutes. It is amazing that I was able to do that with no fear. Granted I was only a few feet away, but Daniel can get in a load of trouble or harm only a couple of inches from me. The neighbors are very observant, and keep a close watch on the kids. Everything was fine and dandy until the bubbles started to run out. Daniel was starting to get too possessive of the bubble fan and I said it was time for it to go away.
He started getting angry.
He came toward me asking “Why?” repeatedly. He buried his head into my lap trying to push me over. When I stayed direct, and in control he got upset. He started raising his voice, jumping up and down, and wanting to come after me. I will say that it made a huge difference during this whole situation that the neighbors stayed calm, quiet, and let Daniel and I do what we needed to. I have had people interrupt, say things about him just needing “a whipping”, or that I needed to “nip that in the bud.” Those things do not help at all and it is not beneficial for the parent, or the child — it causes needless additional stress. I stayed calm and told him that if he did not stop he was not going to be able to have the fan ever again. He said: “Ever?” Because the “ever” word is a hard one and is hard to define since it is used often in a generalized context. I said: “I mean ever, as in you will not see it again.” He stopped, I watched his eyes as he processed everything, and about a minute later, he said: “Ok, I need white medicine.”
White medicine is about a 1/4 teaspoon of children’s Tylenol.
It is a long story how that happened, but it works and he believes it helps him to calm down. He does not get it every time he is like that only during extremely challenging times. However, this was the first time that he asked for it on his own. I usually suggest it at some point before he turns it into his idea. Not this time, it was all his. We went inside got a little white medicine, a cup of ice water, and went back out. He blew bubbles with bubble sticks, and played with the other kids. No meltdown the rest of the night, or the next day. Huge! Another thing I confess I was a little happy that he had a moment in front of them because he usually holds everything in until we get home. It is always frustrating for people to only see “good” behavior because then, they do not believe you when you talk about meltdowns. I do not want him to ever have meltdowns for his sake of course, but I also know that they are inevitable. Today has been a couple on the edge moments.
I think the weather is messing us all up.
I told him how proud I was of him. I gave him details of why I was proud and that he should be proud of himself too. I pointed out all of the positive things that he did, like keeping communication with me, asking me questions when he did not understand, walking away from me instead of coming after me, listening to what I was saying instead of screaming over me, things like that. I didn’t add things like “instead of screaming over me” when talking to him. I stated things simply and in encouraging word form. I showed him my enthusiasm, which helped him feel excited too.
Here are some things I said:
- You kept talking to me that was great!
- You asked me questions, wonderful job.
- You walked away and took a break that was a really good idea.
- You listened to what mommy was staying, high five!
Those are what he needed to hear.
Adding additional information can take away from the positive and make it feel like he is still being reprimanded even though what is being said is a positive. I know this from experience. People adding things like that negated many positives that were spoken to me. “Oh, Angel you did such a wonderful job on that project even though you took a little longer than needed.” What? Then, it wasn’t a good job, I failed because I took too long! He was very proud of himself and told David about the whole thing later that night. Daniel was all smiles when telling his story about the bubble fan. Of course, he has been thinking about it for days now, but we managed to fill the void of his fan love interest. He was surprised with the arrival of Bronzor a gear Pokémon! He laid with me in bed and told me how much he loved Bronzor. He also informed me that the lovely plushy gear he has devoted his love to has replaced me. It is a good thing I understand such deep object love. iPad where are you?? Oh, sorry I love you PC you are so faithful.
The bubble fan “almost” meltdown was a big moment for Daniel. (And for me too, we had several big moments really.)