This morning started off awful. From the moment Daniel woke up it was meltdown mayhem. This post is by no means going to be complaining about what took place. I have been waiting for it to happen any day he has does remarkably well with everything that has gone on the past two weeks. However, it is exhausting and when I have my own issues along with trying to manage everyone else around here I do reach my limits. This morning was two hours of nonstop meltdown and I could do nothing to help Daniel. I think playing in the snow yesterday pushed him to his brink. This morning when he could not find his thermometer to check the temp outside there was nothing that was going to ease his frustrations.
When I could not find it and we had reached no resolution, he just went to his room.
He went to his room! He has not done this before. Usually, when it reaches that point his day is ruined. He can find calm, but he will still be on edge and practically anything could trigger him. It is still very difficult for him because he is not able to communicate all the time what is upsetting him. He seems just as surprised by his emotions as we are at times. He does not understand the toll that all of the sensory/emotional/social/everyday processing has on him. I still struggle with this too. When you are having fun or just living life you do not expect it to be so trying. It is hard to remember and realize how much processing your brain is doing – many people do not seem to need to worry about that.
This week, just as last week his school schedule changed.
He lost his speech pathologist, who he loved dearly; though he has accepted that she is no longer with the school he still does not understand why she left. He is affected by not having his regular sessions. He has also, been doing a lot of school work because he is a few lessons behind. I have had him get ahead on the subjects he likes so we can spend extra time on the others. It snowed and that has him in all sorts of excitement and anxiety. The temperature change affects us; our bodies do not regulate temperatures very well. The cold weather is hurting me terribly. He played out in the snow which has been a new sensory sensation for this year. He loves it, but he has no comprehension of when he is too cold so he does not understand why I will not let him play outside for 8 hours.
There is more with the excitement of Christmas coming and school break lingering around the corner.
There is just so much for him to be thinking about and processing through. When he hit his limits this morning, I understood the why’s I only wish I could have helped him in some way. But it needed to come out. He needed to decompress and reset. After a while of being in his room with the door shut, he came down and said; “Mom, come here I have something.” I followed him up to his room not sure what he was going to show me. When he says that it usually means that he wants me to give him something that he knows he cannot have, like a light bulb because he wants to break it and see how it works. :-/ Not today; today he showed me what he had “created.”
He said, “Look what I made! It is a home. The pink carpet is the water where my turtles live. This is where my kitten lives, under here is where Pooh Bear lives, and Elmo lives here. This is where my penguin lives, this is snow and Tigger lives here.”
I asked him if someone had showed him how to do that or if he created it all on his own.
He said, “I thought of it all myself and created it myself.” Through it all he was smiling and full of giggles. No one would have known only thirty minutes earlier he was in tremendous distress and inconsolable. Since we have moved into this house Daniel’s meltdowns have lessened. I am going to write a little more about his struggles when I write the post about environments and how much it affects our lives. However, I wanted to share this for a few reasons. I was hoping to give people some insight who may not understand why meltdowns occur. They are not because an Autistic child or adult are throwing a fit. There are reasons for them. The reasons are not always so clear and can seem sudden, sporadic, and may be triggered by something that seems trivial to others.
They are not they can be complex and layered.
If someone is unaware of how things can affect an Autistic person, they may not consider how traumatic it can be if their routine is suddenly changed. For me change equals chaos. Everything that I knew a moment ago is has all mixed up. In my mind, I see file cabinets and when change occurs it is like someone came in and pulled out all of my beautifully organized file folders. They are now a mess strewn all over the place and I am frantically trying to get them back to where they belong. I can handle the change as long as I have answers for it and I have time to put everything back where it is belongs – adjustment time. Time to adjust can vary depending on the situation, sometimes it only takes minutes other times it takes me years.
I wish I knew why this was so, but I do not and I have no idea how a situation will affect me until it happens.
Maybe others have more insight on that or quite possibly it is just different for each individual. If the Autistic person is unable or even unaware of why they are feeling a certain way they cannot explain to the person(s) the reasons for some of their behaviors. For instance, Daniel is unaware of how much energy and mind power it takes for him to do his math. He loves math so he does not think that he is working very hard. However, he has been learning fractions this week mixed with multiplication tables and story problems. These all take a great deal of processing, the story problems are challenging and draining for him. We have to spend extra time on them because if they are not worded “just so” he will get too confused and not be able to move on.
When I read the questions, he may ask things like why does that person need to buy such and such and why did they need so many.
Or why does he want to give pencils to his friends? Where do they live, are they real, is that a boy or a girl? These are a few questions that he asks when given a story problem – his mind is full of questions. He is constantly processing, analyzing, and trying to make sense of his world. When the additional components of say sensory processing is affected this becomes even more of a challenge because he has to work twice as hard if not more to do things that do not cause him such struggles. It takes time, processing time can be slow some days and rapid fire others. I keep track of as many things as possible that I know he is processing. Interestingly, I have a knack for observing and studying people in this way when they are close to me. I think I had to learn to do that because of my upbringing it helped me survive.
I do this with everyone in the house that is why many times I do not realize how much I am processing too.
Those things that seem not to be bothering him are ones that I try to remind myself of because I know at some point he will have a response. He will have some sort of reaction it could come with only a few questions and he feels at ease or it could come after several hours of having a meltdown. Either way, I try to remember so that I can tell him. I have been explaining these things to him. He has asked me, “Why do I get upset?” When he asked me that one day, I decided that I would try to make sure I explained to him the reasons to the best of my observations. So far, this has helped him feel much better about himself and he has not been triggered into greater meltdowns because of being confused by them. We are learning and growing, I am still doing this for myself.
I was not aware of how confused Daniel was by his meltdowns until a month or so ago.
His ability to share that with me has given more understanding as to help ease his fears and anxieties. Daniel is not made to feel badly when he has a meltdown. He is not punished; I do what I can for him and try to make him feel safe anyway I can. Sometimes he is able to communicate what he needs sometimes he is not. If I do not stay calm he will escalate, I try to stay calm and not go into fight or flight mode myself. Fight or flight with my kids means I shutdown. It is not good when I shutdown because I lose my words. If I lose my words it makes Daniel very anxious. Today I had to take few deep breaths and walk away. It was not one of my better days, but we managed through it. I am having my own reactions to the last two weeks, the change in my routine, and the weather change.
When he feels overwhelmed now he has a “safe” place to go to (his room) which has helped a great deal.
Today Daniel decided to go to his safe place on his own. He chose to take time in the quietude of his room to make himself feel better. He did not rely on me to comfort him. This is a huge deal for him and it makes me very happy for him. This brings me to some more pure awesomeness! Daniel has an incredible imagination. However, much of the time no one knows what he is imagining. He does not share often what or how he is playing. To someone who does not know him it could look as if he is simply staring at objects or moving them around. He is doing much more than that. Today he shared with me about the homes he created for his animals. His animals are his best friends. He shared with me how he plays with them and that he talks to them.
He has told me on several occasions that he loves them as much as he loves me as well as everyone in the family.
That means that they are family to him and we treat his animals as they are too. Ariel has the same connection to her dragons and Joshua with his stuffed animal dogs – they are real. Daniel talks to his talking Elmo, Tigger, and he has informed me that he also, speaks penguin language to his baby toy penguin that makes sounds. This is all new, he would not talk to talking toys in past – he would just giggle and smile. Now he has conversations with them and he told me that he has an imaginary friend. I have heard him talking to him a few times now. He started that after Joshua was talking to his imaginary friends “Jake” and “Jay”, but he says that he has a bunch of them. The first time Daniel told me he had one too I asked him his friends name and he said, “I don’t know.” He has recently, given his friend the name “Daniel.” He names his stuffed animals Daniel too.
I admit I had a rough time of it today – I am pretty drained, but this is day is definitely going down as one of those great days … Pictures!
Related Posts/Reads (The first three are from Autism Discussion Page)
- Common Causes of Meltdowns!
- Don’t Punish Meltdowns!
- Meltdowns due to rigid/inflexible thinking!
- Adult Meltdowns
- Speaking Of Meltdowns I
- Speaking Of Meltdowns II
- Speaking Of Meltdowns II (This one has many resources and I share more about executive function that can play into meltdowns quite often.)