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Friday, May 3, 2013

Autistic Meltdowns ---- 3 Ideas

In the no-parenting-book-gets-it world of autism, a lot of figuring out what works is just trial and error.  I was reflecting tonight, after a few meltdowns, that it's actually getting better.  A year ago, the kind of meltdowns Janey had tonight would have lasted much longer and been much more severe.  A lot of that is just Janey getting older, but I think we have learned a little more about what works for her.  I know what works for Janey might not work for any other kid with autism, but I thought it would be worth writing about anyway, just in case!

Idea Number 1----Quiet it all down.  When Janey is melting down, crying, screaming, it creates chaos, both just from her meltdown but also, I've realized, some from our reaction.  It's very hard to stay calm with her kind of meltdowns, which can lead to her hitting herself, biting herself, tossing things, screaming in an ear-piercing way---you probably know what it's like.  So lately, our very first response is to eliminate all other noise that we can.  If the TV is on, we turn it off.  If music is playing, off also.  We talk as little as we can and in as low voices as we can.  I find sometimes actually having everyone but one adult leave helps, just because it keeps us from talking to each other (but the other adult stays close by, because you never know when she will need two of us to keep her safe).  I also turn off lights.  When everything else is calm, it seems to help Janey get control, or at least not be more irritated by the sounds around her.

Idea Number 2 ----  Soothing predictable actions.  With Janey, what I often do is rub her back, or if she is too upset for that, even just tap next to her on the bed or couch, something rhythmic and even.  Once she is quiet enough to make it worth the while, I sometimes sing a lullaby while rubbing her back or tapping, with the same verses being repeated over and over.  I think it gives her something new to focus on that, something that can quiet whatever is inside her mind making her upset.

Idea Number 3  ---  Sleep or eat.  Usually, when Janey loses it, she's in one of two states without realizing it, either hungry or tired.  She doesn't seem to know herself always when she's feeling either of those.  If it's close to bedtime, I do what I can to get her to sleep.  We are lucky in that she falls asleep pretty easily (staying asleep all night is more of the challenge, usually).  If it not bedtime (Janey never naps), we get her eating.  Although she asks for food all the time, when she's really upset, she doesn't seem to realize she's hungry.  So we just get food into her any way we can.  We offer her any of her favorites, we run to the little store nearby to get what she might want, we do whatever we can to feed her.  That works very well, often.

These ideas don't always work.  Sometimes, Janey is going to melt down and we aren't going to be able to do a thing about it.  That is just about as hard to deal with as it always has been, or more hard, really, because Janey is bigger.  But as the years go by, I think we are very slowly learning Janey, and maybe she is learning us, too.


mknecht24 said...

These work for Lindsey too (mostly). Eating, massage, sending her to her room...seem to work most often. PMS seems to be a deal breaker now. The hormone fluctuations and the headaches and cramps are hard for her to understand. We are all coping as best we can. :) Sometimes all we can do is ride it out. It all seems unfair.

Suzanne said...

I'm terrified of that. I can't even imagine how hard that would be, or I should say will be, as there's no avoiding it. It does seem unfair. I just always hope Janey will be a very late bloomer, but that's not her family history on either side.

audball said...

These are great ideas, and ones we have certainly done too. The other technique I employ is to really disassociate myself from the role of "disciplinarian mom". In heated moments, I try not to make it a teaching moment and discuss the bad behavior. Instead, I focus in mitigating the tantrum. It took me a long time to realize that my DD was getting upset because I was upset! This means really biting my tongue when I feel like really saying my peace.

One book that helped me was "Finding Our Way", by Kristi Sakai. Even though the (sub)title says: "Practical Solutions for Creating a Supportive Home and Community for the Asperger Syndrome Family", it could really just read, "…for the Autism Family". The author is a parent and writes from a parent's point of view, not a therapist's point, which was really effective for me. In fact, most of the book deals with meltdowns (triggers, how to prevent them [based on your own child], and coping with them as the parent).

mknecht24 said...

Suzanne, don't worry too much about puberty and all its extra fun. You have already experienced far worse with Janey. Puberty sucks but it is manageable. I also wished for a late bloomer but nope. lol She's regular like a clock. I think it's out of spite. ha ha

House Of D. said...

thank you all so much for sharing all these stories and feelings for the rest of us who are going to but arent there yet! its mothers like you that help prepare us for what is coming and how to deal in a good way without loosing your mind in the process, its not easy!!