Learning the triggers leading to an autism meltdown is pivotal information. It can be the difference between a good day and an autism rising day. As a small child with autism, meltdowns were inevitable. One of the first things that we worked on was to eliminate or at the very least learn how to deal with his near constant meltdowns. We didn’t call them tantrums because they really weren’t . He wasn’t acting like a spoiled brat although he probably looked like one. We weren’t aware of the warning signs. Once he was in meltdown mode, it was game over.
My favorite example of this would be the story that by the grace of God didn’t scare my niece away from having children. She took Logan to our local children’s museum. When it was time to go, he didn’t want to leave. Typical response from a 4 year old. The high pitched screaming and kicking that ensued clearly was not typical. It sounded like she was trying to kidnap him. He screamed and cried all the way home. I’m sure that was the longest 15 minutes of her life. (Btw, thanks Leslie for all you’ve done for me and my family! I totally owe you big!)
What we did was not ground breaking. It was born out of necessity. We simply had to learn how to deal with the meltdown as well as what triggered them. Our epiphany was that the time to learn this was not when we were out in public or the only one taking care of him. A run to Target alone with Logan was not the time to learn how to manage a meltdown. The time to do it was in the safety of our own home.
To do this, we did certain things to try to trigger a meltdown. Yes, you read that correctly. We wanted him to have a meltdown. We did this purposefully with an agenda. One of us took notes on what the trigger was as well as what worked to redirect him. We tried this many times while using many different redirection techniques. Not all of them were successful. All of this information went into our notes. We took turns attempting different scenarios with corresponding recovery techniques. We all felt safe in our home trying new ways to engage with him in addition to invaluable information as to how to make our outings a success.
For the record, we did not simply sit around and torture him. Each interaction ended with redirection to something he loved. The information we obtained from these experiments proved life changing.
- It told us things that bothered him.
- When we were pressed for time or out alone, we knew that certain things would set him off.
- We avoided those triggers to avoid the meltdown. Logan didn’t enjoy melting down any more than we enjoyed dealing with them
- . Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? For example, I knew that the florescent lights in Publix drove Logan crazy. It put him in sensory overload every single time. If I was in a hurry or needed to buy a lot of groceries, I went without him. There were times when I couldn’t do that so I learned how to gauge when he had enough then call the trip done. I also learned how to redirect him long enough to check out. But I learned all of these techniques earlier in the safety of our home.
My advice to newly diagnosed parents is to take the time to learn how to handle a meltdown at home. Learn it purposefully. I know it sounds mean but set off your child and try to handle it until you find out what works . Do it until you are comfortable handling the meltdowns . More importantly, know the triggers to avoid. All that info will be a lifesaver later. Above all. remember that the meltdowns are your child’s reaction to a confusing world. It doesn’t define your child. Do this work when your child is young. It will pay huge dividends later.