I often get asked about Logan during the early years of autism. With that in mind, I am going to post weekly on our experiences during those years. Perhaps some of what worked for us will work for others.
One of the first things that we needed to do was to eliminate or at the very least know 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. There were no warning signs. Once he was in meltdown mode, it was over.
A great example of this would be the story that by the grace of God, didn’t scare my niece away from having children. lol She took Logan to the children’s museum. When it was time to go, he didn’t want to leave. That was a typical response out of a 4 year old. The high pitched screaming and kicking was not. 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 necessity. We needed to learn how to deal with the meltdown and what triggered them. The time to learn this was not when we were out in public or the only one taking care of him. So, 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 and with an agenda. We took notes on what the trigger was and what we did to redirect him. We tried this many times while using many different redirection techniques. Not all of them were successful.
This gave us a lot of useful information. One , 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. If we couldn’t deal with the meltdown, we avoided those triggers. 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 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 but I learned really fast how to gauge when he had enough. I also learned how to redirect him long enough to check out. But I learned all of these techniques earlier.
My advice to newly diagnosed parents is 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 or 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 and it will pay huge dividends later.
Featured Image by PlusLexia.com / Jesper Sehested