Video: Dealing with a Meltdown

I have alot of new readers so I would like to preface this video with a few things. As a father to 3 boys on the Autism Spectrum, my wife and I have been dealing with meltdowns for over a decade. For a very long time we kept these very private because we didn’t want anyone to think poorly of our kids, or really at the time, Gavin. This came a cost. No one ever really witnessed these but us and maybe the teachers, doctors and therapists.

Our families had very little idea of what we were dealing with and really how could they. We spent a great deal of time and energy hiding our daily struggles. When they would us say, Gavin’s having a meltdown, they would equate that with the types of meltdowns they themselves, experienced as young parents. The problem is that the meltdowns we experienced were in a completely different league. No matter how we explained it, no one could truly understand until they witnessed them first hand.  Even our seasoned psychologist, Dr. Pattie has said many times, “if I hadn’t witnessed it first hand, I would never have believed it”. 

With that said, I want to explain why I share these videos. I truly believe the best way to spread Autism Awareness and help people to have much better understanding of what Autism is like to at least my family, is if I open up a window into our lives. By doing this people can see first hand some of the struggles we face as special needs parents. When a person in the general public hears someone refer to their ASD child having a meltdown, they have no idea what that translates to in real life.

By sharing these videos people can see exactly what these meltdowns can entail. Something very important to remember is that every child on the spectrum is different. This means that meltdowns can very in many ways from person to person. I want to make sure that is understood. 

I also want to make very clear that this is not meant to make Gavin look bad. In fact, I’m actually very proud of Gavin because this is the first meltdown he has had in a few months. It was bound to happen at some point and today was the day.

Surviving a meltdown

This afternoon Gavin had a pretty major meltdown. This is actually the first one we have really seen since July. However, today Gavin hurled a large magnetic rock at Elliott and hit him on the back of the hand, leaving a large welt. Elliott was screaming in pain, as it looks like it really hurt. I had Gavin jumping up and down starting to freak out. I also happened to be home by myself with all the boys at the time when this took place.

Gavin made a less then good choice when he decided to throw the rock at Elliott. Even though Gavin has many challenges in life, there are consequences for his actions and in Gavin’s case, that typically entails replacing his next meal with oatmeal. I know that sounds weird but it’s the only thing that works with him and I’m not going to delve into the background on that at the moment.

You can feel free to search the term “oatmeal” in the side bar and read more about that.

Gavin hasn’t had to have oatmeal in a few months and so he lost it. He’s not so much upset by the oatmeal itself but more upset that he’s being held accountable for his actions. Anyway. Gavin went into a full on meltdown and I managed to get him into his room and away from the other boys who were terrified and trying to hide from him. Elliott ran downstairs and turned on a movie for him and Emmett in order to drown out the screaming. I went into Gavin’s room and began trying to help him through it. I have to be very direct with Gavin or he doesn’t respond. So if I sound callous that’s simply because that’s the best approach with Gavin.

This wasn’t easy because Emmett came up and wouldn’t leave my side because he wanted to make sure I was okay. Trying to manage a meltdown of this caliber and to other kids by yourself is no easy task.

I record these for a few reasons, as I stated above. However, since Gavin has been self-injuring to the degree he has been this summer, I document what happens so I can show the anyone that would question what happened. It also helps the doctors to better understand what we are seeing at home as well. Something to note is that we very seldom physically intervene because he’s trying to get a reaction from us much of the time and intervening would give him what he wants. ALL of the doctors have said to supervise at most and only intervene if a life threatening situation presents itself.

This particular meltdown is very mild  in comparison to what we are actually used to with Gavin. Gavin deserves full credit for that. Even though he had the meltdown, he regained his composure in about 10 minutes (which is really quick because these can sometimes last an hour or so) and made the choice not to seriously hurt himself. I’m very proud of this because you can see him struggling with wanting to hurt himself but he choose not to.

This might sound really weird but I really think this is progress. Clearly not perfect but I’m not after perfect and I’ll take a meltdown like this any day of the week over the kind that see him admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital for a few days.

I hope this helps to illustrate what a meltdown can be like for an ASD child. I also hope this gives you a better idea of what many special needs parents are dealing with when they say meltdown.

Just for the record, I’m far from perfect as I’m sure you can hear in the video. All I can do is the best I can, learn and move on.

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Rob Gorski
Father to 3 boys with #Autism, 1 with Fragile Health. Award winning blogger, techy and advocate. #AutismDad @GuardianLocate
Rob Gorski

Rob Gorski

Father to 3 boys with #Autism, 1 with Fragile Health. Award winning blogger, techy and advocate. #AutismDad @GuardianLocate

8 thoughts on “Video: Dealing with a Meltdown

  • My goodness, meltdowns can be so stressful! I’ve definitely experienced many a meltdown throughout the years I’ve worked with kids/families with kids on the spectrum. I appreciate you sharing this very private thing with the other parents here.

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  • Thank you for posting this, it really opened my eyes. I’m impressed with both you and Gavin and how you both handled it and how much control Gavin exercised over himself, and Emmett’s concern for you though not helpful in this particular instance was touching. And Elliot’s turning on the movie for Emmett and himself sounds like a very mature and wise move. You should be proud of all your sons and yourself. All the best, I hope that Gavin only improves as he grows older.

  • Awesome Job, Dad! Reminds me of mine (age 7) and I can see def mild, we all know they have the potential to be sooo much worse. 

  • Oh my heart is breaking. I have had this same experience with my son and you’re so right, no one understands unless they witness it first hand.

  • Thank you for posting. I experienced my first MAJOR meltdown last week with my 4 year old ASD son.  It was constant, tortured screaming for at least 30 minutes.  I believe you when you say “This was a mild one.” 

    I have three other NT children.  I felt so badly for them too.  Here we are, during dinner, listening to the entire spectacle unfold, and doing our best to ‘ignore’ it, until it subsided.  And when it had, he just walked up to the table, started eating dinner and acted like nothing had ever happened.  Maybe in his mind, nothing did?

    Anyway, thanks for posting.  I feel validated after seeing that other parents have the same struggles.

  • It is amazing to watch his transformation from the beginning of the video till the end. I feel for him though because it seems like he’s suffering. I really feel for you the most in this situation because you’re literally doing all you can to help him. 

  • We have to make sure that our son is in a very quiet place, like a car without the radio on (if we are out and about), or a quiet room in the house – allowing him to calm down by himself.  Watching the video reminds me of our son at times, but ours doesn’t have the vocabulary that yours is blessed with.

  • I hear you on meltdowns! So hard to predict. My Aspie nephew does settle down with head rubbing. It works for him sometimes but sometimes you just have to put them in a quiet spot. I like the oatmeal idea. My nephew hit kids at school so I warned him I was going to give him salad for dinner next time he hits someone. šŸ˜‰ it has worked for awhile.


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