A blood curdling scream and then CRASH! A broom flies across the room! Next a chair topples over. Flying books! BANG, a foot hits the refrigerator, SLAM, there went the door just before a fist goes through a wall! This is what an Autistic meltdown can look like.
Imagine having something important to say and not being able to communicate that to the one who can help you. Yet it’s no problem to talk and even use and know the meaning of big words. Then because you don’t communicate others becomes upset at you for not speaking when they know perfectly well that you can. Backing an Autistic into an emotional corner can have disastrous results.
Or someone asks you a question that demands an answer and you can’t express the answer so you just stare into space and that is taken as insult and the person asking the question gets upset at you. You still can’t respond and the person thinks you are being stubborn and gets angrier. You feel pushed into a corner so you come out fighting. Add to your frustrations, a lack of emotional control and things can quickly escalate into a full blown meltdown.
Autism is a wiring issue. The Autistic brain is wired differently and the signals it receives are different than a person who doesn’t have Autism. Therefore the responses aren’t always appropriate.
While it’s very challenging living with an Autistic person, remember they don’t want to be stubborn or difficult. Try to see the world from their eyes. Imagine going into a big, lively social gathering and not having a clue how to respond to people. The noise level, confusion, movement, bright lights are so overwhelming that the wiring inside your head is out of control. The signals aren’t making sense. What does make sense is withdrawing into your own world and blocking out the mess around you. Social gatherings are very difficult, especially if it’s a school gathering where some of the school bullies are lurking in the corners.
Autism sees the world at face value. Hidden meanings, jokes and sarcasm is often lost on them. They are often so focused on one thought, idea, project etc and when some one tries to get them to “switch gears” it can result in a meltdown. For example, Susie is putting puzzles together but mom just realizes it’s time to stop and get dressed and leave for a Dr’s appointment in 10 minutes. If mom says, Susie we need to leave in 10 minutes, stop immediately and get dressed we have to go NOW.” Susie will either tune out mom, or go into a melt down because she’s focused on that puzzle and putting it together is like its a life and death matter to her. It takes time to process a command and Susie just doesn’t have time to process. The best way for mom to handle the situation is to always allow plenty of time. Talk about it for days if possible. “Susie in three days at 10:00 you have a Dr appointment.” Repeat that over and over letting her know how much longer it will be and when it comes down to the last 10 minutes she will be ready and prepared.
Aspergers is a daily challenge for the Autistic person and the care giver. It takes the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job!
Have you witnessed a Meltdown of an Autistic Child? How did you respond?