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Meltdowns and Temper Tantrums

Temper Tantrums 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?



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0 thoughts on “Meltdowns and Temper Tantrums

  • I had one after school once. Got frustrated with my friends who I was working with and proceeded to beat my head against the wall and walk out of the room. This also explains why I am already freaking about how I’m getting to Memphis in July and where I’m going to live in October. It doesn’t help when mom tells me “We’ll figure it out then.” I can be spontaneous, but it has to be on my own, and I can’t do it for something I’ve known in advance. Like, when I want to go out for a bike ride to the mall or such, I can drop what I’m doing to go do that. But if I am focusing on something I can’t just stop to do something else. Which Is why I have to start getting ready for school at least an hour before I have to leave…

  • My cousin has some physical meltdowns, he starts punching holes in walls, or hurting his sister who will assume guardianship over him when her mother passes. Right now its she is considering placing him in a home, because he is just too big, and her too small to deal with his emotional meltdowns. She doesn’t know what else to do,and its the last thing she wants to do.

  • I still have them on a recurring basis, though not as often. I’ve broken things, punched holes in walls, all sorts of crap. I’ve said a lot of hurtful things to people without realizing it. All in all, it’s not pretty, and it’s just how I am. It sucks, yes, but unfortunately I’ve had to learn to deal.

  • I’ve witnessed some of my cousin’s meltdowns, but they occurred more when he was younger (I was younger also so I didn’t know how to handle them then).  He has learned much better communication within the past few years, but he can still have his moments.

    For me, a soothing voice and saying “I understand” helps a little–but he doesn’t get angry all that much when he’s around me (which is why his mom is happy when I come around. ^_^).  Meltdowns happen much less when he has some other object to direct his attention on, like a new Disney magazine or even the case to his favorite DVD.


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