S4 E5 Meltdowns: Discovering Communication

Years ago, it was not uncommon for me to show up to work with bruised arms and broken glasses. One time I had to rush home from work due to one of my son’s meltdowns. For those who worked with me, you may remember those days.

There were times when our son would have meltdowns that would last for several hours, leaving us with broken walls, broken windows, broken hearts, and feeling helpless. Bruised bodies, possible concussions, and with our egos humbled, we were without any answers as to what could improve these moments.

Picking up the pieces and trying to figure out what triggered these meltdowns took several years.  Going through each moment leading up to a meltdown gets analyzed and reviewed, searching for what could have been the final straw before any action on his end was made.

Was it too noisy?  Was the TV too loud? Were the light bulbs emitting an irritating frequency? Did we forget a step in a routine? Are we asking him too many questions? Not enough?

The reality is that these things that were contributors to his meltdowns were not his fault, nor did they make him a  ‘difficult kid’.  He’s a great kid, and normally very joyful.

The challenge was us as parents trying to figure out what was going on with him, as there was no translator to describe what he was going through to us.  In short, there was a communication breakdown that was between him and his mom and me regarding what was going on with him.

He was trying to communicate, we just had difficulty learning to listen. It serves as a reminder that when someone says he had ‘behavioral issues’, the reality was he was doing his best at trying to communicate with us what he was going through.  He was in pain, he was hurting, he needed help. The biggest challenge on his end was his ability to verbalize what he was going through.  He was communicating, just not in a language we easily understood.

How often do we get frustrated when no one is listening to us?  How often would you be prone to hit something out of that frustration because no words worked?

While all of these questions, and more, were visited and revisited every time a meltdown occurred, we kept searching for answers within our local community.  This was our effort to attempt to discover what he was trying to say to us. We were on a journey to find something that could translate his actions into words – at the very least allowing us to understand what he was trying to say in these situations.

Then, a most unlikely – but explainable reason – became the answer to our son’s situation. It allowed us to dive into solutions rather quickly.  The results were pretty immediate and long-lasting.

A Moment of Discovery:

Do you suffer from chronic migraines when the weather is about to change?  Apparently, so does my son.  It took us several years to figure out what triggered his meltdowns the most, and as it turns out – it’s more common than we even knew.

For many families, a sudden drop in barometric pressure impacts their autistic kiddo.  For our son, it’s the sudden increase in pressure.

So, how does he respond to these sudden fluctuations?  Prior to discussing things with his doctor, it was meltdowns.  After all, these migraines added to his sensory issues, and with him being non-verbal – it was difficult to express that he was in pain.  His expression was to hit us in the head (or where he was hurting).  And, if we weren’t around, he’d hit windows, pictures, drywall…. and the list goes on.  In short, he was in pain…. and couldn’t tell us verbally.

So, imagine if you will not being able to tell anyone that you had a migraine causing so much pain that you really couldn’t see clearly, or think clearly.  What would you do when people would keep asking you questions?   Now, add that frustration and pain with the inability to speak like everyone else?  What would you do?  Most likely you’d want to hit that person or something around you… attempting to get a release of that pain… just not knowing how.

Once we discovered what it was that was causing/triggering these migraines, then we were able to work with his doctor on a course of action.  Since then, and as he has grown, he’s able to manage these moments better, often signaling to us he needs some help.

Through this, we were introduced to Wunderground, where we could get a glimpse at a potential forecast of upcoming barometric pressure changes near us.  This allowed us to be a bit more prepared to help, by being able to be a little more proactive.  It has improved his, and many others, quality of life immensely.

Some parents have identified similar issues with their autistic kids and passed this information onto their kid’s teachers and therapists.  Maybe you’ve been told this as well?

I first learned of this from my wife and we asked around – and yes, it’s a thing.  One autism parent told me, “yeah, it’s the weather… and no, we’re not crazy.”  Since then, we’ve learned to pay a little more attention to weather forecasts, barometric pressure, and any sensory inputs that he may have had for the day.

Sometimes the issues for our autistic loved ones have nothing to do with autism, except for an inability to communicate in a way we neurotypicals can easily understand.  Sometimes the issue is something like a headache, where a little bit of medicine can help in such dramatic ways.

Thank you to all of you, as you’ve helped to keep this podcast going.
Special thanks to:
Cory
Darryl
Linda

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Joel Manzer
Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!
Joel Manzer

Joel Manzer

Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!

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