meltdowns: ignore or talk to them

Anna - posted on 07/21/2010 ( 18 moms have responded )

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I have a 6yr old with Aspergers, he has these awful meltdowns, he was on resperdol on the lowest .5 and his blood work was on the high side of normal he stayed whinny alot so took him off and is just on adderahl once a day, so my question is do i let him throw his fit and go on like he didnt just destroy his room or scream for sometimes 45 min or try to talk to him, which usually makes him worse. My husband thinks we should talk to him, i think he s over it and we should just go on, he thinks he should loose privalge. like today he cried all day cuz it wasn t 4 p m so he could watch his show, at 4 i let him and husband was asleep and later told me that if he d been awake he wouldnt of watched it. He litteraly threw a fit for hrs over it was not 4 o clock. it started from the time he woke up till at least lunch. Please help !

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Sheila - posted on 07/22/2010

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Hi Anna,

Have you done calming exercises with your little guy? Medication will only get you so far.

Children on the spectrum have a real hard time with self regulation. Your husband needs to understand that he does not "choose" this behaviour in a typical, I want what I want when I want it so give it to me now! manner. His little brain is wired differently and the threat of a consequence will not stop his brain from reacting the way it is....As well, the story you described, nothing would have be gained by not letting him watch his show at 4...in fact, it would have made things so much worse! Tell your husband it would be like driving down the highway for hours, looking for the proper off ramp...if you don't hit that off ramp, you will be STUCK on the road for hours, even if there other off ramps because now you MUST stay until there is the RIGHT off ramp...imagine the frustration building up inside of you if you were FORCED to skip the right off ramp....it would be horrible for anyone....now imagine being six and this happening.

So, self regulation. Excellent suggestions for getting a timetable going...kids with Aspbergers NEED routine just like a child with diabetes needs insulin. A timetable or schedule imposes a structure on their day.

Deep breathing. When he is calm, talk about good feelings and bad feelings...what makes you happy, what makes you relaxed? What makes you sad, what makes you mad, what makes you nervous? When you are feeling sad, it can become really hard for you to stay calm, so when those bad feelings start becoming really strong, we need to blow them away!

Take a deep breath, in through your nose like you are smelling flowers. Now, hold that in your tummy. Now blow it out, slowly, just like you are blowing out a candle...

Do it again.

You practice breathing like this when he is calm, so that when you see him BEGINNING to get upset, you ask, have you taken three deep breaths? And then coach him through it...if he is in the middle of a meltdown, it's hard to get the breathing going, but it's worth the effort.

As well, if he is going into sensory overload, if you are able to have earphones, a small poptent, and a heavy blanket....again, at the beginning direct him with his favourite stuffies to go for a slow down and take some deep breaths...so he goes into his tent and just decompresses....

If you don't have an OT, see one and find out about calming techniques. He might be a child who would benefit from swinging, or dee compressions...or some other technique that helps.

Sheila

Kate - posted on 07/22/2010

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Children with an Autism Sepctrum Disorder really need time to calm down before they can respond properly to 'discussion'. Talking to him when he is in this state is only going to increase his stress a he struggles to interpret the social 'language' of his discussion with you. I'd give him time to calm down, and when he's calm then chat to him about how he's feeling and what he might be able to do to stop the same thing from happening again.

Sounds like some kind of routine/timetable, pinned on the fridge or somewhere central, may really help him to udnerstand what he is/can do after school.
After school is really hard for these kids as well because they spend all day struggling to udnerstand the social world at school and then come home and need some 'time out' time, where they don't have to interact with people. It can be really useful to put few demands on them when they get home for the first half hour or so to make sure they get a chance to calm down. Computer and tv is really useful as it is predictible and allows them time to tune out of social situations.

if they are waiting for something to arrive, they need preparation. If something is going to be taken away, then he needs to be told beforehand that he will lose a privilage i.e. if you continue crying, you won't be able to watch the show at 4pm. If you find something else to do you can watch it at 4pm.

it is really important for you and your husband to sit down and make a plan together as to how you are going to respond. The more consistent you are the easier it will be for your son to follow.

good luck ;-)

Melissa - posted on 07/21/2010

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I would neither ignore the meltdowns, nor try to talk it out. Once he's gone, he's probably gone. It's important to try to avoid having the meltdown in the first place if at all possible.

It sounds like he's having a hard time establishing and maintaining control over his environment. Have there been any additional stressors lately? Lack of a schedule in the summer, husband going on a business trip, tv schedule changing, and other things like those can cause a lot of undue stress.

Does he have a watch or a clock? It might be helpful to make a large picture of his favorite show next to a picture of the clock (or his watch) reading the time the show starts. I wear one of those sports watches with a timer. We talk about when certain things will occur (go to piano at 2:00) or when they will end (we will leave the park when the watch says 30 minutes). I encourage him to check in and verify the time so it's not a huge disappointment when we have to stop something or it isn't time for the next activity yet.

I would make a general household rule that if you are upset and need to mess something up, it's okay to get that energy out, but you will also be responsible for helping clean it up afterward.

As for the screaming, we used to have a lot of times when my son would do the same thing and I made a point that he could do it as much as he needed to, but he had to be on his bed (a safe place). Now that we've gotten into that routine (about a year later), when he starts to get upset I ask him if he needs to go calm down. It's not to be mean, but just as reference to check out how he's feeling and to try to work through it on his own without having a meltdown.

What was he like before medication?

Jessica - posted on 07/23/2010

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We have gotten a behaviorist for our twins 'events'. First thing we were told was to have a quiet place. A place they could go when the meltdown starts, (of course you have to be home for this). We use the downstairs bathroom. They begin their freak out and off they go into the bathroom. Sometimes they like the light and sometimes they don't. Then we ignore them. Sometimes I will sit by the door, but I don't try to talk. I wait for them to approach me. And still then we don't talk. An event looks like a hill with a gentle slope. The event being the top of the hill. You have to wait until they are back to the base line before you can communicate with them and that is after the post event depression. Which includes maybe a time of sleepiness or just the quiet sitting. I would be happy to post my behaviorists suggestions. The woman is a goddess!

Brandy - posted on 07/22/2010

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i agree with sheila. i have a 7 yo with autism and when he has meltdowns we do "deep breaths". i started out by taking him to his room and sitting him on the bed and then i started breathing with him. telling him to do like the big bad wolf. :) make it fun if you have to, i would blow in my sons face and make silly faces -anything to get his mind off what hes so upset about. now my 5 yo usually helps out and comes and breathes with us!

also if he likes music maybe have a cd player located in there he can turn on while he calms down. i think its important to give them skills to cope with the frustration rather than expecting them to suppress it or completely let go and destroy things. life is gonna be frustrating so try and teach him some ways to deal with it.

also with the source of this tantrum try using first/then language. i would say something like first lunch then your show. this is to give him an idea of when hes going to get what he wants. you may have to say it many many times a day but its better than the alternative.

Good luck!

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Catherine - posted on 05/07/2012

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ignore the meltdowns but do give him a warning and try to cary it out so he knows you mean business, its hard i know but its the only way. does he have a visual time table? i know he is young but it may work well for him so it teaches a sense of time.

Stephanie - posted on 08/03/2010

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I really agree with the picture schedule, but be flexible. Have pictures of the store or grandma's or other places that you may go. Put your normal schedule in a timeline with the clocks under each event at HIS eye level. Each day it there is something different, like the store, change that one where appropiate in the timeline and discuss this with him every morning how the day will go. Then when he does have a meltdown, I agree, in his room and when he is calm talk. My son is getting better about things, but you HAVE to be consistant and it WILL take a LONG time, maybe even years before you see progress. My son used to like to be held to calm down, but that doesn't always work now. We also have a place for meltdowns when we are out. Example, go over by the car, swingset, bathrooms at the store, etc....find a place that he can be out of the way and out of harm for his meltdown. Try to stick with the same store or park, etc so that you and he know where that place is. But most importantly, let him know that you understand his feelings. My son was diagnosed 6 1/2 yrs ago, and it does get better as you go, mostly cause you understand more and learn how to deal with things. Good luck.

Donna - posted on 08/02/2010

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Can I suggest a book our counselor recommended. 1-2-3 Magic. it works great and is an easy read. I love the book so much I buy it for new mommies. I have found the book on amazon for under 4 dollars. Some parts of the book I read to my asperger child so he understood more so. Being that people with aspergers are more technical and do need things and changes explained hopefully before the event happens. Meltdowns are going to happen but its the ways they deal with it is what you need to teach.

Dee - posted on 08/02/2010

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I have a 10 yo daughter who has Aspberger/PDD, when she goes into her meltdown, I just let her do it in her room. I tell her when she calms down we will discuss the situation, calmly but not until she calms down. I know she wants to get her way but she knows she is not going to get it until she calms down. Once she is calm, I will usually start out by asking her what her reaction will be if I say "No". That seems to put in her mind that she may not get the response she is looking for and it prepares her to have an actual discussion not a meltdown. I also do that when she asks me a question like "can I have a sleepover" so she can prepare for a no response.

This has seemed to really help her discuss and not yell/cry to get her way. When I forget to do that we are in for a rough night. It also seems to make her more aware that a tantrum/meltdown is not the answer and very unacceptable behavior.

Amber - posted on 08/01/2010

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i useally try to talk to my 4 year old son Benjamin, he has autism. but i'm staring to think a little time to there self is good, unless they are hitting there self

Lisa - posted on 07/31/2010

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Look into BHRS programs in your area for support..... I dont know if you have medicaid for your son or not... but it will pay for all of the services both at home and in school if needed!!!!

Mandi - posted on 07/30/2010

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To tell the truth there is no right or wrong answer! My son is 8 and he suffers from non verbal atypical autism. He has meltdowns BAD! We took him through ABA therapy and they told me to ignore the fits, I have found that alot of times if I talk to him in a low tone of voice, and sing it calms him down. But the problem is when there is something they want alot of times they do not understand you can't have it right now. And alot of times it's kinda like a seizer, once they go into a full meltdown they just can't stop!

Brandie - posted on 07/29/2010

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ive always let mine calm down, then talk to him.. the calming sometimes takes up to an hour...
but for the tv show... try taking a picture of a digitel clock set to 4:00, as well as a pic of this favorite show... post them up next to the digitel clock, explain when the clock matches the picture his show will be on...

[deleted account]

I agree with Sheila and Mrs K. Two of my sons calm differently... one hold tight and the other deep breaths. The hold tight one fights me, but after a while relaxes, the deep breath one i have to have him find me then look at me and i have to breathe too in order for him to get on board. then, after the time it takes, i can talk to them about the situation. the one thing that i have done with my deep breather is Efalex by the company Efamol. It is tuna oil and evening primrose oil. Having followed the directions explicitly, we might get one melt down a month- if that. He is like a whole new person and is in so much more control of himself. He is only 7, and he is doing well. my other son refuses to take anything, but he is a teen now, so i dont pressure him. remember to take in all the advice and see what will work for you, no child is just like "the book"

Mrs - posted on 07/27/2010

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Hi I would try a social story ie wake up, eat breakfast - whatever other plans you have for that day , lunch, something else tv programme dinner wash bed etc. along those lines that way he knows what to expect and what has to be done before moving onto the next thing. hth

Jane - posted on 07/26/2010

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My son(s) all self-regulate differently. Son 1 requires physical activitiy, so he goes out and stacks the woodpile or shoots hoops when he's stressed.

Son 2 requires alone/meditation time, so he goes to his room, and reads or spaces out with a timer set for 20 minutes.

Son 3 is still in the screaming phase, but the house rule says you may have a tantrum if you need one, but you have to have it in your room.

Son 4 has some trouble, and mostly needs alone time like son 2, but it's more music that he listens to that calms him.

Son 5 needs to be held and rocked - held TIGHT - like deep compression hugging, and taking Darth Vader breaths helps him as well.

Son 6 needs his bed and his bears, and then he calms well. At school, he likes to look in a mirror and study himself, or spin on a carpet square.

The point here is, find out what works for your boy, because they are all different. It's not like the flu where everyone knows exactly what to expect.

Maybe your husband would get on board if he saw that, frankly, one of the things that defines autism is the question on the intake, "Does your child respond to traditional discipliune?". They don't. They just see you being mean, and they still don't get why they're being punished.

The clock, visual timers and schedules are your friends. Enlist their aid.

DO NOT take away the salient reinforcer that you have - especially for something like not understanding the new TV schedule.

Beatrice - posted on 07/26/2010

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I find a timeout helps just have him sit and ignore him when he stops the crying then he can get up. Until then he must sit.
Also you might try another medicine Wellbutrin works with my grandson.

Ginger - posted on 07/23/2010

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OMG, I have been having this issue with my 7year old the last couple of weeks it has become increasinly worse. So the feedback is really good info for me also!!

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