My 5 year old daughter with ASD has been having melt downs when she comes home from school

Amanda - posted on 10/14/2010 ( 22 moms have responded )

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This has been going on for more than a week and it is leaving her dad,her teachers and myself clueless as to the cause of the meltdowns and trying to find a way to calm her when she is like this.She is extremely abusive and very verbal......she screams so loud I am exspecting the windows to blow out of the house.I have tried distractions with her favorite things.I have tried asking her questions as to why she is so upset.I have tried just giving her hugs to try and calm her down but she punches and kicks at me and screams for me to leave her alone.Her teachers and I have been trying to figure it out but the only thing we can think of is maybe she is getting overwhelmed by all the activities in her kindergarten classroom amd maybe we are asking too much of her too soon with trying to integrate her in the regular classroom as much as possible....anyone else have any theories?? Maybe some advice or hints that might help with coping with the meltdowns or ideas as to how to calm her.

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Amanda - posted on 10/22/2010

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Thank You everyone for all your replys.I will certainly try these ideas and see what happens.She does have a wonderful special ed staff at her school and they are working with me as well.They have lowered the amount of integrating for the time being and we are planning on slowly bringing her back to the level she was at before the meltdowns started happening daily. seems to be working so far.no melt downs since they took away alot of the integration time she was spending with her non-ASD peers.
On another note does anyone else just feel the stabbing hurt in your heart when you bring your child to the park or another public place and you watch your child go up and introduce themselves to other children and ask them to play........then you watch in sadness as the "normal" child snubbs them and sometimes laughs and walks away or flat out says no I dont want to play with you...........I just want to yell at these children for being so rude and so cruel but of course I dont.....I am thankful that for the time being my child does not seem to understand what is going on.She thinks they did not hear her so she speaks louder and louder until she is yelling to them from across the playground.I am not looking forward to the day when she does understand that kids act this way because she is different.

Loretta - posted on 10/20/2010

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Hi, What I would do when my AS son had meltdowns I would turn the water on in the bathroom and give him some containers and a little soap so he could relax . I do not know why but water soothes AS kids. My son explained to me one day that he has to follow all the rules and be quiet and sit still which is hard for our kids so when he was free he just needed to scream and run to get it out, I didn't ask to many questions and I just gave him a chance to be free it is alot for our kids to process all the noise, questions, lights and rules. My 10 year old son is homeschooled now I could not leave him in a school setting it was too much for him and then had to deal with bullys too. When she calms down or at a different time ask her what is bugging her at school she will tell you Good Luck I hope you find out what is bothering her hope the water helps if you try it

Angie - posted on 10/20/2010

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This is very common for kids with autism that go to school. School is VERY hard on these children for many reasons. Most kids on the spectrum have sensory issues. When they're sitting there, they are hypersensitive to the smells from different shampoos, parents' perfumes that got on the kids, etc. The fluorescent lights cause issues. Kids are noisy. Children with autism have problems with reading social cues, and typical kids are really hard to read... they are excited, jumping around, may be touchy, etc. They have to adjust to different kids that they don't know. Add to all of this the academics that they are learning, and you're talking about A LOT of processing they have to do on a daily basis. Some kids with hold it together while they're at school, but when they get home, they have to let their stress out. Some kids will show their stress level at school and be fine at home. Yours is showing her stress at home, where she's the most comfortable to let it out. It's for this reason that I am against integrating in regular classrooms, especially at such a young age. In a smaller classroom, she won't have as much to process, which lowers her stress and helps her to actually learn what she's there to learn. You might see less meltdowns at home. Then again, you might not, because for some kid, just transitioning from home to school and back to home is hard on them, and will cause meltdowns. But, I would definitely try that for a few more years. The other issue is, kids with autism do NOT learn how to properly socialize just by being thrown into a regular classroom and being with other kids. They have to be TAUGHT, and that usually only happens in the special ed class. Often, the school fail our kids, whether in teh special ed classes or not. That's why I homeschool. Ha! Good luck to you, talk to the teachers about sensory integration and autism and get the book The Out of Sync Child. It explains all about this issue.

Evelin - posted on 10/17/2010

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Mine does this too. The more "aware" Aspie/Autistic kids can sometimes differentiate between social settings, so they now that a meltdown every time they reach sensory overload at school might make them seem different to others. So they suppress and with hold their symptoms, flapping, meltdowns, aggression, then when they get to their safe place, home, they let it all out. Rough for us mommies but well they're at their wits' end. The Child Study team director/Autism specialist at my son's school told me he's actually seen kids that present NO symptoms at school, but the minute the physically cross the doors and school threshold they will flap until the minute they get to the bus. Since we're having this problem with my son, he suggested starting something called "a moment" with him. It is what it sounds like, when he's having sensory overload and he feels like he needs a "moment out" then he can go to his school safe place (counselor's office) and let out his frustrations in a healthy way, sensory toys, drawing, if he needs to cry he can. Hopefully this will work for him, and hopefully it helps you with an idea. Good luck!

Sheila - posted on 10/17/2010

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Hi amanda,

The most important thing is to be pro-active. Once the meltdown has begun, you're on the rollercoaster.

So, the theory is too much integration. If this is new behaviours, and the new class is the big event, you probably don't have to look much further.

First, her entry routine. Does she come in with everyone else? If so, get her coming in through the school's main entrance five to ten minutes after halls have cleared. (if you can) If she gets her lunch bag with everyone else, she should either get it before (or after)...not in the crush. The same goes with recesses and exits...she should NOT be in the crush of students.

Does she have a visual schedule? Does she know what will happen from one transition to the next? Does she have direct support from an assistant inthe class? Does she have sensory breaks from the class? Does she have headphones, a weighted vest, a pop tent to crash in?

You do not state her diagnosis, or what functioning level is...but pro-active supports should be in place.

Sheila

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Christina - posted on 12/18/2011

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hi Amanda
I can appreciate your situation. I think your daughter is not able to articulate what is actually bothering her, so when you ask she is even more frustrated by the situation. She might not be able to even consciously know what is causing her anxiety to build up each day, and clearly the school staff are not seeing it.
I have been in a similar situation and finally was actually invited into the classroom. I went and spent the entire day with the class and it was a godsend!!!
There were things that the staff were doing and were entirely blind to what was causing my daughter's anxiety to escalate. These were triggers I could immediately spot and address..
For example, they were using a daily schedule to show her what was going to happen through the day. The idea is to enable her to understand and anticipate the next thing -- which should help with any transition difficulties.
However, they were using it WRONG. They were constantly changing it, removing some when she accomplished them and replacing with new ones! So she wasn't getting a sense of "accomplishment" but instead was getting her anxiety climibing constantly...she was so rattled by this that she was literally shaking! I was shocked that the staff didn't see this was the case. So being there was very useful -- I immediately stopped this practice and had the schedule removed. This helped immensely.

I also gave constant reassurance and hugs when I was with her, and she trusted me to help her. So my daughter did better and better as I continued to come in each day for a week. I would withdraw more and more away, sitting further away in the class and allowing the staff to continue working with my daughter. At lunchtime I would leave, and she was comfortable going out of the class with the aide and didn't need me to be right there with her.
The staff were nervous the first day, but I said I wasn't there to judge at all, but to find out what the triggers are that were stressing my daughter. I was working "with" them and they were extremely thankful afterwards that they learned a great deal by watching what I was doing and what I changed. It helped a great deal.
It is not unreasonable at all for you to take the time to go in with your daughter and attend for a day. I am pretty sure that she is getting terribly stressed out at school and no one has figured out the trigger....you have to see what is going on in the context to figure out what it is.

Your daughter is really young so I wouldn't want to recommend any anti-anxiety medications, but there are such medications for anti-anxiety which can be prescribed by doctors who specialise in Autism. However, at such a young age it shouldn't be necessary until you have eliminated other possible triggers.
It is something that you can discuss with your doctor.
First, however, I would really strongly recommend that you actually go in and see what is going on.
BTW my daughter gets sensory overload, and has been taught to go into a little tent that is set up in a corner. In the tent is a pillow and soft cozy blanket from home. She is allowed to go in and zip it closed and just chill out for a bit....to try and learn to self-regulate by recognizing when she needs to "shut down" sensory overload. This is something that might also help with a daughter as young as 5 years old. My daughter is now 15 years old and her school still provides the tent etc.
I hope some of this helps you out.
Best of luck.

Melissa - posted on 12/30/2010

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I am responding to Cindy whose 7 yr old was suspended. My 7 yr old was just suspended also for kicking and hitting. He has never had this major meltdown before - anywhere - and he still doesn't at home, his social skills program, he didn't last year in Kindergarten. I can't believe and others I tell are horrified that a school can suspend a child with a disability when the behavior that they are doing is related to the disability. What does suspension do for a 7 year old - really?? I can't believe our kids are not protected from this. They are not typical kids and they are not doing this behavior just to be bad - there is a reason for it. So they suspend them and break the routine which can cause problems to begin with. There really needs to be legislation that protects these kids. In my opinion, it is no different than a child that has seizures and while in the midst of the seizure he hits and kicks. It is related to a disablity. Will they suspend the child with a seizure for this behaviour?? I am new to Circle of Moms and had to sound off about this.

Amy - posted on 10/22/2010

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I know exactly how you feel! Today I got the dreaded call from my son's teacher saying that he was very, very bad in school today. She said he was in time out more than anything else. He got violent and threw his classmates school boxes off the table, he pushed in line in the lunch room, wouldn't stay seated in his chair during math, and on and on. She said it was his "worst day ever", trumping the one where the fire alarm went off on the first day of school and scared the bee-jezus out of him.

After questioning her, I find out that today they had a special project of decorating pumpkins this afternoon. My son saw them carry them in this morning, so he knew about the project early on and was excited. OF COURSE that is going to screw up his routine! It is very frustrating to know that my son can't contain himself apparently at all if something out of the ordinary routine causes all that chaos, but also that the teacher(s) didn't anticipate it either. I wish I had the answer for all of us!

Kelly - posted on 10/22/2010

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My daughter is 11 now and I have had this problem for so many years. Every day is still a different story. Never sure who I will get after school. The strategies that seem to work is to have time for themselves after school for about 15-30minutes. Then when these kids are ready, they will come to you when they have calmed down. My daughter goes to her room or watches TV and "zones" for a few minutes. When I try to ask her questions about her day or hug her, she gets upset right after school.

Lillian - posted on 10/21/2010

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Have you talked to her about it when she is calm, say, in the morning? I know that they may not be able to express themselves for a while after the tantrums. Do you pick her up or does she ride the bus? Maybe she likes school too much. If she rides the bus, it may be too much for her there.

WJ - posted on 10/20/2010

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my son is the same. sitting still and trying to "fit in" with the other kids at school is emotionally exhausting for him. When he gets home, back into his comfort zone, he just lets loose...crying, yelling, running. it was very frustrtaing at first, because i didn't understand, and i kept trying to comfort him, which only made things worse. I eventally learned to give him his space and let him burn off his energy. he would let me know when he was ready to talk. Now that he is older he burns his energy in a more constructive way. In the winter he helps shovel snow, stuff like that.

good luck

Kathy - posted on 10/20/2010

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If she is not yet on an IEP, get her on one. If she is on an IEP, tell the school system what is going on and tell them you need a Behavioral Therapist. If she's on an IEP, they MUST provide you with one. The Behavioral Therapist will come to the home and observe it and formulate a plan. Do not let this go. I read a post from someone that said, "eventually, they grow out of it". Guess what, sometimes they don't. Don't waste any time. Get a Behavior Therapist NOW! I apologize if my email sounds rash or harsh, but my son is 10. He has been having these meltdowns since he was five and he never got what he needed early on - he is big enough now that when he has his abusive outbursts I get hurt. Get these things addressed sooner rather than later.

Julie - posted on 10/20/2010

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Kids with these AS spectrum disordersdo often have meltdowns as a general reaction to stress; (we have a 9 yr. old son w/ severe/low functioning autism) he will also react when he doesn't understand something...Regardless she needs to be retaught to express herself differently what worked with our son was to use a restraint on him. We used a teddy bear restraint you sit her btween your legs on the floor flatten out her legs and wrap yours indian style over hers then bear hug her and continue to tell her calmly but stearnly she needs to calm down when she chooses to sit calmly w/o screaming etc... then she can get up it takes awahile but eventually our son got the message he hardly needs restraint any longer...good luck

Monica - posted on 10/20/2010

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It took me forever to learn how to deal with my daughter after school, her meltdowns would begin as soon as she left the classroom. It is anxiety and overload for her. I now ask her if I can speak to her or if she needs time to herself. Most of the time she will swing or watch a cartoon and have a snack with milk. Now that she is in 6th grade and loves to write, she will write me or let me read something from earlier and we can discuss it. Don't know if anything I said will help, it is just a hurdle that hopefully will change as time goes on.

Crystal - posted on 10/20/2010

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My daughter has always been right about what she needs. Maybe when she gets home she needs just that to be left alone (a little quite time) to allow her body and mind to process everything of the day.

Kathy - posted on 10/19/2010

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Certainly sounds like she is overwelmed...she uncounsiously holds it all together as long as she can and then she's had enough...what she needs most is her favorite juice/complex carb snack BEFORE she gets to this stage and THEN the opportunity to decompress or, if necessary, just scream it out without an audience for a while. Active comforting will just continue to overwehlm her over-simulate system. Think of what she self-comforts with and have it within sight. For example, my son finds certain DVD's especially comforting...if he can just push the button and it starts, he's ok...but if he has to look for it or put it in..that's more stress and things could get nasty. You really do need to just leave her alone for a bit and then she will come to you for a comforting when the time is right...probably 10-15 minutes.

Liza - posted on 10/19/2010

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my son is now 10 and this happens when he has a bad day, though til recently any change i.e. coming home or going to school or his dads every weekend meant total meltdown sometimes for days, eventually it will lessen. xx

Caron - posted on 10/19/2010

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my son was overwhelmed at school because he did not understand what was going on in the classroom, since he's been moved away from the regular class and put in a special unit with a helper things have been alot better for us. Meltdowns are very hard to calm done i found it best to take him to the park and let him go wild that seemed to work and i could then talk to him on the way home. School life is hard for him and understanding what is going on is the classroom and all the social aspects overhelms him. I hope you luck and will be thinking of you and your daughter.

Deb - posted on 10/19/2010

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My son had meltdowns when he started school. In fact, our school had a preschool that he atttended prior to starting kindergarten. When he started, he would hide in the corner or under the table. When he got home, he would have a meltdown. He still will not use the bathroom at school unless it is just to pee. And he will still have meltdowns when he gets home if something traumatic (fire drill/alarm, another kid in the class get in trouble). It is very difficult some days and it can be frustrating, but it is all part of the roller coaster. I know that sometimes it is difficult to keep your wits about you. Find something to ease the tension and remind yourself that you are doing everything you can for your child.

Cindy - posted on 10/15/2010

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i can understand where you are at, my 7yr old has Aspergers and has just been Suspended from school for 2 days again. For a meltdown at school. But we have had some success with him using Sensory fidget toys. this website has some great ones http://www.sensorytoywarehouse.com. He uses them and it keeps his hands busy and he listens more and stays calmer most of the time. i hope it helps a little. Goodluck

Nicky - posted on 10/15/2010

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Hi, When my son started school, he found it really hard to go in when all the other children and parents were there so we started taking him a bit later and he also didnt go fulltime until he had been there for two full terms, it helped him to slowly get used to everything. Now he's at mainstream secondary school and although he'll always need some support, he has integrated really well. My son has ASD, he's 12 yrs old now and was diagnosed when he was 4 yrs old. Good luck and hope she settles soon

Sandy - posted on 10/14/2010

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Mine had meltdowns after school when I personally was not home to get him off the bus. He also, hated using the bathroom at the school because the flush was too loud so he would hold it. This year my rwins with ASD want a snack ASAP when they get home from school. Does she go all day, AM,PM?? My son went to summer school and had to get up early.. he was sooo tired and crabby when he came home. At that time he had not been taking melatonin for sleeping so he was always up really late. It could be anything. Does she take the bus?? Could it be something about the bus ride, a person, sounds, smell??? If she wants to be alone when she somes home let her, she may need that time, mine love to be alone. Try making a picture schedule for after school, maybe something like Home, alone time, snack time etc.. You will figure it out, we just have to be detectives.

For instance, last year my son hated journal time at school. After several question sessions we found out he didn't like the color the teacher gave him for his writing journal.

Good luck and giver her time. Ask her about school when she is calm and use round about questions in many different ways.

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