Few things test the depth of Unconditional Love the way that meltdowns do.
It is also one of the most important times that you as the parent manage your own shit…hold it together…and put your #Autistic child first.
I have written whole blogs on…how to manage meltdowns…but the truth is that it all goes back to the same thing…Understanding, Acceptance, Unconditional Love, and Laughter.
The first thing that you need to know and truly get through that thick skull and into your heart…Deep Understanding…is…
Meltdowns are not tantrums.
They are not about YOU at all!
They are certainly not your #autistic little human trying to manipulate you. Do you know how I know this one? Because in many meltdowns…not even giving them what they wanted to begin with will stop the meltdown once it is started.
Often too meltdowns defy logic. Our little humans want the…IMPOSSIBLE!
I remember one particularly bad one in the park. It lasted for around 45 minutes. Was very vocal and PanKwake kicked, hit, and bit if I got too close.
You see one of the ways that I taught her social skills was carrying these huge bags with us. They contained bubbles, balls, sand box things, and other really cool toys. Other children were always wanting to borrow her things. It opened doors for her to play with them.
This particular day someone had broken her shovel. And off we went into the depths of despair…
No, she did not want to go across the street and get another one…
No, she did not want me to fix this one…
She wanted it not to be broken anymore!
The impossible. And for 45 minutes, she raged for the Impossible.
And all I could do was sit at the bottom of play equipment and wait for it to pass. With every single eye in that park on us…except of course the ones that were specifically trying not to look our way at all.
I had gotten to the point that I no longer bothered engaging with other parents. But a couple of times I did loudly explain to other curious little children about ‘being different’ and ‘autism’. It is for certain that the schools and their parents were not going to have honest conversations with them about it.
In the end, PanKwake started to hiccup…a sign that I knew meant she was winding down. Then her powers of logic returned…Would I take her across the road to the store for another one? We did.
Uh-oh, they were sold out of pink ones now. And I braced for Round Two. But it had past. The energy had been released. She got another color…and a couple extra toys. Then we walked home…like nothing had happened. You see I have come to know the rules for PanKwake’s meltdowns.
And I believe that those rules will help in most meltdowns. But I don’t give them as the absolutes like I do the other principles in this book. Because they are specific techniques…and I do not believe in formulas like that. All #autistic people are different. ALL people are different. What works for one will not for another.
But in general…
Do NOT do anything to escalate the situation.
Don’t touch your #autistic little human.
Don’t look them in the eye especially!
Just wait it out…on the sidelines…non-threateningly.
The only exception to this is…when they are a threat to themselves or others.
I remember another really nasty meltdown…in that same park. Except this one was just outside the gate. Less than ten feet from one of the busiest streets in London. I was worried that PanKwake would run into the road. So I had to break half those rules. And I felt so GUILTY. I knew that I was making it worse for her…and me. But I had no choice.
But it is not just DURING the meltdown that your little human needs your Unconditional Love. It is afterwards as well. Especially.
Like I said, I have come to learn PanKwake’s patterns. After a meltdown, she will want to hide away some place dark, quiet, and tight. In London, we had an airing cupboard/linen closet in the hallway. She would go there. If I had put her into it…social services could have rightly accused me of child abuse. But that was what she wanted! When she became too big for that, I cleared the space under her midi-bed for her.
Now, we have a closet underneath the stairs to the top floor. She will crawl under those stairs…all the way. I would freak out if someone put me in there…in the dark. But again…it is what PanKwake wants. Needs. She will stay there until she either falls asleep or calms down.
But when she comes out…we have learned she is going to be needy. She will want to do something fun. With both of us.
Talking to #ActuallyAutistic adults has enlightened me quite a bit about the nature of meltdowns. And helped me to manage my own shit better. They have taught me…
#1 #ActuallyAutistic most often do not even remember most of what happened during a meltdown…
#2 What they do remember…or the fact that they can’t…frightens them more than it does you!
Yes, they worry about what they may have said or done. Especially to the people they love. So it makes sense now…why PanKwake needs to play board games…or go to the park…or show us her latest computer game…because she NEEDS to know that we still…
But there is another mistake that I used to make until I started talking to #ActuallyAutistic…
I am a thinker…I analyze everything I do and say. Especially with PanKwake’s meltdowns. It is not an accident that I have learned these patterns. It has taken me years and years of hard work and deep thought.
The thing is…it is only natural after big events…especially traumatic ones to want/need to talk about it. That is why the military and emergency services instituted Debriefing. Talking about things actually does help…most of the time. Most people.
But now….imagine being talked at…about something that you do not even remember?!?!
I remember going to one of those #AutismParent conferences…the last one I went to in fact…when I realized I knew more about my #PrettyDamnedAwesome #PDA little human than these ‘experts’ did.
The questions was…when is the best time to talk to my child about his meltdowns?
The parent was lamenting the fact that when she tried to talk with her son about a meltdown…even after he had calmed down…even the next day…it usually just started another meltdown.
DUH? You are demanding to discuss something he does not even remember happening. Making accusations that he is in no position to defend himself against. Anyone that has gotten so drunk they do not remember what they did can understand how that feels. Though it is NOT the same.
The answer to her question is…
Not with your little human anyway. This is where having your own shit together is so important. Whether you have that conversation in your own head…as I did for so long. I would spend hours…days…sometimes even a week…analyzing every facet of one of those bad meltdowns…
- Should I have seen it coming?
- Did I miss signs that I know?
- What could I have done differently?
- What can I do better next time?
Back then I did not know any better, so while I did not demand PanKwake listen to me or apologize for her behavior, I would sometimes ask…What can Mommy do to help you better next time?
But I had stopped doing even that…even before I knew the WHY…because I saw how upset the question made her.
The thing is…those are all GOOD questions. They go back to that Deep Understanding. They allow you to tune into your #HappilyAutistic little human better. To help rather than harm.
So back then…I had those discussions in my own head. I went round and round with those questions.
Now, I am blessed to have a partner…a true partner…someone who gets it, who understands PanKwake and me. Cookie Monster and I will ‘debrief’. The wonderful thing about that is…it takes far less time. Having another persons perspective allows me to stop the process…the instant replays…the what-ifs. That is why they created formal debriefing processes.
#UnConditionalLove is not easy. It never is. Especially during and after a meltdown. Your body is on high alert. You have all those fight-or-flight hormones raging through your system. Yet, it is crucial to your little human that you have your shit together. That you be in control of yourself and the situation. She needs YOU! Most importantly…
She needs your #UnConditionalLove more then than ever!