Thursday, January 3, 2013

Meltdowns, Rages and Moving Forward

The meltdown. Its something that no parent of a child on the spectrum is alien to and we certainly are not immune to them. Kiddo has a number of meltdown triggers, social triggers like kids bugging him or calling him names or having to do a presentation in front of the class or sensory triggers like the seams of his socks or a particularly thick emblem on a shirt. His biggest meltdown trigger by far is transitions. Since the holiday season is chock full of changes in schedules, visits to and from family that otherwise don't usually happen and many other changes, we seem to live in a state of holiday meltdown chaos.

Lately, and I feel like it shouldn't surprise me, but it still does, I have been noticing the after effect of the meltdown. I have heard from other parents of kids on the spectrum and read things to the same effect so I know it's not just so weird kiddo thing. He rages during his meltdown and says pretty horrendous things. Sometimes I try to reason with him because he is ten now and very intelligent and knows what, for the most part, he is saying, what it means and how impacts a person. Sometimes those things are directed towards the person who triggered the meltdown if there is a social component and its in the realm of "I hope they get hit by a car...etc." it goes on from there and can get pretty dark and graphic. I am used to it, but in mixed company it can be shocking and even frightening to hear a young boy say such things. Sometimes he tries and succeeds breaking things all in his rage. I don't excuse the behavior but do try to get him somewhere else where he is isolated and can't hurt anyone or anything including himself. At home he has his room in other settings it can be a little more challenging.

Such was the occasion during the holidays and some family got to really hear some of the more "colorful" things that he has to say about people when he is in full meltdown. I get really nervous about allowing him to be around others when I know he isn't calm and in control of him emotions and is just letting things fly. I get so nervous that I will be judged because other than his behavior he appears to be a normal child and so many people still see this "on the spectrum" stuff as speculative. I know in my bubble that we all know that kiddo has high functioning autism and that is the reason for all this, but if you just walk in off the street and see this kid he just seems like an angry child who is gonna grow up to mow down college kids on some university campus.

I guess that's the whole thing about parenting though, typical or special needs, at some point weather with your own family or outsiders, you will be judged. I think what surprised me this time around was that ten years down the line I just assumed that my skin was thick enough to not care anymore, guess not.

So after the meltdown subsided and the party who was present to the meltdown and shocked by the things kiddo had to say and do was standing by, I told kiddo " maybe you should go say your sorry for saying all those horrible things in front of him, huh?" Kiddos response was "what? What things? When, I don't remember saying bad things." I pressed a little more but then let it go. It came back to me, kiddo blacks out when he is raging. He remembers nothing that he says or does. It's not unique to him, I have heard other kids on the spectrum do the same.

Later we did discuss the incident again and I addressed it like this:

"Kiddo, remember when you were riding in the car into the city with the family and you were really angry?"
"Ok, lets go back a little. Do you remember being back at Grandma's house?"
"Good. Remember how we were talking about how you were feeling so mad about being with MacLeod's kids and you didn't want to go anywhere?"
"Great, you remember when you put your jacket on and we walked outside and got into the car with Grandma?"
"Do you remember driving up to the city after that?"

This is the progression that I use to see where he loses things and goes into overload. This particular incident I wasn't physically with him, which I really regret because I couldn't really monitor him and see where he lost it. I felt completely comfortable with him being in the hands of my mother, I know she knows how to talk to him and he responds to her. But he was so amped up about this situation that he completely blacked out in his rage and hate to have him in a situation like that without me present. After we had our discussion and figured out exactly where he blacked out, I went on to discuss with him about how we are going to be moving on with some new therapy and testing to help him work through these rage moments so that he doesn't get to the point that he is blacking out during his meltdowns and maybe and hopefully minimizing the meltdowns altogether. He agreed that he was angry a great deal of the time and he wasn't happy about how he felt.

So the holiday time was a big eye opener for us not just in a watchful eye of others on us, but also in getting us to move towards a place where we need to be to get to the right people for kiddo. I think we have resisted because we have known that it was a lot for him to take on, but its time to get him the help he needs now.

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