Now that I have a second child that is “neuro-typical” and is entering the “terrible twos” I really see the difference between having a tantrum and an Autism Meltdown. Johnny was a happy even-tempered baby so it came as a big surprise to us that after he turned two he would get REALLY upset so easily. I was pregnant and dealing with first trimester challenges and I was faced with a very different side of my loving boy. Over and over again I was told its normal for toddlers to have tantrums at this age and it will pass. I would sit and think am I the only one that has a two year old who throws their toys in frustration, cries and hits for what seems like an eternity? The only thing that would calm him down was me, sitting on the floor with him between my legs and my arms wrapped around him securely giving him deep pressure saying reassuring words in his ear until he calmed down. My Dad who lived with us and helped raise him would also sit and just hang on tightly until Johnny would calm down too and then hide all the big toys so he couldn’t toss them across the room.
I also wrote about my experiences with “meltdowns” here:
“Princess” is now 2 and she’ll get upset when we tell her something that she doesn’t want to hear or to get what she wants but it passes so quickly or you can use the strategy of “re-direction” to focus her attention on something else. She does get upset when she is over tired, hungry and frustrated but again it passes very quickly and she is back with a cute smile on her face like nothing had ever happened.
This was not the case for Johnny and sometimes is still not the case for him. We now understand that because of having Autism, at 18 months he was behind developmentally in terms of verbal communication and gross motor skills which then made it difficult for him to develop social skills. At the same time we were unaware that he had sensory integration challenges that were actually very present since the day he was born (I will write about that in a later post). I cannot imagine how Johnny must have felt at a young age facing these challenges every single day and having problems self calming or self regulating.
I wish that we would have had this comparison chart 3 years ago when these behaviours first appeared.
One of the Autism groups I follow on Facebook recently shared this from “Autism Daddy”.
*Please share this chart with family and friends to help answer the question that you no doubt get asked “is this typical behaviour for a …. old or is this autism?”
This chart might help people think twice when they see a child or an older child getting very upset at the super market and instead of thinking “what a brat” or “wow those are terrible parents” there might be empathy and understanding instead.
I have just started following his posts and he’s very informative, edgy and has a great sense of humour from the “Daddy” perspective raising a 9 nine year old boy with severe Autism.