Riding The Emotional Rollercoaster of Meltdowns and Autism

I have been noticing that many people find my blog as they try to learn more about Autism and particularly  about the differences between meltdowns and tantrums.    I shared a  blog post from  four years ago on March 20 2013 about a moment in one day and how hard it can be:

 “There is an element of control when there are schedules and routines in place and its the unexpected surprises that bring a feeling of “out of control” that leads to anxiety. A series of moments that seem unconnected and nonsensical on the surface that lead to a rollercoaster of emotions that I find myself having a hard time getting in front of. Instead I find myself expending a lot of energy reacting to Johnny and trying to make this one moment go away. This is when Johnny is fragile and the most vulnerable.

Yesterday was one of “those” rollercoaster days. March break was the week before, Daddy had been away the week before that and the time change and now Johnny is back at school trying to back into all of his routines again after having a nice time with Mommy and Princess.”

 

Source: Riding The Emotional Rollercoaster

Four years later and another Spring Break and another time when Daddy is traveling unexpectantly for work.    Johnny is now 9 and can speak but it doesn’t mean that sharing his thoughts comes easily.   He is a sensitive boy who feels things deeply so when his expectations are not met,  we change plans, a friend is not nice to him,  he realizes that he has made a wrong choice and I am angry because he didn’t know when to stop these can all lead to him becoming very feisty with me and then to meltdown.    When I read the post from 4 years ago it reminded me of how hard it was when we couldn’t completely understand what Johnny was trying to say.   He would become even more inconsolable because his closest caregivers didn’t understand his needs.   Oh my God did me and my husband try (his little sister at the sweet age of 2 as well).  I remember being oh so careful not wanting to say the wrong words that would lead to the meltdown only getting worse.  I also knew as I know today that it isn’t a tantrum because when it happens for Johnny it feels like he is in a loop of thought that makes him cry and nothing we do or say can stop it.  Only he can stop it.    What I have noticed is that he is getting better at self calming and reasoning it out himself and finding an answer to make himself feel better.  He will ask me questions through tears and work through it.   Sometimes he wants to be held and sometimes not.  But I do know that as he gets older and moves towards puberty it will be even more important that he finds a way to centre himself and gain control.   The upside is for our son is control and being in control of himself and his environment is very important to him and is part of what Autism is to him he says.   So his motivation is to try and make himself feel better because he doesn’t like the feeling of losing control of his emotions.   This is a big difference as he gets older.

 

Spring Break was fun and we had lots of adventures in the city and meeting up with his friends and his sister’s friends and parents but we had our moments at the start of everyday.   I knew it was because of the break from school schedules and having to reset into new “fun” schedules for a week.   I had to keep taking deep breaths and trying to not lose it and keep with the plan so we could get out of the house and have fun because in the end I knew it was very important to him to do this.  I was successful some mornings trying to avoid a blow up (mine too) and somedays I had to just realize I lost one battle with him or myself but that didn’t mean the day was as a loss.   We just had to dust off and try for the best and just do it.  His Daddy was away all week with the kids being home from Spring Break so I knew I had to find away and there would be no break.   It is hard because I am a spontaneous person who wants to share the joy of that kind of fun with my kids but in order to be the Mom that my son needs I have had to change and always have plans even for fun.  Now I just have to figure out how to make “home days” seem like scheduled fun even for down time.

 

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