What is a Meltdown Anyway?

Written By: The Green Crunchy Mother

Close-up of Teenage Girl

Our middle son was almost eight years old when he was diagnosed with high functioning autism. Since he was a baby, we have lived with constant meltdowns and temper tantrums. Since a very young age, he would scream and cry for hours at a time and was not consolable. He also did not like to be held and cuddled like most babies his age. As frustrating and heart braking as this was was for us, we knew this could not be normal. Little did we know at that time, it was just the very beginning of our journey with autism.

What is a meltdown? In our son’s case, it was a piercing scream that did not stop. It consisted of him throwing himself on the ground, kicking and screaming. It also included door slamming, objects being thrown, and kicks to the wall. Our hearts broke as we witnessed this. As his mother, I had to fight the tears. It was heart wrenching, and difficult to watch.  This type of event happened many times in one day. We had to stop counting. We just tried to get through another day. Strength was found within us that we never knew existed. As parents, we just wanted to say or do something to make it stop. Soothing and reassuring words didn’t usually stop or prevent these type of meltdowns. We just did our very best to make sure that he was safe, and did not hurt himself. We asked and prayed for more strength. More strength for the next time.

How long does a meltdown last? In our son’s case,  a meltdown lasted anywhere between one minute and one hour. Anything could trigger it. Anything. Too many lights, brushing teeth, getting dressed, the list can go on and on. We were always on guard, always careful. Always waiting. We often found our selves walking on eggshells, just in case. We never knew what the next trigger would be. Sometimes our son would be playing quietly. Then all of a sudden, the piercing screams would begin. We tried to figure out what might have caused it. Unfortunately, we were usually left without an answer. The sad part about this, our son could not even provide us with an explanation. He did not understand this either.

Outings of any type were also a living nightmare. The noise and lights in a super market were enough stimulation to cause a full-blown meltdown. We tried to ignore the stares and the comments of strangers. Most people saw an uncontrollable, oppositional, spoiled brat. We carried on, screaming child in the cart, doing our best to soothe him. This is autism at one of its worst moments. This is when I wanted to scream, cry out to the world that this was not his fault. This was not our fault. We did not ask for this. My son sure did not ask for this.

We are hopeful that one day, the meltdowns will be outgrown. Maybe this is just wishful thinking on our parts ….

Do you want to share your experience with meltdowns?

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