Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Preventing Meltdowns in Children
with Asperger’s / Autism
The following email is representative of many I get on the challenges of behavior problems with those with Asperger’s syndrome or autism.
I am a single mother of a 12 year old child with Asperger’s. My son was diagnosed about 6 years ago. It has been so challenging for me and for my younger son to always know the right way to deal with my son. I love him so much and would do anything for him but sometimes…he makes it so difficult.
For example, last night I was going through his school supplies with him. This year he begins middle school and will have a locker for the first time. The school requires a combination lock. I asked for them to make an exception and allow for him to use a key lock. They included this exception in his IEP.
He does not want to use a key lock because he doesn’t want to be different from the other kids. I bought him a combo lock and believe me…I should have stuck with my instincts!! He exploded with frustration last night, verbally abusing me and his brother. I finally gave up and took him to the store to pick another lock that was much easier for him to use than the traditional right, left, right turning combo lock. By the end of the night, I felt like I had been beat up emotionally.
…it is tough being a single mom.
Thanks so much for putting together such a wonderful collection of useful information and advise for parents going through the journey of raising a child with Asperger’s
To prevent meltdowns, you must understand why they occur
Kids with Asperger’s syndrome or autism meltdown and become verbally abusive (and sometimes physically violent) primarily because they reach the end of their patience. They are only kids! And life is totally bewildering to them and hostile much of the time. The combination lock simply pushed him over the edge.
In addition, if your loved one is in middle or high school there is a 90%+ probability that they are being bullied in school. This leads to anxiety, stress and depression. This constant taunting and bullying is one reason why teenagers, in particular, are so fearful of seeming different . This boy may fear that the combination lock is just one more thing that he can be teased about.
Define a safe place
I suggest that you work with your son and find a “safe place” for him. It could simply be his room. Make sure that there are black out shades that can be pulled to get the room as dark as possible.
Make sure the room is as quiet as possible. Work with your son and train him that any time he begins to feel overwhelmed, he should go to his safe place and calm down. Simply lie down. Maybe pull the covers over his head. But let him escape to this safe place.
Overcoming the bullying is an entirely different issue. And one that is not easily solved. I cover this area extensively in my Aspergers Guide for Teens and Young Adults. While the solution to bullying is complex to cover here, the first thing you must find out is the extent of the bullying. Ask your loved ones if they are being picked on — being hit — being called names. They may not even realize that there is something that can be done to stop it.
Sensitivities to sound, smells, clothing, temperatures…all contribute
AS kids get overwhelmed very easily. They tend to have very sensitive hearing, sensitivities to smells, to clothes, etc. It does not take much to push them over the edge. Work with your son so that he recognizes when he is getting near the edge so that he does not get pushed over the edge.
The same goes for school. The school should provide him with a quiet safe place that he can retreat to if he is overwhelmed. Maybe this is in a guidance counselor’s office. Maybe the administration office. But it should not be a place that is too noisy or with a lot of commotion.
Seek first to understand
A major objective of my book, The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide is to help you understand how an Aspie views the world. Once you understand and see the world through your loved one’s eyes, you will be much more able to solve your loved one’s problems and help them.