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ASD and meltdowns

(61 Posts)
Anotherday39 Sun 10-Mar-19 14:54:06

My 9 year old (possible ASD) is screaming hysterically and calling us name because we won't let him on Fortnite.

He has been at a party, which wwe made him go to.

What the hell do I do? He is hysterical

Anotherday39 Sun 10-Mar-19 14:55:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Numptysod Sun 10-Mar-19 15:03:17

Your having a bad day you don’t mean that!

HippyChickMama Sun 10-Mar-19 15:05:06

Have you tried hugging him? My ds is 11, ASD and has horrific meltdowns but a meltdown is an expression of internal conflict that they can't express any other way. I find if I hold my ds really tight and reassure him that we love him and ignore all the horrible things he's saying it stops a lot quicker.

werideatdawn Sun 10-Mar-19 15:06:50

Depends what works for your child. If I tried to cuddle mine in meltdown it would make it worse. We have to just leave him to burn out.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:07:15

If you're at home, just walk away and leave him. Let it burn out. He's not doing it to hurt you, he's disregulated because he can't do the think he had anticipated doing. I swear there's an element of addiction with console games too.

HippyChickMama Sun 10-Mar-19 15:08:46

If he's been to a party, especially one he didn't want to go to, he's probably overstimulated. I also have ASD and overstimulation is frightening and disorientating. Stop all unnecessary sound, lights, movement etc in the area of the house he is in, pull him down so you are sitting on the floor with him on your lap, hold him in a tight hug and speak to him quietly telling him you love him and that he's safe.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:08:59

Thing not think.

You can have whatever private thoughts you like under this stress.

Longer term, you need some decent input. Are CAMHS currently involved?

HippyChickMama Sun 10-Mar-19 15:10:24

I'm aware that might not work for everyone btw, it's just what works for ds, it works for me too and I usually hate being hugged

Firstworddinosaur Sun 10-Mar-19 15:16:18

When my son meltsdown we just have to make sure he's safe and let it run it's course. Then work out why it happened, the immediate cause (eg not being allowed Fortnite) is actually rarely the actual cause, it's usually a result of a build up of stress (eg the party). Some meltdowns are unavoidable but knowing what the series of triggers are has reduced ours loads. I hope you're son and you feel better soon, I know it's really hard.

RoseMartha Sun 10-Mar-19 15:16:50

My asd dd is always worse when been on internet mainly u tube kids videos watching kids play with toys as opposed to actually playing with them herself!
But too much screen time makes her aggression and attitude really bad. So you are right to limit it.

It sounds like he has sensory overload from the party. I would say needs some quiet time. I usually readsure dd I am there and stay close but she will not always tolerate being held.
When quiet i suggest a quiet activity to do with her, drawing, board game etc.
Then praise her for calming down and then she might say something about what happened and then I can see what triggered it.

Hope that helps a bit

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:18:36

If Fortnite is calming for him, you might need to rethink your policy. I don't mean allowing unlimited amounts, but maybe half an hour or an hour, timed with an egg timer, x number of times a day or week?

icelolly99 Sun 10-Mar-19 15:21:09

ColeHawlins Fortnite is PEGI 12; OP's child is 9.....

Darkbaptism Sun 10-Mar-19 15:22:46

I agree with others it sounds like he’s overwhelmed from the party.

If my son did that I would either leave him to meltdown (any interaction during this time would make it work) or allow him to play fornite to unwind.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:24:51

* ColeHawlins Fortnite is PEGI 12; OP's child is 9.....*

Ah. I knew I was out of the loop.

Anotherday39 Sun 10-Mar-19 15:37:21

Once he connected online (not fortnite, another online game)
It's like a switch. No more trauma, absolutely fine.
I'm traumatised, who has experience with this type of behaviour????

RippleEffects Sun 10-Mar-19 15:39:06

I'm with everyone here, it's a keep them safe let them distress away from harm.

I'd only add that I find dehydration and lack of food effects mood and can help with the calm down process. I usually put a bottle of water (plastic no spill sports bottle type - learnt that beakers get thrown and cause a bigger clear up) and a flapjack/ brownie bar just in reach.

Anotherday39 Sun 10-Mar-19 15:39:27

He wanted to go to Party yesterday, and this morning more hysterics about going to party. At part...fine
Yes we are with CAHMS

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:39:47

It's self soothing. Computer games are very immersive, repetitive and almost hypnotic. Also they're predictable, finite worlds, which is comforting to a child in the spectrum.

cece Sun 10-Mar-19 15:43:19

My son does this a lot.

Feed him
Give him a calming activity
Hug him
Leave him to finish whilst checking he's safe
Take him outside for a walk
Take him for a drive

Those are some of my strategies.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 15:43:55

* He wanted to go to Party yesterday, and this morning more hysterics about going to party. At part...fine*

He wants to socialise and join in, but the reality of the party is too much sensory input and unpredictable activity (noise, music, children charging around) so he then becomes overstimulated but holds himself together until he's home on safe territory. Then he's at risk of meltdown as he relaxes and wants access to something he finds soothing, like computer games. When he can't have it; bang.

It's a typically autistic pattern. Parties are difficult.

Yes we are with CAHMS

Ask them if they can help you with advice and strategies. Tell them you're struggling.

Fattymcfaterson Sun 10-Mar-19 15:46:44

Is there a reason he cant go on fortnite??

I often find computer games help my DS relax.

Chouetted Sun 10-Mar-19 15:47:05

He's probably as traumatised as you are from the party, and now you haven't allowed him to self soothe with Fortnite.

Even if he wanted to go to the party, he's too young to manage the burnt out feeling afterwards. I feel a bit sorry for him. Sounds like you both need some guidance on autism, but for now, just let him meltdown - you can't stop it, and he isn't behaving badly, he's letting off steam in the only way he can right now.

Anotherday39 Sun 10-Mar-19 15:49:15

Yes, we are currently talking about his sleep refusal. His tantrums have escalated this week, teachers telling him off more, and the party.

Hoping for an assessment in next few weeks.Then it's trying to get family onboard.

BlackeyedGruesome Sun 10-Mar-19 15:51:55

Screaming hysterically and calling you names is not the worse meltdown possible. These things are not going to hurt him or you.

Different things work for different kids and for the same kid at different times or different levels of overstimulation.

Mine can sometimes be brought down from a potential meltdown by tickling to make him laugh. Try this further up the overload scale and it would make things worse.

Sometimes a hug works,
Massaging his feet or his hands firmly can work.
Exercise, heavy work, jumping off high things onto something soft, all help calm in early stages.

Sniffing fairy liquid and playing with the reversible sequin t-shirt are calming too.

Playing on the phone and computer can work.

In full on meltdown. Stop talking, stop the noise nearby, remove from fluorescent light areas, help.

Sometimes a hug will work. Still sometimes he is restrained in a full body hug as letting go may result in serious injury to a person or damage to property that can cause injury ( Eg he is chucking stuff at the windows) this usually pisses him off more but better a pissed off louder screaming boy than a dead one.

Hugging often works accompanied by massage.

Good luck.

jaseyraex Sun 10-Mar-19 15:54:01

Ah OP, we braved our first birthday party with 4 year old DS yesterday and I spent most of the evening wishing we hadn't! I have to just leave mine to it when he has a meltdown. So far he doesn't call names or throw things or anything, just screams and screams and screams for what feels like hours!
Is there anything other than computer games that are soothing for your DS? We have lava lamps in DS room which can calm him down a bit quicker (if we can get him to sit in front of them).
If you're really struggling then you need to tell CAHMS and see if they can help more with strategies for getting through the meltdown.

Comefromaway Sun 10-Mar-19 16:02:09

It takes a lot of energy for autistic people to be social especially in Ann overstimulation get atmosphere. Dd and ds describe it as being mentally and physically draining.

It’s important to give them some down time after such an event. Gaming can be a release and be calming for them. It allows them to decompress.

icelolly99 Sun 10-Mar-19 16:07:41

Fattymcfaterson because it's a PEGI 12; child is 9......

Comefromaway Sun 10-Mar-19 16:19:16

I had assumed that he was allowed Fortnite, just not today or with time limits.

42isthemeaning Sun 10-Mar-19 16:26:51

Op you have my sympathies. My asd ds (10) is exactly the same. I find that a gradual, staged, weaning off of the game time helps; eg fifteen mins before you want him to stop, sit and engage yourself with what he's watching/playing, keep reminding him that he has ten mins, five mins, etc. It doesn't always work, but it has been a lot more successful for us than just telling him it's time up, which has resulted in both dh and I being attacked.

Thankfuckitsfriday1 Sun 10-Mar-19 16:33:41

Why did you make him go?

Parties are HUGE for autistic kids and can be such a large cause of stress and anxiety if they have one coming up.

My sons autistic and during meltdown i try

- offering food or drink
- offering his weighted blanket
- our on a film for him or his fav show
- leave him alone on his own to calm down

Telling him off will make it worse and they can’t control actual meltdowns. It’s a scary things for them so support is needed. I know how hard it is though and i really do sympathise. It can feel so very overwhelming at times

Thankfuckitsfriday1 Sun 10-Mar-19 16:35:24

colehawlins hit the nail on the head

EggysMom Sun 10-Mar-19 16:40:19

If letting him have what he wants (Fortnite) would calm him down, it's not a meltdown - it's a tantrum.

DoomOnTheBroom Sun 10-Mar-19 16:41:25

Fortnite is PEGI 12; OP's child is 9.....

Content-wise, Fortnite is no worse than Minecraft. The only reason it's PEGI 12 is because of the online chat function but that doesn't present a problem if children are monitored while playing and the mic can be muted anyway. PEGI is a guide and parents should make their own decisions based what they think is acceptable content.

OP, my DS is the same age as yours and is autistic. Not all strategies work for all children but some of the things that help him calm down if he's not yet at exploding point are a bath (takes a while to talk him into it but he's instantly calmer in the water), a snack or a drink, chewing on a chew toy, a run around in the garden, and gaming time. Once he reaches exploding point then all we can do is make sure he's somewhere safe/contained and leave him to burn out as anything we do will only fuel it then once he's finished we have cuddles and we talk about it.

The party will have burned him out, now you know that this is a trigger for him you can work around it in future by doing things like leaving the party early (e.g., only staying for an hour) or giving him time to self-regulate when he gets home (e.g., by gaming).

When you're in the early days of ASD parenting there is a lot of trial and error but you'll figure out what works for you and your child based on experience. Two books I'd recommend are The Explosive Child and How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child. It could also be worth looking at what support groups there are locally as they often have education workshops for parents as well as activity sessions and events specifically for autistic children and their families, it makes such a difference being around people who understand what it's like.

werideatdawn Sun 10-Mar-19 17:11:01

EggysMom yep, agreed. You can see how people end up with these aggressive video game addicted 16 year olds when it begins this way.

DoomOnTheBroom Sun 10-Mar-19 17:17:46

If letting him have what he wants (Fortnite) would calm him down, it's not a meltdown - it's a tantrum.

Oh do fuck off.

yep, agreed. You can see how people end up with these aggressive video game addicted 16 year olds when it begins this way.

And you.

Fortnite has been the trigger for the meltdown but not the cause. My own DS does this. He'll be stressed about one thing and then something else entirely will trigger him off, he may scream and shout about that something (Fortnite in the OP's case) but giving in and letting him have Fortnite wouldn't stop the meltdown.

elliejjtiny Sun 10-Mar-19 17:20:24

I find wrapping my ds in a duvet and hugging him helps.

Allfednonedead Sun 10-Mar-19 17:35:09

Hi OP, I noticed you mentioned sleep refusal. We have been giving our DS(8) melatonin for almost a year - initially to help him get to sleep but by now even more because we discovered that having a bit extra sleep makes him sooo much less anxious and meltdowns are rarer and milder.
After asking for a referral to CAMHS to make the melatonin an official prescription (we were just getting friends to bring it from the states), we finally saw a psychiatrist this week.
She basically said she thought all children with ASD should try it to see if it helps.
It seems they often don’t produce melatonin naturally, so find it hard to get to sleep, however tired they are.
It won’t help today, obviously, but if you are talking to CAMHS about sleep, ask about melatonin. It has genuinely improved DS’s life hugely.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 17:41:27

* If letting him have what he wants (Fortnite) would calm him down, it's not a meltdown - it's a tantrum.*

Absolute twaddle.

Waveysnail Sun 10-Mar-19 17:46:29

If you allow him on xbox right now would he just turn it off? If so to me that's not a meltdown as he's in control

Waveysnail Sun 10-Mar-19 17:47:00

I have asd children

Chouetted Sun 10-Mar-19 17:47:34

I dunno, we could use that theory on other needs.

"if having a meal calms him down, he's not hungry, he's just having a tantrum"

"If having some sleep calms him down, he's not overtired, he's having a tantrum".

We can refuse to meet basic needs and dismiss any complaints as people having a tantrum. It would save so much time a effort!

Imacliche Sun 10-Mar-19 17:49:32

Music works for my son. But hes only 2.
Distraction is key for asd/autistic kids in my opinion. Divert the stress elsewhere

DoomOnTheBroom Sun 10-Mar-19 17:51:20

As well as melatonin, a weighted blanket can help at bedtime. DS has proprioception and vestibular deficits so being still is disorientating and uncomfortable for him, bedtime used to be a nightmare as he was never tired and wouldn't lie down. The melatonin helps him to feel tired and the weighted blanket gives him the sensory feedback he needs to be calm. It's not perfect, we still get nights where he's up and down until nearly midnight and he has periodic cycles of insomnia but it's much better than it used to be.

DoomOnTheBroom Sun 10-Mar-19 17:54:52

I don't know how it is with the OPs son but with DS if he was triggered off by not being allowed Fortnite and I then gave in and said you can go on Fortnite he wouldn't go on it, he would instead switch from shouting about going Fortnite to shouting that he's not going on it, no one wants him to go on it, so he won't go on it, are we happy now!?, etc etc.

reefedsail Sun 10-Mar-19 18:05:30

*After asking for a referral to CAMHS to make the melatonin an official prescription (we were just getting friends to bring it from the states), we finally saw a psychiatrist this week.
She basically said she thought all children with ASD should try it to see if it helps.*

My NHS trust is not making any further prescriptions for melatonin, including repeats so all kids currently taking it are coming off it, because they say there is not enough research that it is safe.

BollocksToBrexit Sun 10-Mar-19 18:11:05

I don't get the 'if the meltdown stops when the cause is addressed then it's a tantrum not a meltdown' posts. I have meltdowns occasionally when I'm completely overwhelmed by a situation. If someone then takes some of my burden away I can get it back under control. It doesn't mean I'm having a tantrum.

Chouetted Sun 10-Mar-19 18:17:15


My rampant cynicism has led to me to observe that it is an extremely irregular verb.

I am having a meltdown
You are having a tantrum
He/She is exhibiting challenging behaviour

RaspberryRuffless Sun 10-Mar-19 18:25:11

I’ve always understood the difference between tantrum and meltdowns to be similar to the other posts, if the behaviour stops when you get your own way, it’s a tantrum. However, I also understand that may not be the case for everyone. The only experience I have is my son who has ASD. He’ll have meltdown over things like having to put shoes on to go to the car, or because his blankets don’t feel “right”, but even after these issues are resolved, he doesn’t just snap out of it and he’s probably forgotten what he’s even having a meltdown over. A tantrum has a goal, a meltdown is loss of control.

OP, maybe your son is overwhelmed from the party, being around people, noise etc and now not being allowed on fortnite has just pushed him over the edge, my son is 14 but what I find helps is just sitting listening to him vent and acknowledging his feelings, I usually try rub his hand or his head. It can take a while to calm down though. Or if he wants to be on his own I’ll just tell him that’s fine and I can come back if he wants me to.

Chouetted Sun 10-Mar-19 18:36:53

My experience is that they can be linked - ie, I might have a tantrum out of sheer desperation because I know that I'm on the edge of a meltdown if I don't get what I want (some help maybe, or a break, or for you to stop touching me like that).

I mean, if it's still going to be seen as all my fault whether I have a tantrum or a meltdown, I may as well have the tantrum while I still have some chance of avoiding the meltdown.

ColeHawlins Sun 10-Mar-19 18:39:09

* I’ve always understood the difference between tantrum and meltdowns to be similar to the other posts, if the behaviour stops when you get your own way, it’s a tantrum*

But it might be that any one of several soothing or security-providing things would help curtail the meltdown.

Giving them the one they were seeking in an attempt to self-soothe might just be the easiest and quicker option.

If you're aware of a range of triggers and a range of soothing strategies for a particular child I think it becomes clearer. In this case, identifying the significance of the party might also make it clearer.

I also think you can see the fear in a meltdown that just isn't there in an angry tantrum.

Harleyisme Sun 10-Mar-19 18:51:01

I am a mother to 2 chdren with asd also wife to a husband with asd and i have aspergers.

If hes been to a party he didnt want to go to hes probably very over stimulated a d looking for the one thing he uses to calm down. I would have let him have some time on fornite.

BrieAndChilli Sun 10-Mar-19 19:00:23

With dS1 you just have to completely leave him alone, not even talk to him, the more you try and engGe with him the worse he gets.
We just leave him, he normally goes to his room and bangs about.
Once he has calmed down we then have a chat with him about what happened, how he felt etc. More often than not now (he’s 12) he comes down when he’s calm and apologises for screaming.

It helps to realise what triggers a meltdown. You can’t always avoid situations and we always felt that he had to do stuff he didn’t want to as we are a family of 5 and he can’t always rule the roost. Real life especially work life means you have to do things and be in situations that aren’t ideal socially etc
But we would them recognise that and make allowances after so in your case we probably would have let him have 30 minutes on a game to de stress
DS1 can also recognise the signs of himself getting stressed and agitated and is able to verbalise that a bit more now. We still get outbursts - he has one this morning when I asked him to put trousers on and not stay in his pants as I was popping out and was expecting a delivery

Allfednonedead Sun 10-Mar-19 19:02:46

@reefedsail that’s a bit worrying! I do understand there has been little research done on the long term effects because in the US it’s just a good supplement, so little incentive for drug manufacturers to fund that kind of research.

Given the reading I’ve done suggests there is reasonable evidence of no harm from a couple of years of melatonin, and little evidence either way of risk from longer term use, I’m going to weigh up the risk to my son’s development from lack of sleep and chronic anxiety against the unknown risk of taking a well-established medication.

I’m shocked an entire NHS trust is taking such a decision - it seems quite short-sighted given the problems it may pose.

BrieAndChilli Sun 10-Mar-19 19:03:03

It’s very very obvious the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. With a meltdown you can see the complete loss of emotional control, you can just tell. Nothing on do makes any difference even giving in and letting them do what they wanted in the first place, they’ve just gone so far beyond that straw that broke the camels back.

Allfednonedead Sun 10-Mar-19 19:03:46

Food supplement, that should say!

Lougle Sun 10-Mar-19 19:15:22

I don't think that a meltdown Vs tantrum can be defined by whether it stops by meeting a need. I think it is more to do with how much control the person has over their behaviour during the incident and how aware they are of the effect of their behaviour on the people around them.

Classic 'toddler tantrums' are often quite funny to see, because you get the periodical "effect check", where there is a slight pause, looking to see what Mum/Dad is doing, sometimes even a deep intake of breath, before a renewed effort to go all out with the kicking/screaming/yelling.

Older kids tantrumming tend to escalate in levels. They start with the mild pouting, move on to the lip wobble, the stamping of feet, the threats, insults, etc. It can get quite extreme, but it's logical and the child 'knows what they're doing'.

Meltdowns are different. They can be quite terrifying for both the person having them and the people dealing with them. They are emotionally exhausting. They are irrational, in the sense that the intensity of the meltdown doesn't necessarily correlate with the cause.

I don't know about Fortnite - I don't think I'd be keen on a 9 year old playing it. But if he does play it, then essentially, he was saying "I need to chill out".

reefedsail Sun 10-Mar-19 19:21:48

@Allfednonedead I would (cynically) question how much cost has to do with the decision.

RippleEffects Sun 10-Mar-19 19:28:04

The old if they can reign it back in it's a tantrum frustrates me.

If they reign it back in, once calm praise them for recognising it was going wrong and managing themself. Mastering regaining control when your core functions are shutting down, giving way to fight or flight is a really valuable life skill.

The attached graphic hits the spot for me and a version of it helped me understand and helped/ helps me discus it with my children.

Helentwinsplus1 Sun 10-Mar-19 19:28:54

It's YouTube in our house but I just let her get on with it even if it drives me insane at times. I find it diverts her attention and gives her chance to self regulate things before other things trigger the challenging behaviour.

Once she's calm I'll let her watch until the end of the video and she'll happily go on her way and do something else.

The only other way I've found works is to give her a clear plan for when we get home giving her a choice of ways to decompress. Puzzle books, reading under a blanket, listening to an audio book etc. Being honest though I often forget so she watches YouTube too much.

One thing I've learnt with autism is that you have to pick your battles!

Anotherday39 Mon 11-Mar-19 11:36:00

Thanks for your replies.

It appears to be a tantrum, but its more him not being able to control his emotions, where he is more upset than the situation warrants.

He gets really upset about being told off at school too or by us. It is not that you can't tell him off but you have to be very clear and not get emotional. He reacts with more aggression or emotion if you get confrontational.

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