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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 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.

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!

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.

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

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

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".

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

Food supplement, that should say!

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 19:02:46

@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 19:00:23

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

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.

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.

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.

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 18:17:15


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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

I have asd children

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

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.

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.

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

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

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