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This may sound silly, but what is a meltdown?

(16 Posts)
Bigballoon14 Thu 06-Nov-14 19:49:40

Hi,
This is my first thread here, hoping to clear my mind a bit.
DS 4.7 is possibly ASD. He has his ADOS next week and we are hoping that's the final piece if the puzzle - so to speak.

Obviously 'meltdowns' are a big part of ASD, but from your experience what is it? Our DS seems to go through different types of behaviour each day but all of them are uncontrolable. The worst being from after school until bedtime. We know he holds himself well at school with only the odd outburst or display of aggression, but at home he becomes really aggressive but not in a tantrum way, just lashing out at every opportunity. Would this be meltdowns? He can have screaming and crying fits, to the point of giving himself a headache. Is this a meltdown? Then he can be told no, or asked to do something then fly into a complete rage, shouting, kicking, punching etc. Is that a meltdown?

During any of these behaviours he has to be restrained and/or removed from the room to calm before rejoining the rest of the family, although some evenings he has to remain upstairs with myself or my husband because he cannot seem to control his aggression when with more than one person.

So can a meltdown take on any form or is it only when it's a certain type of behaviour? I'm concerned because I'm worried that he could be having more meltdowns than we think and obviously we need to try and address the reasons and help him because he seems to constantly be in one bad state or another (mentally I mean).

Thank you for any advice or input. It's much appreciated.

Acciosanity Thu 06-Nov-14 20:04:58

I'd call them meltdowns yes.

To me it's a loss of control, more than a toddler tantrum. DS can meltdown or sometimes he just has a tantrum, there is a difference.

Haggismcbaggis Thu 06-Nov-14 20:08:52

For my DS it is a kind of verbal lashing out. It might start small and then he just keeps going and going. His are rarely physical - but if course they can be physical.

It's very common for kids with ASD to manage to keep it together at school and then let loose when they get home. My DS does this (he is 9) but we are working on strategies so that school is less stressful for him.

Good luck.

Bigballoon14 Thu 06-Nov-14 20:27:23

Thank you to both of you.

That's kind of what I was wondering, if maybe all of these types of behaviours are meltdowns, because like I say, he is out of control, it really is like he can't help it. I'd hate to be the type of person that defends negative behaviour but realistically it all seems to be part of possible ASD/meltdown. I'm constantly questioning myself and DS thinking is he being naughty? Is this a meltdown? But we need to be getting to the bottom of why and hopefully trying to help him feel better.

We know there are things he really dislikes at school, but we are not really being listened to as they 'don't see it'. No they don't see the after school, weekend and school holiday stuff. Just the quiet DS that prefers to play alone. Teacher even told me not to worry about the couple of times he has hit other children as they have explained to him the correct way to deal with it. Yes ok, like we hadn't though of trying that at home. So frustrating.

Thank you again xx

Acciosanity Thu 06-Nov-14 20:58:02

I went through that worry of "is he just being naughty am I spoiling him?"
When we got the diagnosis I felt more confident in our parenting. He can't help it, he doesn't want to behave in that way. I now treat them as I would a panic attack. I can usually tell when he's going to go, after school is a given, like your DS he masks at school so I get the explosion.
I fail some days at staying calm, especially when he hurts his sister, but, we're all still learning.

Ineedmorepatience Thu 06-Nov-14 21:06:32

I agree with accio treating this behaviour as a panic attack might help you to be able to manage it or at least live with it a little easier.

Think of him as a bottle of fizzy pop, each time something stressful happens at school during the day and he holds it in its like shaking his bottle!
When he gets home and is safe and with people who love him, he takes his lid off and you get to clear up the mess sad

The more you can reduce his stress levels the less of this behaviour you will see.

I also have a child who masks her issues at school, it makes it very hard when you are constantly judged because "They are fine here, it is only at home where the problems are!!" hmm

Good luck flowers

Ineedmorepatience Thu 06-Nov-14 21:09:19

Oh and I meant to say, when your Ds seems like he is not in control, he probably isnt!
he is probably very scared and needs you to help him calm down. removing him to a calm, safe quiet place with an adult to support him is a very good move!
Carry on with it and keep a diary of when and why [if you know] he has these difficulties.

Bigballoon14 Thu 06-Nov-14 21:12:50

Acciosanity you really have hit the nail on the head there. DS is very very aggressive towards younger DD, she is 3 next week. It makes me want to cry sometimes because it's like he just can't stop and she gets hurt, mostly due to the fact we cannot see it coming. Then it is very hard to keep a cool head, stay calm and patient. All those things you're supposed to do.

Of course it doesn't help when you're doubting it all. I just can't get it into my head that 'can't help it' behaviour exists. It's reassuring to know it is normal. I guess when you're waiting on a diagnosis it makes it harder because you're waiting for it all to fall into place. To know that your child isn't simply out of control because you let them be.

Thank you x

Bigballoon14 Thu 06-Nov-14 21:32:28

Thanks Ineedmorepatience it does all make perfect sense.

I think between the niggling doubt in my head and the different types of behaviour I have been driving myself mad thinking it must be naughtiness. Even though if I took all the negative behaviours away there are definitely still major issues, like routine, rigidity, social problems to name a few. So I have been convincing myself we are going down the right path but thought I would ask other parents of their experiences of meltdowns.

I think we need to speak to school again. I have already asked them to watch for his stress signals (tiptoe walking, clenching fists), and I asked for him to be removed if possible and given something to do. I know that the tiptoe walking is major stress sign for him. The TA admitted she had noticed him doing it particularly before playtimes. Yet to see any changes at home though.

Acciosanity Thu 06-Nov-14 22:03:05

We've bought him a punch bag to hit instead of DD. When he's about to pop we get him to his room, lights off, no talking, toy dog to hold. One of us stays with him. I sit on his bed until he's ready. Sometimes he needs holding, other times he can't bare to be touched, we play it by ear.

Some days after school he needs to go straight upstairs, depends on the type of day he's had.

Hang in there, it's crap and hard but you're not alone.

2boysnamedR Fri 07-Nov-14 00:51:04

I guess I'm lucky, my ds doesn't have many. When he does I would say its a complete loose of control. Screaming, struggling to breath, running around, lashing out and he can't stop until he is exhausted, that could take over a hour some times

But he has never had a asd dx so I guess he's a different case. I had a lightbulb moment after has last one where I had to call dh home from work. It made me see his trigger and from that day he's never been that bad since. It was straight after school. I never ever confront him about anything for at least a hour after school now. It's get home, give a drink and snack then we talk about the things that might set him off.

Of course he is a bit like a bomb and could go off at anytime but it's never been that bad since. School and holding everything in, is very very hard for him.

I also have a rule now where I tell him off, he always answers back, I tell him again it's wrong but never a third time. I just say "I'm not talking to you anymore" if I did he could easily loose control, he can't argue with himself for long and runs out of stream. When he's calm we go over what he did wrong. But, as I say he's never had a asd dx. He just has a ton of those traits and dyspraxia ( plus other things going on)

blanklook Sat 08-Nov-14 18:05:44

It's get home, give a drink and snack then we talk about the things that might set him off.

I liked the fizzy pop bottle anecdote above, here's another. Think of his brain like a water-filter. Being filled up all day from waking with more and more things, some heavier than others, some bubbly, some thick and sticky, all mixed up together so he can't understand what they are any more, so the pressure of that mixture is pushing on the filter and by hometime he feels as though the filter is about to split and everything is going to gush out i.e. meltdown.

What he needs is t-i-m-e for everything that's above the filter to drop through in a slow and steady calm stream without anyone adding anything else, until he's filtered all of the day's sensory overload from getting up to arriving home. It's important to let him deal with that in his own way, whether it's being plugged into a ipod, watching TV, other screentime, or quiet room with dim lights and soft toys, often without parental involvement unless you're invited, then only hug if you're invited to do so.

He's not yet 5 years old, my dd would not be able to cope with a discussion about triggers or be able to cope with articulating her opinions and that sort of questioning would cause her stress levels to climb through the roof and another meltdown would ensue because she wouldn't know what had caused her behaviour. TBH in most cases it's an accumulation of anxiety overload anyway. Please be careful when you're questioning him about his triggers that you make sure he's not already stressed from a long day.

A dx makes no difference to the interventions he needs, try to concentrate on his needs, not on a particular label, no two children with a dx need the same interventions smile

2boysnamedR Sat 08-Nov-14 18:23:24

I think I miss worded the questioning about what sets him off, anything and everything sets him off. I mean the thing that started the problem. So in the example above ds has to live by the family rules to a extent. He had something I didn't want him to have and he would not give it to me. What I should have done was wait till we got home and then asked for it back and explained why I wanted it back after he was calm and relaxed. What I can't do is let him get away with murder every day just because he doesn't like the rules. So it always has to be talked about eventually or he will not understand boundarys and be resented by his siblings

What I did was demand it off him straight after school.

I expect all kids to live by the rules but I can't enforce it in the same way for all if them.

We never really talk about why he reacts as he does, I don't see any point as he is 7 but emotionally he's a toddler and I sure wouldn't reason with a toddler.

Bigballoon14 Sat 08-Nov-14 20:35:27

Hi All,

Thanks for all the helpful replies. We know not to talk or question him. Even when he is calm and happy we cannot discuss school, as he seems to want to keep home and school completely separate. We are second guessing all the time as to what his triggers are.

We're under no illusion that a dianosis will make any difference to DS and we wouldn't want it to but what it does confirm is that we are raising an autistic child not a naughty one. Access to anything in this area is limited to diagnosis only, which is rubbish.

Just hoping now that the ADOS next week is the final assessment, because it's been a long wait as I'm sure is the same for everyone. They say early intervention is the key. Unless of course you actually need it then that theory seems to go out of the window.

EssexGurl Tue 11-Nov-14 18:49:23

I described my son to his teacher as a pressure cooker last week.

Last year at school, little bits of pressure were being let out during the day - so,low level disruptive behaviour but no real meltdowns at home or schol.

This year he keeps the pressure in and explodes at home. Total masking behaviour. Last years teacher worked with us to get a provisional SS diagnosis.

This years teacher just sees the bright well behaved boy and is in complete denial about the AS.

I might video the meltdowns over homework and show her what total misery she is causing is.

Acciosanity Tue 11-Nov-14 21:20:30

Essexgurl are you me?? wink

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