Since writing my blog, I have done some market research and learned that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder believe their biggest challenges to be dealing with public autism meltdowns and handling the in laws. (I will cover the in laws issue in another post as I suspect it will be a very long one!).
In this post we will explore how to deal with the public outbursts and autism meltdowns . My darling boy, has only one setting, LOUD. This is one classic symptom of a child on the autistic spectrum. The world and its mother know about the ins and outs of balloon blowing, what he wants for lunch and when he needs a poo. I remember one day, while at the pet shop choosing his pet Guinea Pig, he announced mid way through a conversation about taking care of our new pet, that he had just farted, it was really smelly and when can we go home because he needs a poo. Thankfully the shop assistant thought it was very funny.
Personally my biggest challenge is not so much the autism meltdowns but more what he says in general. Two days ago while waiting for our Chinese take away, sat next to a man waiting, my son decided to ask me on repeat when would his yellow 4 foot balloon be arriving. I had to show him on my fingers how many no balloons there were until his new one arrived. Anyway he decided, as he does, to ask me this question repeatedly until I actually had a vision of picking him up and launching him right out the door. It was only a vision. Anyway my tone must of changed slightly and I calmly explained that he doesn’t need to ask me again about the balloon. “Alright, alright, keep your hair on “,was the reply.
Thankfully again the man smiled. I don’t actually know where he learned this expression as he is usually such a literal thinker and would freak out if someone said that to him, as he would actually believe someone was going to take his hair off.
Talking of visions, have any of you actually had visions that make you question, not only your sanity but also your credentials as a mother? I remember my friend telling me that one day whilst breast feeding her adorable new born, who was very thirsty for breast milk, every day, she actually envisaged throwing her baby out of the bedroom window! Obviously she did not do this but the very fact that she had the vision at all, stressed her out immensely.
I myself had a similar experience when my son was a baby. He used to cry a lot and would constantly want picking up and cuddling. One day while out for a lovely day out in Brighton, walking along the pier, he decided to have the mother of all tantrums in his buggy. Back then I used to get embarrassed and care too much what people thought. Always worried about feeling judged and what other parents perception of me was (Now I don’t give a shit ) and I actually had a very brief vision of picking him up from the buggy and throwing him in the sea! I was so distraught that this vision came into my head!! its a bit like when you think of something you don’t want to think about and then the more you don’t want to think about it , the more you do? well I hated myself and can honestly say I have not had any other visions like it , but I felt so guilty.
When my son is old enough to read my blog, he will read this and hopefully laugh. He may not speak to me for a week but I will have to take that risk. “Son I love you more than the world and you know that”.
So how do we address the issue of dealing with autism meltdowns . I think the biggest reason we struggle with this is because we care too much what other people think. We constantly worry about feeling judged and being criticised as parents. But why? No one knows your child more than you, and no one knows what your dealing with, so why do we worry about the disapproving stares and the comments about how they would of handled that in a different way. I get it. Your already worn down with the tantrum, the last thing you need to have to deal with is a big dose of feeling judged on top.
The truth is, your doing great. Children do not come with an instruction manual. If anyone reading this is not a parent, please, when you see parents dealing with children having a tantrum in public, please just be nice. When dealing with the autism meltdown I think its important to remember the following:
- Your child is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Acknowledge their feelings. Let them have the feelings, talk about it and understand them.
- Try not to get angry. Try to stay calm. If I raise my voice to my son mid tantrum, he shouts back at me!
- Wait for the autism tantrum to pass. Forget what other people are thinking when they stare. Just allow the child to express their frustrations.
- When the child has calmed down a little, then take charge. Be assertive but not aggressive and try to avoid bribes. Then try and talk the child through what just happened and how you can help them to feel better. I ask my son is he feeling happy or sad , to try and establish my next move.
- I think consistency is important when dealing with difficult behaviour. Follow through on what you say will happen. I need to work on this one myself. I am rubbish with this.
- Praise the good behaviour. I think ABA therapy focuses on rewarding good behaviour. Its reinforcing behaviour that is socially acceptable.
Once you have established what triggered the tantrum, maybe then you can take steps to avoid the same thing happening again. Remember I am not an expert and I am talking about how to deal with autism meltdowns specifically.
Another option you have is to purchase some social story books or packs that highlight the appropriate way to behave in public. This may help your child with Autism. These packs are available online and on Amazon. Please click on the link below for further information.
As I am writing this post, I am sitting in my favourite coffee shop enjoying a nice skinny caramel latte. I am having more luck today than I did the other day. You see, my son loves a caramel slice and we often come here together for a coffee and a cake. One day last week we came here and my son, as usual, was blowing up his brand new sausage shaped balloon I just got him. You know the ones that can be manipulated into animals.
Sitting near to us on the next table was a lovely young couple enjoying a nice peaceful coffee together. My son was quite happily pumping away at his balloon when he decided to let it go. Lets just say the young couples relaxing coffee was not so relaxing anymore. They were not only interrupted by a flying balloon, the young girl also got an extra shot of deflated balloon in her coffee.
Thank you for reading. Please comment, follow, like or share and most importantly enjoy your morning cup of coffee. ☕