Relaxing Caramel Latte? Not a chance! How to deal with the Autism meltdowns in public.

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.

Click on the image for further information

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.

https://amzn.to/2Z8Dw2F

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. β˜•

You β€œStim” me right round , baby, right round !

From the time the boy who loves balloons was a baby , he loved to spin things . He would even try to spin things that wouldn’t spin. He would do this by continuously tapping on the thing until he could make it spin . This became particularly frustrating when he was going through his obsession with bendy buses . For some reason he would attempt to spin the bendy section in the middle of the bus by continuously tapping on it .

This wasn’t really a problem until we went out anywhere . As parents of ASD kids ,we often find , it’s the judgements of other people that can be the most challenging. Sitting in Costa or walking around the supermarket with my son loudly tapping his bus had become a normality for me. It was our normal. It was my ‘white noise’. My ears had become accustomed to it. But to onlookers this behaviour must have appeared quite strange . I can only see that now as at the time I was oblivious to it actually .

When he was a baby he was happy to sit for hours either spinning the wheel on his toy steering wheel , spinning the wheels on cars or sitting and watching the washing machine go round . We still have that toy steering wheel as it is of great sentimental value to me , well apart from the time I had nodded off briefly on the sofa and he decided to crack me across the head with it . I’m not too sure what prompted him to do this , maybe I’ll ask him. It bloody hurt I know that. Hang on…

Me: “Darling? ”

My Son: “Huh, sorry? Hey back off man, this is Dave Seville.”(He’s watching chipmunks, for the 4th time today, and mimicking the dialogue)

Me: “Do you remember that toy you had as a baby that spun around , the car steering wheel ?”

My Son: “Yes, was I in your belly? ”

Me: “No it was after you were born”

My Son: “Yes , I was little then, I’m big now”

Me: “Yes , can you remember why you hit me with that toy? ”

My Son: “What like this? ” (Hits my legs) ,” because I was little. I’m big now so I’ll protect you. Look mummy, Dave’s just farted”.

There is the reason.

multicolored ferris wheel
Photo by Tiago Lino on Pexels.com

Whenever we were out somewhere and he saw anything spin round , he would flap his hands frantically in excitement . It was actually quite adorable . I’m glad my hands don’t flap when I’m excited. Although I did meet Jude Law one day at work at the airport and my voice decided to go several decibels higher and actually I do remember flapping my arms around , and my bum seemed to adopt a funny little wiggle come to mention it , as I tried to tell everyone that Jude Law was in the building . Sorry .. the holiday is one of my all time favourites . I think I was hoping I could be his holiday romance . Even if it was just for the ten minutes he had while passing through the airport . Well you have to grab it while you can . Only kidding. I’m way out of his league.

Anyway back to stimming . As I look back over the years I realise that the stimming has presented in various forms, whether it be visual or vocal, there has always been some form of stimming.  In his book “The reason I jump” Naoki Higashida, a young boy on the spectrum, describes the reason for his jumping and arm flapping as a way to ground himself in times of anxiety and bring him back to the moment. So the flapping or any stimming of any form is often used as a way of self soothing in times of stress or high emotion. The world around can be a confusing and unpredictable place for an autistic person and stimming provides a level of comfort. Not only that ,some autistic people, such as my son, are sensory seekers and the feeling that comes with stimming, could also be a sensory stimulation.  Stimming is not limited to physical movement however, it can also be vocal.

My son went through a phase of kind of groaning while listening to something on his tablet or listening to a story I was reading . He would sit and just keep making a funny noise over and over again while concentrating on something. I tried to explain it to people but I just sounded like I was making orgasm noises and got funny looks , so I gave up.

One thing that makes my son flap his hands , is water. He loves the water. Nearly as much as he loves balloons. When he sees it , he flaps so much. Its the cutest thing. I love to see him so happy. When he sees water his clothes are off and he’s in. Even if the weather is cold , he will still jump in. Mind you , he likes to take his clothes generally. He went through another phase of getting naked and weeing in the front garden , when he needed. Can you imagine if I did that? Oh and then there’s the Poo song ! I have to sometimes sing, but I’ll save that for another post.

🎈🎈

Obsessional behaviour. β€œIf your happy and you know it β€œflap” your hands. Not today!

Well tonight my boy is certainly not a happy one. Yesterday while watching balloon videos on you tube, he decided he wanted some giant balloons. I would just like to point out that every time we go out we have to buy a packet of balloons and he now has a huge box underneath his bed, of every balloon you can imagine. Not forgetting the 6 foot balloon I got him for Christmas which cost forty quid. Seriously I have sold toys to accommodate balloons ( I wish I could sell his dad to accommodate Ryan Reynolds! ) but still , he fixates and that’s it, we had to have these balloons today. Not tomorrow , today. Well I ordered these balloons yesterday on my mobile while he watched me, and was promised , next day delivery, today.

I have been working all day today and the only way I could bribe , sorry soothe, him into letting me go to work,( he hates me going to work) was with the guarantee that his balloons would be here today. Well **** you Amazon Prime, I mean thankyou Amazon Prime, they were not here when I arrived home and what was waiting for me when I returned home was just slightly more tolerable than Japanese water torture. Three continuous hours of ” where are my balloons?”, “I hate you mummy”, “go away mummy” , “don’t kiss me mummy”, “I will hit the postman mummy ” , combined with a little shove here and there and an attempt at a Chinese burn.

The thing about autistic children and perhaps adults, is that they are able to mask their true feelings, and then when they feel safe, with the safe person, they unleash and show their true emotions. Its quite common for children with autism to hide how they really feel when they are at school but then have complete meltdowns when at home with their safe person, this could be mum or dad but I suspect its mostly mum. One thing that irritates me is when people state, “well they cannot be autistic as they know how to behave when they need to”. No, that does not mean they are not autistic, it means that they can mask their emotions.

Anyway, this is what happened today with Balloon boy. He managed to hide his frustration all day until now. I am mentally exhausted. I mean he didn’t just have a temper tantrum, he was completely inconsolable. I knew it was due to his autism and not him being a little shit, as he was so upset and sobbing , like we would if our pet hamster had died or something. I could see how distressed he was and I hated to see him like this. To him it felt like the end of the world and I could really feel his pain. He was expecting to come home from school to giant balloons and that didn’t happen so he could not cope. I dealt with this by giving him lots of cuddles and empathising with him. I also pretended to call amazon which seemed to work. I told him they were nearly at our house. I find that in these situations, giving cuddles works best. If I shout or get angry, he will just shout back at me.

I thought I had managed to soothe him as while I was cooking dinner he went quiet , watched some TV then announced to me that he had farted, so I thought he must be ok now, but I was wrong. We just sat down to our cauliflower cheese when a white van pulled up outside, well we were both hopping around so happy and excited, I mean both of us. I opened the door and the man said “delivery for number 9? ” we live at number 10 so I knew I was dead ! . “Are you from amazon ?” I asked “no, yodel” was the response. Oh fuck !

After more tears , sobbing and throwing cushions around and me pretending to call the delivery driver, his balloons finally arrived. Not before he asked me several times why his balloons had not arrived, reaching the end of my tether “because life’s a bitch” I muttered under my breath, to which he replied “why you saying bitch?” Oh no, I have done it again. He did somehow manage to still eat his dinner, I find food is an excellent decoy in these situations. At last my boy was happy and so was I. He ran up to me, gave me a big hug and told me he loved me, he was sorry and I was his princess. My loving and affectionate little boy had returned. The balloons, well they have been placed in his box underneath his bed with all the other ones. Huge shout out to the amazon delivery driver who made it by the skin of his teeth. 🎈🎈

“Where,s my f****ing bus?”

So swearing seems to be an issue at the moment for me and balloonboy. I remember when he was very little, he had just started saying small words and was not very vocal, dare I say it, compared to other children his age. He was attempting to form sentences and anything he attempted to do was met with whoops of joy and full on smiles and praise from me. At this particular age he was obsessed with buses. Anything to do with buses, bus toys, bus you tube videos and buses outside. That is until he discovered bendy buses , then it was all about the bendy ones, then after that it was a lot more specific, he became obsessed with doigs model buses , which cost me a fortune . Anyway one night while reading our bedtime story together , he said “mummy, where,s my fucking bus?” . Well then an internal battle began with the voices in my head , do I praise him for his efforts to ask a question? which lets face it , it was a pretty amazing milestone to achieve, or do I reprimand him for swearing? I decided on the praise , since I believe that at this point he was blissfully unaware that he had just sworn at his mother, so I let this go and praised him. Well ….im not entirely sure this was the right thing to do……..

From this point on, swearing has become a little bit of an issue. It doesn’t help that he probably hears inappropriate words on films and possibly when I have stubbed a toe on something or stood on a piece of lego, but lets face it , they are like little sponges at that age, absorbing everything they hear. Its funny how they cannot hear you when you ask them to get dressed but when you whisper a swear word, they can hear it instantly and not only that , remember and repeat it, often in the most inappropriate settings such as loudly on the bus or when your at a family gathering trying to impress the in laws and show them what an amazing parent you are.

Needless to say, a few weeks after the bus episode, we were taking a nice little walk back from the park, when a lovely old man approached us as I carried my beautiful toddler in my arms, and asked my son what his name was, “fuck off ” was the reply. The man took this surprisingly well explaining that he had grandchildren and they had been known to swear too at times. I wasn’t so relaxed and ran home and probably opened a bottle of wine.

There have been several episodes of swearing over the years , all of which have made me smile, inwardly, however when it comes to dealing with it, the truth is , I don’t have a clue!. Its difficult to judge whether the swearing comes from an innocent place or not. I tend to presume with my son that he is not necessarily aware that he is swearing, but merely repeating words he has heard. Now he is a little older I am able to reason with him a little and explain to him that certain words are bad and he mustn’t say them. This does seem to be working. I am certainly not an autism professional but I am a mum that has studied autism in great depth and living with my son has provided me with the ability to offer my advise . In this situation my advise would be to discipline your child as you think is best. There is nobody but you that can decide how to deal with this behaviour and there is nobody that knows your child like you, so follow your instincts with this one. The truth is all children with special needs are unique and respond differently to situations and consequences. Please share your stories , I would really like to hear them and how you deal with it.

The biggest challenge we face can often be the judgement of other , less understanding people. I remember one day having a coffee with a friend and my son (i mean that is allowed right?) and my son was making a bit of noise blowing his balloon up repeatedly. This man sat near to us decided to moan about it, well , I politely explained my sons condition and this seemed to help but what I really wanted to do was tell the man to shove his walking stick up his ****hole, but then I remembered , I must not swear in front of my son.