The Meltdown – Autism

Even when dealing with Moderately Autistic children, there’s a tendency for things to normalize.

Patterns are established, habits are formed, and the child begins to grow and mature.

Equally important, one learns the quirks—the eccentricities if you will—of the child, and figures out the best, or at least some way to deal with them.

Except for the fact that my son hasn’t recently been allowed to attend school, firstly as a result of his school and school district’s responses to COVID-19, then as a result of summer vacation, those patterns are pretty firmly in place.

Like many children, my boy has a habit of doing things he knows well are inappropriate. Yesterday evening, he did one of those things.

In this case, it was a wrong in which he was a “repeat offender,” and something I had told him was entirely unacceptable. I’ll not get into the details where that activity is concerned. Suffice to say, it affected others, though in mild ways, to an unacceptable degree.

My response to his infraction? There’re places my child loves to find himself, and we were outside of one such place. I had exited the car and was getting ready to help him get his shoes and socks on (we’d not too long before, left a local park where he was wading in a stream). It was then, that he did what he did. I put his shoes and socks back into the passenger seat of the vehicle, walked around to the driver’s door, opened it, got in, and started the drive home.

I didn’t want to leave; there were things I wanted to buy from that store. Given his actions though, I decided they would have to wait.

It was at that point that something we haven’t had happen in some time occurred. He fell into a full-on-no-kidding meltdown.

I’m not a person who believes in pride. I’m an adherent to the idea of realizing something needs done, figuring out how to go about accomplishing it, and making it happen to the best of my ability. Once, you’ve reasoned out how to proceed and implemented your approach, then it’s about observation and adjustment.

At some point, you find yourself relatively happy with the outcomes. When you reach that point, it’s usually lather, rinse, repeat. That’s a good general rule of thumb pretty much regardless with what you’re dealing. Even if it weren’t though, it’s definitely something you should typically do when dealing with Autistic folks.

Even more than with others, Autistic individuals thrive on order, on routine.

I can tell you that both my son and I have learned to deal with the tendency towards his melting down in some pretty successful ways. I’ve put him in positions over and over again, that would in past, have resulted in full on hair-raising outbursts over long periods of time, and he’s learned how generally to handle them well.

Sometimes he still has minor events, and once in a while, we end up in some level of lesser disagreement to the point of conflict in the arena of words. Most of the time though, those events are both rare and relatively tame.

He’s done an excellent job—for the most part—of adapting to a world he doesn’t entirely understand. Still now, he’ll say and do things that are vastly inappropriate to the circumstance (yesterday he threatened a little girl with retribution over a disagreement on the use of the words “little” and “big”).

Needless to say, where his response to not getting to visit that store wasn’t unexpected, it was still more than a little unsettling for both of us.

The kicker? I had a family member on the phone for most of the event. As a result, he got to hear—albeit secondhand—what it sounded like to undergo such a thing. Up to that point, I was literally the only one to have heard that type of event in probably a couple of years. Even I hadn’t had it happen for more than a few months (maybe a whole year).

The person on the phone made no assumptions, nor expressed any complaint over the event. In fact, he was generally understanding, as I expected he would be.

Keep in mind though, I was driving, with an earbud in my ear, trying to discuss something relatively complex with him over the phone, and at the same time, trying to deal with screaming, crying, pleading, yelling, ranting, and so much more.

These days I just don’t write a lot about Autism, as I say, my child and I have worked out most of the kinks, so I don’t see much to say.

This was a reminder why it’s beneficial to talk about what we go through, not for me, but for the benefit of those reading. I look at things as they now are, and though there’re still challenges (my son leaving areas in which he’s supposed to be without informing me that he’s leaving, much less where he’s going comes to mind), we’re mostly in a stable place.

We have our issues, but they’re largely not all that different than the things any parent of an almost-eight-year-old encounters.

Yes, it’s true my child still can’t even consistently recognize letters, much less read or write. He can’t consistently count (though funnily, he often recognizes the number of things), and definitely cannot do even simple math. For the most part though, he’s pretty darned smart. Daddy will start a sentence and Garrett will finish it without prompting—particularly when dad lets himself get distracted, or loses his train of thought.

A part of the reason for me writing this, is to get it out of my mind and onto the page—to think about it and at the same time, let it go. Another cause for doing so though, is to make it clear to parents of Autistic children that the fight is not one that suddenly magically goes away.

If your child is Mildly Autistic, you may forget that’s the case as he or she matures. If they’re not a mild case, that’s less likely to be so. Even for more severe cases (and I’m speaking mostly of what’s categorized as moderate, not those dealing with Severe Autism, where the realization is almost certain), things may largely settle down as time goes on. That doesn’t mean your child is any less who they are. Remember patience, watchfulness, consistence, and persistence are what’s called for.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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