Thursday, November 13, 2014
He's not throwing a tantrum over a toy, he sounds like he's hyperventilating
The meltdown. I'm not talking about a little crying jag over a toy, with some flailing arms and leg kicks thrown in for good measure, I'm talking about a true meltdown that people who have ASD get when they are on complete sensory overload. I was looking through one of my many journals I had written (pre diagnosis) on Brock and different behaviors he was experiencing and came upon the one for the first meltdown he ever had at 2.5 years old. ASD wasn't even on my radar than, I pretty much felt like my parenting was damaging my child mentally, and emotionally. Now it seems completley insane I'd ever feel that way, but back then it seemed like the only reasonable solution. I truly felt like a crappy mom. Realistically I knew I wasn't, but here's an excerpt from one of my journals: '' I don't know where to begin, there's something wrong with Brock. He was having another temper tantrum , so I put him in a 2 minute timeout and he started panicking. I mean I've had panic attacks and it sounded just like that but a thousand times worse. They are happening more frequently..and he has such a spaced out look on his face when it happens. I don't know who to talk to because because everyone says all toddlers throw tantrums, but my instinct is telling me its more..It's the most heartwrenching thing to witness, I guess time will tell.'' After Brock kept having these (what i thought were temper tantrums at time) I wrote about what it looks like, and how they play out for him. '' I noticed when certain things bother Brock, or a plan is changed, even being surrounded by too many people these tantrums begin. Although, I hate calling them a tantrum, it seems like something much deeper for him. He'll start by sucking his fingers and pacing back and forth from room to room. Then he'll start self soothing by rocking back and forth and his breathing will pick up. If he's completley inconsolable he'll rub his fingers against his palms, and the most heart wrenching, soul piercing cry & scream begins. His breathing will sound like he's hyperventilating, and usually will repeat the words '' I can't, don't make me, or it hurts''. You can't ask direct questions as they tend to anger him. You have to be calm and positive, and talk him down from a distance. He's so overstimulated it seems, any touch could have him turn physical..it's not intentional, as Brock is the least violent person.'' As Brock got older these meltdowns became worse. I think he was 4 when I wrote that. Brock isn't himself for days after one, it sucks the energy right out. . Now I know the signs , so I can help him calm down in five minutes, usually. They used to last 30 minutes. Brock's biggest triggers are routine changes, fingernails and haircut, teeth brushed, having tags on clothes, any fuzzy-wooly winter clothes. Over-crowded places, and different textured food or toys. And people who surprise him, like touching his hands or shoulders without him knowing. All of his triggers are painful to him. One time after clipping his nails, I asked him what it felt like, and he described it as a burning sharp pain. Almost stabbing. It takes two people to cut his fingernails and hair. I remember the first time I called my mom during a meltdown (before we knew) and said listen to this, he's not throwing a tantrum over a toy he sounds like he's hyperventilating. And to have someone else say yeah that really doesn't sound right..I've never felt as much relief as I did in that moment. It no longer mattered what anyone else thought or said..I finally had someone on my side.