Sorry it's been a while, y'all. Been dealing with a few things in my Household O Crazy. Holiday Season starts at Halloween at my house because of me being Pagan and I live in a Christian Household. (We celebrate quite a bit in my house. =)
Meltdown vs Tantrum
Many of you have asked me the difference. I'm no medical professional and I'm basing my knowledge off of my two ASD kiddos. And as anyone who has someone in their family with ASD or is on the spectrum themselves, the saying goes “If you know one person with Autism, you know one person with Autism.” There are so many different diagnoses with this learning disability and it effects everyone differently. This is why they say that.
However... if you know someone who is on the spectrum, you are familiar with the term “meltdown”. What is this, exactly? Well... let me paint a picture for you...
You are in a restaurant. Most of us are familiar with the setting. The dim of the conversations going on in the background, the sound of glasses tinkling, dishes banging, something drops in the kitchen, waitresses asking “What would you like”, people asking to be seated, what the specials are, forks and knives banging on plates, kids being kids, parents yelling at kids, babies crying, and throw in the smell of food for good measure. Now... imagine that you can't shut ANY of that off. Your brain can't focus on just one thing. It takes in ALL of this at the same time.
This is what its like with Autism, only, this is every day in every situation. They can't stop their brains from focusing on EVERYTHING. If you're at your own house, they hear the heat or AC on, they hear each TV on, they hear the plinking of people on laptops or computers, video games going, conversations, the smell of food cooking, the smell of whatever it is you decided to spray in your house to make it smell good, the sounds of the dryer or the washing machine, the shower, the dish washer, the coffee machine. This is their life, 24/7/365.
What's a meltdown? When they can't take it anymore. When all of the sudden everything is just TOO much for them. Or, if they're in a new situation and none of the sounds and smells are familiar. Now they have to add something NEW on top of everything going on in their mind. Their brains snap and they cry, then “stim”, they do everything they can to JUST. QUIET. DOWN...and they can't.
So yeah, if you see that kid in the supermarket crying for no reason and you see the exasperated parent scooting them along, instead of thinking to yourself “Spoiled brat, they just need a good swat on the bottom”, ask if there is anything you can do to help.
Tantrums? When you tell a kid they can't do something or get something they want and they whine to get it or they throw a fit. That's a tantrum. And yeah, my kids do that, too. Just because they're Autistic doesn't mean that they don't go through the same social developmental milestones as every other kid. They just hit them at different points of time in their lives, away from the typical ages they are supposed to hit them. (And let me tell you, when they did hit their “Terrible 2's” that was just an utter joy...*note sarcasm)
As parents who have kids on the spectrum, it's up to us to figure out which is which. It's an exercise in detective work. Every day.
Tantrums? I don't even bother acknowledging the behavior. They throw one, I walk away. They are doing it for attention and I don't give it to them.
Meltdowns? Depends on the kid and the situation. When Pixie goes through a VERY bad one, I just sit next to her, calm. I don't make a sound. I don't touch her. She feeds off of my energy and it calms her down because I am calm. When it's a small one (and if I am able to get to it before it turns into a big one), I sing to her. I sing anything. She focuses on my voice and is able to shut some of her mind off. It helps. (I'm just glad she doesn't critique my crappy singing and isn't picky on the quality.)
For Tiny Man (Lil Monkey), removing him from the situation into another room seems to do the trick. He is auditory defensive so changing the sounds help. He doesn't appreciate the singing, apparently.
Autism has taught me many things. One is patience. The other is to drop the judgmental mentality when out in public. I used to be the one that would roll their eyes and think “I guess swats on the bottom are out of style.”
No... not anymore. I give the mother or the father a knowing look and ask if I can help. Sometimes they're surprised that I recognize the symptoms. Other times they shake their head and usher their kid away to someplace quiet. One time, while putting my two ASD kiddos on the bus, a little boy was going through a VERY bad one.
I signed to him if he could speak. He verbally asked “What's that?” So, in the few minutes it took to get my kids on the bus, he learned a few signs and forgot what got him to meltdown.
Also, he enjoys Itsy Bitsy Spider... even if it is “off key”. =)