Autistic Teen Meltdown, or: What Happened on Thanksgiving
So, we had complete #HOLIDAYFAIL this year for Thanksgiving. Still conducting an internal investigation as to why, but pretty sure the usual suspects (relative's house, with barking dogS, and more people than he was prepared to deal with) plus teen hormones that felt tired of being bossed around during his holiday week at home, noise, plus pressure to take a shower all combined into a huge, LOUD, meltdown in front of family, across a golf course (he eloped and I got him back, which set off the screaming and yelling), into the street, and in front of a friend during a food drop.
It was awful.
This was the first time my family had seen what a meltdown looks like from James. The stress in keeping calm to manage the meltdown, the embarrassment of the outburst, the pain of seeing my family want to help but not sure what to do, and finally the realization that I just had to take him home and there would be no dinner with the family this year overwhelmed me and I started to cry, which freaked James out. Because as a rule I do not cry during meltdowns (where he can see me). It just doesn't help.
This time, some of the things he yelled at me were extremely hurtful, so I let him see me cry. So now remorse was added to the mix. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to" came after each tirade.
When we were home and things calmed down (reassurance that even though I did not like the behaviours I still liked him, being in our quiet home, and cessation of crying), he gave me his version of a hug and said again he was sorry. I thanked him for that and then told him I needed some quiet time now.
I also said there would be consequences, so no internet and very restricted phone time. I unplugged and hid the router, put his devices in a safe place, and the internet stayed off through Sunday. He earned phone time so he could talk with people. Having myself received the Silent Treatment on various occasions and having a pretty good idea how something like that would affect James, I wanted him to be able to talk with others while still letting him know the meltdown was affecting his privileges.
Oh the talking. We covered how feelings were neither good nor bad, it's how you handle them. The importance of communicating with people before a meltdown happens. Practicing phrases we can say to make that communication easier.
Without prompting, James wrote apology notes to myself and other family members and delivered them personally. When he says he is sorry and didn't mean to, I believe him. I love him to pieces. I also knows that his life will be a lot better if can realize how his actions affect others and he makes it his priority to better manage them.
Today is Wednesday - it's almost been a week. I can talk about it now.
Some good (IMO) links for understanding meltdowns (and no, I have no affiliations with any of these - I looked at the posted content and thought it was very appropriate for our situation):
- Autism Speaks' Challenging Behaviors Toolkit
- Autism Speaks' Blog Post "10 things that helped me during meltdowns as an autistic child"
- Toolkit to understand behaviors, from Autism Speaks
- A guide to meltdowns, from the National Autistic Society (UK)
- Blog post on Autistic teens and meltdowns, by New Focus Academy
- Article that does a good job addressing meltdowns and what to do after, from the Raising Children website (Australia)