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Meltdown Management

Erica on Facebook asks –

“I would love to know how you and your parents handled meltdowns (as you mentioned in one of your videos) and how you handle them now? This is one of our biggest challenges we are trying to manage. Did you and your parents have a strategy to prevent them? What was the strategy to get through them?”

It turns out I have very little memory of how my parents handled my meltdowns as a kid. I assume this is because I find them to be so embarrassing that I block them out of my memory. I call my parents once a week and this week I asked mum what her strategy was with preventing meltdowns and what to do if I did have a meltdown.

  1. Routine

The most important thing my parents learned to prevent meltdowns was keeping to a routine. If there was going to be a change in routine they would try to give me at least three weeks notice.

Before the new school term would start mum would remind me that my uniform will change from summer to winter or vice versa.

Also if a family holiday was coming up I was told about it three weeks in advance so I could prepare to travel and be away from home for a while.

This explains why I am such a planner now by habit – I say out loud what I plan to say to someone or what actions I will take. It’s almost like I’m rehearsing for a play. This leads to my next point.

  1.   Role Play

Role play is a great help to prevent meltdowns in public as an adult but it started when I was a child watching TV characters and copying their mannerisms. Little did I know at the time that this would become a very valuable skill.

Role play helps me cope with situations outside of my control. If I separate myself from it and become a character I remove myself from the stress. This is very effective at my job as a service supervisor in retail. If a customer is giving me a hard time I become ‘Smiley Happy Customer Service Girl’ nothing bothers her, she is super outgoing and friendly. When it’s time for my break I’m back to being me and I can take a breath. Becoming another character and focusing on that helps to defuse the building tension that leads to meltdown.

Drama classes in highschool were a Godsend in my life. They helped me to focus my energy into becoming a character. Without learning this skill I doubt I would have survived in the workforce.

The problem with role play though is once I’m home, in a safe place where I can be myself, there is a higher risk of meltdown. But they don’t happen too often anymore. I would have to have a really stressful day or be overwhelmed by sensory overload. This leads me to my next point.

  1. Safe Place

As I mentioned in my Aspie in the Classroom post I had a safe place to go to at school when I needed it. I could go to the storeroom whenever I needed to in order to prevent sensory overload and meltdown.

At home I would just escape to my room. My parents didn’t try to fix or stop the meltdown – they allowed me to get it out of my system in private. They understood that meltdowns are not something to be fixed, they are a means to an end. The meltdowns themselves are not bad – the reason the meltdown is happening is the problem. This is impossible to be dealt with until the meltdown is out of my system. If I’m away from sensory overload the meltdown is easily dealt with and is not a big drama.

  1. Avoid Sensory Overload

I didn’t need my mum’s advice for this one. This is the most obvious point when dealing with meltdowns in my opinion. If you are a parent of an aspie kid and you don’t know how to cope with meltdown – learn what causes sensory overload with your child.

For me it’s too much noise or touching. I’m sensitive to both. I can handle hugs, kisses, high fives etc but not a lot at once. Also sometimes a simple pat on the head can feel like I’m being punched really hard and I quickly snap. Also sounds like popping balloons, alarms and sirens send me straight to stressville and can cause meltdown so as much as possible I try to avoid noisy environments. This kind of sensitivity is not all bad though. My sound sensitivity helps me a lot as a musician.

So there you go. I hope this is helpful to Erica and other parents who read this.

Don’t be overwhelmed, it will get easier.
Kate.

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