Autisms & Triggers
Those with autism have different things that can trigger what I call a "meltdown". A "meltdown" is a temper tantrum of epic proportions.
Imagine the temper tantrum of a 2 year old. Now multiply the volume by 100, and the strength of the flailing giver of the tantrum by 100, and the stress caused by the tantrum by 100. Now imagine that instead of it being the two year old who is having a tantrum because of (perhaps) a firm "no", or a snack that is not approved of, or being in trouble for biting, you have a child who is "melting"....and you actually have no idea why!
For years and years we were surprised by Caleb and his meltdowns. We weren't surprised he was having them, we expected them with his autism, but what surprised us was what they were showing up for. It wasn't that he was scared of something (though he is scared of things and will run away screaming sometimes!), it was things that actually seemed to bother or hurt him somehow.
We started taking note of what was bothering him, half to avoid some of the situations, and half to desensitize him to the triggers.
Some of the things that bothered him back in the day were shoes and boots, socks and underwear, fleece and silk, going to church and pre-school, holding hands, movies being stopped at any point before they were finished (completely and fully, including the credits and any possible thing that might have followed the credits), going for walks (mainly just having to turn around and go back from the direction we had come from), getting his hair cut, brushing his teeth, and bathing.
His new things he has a hard time tolerating are being touched gently (especially on the head) without him seeing your hand coming (and as an add-on, he hates playing tag because of this), he still doesn't like if he can't watch a movie until the bitter end (though he will allow it to be stopped throughout for different reasons-as long as he is the one who can turn off the t.v.), having to turn the van around (if we forgot something or got lost), and having to tell him he's wrong about something he is sooooo very certain of. For example, a tomato being a fruit, and not a veggie, the fact that there are fish called herring, and a bird called a heron that eats fish (he thinks I'm telling him a heron eats a heron), and that the seasons really do go in a particular order, no matter how confusing Canadian seasons are! He also won't let you turn off his night light, and if you do turn it off, he will turn it back on, then off, then on, then off again. Sheesh.
Some of his triggers (from the past and now) are related to his senses and his sensory overloads, and some are possibly because of things Caleb can't express verbally, and gets frustrated about.
My thing about autism and triggers is that some need to be left alone (aka-ignored or risk mega meltdown!), and others really do need to be worked on until the person with autism can function. For instance, getting Caleb to come to church, and get to school without screaming and having a meltdown was important for our family and for him. Making him not turn his night light on and off and on and off, I don't really care about! It's not a life changer.
He used to have a meltdown almost every time we went to the grocery store, I'm still not 100% sure what was triggering those meltdowns, but I knew he needed to learn that the grocery store wasn't so scary. I started fixing that problem with Skittles (I actually worked on a lot of his problems with Skittles!). I never said, "You're being so good, here's a Skittle, I would just nonchalantly pass one to him. We'd get to the store, I'd hand him a Skittle. We'd get a cart, I'd hand him a Skittle. I'd put him in the cart...I think you get the idea. As soon as he would start a meltdown (and, by the way, if you are trying to desensitize a child to something that causes them to react negatively, just tell yourself it will take a while, it will be stressful, but you CAN do it!), I would stop with the Skittles, and carry on at the grocery store, screaming child in tow. I wouldn't talk to him really, I would just carry on. No more Skittles. Honestly, I don't know how long it took exactly to get him to a point where he would do groceries with me, it took a while, but he can do it now. I don't even have to give him any candy! I know right, mother of the year (sarcasm people).
I'm not sure what exactly I'm trying to say except that I just wanted to give you another glimpse at Caleb and his life so far. How far he's come, how much he's accomplished, and how difficult and different his life has been from an average 10 year old. Autism has made his life tricky, and challenging, but also made him strong and resilient.
We all have triggers, things that set us off and irritate us. Maybe we should keep Skittles in our pockets for ourselves to teach us to associate good things with the bad situation. Just kidding. But maybe we can learn something from Caleb about overcoming our fears, the things that make us pull back, and want to "meltdown".
Push on, challenge yourself! You don't know how strong you can be until you push and see how strong you are! Don't assume that because something has scared you, or you failed at something, that you can't try to do it again. Geepers, if Caleb felt like that, he wouldn't go to school or church, would still be bare feet and underwear-less. He wouldn't brush his teeth or take a bath, and he wouldn't be the amazing young man he is today!
Jen Knapp Long
7/10/2014 09:21:29 am
I found your blog through your cute cup-and-saucer birdfeeder DIY on Pinterest and (as you know) this article follows it... I'd say it was a coincidence, but I think I was meant to find this article today. My son, Henry, also has Autism and we've been dealing with a greater-than-normal amount of meltdowns within the last week or so and it's just nice to hear another mom sharing similar experiences. Thank you! Thank you!
7/12/2014 12:58:26 am
Hi there! The strange thing is that this post doesn't follow the tea cup and saucer bird feeder, so you were really led to this post by providence! I'm glad you got here, no matter how it happened! Summer tends to bring on more meltdowns that usual for our kids with autism, as the routine of school days seems to keep them grounded. Summer is meant to be a fun time off, but for kids with autism is can just be endless days of not knowing what's going to happen. This journey is hard (crazy hard!), but I find encouragement in hearing from other parents who are in this "with me", even if I never meet them. I hope your Henry gets settled into summer, and know that I'm rooting for you!
Leave a Reply.
Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
Read more about me by clicking here!
Want to Stay Connected?