Surviving a meltdown -

Surviving a meltdown

I have alot of new readers so I would like to preffice this video with a few things. As a father to 3 boys on the Autism Spectrum, my wife and I have been dealing with meltdowns for over a decade. For a very long time we kept these very private because we didn’t want anyone to think poorly of our kids, or really at the time, Gavin. This came a cost. No one ever really witnessed these but us and maybe the teachers, doctors and therapists. 

Our families had very little idea of what we were dealing with and really how could they. We spent a great deal of time and energy hiding our daily struggles. When they would us say, Gavin’s having a meltdown, they would equate that with the types of meltdowns they themselves, experienced as young parents. The problem is that the meltdowns we experienced were in a completely different league. No matter how we explained it, no one could truly understand until they witnessed them first hand.  Even our seasoned psychologist, Dr. Pattie has said many times, “if I hadn’t witnessed it first hand, I would never have believed it”. 

With that said, I want to explain why I share these videos. I truly believe the best way to spread Autism Awareness and help people to have much better understanding of what Autism is like to at least my family, is if I open up a window into our lives. By doing this people can see first hand some of the struggles we face as special needs parents. When a person in the general public hears someone refer to their ASD child having a meltdown, they have no idea what that translates to in real life.

By sharing these videos people can see exactly what these meltdowns can entail. Something very important to remember is that every child on the spectrum is different. This means that meltdowns can very in many ways from person to person. I want to make sure that is understood. 

I also want to make very clear that this is not meant to make Gavin look bad. In fact, I’m actually very proud of Gavin because this is the first meltdown he has had in a few months. It was bound to happen at some point and today was the day.

Surviving a meltdown

This afternoon Gavin had a pretty major meltdown. This is actually the first one we have really seen since July. However, today Gavin hurled a large magnetic rock at Elliott and hit him on the back of the hand, leaving a large welt. Elliott was screaming in pain, as it looks like it really hurt. I had Gavin jumping up and down starting to freak out. I also happened to be home by myself with all the boys at the time when this took place.

Gavin made a less then good choice when he decided to throw the rock at Elliott. Even though Gavin has many challenges in life, there are consequences for his actions and in Gavin’s case, that typically entails replacing his next meal with oatmeal. I know that sounds weird but it’s the only thing that works with him and I’m not going to delve into the background on that at the moment.

You can feel free to search the term “oatmeal” in the side bar and read more about that.

Gavin hasn’t had to have oatmeal in a few months and so he lost it. He’s not so much upset by the oatmeal itself but more upset that he’s being held accountable for his actions. Anyway. Gavin went into a full on meltdown and I managed to get him into his room and away from the other boys who were terrified and trying to hide from him. Elliott ran downstairs and turned on a movie for him and Emmett in order to drown out the screaming. I went into Gavin’s room and began trying to help him through it. I have to be very direct with Gavin or he doesn’t respond. So if I sound callous that’s simply because that’s the best approach with Gavin.

This wasn’t easy because Emmett came up and wouldn’t leave my side because he wanted to make sure I was okay. Trying to manage a meltdown of this caliber and to other kids by yourself is no easy task.

I record these for a few reasons, as I stated above. However, since Gavin has been self-injuring to the degree he has been this summer, I document what happens so I can show the anyone that would question what happened. It also helps the doctors to better understand what we are seeing at home as well. Something to note is that we very seldom physically intervene because he’s trying to get a reaction from us much of the time and intervening would give him what he wants. ALL of the doctors have said to supervise at most and only intervene if a life threatening situation presents itself.

This particular meltdown is very mild  in comparison to what we are actually used to with Gavin. Gavin deserves full credit for that. Even though he had the meltdown, he regained his composure in about 10 minutes (which is really quick because these can sometimes last an hour or so) and made the choice not to seriously hurt himself. I’m very proud of this because you can see him struggling with wanting to hurt himself but he choose not to.

This might sound really weird but I really think this is progress. Clearly not perfect but I’m not after perfect and I’ll take a meltdown like this any day of the week over the kind that see him admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital for a few days.

I hope this helps to illustrate what a meltdown can be like for an ASD child. I also hope this gives you a better idea of what many special needs parents are dealing with when they say meltdown.

Just for the record, I’m far from perfect as I’m sure you can hear in the video. All I can do is the best I can, learn and move on.

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I can say that I know exactly how he is feeling on the inside. With my bipolar, as a child, I did the very same thing! I had the same complete breakdowns. Hitting myself, screaming. I can tell you that from his point of view there is so many feelings going on inside. It's really unexplainable the way you're feeling. Actually, it's kind of like you know you have done wrong. You're mad at yourself for doing it. You're trying to express how you feel, but it's rather difficult b/c you can't. I don't know, it's just really hard to explain, but I know EXACTLY how he feels! You are absoultely right though, there still needs to be consequences for his actions. I always had consequences as well. It has actually taught me how to handle these "meltdowns" on more of a civil basis as an adult. Don't get me wrong, I still have these meltdowns every once in a while now. I wish I could explain to you better what he is feeling inside, but it's so hard to put into words. It's actually like being buried alive and struggling for air. It's like you have all these things you're feeling and you can't get out from underneath them. Next time I am down there remind me and maybe I can explain it better face-face. I will try to sit & think about it, maybe write down a better explanation. I just want to try and help you understand more of what he is feeling b/c I know that was the worse part for my parents. My mom will still say "I hated when you had one of your fits (that's what they called them) I never knew what was going on." Believe it or not I was the EXACT same way! Before bipolar was ever introduced to the world, before any medicines. Love you guys


You are an AMAZING parent! This is a really cool video because it shows how very far your son has come and how very hard he is working to get himself under control. I love how you spoke calmly to him and how the rules and consequences for managing his bahavior and his melt down were re-iterated. I liked your "we don't scream into the air" rule and also the sitting on your hands rule. We've had the exact same issues with our oldest daughter, and so much of this was so heart-breakingly familiar that it made me cry. I think this video is a GOLD STANDARD demonstration of good parenting for an AS melt down!!!!

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