Disclaimer: I am by no means making a blanket statement about persons with Autism. Every child and adult with Autism is as unique as a snowflake. This is my personal observation, based on my personal experience. I’m not an expert and would never presume to understand your child better than you. I just noticed something today that may simply be unique to Gavin, but I thought I would share it anyway, in case someone out there could benefit.
Autism and Meltdowns: An Interesting Discovery
Gavin has been making some less than good choices lately. I’m not sure if it’s the stress of the holidays or just one of those things. However, we are back to having at least one meltdown a day. That is a pretty big increase from not having any meltdowns for so long.
Last year and for as far back as I can remember, Gavin would have 5-6 meltdowns per day. They ranged from relatively minor to extremely violent and destructive, often resulting in self-injurious behavior. Gavin has been admitted to the hospital, many times, as a result of injuring himself during these meltdowns. Last year he was admitted about 5 times and in 2011 he was admitted only twice. These were almost always a result of him self-injuring.
Today was another one of those days, only it started first thing this morning.
Gavin was asking to play video games this morning. He typically isn’t aloud to play because it almost never goes well. They are far to stimulating for him and he simply can’t handle them. It’s not so much a punishment as it is protecting him the overstimulation. For those undoubtedly wondering, it doesn’t matter what kind of game he plays. Gavin +Video Games= Complete Disaster.
He became so relentless with Lizze this morning that I felt it warranted him having oatmeal for lunch.
Now, this is where I noticed something that I haven’t noticed before or at least in a very long time.
After I told Gavin that he would be having oatmeal for lunch, the meltdown was almost immediate. I say almost immediate because Gavin did something that I thought was very interesting. Prior to being told about the oatmeal for lunch, he was playing with a Lego ship that he had created. Upon being told about the oatmeal, he became very, very angry. However, before he completely melted down, he very carefully put his ship down on the couch. He did this to ensure that nothing happened to it while he threw his fit.
What I found very interesting was just how deliberate his actions were.
This gave me an idea. I decided that he should not be able to put his Lego ship down while he disrupts everyone else’s lives. So, I made him pick his Lego ship up and hold it with both hands. Typically, we require Gavin to sit on his hands and keep his legs crossed. We do this because his hands and feet are generally used as weapons and so requiring him to do this helps to keep everyone safe.
This time however, I decided to make him hold his ship instead of sit on his hands. This way there was a very real and very natural consequence for him throwing his fit. If he continues to throw his fit, he risks destroying his prized Lego ship. That seemed pretty fair to me. I mean, if we all had to endure his screaming and stomping, then it was only right that he experience the immediate and realtime consequences of his actions as well.
Those consequences revolved around his Lego ship taking damage as he pitched his fit.
I required him to hold his ship with both hands, that way his hands would be same, and if they weren’t than his ship would pay the price. You can see in this video how he calms down long enough to make the repairs to his ship as it suffers damage. I found this to very interesting.
It showed me that he was able to control himself when it came to disrupting or destroying something he values. However, that control disappears when his actions only affect those around him. To me, and I of course could be wrong, but this demonstrates an element of control and conscience choice when it comes to him preserving the things that he cares most about.
If this holds true going forward, it opens up some new avenues for behavior management. This will likely require continued outside of the box thinking on our part but we may no longer be out of options when it comes to managing Gavin’s meltdowns.
[youtube width=”720″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6lySRHGXVU[/youtube]