Ever wondered what a “meltdown” was

Ever wondered what a “meltdown” was

We are half a day into the 2012 and we have just experienced the worst meltdown we have seen in the better part of a year. The New Year has always been a time of clean slates and new beginnings. This year seems to headed off in the wrong direction.

For the very first time, in a very long time, Lizze and I both had to work together to manage Gavin during this meltdown.

Typically, I handle the meltdowns because they have simply become to much for Lizze to deal with. She isn’t strong enough to physically intervene or God forbid, have to defend herself. She will usually help me by staying with the other boys and helping them to feel same during their oldest brothers brief reign of terror. Terror is not an over-exaggeration either.

When these colossal meltdowns occur, the entire house shakes, the windows rattle and the screaming can be heard five house down.

Imagine what that must feel like for a sensory sensitive three and five year old to experience. Terrorizing is a very accurate word to use when describing these moments that seem to last for an eternity.

Today, Gavin has been struggling. We had problems all morning and when we had finally extended as many second chances as we were willing to, he was told he would be having oatmeal for lunch. That was all it took. He completely lost it as you can see in the video. For about 15 or 20 minutes he did nothing but scream at the top of his lungs, self-injure and cause his little brothers to cower in fear.

During this period of time, Gavin was once again told that he would be holding his Lego ship with both hands. This serves a dual purpose. One, it helps to keep his hands safe. If he’s holding his ship, then in theory, he can’t hurt himself or those around him. Two, it serves as a natural consequence for his behavioral choices. We used to have him sit on his hands so that he couldn’t hit himself. However, I discovered that this was a much more effective approach.

The idea behind him sitting like a pretzel, is once again for safety reasons. In theory, if his legs are crossed, he is unable to kick himself or those around him.

Throughout the entire duration of the meltdown, you will hear me constantly remind him of these things. You will also hear me talk about screaming into the air. In the Lost and Tired house, we have a rule that while we are allowed to be angry, we are not allowed to scream into the air. We are allowed to scream into our pillow or mattress but not into the air. This is basically a Gavin rule, as the other boys typically don’t scream like this, and is done to try and limit the trauma to the other boys during one of these meltdowns.

You may also notice that as he begins to self-injure, I don’t intervene. This is because, at least in Gavin’s case, self-injury is a tool used for the purposes of manipulation. 

The point of him hurting himself is to try and control our reaction and subsequently our behavior. Admittedly, at first, it worked. However, over the years and many, many trips to the hospital, we have learned to not respond to this. The only exception would be at the risk of him very seriously injuring himself. Examples of that would be putting his fists through a window or jamming things into his eyes. I know it sounds unpleasant but as his parents, it’s something we have to do for him.

You can also see that he can exhibit control when he wants to. When a piece breaks off his Lego ships, he carefully moves the pieces to the side before continuing with his meltdown.

Disclaimer: This video is for an eye opening, education purpose. This is not done to somehow make Gavin look bad. Gavin is a great kid and we love him very, very much. That being said, his behaviors are a huge problem. My goal here is to help others to better understand what happens during these meltdowns and the measures we take to regain control of the situation. Every child on the Autism Spectrum is different and for that reason, what works for the Lost and Tired family may not work for yours. 

Likewise, my reactions to these behaviors may seem, callous and lacking compassion. However, I assure you that my reactions are carefully managed in order to do what is best for Gavin. Gavin is not a typical Autistic child and so typical things don’t work.


[youtube width=”720″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-ou7ux6evw[/youtube]

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Your control is inspiring. Will remember and use more control when dealing with my anger issues. Deep breathing, happy thoughts. What a concept.


My Gosh, holding the lego ship and sitting like a pretzel are brilliant strategies, Rob. I mean that. with all sincerity. And no, you sound in control and matter of fact while reinforcing protocol. Am sure that's a comforting thing for the other boys as well as for Gavin, on some level. It is what I would hope I could do under similar circumstances. Thinking of you.
My recent post No, That Was Last Year…


oh, and btw, your dog is a camera hog!!!!!!


Rob I have a question.

Have you tried showing Gavin these videos to show him what he looks like when he does this? My oldest daughter never remembers her meltdowns, (or episodes, as we call them).

She is 18, and they have been increasingly more and more violent as she has gotten older. I started showing her what she does to us, and it was an eye opener.

Not that it has stopped her, mind you.

I have learned a lot from your blog, and as always, I appreciate your candor.

Happy New Year.

Wendi in Oregon

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