#Autism: How I manage a meltdown

#Autism: How I manage a meltdown

For many years we dealt with meltdowns in solitude. We didn’t ever let anyone see these because we didn’t think they would understand.  It seemed like something we should keep private. However, all that did was further isolate us from the rest of the world. We would explain to our friends and family about the meltdowns but never allowed them to witness one. Anytime Gavin would get all worked up we would leave and deal with that at home, away from everyone else.

That was one of the biggest mistakes we could have made. I say that because, there is no way I could expect anyone to understand the gravity and impact of one of these meltdowns. I mean, how could they. It’s difficult to put into words what not only Gavin experiences but we experience as well. When we would tell someone, that we couldn’t come over because it would inevitably lead to overstimulation and then a huge meltdown, they didn’t understand. The problem that their definition of meltdown and what we were experiencing with Gavin were completely different. We were told we were overreacting or making a bigger deal out of it than we should. After all, Gavin was so cute and small, how could he possibly do the things we were saying he does?

At some point and I don’t remember when, it hit me that the only way they would ever understand is if they experience it first hand. This meant that when we were at someone’s house and Gavin was winding up, we would deal with it onsite, meltdown and all.

Needless to say, it only took once before most people finally got it. They could not believe what they were seeing. Maybe this is wrong of me but there was something liberating about someone else witnessing what we went through every single day. I was such an awesome moment to know that people were finally starting to understand.

I can’t tell you how many of our family members, teachers, therapist and doctors have told us that if they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes, they would never have believed what he was capable of.

Having said everything above, I want you to understand why I share these videos.

I truly think that people won’t understand until they experience it themselves or at least witness it first hand. I’m not ashamed that Gavin has these meltdowns and neither should he. In Gavin’s case, he is emotionally about 3 or 4 years of age, when his body is a 12 year old boy. Gavin reacts like this at times it affects the entire Lost and Tired family. We do our best to help him work through them in the only way that works for him. To someone without first hand knowledge of Gavin and what works and what doesn’t, might think this approach is cruel or without compassion. All I can say is that we have tried everything over the years that we could think of and this approach is the only one we have ever had success with.

Plus, we have other children to worry about as well. If it were just my wife and I, perhaps we could afford to handle things a bit differently. However, our two other boys are terrified during these meltdowns and so I have to try and defuse them as rapidly as possible.

Gavin doesn’t have these as often as he used to but they are still very intense and disruptive. Lately, he has begun the whole self-injury thing again. In this video you even hear me remind him what happens if that starts up again.

My hope is that these videos will help others to better understand what we mean when we use the word meltdown. Every child is different, but I think this will help get the point across.


[youtube width=”720″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh3Hfch1P_Y[/youtube]

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Alana Sheldahl

What Tabitha said. Ditto. You are an awesome parent.


I am impressed with your ability to continue giving instructions in a calm, measured voice. It shows you have been practicing a lot! We have an autistic with other neurological disorders child in the family – and have dealt with many a meltdown. He has come a long way, but it's a hard road. I am guessing Gavin's meltdowns were even more physical and violent in earlier years — and that he, also has come a long way. It's very hard to be consistent in the midst of constant meltdowns — but there is a positive payoff for being calmly consistent. God bless you in your day by day (minute by minute) handling of such a stressful situation.


Thank you very much 🙂

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