Why a #meltdown kept my son home from school today

Emmett was in rare form this morning. He began melting down the moment he woke up. I’d say he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I don’t think it was that simple. 

I’ve spoken many times about my understanding of Emmett and meltdowns. 

Emmett is extremely sensory driven, very easily overstimulated. He spends a good deal of time, looking for stimulation his body needs to know where he physically exists in time and space. 



It appears that Emmett had a really good time at the zoo yesterday, with his school. It also appears to have drained his resources. When his resources are drained, he doesn’t cope well with anything, and today was one of those days. 
As far as Emmett is concerned, his day was shot before it began. 

We worked with him all morning, and here are a few things we tried:

  1. Deep pressure
  2. Brushing
  3. Ferrets
  4. Tight hugs
  5. Reasoning (which is pointless during a meltdown) 
  6. Redirection 
  7. Removing him from the immediate environment that was causing him distress

Unfortunately, nothing worked. Frankly, when a child with Autism is in the midst of a meltdown, there’s very little you can do, aside from hunker down and ride it out. 

Emmett was very much over the edge this morning. He was so far over the edge in fact, we couldn’t even see the edge in the rear view. 

He ended up missing school because he was so upset, he’d made himself sick. 

I can only speculate as to the cause, because there are simply too many possibilities. I do think it was likely fallout from his field trip yesterday. He may also be entering a fever cycle as well. We’ll see this kind of thing when a flare is imminent. 

Read This  Continuing to lose devastating amounts of sleep

Punishing him for this is wrong. Punishing any child with Autism for having a meltdown is wrong. These are involuntary acts, meaning the child in question has absolutely no control. Not to be confused with a tantrum, which is all about manipulation. 

For the most part, Emmett’s feeling better but it’s still been a difficult day. 



  • Jimmy Rock says:

    It seems that this post was written directly in response to my earlier comments, so thanks for that.

    I definitely don’t have a magic bullet solution, but I do have a different spin on this. You list all the things you tried during the meltdown, but then stated that there’s little anyone can do during an autistic child’s meltdown but ride it out. You even listed as one of the things you tried was reasoning with him, which you noted was pointless during a meltdown.

    It’s been my experience that if any of all those things you listed don’t do anything to help during a meltdown, then don’t keep trying them during a meltdown. All they will do is unnecessarily bring on further frustration for him – “they’re doing all these things to help me and NOTHING works!!!!”

    It must be a frustrating thing for a kid to be so overwhelmed and out of control, and then on top of it to know that the people who love him the most, despite their best efforts, can’t do anything to help. I know Kim suggested having him go to his room, and you sort of discounted the suggestion. I understand why- the way the suggestion came across, whether it was intended or not, was as if it was intended as a form of punishment. No need to go though the differences between tantrums and meltdowns- I think we’re both well versed there.

    If he’s not hurting himself, why not put him in another room, maybe his room (with a book, fidget toy, music, etc), so that he’s not the center of everyone’s attention and he can work through it on his own – and tell him exactly that when you do it? Honestly it’ll be better for him because he won’t be subjected to all these things that aren’t working for him and are just bringing on even more frustration. It relieves some of your burden of trying to fix a stressful situation that it doesn’t seem like you can actively do anything to fix. And it just may help him work through the meltdowns without unintentionally added pressure.

    No quick fixes here, and every situation is different. Just offering a different perspective – a change in approach might be beneficial to him and you.

    • Rob Gorski says:

      Thanks Jimmy. I always appreciate your candor.. I do like the idea of a fidget. We have a few of those but there are some new ones out there that seem like they’d be right up Emmett’s alley… ☺

  • Jimmy Rock says:

    It seems that this post was written directly in response to my earlier comments, so thanks for that.

    I definitely don’t have a magic bullet solution, but I do have a different spin on this. You list all the things you tried during the meltdown, but then stated that there’s little anyone can do during an autistic child’s meltdown but ride it out. You even listed as one of the things you tried was reasoning with him, which you noted was pointless during a meltdown.

    It’s been my experience that if any of all those things you listed don’t do anything to help during a meltdown, then don’t keep trying them during a meltdown. All they will do is unnecessarily bring on further frustration for him – “they’re doing all these things to help me and NOTHING works!!!!”

    It must be a frustrating thing for a kid to be so overwhelmed and out of control, and then on top of it to know that the people who love him the most, despite their best efforts, can’t do anything to help. I know Kim suggested having him go to his room, and you sort of discounted the suggestion. I understand why- the way the suggestion came across, whether it was intended or not, was as if it was intended as a form of punishment. No need to go though the differences between tantrums and meltdowns- I think we’re both well versed there.

    If he’s not hurting himself, why not put him in another room, maybe his room (with a book, fidget toy, music, etc), so that he’s not the center of everyone’s attention and he can work through it on his own – and tell him exactly that when you do it? Honestly it’ll be better for him because he won’t be subjected to all these things that aren’t working for him and are just bringing on even more frustration. It relieves some of your burden of trying to fix a stressful situation that it doesn’t seem like you can actively do anything to fix. And it just may help him work through the meltdowns without unintentionally added pressure.

    No quick fixes here, and every situation is different. Just offering a different perspective – a change in approach might be beneficial to him and you.

    • Rob Gorski says:

      Thanks Jimmy. I always appreciate your candor.. I do like the idea of a fidget. We have a few of those but there are some new ones out there that seem like they’d be right up Emmett’s alley… ☺