Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mega Meltdown Friday

The end of the school week arrived and I was hit with a rage style tantrum courtesy of Marty, the beautiful [suspected Aspie] four year old. I picked him up from school and he was his usually upbeat excited to be free- self, but things quickly went south. Just before I picked him up, I had purchased he and his brother some books and games at our local bookstore. Of course, his items featured trains. He seemed delighted to have the book, and even thanked me and said how “awesome,” his gift was. Then, as he paged through the book, he noticed the model train picture and shouted, “I don’t want this book; I want a model train.” Calmly, I said, “That’s nice.” He started screaming, “I want a model train!” I tried to ignore him and resist the urge to lecture…’the your being ungrateful’. He persisted in his rant about the model train. Finally, I told him that I was taking the book back. He replied, “Then, I can get the model train?” My response “No,” then a brief lecture about gratitude. I tried to assure him that he could get a model train one day in the future, of course, this did not suffice. “Can I get the train tomorrow, can I?” This questioning went on for the remaining 5 minute drive home. As we approach the driveway, Marty’s rage is intensified by my lack of interest in his request for a model train. He gets out of the car screaming and yelling, to which I ignore. As I am outside getting things out of the car, I can hear him yelling and throwing things in his room. I get in the house and he is hysterically; after slamming his bedroom door and locking himself inside his bedroom, he cannot unlock the door. Big brother, calmly, tries to get Marty to relax and unlock the door. By now he is screaming at the top of his lungs. Finally he manages to open the door. He emerges from the room in tears and terrified. Does he hug me for reassurance or thank his brother for coaching him through his latest crisis…no. He is still talking about the model train. By this time, I am over it. I ignore him as he starts crawling and screaming for me to turn the volume of his TV down so he can’t hear it. After I turn his TV down, Marty crawls over to his bed and lies their speechless. Finally, he has calmed down and the meltdown has surpassed. As a parent, I can’t help but to wonder how and why these meltdowns happen. Why can’t he just adjust to the rigors of kindergarten and make the best of his time there?  How does the over stimulation at school cause these frequent after-school tantrums that seemingly arise out of nowhere? What would make his day less stressful? Will he ever learn to cope with his anxiety? I am the kind of person that hates to see someone in emotional pain, especially my kid. It’s been 4 weeks of school and he has yet to make a friend because no one thinks being called “stupid” is funny or endearing [especially not his teachers]. He’s often in time out and his teachers use the empty promise of playing with ‘the train’ to get him to do what they want him to do. Yesterday, he asked me how was he going to ever make friends. My heart sank; I don’t know how to answer that. All I can do is hope that one day he is able to resist his impulse to name call or growl when he misunderstands his classmates’ attempts to be social and friendly. Hopefully, he will meet friends who are like him or better yet NT friends that are tolerant and caring.  After I reflect on the reason for the meltdown and consider how he may interpret rejection from peers, correction from teachers, confusion, loss of control, and sensory overload, I wonder how I can intervene, help prevent the meltdowns and make his life less stressful and anxious. How can I redirect his him while he is in meltdown mode? After I research the topic, I will follow up with an answer.


  1. Hi there! I had to come and check out your blog, and your Marty sounds like a very smart lil' kiddo. I have a post on my blog about meltdowns, I don't know if you saw it but here's the link:

    I hope you find it helpful. It sounds like from your description you already know how to handle the meltdown once it occurs, which is good. With meltdowns its more about cutting them off at the pass, or preventing them from even happening. That is much easier said than done, and will require much communication between you and school. Its kind of like a gauge on a machine. All day it goes up and down, and once it starts to climb up towards the danger zone, the smallest thing can push the gauge past the limit of No Return. Think of Marty's emotional functioning like that. Things happen throughout his day that make him agitated or calm, and things build and build. I would imagine that by the time you picked him up from school that day even if he seemed calm, his gauge was very close to the danger zone. Then it was just a matter of time before he hit his limit, and emotionally imploded (that's what a meltdown is). So while you didn't cause the meltdown, its too late to think of stopping it once it arrives--at that point you just have to ride it out and do all you can not to reinforce it.

    If Marty is having meltdowns on a regular basis, that's a problem. Something internal or something in his environment is maintaining, or strengthening, his lack of emotional control.

    1. Thanks so much for that info. Marty doesn't have his meltdowns as often as he did when he was younger, but school has been a major source of stress. I often catch him biting his nails at night before bed. I will follow the instructions on your link re: handling meltdowns. I hate to see him going through these; it can be emotionally draining for me as well. Thanks again!