Today my love, was not your day.
I could sense it was coming last night since it was one of those nights that was marked with a cluster of short naps rather than anything resembling a true nights sleep.
A lack of sleep can cause anyone to be crabby and children (perhaps some adults) can even suffer from temper tantrums or a full blown meltdown as a result!
"My child is having a meltdown!"
I've heard this from a lot of parents over the years, but what are we really talking about?
The word "meltdown" was originally invented to describe what happens when, after a series of incidents and warnings, the core of a nuclear reactor is exposed to the air. A major crisis occurs, and the possible outcomes include a lethal release of radioactivity or a massive explosion!
So maybe that definition isn't 100% accurate as it relates to your meltdowns, although some days I feel it is.
Today was one of those days... the mother of all meltdowns! I'm happy to report we don't have these all the time - but it never gets any easier to bare witness.
Autistic meltdowns can follow the real thing quite closely as a matter of fact.
You've had little sleep, consider that equivalent to a warning. In the "real thing" these warnings are called "rumblings" - an outward sign of distress.
Your rumblings can be verbal (which may include loudly repeating angry gibberish or making a monotone grunting sound) or more obvious like putting your hands over your ears. Most often this will lead to what is called "stimming" - yikes this is a lot of information I know.
"Stimming" or self stimulatory behavior is most often recognized as rocking, pacing, flapping or even jumping. Stimming is a self-calming technique that helps regulate anxiety or sensory input. (Stay tuned I will touch more on stimming in a future post!)
Side note: not all stimming is bad - it can also be a sign of excitement.
Back to the meltdown.
This morning, after lack of sleep, you came downstairs stimming very rapidly. After you refused your milk, I quickly realized you were using noises and gibberish rather than words. Consider me warned... When I put syrup on your waffle & you responded with tears, followed by the noise of the toilet flushing sending you into tears but a little louder - I saw the "rumblings".
Unfortunately, you needed a bath which also includes washing your hair and brushing your teeth. Needless to say, not your favorite activities... the sound that brushing teeth and washing hair make in your head can really set you off. It wasn't pleasant, but we got through it.
When I was getting you dressed I tried to pick up a few toys in your room. That brought out the a very angry side of you. What I saw as a mess of toys, was of course strategically placed by you. Shame on me I messed it all up.
We - sister, brother, mom, dad (and even Miss Tammy) basically played a guessing game all day trying to make it all better. We desperately wanted to grab you and give you a hug (after all deep pressure is usually something you enjoy). We tried it, nothing.
It's exactly what you didn't want. In fact sometimes touch can make it worse. "Predictably unpredictable" I always say. I don't even think a giant bowl of ice cream would've helped you.
These are the times where I feel helpless. The beautiful "mommy magic" we have to heal a boo boo with a kiss...that's gone. Instead, you are in front of me almost pleaing with me crying, yelling, screaming to make it better. But I don't know what to do. I just want to breakdown with you, but I know that's not going to help anything.
Count to 10.
We will get through this together.
Sweet girl, I simply can't imagine being you with so many sensory and auditory challenges on top of the added lack of communication. Please know I understand you are struggling. I know you're not melting down to get something, but rather to get rid of something that is causing you distress.
I can't control every sound, light, motion, or sensation & never know exactly what will set you into a state of distress, but will continue working on new coping skills to help you. I will never give up. I promise.
I love you.