Two days ago, I received my official autism diagnosis at the age of 38. I am mum to a 7 year- old with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
I am trying to spread awareness of meltdowns and make it okay to talk about them. From the information that is currently out there, I see judgement from others and shame from those who experience them. This is not helpful. And pretending they do not exist is not also not helpful so, yes, I am daring to talk about meltdowns. And I’m doing so in a growth-oriented way. That’s just my fancy speak for learning from them.
Getting in tune with what actually comes before the meltdown is the most important factor in helping to reduce their incidences. When my son and I actually kept a diary of our meltdown catalysts, they started to reduce (not disappear, we haven’t got a magic wand!).
When you know the specific catalysts, you can work together to try to prevent the meltdown before the situation arises again. This idea has been written about in depth in Dr Ross Greene’s book The Explosive Child.
I like to bring rainbow thinking into the mix – I think we have all heard of black-and-white thinking, thinking in absolutes, and to the extremes. I have been a black-and-white thinker for most of my life. People can be black-and-white thinkers and still be successful, kind, and have many other positive attributes but it does, in my experience, increase incidences of shutdowns and/or meltdowns.
I have had autistic shutdowns my entire life. It is only now that I realize they are part of my neurological wiring that is screaming for reduced sensory stimulus. My thoughts and feelings move in my rigid black-and-white circuitry of my brain.
Rainbow thinking about more positive ways to view the world starts exercising our brains and increasing our flexibility quotient. Instead of a ‘should’ mindset of fixed absolutes, my son and I are developing a ‘could’ mindset of possibilities.
I should say that once a meltdown starts, any information to be processed will exacerbate them. At meltdown stage, the best that can happen is keeping everyone safe. Only when you can predict when they are likely to occur should you introduce rainbow thinking. You can talk about it and practice together. Let it be the catalyst for the future.
My son’s and my meltdowns have switched on the lightbulb and we’ve learned so a lot about what triggers them. I certainly do not know everything about meltdowns, but what I do know is that I have never felt more passionate about helping others affected by them. It can be a very isolating experience unless you find other people who have lived it. I hope that I can be that someone for you.
Morgan Salisbury is an Autism mum and teacher with an adult diagnosis of autism. She is based in the UK and is passionate about reaching out to others about meltdowns. Her blog can be found at meltdowntracker.com.
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