The one that starts like a spark and get more violent that an explosion.
The one that makes you throw object at others or kicks walls as hard as you can.
The one that makes you hurt people you love deeply or throw your glass full of milk at someone else.
If you have already seen one of those you certainly live with someone with austistic spectrum disorder.
In my case it is my aspergirl that can explode like this for a yes or a no, for any reason at any moment. Most of the time we can’t prevent it and in most cases we don’t know what is the cause of such violence. And she probably doesn’t know either sometimes. It is, most of the time, related to sensory output that are overwhelming to her. Things that we don’t necessarily see, hear or taste, but that is overwhelming for them. For example, take a look at this video on Youtube.
It evolves as they grow up
For my daughter it was worst when she was 8 or 9 years old. Now she is getting older and I think she maybe knows herself better. I don’t know. Maybe I am too optimistic or just used to it. The triggers are not necessarily the same as they were before, and the reactions are different too.
Learning to let go of others’ scornful look
The meltdowns that look like violent outbursts of rage and distress happen sometimes in public places. At first you would say: what a shame, everybody looks at us! At first it seems like it can be. Once you know it is kind of normal for your child to act out this way you don’t feel ashamed anymore. You just feel kind of helpless. You wish you could just hold them tight and make all this emotional distress go away. But most of the time, you can not hold them (BTW autistic children often don’t like to be touched).
All you can do is patiently wait until the meltdown is over and make sure everyone, including yourself, is safe and secured. Because you never knows what could happen. Scissors, knifes, vases, tv remote, shoes, everything, absolutely everything can become a weapon and yourself be the target. In the car, in the kitchen, at Costco, in your bedroom, at the park. Anywhere. You always have to be prepared for the worst scenario.
For example, in my house, all my kitchen knives and scissors are secured in a toolbox. This way I only have one place to focus my attention if an unexpected meltdown occurs.
Bringing my cellphone everywhere
In my car, I tend to never let my kids bring stuff. Too often my daughter threw things to me while I was driving. Also I always have my cell phone with me with 2-3 games in it she really likes. So if I feel like everything is gonna go bad, I offer her to play with my phone. Always a successful idea. This way she has no time to think about what is going on or how long the drive will be or how loud her siblings are singing!
It just happens
You really need to see one of those outbursts to know what a real meltdown is. As parents of autistic children we live with those. We learned to. Is there any other option? We often look exhausted. Perhaps it is not the main reason we are but it can play a big part in our all-the-time-exhaustion. And now you’ll know why. By the way, meltdowns can occur a couple times a day, certain days. There is not regularities. It just happens when it happens. Even when we do our best to foresee them and get rid of all the sensory outputs that can trigger them. They just happened.
Try to be non-judgemental
If you cross our path, a compassionate smile is better than a disapproving look. Take that for granted!