Managing Meltdowns (and shutdowns)

Before my son was diagnosed with ASD & ADHD, the meltdowns at school were pretty intense. He was always remorseful afterwards and wrote endless ‘sorry’ notes to various teachers and peer provocateurs, but still, of course, the meltdowns continued.

Penny for ’em?

One class teacher said in a meeting: ‘but they come out of nowhere and ‘poof’ he blows up! I tried to gently inject that there was always a trigger, but she wouldn’t have any of it. Out of nowhere, she kept repeating, like she was in a state of dazed confusion. But this video from Neurodivergent Rebel, explains what is happening perfectly, confirming that there is ALWAYS a trigger. They also delve into the difference between a meltdown and a shutdown. Take a look >>

It seems remarkable, in hindsight, that his behaviour wasn’t identified as autistic, but perhaps not when we consider there are clearly still barriers to diagnosis, which include teacher bias, teacher inexperience, school dynamics, classroom dynamics, the child’s level of communication and cognitive ability and much more. I watched this video, remembering when I was trying to explain that there must have been something to cause his meltdown, but my voice simply wasn’t heard. This is why it’s so important to hear experiences from autistic speakers, bloggers and activists to ensure that changes are made and children don’t continue to struggle at school.

One of the things we discuss in my #happyinschool projects is how to manage meltdowns at the point of blast off at home or school. I advise parents and teachers that there is huge power in that one moment; their initial response can make a situation escalate or start to cool down. The Neurorebel’s vlog is helpful here too, as they remind us it’s not personal. I remind parents and teachers that when they are sworn at or hurt in the heat of the moment, it really isn’t personal or malicious.

Life with an autism, ADHD youngster is full of high emotion and not all of it positive, and we need to learn to ride that rollercoaster as safely as possible. It’s complex, labour-intensive and ever-changing, but there is also an element of surrender. We can sometimes try too hard to fix people who aren’t broken. They are happy living live on their terms, and sometimes it’s the restraints of a rigid school system that is too difficult to navigate, day in day out.

A good place to start improving the anxiety and stress that comes with living as an neurodiverse individual in a neurorigid world, is to:

-listen, really listen to the voices of the neurodiverse

-listen to solutions and strategies put forward by neurodiverse

-listen to the voices closest to the neurodiverse (consider consent, age, etc.,)

-ditch the blame game, blame is a rigid emotion and creates stagnation

-embrace flexible thinking

If it all goes wrong, try something new. I mean, who said this was easy 🙂

© Suzy Rowland

S.E.N.D. in the Clowns, my new book is available to buy from all good bookshops.

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