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Meltdowns: when you fear they will hurt themselves

having a hard timeSome meltdowns are so violent that they require physical restraint to ensure the Tot doesn’t hurt himself.

After coming home yesterday devoid of words, the Tot lounged on the sofa with his pillow and sippy cup watching Dora. Slowly his speech returned I’m assuming after he had enough time to decompress from his school bus ride. It took about an hour before he jumped up and asked to play games on my computer (another in the long list of things that are rapidly becoming a serious problem).

I put on Nick.Jr so he can play the preschool games, which is when he insisted that I stay next to him.

A fairly recent development is the Tot insisting I stay next to him so I can be officially touching me at all times.  I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if he stayed where I was, but he insists I stay where he is…even to the point of wanting me to sit in the chair with him, constantly. If I walk away, screaming violent meltdowns are follow. It’s getting so bad that if I say “one minute,” or “wait a second,” he is gets violent.

Everything is irritating the Tot lately making the meltdowns more frequent, including the baby crying, which is very concerning.

How did the meltdown start that left me sitting in the living room floor with both arms and both legs wrapped around him in restraint for over 30 minutes?

I walked away, to pick up a crying baby. The game character didn’t obey him. He couldn’t “reach” me.

In the span of about 30 seconds, happy kid, turned into banging table, slamming mouse, tossing computer chair over kid. I managed, barely, to run and put the baby in the crib, and get back to the Tot just as he was trying to toss the computer off the desk.

He was screaming, “I want a different game.”

“No more games.” I turned off the computer and took a hold of the him. At this point the screaming, grunting, flailing, hitting, and complete loss of control began.

When this happens, there is nothing I can do, no where I can put him. I can only physically hold him so he does not smack his head on the floor, or furniture, or on me! The last one usually fails as he beats his body against mine screaming for me to let him go so loud that I worry someone might call the police.

I watched the clock. He remained in full violent mode, while he tried to get away for 35 minutes without a break. This was relatively short compared to days when this lasted for an hour and longer. Times I’ve let him go, he ran into the kitchen throwing everything (including glass) of the counter. I am so scared he will hurt himself during these episodes; I can’t let him go, only hold on and tell him that he is ok, and Mommy has him.

I can’t hold back my tears now when I tell you that it breaks my heart to see him having such a hard time. Understand, he’s not giving me a hard time; he’s having a hard time!

passed outAs suddenly as the meltdown started, it stops. His little body goes limp as he relaxes and he hold on to me.  Sometimes he even looks like he woke out of a nightmare, surprised and looking around like he wasn’t sure what happened or where he was. Or he starts hitting himself, I’ve even heard him say, “bad Tommy, bad Tommy, don’t hit Tommy!” All while hitting himself.

Other times, after lying calmly for a while, he jumps up like the cute, sweet, loving kid that he is and says, “Mommy, look! I’m not crying. I’m not screaming anymore. I’m happy again.” Then he looks hopefully over at the exhausted heap I have become, and asks, “Are you happy Mommy?”

“Yes, baby I’m happy.”

“Why you crying Mommy? Be happy.”

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.