Wednesday, October 06, 2010

There is a difference

I was asked today by someone who reads my blog if there is a difference between a meltdown and a tantrum.  Kids know how to work their parents, whether or not we want to admit it.  The difference between an Aspie kid having a meltdown and a kid just wanting something they can’t have is plain if we want to open our eyes and see it. 

A meltdown is a stressor release, generally caused by their lack of communication skills and emotional coping skills.  I have found that one of JJ’s stressors is if he feels that he has too much on his plate so to speak at one time, he will start to stress.  I will give you an example: If I ask him to do “his homework” but I don’t specify “do your math homework” he will look at the three duo tangs on the table and think…”I can’t do them all at once” and he will start to get upset.  He will then start to repeat himself by saying “I can’t do this” over and over.  The thought of trying to do “all his homework” at once is too much for his brain to process… yet instead of saying out loud, “I can’t do all my homework at the same time”, and I  could then rephrase my request,he takes my request to “do your homework” literally and has a meltdown. Word phrasing is a key to keeping Aspie kids stress levels down.  Remember they take all our words literally.
Another example : If we went out to the mall and he wanted me to buy him something and I said no and he persisted until he got to the tantrum stage he is purely working me.  He is trying to push my buttons hoping that if he throws a big enough tantrum I will give in.  Luckily dragging a kicking and screaming child out of wall mart time and again, and going straight home, hasn’t happened for many years.  I can tell you that there is nothing more embarrassing, but you just can’t give in.   If you do give in, your rewarding “negative” behaviour and teaching them that what they are doing(tantrum) will eventually get them what they want.  You give in once and your setting yourself up for years of battles.  You give in once and you will be making your life twice as difficult as it needs to be.  You have to be consistent and I can’t stress that enough.  I have learned that the hard way.

Because you can’t spring anything on a child with aspergers, I found that I had to tell him what the plans were going to be for the day.  I would even make a chart and post it on the fridge. For example: If i was going to the mall to pick up bla,bla,bla.. I would tell him we would be going around 10 am and we aren't going to be buying anything else.  Of course because he is a literal kid, I have to make sure if I have a list that I tell him the whole list or I will only be having an argument about what I said I was going to the mall for. lol  That way there was no open end on what we could buy, it was cut and dry and he wouldn’t ask me to buy him something and a tantrum was adverted.  As he got older and got an allowance for his chore, we would pick one day of the month to go to the mall and he could buy something he wanted with his saved up allowance money.  Believe me it works.

Giving a child with aspergers choices is also something that is too stressful. In the morning I generally don’t ask JJ what he wants for breakfast.  Most or 90% of the time I just make him something or narrow it down to two things.  You can’t overload them with options.  If they need to do certain tasks don’t list them off,eg: go make your bed, brush your teeth,comb your hair, put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Instead give them one at a time, help if its needed and will cut down on their stress.  Explain how to do things, don’t just assume that they how to do it.  When they do it, praise them.. reward good behaviour with lots of praise.
When JJ was between the ages of 1-6 he had meltdowns every couple of hours before I paid close attention to what was setting him off.  He went for counselling for a year on how to deal with his meltdowns which helped tremendously as well.

There is a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown, and most days with consistency, word phrasing, less options, quiet surroundings you can advert them or lessen the occurrence.

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