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How do you manage meltdowns?

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How do you manage public meltdowns? What strategies do you have for coping? Do you enlist other people or things around you for help or comfort? What ways do you sooth your child or yourself?

  1. Melissa
    February 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I think we’re lucky in that our son has never had an actual ‘meltdown’ in public or anytime really. He’s high functioning and is slowly learning to speak what’s on his mind so we can get him to talk to us about why he is whining or running away. He’s very independent, likes to be alone, and can generally soothe himself with little help from us (and that’s how he likes it).

    • john knipe
      February 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      Thats great news!

    • sanni
      September 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      i hav great dfikulty wth ani changes in routin an melt dwns aer very frequent -any copin thngs wold be hlpful as the rentl i share has ppl tht com an goe al time an its hard tryin tu cope wth thise an kp peace wth ppl whom dnt hav what i du -ASd ise hell fr adults as wel as childrn -lov the werk u ar doin tu hlp us

      • sanni
        September 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm

        im hifunctioning aspergers an aut so it hrd fr me everidae tu gt thru things tht othrs tak fr granted -ur webcites wndrful an i tu tri tu promo awarenes an activisme fr ppl lik me fr lifes a chalinge everydae wth a werld tht dsnt kno wht we goe thru

  2. Kristy
    February 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

    We have been lucky enough to have avoided lots of meltdowns. Jimmy used to have a huge screaming fit if I wanted to try on shoes for him in a Meijer or WalMart. The second his shoes came off he would scream bloody murder. I don’t know HOW I handled it other than to calmly assure him that everything was ok and he was alright. One thing I didn’t do was give up taking him places that triggered meltdowns. I would take him during the day in hte middle of the week when there would be less people there, but take him I did! All we can do is try our best with what we have. This disorder can screw with your head, but it doesn’t have to rule your life!

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Kristy, I got one of those shoe-sizing charts and laminated it…we used to have the same problem until we decided to measure the foot at home. My son now knows that before we go for shoes, the chart will come out. We mark it as we do the wall to show how much he’s grown…he thinks it’s cool!

    • February 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      I totally agree with you, I never stopped taking my son to places where he got upset. I think that every time he was exposed to something whether positive or negative, we both grew stronger. And I think that he learned how to handle situations that he comes across now when I’m no longer there to help him.

    • David
      February 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      I agree with not giving up. We all make mistakes and we all get second chances. I think each situation presents a learning opportunity. That is not to say, however that I have not WANTED to give up at times. I guess my point is: keep living life and deal with each situation as it comes.

    • Heather
      February 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      I totally agree also. I found exposing my son to situations helped him tremendously. We still have an occasional “moment”, but nothing as severe as before. I didn’t pay attention to any stares from other people because honestly it was none of their business. I now warn him before we go into a public place what to expect, crowds, loud noises, etc. and now we can take him to mall during Christmas time and this weekend to Monster Jam!!

      • rebecca mara
        April 21, 2011 at 8:09 am

        love it! thats what I would do, I would ignore all the stares because this is my issue- ive been in some hard spots and I just kept going. Good for you!

  3. 'aureen
    February 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

    As calmly as I can and with a smile. Sometimes it take getting down to her level and calmly explaining why I need her to do what ever she has to do for the appropriate moment and asking for her acknowledge ment. When that doesn’t work loving hugs usually calm her down. When all else fails I just pray to God no one thinks I am abducting my own child. (All with a calm voice and a smile)

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

      My son is now taller and bigger than I am, so I hope and pray that no one will think he’s abducting ME. :D It takes a sense of humor and patience (that I didn’t have before) and faith that it will work out.

    • lyndsey
      February 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm


      Oh yes, the wonderful meldowns in public…I think that parents who have children with Autism are the only ones “trained” to scan a building for the nearest emergency exit before entering and we always know to have money on hand…just in case.

      When my son does have a public meltdown, I will first explain to everyone who is staring that my son has Autism..then I will ask him to use his words…then I will bribe him with whatever he wants at the moment, such as a cookie, coke or french fries…then I immediately lead him to the nearest exit praying we will make it to the car.

      It takes skill, wits, speed and agility to pull this off and of course a sense of humor!! LOL

      • claire
        February 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

        i SO glad that we r not the only family who search for the emergency exits everywhere we go LOL our son is now 5 and some of the looks we get from others r appaling :( and they do get us down at times :( i too try and get him to use his words but all we get so far is NNOOOOOOO
        i have read through some of the tips and will most DEFFINATELY be giving them a go

      • lynn
        February 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

        i Love your post i am still tryn to do this calming down for the melt down my son aydens is turning 5 next week and his meltdowns at walmart are not funny at all and i really hate the stares at least im not like the other parents and cursin them and beatin their butts in public know one knows what we go through with austistic children naccept the ones who have then or take care of them 247

      • Lori
        March 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

        When I read your comment-it brought tears and a huge laugh at the same time. My husband and I have been in that situation WAY to many times. We do the same thing. I know its probably not the best thing to be showing a child that all you have to do is cry/scream to get what you want-but when you have what feel like a million eyes looking at you-you will do anything to get it to stop. After all is calm a towel is needed ( atleast for me) to help wipe off the sweat. I agree a sense of humor is needed-but sometimes its hard to keep it.

    • Monisha Freeman
      February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      I agree, this works wonders for my son, if you yell it only creates more confusion. I usually tune everyone out and focus on my child’s immediate needs pertaining to his frustration, also asking questions and involving into decisions while shopping or going to different places such as “what color would you like, do you want bananas today, or can you wait here with me?”. This seems to be the best strategy for us.

  4. February 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

    If I can’t circumvent a meltdown, I go with the flow. The only thing that has ever shortened the duration of a meltdown, is to stay calm, get to my little guy’s level (on the floor, under a table) and be with him in the moment like an anchor. Too many words or fighting what he is trying to communicate only adds fuel to the fire. Letting him know that I love him and I understand works for us.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Cynthia, I do the same with my son…I speak to him in a soft voice (he has to get closer and feels more calm because of the proximity) and tell him that I understand how he feels and that I will work on solving it if he gives me a moment. I also hum some song he’s into and he starts humming too.

      • claire
        February 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

        thats so true!! he does seem to get worse if i get worked up or panicky wil also try the humming tip :) many thanks

    • Carol
      March 4, 2011 at 8:26 pm

      I love this response. The most important thing we can do is to let know we’re with them and that they’re loved. Onlookers will forget it within 24 hours but how we handle those few minutes can make a great and permanent impact on our children and grandchildren.

  5. Leigh Newman
    February 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Whenever I take my son to places such as Wal-Mart or Target a meltdown is just about guaranteed. In order to avoid these sometime uncomfortable occurrences I make the visit to the store an adventure. Since my son cannot read I draw pictures of “treasures” that he is responsible for finding. Usually his treasures are items he likes such as Pop-Tarts and string cheese. This activity gives him a sense of accomplishment and he feels that he is being a good helper. It also makes him aware of his prizes for good behavior. When we go to other stores where he is unable to treasure hunt I make games out of ordinary activities to keep him engaged and occupied.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

      Leigh, I make a list with PECS when we shop where he’s not interested in anything; he gets to help me find what I’m looking for and it keeps him occupied and makes the visit less boring. At Target we have a clearly defined route: my son’s route…if I need anything that is outside of his flight plan, I grab a second cart and meet my husband and son by the registers. That way my son gets to find his Pringles, Cheez-Its and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, looks at movies and Wii games and by then I’m done with my search and we’re out of there.

      • Lori
        March 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

        WHen we are in stores such as Target etc-we put my son in a shopping cart & take a 2nd one to put things in. While he is in the cart-we give him a toy off the shelf to play with-normally a play computer. We know its not the right thing to do-but it keeps him calm and we are able to shop that way. We know it won’t be much longer before he can’t fit-but for now it works and its better than trying to find a babysitter all the time-hahaha or having to chase him through the store.

    • February 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      I think that the noise at the front end of these stores is very upsetting to some people. It never failed that as soon as we were on a line for a few minutes, the buzzing and the talking and the clanking etc. all culminated in several crying children.

    • Kim B.
      March 10, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      There is a McDonald’s in our Wal-mart and I buy my son a small French fries and sweet tea. He eats and drinks while I shop and we are able to get in and out like we are like everyone else, ha!

  6. Rhonda
    February 22, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I got to say thumbs up to my best friend yesterday dealing with a situation on the pier in Santa Cruz. My son who is POD/NOS and has autistic tendacies can sometime out of the blue just go into overdrive. While sitting at a resturant and towards end of meal he decided he didnt want to sit but stand in at the table. Though this can be a good situtaion gone bad Cliff actually calmly explained that he need to sit and let us finish our meal. He talked with him in a awesome manner that within minutes he was seated and watching the seagull out the window.. KUDOS!! Cliff!! Thank you so much for helping out quickly, quietly and happily with everything… Love ya..

  7. Mark
    February 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I usually try to have things I know he likes with me to settle him down. I also try to pick a certain time like after a nap or 1st thing in the morning after breakfast seems to work. I have had to carry him in the store for awhile to get him to calm dowm.

  8. Kim
    February 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

    First, I need to take the “public” out of the public meltdown. Sometimes that is only possible in my head. I have to stay focused and try to not let the fact that this is happening in full view of people who do not understand what is going on and who do not know me or my son. I get on his level and look him in the eye (or as close as possible) and I try to make my words calm. I tell him this is not the way big boys act and that if this is going to happen he won’t be able to come to the store (or wherever) with Mommy again. I tell him I need him to be my big boy and help me. If that doesn’t work, I remind him of the consequences of such behavior (such as taking away a favorite toy for a couple of days or not being able to play a favorite video game when we get home). If all else fails, I get him to the car, however I can and we simply go home. I cannot let myself focus on anything except him and the behavior of the moment. I have to breathe and be calm (or at least appear to be) for both of our sakes. If people around me think bad things and judge him and/or I, that is absolutely no reflection on us, it’s a reflection on them. My first priority is my son.

    • michelle
      February 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you Kim,for posting.I find myself letting others rude coments and stares get to me and sometimes there reaction bothers me more then my son having a melt down.

    • Marie
      February 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Exactly, Kim. I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time in the past worrying about people like the old woman who asked me “who taught her that?” when my daughter screamed in an elementary school office.

      • claire
        February 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

        GGGRRRRR the comments and stares from others is what really get to me not the fact my son is having yet another meltdown i am thinking of getting me a big neon sign saying ”yes,my son has autism…come fill your boots!! but then ask yourself…could you cope????”

    • February 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you Kim, for your openening line: First, I need to take the “public” out of the public meltdown.
      This is so true, and sometimes so hard to follow. The focus needs to be on my child, not on everyone else’s perception of the situation. We’ve been in every scenario mentioned in this blog: talking calmly, leaving immediately, hoping no one thinks I am abducting my own child. Much appreciate everyone’s input!

    • Amy
      February 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Kim, I do the same. I can’t look at any of the people around me, I just have to stay focused on my daughter and try to get us to the car as quickly as possible. I have a 21 yr old who will throw herself on the ground, tear off her shirt and wet her pants when she melts down. Luckily these are few and far between, because over time I have learned what I have not done to contol the environment or situation, be it lack of information, lack of patience, or not anticipating her response to a certain scenerio ( ignoring what I know). I always have a motivater for her, esecially when we are doing something that is hard for her to handle like shopping. She usualy pickes her own motivator and knows that I will always deliver when her behavior is appropriate which means no whining, no yelling and no throwing herself on the floor. I first lay out the schedule, ( she is blind so we do nt use pecks and she is verbal) first we are going to the store then we will go home and have your snack. Kim you are so right, that staying calm is the key!! I have never stoped taking her places with me, I just disect what hapened and try to learn from it. I gets better over time, if you are a good observer, and willing to admit your own mistakes and adjust accordingly.

    • Chrissie
      February 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      I do the same thing. I am glad I am not the only one.

    • Kimberly
      March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      I usually do exactly the same thing. Although one time I was at the grocery store check out line and my son had a massive meltdown. There was a woman behind me watching me try to deal with it all. She taps me on my shoulder and says “sweetie I just think he needs a little thing called discipline” My response to her in a very loud voice was “Oh thank goodness, you are you an expert in Autism!? Would you please help me with this situation any feedback you can provide would be great” She open mouthed just stared at me and if my son hadn’t been screaming you would have heard crickets. My next response “Oh you aren’t an expert in Autism you’re just a judgmental BI#*H!!!” I turned finished paying for my groceries, picked up my little man kicking and screaming under my left arm and pushed the grocery cart with my right. ;)

  9. anne-marie norman
    February 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    They have gottten better as my children got older. I have just stayed calm, ignored the dirty looks from other people and cpaid for my items in stores, I have left carages full of groceries and walked out of the store to go home. It depends on where we were, how badly I needed whatever it was and how far along in the meltdown the child was. I have had to leave scout meetings because it got too overstimulating for my son and he would start to act out so I woulod take him home. He is now 15 and his meltdowns very rarely happen in public. The hardest thing to handle was a couple of years ago my oldest (a daughter who was 19 at the time) was having a seizure that was going on 3 hours. We were in the waiting room of out local hospital because I did not have the medication to stop the seizure because we ran out the night before and we had been sitting for about 45 minutes when my daughter started to loose it. I went up to the front dest to see if we could get someone to come out and draw her blood so it would appear that something was being done it may helo, if not was there somewhere private she could wait so that her meltdown did not have to be witnessed by everyone in the waiting room. I was informed she was the next person on the list to be seen. I no sooneer sat down when a nurse came out to take us out back. As we were going out back an older woman who had been waiting all afternoon got up and started a scene. “How come she gets to be seen? I have been here since 12:00 (it was now 4:00) she has a tantrum adn you bring her back”. I just looked at the woman and replied very calmly “She has been having a seizure for over 3 hours, she is autistic and scared. What is your excuse?” The nurse was so appolpgetic and very appaled that the woman would say anything, The woman then somehow got back to the examining room area and continued to yell. They had to get security to get her out. My daughter is now 21 and she only has her mektdowns at home. Hang in there they do get easier to handle.

  10. February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I try to stay calm as possible. If explaining or distraction or bribery doesn’t work, we leave. I’ve left countless diners, cafes, or grocery stores. Any more, I just try to avoid take the boys if I can tell they are in a mood.

    When I, and they were younger, I didn’t understand triggers. Now I know that like, sound and smells are HUGE triggers for the boys. So try to be very conscious of where I take them.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:56 am

      We always joke about there being age-progression photos of us at a lovely Chinese restaurant in CA…eleven years ago my son had a meltdown there and we were promptly ushered out, paper bags in hand and told “on the house…don’t come back.” That night it was mortifying until we sat in the car, smelled the moo goo gai pan, saw our little monster sweetly giggling in the backseat and then we just DIED LAUGHING! Erma Bombeck wrote “if you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it”…some days it’s easier than others, but there’s always a little funny something in there…you might have to dig for it, though…

    • Marilee
      February 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Sound is a very huge trigger for my boy with Aspergers. He is 15 now. A crying baby within earshot of my son totally sets him off. He will get so irriated, red faced saying rude comments and then starts pulling his hair. When it first starts I try to have him focus on something else but if we are in a restaurant best just to ask for it to go, we need to leave. Ill take him outside which calms his down…especially if he cannot hear the baby crying. That is the only solution with me…

      • Marie
        February 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

        babies crying is a huge problem for my daughter too.

      • chris
        February 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm

        My son is 13 and we have been dealing with crying kids situation since he was three. He gets upset and tends to lash out at the kid who is crying. It has improved over the last few years, but every once in a while he still gets upset. I thought my son was the only one who didn’t do well with crying kids.

      • Benita
        February 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm

        My daughter can’t handle the crying either. Sadly enough though, most of the crying that she hears and that sets her off is from her twin. Its hard to get away from the noise when the noise is WITH you. In those cases, we must “evacuate” immediately.

      • Tara
        February 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm

        Crying children is my sons trigger too. We just calmly tell him “its OK” over and over. Now whenever we are somewhere and he hears crying he looks at us and says “it’s ok” and we affirm it and he’s great

  11. Colleen Jankovich
    February 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

    We go home when it happens unless we’re at a doctor’s office. I have cards I carry in my purse that explains my son’s autism, but frankly, its better for everyone if I remove my son from the situation. Fortunately, his meltdowns are far less frequent with his meds. I’ve also learned to be prepared with a slinky, a squishy ball or two and snacks. . .skittles are the best because they’re chewy and last longer.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Oh, my goodness Colleen! We have “emergency” slinkys everywhere…in the house, the car, the school, my purse… I have found that it is best to remove him from the difficult situation (hence we travel in packs…that way there is always someone to escort him if the errand is halfway done)…at the doctor’s office I ask for the first or last appointment of the day and, since they know him already, they let me know if they’re running behind…our doctor, bless him, has even made house calls when the situation is too difficult to manage for our boy.

      • christina
        March 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

        o.k…..i’m new to all this. my daughter is 18mo.old and was recently diagnosed under the spectrum although the dev.specialist said she is not severe we wont know where she is in the spectrum till her next visit at 24mo. we never dealt w/ these meltdowns b4…she has always been a very easy relaxed baby …but once we got the diagnosis we started seeing more stims and major meltdowns!!! there getting morefrequent at least 1 to 2 a day!!! and i’m not very good at handling them my anxiety is offthe charts and i no that doesnt help at all….but how do u stay calm wen ur baby is violently throwing their head back, pulling their or your hair and scratching at you. the very 1st time it happend was at bedtime and we knew she was over tired so we assumed that was the trigger. but after 2 hrs of it i had the idea to drive her around in the car. it immediatlyworked but we’re finding that what works once doesnt always work evry time. i cried myself to sleep that night. and i do alot o crying on way home from work so the kids don’t witness it. its just been really hard…

    • Jen Spadafora
      February 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      I have 2 out 4 children with Autism and Asperger’s.
      After many hard years of tantrums And Many new idea’s get them to calm down in store with Bright florescent lighting is a huge no no, also RED dye is esp. Harmful to children with Autism spectrum problems.
      If you can cut out dairy like milk and cheese,and ANY FOOD COLORING. Also Modified Food starch has huge doses of MSG in them which activates hyperactivity.
      Another huge no no.
      Your giving your child red dye candy with huge amounts of sugars,its not good for them.
      I am not scolding you just informing you- You might want to try what they call pressure points on their body’s — This is what I did, and her tantrums seems more controlled if that makes ANY sense!
      On the top of your shoulders apply pressure. I did this through an old water sea vest.. or swimming suit that was to snug.. put it on under his cloths.
      They have speadoes in target and walmart.
      Hope it helps.

      • christina
        March 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

        jen, i applaud u for changing the diet we did as well. no gluten,casien,soy or artificial colorings/preservatives. its been hard we learn new things everyday. but she is sleeping better. we’re trying to find a dr. that will do a mercury test for her, i had to have the rhogam shots and thers a high connection btween mothers w/neg blood type and children w autism….anbd not knowing wat we no now we had the vaccines done. we r learning so much wen it comes to the environmental effects on autism

  12. M Garcia
    February 22, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Oh…public meltdowns! These are an entirely different ballgame during adolescence than they were during childhood. The cuteness, for one, is gone…our formerly adorable waif of a child is now, well, man-sized and with hair on his face. The first thing that comes to the minds of strangers who see him melting down is “mentally-ill giant is going berserk in public.”

    The main thing, for our family, is to actually observe our son and watch out for signs of potential difficulties. We pick our battles, but there are times when the battles pick us unexpectedly. For one, we never send one person alone with him to run an errand, and we always carry his iPod for music that will soothe him; we stay away from overcrowded stores during peak shopping times like Christmas and we are always ready to dash if the situation begins to escalate.

    All autistic individuals have something they find comfort in, and for us it is essential that we figure out what the “it” is at any given time and that we are prepared to provide our son with this item or manner of intervention. When he says “go” (he is non-verbal so his language is sorely limited and extremely significant) that means one of us has to break away from whatever task we’re involved in and take him to his “comfort-zone” in the car.

    Of course, not everyone has the luxury or ability to travel in groups of three all the time. For our family it is mostly a self-imposed measure; we know that we are dealing with a potentially volatile person whose triggers are variable and we use the opportunity for any outing as “together time.” (Yes, whatever time we each get to spend by ourselves is precious.)

    Our son’s current “comfort” items are boxing gloves (makes for interesting glances from curious people) and a hat that fits tightly. Because it is winter, the hat is “furry”; in summer and spring we’ve found that a rugby scrum helmet is well-ventilated, easy to wash and quick-drying, and has a less noticeable profile than the boxing helmet he used to like.

    Mostly, when our son is having a meltdown in public, the people that are hardest to manage are the ones who stare rudely. Once he has been removed, the parent that stays behind calmly states “it’s called autism…it follows you into adolescence and adulthood…it’s not easy.” I have seriously considered having a t-shirt printed with those exact words…I’d probably have to wash it every night before going to bed so it will be ready to wear by morning.

    My child (well, my teenager) is difficult, but only in a slightly more complex manner than his older brother at the same age. If anything, the challenges presented by his behavior have put us in a position where we’ve had to reassess what we think is important. Screaming children whose parents scream back at them at the store irritate my son and could cause a meltdown…because our son has hypersensitive hearing, he can hear them from a distance and we now know what his “anxious” moves are…we calmly and pleasantly walk out of wherever it is we are and don’t feed the anxiety by making him rush to his “comfort” spot in the car. We mosey…we talk about how lovely or cold or wet or warm or windy it is outside and we say things like “I think I’d be more comfortable in the car and I think we would both enjoy listening to music right now.” He picks the tunes, and the wait is more pleasant than the rude looks, jaws hitting floors, questions about boxing gloves.

    So…in a nutshell. Your child is the best guide you can have. The errand can wait or take longer, nothing is as urgent as your child being given the opportunity to handle his/her “difficult moment” because they realize you are paying attention to how it’s building up. The shorthand we have developed is quite simple, and even our son knows we’re communicating to each other that it’s time to intervene and pick our battles.

    • Alexis
      February 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      Thank you so very much for your own personal experience. I have a daughter who is fourteen and we go through the same thing. It is nice to know that you are not alone. What I find so hard to understand is that my daughter who is in a Au classroom, on rare occasions when she has had a meltdown at school, the teacher has a hard time understanding why. Especially since she moves through the hallways on her own amongst 900 students. Isn’t it just common sense. I really could relate to your experience, thank you.

      • M Garcia
        February 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm

        Alexis, we took the scientific approach and tried to trace the pattern of our son’s meltdowns. After a few months we realized they happened at around the same time each month (on the 20th)…could it be hormonal? The doctor said yes, that is definitely a possibility. If a run-of-the-mill teenager experiences conflicting emotions and varying moods, imagine what the effect must be like to a person who comprehends the world in an entirely different way!!! I know that hot flashes are driving me nuts…what would the fluctuation of hormones do to someone who cannot fully understand the changes his body is going through?

        My son is in a SpEd classroom and he has very supportive classmates, but he is the only autistic individual there. He has learned to seek solitude when he’s getting overwhelmed, and the other students will actually leave the room if they realize that their tantrum is making him anxious.

        The teen years have been an illumination for us…the beginning of which felt like a floodlight pointed directly into our retina, but it is much better now… :D

    • JavinsMama
      February 23, 2011 at 8:20 am

      Thank you for your responses. It is nice to read the different ways you circumvent the meltdowns. I have a 4 year old Autie. In response to your shirt suggestion- after having several instances of people staring rudely, and sometimes saying rude remarks very loudly to the person next to them so that I am sure to hear it- I went and got shirts made. Boy does it make a difference. Mine says “Got Autism?” and Javin’s shirt says “Autism is my superpower”. What a difference!! Just the other day my hubby and I were in line and Javin started to have a meltdown because the line was taking too long to move. There were several women behind me with nasty looks on their faces (you would think mother-to-mother there would be some compassion- I mean, really, disregard the special needs part, EVERY kid gets overwhelmed at some point). So I took off my jacket and I was wearing my Autie shirt and I stooped down to him, whispered gently and gave him kisses until he had calmed down a bit before leaving my hubby to stay in line while Javin and I went outside. I try to have him calm a bit before leaving because otherwise he’ll hit a point of no return and leaving the situation will not change anything. Anyway, the looks from disgust to almost embarrassment and then (finally!) grace was so apparent in those womens’ faces when they read my shirt it almost makes you want to shake your fingers at them and say…”Shame on you- this is a human being and a CHILD! If you want mercy and grace shown to you, you should show the same!”.

      • M Garcia
        February 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

        It always surprises me when other mothers react as if they’ve never seen a meltdown or tantrum. You’d think their children were perfect! My own mother once told me “I have NEVER seen such a thing!”…and she’s a Special Education teacher!!! I told her “yes, you have…you just cannot fathom that it’s coming from your own flesh and blood. We’re not perfect and we’re not striving for it either.” After that she relaxed a bit, but was still terribly strained in public when my son had a “moment.” Her memory is gone now, and she thinks I have double the children I have (their younger selves and their current selves) and, to her mind, none of them have Autism.

        Speaking of t-shirts: my son has hypersensitive hearing and has learned to regulate noise by using his fingers…he also closes his eyes and you can see him getting into a reduced-noise zone in his mind. We found him a t-shirt that reads: I’m just going to nod my head and pretend I’m listening. His teacher thinks it’s a hoot because it totally reflects what he does in class when it gets noisy.

        This is not easy…I feel incompetent a lot of the time and then I see all we’ve accomplished (potty training…we should get a Nobel Prize for that) and I feel better. The family as a whole has learned to juggle and understand and negotiate. There is a veil that falls off and you see the world in a completely different light. There are things I had not even noticed before my child started displaying certain types of behavior…the hum of fluorescent lighting, for example…in some stores it’s louder than in others.

        I used to work at a bookstore and on one particularly busy day there was a long line waiting for the registers. I noticed a mom who was having a rough time with her child and, having certain background knowledge on the matter, I recognized my own situation in hers. I called her to the register and the other customers complained so I explained that the child was obviously suffering with the excessive stimulation, that the mother was buying him board books (he was hugging them as he cried and shook) and he was obviously a teenager… “two plus two, people! Two plus two!!!!” She said thank you with such relief, she was about to cry… After she left a customer said “how did you know?” and I said “if people actually look at others and pay attention they will know too.” It’s all a matter of looking and realizing what’s happening…the more connected we are via cell phones and such, the less humanly connected we seem to be…

      • February 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

        As mother’s of these special people, we do not have the time or energy to worry about what “others think”. I”m not sure if I want to label my daughter with a shirt to make others understand. I know it is embarrassing to try to deal with meltdowns in public. I know I break into sweat, but our life goes on, their life goes home. Unfortunately with autism statisics rising at such a rapid speed, our public needs educate themselves, while we educate our special people. Best wishes to all you out there and hang on tight for a long and rough ride. Sincerely, a mother of a 20 yr. old special person

  13. Dawn
    February 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I get down to her level and have her look at me then I tell her very thing is ok I am here with her and I will not let anything happen. I do what I am asking her to do so she can see and when she does it I give lots of hugs and tell her how big of a girl she is and she did an awesome job that will work most of the time. If not I try to do what ever I came for and get out of there. If my husband go’s he will take her to the car and help her calm down then he tries again if she has another melt down we just leave.

  14. hillary davis
    February 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I have found that giving the children a transition item really works well for my kids i let them take something with them when we leave the house like there handheld games,which i think have helped alot,or drawing paper,my son likes to draw alot,or teddy bear,i let them pick,i used to be like you cant take all this stuff just to run to the store,but after speaking with my dr i feel it really helps them to have a familiar item when traveling anywhere even just to the store,so we dont have meltdowns in public rarely,and if we do they usually die down pretty quickly with them!

  15. Carol Ann
    February 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

    By the grace of God we make it thru! It helps also, that we are more concerned about our son than what he may do and the reactions that may follow. CJ can be really difficult at times, especially in public, but we take it in stride along with all the good. He is a beautiful creation with a special need, but we don’t treat him like he is different. I have no problem carrying either of my kids out of a place kicking and screaming if that’s what it takes!

    • claire
      February 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      love your opening comment carol ann :) lots of ppl even family members ask how we cope n the answer is we just do because we have to On reflection though it is by the grace of god in which we get through it all my nan (god bless her soul) used to say ”the lord only sends challenges that you can deal with” so he must think that we are all strong enough to cope with his blessing that he has sent in our wonderful children
      Love and light to all

  16. Alycia
    February 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

    We are also lucky my 4 year old does not have many, but sometimes he does and it’s usually caused from being overwhelmed, so if that is the case and we are in a public place I usually take him into the restroom where it’s not so overwhelming and a little quieter, I also take reinforcers with me, his favorite being Funyons. He only gets them when he is calmed, we then return to what we were doing, we never use escape as a route.

  17. Lovemyson
    February 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I’m not handling this well at all. I’m completely embarrassed and out of resources. My behavioral therapy is not working. They are telling me how to handle it and I’m about to loose my mind. I need advice please

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

      First things first…you do not need to be embarrassed. Your child has special needs. By association, you have special needs, too…you have the special need to be respected by others when you are trying to handle your child’s behavior in public.

      Second, behavioral therapy works, but you have to find what is triggering the meltdowns. Our kids are autistic, they’re not dumb…they can manipulate as well as any neurotypical child. There are things that trigger legitimate meltdowns and there are things that merely trigger a battle of wills. You need to figure out which is which, and this takes time and patience (that we sometimes don’t have, I admit.)

      How old is your child? Do you have time away from him during the day? Do you have any help caring for him when he is at home? The important thing that I’d like to point out, Lovemyson, is that your wellness is very important because it will reflect on how you handle the challenges ahead. My son was absolutely adorable when he was younger, and then puberty hit and he became, well, a pain in the proverbial ass. Last year I was sure I wouldn’t survive…our family was strained, tense, irritated, tired, exhausted, burned out…

      Calmly think of what you have seen as a soothing influence, and try to find ways to integrate these things into your life. Mind you: you might come across as extremely weird to the rest of the population, but the important thing is that you and your son will have peace. I used a book called Behavioral Detectives…it wasn’t the end-all, be-all of solutions, but it allowed me to put things in perspective. Sometimes it seems that the behavioral analysis is as much directed towards us as to our son… :D

      You are not alone. We’re all in the same boat. We all understand. It might seem that you are in an isolated situation, but we all feel how you feel. Many years ago, my son was happily laughing and giggling at a Wal-Mart and an older lady glared at him and said “some people don’t know how to raise their children to behave in public!!!” I calmly turned around and said “and your parents were obviously those as you are exceedingly rude…the child is disabled…what is YOUR excuse?” Her husband looked at her and said “serves you right for not knowing when to shut your yap!!!” I cried in the car…but I felt better after saying that to her…calmly…clearly…directly…

      Deep breaths…you’ll be fine…it just might not happen now or tomorrow, but you’ll manage this, I promise…

      • Marlene
        February 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

        Thank you, M Garcia. I really needed to read this! I do feel quite isolated.

      • sandra
        May 3, 2011 at 11:49 am

        OMG I have been reading these posts boy am i glad! Finally i realize i’m not quite so alone!
        My Aspie son is at “the age” (peuberty)
        (13), some days he seems so easy going
        and then 5:00 Pm hits and look out! if it’s not his way it’s no way. I know he has a long school day,but does have melt downs at night. Constintly fighting with younger sister (who is not challenged with aspie). Every thing is his and still will not share still! sometimes it’s like he is reverting back to a 3 yr old.
        Definately when melting,arguing back or yelling is not good hubby usually has a harder time holding back,(i’m not perfect)but i really try to talk him down from what is bugging him. I (spontaneously)took him to the zoo Fri.
        he was spectacular (little hyper at resturant) that’s normal but sweet as pie!! trying to get him off comp,ds,ipod
        challengeing he is so fixated on it he won’t stop even with timer. sorry so long
        but sometimes ya gotta get it out!
        God Bless all of you!!!
        enjoy those good times beacuse that’s all that you really should remember, even when the melts are happening,
        because they are our children of God.
        Thank you!

    • Chris Davis
      February 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Again like I said in my post, ignore everyone, become blissfully careless of what others think, like your child. I use to be ready to tear someones head off for staring or making comments. Bottom line is they do not walk in our shoes and have no clue. Every kid is different, and different things can help. I have an ipod, or the promise of the ipod, for my son when I need him to calm and/or behave. I also use a pen and paper and allow him to write, for it is one of his favorite caves to soothe in, writing his favorite country songs and artists. Just find those few things that soothe and can focus your child, and have them at the ready, just in case. And more likel;y than not, your losing of the mind stems from being concerned about what others think. Just remember that they do not fight autism daily, they do not care for your child. As parents of special needs children, we are pretty amazing and have more patience and heart than those that have no clue. Stay strong, and just start focusing more on your child and block out the outside world. Our children are amazing at that and they NEVER seem to care what others think. It is the one thankful thing I have for my son, that he does not care and is unaware of others judgement. IU wish I could live like that most of the time, and do try to.

    • Marlene
      February 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm

      I am reading these posts and feeling the same as you, Lovemyson. I have become so impatient with my five year old son with Autism (HF) and all of it is putting a strain on our family (I have a typically developing 17 year old son). I am burnt out and at my wits end. Behavioral therapy is becoming a fishing expedition. I am fishing to remember everything or fishing at what is working now. There are times when I feel I am doing more harm than good because I start yelling. I feel embarrassed and ashamed because I am not being more patient with him, my oldest son or myself.

      • M Garcia
        February 25, 2011 at 10:49 am

        Marlene, I used to feel the same…and it’s completely normal to feel that way. Please, keep that in mind.

        For a while I was a screaming, growling, crying mess…we were all so stressed out that we could hardly communicate in a positive way. Everything seemed to fall short of solving our issues; we felt (me especially) like utter, absolute failures.

        If you have the opportunity, remove yourself from the situation until you can collect your thoughts. This is not always easy, I know…I have, from time to time, resented my son’s inability to understand me to the point where I want to give up, but it can be done…you can carve out a moment for yourself and breathe. It won’t be two seconds, maybe not even five minutes, it might take an hour before you can come back feeling “helpful” or “proactive.”

        The one thing I’ve noticed about us parents with autistic children is that we tend to put ourselves aside. We become so focused on helping our children that we forget that we need to feel human, whole, ourselves to do it properly. I was one of those moms…it was the kid first and damn the torpedoes… I turned into a horrible banshee, and I hated so many things just for the sake of having something to take my anger and frustration out on anything!!!

        What did you like to do before all this came into your life? Who were you? Sit down and as yourself what things you have put aside “for the greater good” and how you can go back to them, even in a reduced degree, so that you can feel like Marlene again? I have learned how to say “no” to my kids, to my husband, to other people…I didn’t want to be thought us as inefficient and as “hiding behind” my son’s situation so I was always trying to make things happen for everyone…except myself.

        We have a saying around here: “wonderful doesn’t hinge on perfection.” There are things that you will have to let go of if you want to make this work. And there are things you need to cling to so that you can be who you are, do what you need to do and succeed to the degree that is possible. If you need help from any of us, I can promise you we will listen and we will talk and we will understand. We’ve all been desperate, frustrated, hopeless, tired, burned out, embarrassed, ashamed, defeated at one point or another. We are NOT like other moms…we CAN’T be like other moms…we are ourselves and we parent OUR children, not the ones you see in movies and commercials and print-ads in magazines. Our life is glossy only when someone has spilled something on it and until we wipe it off…

        We’re all here, Marlene…and we’ve all felt (and sometimes still fell) as you do now.

      • Chrissie
        February 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

        First of all these posts have helped me a lot. While I know I am not alone I do have my days. Marlene like you I have a 6 yr old who is High Functioning/Asper’s. Dylan was also born 3 months premature. I use to cry when Dylan would have a public Meltdown as I live in a small rural community. I have learned that When I take Dylan out I keep in mind of the time of day and when. Lkie I do not take Dylan to Wal~Mart on the first of the month esp if it is on a weekend He does not do crowds. I was also able to get an ECDC waiver from Social Services for his Medicaid as I am a Single mommy and I need his SSI to help support him. With this ECDC waiver I was able to get what they call Respit services where I have an aide come in and watch him for a few hours while I run errands and do things that I am not able to do with Dylan. I call them my mommy moments. It is also very Important to have a support network weather it is family or friends. Like M Garcia said and it is very true you need to take time for your self. Being a Single mom it is very hard to do but, I had to learn this and it has helped me and Dylan. I do have to say I am very interested in the behavioral Therapy ideas I am having issues with Dylan and behavior.

    • Joyce Dixon
      March 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      First know you are not alone. Once my son starts “melting down” there is no calming him and we have to leave. My son is seven years old and has meltdowns at least 75% of the time when we go out. That is down from the 90% it used to be. It still makes me feel really bad at first. Even to the point of tears. But I notice I get over it alot quicker lately. My son is my biggest challenge. Yet he is my greatest joy! Good luck and God Bless!

  18. Chrissy
    February 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Public meltdowns are the worst. Our son, (we call him Fishy) will see a toy that he wants. We can’t afford to get it for him, because he doesn’t want the $1 toy that we can get, he wants the big $20-$30 dollar toys. They are bright and shiny, and has buttons that he can push. As we try to redirect him to another toy, or another department all together, he will drag his feet, start screaming, fall to the floor, hit his head (or foot, or elbow or some other body part) start crying, and in general cause chaos. Other parents look at us like we are the worst, because they think we can’t control him. And in some ways, we can’t. (the looks of disgust on parent’s of ‘normal’ children are getting tiresome!)
    We take him out of the store, sit him in the truck with his other toy that he can’t leave the house without, and try to calm him down. While one of us takes him out, the other tries to get the food shopping done as quickly as possible. We have tried making deals with him, telling him that every payday we will go and get one toy that is under $10. While sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. We can’t keep him in the house all the time, but the meltdowns in public make me feel like a complete failure as a parent. I can’t afford to get the nifty toys that he wants, and sometimes I feel like he is throwing the fits to get what he wants. Other times, I feel like he can’t control himself, and goes ballistic because he’s frustrated.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:48 am

      I give my son three PECS to pick from, all represent things in the same price range and he is allowed to get ONE thing. He will hem and haw, but he will also allow us to negotiate. I say “we are here to get certain things and this” and show him the PEC, and if he tries to re-negotiate I send him to the car (calmly) and continue the shopping while his brother or dad supervise him. Might work for you, might not…worth a try????

    • February 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Its ok and it does get better…we live in a very small town and to this day we still get dirty looks…my husband and I do what is necessary for our daughter…if they dont like it let them come and ask and we will tell them why our daughter acts the way that she does….dont give in it only gets worse…now that we know that we dont have to give in the money that we have to spend lessened…sometimes i just have to send my husband to the store when i know that she is itching for a meltdown…nice and slow…hope things get better for you..

    • Alli
      February 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      I’ve found with my son (who has the very same problem, same situation; I know JUST how you feel!) that if I can take another adult with me to the store that I let that other parent/adult pick out a $1 toy out for them. They are just as happy getting a special surprise, and keeping them out of the toy isle altogether avoids the tantrum. I will sometimes try to bribe my son with a toy at the end of the shopping trip if he’s good. Shopping trips are very hard on him, especially the lengthy ones as he goes into stimulation overload. If I have to do shopping with him alone, I’ll let him pick a toy or candy from the impulse isle (they are usually cheap). Oh if other people only knew the difficulties of being a parent of an autistic child!

    • jackie mcclain
      February 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Crissy, i can sympathize withyou totally. My son is 9 now and the toys that he likes best are the ones that come through on the commercials. he would get frustrated when we could not buy him everything he wanted and a tantrum would occur everytime. it used to end with him and me crying! since he has gotten a little older i have tried to explain to him the difference between toys that Santa would bring or that are birthday toys. I have a camera on my phone which would help him to make his list. We take a picture of the toy and then when we get to the car we let him look at the pictures. I let him know that he is helping me and Santa by doing this because it helps us to remember. If it is an appropriate time I try to remind him that he can have a happy meal which comes with a toy. This makes him very excited. Also, I explain to him that we cannot go through the toy aisle unless he behaves and tries to control himself. I spend enough time there so he can play around with the buttons. luckily his attention span is shorter because of his ADHD. Then on to the movies! Meltdowns occur less frequently now, but every once and a while we need to readdress the issue and go to the family bathroom in Walmart. I hope these ideas help!!—Jackie

  19. Lovemyson
    February 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

    The reason why your son likes to be alone is part of his Autisc behavior and he is showing major social issues. My son is 5 and has always been “high functioning” which to me he is still autistic just not with severe medical issues as others.

    • February 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      I raised a “high-functioning” daughter as a single mom back in the 80’s and 90’s. I was told she was ADHD and refused to put her on meds. I modified her diet, which worked well until she hit her teens and started eating the dyes, drinking soda, etc.

      I took a lot of flake from my family about not giving her all that stuff and not keeping her under control verbal wise. She is highly intelligent as like a lot of Aspeger people she always talked like she thought she was smarter then anyone else, but didn’t have any social skills. She was ridiculed by many people. Unfortunately it wasn’t until she was older and had a child, who is “high funcitioning” and on the autism spectrum as well as ADHD that she was diagnosed with Aspergers and then we started really studying it extensively. She is now taking medication and we have cues for when she is going on an on and she can’t tell whether she is boring them or not.

      I can also now tell her that she is getting out of hand and that she has that scary, crazy look in her eyes. It has been a struggle and will continue to be a struggle. We live together and I help her raise her girls.

      I have had many comments about why don’t I let her take care of herself and move out and get a life of my own. I explain to them that this is my life and how can I ever think of having her live on her own. She has been on her own with the girls and it wasn’t the life I want for my daughter or granddaughters.

      My granddaughter is doing much better, but we started early and have worked so hard with her. She is 11 and starting to verbalize more, but doesn’t always say what she means. She is on meds now and the aggression has calmed. Her impulse control is curbed, but still there. We watch her diet and have finally convinced her dad and girlfriend that she IS NOT JUST A BAD KID DOING THINGS TO GET HER SISTER IN TROUBLE. Even after the diagnosis they still said there wasn’t nothing wrong with her. Well, actually there isn’t anything wrong with her. She is a loving, beautiful and caring to the best of her ability

      We are planning a big move. New school the whole works and we are just anticipating the melt down. At least she doesn’t get aggressive anymore, but she still shuts down. Never know what to expect from our special people in our lives..

      Being a mom and nana to special people has changed me in many ways. I also worked at a job coach with DD adults and realized each and every one of them have their own special traits.

      I really love this blog. My Aspegers daughter showed it to me. It has done wonders for her too.

      My granddaughter is pretty quiet at school and this year has been great because she has teacher who understands “her” and the IEP teacher is great too.

      As we all know we take one day at a time and sometimes one minute at a time. Right now we are able to take a week at a time more often then not.

      We have been lucky to not have many meltdowns in public lately. When I moved in with them again my granddaughter wouldn’t even order her food at McDonalds. After may times of encouraging her and telling her she has to order or she doesn’t get anything she finally talked for herself instead of having her “lil sister talk for her.
      It was hard for her lil sister to stop helping her big sister, but they are now enjoying a much better relationship.

      Who knows what tomorrow brings, but all I know is I will be here all the way to see happen.

  20. christine
    February 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

    if my son is asking for something and i say “no” it usually turns into a battle of wills. however, for some reason saying “not today” instead of a flat out “no” works for him…he just shakes his head and repeats “not today” and thats the end of it.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Christine, oddly enough that works with my neurotypical nineteen year-old too… :D

    • Christy
      February 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      My son wants things in order. So if I tell him not now, I need to do X first. He repeats “First?” which means that what he wants must be next. So if I get my “first” done, I’d better be ready for his next or meltdown.

      • M Garcia
        February 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

        I make a list with PECS…I’ll tell him we’re going to the store, getting gas for the car, getting lunch…if he wants something from the store, he can pick from the basket and tell me what it is. Once my son is engaged in what we’re doing, it gets easier…if he’s clueless…well…that’s tempting fate right there.

  21. February 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I’ve learned that no matter what is going on or where we are – it is imperative that I stay calm. I get down on my son’s level to try to calm him down. If it’s over something that he wants and can’t have. I say no very firmly and I go about our business. If he is upset over something due to the environment (loud noise, bright lights, too crowded). Then I console as much as I can, tell him that he is safe with me. And then I try to redirect, redirect, redirect – usually with tickles to make him smile.

  22. linda
    February 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    When my son was small enough to carry,my husband would take him to the car and not engage him until he had come back to us. When he got older he would seem to save a tantrum until he was alone with me in the car. One day I had had it… Not my finest moment, I got out of the car and had my own tantrum. He watched me and stopped his own tantrum. He never had another complete meltdown again. Now I would not recommend this to anyone, I did not “fake” a meltdown. I think he was pulled out of his own world and he saw my world for a moment.

  23. Lovemyson
    February 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Kristy that is great. Thank you I will try to follow your technique. But I might bring my behavioral therapist to help me. Lol. My son is loud and I just run away from the store lately. Thanks again

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

      Wait ’til he’s sixteen and his voice has changed a wail into a roar…LOL

  24. Michael Carroll
    February 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

    We would try to avoid meltdowns by setting expectations of behavior before we left. We would explain where we were going and what we were doing. We would set a small reward for good behavior such as a match box car, or a can of pop. Sometimes though a tantrum was and is unavoidable. We would also try to head them off before they escalated out of control. We would try to distract him by saying silly things or doing something silly. We tried to be careful not to create a new perseveration by changing how we approached things.

  25. Marleen
    February 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

    My son is 20 now. When he was much younger, he would have an occasional meltdown, usually in areas (i.e. stores) where there was too much stimulation. When he was starting to panic, we would remove him from the situation (time out; go sit in the car with him for example), and tell him when he calms down we need to go back to finish what we were doing. In a few years, we would give him the list and let him find the product. Worked out well !

  26. lizie P
    February 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

    … First of All, Thank You for doing this “Topic of the Week”… This might give a chance to parents like myself to tell their story and get advice.

    After the first meltdown, in a well known Superstore during the holiday season, when the local police department was called because someone reported that I was..”Beating my child”. We have severely changed our tactics. He is also epileptic and and has had neuro surgery and has a scar on the back of his head to the base of his neck. The overwhelming issue has brought on seizures in the past.
    He was 4 and was so rigid that I could not pick him up off the floor, so we could leave the store. I sat on the floor, held him and tried to talk him down, nothing was working and he screamed and screamed, kicked and punched….It blew my mind that someone so small could be so strong. Next thing I knew.. the local police department was standing above me. After everything was straighten out and a wonderful officer helped me get him to the car, my frustration and anger at the uneducated folks outside the world of autism made me think.
    Now, we do not take him to the stores, any stores from the day after Thanksgiving till two days after the New Year…. It is overwhelming for him. Too many lights, the crowds are rude and fast paced and the noise level are insane. As for every other day of the year… we watch for warning signs from him. Lots of eye blinking, covering his ears or a stare that could wilt flowers. He has had behavioral therapy at home and is very well behaved and now at 9 years old he tells us when he has to leave a store. 90% of the time we are able to complete the shopping with no problems. We have had to change the way we do things over the past 5 years… He had a special little stuffed animal he would take with and talk to him while I did the shopping. I have had him read the grocery list and tell me where the product is located. Now, I make a list for him, with what he needs and eats and tells me where to go and then he helps me with mine. He seems to enjoy helping me and having his own sort of independence.
    As for restaurants, we have only had one meltdown there. We had waited a long time to be seated and it was very crowed. A baby kept crying and I had to remove him from the situation… Which was fine by me. Dad stayed with the other kid and finished eating and got my meal to-go.
    Anymore, which might sound rude, I honestly do not care what others think. They know nothing of me or my child… I have heard the terms, “brat”…. “spoiled”… thrown at us. I will not assume anything about you, so please don’t do it to me or my child. If you would like to know, please ask… I am more than happy to answer any question. People have asked if he was in an accident due to the scar on his head and neck (it is visible on his neck only)…but, it has not be tactful… and it has upset him when they ask in a certain way.
    As for my husband and myself we go day by day and talk to other parents in our situation. It does get very frustrating, I would be a liar if I said different. I worry about bullies and him getting picked on, because if pushed beyond the limit of his control, he could really hurt someone.
    He knows that hurting people or other kids is wrong and he cries whenever he realizes that he has hurt me or his father in a meltdown state. You learn who are your friends in this world real fast when you have a child with autism… Some people will never get it or understand.
    I could go on for hours about this topic, but everyone out there finds what works best for their child since every child, autism or not, is different.
    Getting him to a nice quiet place always seems to help and lets he reload his thoughts.

    Any advice or suggestions are always welcomed in our world.

    • Sarah Tichinel
      February 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      omg I know how you feel…we are pretty much confined to the house because Kai flies into an uncontrollable tantrum EVERYTIME we leave.

      • M Garcia
        February 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

        Flight plans…that’s what we call them. We started out with very short, very simple outings, and we’ve progressed over the years. I tell my 16 year-old where we’re going and what we’re doing using PECS…some of them are just laminated logos and images from store flyers and such. The time-timer also helps…I tell him we will be at the store for half-an-hour and I show him the list.
        You can find a way out of the “at home confinement”, it just takes time and, well, inventiveness…
        We live in a small town and our son loves the center of town…doesn’t want to get out of the car (too many people walking around with dogs and he’s terrified), but he likes the drive around the town square. So, we plan our errands to include such a drive…he likes one of the parks, so he has a PEC that means take me to the park and he chooses either his brother’s car or ours…we have pictures of those too…

        We live in a alternate universe, don’t we? We have to make the best of it…

  27. Tamra
    February 22, 2011 at 11:38 am

    My son loves water so I would take him to the bathroom and run the water and let him put his hands in it.

  28. February 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I am a mother of 4 children and our middle son has Autism. He is somewhat functional. We try to handle public meltdowns carefully but at times its hard of course. We try to encourage him and tell him to remember that his younger brother looks up to him. I also try to use positive words such as thanks for using your kind words to your brother. It sounds really goofy but it does work. We also give my sone 2 choices. One of the the choices is favorable and the other is usually one he wont go for but thats my point. It all about choices with a special needs child they like to feel like they have some sort of control. Thanks for allowing me to share a little peace of my world with you.

  29. Maria Butler
    February 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    If we went out to wal-mart or any public place you can be sure their was a meltdown waiting to happen. To be honest I usually give in to whatever works at that particular time, it probably was not the best thing to do but when you are trying to get out of a store without being arrested from something you have not done even though the screams sound like you have..i always just give in to whatever he was screaming about..to be honest his meltdowns have got us kicked out of eating places and the best way not to deal with it was just not to go to these places.. maybe that is the coward way out but it works for me.

  30. February 22, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I have been real lucky! megan is high function she has had her meltdowns but as she got older they became a lot less now when she has them it seems to be major to her but still not out of control. when she was younger and we were in public it was embarassing. but as time went on i learned to be as calm as i could be and it help because if i got upset she was more upset. There will be times that you want to and you will melt down but in time being calm and patience will help. Always remember sometimes we need a time out to get our thoughts and feeling together.

  31. linda
    February 22, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I sometimes have to just ignore and endure all the stares I get from people thinking I am a bad mom! I know what is going on and they don’t,it is hard! My son hasn’t been diagnosed but shows some symptoms now and then,is only just now 3!

  32. February 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

    It is just a plain old fashioned meltdown….I have to stay calm while tryin to redirect my daughter and let her know that i am here and no one or nothing will harm her. Sometimes nothing works and I have to leave and take her to the car to try and calm her…now that she is 7 it isnt quite as bad…but there are still times that when there are to many people, she tries to hide up under me and then i have to reassure her that none of the people will touch her..

  33. danielle
    February 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Selena has frequent melt downs if what we were doing is unplanned. Normally having her close to me so I can hug her tight, a lot of the time this works. (works only if it’s a deep pressure hug) Or take her to the nearest bathroom, where it’s quiet and we can turn on the water for her to run her hands under the water in the faucet. We also take along her MP3 player. This takes care of the noises and as long as no one touches her we are normally good to go. If we are at the grocery store I have her help me read my list of things I need. This takes her mind off of other things around her and helps her focus on one thing at a time. She loves her lists.

  34. February 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

    To anyone that has a daughter…what are your childs symptoms…my husband and I are having a hard time getting the right diagnosis for our daughter…we have went from Aspergers. to general anxiety, to Intermittent explosive disorder and Oppositional defiance disorder….if anyone has suggestions….i am all ears

    • Barbara
      February 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Tammy, I have a son that has had many dianoises from different doctors and I just stick with the PDD-NOS and ADHD. He has been labeled with the anxiety and intermittent explosive disorder also. I just go with the one that makes the most sence to me. Also, the one that will get him the most help at school and at home. The autism on his IEP gets him a lot more services. My son still is who he is and the diagnoise is just a label.

      • Sam
        February 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

        Tammy: My daughter has PDD-NOS and ADHD. She tends to be very quiet when she is on her meds. When she’s not, she gets really aggressive, insistant, yells a lot, and has frequent meltdowns. Since she has difficulty expressing her feelings her favorite phrase is “I don’t know”.

        When she was little I couldn’t leave the room or she’d have a meltdown, from as early as 3 months, all the way up to school age… it was difficult when she had to go to daycare and school because she’d meltdown when I left (I spent the first week of kindergarten with her, the first 3 days of 1st grade, the 1st day of 2nd grade, and the 1st 3 hours of 3rd grade). We made a ritual of my leaving when she went to daycare, blowing kisses and making the “I Love You” sign through the windows as I walked away backwards. She’s 11 1/2 now and she still does that anytime she or I leave.

        Now the biggest social problem is how she picks only one friend at school and follows her around like a puppy-dog. The biggest behavioral problem is still meltdowns, but they are less frequent. She has learned to recognize when she needs time to herself and goes in a room and plays music and plays on the computer, so stress related meltdowns are fewer. Her biggest meltdown trigger right now is a battle of wills, I say “no” and it goes from there… :P

        Barbara: How old is your son? Do you have him on any medication? we have my daughter on Concerta, but as she is hitting puberty she may need to change meds and we’re looking for ideas. Concerta has worked will in curbing her meltdowns, since it slows her brain down and gives her better impulse control, and had the great side effect of allowing her to sleep through the night, every night. :D

    • Ginger
      February 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Please find a GOOD neuropsychologist. It sounds like you are not being helped as well as you could be. We went through the same thing with our daughter who is now 7. She started out with ODD, then ADHD, then PDD/NOS and now finally we have the aspberger’s diagnosis. Do a lot of your own research. The better informed you are, the better questions you can ask. A good neuro will suggest what the best medications are for her if any are needed where a GP may not be able to because the brain is so complex and it is quite frankly, not his area of expertise. We went through hours of testing for my daughter because there are several areas in her brain that are affected. It is not just asperger’s, she has learning disabilities in her frontal lobe and her upper brain stem is also affected. I can’t stress enough the importance of finding a good Neuropsychologist who will be able to help you. If he tells you he can’t figure it out, or doesn’t seem able to answer your questions, find another until you get someone who will take the time to listen and work with you. I did and it was well worth it. Our daughter is now making progress, is medicated correctly, and blossoming. Will she ever be “normal” in the world’s eyes? No. But she will be as successful as she can possibly be. You are your child’s best advocate and please don’t ever allow someone to tell you that you don’t know your child. You do better than ANYONE else ever can.

    • Marilee
      February 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Tammy-What kind of symptons does your daughter have?

    • Tammy
      February 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

      we are having the same problem with getting a diagnosis. This is my first time on here. Our daughter is almost thirteen and the past 1 1/2 to 2 years is when she has started having problems. She is just now getting any kind of diagnosis other than depression causing sleep problems. she doesn’t sleep well. she doesn’t like crowds. absolutely no shopping unless it is extremely important ie. needs new shoes because old ones are 2 sizes to small. She is high functioning with a very high IQ. she is in counseling and the therapist said she needs behavior modification and she has done all she can do. Therapist also said she is oppositional defiant on top of Aspergers/PDD-NOS. HElp

  35. Angela Franks
    February 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

    We have been lucky we only had a few i just get down to his level and give him a lot of love and tell him it is Ok to be upset sometimes and if that don’t work i just take him to the car and wait it out.

  36. Kacey
    February 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I stay 100% focused on my son and how he is feeling ! I hate the dirty looks but you can’t change those so i don’t even worry about what other people think or have to say ! Usually if my husband or I carry him he is ok but if that doesn’t work i start playing with him. Acting like a goof ball will usually start making him laugh ! I am lucky that i can distract him pretty easily and he doesn’t have to many meltdowns !

  37. Barbara
    February 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Like most of the comments i have read I also remain calm and first try to get down to his level and talk calmy. I try to find out what is wrong and what we are doing. I have to ignore everyone around me and i just focus on my son. My life is all about him and what he is comfortable with. One time we were at at gas station small store and he wanted something that was outragesly priced. I said he could get only 1 so he started swearing at me in the middle of the store. I just quietly took his hand and walked out of there. Im sure we had everyone’s attention at that point. But i do continue to take him places.

  38. Rita Shutran
    February 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    The last public melt-down Aron had, I was lucky enough we had discovered Celtic Thunder. I sang one of their songs as best as I could & he soon was re-directed. I cannot thank these gentlemen enough for their music!! It is thrilling to see him respond to the tones and words, he says he can listen to the notes, words & it doesn’t hurt. WOW what an improvement. Thanks for this forum for support.

    • Alli
      February 22, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      Celtic Thunder is cool! Have you ever heard of The Blessed Blend? They are a Celtic and Native American band mixed. It’s really an amazing sound. If your son likes them he would probably like this, too. It has a an eclectic mix of soothing and melodic tunes that would probably help him. I have all three of their cds.

  39. tracy
    February 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I have found that eye level, no expression and a soothing voice will help my son whom as well is high~functioning. Although it’s not quite a melt~down, my son feels the need to shout and “back talk” to make it known to me his want for that DVD or toy that I have said no to. (Which is great in communicating, gotta invest in earplugs:-)

  40. Kathy Bevan
    February 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Now that our son is just short of 19 we do not see meltdowns that bring attention anymore but his stress levels do rise when in social settings or stores. He has learned over the years to advocate and let us know he has to leave. This was not always the case, I can still see my husband carrying him at age 4 through the mall with his screaming non stop until we got to the car (which often culminated in more screaming when we had to buckle him in the seatbelt…smile) I smile now because although it took years, with patience and working with him we not only can relax when shopping or eating out but he can navigate these areas on his own. For us we found that it was not worth pushing him past what he could cope with. There were always signs to watch for that he was reaching a meltdown point. We felt it was better to cut the visit short and come back later than to have a meltdown experience be what he associated shopping or restaurants with. We were at a homeshow (I really wanted to attend) when he was about 10 and we were there about 20 minutes,my husband and I looking at fencing and looked over at our son who was very quiet. He was standing against the fencing banging his head gently against it. A definite sign of stress for him.We probably could have made it another 15 or 20 minutes before the meltdown hit but decided to leave then. If there was no way to avoid being where we were I would often just take him out of the store to walk or sit in the car until he was under control and try again. Basically, we used short incrememts and go for good experience for him to build on. It seems to have paid off when we see him npw shopping on his own and attending college even though he still is not in a comfort zone around people.

  41. Victoria
    February 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    My son is 3 and we have a lot of public meltdowns. He was just diagnosed with PDD-NOS. There are times I get a friendly warm smile from some and others especially children(that don’t understand) they tend to want to snicker which gets under my skin. But I typically have to ignore them because if I get upset he gets more upset. But here lately he wants to play on a racing game in the arcade we have at our Wal-mart. I have learned that if i can let him do that before starting our trip through the store he does good. But there are still times he wants to get upset but I can tell him in a calm manner that he can have a coin to play cars if we can keep going and if he helps momma. He will usually tell me okay and I give him a coin. Of course when that stops working I will have to find another method. I ‘m still learning what sets him off. But I know that if I have him around strange people he will usually have a meltdown. So here lately I have learned what battles to pick from. There was a time I didn’t want to take him any where because of the meltdowns and the looks we would get from people that just didn’t understand.

  42. Paula
    February 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    My 8 year old is sever in his diagnosis. He has many sensory issues. A trip to the store or just to a new place can be very hard for him. My son seemed to do better if he was in a stroller. It’s still very hard but he would do better. Now he is so big the stroller is not an option. I have some some problem myself so I have a wheel chair for those times. If he sat in my lap going to somewhere new he did better. Now even if I don’t have to use my chair I take it for him. Also he is a second time around guy. The first day anywhere is a challange. For instance we went to Busch Gardens. The first day he hated it. The smells the crowds he wouldn’t even try the little rides. That was with the stroller, but the next day we went and he calmed down and had a great time. Any time I can do something twice like that it seems to help.

  43. Ginger
    February 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    My daughter is 7 and autistic. She is doing much better about the public meltdowns. We stop a moment in the car before we go in a store and “rehearse” the rules: No asking for things, no running away from Mommy and no tempers. If any of these things happen we will have to leave, and she will not get her sticker on her chart for having a good trip when we get home.

    At first, she did become overwhelmed at the bright lights and noises (her usual triggers), so I began allowing her to use her i-pod and the earphones help. It was not a cure-all because we still have occasions when we have to leave the store, usually kicking and screaming because she escalates quickly, but they are becoming fewer and farther between. I also choose quieter times to go to the stores as well so that she doesn’t have crowds to deal with. We have also had the rude comments and the stares but I can’t let it bother me, my daughter is my first priority and some people are never going to accept or understand someone whom they consider different no matter what explanation you give them.

    • Sarah Tichinel
      February 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Ginger, the Ipod thing is such a great Idea I think I may use that with Kai! The over stimulation is probably cause number one for melt downs…by using the ipod it probably cuts down on some of that!

  44. February 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I am a single mom of a 5 year old boy on the spectrum. Taking him in public has never been easy, and the older he gets, the more difficult it is. I am only 5’1, 100 pounds and he is already half my size. I always try to go anywhere prepared with distractions; such as McDonalds french fries, his Curious George doll, or I will let him watch videos on my Blackberry. While these distractions work a lot of the time, he definitely has his days where he will have no part of the action.
    When he starts having a complete meltdown, I just calmly try taking him out of the store or wherever we are. He is getting very strong, and usually throws himself on the ground. Times like these are difficult, and I’ve had some very nice people offer to help me get him to my car….complete strangers, who have seen the look of desperation on my face I suppose.

    I’ve also had a horrible experience where I was actually assaulted by another female at Walmart, after she followed me to my car while I was trying to get my son out of the store and into my truck. He was hitting, kicking, biting, and throwing himself on the ground. No one stepped in to help that day, and I was near panic. Once I was finally getting him up into my truck (the whole time being hit and kicked, mind you), she came up behind me and started screaming about me getting my child under control and I was mishandling him, and she was going to call child services on me. I shut the door to my truck, shaking because of the panic of his meltdown, and when I turned around to this crazy woman screaming in my face I was in disbelief. There was no way I was going to have a physical fight in front of my son, so I told her very firmly she had no idea what was going on and she’d be better off minding her own business. I then turned around to walk around to the driver’s side and was shoved to the ground. I stood up, and as furious and humiliated as I was, I told her once more to step away. At this point she slapped me, and before I knew it the police were there to handle her. Apparently there was a patrolman sitting in front of the Walmart and saw the end of what was happening. There was an obvious scene as people stopped and stared. I do believe that was the worst day of my life. It was the middle of summer, and when everything was over, we both went to the pool and spent the rest of our day relaxing.

  45. Sarah Tichinel
    February 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Well unfortunutly we have not mastered the meltdown in public control. When Kai starts melting down eaither me or my husband has to pick him up while he screams “help, oh my god help!”. There is absolutly no reasoning with him when he is in a fit of rage. We typically just say “do you need a squeeze” and give him a tight hug and sometimes that makes him calm down once we remove him from the situation that causes the melt down.
    The last time I took Kai to the park a few weeks ago, when it was time to go he tantrumed so bad that he head butted me in the mouth as I carried him back to the car. He screamed and thrashed around (he is close to 75 lbs). While I struggled to get him to the car (with my mouth bleeding everywhere) A man came up and said that he actually thought I was kidnapping him. I would have been shocked if everyone at the park thought I wasn’t kidnapping him. Once we go home he calmed down and was fine but as it stands right now, we have to just remove him from the situation first. It’s difficult to go anywhere.

  46. February 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    i can’t even say that I notice other people when a public meltdown is occuring. My son is 4 and is still nonverbal. Meltdowns don’t happen too frequently but many times he trys to run into areas that are not allowed. And obviously makes lots of loud noises. I’m too busy keeping my son safe and content in public to really care how others perceive it. I did have an issue at church on sunday with two elderly people in front of us. They kept giving us dirty looks and shaking their heads. It was such a shame too, since my son was behaving so well for a small child on the spectrum. He was just a little noisy. I finally had to tell the guy that my son was autistic so just deal with it. most people I find ot be understanding and empathetic though.

  47. Chris Davis
    February 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Well, our son Christopher, has had his share of meltdowns. None too bad, but they do happen when he is overwhelmed or something is not to his acceptance. Lucky enough Christopher is an avid country music fan, and combine that with his ipod or a pen and sheet of paper, we can get him to a comfort zone fast. I know it use to bother us when people would stare, my dear wife even once calling some people out on it at a restaurant, but now, I could care less about some anonymous observers opinion. I think that is the main thing parents need to come to terms with, that our children with autism will not be “normal” in certain situations, and who cares. Anyone that wants to sit and judge when they see this happen has not walked a single step in our shoes. All these wonderful children have different behaviors in different situations. What we need is to make sure we have a comfort item that they can readjust themselves with. Sometimes it can be overwhelming for them. It might be fine 99 out of 100 times in a certain situation, but be prepared for that one. Lets be honest, it is us the parents that worry more than our children, they are blissfully careless of others opinion, save for their parents. I know my son does not care if someone stares at him when he is mad, but he knows when mom and dad are looking at him and he does care what we think. So again, be mmore like our children and be careless of what strangers think, and have that comfort item just in case.

    • February 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      this was well said! my mom always says similar things to me about my son. He’s happy most of the time and HE doesn’t care what other people think of him. That is actually a blessing in disguise.

  48. Rhonda
    February 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    For my 29 year old son, a trip to Walmart during the holidays is probably his worst nightmare. I have found that if I make him push the buggy with either my husband or I in front doing the navigating, he handles the situation much better. When in the store, we avoid alot of the crowd by staying out of the main thoroughfares and just weaving our way threw the racks of clothes or whatever. Once we are done shopping and ready to be checked out, either my husband or myself will proceed to the car with him while the other one pays. Works for us – most of the time.

  49. steve seenarine
    February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I had 2 deal with public meltdowns and the way i cope with it is to soothe my son and to make eye contacts with him to and to try n comfort him but he has an intelligent sister who lives with him and she keeps him calm and helped me out so many times in those situations.

  50. Katie Wright
    February 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    It is the hardest thing.
    Whenever it happens I hear a fire drill inside my head.
    I just keep telling him we are going home.
    Sometimes I have to ask a stranger to help me.
    Most people are very nice.

  51. Christy
    February 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    “Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave.” Sometimes the penguins of Madagascar have the best advice. When my son screams, people initially thing he’s hurt. That is often my first response as well. But there are times when it is clearly because he didn’t get the free cookie at the grocery store because he did not behave and stay with me, I try to complete my shopping as if it’s not happening. I calmly nod to concerned patrons and point out to my son that they are worried that he is hurt. So far this hasn’t had a lot of success but I feel it’s important to hold my ground when he doesn’t meet the behavior expectations. I do give him a new goal to shoot for when he calms down. He may still end up with that cookie IF he can meet the new challenge. Essentially we start over. The hardest part is helping my three year old daughter understand what is going on. She gets very concerned at times and annoyed with him at others. I’m mostly over being embarrassed about it myself. The next step was tuning out everyone around us. But now I focus “our” attention on the people around us and their reactions. My son needs to learn how his behavior impacts others. It’s going to take a long time for that to matter.

    • M Garcia
      February 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      Christy, my oldest son has been very candid about the difficulties of having a sibling with autism. It has definitely impacted his social life and his values. To say that he is loyal and kind and dedicated is an understatement, but he does admit that there are times when it’s a strain. A lot of times it’s hard to explain why things happen…this was especially true when the boys were both younger, but now I have a very mature (if very much a goofball as he should be at his age) young man in our household who is a very valuable resource for his brother and for us. We made sure that we dedicated plenty of time and effort to nurture him without making him feel that it took time or effort away from his brother. The balancing act…the high-wire…it was worth it. There is a very interesting and heartfelt symbiosis shared by my kids…they are very independent of each other, but also very loyal and they love each other fiercely…

    • Hope Benson
      February 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      Christy…that is just what I do with my 6 year old. We have a goal to shoot for. If he does not meet the criteria, he loses one privledge, but I immediately remind him of what he can do to earn it back or earn the next one. I try very hard to stick to my guns. It makes it easier the next time. I also have problems explaining things to my 3 year old. I see her picking up some of his behaviors. I get worried. The hardest part for me is the other people. I have had so many people stop me to offer advice or, and this always floors me, will step up and try to reprimand my son. I find it hard to ignore sometimes. It’s something I’m working on.

  52. barbara
    February 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Well, I’m the grandmother, and have seen many meltdowns, and been with her during them. I can honestly say, in the beginning I was such a nervous wreck, as I saw all eyes on my granddaughter, and Me and her mother. One time, we were poolside with many people around, she had been running and slipped on the water and fell. Usually when she hurts herself, she really goes right into a meltdown. Well she did, and so many people tried to help her, and she was just getting worse. Everyone was screaming for her Mom to help, which we were right there, but when she saw us, she got worse. She just needs to be alone! But here we were with all these people around, so there was no way she could be alone. So I gently picked her up screaming, and thought that by bringing her in the water, that would distract her from the situation (as she loves the water), Well that didn’t work either. Meanwhile a woman comes up to me and starts telling me that I will traumatize the child by putting her in water. At this point I was getting soo upset, I basically yelled back at the woman to mind her own business, as she didn’t really know what was going on……I’m sure you have all had similar situations. Needless to say, we back off from her when this is happening. Which happens at times we cannot figure out. That was when she was 3 and now she is 11, and she has her meltdowns in different ways. She cannot stand anyone clipping nails, combing hair, brushing teeth, and fights you all the way. This whole autism thing has me mystified, and I wish I could come to some sore of understanding of it all. She was also diagnosed with PDD/NOS. That is too broad of a diagnosis as far as I’m concerned, as I know many others diagnosed with same but are no where near where Hannah is……I can only pray for help for my Daughter in dealing with her every day.

  53. February 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    My almost 3 y/o son was just diagnosed a few weeks ago with HFA and he also has a 15 m/o brother who shows no signs. I have my hands full in public places so I usually choose to shop at stores that have a plethora of double carts for my own sanity. I pack snacks, sippies and keep their fave toys in the diaper bag. I also find that if I’m organized and can keep moving, we do just fine. Making a list and knowing what’s on sale before hand keeps my shopping trips efficient. As for restaurants, I try to find family friendly places that serve food quickly and have something on the menu they will eat. My son with ASD is a very picky eater and if I want to enjoy myself, I need for him to like something on the menu…even if its only French Fries. If we are in the mood for something more ethnic, we order in. At the mall, sometimes he likes to walk around, so I try to go at times where it isn’t crowded so if he runs ahead, I can see him.

  54. Jim Pryor
    February 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Our son simply needs solitude. I find a quiet place wherever we are at (a bathroom is perfect) and sit him down and leave him alone. Just a couple of minutes of solitude is all he needs to collect himself and return to “normal”.

  55. beatrice
    February 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I don’t think we ever expirence a melt down, my son is high functional aspergers. He does have tantrums at times,he strong willed that he likes to argue, I thank god he’s learned to express himself more maturely, he keeps to himself most of the time. My son Thomas, Loves music..he plays the geetar, keyborad,sings,he loves anything to do with music.. that calms him down.he so much at peace. my son still has his days. Hes been in therapy sence he was 6, he’s a teen know It has helped him so much. School can be very challenageing for him other kids like to bully him…I get so mad! It still hard for him to make friends…I’v tried working with staff at school and its seems like it gets worse…Any suggestions?…I feel for all us parents our children have to go through this. I know for my self i have to persevere Lots of love…….

  56. Jennifer Baidoum
    February 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I have had several meltdowns with my now 11 year old. When he has an absolute meltdown it involves scratching me and loud wailing. I know this makes others uncomfortable, but believe me, they make him uncomfortable too. We try and push through by diverting his attention or ignoring the behavior all together.

    I have always taken him in public, as much as he can tolerate to get him accustom to being around other people. I started taking a quick walk around the grocery store and just buying one item, to get him use to waiting in line. Usually it is not my son that bothers me, it is the looks I get from other people. When I swallowed my pride and did what was best for him, it helped him learn to regulate himself.

    I stay clam and try and model proper behavior. If he is unable to de-escalate, then we leave. It does not deter me from going back. Each time if he can tolerate a little more, it is a win.

    We now have several stores that he tolerates and behaves well. He still needs to work on awareness of others, but overall the meltdowns are few and far between. It has been a long road, but worth all the “war wounds.”

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Jennifer, our first major meltdown was so physically overwhelming three people were bleeding. My husband is rather tall, and my son actually almost knocked him over. It was horrible…we have learned a lot since then, and so has our son, but after this happened I felt like collapsing…

      As you say: the war wounds are worth it. The process is long and difficult, but the kids are totally worth the effort.

  57. Jill Cramer
    February 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Meltdowns in public? No longer a fear of mine. Once I learned what triggered my son’s meltdown’s, it was easire to prevent than to stop. Meltdowns began at a very early age which were very self-injurous. I was able to remove my son (picking him up) out of the public atmosphere and taking him to where he was comfortable. My son (at a young age) did not handle ‘change’ very well, and a change in atmosphere was one of his triggers. He’s 15-years-old now, and I am very careful to not change his ‘world’. I’ve learned to add people, places & things to him at a very slow pace. How? I talk to him before hand.

    • melissa L
      February 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      I replied with the same comment. I found out at age 31 I have aspergers and meltdowns are no longer a problem for me or my husband. (bless him for being with me regardless of my strange public anxieties) Now that we both know what triggers my meltdowns they have not occured and we can actually find the humor in my triggers. Laughter is my favorite medicine.

  58. elora
    February 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I try not to have a meltdown. When i know it is coming i tell my mom i have to go.
    But i hold it in as much as i can when i start to meltdown

    • melissa L
      February 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      I have found one way to help me avoid meltdowns that may or may not work for you. Since I am too old to carry a stuffed animal with me in public, I have learned to carry a rock (or worry stone). You can find one you like or they even sell worry stones. I keep the stone in my pocket and rub on it with my thumb. I have a different rock for diffent occasions. I have a grocery store rock, a social gathering rock, etc… Rubbing the rock usually differs my attention and calms my anxiety, it’s helps me hold it in. I keep a bunch of rocks so I can’t get upset if I lose one.

      • M Garcia
        February 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm

        Melissa, my son uses a Slinky…he moves it rhythmically and we can tell by the increasing speed that he is getting anxious. Thanks for the tip! I will definitely try the stones or something similar to help him cope…

  59. Margaret Bowen
    February 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for sharing your experiences. I read each response and sooo appreciate this blog. If anyone wants a view from the inside out about living with Autism, hearing and feeling these families experiences about meltdowns in public takes you on that journey. The common denominator… staying calm. Heres to our families living with the variable of Autism within the family equation. And… heres to the by-stander that follows the lead of the families by maintaining ‘the calm’. To our children who live in a world of Autism, YOU ARE LOVED.

  60. Mariqco
    February 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    It’s best to remain calm. My son, at age 3, laid down on the tile floor in the market. No kicking or screaming, he just lay there. I stood there and told him that ‘when you’re ready, we’ll finish shopping and go home.’ Luckily, an older couple came heading up the aisle and the gentleman stopped to ask my son, “Hey there, young man, what are you doing there, cleaning up the floor?” My son immediately jumped up, grabbed my hand and led me away. I mouthed “Thank you” and the old man just winked and smiled. God bless older folks who have seen it all and know that a gentle intervention works wonders!

  61. Chuck
    February 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    When my son goes off is usually because of something. Even though he is 14 but non-verbal, I have to be like a detective trying to know what he wants. Sometimes is just that something set him off and we dont know. I talk to him firmly trying to assert that everything is fine and that we are heading this way, or waiting for someone, etc. We try to focus on him and not on the surrounding people. Sometimes people would approach us to offer help, but we just say thanks, he is calming down.

  62. Karen
    February 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned about meltdowns is to ask why they are happening, not how to stop them. When my son is able to answer me, I’ll ask him what is happening to him, why he’s upset and most importantly, what he wants to do about it. If he is unable to answer me, I just have both sides of the conversation for him. Once in a grocery store he was getting wound up, and I’m sure the other people in the store were sure I was crazy, but I had the conversation. “these are bright lights, aren’t they? I know bright lights hurt your eyes. Can I cover your eyes for a minute, can I hug you and squeeze the scared out… we need to get outside where there’s real air, don’t we? Can you hold onto me while we get outside…” the whole time I was taking steps to get him outside, squeezing, hugging and sheilding him from the people around us. Sometimes, for him, knowing that I know how he feels and I’m there to take care of him helps a LOT in getting him calmed down.

  63. February 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    my son was 3 years old and at busch gardens he was having a major meltdown he was screaming and hitting me with all his strength. i held him and sang to him and just hung on to him and the people around me were making smart remarks like ” he needs a spankin” but i didnt care what people said because they dont know my son. but just hold him and love him. he has only had a few in the 8 yrs and he is doing great now

  64. melissa L
    February 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    At age 31 I found out I have aspergers. However, at age 30 and prior public meltdowns happened in the grocery store if I had to go before 9pm. (I shop late to avoid sensory overload). If a parent had a loud child, beware I would usually say something to the parents. I would also get upset if you stood too close to me. And the poor person bagging my groceries!! RUN!! If you want to be safe.
    Now that I have learned about my aspergers I can tell myself what is causing my anxiety. In my mind I tell myself over and over like the little engine, ‘there are different ways of doing things, you can do it’. When my husband is with me I can say to him, “it’s an Aspie moment” and he can look around and see what it is that might be bothering me. He then encourages me by telling me how good I am doing and telling me I can get through it. I like that I understand the differences between my way of doing things and other people’s way of doing things. I learn to tell myself that others want to do things their way just like I want to do things my way.
    Parents should be grateful to have the knowledge of their childrens characteristics, if I had known even 10 years earlier about my aspergers I would have saved myself from a lot of embarrassments and would probably have more friends. Now that I know my characteristics I educate myself on how to get along in public. I am happy to say that a child’s outburst does not bother me anymore because I have learned the signs of autism. With every 1/110 children diagnosed, I am sure the last thing a parent with an aspie child needs is a person with aspergers yelling at them to make their child stop screaming. If I could apologize to all the parents I have yelled at I would (it has to be at least 110). Yikes!!! But like I said the outburst have stopped I have not had a public meltdown since I have been aware of my autism!! Please keep encouraging others to learn the signs!! Love and encouragement to all!!

  65. Heather
    February 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    It depends on where it is, whether we try deep pressure, giving a choice, or actively ignoring/diverting attention first or we remove ourselves from the situation first and then try other measures. If we stay in the environment, I find it easier to try to block out the environment, making eye contact with no one and focus on being calm and my child. By doing that, I have found myself to be less embarassed or having people coming up to me offering a cookie or whatever to try to help. It’s never an easy thing or a great time. Sometimes we get through it there and others we just end up leaving.

  66. Michele
    February 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    My son is 8 and has Down Syndrome and also strong autisic behaviors/tendencies as well. We are just beginning to probe the impact of autism on his behavior, because for too long I think, we thought his struggles were due solely to DS. Now we’re thinking that we need to really educate ourselves about autism also. In regards to public meltdowns, I suppose people have been a bit more tolerant of my son’s struggles…because his disabilty (Down Syndrome) is easier to “see” (there are physical characteristics that many people can identify). And I must say that I am appalled at what some of you have experienced at the hands of ignorant, rude and abusive onlookers. But what has helped us A LOT is, as so many others have said, is to stay calm and pleasant.
    ONE great help for me is to also speak to the people “watching” through my words that I’m speaking to my son… i.e. I’ll tell my son, “I know this is hard for you honey….I know… you’ve had enough….you want to be done shopping now… etc.” I keep saying these things as much for my son as for the people around me. I’ve found that as soon as they realize that (despite my son’s flailing) that I, as his caregiver, AM OKAY, I’m under control, I’m calm, and I know what I’m doing… the onlookers seem to relax and turn away and give me the respect and privacy I need to remedy the situation.
    I’ve also learned a wonderful technique from an autism book regarding “hand over hand” guidance. Since I usually can NEVER get my son to go where he doesn’t want to by holding his hand and tugging (like I’ve seen so many people do with neurotypical children!)… I’ve found this technique to be extremely helpful. Instead of tugging his hand or trying to carry him, I come around behind him and hold his hands from behind gently, and kind of snuggle him as I begin lead/nudge him forward. I speak to him gently and tell him where we’re going and why, and eventually, he cooperates almost every time. (He is too big to carry anymore, and when he does the “limp noodle” move and drops to the floor, I’m pretty much toast, so this technique has worked well). When I’m really desperate and he just won’t cooperate, and won’t even stand up, I scoop him up under the shoulders from behind, and gently wrap my arms around his upper torso and lift him enough to get my feet behind his feet, and my knees behind his knees. Then I “step” with him until he begins to step with me…all the while using a pleasant sing-songy voice, “C’mon, time to walk, walk, walk to the car…I know… you’re tired now, but we’re almost there… walk, walk, walk…” By the end he’s usually laughing and people around are smiling. It may sound like a lot of work (IT IS!) But it has been a godsend that has kept me from having to carry a kicking, screaming, STRONG little boy out of the store, restaurant, church, etc… it’s also kept him so much safer from injuring himself, me or others.
    Blessings to all of you…you are all amazing in what you do and how you persevere to love and care for your wonderful children!

  67. Grandma Donna
    February 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    My grandson is 9 and the meltdowns are getting fewer and far between. His meltdowns just tear me up, but what I did was – first I went to the computer and printed me out some business cards that said – “My grandson has autism, please pray for him.” and every time he had a meltdown I would pass them out to people who were looking at us. Then I would get down to his level and try to find out the problem and in the most loving way, I would tell his it was all right and no matter how hard he fought me I would hold him as close as I could and tell him I loved him. Autism was not in “old school”, so I am learning as I go.

  68. Nancy Grant
    February 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I never allowed my daughter to scream it out in public – I’m sound sensitive myself so I could not take any excessive noise in a public environment. That said, we spent a lot of time removing her from grocery stores, shopping malls and restaurants if she screamed, and just did not take her a lot of places. She couldl be fine if we were out in the aisles of a shopping mall but have a complete freak out if I took her into an actual store. This is usually a sensory integration problem so once you understand that you know what to do.

  69. natalie
    February 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I try to prepare before public outings by bringing a couple lollipops,some snack food, and a drink. I also bring little toys and sometimes always keep “new” items in my big purse that will be novel to him. My biggest problem is if my son gets bored, then he’ll start to act up!

    • Christy
      February 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      My son has expensive tastes. He can be occupied by new items, but then he wants to add to his shopping list. I can’t afford as many new things as he wants. I don’t think anyone could or should provide him with as much as he wants. In fact I feel like I’ve provided him with far too much “stuff”…but that doesn’t stop me. I try to stick to a budget and shop ahead online. So far I’ve done ok with stashing things out of sight.

  70. Daniel Hughes
    February 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    You need to remember at all times that you are the model for your Autistic child/student. If they notice a situation that creates anxiety for them they will look to you to steer them from it firstly. If it is impossible to avoid they will look to you for a model to copy in that situation. If they have a meltdown you have to combine both and leave the situation whilst remaining completely calm and normal. The normality in your body language and your face will be stored away in a schema reserved for certain situations. Autistic children have difficulties describing emotions and faces but they have no problem in modelling emotion and behaviour. If you are insecure in dealing with the behaviour they will see that and be insecure themselves. The more you avoid situations they can see and avoid the meltdown in that situation the better the experience in the scheme for next time.

    If you know certain words trigger your child then avoid them for a while whilst using a replacement then introduce them in a fun game. I work with a child who used to meltdown instantly at certain words – No, wait, stop and ready. We noticed he loved being spun on a plastic bowl so we incorporated these words into the game whilst he was laughing. I would stop the disc and shout STOP then READY and spin again. We introduced his PECS book to ask for the bowl and he would ask for it, we said WAIT and gave him the spin after 5 seconds waiting. Next time was 10 secs then 20 secs and so on. Now he’s waiting for 15 mins and we use words like STOP to great effect when he is doing something wrong. The main problem he had with these words was they expect either too much restraint from the child and they haven’t been able to do it in the past or it requires communication.

    With this child we went from 140 incidents in the 1st month to 3 incidents in 6 months. We still have a long way to go with him and it took a he’ll of a lot more than wrote here but these ideas helped a lot in the long and short term.

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

      The trigger word for our son is “OK,” so we have to instruct people to use alternative expressions. “OK” is so pervasive in our language culture that it’s not the easiest thing to replace.

      We have a round board with facial expressions on it and my son lets us know how he is feeling with a popsicle stick. Or, which is more frequent, he will get up and put music on…Chopin, we have discovered, means “I want to be alone…I need a good cry!”

      Our boy is so in tune with nature that when he starts getting ready for winter, our neighbors notice and start getting ready for winter, too. I’ve had people call me to ask “what is so-and-so wearing?”; we thought it was a fluke, but he is two days ahead of every storm, and he doesn’t have access to weather forecasts as he only uses DVDs in his room and doesn’t like watching regular TV and doesn’t use the internet. It’s uncanny…

  71. Sarah-Ann
    February 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Our strategy is to make eye contact with our son (5 years old) and speak to him slowly and calmly. The hardest part is getting him to look us in the eye; once we’ve got that, we have him hold his hands at his sides and maintain contact. We ask him quietly how he needs to behave (e.g. “Do we yell in the store?”), and make sure he answers, and that it’s an honest answer showing understanding, not just an automatic, “No”. We have two other (younger) sons, so this can be tricky to do while trying to keep an eye on them, too. The process usually takes some time, but it’s the best method we’ve found so far. The eye contact and the still hands are the most difficult elements, but absolutely the most vital.

  72. Michelle Richards
    February 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    There have been many times where our fifteen year old son would have a melt down in a store or resturaunt. A lot of time, we had to leave the store. Tonight, we are meeting our behavioral therapist at the store and we will work on community outings.

  73. Becki
    February 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I always have to carry small toys or bubbles to advert my little guy’s Public Meltdowns so at least something will distract him. Usually I talk to him calmly and hold him for a few minutes until he stops crying, fussing. It’s hard being out and him having a Meltdown, but there are ways to calmly handle them without having everyone around you saying “Why can’t this mom control her child?”

  74. Momofthree
    February 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    My youngest daughter is HF autistic with VPD, SID and dyslexia. She has the biomedical kind that is helped by a gluten free/casein free diet. Before we had seizures and these tantrums daily. 7 years later I can honestly say we all know -even she knows – when she’s had wheat or dairy.

    Our first meltdown -ever- was in public. She was 3 and stripped down to panties in a Gap, throwing her shoes and clothes at me. She kept running away from me into the parking lot. I ran away from her so she’d follow me, and she did. However, someone called the police and DFACS and said (within my earshot) that I was abusing a baby.

    She tried to jump out of the moving car on the way home (while I was on the phone with her OT). My 8 year old cried quietly for hours.

    This was our worst day. Ever.

    It gets better-you are better equipped, think through casual trips to the store, hire great help, pray a lot.

    There will still be the self righteous ignoramus in Target who sneers at you and you will still say “Is your child autistic? Well, mine is. Now don’t YOU feel better?”

    Florescent lights, loud noises, echoing music, tired or hungry kids – all triggers.

    Caro was terrified of any stranger – adult or child. We learned to say “Hello friend” to every child. Escalators? (A huge problem for visual disordered kids) Take the elevator. Uneducated physician? There are great ones out there.

    Talk to other parents, take time with adults on the spectrum. Read, learn and use this forum.

    Seven years ago I thought I was alone. Now we all have each other.

    Thank you for sharing.

  75. June
    February 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Well my daughter has some pretty good meltdowns while were out and at home and I dont worry abt others cuz i know they have no clue. but its not easy getting her to calm down and some times we dont! she will chant over and over she wants something she cant have! she has a hard time understanding why she cant have something. i will say she has gotten better since she is a little older 8 yrs now! her meltdowns are pretty severe. she will rock back and forth and cover her ears and repeat over and over and to this day it breaks my heart cuz when you watch her and know anything at all about autism and you can see she is struggling so hard to cope and understand! we walk with GOD every day and he is our strength and our family and friends are wonderful including the school they love her so much and work with her in so many ways!!

  76. Rachel
    February 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Hats off to those of you who pointed out the need to ignore the reactions of the public! How quick it seems people want to judge us and our parenting. My son is on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum and attends activities that ‘typically developing children’ attend. He has sensory integration disorder and sometimes gets sent into a crying spiral by another child yelling near him or when he has a fixed agenda that gets impeded by a rule or another child. Most people don’t suspect that my son has developmental delays because so much of the time he appears ‘typical’. When he has crying fits/tantrums, behaviors I have learned not to look at anyone else. Even though I can feel their stares I have decided I don’t care what they think. They don’t know what it is like to walk in our shoes and they would never understand it even if I tried to explain it. I find that calmly putting my son’s feelings into words is the first thing that may help (e.g. ‘Oh, that made you feel scared…You are angry…..That made you sad’, etc). It gets his attention and he listens. Sometimes I speak in rhythm since this also gets his attention…he loves music. Then I tell him he can use his big boy words to tell me what is wrong. Most of the time he can’t so I model it for him. Sometimes I have to physically move him to a less stimulating environment or simply leave as quickly as possible. I don’t try fighting it because I have come to realize that his nervous system isn’t responding to the environment the way others do and for him the noise may be registered as what would feel like pain to me. I feel I need to be sensitive to this and remove him from an environment if the environment itself is intolerable for him. I figure we can work on this more (building his tolerance) through social stories as he gets older. Given that he is only 3.5 years old now, I am opting for the easier route before getting more into stories but I think this will come more over time. Thanks for all of these helpful posts!

    • Jo Walter
      February 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      I actually had a woman stop me in a Target to comment about another woman’s screaming child. I had passed the woman several times, she had baby on her hip and the “screamer” in the cart. I felt bad, hearing all the other people around her talking about her and her child. When this other woman approached me, I was in no mood to hear about how her child “would never act that way” and how she would have “just not gone shopping”… Telling her about my daughter and her autism put that woman in her place in the politest way I could manage. I ran into the “screaming” cart a little bit later and got to talking to the mother after she apologized for her son’s vocal outbursts, knowing others were talking about them. I casually explained about my daughter (who was at school at the time) and through understanding her situation for a moment I found out that the one in the cart with the great set of lungs was a twin! In that moment, we weren’t alone and we had someone understand what was going on. Different situations lead to the same results. Tantrums. Her son wasn’t screaming by the time we finished talking and she seemed very relieved to be done with that.

      You never know what a person’s story is until you ask. When people stare and make comments quietly around you as you struggle with your child, it’s because they are too afraid to ask if you need help. “Can I Help You?” 4 little words that require little action on a follow through, but can mean so much to a person in the throws of a fit.

  77. February 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    The second his shoes came off he would scream bloody murder. I don’t know HOW I handled it other than to calmly assure him that everything was ok and he was alright

  78. Gary
    February 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    My son has meltdowns all the time. I simply focus on dealing with him and never let on to how embarrassed I feel. It takes a lot of endurance but if he senses theat his behavior will gain some sort of control he would exploit it. Eventually the meltdown passes and we move on.

  79. hapamama4
    February 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    I usually escape to a restroom where it is less crowded and quieter (although it echoes and a poor woman that may be in a stall might be a little petrified by the screaming at first). The loud noises and crowds seem to set the tantrums off. Would somebody please tell me what a “PEC” is? We just got a diagnosis last month, and am I still new to all the acronyms. Thanks!

    • Jo Walter
      February 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      PECS (pex) are picture cards used with non-verbal and nearly non-verbal ASD patients.

      Picture Exchange Communication System

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

      PECS are very useful even if your child is not non-verbal. Our first set of “PECS” were basically fronts of boxes, candy wrappers, pictures from magazines, clip art from a word processing program. We put magnets on those and kept them on the fridge door; they helped immensely because our son could -in this way- tell us what he wanted. Eventually we purchased a set and made our own boards (balsa wood from the crafts store…velcro…that’s the weekly board in our house) that he can refer to and communicate through.

      Different Roads to Learning is a good website for resources, and they’re not too pricey. I still have clip art that I’ve laminated (love, love, love my Purple Cow laminators!) and they come in very handy. Since your diagnosis is recent, a lot of this might seem like gibberish, but you’ll soon be fluent and you’ll be able to help yourself, your child, your family and everyone in this board…I promise you!!!

      Has your child been tested for hypersensitive hearing? My son can hear an ambulance long before any of us can, so he now taps us on the shoulder to let us know one is coming. It usually happens that hypersensitive hearing affects the autistic individual’s ability to learn speech properly because they cannot differentiate the significant sounds from the general noise that surrounds them. This is, in part, the reason why my son cannot enunciate as well as his peers, and we have to augment his language skills with ASL (American Sign Language) and PECS. We are trying to teach him how to type simple requests…it takes time… Until my son learned to regulate his hearing and manage the stress noises cause him, he wore earmuffs from Lands End to go to “loud” places…sometimes while listening to music with his iPod.

  80. Daun Orlando
    February 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I have learned to just remain calm whenever my son has a meltdown in public. I typically just let him blow off some of the steam and then I tell him that in order for me to understand what he needs or wants, he is going to have to stop screaming and talk to me in a inside voice. I dont worry about what others think because unless you have an autistic child and have dealt with these situations, it is not always easy to understand.

  81. February 23, 2011 at 7:28 am

    My son is 18 now and we are past the daily meltdowns. We didn’t know that our son was Autistic until he was a tween. He had been diagnosed prior with ADHD and ODD. Meltdowns were a common, more than once a day occurance. He was thrown out of daycares when I’d try and leave him somewhere so I could go to the doctor myself…I’m bipolar. We were even discouraged from bringing him to the child care area in church. We attempted to bring him into services with us with sometimes disasterous results. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk back to the pastor while he was giving his sermon. The first time was met with mild laughter. After that we were asked to leave. We had to stop attending church.

    It wasn’t until he was about 9 that we started attending a support group for kids with ADHD and other learning disabilities, that we learned methods to calm him down. His meltdowns were primal in nature and we continually failed at calming him down until then.

    One of our methods to prevent meltdowns was to prioritise the situation into 3 baskets…basket A = worth the possibility of a meltdown, basket B = somewhere in the middle and circumstances beyond our control dictate our decision, and basket C = not worth the meltdown. The key is not to have many basket A situations. My husband and I would individually assess each situation and then say A, B or C. If we didn’t agree on the basket we’d confer until a united decision was made. Our son learned early on that we work as a team.

    We used calming items throughout the house. Vanilla scented items calmed him, soft jazz or light classical music soothed him, and removing most sugars and red dyes from his diet reduced the number of outbursts. He responds well to accupressure as well. I made a tube sock filled with rice and vanilla scent, heat it in the microwave and place it on his shoulders. He’d then sit on the floor in front of me and I’d gently rub his head. I made a weighted blanket for him with pockets in it for vanilla scented rice packets that were removable for cleaning and for heating. He loved his blanket and our mornings would be calmer if I heated the rice packets and inserted them for a few minutes before I woke him up.

    Our salvation was preventative measures. Once his primal meltdown started the only thing we could do was leave the public place. Many times we left our grocery cart with a clerk and leave the store. When he was a tween we had to have him ride in the backseat always. I learned the hard way when he got mad because he had a doctor appointment he didn’t want to go to and he slammed my gear shifter into park from drive. Luckily we were on a country road without much traffic. Fortunately the car behind me could swerve around me as my car stalled and came to an aburpt halt.

    My son is a changed younf man now. His meltdowns are fewer and farther apart. He has developed his own coping skills, stimming mainly, and has learned his triggers. He’s working part-time at Goodwill Industries and is learning how to manage his meltdowns while holding down a job.

    As is with all parents of ASD children we learned what worked by trial and error. I kept a diary of each method we tried and the outcome. Sometimes our go-to methods weren’t fruitful and we’d have to revert to something else. We simply didn’t give up on him or ourselves. We hit lots of speed bumps along the way but the outcome is a positive one. Our young man now has the skills to manage his own triggers. He’s learned to remove himself from potential trigger situations. I still rub his head…it’s one of his favorite things for us to do. An added bonus is our conversations while I massage. Since we aren’t looking face-to-face he’ll open up to me and we can solve his problems in a calm manner. I don’t think he’d be as open with me without it.

    To the parents of little ones…there is hope. If you aren’t attending a support group I’d highly recommend finding one asap. Many times we’d learn a new method but many more times we’d leave with the feeling that we wouldn’t trade our situation with anyone at the meeting. Life wasn’t nearly so overwhelming and we all need that encouragement on a regular basis.

  82. Helen
    February 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

    My daughter is very quiet and she just runs away, she will walk directly across roads and in front of vehicles as she seems to think they will stop for her, she cannot judge distance and speed anyway so cannot tell if a vehicle’s approach will mean that she is in a direct collision course with it! It is just not safe to leave the house with her, so I don’t.

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

      There are a lot of dangers for runners, Helen. I feel for you. My son had a classmate who was a runner and several time he’d cross the highway or leave the house when his mom was using the bathroom. She’d have to call 9-1-1 because he was very agile and fast, and would get lost very quickly.

      We have bells hanging from every doorknob on the doors that lead outside. We also have a baby monitor in my son’s room. He has never been in the habit of going outside the property; he will go to the backyard (which is fenced and gated), but he won’t necessarily dress appropriately for the weather. My husband found him outside on a very cold morning, with snow on the ground, wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt…so we have bells that let us know one of the doors is being opened or closed.

      We had issues with our son’s lack of understanding regarding cars. It took a while, but he now knows that he cannot cross the street by himself and that he must wait for the right signal. His brother says “press the button, Max” like in The Great Race so that he is aware that it’s time to ask for the proper signal and then wait.

      I wish I had more advice than what I’ve just mentioned…

    • momofthree
      February 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Helen, have you looked into canine assistance? They are trained to protect a child like this. It is amazing to watch – I’ve seen them stop a seizure, calm a hysterical child, and lean into them to stop them from danger like running into traffic.

      A skilled OT can help too.

      Don’t give up, and don’t confine yourself – or- her. We had this too – and I learned to run away from her so she’d follow me.

      • M Garcia
        February 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

        Oh, I yearn for canine assistance, but my son is afraid of dogs! I think he would, once he learns to manage the fear, benefit greatly from it. Helen: momofthree is absolutely right, don’t confine yourself…you’ll have to get creative with solutions, but you and your daughter deserve the vast, wide world…

  83. gayle white
    February 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I had to laugh reading this topic this morning:) I just had a lengthy discussion about this last night with someone just becoming familiar with the intracacies of dealing with autism.
    I’ve always taken my son wherever we needed to go. In the early days, before diagnosis and we didn’t have a clue what was wrong, we’d be shopping through the grocery store and he’d be screaming on the top of his lungs – not actually crying, but just being loud. What could I do? We needed to shop. As long as I knew he was dry, not hurt, not sick and comfortable, I would just have to finish. His siblings would be a bit embarrassed, and would stare down anyone who made a comment, lol.
    Post diagnosis and years of autism, I still take my son most places, despit the possibility of a meltdown. I laughed when I read the mom’s story above about buying shoes and how hard it is :) lol, afraid someone would think she was abducting her own child! The shoe buying is one of the last strongholds to trigger a meltdown for my son. But one needs to buy shoes that fit, right?? I told his sibling to take a walk through the store if they were uncomfortable, and proceeded to deal with the fully retracted under the bench, feet, crossed at the ankles and stuck like glue! lol, very calmly told him we “are” going to try these on, you “need” new shoes, and we “will” get this done.
    So he screamed, thought he was stronger and could keep me from doing it, (and he almost is!), but i proceeded, despite the screams, all the while talking calmly and quietly to him. He knew I meant business, and for me– the thought of having to come back again another day was the determination factor I needed to proceed. Yes, we got lots of looks from other shoppers, but the constant talking calmly I thought, either they would know that there was a developmental issue here, and if they didn’t, I would explain if they asked. Shoes were bought, siblings couldn’t wait to get out of the store, I was exhausted, but my son was none the worse for wear, lol.
    I do believe that our children, first of all, have the right to be in stores, malls etc, meltdowns, loud outbursts, handflapping and all, and if the general public hasn’t seen this kind of behavior before, well that is up to them to find out about it. When I hear, “Mommy, what’s wrong with that kid? Why is he acting like that?” and the mom proceeds to shush the child, I simply say,” my son has autism. This is what autism looks like”. If it is a rude teenager that makes a comment, I will add to that, “Oh, you’ve never seen someone with autism? You don’t know anyone with autism? Just wait – you will”.
    My advise for parents with children who have meltdowns in public? Don’t stop taking them out with you! Every time we take them with us, the get a bit more comfortable in different settings and the learn to reign in their behaviors over time. The meltdowns get less, and you and your child get to experience more and live life fully! (I won’t insert here about the time at the barbershop when the police stopped in to check if everything was all right when they could hear my son screaming a block away! lol) I just remind myself that I see little ones, and big ones, have meltdowns everyday in stores, children with no diagnosis, simply because they can’t have the 15th toy they’ve demanded, or more candy they’ve demanded! Our children pale in comparison to some little tyrants out there who engage their parents daily! lol, Autism: the never ending adventure!

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Gayle, can you imagine the comments about my son when he’s upset? He is 5’9″, weighs over 200 lbs. and carries boxing gloves with him!!! :D We get a lot of strange looks when we’re out and about, but if those things make him comfortable, well…there are a lot of people out there who look a lot stranger than he does and no one bats an eyelash at them!

      My oldest, bless his soul, is very committed to his younger brother and has, since a very young age, been very clear to his peers about the kind of behavior that is expected of them if they come to the house. When he was 12 some kids were walking home with him and used the word “retard”…a scuffle ensued, and my son accepted his one-day suspension without complaints, but requested that the other kids all be sent to the Special Education classroom to work for a whole day. People have criticized him in the past for being “too attached” to his family, and he has always said “if you cannot understand the amount of work we do with my brother, I hope you are never put in a position where life forces you to experience it.”

      • gayle white
        February 24, 2011 at 8:30 am

        You have to just laugh at peoples reactions sometimes. My son is nearly 10 yrs old, he is 5’1″ , weighing in at 145 lbs ! He does not carry boxing gloves, lol. (why does yours? I’m sure there’s a story there somewhere).
        I love the story of your older son! Aren’t our children without autism phenomenal too? I’ve had an older son respond to kids in school the same way, then go on to educate the class. My older girls work at educating their classes when opportunities present themselves, and spend a lot of time advocating for kids in their school when people are harrassing them.
        I find my children have a soft and tender heart toward children with special needs and strive to have them included and respected at school. I know it is because they are always seeing their brother in every child they meet. They are awesome advocates for the fellow classmates with special needs, even when meltdowns occur in the classroom/ gym/hallways. A gentle, quiet, presence usually is all they need to be to help a classmate with autism calm down. The world at large will become educated about Autism, and other special needs, through the intervention of these phenomenal siblings.
        Hug your older son (they are never too big) — he’s awesome!

      • M Garcia
        February 24, 2011 at 10:32 am

        Gayle, in response to your response (which didn’t have a “reply” tab)…the boxing gloves came as a result of my son’s habit of hitting himself. He had given himself a rather nasty cut on his forehead and we provided the gloves for him to soften the blows. Of course, then he stopped hitting his head and wouldn’t remove the gloves…they provide comforting pressure on his wrist…sometimes the solution is more interesting than the problem???? At this particular point he had to decide which hand he’d rather use…so he’s a lefty by choice.

        We have often wondered if at any point he will want to remove the boxing gloves…the psych says yes, in his own good time. At school they’ve learned to take it in their stride and, him being so tall and big compared to other students, they joke that he is ready for a fight as he carries gloves for two people. Does it impair his ability to do things with his hands? Not as much as one would think…When he needs to use both hands for a task, he puts the gloves in a basket and proceeds with his work.

        Life can be difficult with an autistic sibling, but I think we’ve managed to raise our children in a manner that makes them more compassionate human beings, and someday they will be amazing parents (anything will probably seem a lot easier compared to this, right?) My oldest son is studying to be an ASL interpreter (his brother has some ASL he uses to communicate with us) and an EMT; his heart is in acting, though…but he wants to be employed between gigs! I tell him if he ever becomes famous he can be a spokesperson for all of us…

        I think you are doing a fantastic job with your family. The times people tell me I could’ve done more with my talents and skills, I tell them my talents and skills are doing rather well in my chosen field of endeavor (I put Professional Mother and Home Resources Administrator in my resume :D)…and I challenged by all my projects and their development.

      • gayle white
        February 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

        You are doing a wonderful job yourself, and I love the titles you use to describe what you “do” — I’m sure there are about 50 more you could add!
        The siblings will be awesome parents, and will bring all of these experiences forward into life in whatever field they choose. They will always have a sensitivity for special needs people and families, and will advocate on their behalf whenever the occasion arises. My children feel very comfortable and at home with people of any disability– my 16 yr. old daughter babysits for a single mom so she can go to the gym 2 nights a week. She has 3 children on the spectrum, and one neurotypical child. Another daughter used her gift of art to assist in a program for severely special needs adolescents. Another daughter, the one closest in age to my son, assists me in a lot of his care. She is so in tune with his needs, that I can leave him in her care for an hour or two at a time, and have no worry whatsoever. This same daughter’s transistion into middle school was the smoothest transition of all of my children because she was placed in a classroom with 10 or more special ed students, and was as much a gift to them, as they were to her.
        We, special needs families, or families with autism, have so many gifts that unfold from this, at first, bewildering surprise. It is our job, as moms and dads, to open the doors to these gifts, take them out, look at them, and decide how we can share them with others so the world is impacted right in our own little sphere and beyond.
        Keep up the good work that you are obviously doing! Your sons are blessed to have a mom that chooses to use her gifts and talents to love and be a huge part of their worlds!

      • Dan Hughes
        February 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm

        Maybe the boxing gloves are for the weight on his hands. Maybe he would like wrist weights. I work with many children who like to carry books and solid objects around with them. How are his fine motor skills?

      • M Garcia
        February 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

        Dan, his fine motor skills come and go…we tried different kinds of gloves (weighted, compression, etc.) before getting to the boxing gloves. He prefers these because they immobilize the “evil” hand…the hand with which he has caused himself damage in the past. All his fingers (especially on his right hand) are slightly twisted from what we suspect are hairline fractures sustained through an extended period of time while he was in the habit of hitting his head. We, sadly, have extremely hard skulls…no one in my family has ever cracked their head open in a fall, but when you hit that skull it’s going to cause damage. For a time he took to putting one hand on his forehead while hitting himself with the other…we think the boxing gloves have the purpose of “keeping things in place” for him…

        I think I mentioned that he has opted to be left-handed and he is very dexterous; he likes plastic canvas embroidery and his hand-eye coordination has actually improved since he decided to concentrate on his left hand rather than switch from one to the other as he used to do. Of course, the only problem we have right now is that he is the only “lefty” in the house so we are having to adjust certain things to accommodate him.

        Our boy likes weight on him…he will pile twenty comforters on his bed to calm himself; we have purchased several compression t-shirts and a compression vest and he decides when he “needs” them. Being as tall and “big” as he is (thank goodness for the big frame that allows him to carry the weight more comfortably) he likes to get into small spaces when he’s anxious.

    • M Garcia
      February 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Gayle, my son made a poor hairdresser cry and quit on the spot at a hair salon in Raleigh, NC. The poor man just turned around and said “I don’t think I can do this anymore!” I felt so badly that I went back the following week to apologize and was told he had, in fact, never returned.

      Over the years I’ve learned to tell the difference between my son having an “autistic” tantrum and just a plain, old “I want to have my way” tantrum. It’s amazing how much one learns about them, about Autism and about oneself!

  84. Anita
    February 23, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Our son is 20. We went through many meltdowns. Yes he got stronger than me and making him do anything was useless. We still insist on taking him places as the results of repeated exposure to situations is incredible. My best advice is calm, persistant, caring exposure to all the environments that he will need to live successfully in the future. If it’s a really bad day avoid at all costs:)

  85. Lisa
    February 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Lisa Faust :
    Hi everyone….I can relate to so many of these situations. My son is 16 and has PDD/NOS. His meltdowns are definitely different now than when he was younger. I actually think they are harder to control. My son is and has been in the process of learning how to manage his feelings and control the outbursts. He is starting to realize that he can ask for help. Sometimes this is very hard for him though. After years of public meltdowns, etc., I have found an invaluable book that will be of help. Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments by Brenda Smith Myles and Jack Southwick. This book is an actual step by step guide toward helping your child through the stages of a meltdown. It also explains how the adults should handle themselves. I hope this will be of help to all of you. It certainly isn’t easy having a child with special needs, but it has taught me to look for the good in every situation. My child is a gift from God and I should treat him as such!!

  86. Jo Walter
    February 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I keep moving forward. Sometimes just walking it off helps her. Our daughter has tactile issues and sometimes that big “I’m about to break her ribs” hug is the best thing for her. Just get down on the ground next to her, wrap her in a big tight hug, and tell her, in a low voice, “we are having a good day”. She needs to know that her minor issues aren’t ruining anything, and by keeping my voice low, I encourage her to be quieter so she can hear me better. Sometimes, loud “Shhh” near her ear helps too, like you would an infant to sooth them.

  87. Jane March
    February 23, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I have a stress basket I use with my students and my son. I have a break card, therapy putty, a calming card, a stress ball, and pom poms in it for their use. My son seems to like the pom poms the best. I also use a 5 minute timer. These items seem to help. My 21 year old son is angry often. He is trying to express his emotions with words, but it is still difficult for him.

  88. Tavia Lawson
    February 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    If it is too bad I take him out of the situation so we can talk about it. That way not eyes are continually looking at him. But before a melt down takes place I have learned to tell him in advance what we are about to do, what is expected, and never give up on taking him in public. He has less meltdowns then when he was younger.

  89. a.sickler@yahoo.com
    February 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I am also very thankful my son realy dosnt have meltdowns. He does get upset every now and again but we just back away and let him work it out. He gets more upset if we keep pushing him while he is upset. When he has relaxed then we will try and talk to him about what was going on.

  90. Selena
    February 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Our son (now age 12) used to have outragious meltdowns where his self abuse would be so severe that there would be bruises all over his forehead, bite marks on his arm, etc. Most of these meltdowns happened during transition time before going to his biological mother’s home (co-parent) during mid week visits and/or during weekly transitions (we have joint custody with parenting time transitioning weekly). We saw much less of these meltdowns during our parenting week but the school continued to report excessive self abuse and abuse of others during our non parenting weeks and at the co-parent’s house (including violence towards her). We pushed for medication as recommended by a behavioral specialist that he has been going to for years but always ran into a blockade on the co-parent’s end. We finally pushed the issue and went forward with starting him on low levels of Prozac. Not only did it reduce the meltdowns but we saw an immediate change in his alertness, willingness to communicate, etc. Over time his levels have been increased and now there are no meltdowns at all during our parenting time and also at school.

  91. cindy
    February 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    i handle my daughter when she has a meltdown ?i first try to ask her what shes angry about ?then i try to get her to talk to me about why shes having a melt down ?i try to get her mind off her anger and ask her to watch a movie that she likes ?lot of times it works and sometimes it doesnt work .alot otimes i just let her come down on her own but i watch her very close to make sure shes not going to hurt her self .

  92. jovigirlnj
    February 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    My son is 4 and non verbal. When he has a meltdown when we are out I usually get down to his level. I speak to him as calm as I can be and tell him everything is ok. If he allowed I will pick him up and put him on my knee and bounce him a bit or give him big squeeze hugs. If not then I try Peek A Boo or some other little game to try and distract him. There have been a few times that either my husband or myself had to remove him from the situation to get him to relax.

  93. Benita
    February 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I have gone to EXTREME measures. I have another cellphone line on my plan just so that I can have access to SprintTV. The Mickey Mouse clubhouse channel is the best thing ever invented. Well, that and the Alvin and the Chipmunks station on Pandora. I carry a spare set of headphones in my purse at all times. When it starts to get overwhelming, I pull out the other phone and headphones and she immediately starts to calm down.

    I went from paying $60 a month for my phone bill to paying $130 a month just to prevent public meltdowns. Its wont it since we are on public transportation a lot of the time.

  94. Molli
    February 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I relate to almost all of these!
    Any meltdowns we have I take him out of the public setting immediately. I recently found him having an MP3 player helps eliminate the noise overstimulation problems. He is almost 8. Now if he gets overstimulated by noises and I see his heading towards the meltdown I give him his headphones. So far, it has worked wonders. Removing him from the situation is just the best bet, I don’t care what people think, they are so uneduacated I’m sick of hearing or getting the looks them thinking he is a spoiled brat. Austism and the overstimulation of nerves, if I can control it in anyway, I will certainly try! As for the education of the public, I only wish I could control that too!

  95. meghan
    February 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    my son has a big melt down anytime we go shopping and he has to sit in the shopping cart. everyone in the store always stares at me and is probably think whats wrong with that boy, can’t his mother control him. He even hits me and pulls my hair. But i just try to ignore it because i know that the fit will be over in about 2 minutes. One time tho i was bringing my son into a walmart and i was 7 months pregnant at the time. I took him in a put him the cart which is very hard cause hs is about 40lbs and i am 7 months pregnant. So he is fighting me and as we struggle he fell into the basket i am screaming cause he is pulling my hair and everyone is staring at us. So i move away from people and he is not calming down he just having a really bad day on this particular day. So he is now hitting me a kicking me so i am holding his hands down and telling him not to hit me. That he can calm down and its okay, well someone in the store took it upon themselves to call the local police department and notify them that i was “beating my child” I was approached by the police in the store and escorted to the front and questioned about the situation. The police even asked walmart for the camera footage. Needless to say i did not hit my son so they couldn’t do anything to me, but i told the police officers that my son was autistic and that this happens every time that i go into the store and that i shouldn’t have to announce that my son is autistic and that he will be throwing a fit and i wont be beating him when i walk in the store. I mean it is seriously so pathetic that our society jumps to these things when my son is just merely having one of his daily meltdowns and i choose to take my son out in public that way someday he will over come this part of Autism. From now on maybe i should just wear a tee when i go out that says: ” I am with an Autistic Child!” Some people should stop and actually look at the situation that is going on maybe there is an under lying story that you don’t know. Out of all the times that i have taken my son out and he has his meltdowns ONLY 1 time has anyone ever offered to help me manage him or see that we are okay. And these meltdowns probably occur at least twice a week. I thank the one lady who has helped me and to all the others that just sit and stare and most likely think i am a bad mother, why don’t you take a closer look or ask someone before you judge them!

  96. Mia
    February 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    When my son had a meltdown @ a public place I would take him to the restroom and let it go a bit and tell him that it wasn’t making things better and that if it continued there would be consequences when we got home. I would explain that I was not going to end my day because of the way he was choosing to act. Then continue whatever I was doing.

  97. Jill
    February 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    With a lot of patience and a soft soothing voice. I can’t let it get to me or it just makes things worse. If I get frustrated, it just adds to my daughter’s frustration. I stay in control, remove her from the area and just talk her through it.

    We really don’t have that much trouble with meltdowns when we are out. It happens more often at home and it usually means she needs some quiet, alone time. She’s 13 and pretty good and identifying when she needs to remove herself. She will be the first to tell me, “Mom, I’m getting upset and need to be alone for awhile.” :)

  98. Jo McIntyre
    February 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    When my son was very young, sometimes it was helpful to whisper to him while he was having a meltdown. He would get quiet so he could hear what I was saying. Sometimes I would talk about his favorite subject (diversion), sometimes I would let him know how much longer we would be wherever we were and remind him of the reward for getting through whatever we happened to be doing. He carried a smooth stone in his pocket to fidget as needed. As he got older, most of the meltdowns were avoided by preparing him for outings, letting him know what to expect, what our expectations for him would be, and what rewards could be earned upon completion of the trip. Now, as a teen, he has learned coping skills, but still takes off to his room to calm himself when necessary.

  99. Donna
    February 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    My daughter does not have total meltdowns, but she will express her dislike or disapproval by giving us a hug that is physically painful! When we say something that she does not like or tell her “no” to something that she wants, she will clinch her teeth and come at us with her fists clinched and her body really stiff and hug us so hard that it hurts! I am sore alot!!! She also can give very gentle, sweet hugs when she wants to so I know it’s not her only way of giving hugs! We have done picture social stories about it, explaining that if she is upset, that she needs to use her words and that it hurts mommy and daddy when she hugs too hard, etc., but it happens so fast…sometimes she is on us before we can react! Suggestions?

  100. February 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    We’ve also been lucky with few public meltdowns, but when they happen, watch out! I also talk to him with a calm voice. Generally, I do not take him anywhere without first laying it out for him so he knows what to expect. I also let him know if I am intending on getting him something… or not. So funny, though. I’ll tell him if I do not have the money to make a purchase, and he tells me that I need to go to the “money store”…

    Anyway, if a meltdown does occur and I cannot sooth him, I’ll drop everything and remove him from the store or restaurant. I’ll have a talk with him outside and judge whether we need to leave or can go back….

    Last one was just the other day. We had a nice dinner at a local diner, but when we left, there was an issue with complimentary cookies. I asked him if he wanted one and he got agitated after saying no and then I took one. He thought I was stealing and got very upset. The woman at the cashier said it was okay, but he would not be swayed. Don’t know if I did the right thing, but I ate the cookie and told him so. He got very mad at me and no matter what I said, accused me of stealing all the way home. A neighbor that he likes, came over and I asked her to help me out after I told her the story. She again told him that it was okay and that his mom would never steal anything. He seemed to be swayed and later even apologized.. but I really want to go back there again to reinforce that… Do you think this is all done and over with or do you think I need to reinforce this, or just leave it alone? I’d really love input… This time I got really upset inside because he thought I did something bad and have been trying to teach him about stealing, lying, etc.. whew… wow. Didin’t realize that was going to come out… thanks!

  101. Nicole Kirksey
    February 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    For pulic melt downs, I wrap my arms around my son and hug/squeeze like I am giving him a bear hug…that usually works 9 times out of 10. It’s the deep pressure that calms him. I then look him in the eye and tell him he cannot act like this. At home melt downs are a little less frequent… I make sure to have eye contact with him and we talk about what is causing the problem, and we work on fixing it. This works for us…Family will try to tell you to give time outs or take privilages away. Just smile and go with what works for you.

  102. Julie
    February 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    We have twins 7 yr old boys – so first thing we need to do is separate them & distract the one that is okay – otherwise we have 2 that are yelling!

    Then I work quietly with the one that is screaming. I find whispering to him is the best way to calm him. Once he is slightly calmer, then a distraction usually will work. Books work great, as does stuff animals.

    When they were younger we avoided places that triggered out bursts, but they are more tolerant now. Now the outburst are about chores, homework and other “normal” issues.

    However, one has started making noises when he is upset, so it has been very challenging his teachers.

  103. BratsMuttsNFish
    February 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    My son’s pediatric psychiatrist once told me to just ignore the tantrum. But it is kind of hard to ignore a 7 year old throwing shoes at your head from the backseat while you are driving down the road.

    Still if I happen to be in Wal Mart or the mall with him (which I really try to never do alone) I take into account safety first. He can still just barely squeeze into the child seat on the buggy so I will pick him up and place him there. That way I don’t have to worry about him running away from me, or kicking other people, or knocking down aisle displays. He can throw his fit and when he finally calms down we can talk about it. Or if there seems to be no end in sight and I am getting overwhelmed I will just leave.

  104. Jill Peterson
    February 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    My finally stopped having meltdowns in public or anywhere really where I might be when he was about 5 years old. He’s 7 now, but he used to give us a run for our money! Wal-Mart and family gatherings were the worst, and the only thing I could really do was take him completely away from the situation. I used to dread taking him anywhere because I knew that he would get overstimulated, and usually become hyperactive and irritable. Now I can take him to public places without this fear, BUT family gatherings are a different story. He still gets overwhelmed, hyper, and so anxious that he has even vomited. He melts down regularly at school also. I’m just not sure how to avoid melt downs that are happening when I’m not around.

  105. nana
    February 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Target is the best store for us, during the week, during daytime hours. I have learned over the years to get my things first and quickly, then reward to his things. And we take a blanket in the store just in case and he will sit in the basket with the blanket over his head when he becomes overwhelmed, mostly at the check out. Target seems to be a quieter more relaxing store and the lights don’t bother him as much, and popcorn at the snack bar is a good motivation to talk him into going to the store. We always stop for popcorn and a drink.

  106. Carla
    February 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    The way we deal with melt downs is try to refocus Carter. Sometimes that is very hard. Alot of times we end up having to negotiate w him. It can be a very mundane!

  107. Juli Kelley
    February 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I have a 4 year old grandson with Autism. He was diagnosed at 2 1/2 and started school immediately. Through a twist of fate/luck, we found his soothing song. When he has a meltdown, I sit with him and sing Row Row Row Your Boat. Other songs don’t work. Don’t know why this one does, but it works every time! It’s a wonderful coping mechanism for both of us. School has been wonderful for him and given us different ways to communicate with him. But that little song has been a blessing!!

  108. February 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I tried.to get him to look me in the eyes. Sometimes just getting him to connect would calm him down.I still have to remind him @ 10 yrs old to look at me when speaking. Then when he does reasure him and tell him how special he is. There where also times we have left baskets full of groceries in stores . Removing him sometimes was the only solution. Overstimulation triggers him.

  109. misty
    February 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    hi my son was recently diagnosed and im comppletely at a lose he is 7 he has meltdowns at the stores so we stop going he has been suspended from school we have to find a new school meltdowns last sometimes 5min to 2hrs i really could use some peoples to talk to unsure of these new waters were trying to tread….

    • Laura
      February 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      Try a guide called “Strategies at Hand: Quick and Handy Strategies for Working with Students on the Austism Spectrum” by Robin Brewer. OCALI.org There is a guide 100 days after diagnosis. I just saw a new guide called “Strategies at Hand: Quick and Handy Positive Behavior Support Strategies”. I am sorry that your son is having so much trouble in school. Also the book “Asperger Syndrome and difficult Moments” is a good resource by Brenda Smith Myles, PhD. I heard her speak last year and she has very practical information. She talks about the rage cycle and how to keep our children from reaching the top in order to keep them learning. They can not learn if they are having a meltdown. I wish you peace.

    • Barbara
      March 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      I would start looking at other schools. I had to do that with my son Jacob. I started going to any school that would let me come visit. My school district kept insisting that they could handle him. He would get suspended as soon as he would get to school. He had trouble standing in line and would always make his way to the front of the line. he has to be 1st at everything. If you need to talk i can talk to you. I am in CT. you can email me and i can send you my number. bm1454@att.com. It was a long battle but i have my son in an amazing school. His self esteem is way up and he is learning. Not just being put in the back of the classroom. I would visit he class and watch what he did in school. I was just doing his own thing not even paying attention. It was aweful.

  110. February 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    My son has meltdowns in public often. He gets confused by noise, lights, and people in general. We bring things from home to help calm him. We just bought him an Ipod Touch so that he has something to do while we shop. He also has ADHD so shopping trips for him are often very boring and tiring. I do not involve other people because I have had very bad reactions from strangers towards my son. Others have been very nice, but usually they are bad.

  111. Jenny B.
    February 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    When my son was younger and had more fits in public if it wasn’t horrible id let him do it and get it out of his system. When he was done id give him a bear hug for the deep pressure and that was that. He has hypersensitive hearing so I bout him a pair of gun muffs that are used in a gun range and I can now take him almost anywhere.

  112. sherry stowe
    February 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    My son is going to be 18 in June. Wow do I remember those days, putting him over my shoulder while he had a fist full of my hair screaming like I was abducting him. I just pulled up the boot straps an kept right on doing whatever I was. If it was the movies, I would take him to the restroom then right back in. He eventually learned to be in public and crowds an the meltdowns weren’t helping, he learned it went faster if he “sucked it up” We used simple signing for communicating on a direct level which worked for him when there were too many distractions for him to comprehend verbal direction. It worked great when he couldn’t process verbal communication. Also alot of meltdowns are due to sensory overload, we used a weighted vest, deep pressure massage on his hands an arms and it worked great to calm him down and help him focus.

  113. tiyanna
    February 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    i am trying to start a non profit org called autastic journeys which is for connection different nationalities with the resources they need to get tested for autism and many resources for families dealing with autism and have trouble gettiing more info on where to start. i need so much input on how to start this and i need other indoor family fun places that are cheap and fun for kids of any disorder and will accomadate children . please hit me up on fb with any comments or helpful hints

  114. Katrina
    February 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Those that have children that have meltdowns in Target or Walmart, my friend said that her daughter hearing was so sensitive that she could hear their (Target/Walmarts) security alarm when others don’t hear it and it was piercing to her ears so she tried ear plugs of some kind and it worked. We as parents do have to have a lot of patience with others around us, because our special children is our lives and it is what it is and we all try to make the best of it. I was told that we should be honored to have a special child, because God trusted us to take care of them and God will take care of us as parents. I know my daughter makes our lives complete not perfect but who is. I myself wish that others don’t stare cause my daughter is much taller than I and is non-verbal so pretty much I fully take care of her, but she makes me learn to be patient, longsuffering, humble, joy and non-judgemental of others. God Bless to all Parents of Autism…

  115. Tia
    February 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    My son is 6 PDD-NOS with SPD and ADHD so meltdowns are a every day experience in our home we have found that if we take a real heavy blanket and wrap it around him during one of his meltdowns that it calms him and in public places we bought him a pair of gun range ear muffs and we put them on him and it seems to take some of his anxieties away i hope this helps

    • Vicki Summers
      February 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      The vest is workin for my 3yr old to!! do you think its the pressure??

  116. Laura
    February 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I found that really I need to remember that I need to teach everything. If my child is having a meltdown, it is because he is trying to tell me something. He really doesn’t understand the rules or what will happen. Once he understands both, he tends not to meltdown. I guess what I am saying is teach the rules and in my experience we have less meltdowns. Please don’t stop going places because you feel your child will have a meltdown. They need to learn to become independent and do for themselves what they can. You will start to resent your lack of being able to enjoy life. God Bless all of you for what you do for your children on a daily basis.

  117. February 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    We’ve only ever had one meltdown (at his little brother’s bday party – not sure if it was just the fact that he didn’t get to open gifts or too many people? not sure), but we have some “great” tantrums. I don’t think they’re any worse than some other kids though…he just cries and tenses his whole body – I swear if I saw his toes at this time, they would be curled up, too. And basically I just have to hug him until I can “fix” it – get him what he wants or until he understands that I really mean no.

    We were playing with a marble roll (super cool) and he didn’t want to put it away. Luckily, we were at a playgroup that meets in his preschool classroom (on off days of course), so one of the paras took him for a “scooter” ride. It was a big scooter that was carpeted and she pulled him around on it for about 5 minutes. I was so thankful because I had my younger son, too, and he’s 19 months so he was wandering and getting into stuff while I was trying to focus on our older son.

  118. February 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I just have to take a step back when my son has one to figure out what he wants he doesn’t speak much so he can’t tell me all the time what bothering him. He does use pecs cards at school but not much at home plus he does sign when he needs the basic things

  119. Rachel Prestwood
    February 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I know all too well about meltdowns, whether at home or in public. I don’t let people’s stares define how I deal with my son. They have no idea what is going on, yet they all have comments. I try as best I can to get him to calm down, but sometimes all I can do is let the meltdown take it’s course. When it’s over, I always ask my son why he got so upset and he says he doesn’t even know. And meltdown over!

  120. Andrea Shpuntoff
    February 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    When Martin was younger, he is now 17, public meltdowns happened and, as everyone else has said, it is the looks from other people that just make you feel awful. Having a daily routine and schedule was what helped Martin the most. He now knows that public meltdowns are not “socially” acceptable. We also took his love of running (I still remember chasing him through the mall) and encouraged him to participate in cross country running. He has been on his high school team for the last three years.

  121. Bethanne
    February 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I try to figure out the cause, and what my little guy is really trying to get with his behavior. If he is really in pain i try to minimize the cause of the pain. We try to refrain from rewarding his outburst by giving him what he wants when it is a toy at the store or not brushing his teeth. The frustration is trying to decipher what he wants when sometimes he doesnt even know, and trying to show him alternative ways to express his frustrations. Sometimes the poor littlr guy is just tired cranky and in pain from stomache issues and he doesnt know how to express this emotion and when you try to help him express it he gets even angrier brcause hes not getting what he wants. Its tempting to just do what he wants to stop the public outburst but that just handicaps the child even more. Distractions like food or playing with the iphone has been a lifesaver. Also giving him a firm hug and reassuring him his favorute mantra “its ok”, But its always a challenge to bslance that fine line of discipline, and love.

  122. Jessica
    February 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    My 7 y/o daughter, 2 years ago would throw huge fits in the store cause she likes the kiddie carts. I had my step mom telling me that it was embarrassing and scolding her for it. and I would just stay calm put her in the shopping cart and be rolling around the store with her throwing a fit. I already knew that at some point she’ll stop on her own and nothing I say was going to stop it, and if I did try to talk to her it made it worse. If it happened at home I would take her to her room and calmly tell her that when she is cooled down and ready to come out, she can come out. Then I would shut the door and let her go. Now that she is older, she has her fits but not as bad and she usually will go to her room on her own to calm down.

  123. Vicki Summers
    February 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I try to diverte his attention. My son is only 3 so im just in the beginning. Iam also trying the walk away thing. At the store people just stare.

  124. Steph Harper
    February 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    My son has Asperger’s, and he is 12 yrs. old, so his “meltdowns” are fewer and further between than they once were. Now, he is more likely to experience “shut-downs,” which happen very quietly and are difficult to recognize if you don’t know what to look for. This was one of my biggest complaints with the lack of support he was receiving in public school: in any situation where there are crowds and noise, like on a field trip, or at an assembly, or even in a crowded, loud classroom, my son gets very disoriented and has difficulty following along with what everyone else is doing. He will often fail to get in line when he is supposed to, he will miss out on an activity altogether, because he cannot pick up on cues for when/how to begin, or, if the activity involves eating, he will miss his chance and go hungry. Because he does not “act out” in an obvious way, the adults who are supposed to be assisting him just assume he is disinterested and they do not help to integrate him. But, if they were to watch more closely (or, if they were adequately trained to know what to look for), they would recognize that he is panicked, with increased heart rate and respiration, and he will often have tears in his eyes from being overwhelmed and frustrated. All he needs in these situations is guidance and direct, literal instructions for what to do. In non-school-related public situations, I can usually assume this role for my son, but I am also trying to strike a balance between stepping in and giving him assistance and stepping back and allowing him the opportunity to have social interactions with his peers. This is very challenging! Sometimes, if he is with other kids who know him pretty well, I will enlist the help of one of his friends to keep an eye out for him and to remind him to eat, etc., but it is difficult (and not really fair) to rely on another child to have the necessary level of maturity and understanding required to assist his friend in doing the things that come automatically and intuitively to him. Also, another child wouldn’t necessarily be able to realize that my son’s diatribe on all the different types of light bulbs in the facility is an indication that he has no clue what he is actually supposed to be doing, rather, he would naturally assume that my son is just not interested in participating, and therefore would not know better to cue him to join in the activity at hand. These situations are tough, because it is not until well after the fact that my son realizes he missed everything that the other kids were doing…
    The other issue we deal with constantly in public situations is that my son has an extreme phobia of other people possibly “throwing up.” This was particularly problematic recently at Disneyland, where there were people, rides and food involved. My son was torn between wanting to do all the activities with his friend and being terrified that someone might vomit, especially if he overheard people saying (usually jokingly, of course) that they felt sick or dizzy (which everyone says after going on a roller coaster!). He kept asking us over and over (ad nauseum…) “Is someone going to be sick? What are the chances that someone will be sick?” (for this question, of course, he wants an absolute answer expressed as a percentage, and anything above 0% is not acceptable, and 0% is also not a reassuring answer, because he knows that the laws of probability dictate that one cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy, and he gets the sense you are lying to him, which in turn makes him more fearful that someone actually will throw up)… This behavior is doubly problematic, because the anxiety takes the “fun” out of the given activity for my son, AND it is tiresome and/or perceived as “weird” by others, who would understandably want to avoid the behavior, which is alienating for my son. Talking to my son about whether or not being “afraid” or “anxious” about things that are completely out of his control could have any effect on those things has sometimes helped ease the anxiety a little, but not much, and the behavior always repeats in subsequent, similar situations. Does anyone else out there experience these types of situations and have any “tried and true” coping strategies? Thanks, everyone!

  125. Paula
    February 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    My son is seventeen now and it has been an awakening for both of us, so I will tell you a funny story about one of his public meltdown. We were entering a convenience store to purchase him a Dr. Pepper. On the way he notices a bright shiny can and points and says “want that!” I told him that is is beer(Coors Light can) and we do not drink beer, and the melt down began, I drug him out of the store while he is screaming “I want my beer”!, give me my beer!” he was seven at
    the time. Shortly after that I made a t-shirt saying “My son has Autism Spectum disorder, Melt downs will occur”. and wore the shirt when we would shop. After that I never received one of THOSE LOOKS again,you know the look! And I was able to continue teaching my son what was appropriate behavior in public, without the look.

  126. Mama Grizzly
    February 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Dysregulation will always be an issue for my son, and we work everyday to help him through calming himself, sometimes even coaching him by having him pretend to have a tantrum and him showing us how he can calm down and at times, he even goes so far as to explain how he can problem solve. Whenever we have outtings, I give him a list of what we will do and for shopping, what we are going to get. Most of the time, he does beautifully, and there will be times when something unexpected happens and he has a meltdown. I talk him through his meltdown, reminding him how to calm himself. I have a harder time with strangers who try to give parenting tips. I’ve heard everything from, “I wouldn’t spare the rod if I were you,” to “Just give him what he wants and he will stop crying”, and the worse of all, “What are you doing to your child?” When it comes to that, I roll my eyes and try to ignore them, but if they continue to be a heckling audience, I say, “He’s tantruming because he’s trying to get away from YOU.”

    • robin
      February 26, 2011 at 4:37 am

      Paula :My son is seventeen now and it has been an awakening for both of us, so I will tell you a funny story about one of his public meltdown. We were entering a convenience store to purchase him a Dr. Pepper. On the way he notices a bright shiny can and points and says “want that!” I told him that is is beer(Coors Light can) and we do not drink beer, and the melt down began, I drug him out of the store while he is screaming “I want my beer”!, give me my beer!” he was seven atthe time. Shortly after that I made a t-shirt saying “My son has Autism Spectum disorder, Melt downs will occur”. and wore the shirt when we would shop. After that I never received one of THOSE LOOKS again,you know the look! And I was able to continue teaching my son what was appropriate behavior in public, without the look.

      Mind if I get one of those shirts made?????

  127. Mary Spivey
    February 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    How teachers deal with meltdowns is an important issue as well. Parents and their loving arms are not available. Teachers in secondary schools have children for 1-2 class periods a day and have only a short time to learn what works in the learning environment. Meltdowns disrupt the other students from learning by distraction, fear, noise, and teacher time. I find that a strategy that worked on Tuesday to refocus the student, may not work on Wednesday. Back to the strategy toolbox.

  128. Michelle Neuhauser
    February 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I am raising my 5 yr old grandson, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 & 1/2. He doesn’t have as many meltdowns as he used to, thank goodness. Once I understood what was happening & why, we started over – going to the post office, to the dollar store for 3-4 things, etc. Gradually moved up to bigger, longer trips. However, there were times when we HAD to go to wal-mart. And those trips could get ugly.

    I have heard the “That boy needs a whippin'” too many times, along with the looks, the advice, Aarrg! The other day I had to carry him out of the store and sit down outside & hold/hug him til he calmed. This man came by and offered to buy him some candy if he’d stop. He COULDN’T stop. Guess that was better than telling me to beat him… but really, did it look like he needed sugar?

    The thing is, if you can head it off before he hits a certain point, it’s all good, but once he passes that point, it’s over. You just have to let him ride it out. Used to be the lights, the noise, the people, etc. would set him off, but he has made gigantic strides – he’s in regular preschool, doing great. Now what sets him off (in the store; school is another matter) is being unable to get the shiny $25 toy he wants.

    We go over everything before we go. We cut deals. If he is good all the way through, he can get a new Lightning McQueen car, for example. It doesn’t always work. Last time he started losing it (wanted a huge firetruck), I wheeled the cart to the lay-away section, where he screamed & sobbed and I waited. “I want it!” “I understand that you want it, but that was not the deal we made.” “I want it! You are a poopy head Nonna!” “That is not very nice and you have not behaved well, & so you are not getting any toy.” “That’s not fair! I hate you!” “You let me know when you feel ready to finish shopping.” And so on. I laughed at Christy’s post above – “Just smile & wave, boys. Smile & wave.” Indeed.

    It’s getting better all the time – just a VERY slow process. Repetition. Consistency. Supplements. Therapy. Prayer. And always looking at how far he has come, not how far he has to go. :)

  129. February 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    We do our best to set our son up for success & let him know what is going to be happening. It doesn’t always work though. We stay calm & focus on helping him to calm down & transition. It doesn’t always work & I have lost my cool as people stare. I have told people off, but I usually try to use the moment to “educate” them about Autism. Some days it is just too much to take & you have to let others know just how rude they are being. My favorite is when people try to tell us how to parent. I love offering to let them try. So far, no takers. Our son does do very well using countdown timers & making a written list. It also really helps if someone else is with you when a meltdown happens. You have some back-up then:)

  130. February 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    My youngest son just turned 5 and when he has meltdowns in public, I have to try and ignore all the people around us staring, making their comments and judgments. My son throws himself down to the ground, kicks, screams, rolls around, makes himself vomit and all the while, I don’t make eye contact with him, I hold out the laminated cards from his in home therapists that show no hitting or kicking, ask him if he needs more time, and then when he has started to calm down, I tell him to take a big breath and then offer him a choice of reinforcement.

    I then tell him first “activity we’re doing” and then “reinforcement”. Then I take his hand, and say “We’re holding hands and walking” and we just try and get him to the car as quick as possible (or the activity we were trying to do).

    It doesn’t always work the best and other times it works great. Everywhere we go he has an “activity backpack” that he wears and it is full of his favorite toys to help him having something comfortable around him, keep him focused on a productive activity rather than tantruming, and treats.

  131. deedee
    February 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    well my grandson is 7 now and was diagnosed at ab 3 years old. He has stayed with me alot while his mom went to college and worked and I have helped to raise him. When he would go down for nap or at night to sleep I would sing to him and rub his back (tickle his back as he likes to call it) and I noticed that when he would start to get agitated and have his meltdowns that if I did this it would help to calm him if not totally avert the meltdowns. It has really been a saving knowledge many times.

  132. robin
    February 26, 2011 at 4:35 am

    My son Chase meltdowns are starting to get less, I usually try to stay calm and if he wants to take a bag of chips into a store I let him. I use to be one of those people who see kids acting up in stores and say “my kid will never act that way” now I’m the mom who stands there and smiles and says ” got to love autism”. I have found when in public like walmart or whatever usually his meltdowns come from something like he absolutely needs a pie pan or a new notebook, if that is all it takes so I can get my shopping done he gets it!

  133. Sue
    February 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

    My son is 4 years old he has meltdown in the store sometime we tell him a head of time that we are going if he says he doesn’t want to leave the house we stay home because we know it will be a bad day. If he says he wants a car then we take him . If he is good we tell him when we reach the check out line at Wal-Mart he can pick a match box car. We keep him away from the rest of the toys. He has Aspergers and ADHD. We are lucky that he can talk very well. The problem that I need help with is school he will worked up with the other kids in the class and the teacher doesn’t like to deal with him. We have a TSS but sometime he has a meltdown were he will knock over chairs and look at the teacher and laugh she gets mad at this the he will run out of the class room and it can take an hour to get him to settle him down. He will hit kick slap and run from you and laugh at you. This hasn’t happened for a week or so , anyone know how to help with this. We couldn’t get early intervention for him because he tested avearge on everything but fine motor skill witch we have a privite ot working with him. The behavior is the thing we need help with.

  134. Cristy
    February 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    My son is 16 years old and is diagnosed PDD/NOS. Thankfully, over time and with medication his meltdowns are less frequent than years prior. Lately, if he has a meltdown it is usually directed about me (not getting something he wants, or after an argument with his brother). What I have learned is to try to say as little as possible until his meltdown is over, basically let him just get it all out. After its over and we have both had a chance to calm down, then I speak with him about the situation and try to resolve it. It took a while to learn that he wasn’t hearing anything I was saying during the meltdown.

  135. Barbara
    March 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    My son has had melt downs in the publice veiw but I refuse to acknowlede anyones opinons about me or my child. I was in line at Walmart one day when a mother with 2 children were in line at the registers. One of the children was having a major melt down and everyone was watching. As the mother and the 2 kids walked away people started talking. If that was my child…..etc. I just said “I don’t critize or judge anyone because you have no idea what their personal situation was and what is happening in their lives. I was so upset. I just hope i got my point across.

  136. gayle white
    March 3, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Barbara, good for you for saying something at all. It is awkward to witness another parent going through that because we are so use to it being us, lol. I really feel for the child and the parent when these meltdowns happen and I am there. I usually try to commiserate with the parent, or ask if I can help. Sometimes just knowing that the entire store is standing gaping and aghast the your child’s behavior helps. Which one of the people talking about that mom hasn’t been through a meltdown somewhere/sometime, and if they say their “children never behave that way”, they are delusional! Instead of commenting, I wish one of them just walked over and asked if there was any way they could help.
    Lucky there are people like you in the world, Barbara, who are not afraid to speak up when the situation calls for it! Can I hire you as my defender the next time I go to the store with my son?? Have a good day!

  137. Barbara
    March 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks Gayle!! I would be honored to be your defender although im sure your not in CT. lol thanks for your comments….it really made my day!

  138. Vicky Reddy
    March 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    My grandson has high functioning autism. His dad lives in New Jersey and his mom in Brooklyn. When my daughter has to take him to New Jersey, it is a real deal. He hates the Path train to New Jersey because it is noisy and shakes to much but there is no other way to get him there. I bought a button for my daughter which says “I am not misbehaving. I have autism. Please understand” or something to that effect and it really has helped. I would highly recommend it.

  139. Kim
    March 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

    HI I’m a grandmother of autism grandson he will be 5 in June. he is so cute. My daughter is single mom with two older girls 11 and 7. So it really tough her. she’s a great mom but it get to her.I try my best to help out but i also work 45 -50 hours a week. Well I could go on and on but the reason I’m here is for my daughter. she needs to speak to people that are dealing with the samethings. i’m going to encourage her to come here talk with you all and just maybe she can find some comfort an encouragment or just release some frustration. thanks for reading. and have a great day.

  140. March 6, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Gosh! Hearing these comments is definitely encouraging to me! I have 4 children, 3 of whom are on the spectrum ages 6, 5, and 4. Nathaniel, the 5 year old, was the most noticeable because of his language difficulty and so was diagnosed earlier. It wasn’t until this year that we realized that his older sister and younger brother are also on the spectrum. Taking them anywhere is quite a workout as one or all of them take to running, and I mean running, in opposite directions. I don’t think I can count the number of times that I’ve had to stop an associate at Wal-Mart or Kroger to let them know a child is on the loose. At first they look at me like I’m some irresponsible nut job parent who can’t control her children. My first comment is they are Autistic, and they are suddenly much more understanding.

    But most of the time, my husband just does the grocery shopping by himself unless I just take the younger two. Nathaniel usually flips out so fast and hard that I don’t see the trigger until right before it hits him, and Benjamin just starts screaming and plants himself hard. Nyssa is easier to handle when we’re in public, but by time we get home, she is fit to be tied, so I hand her some paper and crayons and let her color or rip, depending on how she feels. We’ve had some ABA therapy but they are all so different that the therapist said I’m doing the right things but the behavior just continues, and Nathaniel has gotten more aggressive. The saving grace is that they all know the boundaries with the baby, so that helps some. I’m just reading as much of these posts as I can to absorb and see what will work.

    I do have one question that is not on the subject, but maybe I can be directed somewhere.. Does ANYONE get any housework done??? I’m a stay at home mom but I can’t get the house clean to save my life! I’m either dealing with someone tantrumming or getting them fed…and we just found out 2 weeks ago that my 6 year old is allergic to dust. I feel like this is an impossible situation at times and don’t have a clue as to how to get things done.

    • Lori
      March 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

      I feel your pain Gina. I wonder the same thing about the housework. It feels like I am constantly cleaning & just when I think I’m done-theres more. Between having to take my son in the bathroom all the time/tantrums I’m not sure whats worse.My son is potty training & has no set schedule of when he goes to the bathroom-sometimes he goes two hours and sometimes we just get done in the bathroom and then 5 minutes later,I look and hes wet or worse! UGH. I told his teacher the other day, the reason he likes to mess his pants is because he likes me doing laundry all the time. She laughed until I told her that we have to use a laundry mat.
      I also understand about the allergies-my son is allergic to Cats/Dogs and Dust Mites-so having to constantly dust is fantastic-NOT. I will admit that I have slacked off at times when it comes to cleaning-just because if I don’t then I will have a meltdown myself. I just tell myself-one day at a time and I have also learned to make my son help me-sometimes that works and other times…..What I find helps is to make a list of what I want to accomplish that day and then remove items that can wait & really only work on those that can’t. ie-dishes, trash,vacuum and have my husband help. I know he works all day, but he lives here too and helps contribute to the “mess”, so he can help. I am not saying to make him do it all-but even to fold/put away clothes is a huge help.

  141. Lori
    March 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    First I try to never go into public without a second adult to help out with my son. If he starts having melt downs & the stares start happening-I have actually said “I guess no one has ever seen a child have an issue in public”. Sometimes that works to stop people from looking. I will then “bribe” him that if we can make it through, then he can have a movie when he gets home, or play on the computer or if its really bad-I have used food as a reward. That is a last resort-but you have to do it sometimes to get through. I have also put him in the back of shopping carts with a toy off the shelf in order to help keep him calm. I know its wrong and I shouldn’t do it-but it is WAY better than the alternative!
    If we are in a restaurant, we have taken him outside for walks if he has gotten to upset and we try and bring things to occupy him while we wait for food-ie portable DVD player, a play computer. We even let him play with our cell phones. Whatever works to get you through. The one thing I/we have refused to do is to stop taking him places. He needs to learn that life is full of change & there are things that will upset you, and what you need to do is learn how to deal with them. People living with Autism are just that-people- and need to be treated as such. They should be able to experience life just as much as everyone else.

  142. Eileen
    March 8, 2011 at 12:24 am

    My son is 26 and autistic. He is 6’5″ tall and he has major meltdowns. When he has a meltdown, he bangs his head, bites his hands, stamps his feet, bangs the walls and cries. He weights 280lbs. I used to be able to help him a lot, but now, I just try to stay out of his way. He goes from calm to totally upset in a matter of seconds and I cannot usually figure out wyy. I used to be able to figure it out somewhat. We have no support group and no services, other than the ones that we have found, such as a quizzo team, open-mics, cantoring at church, special olympics golf. Our life is very hard and so is my son’s. I don’t look forward to getting up in the morning and I am not very positive about the future. I wish I were. If anyone has any advice or help, please let me know. I live in Media, PA

  143. Barbara
    March 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    My son just turned six, specifically he has autistic disorder. When we go into public places, I’ll use the grocery store as my example, I know when we walk in the door, he will immediately begin bouncing up and down repeating “mac and cheese, mac and cheese!” because each and every time we go, he wants to get a box. It’s not even about eating the mac and cheese at a later time, it’s just about holding the box as we walk through the store. He knows exactly where it is, and if I don’t remind him again and again to keep his hand on the cart (I have four children, so this is my way to ensure everyone stays with me, “hands on the cart”), he will surely run towards where the coveted item is. If we go to the other side of the store to get say, toothpaste, and did not first get mac and cheese, like clockwork he will have a meltdown. His meltdowns include pushing his brother (5) and sister (3), however for unknown reasons my youngest (16mos), he won’t touch in a harmful way. Initially, I gave into his “mac and cheese” as a way to get through the grocery store with some sort of ease (as with 4 children, even without autism, this would still be a challenge). I began to wonder if I was actually causing more of an issue by giving in. So, slowly, I began to make him wait. “After we get milk and juice, then we’ll get the mac and cheese” and adding on to that. Eventually the “goal” is to make mac and cheese the last item we get, and that he will remain calm through the grocery store knowing in the end, he will still get it, with a little patience. We’re not there yet, but working towards it. Some days he understands completely, and he is patient, other days he still “loses” it when we walk in the door. People stare, people gossip amongst themselves, and at one point I actually had a woman yell at me for not spanking him after she watched him shove his sister. I used to be a person that would turn red in the face, concerned with what everyone around me was thinking. Over time I have come to realize, I just don’t care what other people think. Until they have walked a mile in my sons shoes, my shoes, or a member of my families shoes, their opinions, thoughts, looks of disgust, mean nothing to me. My kids come first, anyone who’s not on board with my position, can take a hike, period!

  144. Christina
    March 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I had to laugh when I began to read some of the comments. My son was diagnosed at 3 with Autism. Every store we went into we had to buy bananas. If we had to go to three stores in one day, we had to buy a bunch of bananas at each one. It was his thing and we had to embrace his “quirks”. Many times we had to leave stores or restaurants because of meltdowns. We just try to prepare him as much as possible.

  145. shelly
    April 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    lynn :i Love your post i am still tryn to do this calming down for the melt down my son aydens is turning 5 next week and his meltdowns at walmart are not funny at all and i really hate the stares at least im not like the other parents and cursin them and beatin their butts in public know one knows what we go through with austistic children naccept the ones who have then or take care of them 247

  146. shelly
    April 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    why do stors have to be super sized my granddaughter would be all right in the small homey walmart target for about halfan hour but now 10 min. or less .sorry but i am getting to old .what ever happened to small stores that care about people and not money

  147. Rachel
    April 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm


    I am really sorry to hear what you are going through. This must be very frustrating and exhausting for you. A few thoughts…if your son was recently diagnosed you probably should request that your school provide an IEP meeting as soon as possible, at which time you can explore services that can be available to him to help him with managing the behaviors at school. This is the school’s responsibility to work with you on this and include you as part of the TEAM in training you and if they can’t manage him the school system should be working with you to find an appropriate out of district placement. You may want to get a good advocate. If finances are an issue, you can contact your department of education quality assurance board to see if they have recommendations for lower priced advocates (e.g. those who are in training), and/or they may be able to help you get your school to provide what your son needs. Hang in there!

  148. Bill
    April 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    How we handle melt downs depends on weather its a typical melt down or its a nuclear melt down. It is scary that there are enough melt downs that we classify them as typical.

    Regardless, we do our best to stay calm and use soothing tones and get our son who’s 10 to try to use his words, however we will normally get from him that he is “angry” or “frustrated” but he has a difficult time expressing why he feels that way. If we can figure out the way he can usually pacify him, if not we try get him to take a deep breath then escalate from there. That could be anything from a reward for calming down or taking away privileges, or the last resort is leaving where ever we are. The threat of that will usually help him to act calm because he will want to stay however, he will still have flashes where he lashes out because is issue is unresolved. That’s the difficult and frustrating part is being able help him resolve the source of frustration or anger.

    A sense of humor is a tremendous necessity and often if we can make him laugh it will completely defuse the situation. It also helps to keep me or my wife calm or at least laughing when we want to cry.

    Recently we started a plan that when our son melts down or starts to melt down we will tell him if he does not change his behavior he will lose his opportunity to wear his favorite shirt (which has on 90%) of time. That works very well so far!! :)

  149. Dawn
    April 25, 2011 at 12:16 am

    We have a 13 year old autistic boy who at first glance appears to be normal. Although he looks “normal” and can be quite articulate, his behavior is most often that of a toddler going through the “terrible twos”! His looks and speech make his behavior and tantrums even more difficult because onlookers jump to the conclusion that we are stupid and unable to manage our overgrown toddler and that he is just a spoiled rotten brat in need of discipline. We have gotten over the looks if disapproval and usuallyy husband, myself or my 17 year old daughter will proclaim that he is autistic, that he is upset and that everything will be okay. Because he is now bigger than myself and my daughter we usually do not take him into situations that will trigger meltdowns. This is often hard to predict so we now usually wait until my husband who is much larger can go with us. When we go, we have a schedule of exactly what we will do and in what order. We share that with him multiple times before and en route. We also bring his DVD player, leggos star wars action figures and whatever else he finds calming EVERWHERE we go. When all else fails my husband has had to carry him from the situation while he screams, kicks, punches and sometimes curses at us. Once he had been removed he apologizes, tells us he lives us and we move on….. It is a learning experience for all of us and we never give up!

  150. sandra
    May 3, 2011 at 11:52 am

    sandra :OMG I have been reading these posts boy am i glad! Finally i realize i’m not quite so alone!My Aspie son is at “the age” (peuberty)(13), some days he seems so easy goingand then 5:00 Pm hits and look out! if it’s not his way it’s no way. I know he has a long school day,but does have melt downs at night. Constintly fighting with younger sister (who is not challenged with aspie). Every thing is his and still will not share still! sometimes it’s like he is reverting back to a 3 yr old.Definately when melting,arguing back or yelling is not good hubby usually has a harder time holding back,(i’m not perfect)but i really try to talk him down from what is bugging him. I (spontaneously)took him to the zoo Fri.he was spectacular (little hyper at resturant) that’s normal but sweet as pie!! trying to get him off comp,ds,ipodchallengeing he is so fixated on it he won’t stop even with timer. sorry so longbut sometimes ya gotta get it out!God Bless all of you!!!enjoy those good times beacuse that’s all that you really should remember, even when the melts are happening,because they are our children of God.Thank you!apparently my ADD is working well!

  151. May 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I usually say I need to leave the room, take a short walk, or just have alone time. I’m more high functioning than I was in Elementary school and Middle School. I recommend a good psychiatrist. I had a great one. She helped me cope without me even realizing I was coping. I still have communication and understanding problems however I’m at a point where I have my own personality, my own opinions, and my own knowledge built only by me. And I like it that way. A psychiatrist will definitely help with meltdowns for a bit. However, I mostly had to learn to speak for myself and say what I need to do then do it.

    • May 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Also! It’s good to do it at a young age.. I think. That way their brain has time to wrap around all the ideas being forced onto them at once. It’s good to go slow. I don’t remember any of my younger days… I remember some stuff I said and did. But the things I’m told I had done before- I don’t remember a thing. Like jumping into a strangers van just to pet their dog. Yeahhh…

  152. Eileen
    August 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    My son is 26 years old and autistic. He still has meltdowns. When he has a meltdown, he bites his hands, bangs his head, cries, stomps his feet, bangs the walls and breaks glasses. My son is 6′ 5″ tall and weights 280 lbs. My husband and my life is pure hell. I am just venting and doubt that there is any help.

  153. Barbara Pons
    August 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

    OMG That is my son at 11. I was hoping it would be better when he gets older. That scares me. I need to get more help to work on this. :(

  154. November 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I have a 2 year old granddaughter who has been recently diagnosed with autism. She is a precious angel and then all of a sudden, usually in public she will start to scream and fight us. The more we try to stop her the worse it gets. Today at Winco was bad, I took her home and her mom and baby sister stayed to finish shopping. She fought me so hard to get in her carseat which normally is no problem I could hardly get her buckled. I started the car and turned on her Veggie Tales cd and she got a grin on her face and smiled all the way. She is watching veggie tales right now like a little angel again. I was so distraught and logged on for support. Thank you all for sharing. It does help to know you are not alone in this. May God bless you and your little ones.

  155. Dawn*
    December 3, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I have a 7yr old that has been diagnosed with autism..he was diagnosed with ADHD 2 begin with b/c he is a VERY busy guy and had a hard time focusing many many times…he has had meltdowns since i can remember.he was 2 yrs old and picked up my bedside table in a meltdown one time…he has had exposure 2 violent behavior from his dad toward me so this didnt help at all..he also picked up the ‘f’ word yrs ago and i still cant get him to not say it…seems to be a stress response.i have tried to discipline the swearing out of him..NOT working..im thinking it is perception change on my part needed…i need to be TEACHING not PUNISHING…the goal?to CALM them down..so WE STAY as calm as possible 2 teach him/her self-control..VERY hard when u have a ceramic pot thrown by your head with a slew of swear words comn out but..here we are this our life.any suggestions on offensive screeching and swearing in public??

  156. Dawn*
    December 4, 2011 at 10:20 am


  157. December 10, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Tinnitus can be a horrible condition. The constant ringing in your ears, the inability to relax, and the other symptoms can be a real nuisance.

    But there are cures for tinnitus. There are things you can try to stop the ringing in your ears and finally be able to relax in the quiet.

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