Monday, July 6, 2009

Meltdowns and real life coping skills

My parents came to visit this week, and Ella is tracked out from school (year round). She was wonderfully well behaved.. we went to an indoor play space, then McDonalds and played in the play area. Lots of crowds, lots of potential for overload. She was helpful and totally cool all day.

My parents weren't probably out of the driveway, and my husband was brushing her hair. Her hair is very long, and she has some motor coordination issues that prevent her from really doing an adequate job. She started to wail like she was being crucified or drawn and quartered. I gave my husband control of bathing the sweet Teddy fella, and took over hair brushing.

Ella told me she likes it when I brush her hair because I take smaller sections of hair, and that I joke about the rats living in her hair and that they are yelling as I am brushing them out. I asked if she was having trouble brushing her hair like she needed to, and she said yes. I asked her if she wanted me to start taking over her hair brushing twice a day, and she said yes to that too. She asked if I would start doing her body brushing again too. She HATED the Willbarger technique skin brushing that we did when she was having private occupational/sensory therapy. So for her to ask, that was really awesome!

While I was brushing her skin and doing joint compressions, we had this great talk..

Me: "When Grandma and Grandpa left, did you know you were going to lose control?"

Ella: "Yeah"

Me: " Do you sometimes know if you are going to lose it after a hard day at school?"

Ella: "Yeah"

Me: "Because you remember when I told you that when you get in the car and freak out on us, it's like you become a tornado and throw stuff at us with your words? It would be really nice to know that is coming. Because it doesn't happen every time I come get you."

Me: " How do you deal with being stressed at school?"

Ella: "I am silent most of the day. I can't cry unless I get really hurt or something."

Me: "Yeah, your teacher did mention that during our meeting with her and the principal and the school psychologist"

Me: "How do you feel when you can't cry or lose control at school when you are stressed out?"

Ella: "Like I am in a cage"

(I felt really sad when I heard that!!!)

Me: "When you know you have had a stressful day, and have been keeping quiet through hard stuff, and you KNOW you are going to lose it in the car or right when you get home, can you think of something you might be able to tell me to let me know you might have a meltdown?"

Ella: "I think I feel a storm coming on."

Me: "I think that's a great idea! If you feel like you're getting close to a meltdown, can you try to remember to say that? Add I will try to ask that if it looks like you're starting to lose it, ok?"

Ella:" OK mama, thanks for brushing me!"



Ella with her stuffed cat, her skin brush, and a big smile!

I love when we have the opportunity to talk about meltdowns when she is NOT melting down. I think she did some great communicating, and we made a great connection and a plan for how to work the issue of meltdowns. I am really pleased!

Have you had a conversation with your child about how to cope with things in public, or with behaviours at home when you are not in the moment? When you can plan ahead for how to handle those situations? How did that go for you? Was it something that adapted well, or am I in for a defiant, tearful "No! I DON"T feel like there's a storm coming on! Leave me alone!!!!" the next time I try this??

3 comments:

Carolina said...

How wonderful to have that conversation while NOT in the heat of the moment! Thanks for posting that. While my son is unable to communicate like that now, it gives me hope for the future.

P.S. My son likes brushing and joint compressions as well:)

Laane said...

My autistic son was told at school that he would be thrown out when he had a meltdown.
He was bullied so very much (and the school did nothing) that he became afraid to go to school.

Many autistic children face this kind of prison, and my heart cries for them.

One of my other boys was able to write down the cause of his imprisonment, so I could give the school feedback on their way of dealing with him.

cwalkman said...

Jen, this was a fabulous post and I had a bit of a deja vu moment on many levels. First, Ella and my Marissa are so much alike - from physical appearance, to similar melt down issues, to needing to keep it together at school and feeling cage in the process. I have had many similar discussions with my sensational girl about meltdowns when things are calm. And, we've really come a long way. To be honest, when I finally understood how hard she has to work to keep it together and put myself in her shoes, I was much better prepared to help her keep it together at home. Keeping my patience, being understanding and communicating with her has been key. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful moment in your post! Craig

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