The Classification of “Meltdown”

Rainbow pencil

Rainbow pencil (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

There is clearly a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.  Tantrums are thrown for effect, while meltdowns are thrown because the ability to communicate something has evaporated, and tolerance levels have been exceeded in some way.  But I have noticed my own language lately, in describing behaviors as a “meltdown”, when they aren’t really.  With The Boy, I tend to classify all of the behaviors leading up to a meltdown as “having a meltdown”, so that others who do not have living-with experience with autism will understand.  Many, many times, we are able to avert the big blowout.  In fact, they have been fairly rare, at least in public.  But the behaviors beforehand are no picnic either, and require me to be firing on all engines, brain clicking along, coming up with solutions, ideas, and decisions at lightning speed, much like a battlefield medic.  It’s really a crisis for both of us.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some universal way of describing this “ramping up” of anxiety pre-meltdown?  Wouldn’t it be great if that became part of the autism awareness and acceptance vernacular?  Like one of those smiley face charts at the doctor’s office that they use to help you decide how much pain you are in, so that you can describe it to them accurately?

“Boss, I’m going to be a few minutes late to work, we are at a level orange on the meltdown scale right now, and hope to have the situation back down to a yellow shortly.”

“Honey, I think we need to find our way to an exit.  This looks like a green heading into yellow territory.”

“Hello, Mrs. Vandenberg, I just wanted to let you know that we had a pretty rough morning, and got up to hot pink because his favorite shirt wasn’t out of the dryer in time for school.”

Of course, the application would probably vary from person to person, but it would provide a little more information than just, “he’s having a meltdown”.

What’s your opinion?  Let us know in the comments

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6 thoughts on “The Classification of “Meltdown”

  1. I love the color code! We actually use that at my work to let our PBS (Positive Behavior Support) team know when we call for assistance what the situation is like. Green is beginning to escalate, yellow is escalated and verbal aggression, red is over-the-top-meltdown-which-may-include-physical-aggression. I think it’s a great system so that the people walking into it to help know what they’re facing. So often we are able to help a “yellow” get to a “green” by using our fire hoses too :).

  2. Pingback: Doozy of a Meltdown | Simple. I Just Do.

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