Don’t Live in Fear of the Meltdown

I write this with the disclaimer that it is addressed to myself, as well as everyone else living with autism in their household.  I am painfully aware that this is an area of challenge for me, and I write this post with the hope that I will refer to it often to remind myself not to succumb…

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We bristle when people tell us that our children are “just spoiled,” and rightfully so.  The ex was convinced that my “coddling” of The Boy was his true diagnosis, not autism, and that if we just spanked disciplined him more, he would behave “better”.  This post is not to suggest that any of us are too lenient on our children.  No one knows our children better than we do, with the exception of the team of people that most of us have, the therapists, teachers and caregivers that help us raise our special, special children.


We also pick our battles.  And you have to.  If he chooses a pink shirt and orange shorts that are way too small, we may just have to go with it because at least it’s not the pajamas he has worn for the past six days.  Refuses to eat vegetables?  That’s OK for now, because pizza is better than a diet of ice cubes…


Especially as a single mom, I fell into a bit of complacency.  The anticipation of a meltdown would influence my decisions too much to the point that I was bending farther than I should.  And it wasn’t until I started dating The Man that this was pointed out to me.  At first I was furious, thinking he was telling me how to raise my son.  But he wasn’t.  He was just pointing out that The Boy really didn’t need to sneak that giant sucker into his room to eat right before dinner, and that it really was my job to call him on it.

Oh…  Yeah…  I’m the adult.  (Duh!)

And I have found that if I am consistent about calling him out on little stuff, he is less likely to get really agitated by it.  Last night, The Boy’s iPad time limit (instituted until he “pays back” his half of the repair bill) ran out, and he started to raise his voice when I insisted on taking it from the room.  It looked like he was going to blow it, but after some (albeit loud) whining, he accepted it without much further ado.

My suggestions are to avoid complacency and shoot for consistency.  All kids crave some structure.  The more consistently we provide it, I think the fewer big meltdowns occur from being called on what is actually poor behavior.  That’s my theory, anyway.

Now if I can just remember this 24-7…


7 thoughts on “Don’t Live in Fear of the Meltdown

  1. Fantastic post!
    I have always stood by a rule in my home, “autism is a reason it is not an excuse”.
    Even though my son finds day to day life difficult I must teach him right from wrong, he must try to understand authority and the meaning of the word no. I know the world will not change for him and when he is older he will need to understand these rules or what kind of life will he have? I know my boy inside and I feel I have finally got the balance of knowing when to say nothing and just give a cuddle and when I have to brave the meltdown and stand my ground. I look forward to future posts 🙂

  2. Well said…this is a lesson we have only recently learned through our experiences with the feeding clinic. We too often in the past succumbed to the fear of the “meltdown” and didn’t stand our ground in areas we should have. We have found through time however that if we maintain consistency in our actions that he we had a lot fewer tantrums as he knew it would not get him what he wanted. We grow together.

  3. Yes, a very, very hard thing to balance. I’ve worked with a lot of children on the spectrum over the past twenty years, and the children that have coped best are the ones where the issues were understood, but the boundaries were clear. Knowing which battles to pick is a very grey field though! I wish you well.

    • What makes it even tougher is that they are developing right before our eyes! What used to be a battle not to mess with has become less of an issue and vice versa. We never stop learning…

      • Very true. And we’ll doubtless won’t get it all right either, but it’s impossible to go back and try a different way. Anyway, what may seem wrong at one point sometimes turns out to be a good learning experience in the longer run. Maybe the most important thing is to enjoy the ride as much as we can. 🙂

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