The Boy was agitated Saturday, it seemed like all day.  Nothing was working right for him, he couldn’t find things when he needed them, and he was on edge.  Everyone has days like this, but not everyone’s agitation could end up in a full blown meltdown, so I was also on edge as a result.

We tried to take it easy, and take him places he would enjoy.  He particularly loves to go to dealerships with The Man and look at cars, and sit in as many as he can to check out the interior dome lights, one of his obsessions.  While we were pulling in to the local flea mall, where The Man bought him a toy Town & Country van similar to the one that now picks him up for school in the morning, The Boy spotted a place that repairs cars, and sometimes sells used ones.  He made us promise we would stop to look at the cars when we were done at the flea mall, and we complied.

When we stopped, I stayed in the car, as I usually do, because I am not obsessed with cars, and quickly become bored.  The Man is fairly deft at handling The Boy and redirecting him when necessary on these excursions.  But today, The Boy opened a car door, and The Man found a key in the ignition.  It was fairly important to get that key back to the shop, so I carefully watched The Boy as The Man went inside.  The Boy, of course, began to flit toward cars that I couldn’t be certain didn’t belong to anyone, because people leave their cars unlocked down here.

He chose a Saab sitting next to the shop, and when he opened the back door to see the some lights, I saw a jacket and a tennis racket inside, and realized this was someone’s car!  I carefully steered him away, trying to explain that we couldn’t go in that car because it wasn’t for sale, and The Boy wasn’t quite understanding – if they belonged to someone, why were they open?  Then he chose a Jeep right in front of the shop, and The Man motioned to him from inside to get out of that one, too.  That one was also not for sale.

I redirected him toward the front section of cars, and let him be until the Man returned.  It was then we realized The Boy was upset.

Keys to the SonicHe “has” an imaginary Chevy Sonic, to which he has created a set of keys, complete with a computer-generated and printed key fob with lock, unlock, and alarm buttons, as well as a cat charm.  He takes them to school everyday.  The key is an actual key that was an engraving mistake from the hardware store, given to him for free.

As his eyes brimmed with tears, he told me that he had to give up his Sonic now, and trade it in for a Land Rover.

This was his punishment, I believe for going in cars that he wasn’t supposed to.  Neither The Man nor I had been upset with him, but he felt like he had done something wrong, and needed a punishment, so his “car” needed to be traded in.

I felt awful for him, and I didn’t really know how to help.  I insisted he didn’t need to give up his Sonic, and then tried to redirect his attention elsewhere.  When we stopped at the hardware store on the way home, he picked up another key, deciding that he needed to replace his current keys with Land Rover keys…  OK.  Whatever you need to do.

This morning, he announced that he was able to return the Land Rover and exchange it for the Sonic, so something had shifted, and all was right in his world again.  These are the times when I would love to have just an hour inside his head…


In the Thick of It

It is hard to describe what I feel as a parent in the thick of one of my son’s meltdowns, but it is a dark place.  Helplessness, hopelessness, fear, guilt, anger, and embarrassment.  Not a good mix.  I am writing this post to share with you, because it helps me to express these feelings and talk honestly about them, and it may help you to realize that you are not alone when a meltdown hits.

Last year, one of my students invited me to her community play, and when I am personally invited to events like this, I remember how much courage it took to invite an adult, how much it means to them, and I make every effort to go.  Afterwards, this is what I wrote in my journal:

Tonight, I paid Theater-p1030385.jpgalmost $30 for The Boy and I to see a community play that I had been invited to by one of my students. The Boy has grown so much over the years in terms of his ability to behave well in these situations, that I didn’t have a second thought about it. And then the autism snuck up on me. Us. He began kicking the seat in front of us. Lightly, but I’m sure enough for the woman to feel it. Then the shoes came off, and then the hat started to fly. Not sure if there was an intermission or not, I made the decision to take him out. Easier said than done. It’s to the point that I cannot pick him up and carry him out. So he flopped. And I struggled to pick him up and leave. For what seemed like 2 hours, while the actors are trying to continue over The Boy’s full-throated screams and protests. I got him to a stage door, and a woman came over to deliver the hat and my purse which I had thrown aside to get my hands on him. An usher came over to let us know there was an exit door behind us (gee-thanks). I got him calmed enough to stand up and go through one set of doors. And then I realized we were missing his shoe. So we went out into the lobby, with me huffing and puffing like I’d just run a marathon. I asked an usher if she would retrieve his shoe after explaining the situation, which she did. And then we left.

 I cried. Both of us screamed at each other. His allowance was revoked, and his bedtime backed up by a half hour, and objects were thrown in the car. Once home, he was ordered to go to bed, and refused. So I retreated to my bedroom and locked the door. He says he wants to live with his dad, and he is very afraid that I am going to tattle on him to his teacher, afraid that he will not be able to go on the field trip to Bounce House on Friday.”

It is a painful memory for me, because I handled it poorly from beginning to end.  I didn’t give a thought to where our seats were, because I assumed he would be OK, which was my first mistake. (Actually, my first mistake was considering whether or not he wanted to go, and not considering leaving him home if that wasn’t the case!)  I still debate about whether or not I should have taken the stand on the shoes being off.  I think the fact that the people sitting next to us were older, and were already giving us looks when that debate came up influenced my decision, and it shouldn’t have.  And I handled the consequences, the aftermath very poorly.  But…

I am one person.  I am not perfect.  Stuff happens.  All I can hope is that we learned something from it, and that these meltdowns are few and far between (which luckily, has been the case — I know others are not so lucky).

Care to share your worst meltdown story?