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Aspergers and "meltdowns"

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Hello I just wanted to hear others experience of how their teenagers behave when they get really stressed/anxious and have what seems to be known as meltdown?

With our son it seems to have happened in school but not at home and the child they describe sounds so different to the usual one we see.  He gets so angry that his eyes roll in his head and he makes threats and shakes.  In his previous school (he is now in a special medical unit) he would get put in an isolation room where he would then try and self harm to gain control and so he would not hurt anyone.  He would also write bad things down about revenge and what he would like to do to people who had bullied him.

This is scary and I worry that one day he will hurt himself or someone else, it does not happen often but even in the place he is now there have been a couple of days where he has been anxious about things and something has set him off.  He can't remember afterwards what has been said or not said, but he doesn't want it to happen.  Teachers say they have not seen behaviour like this before but from reading about Aspergers and Autism it would seem that a meltdown like this is fairly standard?

(our son is 13).  I would be really interested to hear others experience of these meltdowns and what they do about them.  It doesnt happen often and doesn't go on for long, ususally ends with tears and worries and feeling very low.  I want to learn how to try and make sure it doesn't get that far.  He now has a quiet room to go in break times so he can avoid social pressures and when he has something happening like a CAMHS appointment that day he does not go into school.  What we really want is to find some help for him where he can learn about what triggers these episodes so that he can recognise for himself if its going to happen and remove himself from the situation before anything occurs.

thanks for listening!

Can't understand why any teacher with any experience of autism/Asperger's would say they had not seen behaviour like this before. This sounds like a standard meltdown, which can be directed inwards or outwards.

Meltdowns are caused by anxiety over a situation, and to stop them you need to ensure your son does not get into situations that cause anxiety. So, what is the trigger? Find it and REMOVE it. I also have memory loss after meltdowns, because I am on the verge of a shutdown and the way my body works, it shuts off memory first (not all Aspies are like this). My childhood memories are a big mess of missing bits caused by meltdowns and shutdowns, mostly to do with school, but also my parents who refused to support or help me much, and did not remove the anxiety.

So, find the trigger and remove it, no matter what it is. It is not up to the Aspie to remove themselves, it is up to the school to not have the experience happen in the first place.

hi - Daisygirl gives good advice.  What support does your son get at the unit?  I would have thought a unit that was experienced and well trained in autism would have at least a reasonable idea of why he was getting upset and would be suggesting ways to avoid that.  You say he's ok at home so I presume it must be to do with his educational environment.  My son used to be in an environment that wasn't autism-friendly.  He used to get very stressed and sometimes hurt himself to relieve the pressure.  Sometimes he could tell you why he was upset and other times not.  The staff, mostly, weren't of any help or made things worse.   Most of the time they couldn't say why he'd got upset.  They didn't know how to help him.  He's now in a much different environment with staff who understand autism and how it affects him as an individual. Things have much improved for him.  Take a critical look at that unit??

Hi Mary,

I don't know whether I have anything that would be classed as a meltdown - the ones I read about in Aspergirls aren't like anything I've experienced. But when I get stressed, I start verbally fretting. I don't really know how to describe this, but basically I get so worried that my mum hugs me and tells me to calm down.

When I get really anxious, I start to giggle uncontrollably, and I'll probably rock violently. The next step up from that is a panic attack, which was most often brought on by having to write an essay.

There are various things my mum tries to calm me down, the usual method being to give me a guinea pig in a towel! Sometimes she uses one of those funny-looking head massage things. Other times she puts on one of my relaxing CDs, which she also uses as a preventative measure, e.g. to keep me partially sane while failing to write a dreaded essay!

But probably the most effective thing, where possible, is to remove whatever it is that's causing the stress.

Thank you all of you for your replies.  Where he is at the moment is not a special ASD unit and thats probably not helping.  He is currently in a very small school which caters for 11-16 year olds too unwell (for a whole variety of reasons) to attend mainstream,  it is an interim placement generally.

We are currently in the process of getting a statement of special needs and still awaiting a proper diagnosis for him.  He feels like he doesn't fit anywhere and sometimes just gets really angry.  Today he was talking with another boy and said a swear word - not acceptable - he got told off about it but then got into an argument with the teacher and things spiralled.  He could not seem to understand that as he had not said the word to a teacher and had thought he said it quietly then why was it a problem.

What I think he needs is a special ASD school but the local one is really at the wrong end of the spectrum for him as he is Aspergers/HFA and the school, though amazing is not aimed at children like him.

It is very reassuring to read your replies and at least I feel like I am not on my own anymore with this!

Thanks again