Son 10 with ASD and we are finding it so hard.

My son is 10 and is diagnosed with ASD, his violent outburst when things don’t go right are getting out of control. We have 3 other children who are not on the spectrum and my husband is my sons carer and I go to work but I’m becoming more worried when I am at work because he recently threw a PS4 controller at my head which resulted in me having concussion when I was standing on the stairs and all I did was ask what was wrong (his ps4 wasn’t loading). I do 12 hour shifts and worry about what if he did that and my husband was knocked down the stairs or what if he did it to his younger siblings. He destroys everything in sight when having a melt down and will attach anyone in the same room. I’m so worried about him getting older and stronger. He has tried numerous medication which made no difference, I’m just at a loss. 

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  • Hi, 

    Like BH, I also often had very violent and destructive meltdowns in my childhood/teens. It really is a horrible thing, because you are very aware afterwards of the damage your body has done while it's been out of your control.  

    Medication has never mixed well with me either. I am often over or under sensitive to anything that acts on the brain.
    Antidepressants can be increased to the point of really nasty side-effects and provide zero relief from depression.
    A couple of milligrams of diazepam would barely affect most people, but absolutely knocks me out! 

    I find the best approach re. meltdowns is prevention rather than cure; once it's started it's practically impossible to get ideas of intervention or calming down strategies through to the person due to the nature of it.
    Work out the triggers (and there is rarely one trigger- the thing that sets it off is usually the latest of a string of disturbances and upsets that haven't been processed) and avoid them as much as possible.
    One of the difficult things about this is that with autism often comes a certain difficulty in identifying and/or articulating your feelings, so as well as asking your son you may have to rely on a deal of observation or trial-and-error.

    Here are a few common ones to help you out, though;

    Sensory: Noises, bright/harsh lights, itchy clothes, etc. Any or all of the senses can be heightened in autistic people, so the input he is having trouble with could be things you don't even notice (a TV on in another room, for instance)! 
    For example, loud, high-pitched noises (sirens, babies) and bright lights cause me physical pain. I carry earplugs at all times and wear them when I feel overwhelmed- I know when that is because it feels a bit like pressure building up in my head and neck. I also use an app on my computer (called f.lux) that alters the colour of the light it emits to make it less harsh on my eyes. 

    Social: Reading the body language of others, 'masking' (observing and imitating socially successful behaviours), making eye contact, following conversations. All these things can be exhausting for autistic people. 
    Having the option for your son to relax away from others (even family members) as and when he needs to can make a huge difference to the number of outbursts your son has by reducing the amount of information he has to process. To this day, I often retire to the spare room for a short, refreshing bit of alone time when I am spending a day with friends at their homes. They are aware of why I do this and very understanding. 

    Routine: Autistic kids (and adults), as a general rule, need routine to feel secure. Knowing what happens when takes a great deal of uncertainty and stress out of life. Having and sticking to a schedule even for the mundane and everyday can really help. 
    For example, some people find a visual timetable somewhere in the house really helps. A change in the expected schedule can cause great discomfort and distress to an autistic person and the worst part is that if a schedule isn't available, we will often invent our own in our heads (as it makes us feel that security of knowing what will happen) and not necessarily think to tell anyone else the content. Then you introduce an activity we haven't anticipated and you've inadvertently ruined the schedule! Chaos and anguish ensues. 

    Change: Autistic people often find changing activity suddenly extremely uncomfortable. 
    An abrupt change in activity can be a major source of stress and therefore meltdowns. The number of parents I have encountered whose autistic children are asked to come to dinner or go to bed and promptly fly off the handle, to their astonishment and despair, is very high.
    It is imperative that we are able to wind down slowly from an activity we are currently engrossed in before switching to the next.
    A timetable combined with pre-activity-change prompts can really help with this. Something as simple as saying (without expecting a verbal response) "Dinner will be ready in an hour, get to a place where you can wind down", then "Dinner's in the oven, be ready in half an hour" and finally "Dishing up; dinner will be in ten minutes, be ready to come to the table" can make changing activity so much easier and less stressful for us by allowing us that time to gradually disengage.
    My mum described this using the metaphor "with Emma we always have to plant a seed", which I quite like. :) 


    Another strategy;

    Something that does help me once a meltdown has started or when I'm right on the edge of being overwhelmed is deep pressure, e.g. wrapping myself tightly in a blanket/duvet. This has an added advantage in preventing self-injury or damage to surrounding things and people.
    It's an idea that has to be introduced when your child is calm and one that they really have to carry out themselves (trying to restrain someone in a meltdown is a bad plan), just provide the idea and the blanket.
    Weighted blankets are available online that can simply lie on top of you, rather than being wrapped tightly, to the same effect.

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