Colorful Meltdowns…

I’m kind of a germaphobe.  Whenever the little guy gets a cold or flu, I will get rid of his old toothbrush and buy a new one.  Last time, I bought a little two pack of “light up” toothbrushes.  He is fanatical about them.  He wants to brush those little teeth all the time now.  Even when I’m in the middle of something else, he brings me his strawberry organic toothpaste and wants to brush.  Good thing, right?

The Light-Up Timer Toothbrush Two-Pack...

The problem with the toothbrush twosome is that I asked which one he wanted to use when I opened the package.  Of course I was silly enough to think I could open one and put the other away to use in the future.  He has a clear (white) one and a yellow one.  When confronted with the question of choosing which color of the identical toothbrushes, he freaked out and yelled out “Yellow!”  “White!” “Yellow!” “White!”  As the decision deteriorated into tears and a meltdown, he ends up with both toothbrushes in his mouth, crying and brushing.

This continues to the present, every day and every night we use the toothbrush.  Sometimes, in the midst of this meltdown, he will trip over something, bash his head into something by accident, or otherwise injure himself, which compounds the original meltdown into an avalanche of unraveling.

The toothbrush choice is not the only situation in which color leads to a meltdown.  When he is allowed to choose almost any item that comes in different colors, he will make his choice, re-neg on his choice, and then engage in mortal combat with himself over which color he wants.  Of course, I could try to minimize his choices but I cannot watch him every single minute and he must make hundreds of decisions a day.  What should I play?  Should I play with the black car or the blue car?  Should I use the green crayon or the purple crayon?  Orange marbles or yellow marbles? Read a book with the blue suited Batman or the black suited Batman.  Ad infinitum.

He does not have a meltdown in all situations.  Only a select few.  And they vary.  So, I never know when or why they will happen.  There does not seem to be a consistent antecedent.  So, in a way, I have a little type of Russian-style Color Meltdown Roulette going on when I allow him to make a choice involving color.

I’ve gotten through a lot of blank fires.  He can handle selecting clothes and enjoys doing it.  He will be given a choice of two shirts and he always choses one, despite different colors, over another.  He does not change his mind in this instance.

He’s come to love a particular dessert, and I’d swear it’s because he does not have to make a choice involving the color.  It is a half chocolate- half regular cheesecake slice from Whole Foods.  He consistently demands to be fed the “white” part of the cheesecake.  He will flip out if someone tries to give him the chocolate part instead.  So, why don’t I just get the regular slice?  Because he will only eat it if the other half is chocolate.  I have bought the regular cheesecake slice – (exactly the same thing without the chocolate) and he completely refuses to have any.  (A vast conspiracy to make me fatter!  I do not succumb – if necessary – I throw out the chocolate half or his daddy intervenes and eats the rest).  And, on occasion, after finishing the “white” part, he will then – and only then- have a bite or two of the chocolate part.

Like this without the 3rd layer.

I wish I knew what this fixation with color was and how long it will take to pass.  Last night we had toothbrush-trip-over-the-Handy-Manny-stool double feature meltdown.  This was not good.  After putting away the toothbrush, the little guy, through all the crying, shouted, “Wanna rock with mommy!”  So, into the rocking chair I go, setting the 51 pound, nearly 4 foot tall, 5 year old on my lap with my bum knee and rocking him like a baby, until he calmed down enough to go play.

I wonder now if my son may have overwhelming sensory sensations related to color.  He asks what color things are all the time even though he knows the answer.  He does know all his colors (including their spelling) and has a peculiar focus on it.  Perhaps, he has a mix of synesthesia and autism.  I guess I won’t know until he is older and can communicate with me in a more meaningful way.  Until then, I will try to be gentle and understanding.  A picture like this:

Synesthesia by Astral Haze at deviantart.com

may affect him differently than you or me.  Special thanks to my bloggy friends at Craving a Little Perspective and Spectrummy Mummy for teaching me about synesthesia.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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11 Responses to Colorful Meltdowns…

  1. oh I had never heard of synesthesia! How interesting, now that I read your two links and did my wikipedia search on it. Thanks for broadening my horizon once again!

  2. That’s really interesting, that the colors lead to the meltdowns. Choices are so hard anyway, that’s hard when something like color further complicates it. By the way, our kids have the exact same toothbrushes, same brand and everything- weird! AJ uses the blue one, Gracie the red one. AJ used to like the lights, but then one time I turned the main light off so he could see them flash in the dark and he’s been terrified of it ever since. At least he’ll still tolerate it if I don’t make it flash. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      I’ve had similar experiences with things that they love at first and then, for whatever reason, they become afraid of the same things that made them so happy. At least you have him using it without the flash! (They are interesting toothbrushes!)

  3. That’s really interesting, that the colors lead to the meltdowns. Choices are so hard anyway, that’s hard when something like color further complicates it. By the way, our kids have the exact same toothbrushes, same brand and everything- weird! AJ uses the blue one, Gracie the red one. AJ used to like the lights, but then one time I turned the main light off so he could see them flash in the dark and he’s been terrified of it ever since. At least he’ll still tolerate it if I don’t make it flash!

  4. Broot says:

    It’s almost something you should get a synesthesia researcher in on – so you can collect data and evidence. Or you should be writing all your observations down now… 🙂 Thanks for mentioning me again! 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      After you first told me about it, I let it be. The more I thought about it, I began to wonder. Now, I’m pretty sure, there is something going on there but I still don’t know what! I think data is a great idea. I can bring it up when he sees the pediatric neurologist in September. Thanks “Broot”! 😉

  5. ElizOF says:

    WoW! I just learned about synesthesia. I am not familiar with it all all but can imagine the hypersensitivity your son has around color; especially after looking at that colorful psychedelic piece from deviant art.
    Can you just buy a single toothbrush or limit the color choice wars by offering neutral colors? I don’t know… It would be inter sting to hear him share what the colors contribute to the meltdown…
    Blessings to you! 🙂
    E

  6. Grace says:

    You throw away chocolate cheesecake?!?!? My friend, we need to have a serious talk.

  7. Pingback: Pairs. | Solodialogue

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