Mystery Meltdown.

Most of the time, I can tell a meltdown is imminent.  I know the triggers.  I can either prepare in ways to avoid it or work through it.  Sometimes though, a meltdown will occur without any known pre-cursor.  No known trigger.  And before I know it, things are very ugly and out of control.

The latest one began in the morning.  Innocently enough, he was riding in his car seat in the back, playing with his iPad.  He’s now sophisticated enough to manage Googling his favorite toy car makers (Road Rippers) and ending up on websites like FAO Schwartz which I never taught him about but which he was perusing a couple nights ago.  Luckily, he still does not know my credit card number or passwords.

We were cutting it close to being late for school.  He was eating a Pop Tart in the back seat of the car.  I gave him all his regular asthma and allergy medications, his Vitamin, his fluoride.  Every regular task had been completed.  The routine was followed.

It was the second day of rain.  It was cold, dark and dreary outside.

Thanks, Road Rippers...

“Which color do you want?”  he asked me.  Of course, in the mixed language that is my son, this means, “Which color of this toy car, that only I can see, do you think I want, mom?”  or better yet, “Which color, of the car I’m looking at, do I want you to buy for me, mom?”

No matter how I answer this question, I lose.  If I say, “Which color do you want?” he will assume that I will get him one.  If I say, “Blue,” he will immediately shout out other colors as if he must argue.  If I ignore him, he will continue to ask the question for the rest of the 20 minute ride, driving me nuts.  He will then complete this echolalic crescendo with a complete meltdown.  If I say there will be no purchases of anything, then, in place of a meltdown, I get tears, which can escalate to a meltdown.  None of these are good options on the way to school.

My "before" shot.

Up til now, I had lived a fairly charmed life as far as school meltdowns were concerned.  I had been secretly impressed with how easily my son transitioned into school with his aide and forgot all about me.  I was not needed and I was happy about this.  It gave me a sense of freedom and almost relaxation.  Of course, I always have that little feeling, in the back of my mind, that something might go wrong, but don’t we all have that?

I chose to answer his question by telling him that I was not going to play the colors game.  I also told him that when he argues colors with me, it makes mama sad.  This was met with silence.  This turned out to be the calm before the storm.

I made this statement about ten minutes away from school.  Stupid as it was, that was my conversational response today.  Didn’t really go so well for me.  He sort of talked to himself for the rest of the ride. When we arrived at school and I went to get him out of the car, he yelled, “Clean!  Clean!”  Of course, this means he is crying and needs tissue to wipe away the tears.  Great!!  Our first school, drop-off, meltdown.  Hoo-ray.

I did not see any actual tears.  I asked if he wanted to go in to school or go home.  “Kindergarten!” he yelled.  He got out of the car.  I did not see his aide.  We started to walk in to the building.  The tears came.  They came with yelling, “Clean!  Clean!  Wanna clean!  Want the blue car.  Want the red car.  Do you want the red?  Blue!  Green!”  and we were off to the meltdown races.

Okay.  What am I going to do?  I knew I was not the first mother to have a child cry as I took him in to class.  However, the other kids were crying because they did not want their mothers to leave.  My kid?  Nothing to do with missing me.  I’m pretty sure the “colors game” was just a runway for the meltdown take-off.

I decided to take him back out to the car and get tissue.  We were still a little bit early and his aide had not yet arrived.  As we headed back out to the car, his meltdown escalated because he thought I was taking him away from kindergarten.

I made it clear it was just because I was getting tissue.  Even after he had the tissue, he continued to cry.  His aide arrived.  Today’s aide was R.  He is very mellow but does not know my son as well as his other tutor.  He tried to calm the little guy down by having him count.

Not a good idea.

Numbers are another runway for take off to Meltdown City.  I relinquished control to R outside the classroom.  The rather comical thing about it – in my warped mind- was that the other mothers gave me a sympathetic nod, like they knew what I was going through!  Ha!  These other NT moms were thinking my son was going to miss me today!!  Oh, so laughable, in the midst of all that stress.

On top of it all, R then told me there was a substitute teacher for the day!  I stood at the front door to the building down the hall, and down another hall.  I could still hear my son yelling and crying.  I stood there listening.  (I did not have to strain).  I finally left after another 5 minutes when it seemed there was a lull.

I learned later that my son had a full-fledged meltdown for a good 30 minutes.  I picked him up and sure enough, the boo-boo face and the edge of meltdown reappeared.  The rest of the day was shot.  Therapies were cancelled and I took him home.

Much like the hiccups, when they first go away, the meltdown returns sometimes.   It came back while in the car on the way home, and at home.  He looked exhausted.

Post Meltdown Contemplation

He could never express what it was that set him off.  He’s still recovering.  Any wrong move is met with tears.  Then, he runs around and smiles.  Then tears.  I have no idea what is going on.  It could be precursor to illness but he just got over a bad cold and then the stomach flu.

This was just one of those mystery meltdowns.  You cannot prepare.  You cannot change things that are not out of the ordinary.  You cannot communicate with your child well enough to know what set him off.  You just have to ride it out.  And it sucks.


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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10 Responses to Mystery Meltdown.

  1. Kelly Hafer says:

    Isn’t it times like these when you just want to take your kiddo and hold him (although Ted won’t let me), and make the world go away for awhile? I hate, hate, HATE these meltdowns. Explaining things like “going back to the car to get a tissue – not taking you home from school!” are futile. I can almost see them, like rubber balls, bouncing right off of Ted’s head – unabsorbed, unheaded, unheard. It is so frustrating and sad to me that we are just unable to breakthrough in times like these.

    I hope you and Tootles have a much, much better day today.

  2. awww!! Tommy holds us hostage to his verbal stims a LOT. If we don’t participate, he can’t move on. There’s been several times where either i, dad or even his sister was having a crappy day and didn’t WANT to participate.. and this exact thing happens.

    On another note.. Tommy has ALWAYS been so good with working the internet. He’s never been TAUGHT anything. He just POOF! knows it! lol Tommy makes movies.. on Window’s movie maker. I can’t even tell you how many times my husband has tried to get Tommy to teach him how to make movies. It’s hysterical to watch. When Tommy was about 9 or 10.. his favorite site was ebay. He knew a couple of our passwords and decided to start ordering stuff. At the time he was obsessed with Monsters Inc. He began ordering COSTUMES!!! For Halloween. When THEY arrived, they were in 2T and 3T sizes. Did I mention my son is built like a tank? hahaa Yeah, careful with those passwords lol That was a lesson we learned REALLY fast!

    Hope the little man is doing better now. Maybe after a good nights sleep he’ll be able to start over ❤

  3. Lizbeth says:

    Welcome to the inner sanctum. Its great fun, isn’t it? I would be a millionaire if I held the key to the rhyme or reason for the mystery meltdowns. For us it usually means asthma is going to rear it’s ugly head or he’s going to be sick within a day. Then there are just the mystery meltdowns that last all day and for whatever reason the only real “cure” is bedtime. Sigh. I hope it came and went with the wind and today has ushered in a calmer and clearer T. Hugs, lady, hugs.

  4. Teresa says:

    That damn PopTart!
    I hope the tiny has a better day today.
    Perhaps a banana?

  5. Jim W. says:

    “Cute kid” really should be on the list of diagnostic criteria for spectrum disorder.

  6. TMBMT says:

    “cold dreary day” does it for me every time… pain goes up by degrees and everything else is harder

  7. Karla (Mom2MissK) says:

    Poor T … And poor you! Mystery meltdowns are the worst! I hope things got better for you the next day!

  8. Denise says:

    Oh my, a hard time for all of you. Hopefully a calm weekend at home will be good for all!

  9. ElizOF says:

    I feel for both of you… it must not have been easy at all. I remember the meltdowns and they were never fun… Hope the rest of the day was calmer. 😦

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