Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Aspie Meltdown - An Insiders Point of View - Part 1

What is a Meltdown?
A meltdown is a condition where the Aspie temporarily loses control due to emotional responses to environmental factors.

It generally appears that the aspie has lost control over a single and specific issue however this is very rarely the case. Usually, the problem is the cumulation of a number of irritations which could span a fairly long period of time, particularly given the strong long-term memory facilities of the aspie.

Why the Problems Seem Hidden
Aspies don't tend to give a lot of clues that they are very irritated;
  • their facial expressions very often will not convey the irritation

  • their vocal tones will often remain flat even when they are fairly annoyed.

  • Some things which annoy aspies would not be considered annoying to neurotypicals. This makes NT's less likely to pick up on a potential problem.

  • Often Aspie grievances are aired as part of their normal conversation and may even be interpreted by NTs as part of their standard whinge.


What happens during a Meltdown
The meltdown appears to most people as a tantrum or dummy spit. There are marked differences between adults and children.

Children tend to flop onto the ground and shout, scream or cry. Quite often, they will display violent behaviour such as hitting or kicking.

In adults, due to social pressures, violent behaviour in public is less common. Shouting outbursts or emotional displays however can occur. More often though, it leads to depression and the aspie simply retreats into themselves and abandons social contact.

Some aspies describe the meltdown as a red or grey band across the eyes. I've certainly experienced this. There is a loss of control and a feeling of being a powerless observer outside the body. This can be dangerous as the aspie may strike out, particularly if the instigator is nearby or if they are taunted during a meltdown.

Depression
Sometimes, depression is the only outward visible sign of a meltdown. At other times, depression results when the aspie leaves their meltdown state and confronts the results of the meltdown. The depression is a result of guilt over abusive, shouting or violent behaviour. I will cover depression in a different post.

Dealing with Meltdowns in Children
There's not a great deal of that you can do when a meltdown occurs in a very young child. Probably the very best thing that you can do at their youngest ages is to train yourself to recognize a meltdown before it happens and take steps to avoid it.

Example: Aspies are quite possessive about their food and my youngest will sometimes decide that he does not want his meat to be cut up for him. When this happens, taking his plate from him and cutting his meat could cause a tantrum. The best way to deal with this is to avoid touching it for the first part of the meal until he starts to want your involvement. When this occurs, instead of taking his plate from him, it is more effective to lean over and help him to cut the first piece. Once he has cut the first piece with help, he will often allow the remaining pieces to be cut for him though I would still recommend that his plate not be moved.

Once the child reaches an age where they can understand, probably around seven years give or take a few. You can work on explaining the situation. One way you could do this would be to discreetly videotape a meltdown and allow them to watch it at a later date. You could then discuss the incident, explain why it isn't socially acceptable and give them some alternatives.

When I was little, I remember that the single best motivation for keeping control was once, when my mother called me in after play and talked about the day. In particular, she highlighted an incident where I had fallen over and hurt myself. She said, "did you see how your friend started to go home as soon as you fell over because they were scared that you were going to have a tantrum". She went on to say, "When you got up and laughed, they were so happy that they came racing back. I'm proud of you for not losing your temper".

I carried this with me for years later and would always strive to contain myself. I wouldn't always succeed but at least I was trying.

Meltdowns and Punishment
One of the most important things to realize is that Meltdowns are part of the Aspergers condition. They can't avoid them, merely try to reduce the damage. Punishing an aspie for a meltdown is like punishing someone for swearing when they hit their thumb with a hammer. It won't do any good whatsoever and can only serve to increase the distance between you and your child.

In addition, meltdowns aren't wholly caused by the current scenario but are usually the result of an overwhelming number of other issues. The one which "causes" the meltdown is the "straw that breaks the camels back". Unless you're a mind reader, you won't necessarily know what the other factors are and your aspie child may not be able to fully communicate the problem.

Meltdowns are part and parcel of Aspergers - they are NOT the result of poor parenting.

In my next meltdown post, I'll try to cover coping in adults.

59 comments:

SapphoWoman said...

This is an awesome article. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This sure explains a lot about myself. Well written.

fluppy

Anonymous said...

I used to have very bad system crashes, lasting 2-3 days, and usually after intense social activity. However I found that if I stopped systemising whilst socialising, that these crashes did not happen; life has been so, so much better since; http://unlearningasperger.blogspot.com.
Very best wishes, JC

Anonymous said...

i have had short meltdowns like that but couldnt remember them afterwards. has anyone else been unable to remember them?

Anonymous said...

I think that I may have AS. After reading these blogs; I'm now convinced. I'm soo possesive over my food. One example is when I order chips, I always ask if I can put the salt and vinegar on and get annoyed when I can't. I always thought that I was just a contral freak:)

Cubey said...

I still have meltdowns at times but less so in recent years. I am nearly 28. I had them something awful in my teen years. I just got labeled bipolar (which is total nonsense), depression, personality disorders, ADHD, the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, I wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers until I was about 22 so it really hasn't done me much good other than understanding the problems I have more.

Beastinblack said...

absolutey correct that it is caused by a trivial spark. Like a pressure cooker without a safety valve.

Damo said...

They're not as bad as they were. (I may get all psychological here....)
In my early years, the meltdown was full blown rage. During teenage years, it was more verbal abuse directed at any target. There was also stage 2 (I'm a natural body builder of 110kg). The amygdala takes over and sends my body into the fight or flight response. Logic is kicked out the door and pure rage envelops. All muscles are filled with blood and my senses heightened. Even in the "powerup stage" I've had people back out of the room. These days it takes alot to get me to "powerup" I have trained my brain to over-ride the amygdala thereby blocking emotion. It's not healthy but its alot safer than having a 110kg meathead in a rage.
Lately I have taken the highroad, removed myself from the situation, internalised and moved on. I am in the proactive state and less reactive.
As for looks, ignoring "powerup". My eyes go really cold, the brow lowers slightly. I look out from under it. There is a quiet monotone voice emanating in a metronomic cadence. My body emanates total calm but the eyes radiate true intention. A most powerful look. It's my dog snarl that you are cornering me and you don't want to play with this little kitty.

MaLanie said...

Great blog you have here! I have a six year old daughter with AS. Her melt downs, obessions and sometimes dangerous curosity takes its toll on our marriage and family.

I don't know what to do for her, and I feel like a complete failure as a parent. She is always in trouble; hurting her little sister, using words she knows she is not allowed to use, and stealing from classmates.

She has this obession with toys to the point I no longer want to take her to Birthday parties and stores because we always have a melt down.

Does this get any easier, or will we always have these problems?

Gavin Bollard said...

MaLanie,

I know what it's like not wanting to take your children out in public and I'm aware of the problems it causes in other areas, such as relationships.

You shouldn't think of yourself as a bad parent. After all, you've already made six years with your daughter. It's very obvious that you're a good parent and that you're making the most of some difficult situations.

Luckily my kids don't meltdown over toys though my cousin's little boy does. He's a bit of a Shrek fan and once when visiting a McDonalds which had a Shrek poster, he refused to leave without a Shrek toy and had a massive meltdown.

He was stronger than my cousin, so she couldn't drag him out and had to find a way to appease him. Eventually, after discussions with the McDonalds manager, he was given the poster to avoid further bad publicity.

It does get better slowly as the child gains more control over themselves. You'll also begin to see triggers early and will know how to avoid them.

As far as parties are concerned, you might want to try drawing a little present box on your daughter's arm and telling her that if she stays in control, she will get one when she gets home.

Throughout the party, if she starts to get upset, pull her aside before she has time to wind up and show her the picture on her arm.

Doing this will help her exercise her own control (which is the ultimate goal). It won't work the first few times but she will improve.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this. I have aspergers and meltdown a lot. I thought i was verging on depression or somehting, then realised its normal with aspies. thanks again :)

Zach said...

I just wrote about my experience having meltdowns with aspergers. Your article is awesome - thanks.

These 4 parts of me said...

Amen, another "That sure explains a lot"
Be nice to have known this 40 years ago.
And really nice last year. :-(
Oh well, do know it now.
And can use it from here on out.

These 4 parts of me said...

Amen, another "This sure explains a lot!"
Been nice to know this 40 years ago.
Would have helped with a big mess last year :-(
Oh well, do know it now.
Can use it from here on out.
Thanks for telling about it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. My 7 yr old son has meltdowns everyday that can get destructive. He screams at me his hatred and throws or kicks whatever is in site. He gets aggitated when he doesn't get his way. He also obsesses on buying things and meltsdown when he can't get something. It has made family life very hard and chaotic. It seems worse as he has aged. He now tries to hit and kick and spit on us. I have tried every behavior modification chart available but he seems to react before he thinks of the consequence. How do you stop this cycle? Does behavior therapy in the home work? He doesn't do this for the school? I have started him on Risperdal but he still is angry and irritated. I can't believe how mean he is to me in particular. Will this ever get better? The school doen't seem to believe me and thinks it is a parenting issue since they don't see this side but he does it before and after school. Wha works?

Gavin Bollard said...

Your son shouldn't be melting down every day at that age. You probably should start a diary detailing issues which led to the meltdown as well as things you did to resolve it - and obvservations on his general state.

After a bit of recording, take the diary to a pediatrician. He'll be able to make some good recommenations.

On the subject of medications, just remember that every child is different and that not all medications work for all children. If Risperdal isn't working, you should ask about alternatives.

You may find that your son is pouring all his effort into being "good" at school and is exhausted by the time he gets home. Sometimes that's the reason why mothers cop all the bad stuff.

It does get better but only when you start to relax. At the moment, both you and your son will be tense. He can't relax by himself. You need to find ways to relieve the stress on him - then it will filter down to you.

e said...

If the melt-downs are mainly before and after school, it sounds like a transition issue or it could one of a million miniscule issues about perhaps the bus or morning routines. It could be a sensory issue that only occurs during that transition.
Someone else suggested you document the meltdowns. If you do, look to see if common transitions are done the same way every time.
Try a picture schedule broken down into distinct steps. If something has to be changed, tell him ahead of time.
Buying things - this sounds like a good reinforcer to use with a small sticker chart he can carry. Since meltdowns are a huge problem right now, use the sticker chart just for that. You might have to reward for really small tasks without a meltdown but you can gradually expect more from him as the meltdowns subside.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I find myself, wishing for a "typical" child. My son is almost 10yrs old. We're trying to teach him respect. My husband has ground him to his room.He cannot understand,that he cannot change the situation @his whim.
Are there Aspergers Boys' camps...

Tom Campbell said...

This is a great article fair play,

I had a bad meltdown today. Over the last year i have gained friends, I have rarely had friends until this point in my life. I went out with the gang. Some of the boys in my group of friends see me as a target and sometimes play small jokes on me, but sometimes the jokes get to me.

Today i had a meltdown and punched a wall. Not only did i regret breaking my pinky, i also did it infront of my girlfriend and now she wont talk to me, she knew i had aspergers but she wont except the fact that i couldn't help it.

I need help, how do i control myself at such a late age? I'm 14 years old and im stuggling to deal with this, its making me stressed and more viable to short anger outburst.

Anonymous said...

Omg, thank you, you just solved a question I've been asking myself for 15 damned years! "Why did I act like that, when I knew it hurt and scared people around me? What happenede to me, did I have a psychosis?". Now that I am at the end of an aspergers evaluation, it all falls into place!

Claire said...

At 39, female with past diagnosis of ADHD, Bi-polar, Borderline personality disorders, Anxiety disorders, schizophrenia (due to meltdowns) OCD over money..I took the AQ test and scored 44-46, hubby and I accessed help. He's the only one who has stuck by me, my ex-spouse beat me and kidnapped my three sons...excluded me from their lives for almost 10 years.

My Dr has no experience with ASD/hfASD and the Mental health consultant (trained in personality disorders) she says I have a personality disorder and seems to refuse the concept of Aperger's for me, but left this week without calling anyone who could give her insight...she started the last meltdown or the duty worker? say there is NO HELP for me living in SUFFOLK and won't refer me to NORFOLK which does less than 4 miles from my home??

My meltdowns are usually simple tasks that go wrong or a plan that didn't work, I refuse help, get angry, frustrated then BLOW UP...instantly...with everything from childhood to now stuff that was/is emotional ... I cannot remember the moment or why it is happening and it scares everyone. 18 stone, blubbering, snarling, emotional wreck...not a pretty sight.

It causes issues with family events and am now finding myself being excluded, as I am an embarrassment, or cannot be trusted to behave...which frustrates me causing a vicious cycle of more meltdowns...the rumbling symptoms of a meltdown are never far away... general unwell feeling, feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, having an upset stomach, noises or lack of?

I always apologise when I am aware again, but it is often too late...the tears, excuses or closed minds. It's too much for and NT.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. The meltdowns are the biggest hurdle for us. My son is 8 and has been having them since age 3. Wanting Happy Meals, collecting or getting toys,wanting to see movies all can set him off into a downward spiral. He is currently on Risperdal which has helped with the dangerous tantrums and distruction of property. He still gets mad and screams but it seems to get over quicker. He is also on intuniv for the ADHD and prozac for the obsessions. The Aspergers meltdowns can take a toll on family life and our other three typical kids!

Anonymous said...

There is a girl I know, and all these symptoms remind me of her.. She loves to talk but when she starts a conversation, it feels like she's talking at you instead of to you, and when she forgets or looses something she goes into what looks like a meltdown, she gets upset then starts talking to herself, maybe trying to calm herself down . She's 14 but she seems to have slightly lower symptoms then what you wrote. Could she have a mild case of aspergers?

Kmarie said...

I read your about me page. It resonates! Everything on this blog does! I actually cried with relief that someone gets it. My son was diagnosed but I am wondering if my father has it and if I should get tested. I think It describes me in many areas. I am lucky my parents were so awesome and balanced in raising me because I have actually had an easier time in adulthood.
Thank you so much for this blog! I really appreciate it

belljennifer71 said...

My little boy is six. His only real meltdowns are when he believes someone has slighted him. It's frustrating because the kids in the neighborhood are starting to pick up on his sensitivity and at least one will not let up...

Anonymous said...

Good article, I`m an old man with ASpergers and I notice something, my meltdowns seem to get longer the older I get :( Theres more time between them now but they can last for a week, 7 days non stop hell, I dont know what to do, if this continues soon my life will be one long meltdown :( Because of this and some other things I have isolated myself and have no human contact, been over 7 years now, sort of just hoping to die.

Anonymous said...

You should not beat yourself up over how your feeling. I think its worse as adults because we know what the problem is but are powerless too stop it from happening. I think the important thing to remember is that you may have isolated yourself but you are still reaching out. I think you are a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. I don't care how old you are it's never to late. You got a perfect stranger to respond to your post I would say you just took your first step!

Anonymous said...

We have an 8 year old Aspie girl who has frequent meltdowns at school at any change in routine. I can't tell you how it helps to know that this is not out of the norm. When you're in the moment and she's shrieking and ripping things off of the walls there, you feel so helpless.

Stephanie Mayberry said...

I am a 44 year old woman with Asperger's.

Just this morning I wrote on my own blog what it feels like to experience a meltdown (I am working through a shutdown that happened after a meltdown right now).

Thank you so much for writing this and thank you for helping NTs understand that we can't help the meltdowns and it certainly isn't their fault (most of the time and if it is it's usually unintentional so that is OK).

Keep it up.

God bless you.
Stephanie Mayberry
The Christian Aspie

Anonymous said...

i'm pretty sure my daughter's father has aspergers. we're not married. i left him repeatedly cos i couldn't handle the anger and verbal abuse. i have tried to make things work for our daughter's sake and so has he. he still gets furiously mad over trivialities and our daughter is getting very scared. when he has a meltdown he puts me down and says the nastiest things about my family even when i beg him to stop. he blames me and thinks he's right about everything. why doesn't he stop when i tell him he's hurting me? how does he feel afterward? it's the same ole abusive routine...he's got it down pat and i'm over it. last week he pushed me over the edge and i screamed my head off at him. then he calls me the abusive one. how can he be so illogical? it's driving me mad.

Michelle said...

Thank you so much. We had two meltdowns today and it has been so difficult. I often think that I as a parent have done something wrong and internalize the meltdowns as being the result of something I did or didn't do. I know that me son cannot help it and that I did nothing wrong but it is nice to see that it is not my fault. My son is wondrful and I love him no matter what. This will help me to better cope with future meltdowns. Thank you.

Xanthe Wyse said...

Seems there are two varieties of Aspies - those that have outward meltdowns that all can see (raging tantrums) & those that internalise & are prone to depression. My son is the former & I am the latter. I find his meltdowns incredibly stressful.

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting in my 15 year old Aspie son's room right now, waiting for him to calm down. Another meltdown just because he lost some points in a computer game. To me its just a game, but to him its everything. I understand why he has meltdowns, but I don't know why he has to destroy things. Or says such incredibly mean things. He puts holes in the wall, he spits at me, and he never apologizes. And he weighs 270 pounds. I am afraid of him.

Anonymous said...

Does the Aspie recall the memory of all that was said/threatened/done during a raging meltdown?

If so, I would think it would be difficult to face the next day.

Lisa said...

Hi Gavin
Love all your comments! So great to have some 'inside' info :)
We have a real problem with our 8yo with Asperger's. His meltdowns are one every 7-10 days but he is violent towards me + abusive. This is affecting us all, especially when my 6yo NT daughter is terrified, "wants a new brother" etc. We are in touch with the paediatrician, autism consultant, psychologist but don't seem to be making any progress. He is on Strattera to help with his concentration in school (which is working) & slow release melatonin for sleep.
I identify his feelings when he is having one "I can see you are very frustrated/angry/stressed/upset". I am very scared that someone (ie me) is going to get seriously injured. I am at my wit's end.
Any insight, help you could offer would be greatfully accepted. Thanks for your help.
Lisa--Canberra, Australia

Gavin Bollard said...

Lisa,
Before you do too much, you should confirm that the Strattera isn't affecting things.

Many of these drugs can cause the exact opposite of what is intended and sometimes this changes as children get older.

You could do this by having a period without Strattera or by trying alternative medications Concerta/Ritalin and Risperdal (note that his behaviour would need to be quite bad for you to consider Risperdal).

If you're sure that the problem hasn't gotten worse since Strattera, then you need to work on two things, Triggers and Reaction.

Reaction
In non-meltdown moment, you need to talk to your son about the problem and tell him what he needs to do. This will usually mean, that he moves to a meltdown zone (often his bedroom). If he can't move, then your family will need to move.

Get him to agree to do this.

When the next meltdown begins, try to catch it in the early stages and have him move to a safe area. Leave him alone and let the meltdown run its course.

Triggers
You need to start keeping a diary of his meltdowns. In particular, which events sparked them off. Meltdowns have short term triggers to long term problems.

For example, if he has a meltdown when his lego breaks, he might be actually melting down because he feels that everything breaks for him.

As you learn his triggers, you'll be able to learn more and more about the long-term problems and deal with them. You'll also be able to teach your son how to avoid problems in trigger situations and how to walk away from a situation before a meltdown occurs.

aspiemom said...

Thank you... very insightful. Do you have any advice for me? My daughter is 10 and is quite adept at pushing my buttons. She screams "leave me alone" "go away" "stop bugging me" to the point that it is terribly disrespectful. She does not show any concern for being disrespectful. What is the best way to diffuse the situation without losing my temper????

a girl said...

I hate meltdowns, and I hate they usually happen when Im at work as there Im most influenced by sensory stimuli. In the past I used to shout and swear a lot and it helped but I cant really shout at work so now I usually just cry and my whole body shakes uncontrollably. I tend to hide in a bathroom but sometimes meltdowns can go for hours so I just have to go home.
Its so embarrassing because I don't want to be seen as a freak. Also often when I just need to be by myself to calm down ppl come and ask me something silly and I snap at them to leave ma alone so they take it personally, I think, and stop even saying Hello to me. I dont really care as when I have a meltdown the last thing I care is being polite to someone.
The worst thing is I cant control it and when Im having a meltdown this lack of control annoys me further and its like a vicious circle.

Anonymous said...

What an eye opener. Spouse is the "internalizing" type (except for a handful of meltdowns over many years). I have been in the dark, angry, & periodically depressed myself, over not understanding him, always thinking he could change if he only WOULD. The antisocial, inappropros behaviors, yet superior intelligence have been baffling & nearly ended our marriage. Perhaps there is hope if he is willing.

Anonymous said...

The worst thing is I cant control it and when Im having a meltdown this lack of control annoys me further and its like a vicious circle.
September 9, 2011 5:52 AM


Yes it is a very vicious cycle! I feel the same way. My meltdowns are mostly crying episodes, and the inner critic is always there making it even worse! I'm a forty year old unemployed woman still living with parents and I really need my own space! I am terrified of getting an interview because I get stressed out too easily. Who would want to hire me when there are so many "stable" Nts looking for the same job? My past jobs were soul crushing.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of two teen girls with aspergers and probably am also on the spectrum. I have found that this particular website is very helpful at establishing a point of view that is empathic, a method to undertand what triggers have occoured and a lovely way of working together with a young person to help understand and plan so unpredictable incidents become predictable and then you can work towards a plan when you understand why the young person was triggered to meltdown. Very postive and sensible way to work forwards - Thanks to Dr Greene. Please do ses www.livesinthebalance.org

Anonymous said...

My Meltdowns occur pretty much every holiday. I remember the past so well-so holidays can trigger all past negative feelings.

Once the meltdown starts-my memory kicks in again, remembering other times in my left I had felt the specific meltdown feeling.

Therefore, it is like a cascade, memories keep rushing in, all doors to past memories are unlocked.

The rage I feel is so hard to control, it is *so* hard to get back to my calm outward self (my chosen mask for all to see).

That is all, thanks for reading

Anonymous said...

I had a meltdown so bad once, I was bashing the living day lights out of my school teacher and broke her glasses. The next day at school she had new glasses, not remembering what happened I asked why did you get new glasses, everyone laughed at me but I still had no idea untill grade 6 when someone told me whqt happened that day.

Jess said...

Thanks so much for this...I have been at my wits end. I have a husband with ALMOST controlled asperger and an asperger 6 year old daughter. She just recently started having EXTREME meltdowns, and I feel like such a horrible parent, and feel like I have lost all control. Having both of them is sooo much to handle sometimes. Now I understand a little better. I am going to try to find a support group, so maybe we can mingle with other families affected by this disorder.

jess said...

Also, to the anonymous blogger who has a husband with asperger. It is hard, I have dealt with the same problem. My husband is a medical school student, he is brilliant. So naturally when he had "episodes" I thought he could help it and just didn't want to try. I thought he was a control freak and just didn't want to change. But in reality, he never wanted anything more. I have had to learn to bite my tongue and calm him down. It is a lot to ask, and it isn't fair to you. I have been there. I have been ready to call it quits as well, in the past. I remember the turning point for me is when my husband told me that he felt like I was intentionally attacking him and trying to press his buttons. When I explained that that type of thinking wasn't realistic, and that we are fighting on the same side. He understood better. Use analogies. That is the ONLY way I have gotten him to understand me. He has "learned" to understand some emotion over the years, but still doesn't get it that much. By using analogies and coming out right and telling him how I feel and what I am thinking, it has helped. Remember, it is hard for them to catch a hint, even if you dangle it in their face. I once stomped my husbands foot under the table at a reception to "hint" that he was being socially inappropriate. But instead he yelped and asked me why i stomped his foot.lol.

weatherman210 said...

My meltdowns often occur due to a sudden change in environment or an unexpected event taking place. The event could have taken place several days or just a few hours prior to the reaction as I have found it takes me some time to process the stimulus and give an emotional response. The response is most often exponential of what I have observed in other humans under similar degrees of stress.

The symptoms vary from what could be considered an anxiety attack, characterized by heavy breathing, racing thoughts, a sense of being overwhelmed and a generalized stiffened state to what I would refer to as being catatonic. The catatonic state is what I consider to be the more severe of the two. In this state I often will not move for a period of time ranging from 20 minutes to several hours. In this state, I will ignore people, and focus my attention on some moving object such as a spinning fan or swaying tree or a glass of liquid that is turbulent due to sound waves passing through it. I will stare at these things for a long period of time and generally repeat a single word or phrase over and over again. I will generally only respond to a person I trust if anyone is to speak to me. When asked if I am okay, my canned response is "I don't know." This will usually be my only answer to any question in this state. If I do attempt to speak, the words will come out in incomplete thoughts as well as stuttering and irrattic pauses and incoherent rambling describing where I am and pointing out subtle irregularities in my surroundings. It takes quite a while to snap out of this state and it will usually take a person very close to me asking questions which will distract my mind from whatever it is that overwhelmed it.

Sometimes people will not know how to handle the situation and they will end up calling an ambulance or some other drastic measure. This is often not helpful but, at least, they are trying. The best way to handle someone going through this is to speak to them politely asking many questions about what they may be thinking about, what there favorite thing is to look at in the room, what they did so far that day, until they are finally able to speak coherrently and move around without difficulty.

I don't know about other individuals but I find it helpful to make lists of things. If someone is to ask me about my day I will list for them each and every detail about everything I have accomplished throughout the day. This is sort of a secret reset switch. It puts my mind back into a linear format rather than allowing all sources of information hit me simultaneously. If you happen to know the primary interests of the person in question ask them about what they recently learned about the subject. It may take a whole for them to respond in full sentences but eventually they will go on endlessly about the subject. It doesn't matter if you have no idea what they are talking about. All that really matters is that they are communicating.

After a while, the person will get up, most likely appologize for either worrying you or causing a seen and continue on as if nothing happened.

weatherman210 said...

My meltdowns often occur due to a sudden change in environment or an unexpected event taking place. The event could have taken place several days or just a few hours prior to the reaction as I have found it takes me some time to process the stimulus and give an emotional response. The response is most often exponential of what I have observed in other humans under similar degrees of stress.

The symptoms vary from what could be considered an anxiety attack, characterized by heavy breathing, racing thoughts, a sense of being overwhelmed and a generalized stiffened state to what I would refer to as being catatonic. The catatonic state is what I consider to be the more severe of the two. In this state I often will not move for a period of time ranging from 20 minutes to several hours. In this state, I will ignore people, and focus my attention on some moving object such as a spinning fan or swaying tree or a glass of liquid that is turbulent due to sound waves passing through it. I will stare at these things for a long period of time and generally repeat a single word or phrase over and over again. I will generally only respond to a person I trust if anyone is to speak to me. When asked if I am okay, my canned response is "I don't know." This will usually be my only answer to any question in this state. If I do attempt to speak, the words will come out in incomplete thoughts as well as stuttering and irrattic pauses and incoherent rambling describing where I am and pointing out subtle irregularities in my surroundings. It takes quite a while to snap out of this state and it will usually take a person very close to me asking questions which will distract my mind from whatever it is that overwhelmed it.

Sometimes people will not know how to handle the situation and they will end up calling an ambulance or some other drastic measure. This is often not helpful but, at least, they are trying. The best way to handle someone going through this is to speak to them politely asking many questions about what they may be thinking about, what there favorite thing is to look at in the room, what they did so far that day, until they are finally able to speak coherrently and move around without difficulty.

I don't know about other individuals but I find it helpful to make lists of things. If someone is to ask me about my day I will list for them each and every detail about everything I have accomplished throughout the day. This is sort of a secret reset switch. It puts my mind back into a linear format rather than allowing all sources of information hit me simultaneously. If you happen to know the primary interests of the person in question ask them about what they recently learned about the subject. It may take a whole for them to respond in full sentences but eventually they will go on endlessly about the subject. It doesn't matter if you have no idea what they are talking about. All that really matters is that they are communicating.

After a while, the person will get up, most likely appologize for either worrying you or causing a seen and continue on as if nothing happened.

Anonymous said...

There should be zero tolerance for meltdowns. They are harmful to the person, family members, and the environment as a whole. I didn't realize that I married an Aspie, but I quickly learned what meltdowns were. I tried to get help, avoidance, ignoring, creating a perfect environment, and everything else I could think of. After several years, I got a restraining order and had him removed from the property by police. This was the catalyst that caused him to control his meltdowns though he claims he still thinks them sometimes. Having meltdowns under control help his note worthy aspie qualities come into light. Now, he's gravely respected at home and work. He's extremely successful in his career. This would not have happened if I just accepted his meltdowns as a part of who he is. Meltdowns interfere with the person being able to thrive- don't let meltdowns go unpunished.

Anonymous said...

How do you help a 2 yr old with asperger's autism symptoms? He meltdowns and hits, kicks, pinches, lashes out wildly and now is begining to spit. He has a preliminary diagnosis of autism but as he is getting older it appears more like aspergers.

gail said...

what helped me a lot with my rage attacks was learning self defense. tell your toddler to punch and kick the pillow as hard as he can while building his rage and thinking about whatever it was that triggered his recent meltdown, and then tell him to stop.
stopping when being told to do so builds self control. at least, it worked rather well for me.

Anonymous said...

Someone posted about Aspie meltdowns as a major criminal matter, which she "cured" by getting a restraining order. Well, I'm an Aspie, not a psychopath. My meltdowns consist of hiding and crying. Should that be "punished"? God, I have got to stop coming on message boards to reply to fools.

Anonymous said...

All I can say as an NT like you is I understand your frustration. I have a close friend with AS. He blames others (often me) for his meltdowns. He simply can not handle being wrong, pretty much about anything. When he is mistaken about social issues I laugh inside. Unless of course I explain calmly and clearly what he has said ot done to insult someone and he tries to insist he knows better than I do about human interaction. (As an NT177/200, a waitress/bartender for 25 years,a girl who grew up with a Dad who ran a business out of our home and therefore HAD to talk to strangers from a very young age, someone to this day can make a stranger at a bus stop comfortable

Anonymous said...

....sorry I had trouble editing, not sure where I cut off... Needless to say when he yells at me, stomps his feet, and tells me I don't understand "mens" behavior I get extremely frustrated and sometimes angry myself. He can say or do anything to me and it's OK, if I do the same to him, I'm wrong! COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL!

Anonymous said...

I am an adult 33 years old and have serious problems with meltdowns. It has gotten to the point where I may end up in jail or worse. I honestly believe there is more going on than just Aspergers.

My meltdowns almost always end in destruction of property and self-injury. Bruises and such mainly but I have broken bones before from punching doors.

Although the destruction of property mainly happens only in private places but my parents are usually around. In public it generally does not occur only verbal screaming or yelling. Most people who witness it are deathly afraid of me. Women in particular.

It is literally making relationships with a woman impossible. I went balistic on the last two woman I tried to get involved with and both have basically blacklisted me.

The depression around this gets so bad that I have considered suicide but never attempted it thankfully.

Anyways my parents basically say that this is not aspergers at all because they do not know any other aspergers that become this violent. I really wish there was help for me but it seems I am doomed to keep this behavior. It is entually going to lead to getting in trouble with the law.

This article gives me very little hope because apparently there is nothing I can do to not have meltdowns or get rid of them completely.

Anonymous said...

The main thing is I am tired of all these NTs saying we need to be punished for something we have difficulty with. Punishment only perpetuates. I know one person claimed pressing charges caused the person not to do these things. That makes little to no sense. Throwing your loved one away because of meltdowns is criminal! If your husband does this you give him a restraining order! You are scum of the earth. I have had enough of NTs thinking that we are evil or something. You need to try and help if you love someone. Throwing them away means you do not love them and are selfish. Even if you already tried everything try again. Either that or try to figure out why they are doing it. Is it because of your ignorance? Sorry NTs need to learn how to address aspergers. It is your job as an NT to do your best to give the asperger love. As your hatred only makes matters worse.

Anonymous said...

I am a manager of a person who has AS. He has not disclosed this to me - only that he has dyslexia and has requested accommodations based on that. Such as working in a quiet area and being allowed to do work which he can take his time with as he needs to concentrate more.

Recently, he had a meltdown (shouting at me) in the office and he scared quite a few employees in the office including me to a certain extent because he seemed to be so out of control with his anger. I had become used to him telling me what was on his mind without using the edit button. This used to hurt my feelings at first but then I decided that it was possibly a blessing that he was so honest with his comments. It has allowed me to do a lot of self reflection on the decisions I have made as a lot of employees usually edit what they say to the boss.

We work in a unionized environment, so I am not able to ask him specific questions about his AS nor is he required to reveal it to me. But we are now in a situation that if he "misbehaves" again that I may have to discipline him.

How can I reach out to him?

He is a very capable employee who is eager to be promoted but his social awkwardness makes a lot of employees nervous to interact with him and his recent meltdown has not helped matters.

He is very distrustful of management and he has exhibited a lot of aggression towards me, usually in the form of emails, wherein he will state that I am preventing him from being promoted and that management "hates" him and think that he is undesirable.

I am at a loss as to how help him and there are not a lot of resources dealing with AS in the workplace. We once had a good working relationship and I was one of the few employees in the office who would talk to him on a regular basis and would say more than just hello but now I have had to avoid interacting with him on a social basis as my interactions with him can make him anxious.

I leave it to him to interact with me for the most part and I have his supervisor touch base daily so that he does not feel isolated but I am not sure if I am doing the right thing.

This is my first experience with AS as far as I know and I really want to help him to thrive in the office but I don't want to get his hopes up that he will get a promotion. He has worked with us for over 10 years at the same level. (This is the cause of much of his angst - at least to me.)

I am afraid that if there is another competitive process for a job and he is unsuccessful that it will lead to more aggressive/abrasive behaviour and possible meltdowns.

I keep try to reinforce to him that he is a great employee but he feels that it is lip service and that he should be promoted.

Anyone have some advice?

Anonymous said...

I think i may have as. I find it difficult to make friends and get very emotional in overwhelming situations. Its very hard to keep my emotions in check.

Colorado said...

I have a son who's 8. His Aspergers is considered mild but for our family it's plenty challenging. I don't always handle his behaviors the correct way and for this I have guilt and self doubt. My husband barely tries to understand the condition and I feel it is for him to decide weather or not he wishes to better understand our son. My 5 yr old son is often the target of melt downs and I struggle with making sure he gets the lessons he needs to get while being so "forgiving" with his brother. I have no one to talk to who is in the same situation. I am thankful to have found this blog and welcome any feedback or advice.

Anonymous said...

I scored a 56 on the one aspergers test and I have a hard time with meltdown have gone on to jail and I know that won't stop me from having more. Mine are triggered by disrespect and dis regard..something nt people are excellent at. I'm a female. I hate driving..because it has led to me flipping my car..following people home to confront them.there is no help for adults with aspergers in Florida unless your rich. I'm realizing most of the people I hung out with had aspergers too. None of them had money because they played video games and worked at crappy jobs so they didn't have to be around people.smart people but to outsiders come off as losers.sad because intelligence wise aspies should be ahead of the game.