Sunday, April 29, 2012

How the rules of relationships need to change to accommodate the needs of meltdown-prone adults

Last time, I talked about adult meltdowns and how they're just as real as meltdowns in children but are usually more controlled (due mainly to experience and self-knowledge). I also talked about how both physical and emotional restraint can bring about a more explosive and dangerous meltdown.  Today, I want to discuss how meltdowns occur in relationships and how keep your family and possessions safe.

I've had new couples tell me that they're getting married and that they've "perfect for each other" because they've never had a fight - or even a disagreement. I'm usually far from impressed with this degree of "love" and suggest that they at least wait until they've had a few fights. You see, some people fight dirty. Some people give in too easily and some people hold grudges. It's really not a good idea to settle into a long term relationship without a good idea of how you and your partner fight, what tips them over the edge and how to calm them down.

This is very true of meltdowns.  If you have meltdowns, then it's important that your partner knows about them before they happen - and especially, before you get into a long-term relationship.

The Long and Short of it
Meltdowns are weird beasts, they usually occur due to long term issues with short term triggers.  For example, a partner may have a low sense of worth, perhaps they were never able to do anything succesfully in handyman areas.  Home repairs may not come easily to them. This is certainly the case with me.  You may find yourself volunteered into various activities by your partner. For example, painting a room, fixing a tap or even helping out at a working bee.  All of these are potential meltdown events, they are full of short term triggers which could cause a person to go into a meltdown state.

As partners, you need to be acutely aware of your partners long and short term issues.  You need to know what things are likely to trigger meltdowns but you also need to understand how  a small issue, for example, a failed repair, could balloon into a giant one.  These triggers need to be avoided.  If your partner has issues with something, then don't make them do it. Remember the "restraint" that I talked about last time?  Requiring your partner to do something that they clearly have issues with is a form of restraint.

Leave it well enough alone
When the inevitable meltdown starts, all restraints need to be off and your partner needs to be able to calm down in their own way.  In our handyman example, here are a few things that you should most certainly not do;

1. Say "I knew this would happen" or "I knew you couldn't do it"
2. Say "let me have a go"
3. Say "forget it!, I'll get someone who knows what they're doing to do it"

All of these responses belittle your partner and simply make things worse.  They'll also worsen any situation both in the immediate sense of making the meltdown worse and in the long term sense of affecting self esteem so that future meltdowns become more likely.

If you've "restrained" your partner into the job, then you have to accept that it's at least partially your responsibility. You need to back out and give them an escape clause.  Ideally, either leave them alone or call them inside for lunch or some other kind of break to allow them to unwind.  When they're fully calm, suggest that you call someone for help.

Widening the Example
This is not just a post about home handymen. Meltdowns occur in all sorts of arenas.  Some people have issues with open spaces or with public speaking. Maneuvering them into one of these areas can trigger a meltdown.  Similarly, some people don't function well in a party atmosphere - so the choice of a home party versus an external party needs to consider whether they have places to retreat to. For some people the trigger is sudden change, for some it's computers and some people simply can't handle vacations.

Whatever the causes, the important thing is to know your partner and understand how your actions and requests could put restraints on them.  Try to avoid sending them into potential meltdown situations and always leave them with a way out. Remember too, that if a meltdown occurs, it is often your own actions which will determine its strength and the degree of damage it does to both your relationship and your posessions. Standing in the way of a partner in meltdown's retreat is a sure-fire way of being hurt or having a hole put through a wall.  Shouting at them or throwing objects is pretty much guaranteed to escalate words into violence and shouting at a retreating back is certain to provoke a return.

Leave them alone, give them time to calm down and remove any restraints on the situation.  Don't send them back into the battlefield when they've calmed down. They need to stay away.

Make a note of what caused the meltdown and try to avoid similar situtations in future. A meltdown-prone partner can become a very good partner with just a little careful planning and avoidance.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Article: Using Visual Aids to Take Advantage of Your Child's Visual Learning Style

Today I'm blogging over at Special-ism.

My post is about visual learners and how we need to take advantage of the visual aids around us.  That's right, computers and TV are often considered to be bad for children but actually, they're some of the best tools for visual learners.

I also talk about taking visual learners to real-life places and about experimentation and play within the home.

Click here to read it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Adult Meltdowns and the Problems of Restraint

I was asked by a reader if I could write something about Adult Meltdowns.  This is my attempt.  It's not terribly good because I find this topic very difficult to write about.  

In children, meltdowns are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "tantrums".  I've talked about the differences between a meltdown and a tantrum before so I won't bore you with the details again.

The key things to remember about meltdowns are as follows;

  • They are not controlled events
  • Once "tripped" they can't be stopped easily.
  • The reasons for them are often long term and/or sensory (even though the triggers are usually immediate).

A young child can often be restrained or moved to a place of safety during a meltdown but what about older kids and adults? As a parent, you can often tell your kids to "go to your room" and sometimes they even comply but what happens when it's your spouse that's having the meltdown?

Adult Meltdowns Do Happen (they're just usually less visible)
It's true, adults do have meltdowns too. I'm not talking about temper flare ups and the urge to hit people who don't agree. You don't need to be on the spectrum to have those - though having a little alcohol and/or stress sometimes helps.

I'm talking about fully-fledged out-of-control meltdowns.

Most adults today with a history of meltdowns are able to exercise at least a degree of contol over their triggers.  We often know when someone is "pushing our buttons" and can switch topics or leave the room.  Similarly, if we walk into a store where the music is too loud, we can ask the storekeeper to turn it down - or we can choose to walk out again. We're at least that much better off than our children.

The Problems of Restraint
Unfortunately, there are situations in which we can't exercise our adult rights. Sometimes abusive people corner us, sometimes we get into situations from which we can't extract ourselves and sometimes we find that we are overwhelmed too quickly to react.

Police Action
One of the most common occasions in which an adult meltdown is triggered is during police action. Unfortunately, this is probably the worst time for one to occur because violent or noisy outbursts are often met with both violence and legal action.

When the police are called in to deal with stressful situations such as domestic issues, car accidents or minor infractions, the adult aspie is already stressed.  As tension builds and they feel a meltdown looming, they will attempt to remove themselves from the situation.  Unfortunately, during police action, this ability and this "right" is significantly reduced. It's quite common for innocent aspies to run from the police and it's equally common for aspies to resort to violent outbursts in these situations.

It's probably important to let the police know that you have aspergers syndrome as early as possible and to ask to be able to talk in a less confrontational situation.  In some cases, "taking a ride downtown" might be a safer option than trying to discuss it at the scene of the issue.

The Restraint of Responsibility 
The restricted ability to remove oneself from a situation isn't just about the law however. Adults with aspergers can be restricted at home by spouses who invade their personal space leaving them with nowhere to retreat to.

Responsibility is also a very restrictive force. Consider the parent who takes their children to a play center only to discover that the noise levels and social anxiety are pushing them to the verge of a meltdown. It isn't simply a case of leaving because the kids can't be left alone in such a place.

Many parents with sensory difficulties normally avoid such places but when they're chosen by other parents as venues for children's parties, they often attend rather than deny their own children a chance to make friends.

Sometimes you have little choice but to put yourself in meltdown territory and hope that nothing tips you over the edge.

Next time: I want to look at how the rules of relationships need to change to accommodate the needs of meltdown-prone adults.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Murdering Disabled People

One of the comments I received on my last post was a request for information on people with autism and other disabilities who were being killed by their parents and in some cases older siblings because they were considered to be too much of a burden. 

I started compiling a list but it quickly became too big for a comments response. In fact, I got tired of posting links after doing the last five years and the stories were really making me feel ill, so my apologies for non-completion.

It is with great sadness that I post this list.

March: Elizabeth Hodgins killed her 22-year-old son, George.

May: Yvonne Freaney killed her 11-year-old son, Glen.


February: Gigi Jordan killed her 8 year old son, Jude
July: Saiqa Akhter killed her 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son



Eric Bland (Age 38, 2004)

August: Maggie Caraballo (Aged 38)
August: Daniela Dawes killed her son, Jason Dawes (Aged 10)
August: Michael Renner-Lewis (Aged 15)

February: Matthew Goodman (Aged 14)
February: Charles Mancill (Aged 24)
March: Sharon Michelle Gill murdered her four year old adopted daughter Lillian Leilani Gill
May: Matthew Vick (Aged 23)
July: Dale Bartolome (Aged 27)
July: Tanaka (Aged 14)

January: Wayne Winter (Aged 39)
March: Terrence Britt killed his daughter Gabriel Britt Aged 6.
September: Mark Owens-Young-Rogan (Aged 11)
December: Brahim Dukes (Aged 18)

April: Joyce Malphus murdered her 5 year old son, Justin Malphus
Willie Wright (Aged 15)

September: Daniel Leubner, aged 13 was burned alive by his mother Michelle Davis.
November: James Cummings Sr Killed his son James Joseph Cummings, Jr. (Aged 46)

Jim Helm (died 1998)
June: Stephanie Jobin (Aged 13)
December: Pierre Pasquiou age 10 was drowned by his mother, Annie Pasquiou.



December: Jeffrey Bogrett (Aged 9)

December: Casey Collier (Aged 17)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Murder is Murder no matter how you look at it.

I like to think that I can see both sides of many issues.  Sometimes it comes easily and sometimes it's a real struggle for me.

Recently, and with alarmingly increasing regularity, stories have been hitting the news of parents who kill their kids because they are unable to handle them.  Autism is often cited as the problem and for some reason, society seems to be very understanding. These stories are very painful to read but I read them anyway and I think really carefully over these situations looking for clues.  

In my own way I like to think that the world isn't evil, that people don't commit these criminal acts unless they are completely overwhelmed.  I try so very hard to attribute causes to things around these people, to blame society for a lack of services, to blame mental issues, high blood pressure or any other influence.

It's like making excuses for Hitler.

Maybe it makes me feel better to pretend that there isn't evil in the world but I'm lying to myself.

Our world is full of evil -- and pure evil starts with the murder of innocents.

I'm sure that there are some instances where murder is justified, perhaps if your assailant has a weapon capable of terminating you or someone under your protection.  Perhaps to relieve someone's intense suffering (by their own explicitly stated choice).  That's it really, I can't think of any other excuses.

  • We get upset when our police fatally shoot people wielding knifes. These children with autism have not had weapons.

  • We take extra care when the victim of a massive disabling or disfiguring injury expresses suicidal tendencies assuming that they're not in their right mind at the time. Why aren't we taking the same care with parents and children in these situations?  Why isn't their instability being noticed and monitored?

  • We hear of groups who have issues with Euthanasia and Abortion. Why aren't these groups screaming about these recent murders?  Where are the pro-lifers in this situation?

I have two messages for this post;

The murder of innocents is always evil. There is no satisfactory excuse. The sooner we collectively make this clear to the media and to our judicial systems, the better.

There is always a choice.  You don't have to raise your child. You can put them up for adoption - or if you can't handle the paperwork, you can leave them at a hospital for social workers to deal with.  Anything is better than murder.

If you're temporarily overwhelmed, get respite care, use relatives, friends, social services or, as I said, abandon the child in a safe place of care - this will at least bring your plight to the attention of authorities. Murder is never an option - no child is better off dead - that's a decision for trained doctors in very extreme cases, never for parents.