For those of you who are unaware, Aspergers is also called High-Functioning Autism. Researchers say that people who have aspergers have brains that are wired differently and this “invisible syndrome” affects communication, social interaction as well as sensory issues. One of the most common events that go on in a day in the life of a child with aspergers is a meltdown. When dealing with a problem, these children internalize everything and then eventually boil over in a rage, which then leads to a meltdown. Now, this may sound like a typical temper tantrum, but for a child and the family of that child, a temper tantrum would be a blessing compared to the gravity of the meltdowns that occur.
A lot of the time, children with aspergers are thought to be over-receptive or under-receptive. They may be comfortable with one thing but not another, that is closely related to the first. Many children with aspergers prefer rougher play, and have a high tolerance for pain, but become extremely uncomfortable with gentler treatment. Because of this thought-to-be hypersensitivity, parents and teachers usually end up recommending vision and hearing exams amongst other unnecessary evaluations.
There are said to be 9 different temperaments that children with aspergers usually have. The 9 temperaments are: distractible, high intensity level, hyperactive, initial withdrawal, irregular, low sensory threshold, negative mood, negative persistent and poor adaptability.
Meltdowns can be caused by anything from a minor incident, to a traumatic event. There are differences with a temper tantrum and a meltdown, when a meltdown occurs, the only way for a child to calm down is to either get exhausted (which also leaves the caregiver just as exhausted, if not more) or the child gains control of their emotions, which doesn’t happen most of the time and is very difficult for the child to achieve on their own. With a temper tantrum, children usually calm down quickly, whereas a child with aspergers will wail and throw a fit for extremely long periods of time.
One big part of learning to cope is realizing that children with Aspergers usually don’t know or realize that their outbursts are inappropriate or exaggerated. At around age 8 or 9, it is recommended that parents talk to their child, only when they are calm, and mature enough to realize and understand that they have these outbursts, on how to control them and deal with things in a better way. Maybe developing a hand signal or sign to let the child know they are conducting inappropriate behavior. Don’t punish the child for having a meltdown, children with aspergers do not respond well to overwhelming emotions or aggressive punishments. If the child says they want to be left alone, do as they ask, checking back in on them is okay, but children with this syndrome like coping with emotions by themselves. Many children don’t like surprises or to be touched. When children without aspergers may hurt themselves and need a hug, those with aspergers may be sent deeper into their rage by the sudden and possibly unwanted physical contact.
Here, at Shema Kolainu, we promote parental interaction at home to ensure the child’s developmental needs continue to be met and that they remain moving in the right direction. Parents, who understand and work with their children on how to appropriately cope with the real world, can develop an extremely deep bond with their child that they may never have accomplished otherwise. The key is to prevent the meltdowns before they occur, which is much easier than managing them once they have happened. A few tips to help prevent a meltdown would be avoid boredom, change environments, establish routines, choose your battles, give children control and choice over little things when you can, make sure children have a safe environment and are well rested and fed with a healthy diet, increase your tolerance level and very importantly, keep a sense of humor.
Aspergers Meltdown, How to Cope: