As many of you know, my teenage son was diagnosed with Aspergers (a mild form of autism) and with Sensory Integration Disorder. While most of the time he is a wonderful, intelligent and really funny young man, there are occasions when he is overstimulated and out of control.
We experienced this brain shutdown last year in a dramatic way when our family went on a missions trip to Guatemala. Although we tried to prepare as much as possible for the airport and airplane travel experience, the situation was simply overwhelming to him. He froze when he needed to move because he didn’t know what to do. His brain could not process the information and he actually became very angry. It was trying for everyone.
My overall goal is to avoid meltdowns (times when my son is overstimulated and out of control), but there are times when they are unavoidable. Knowing how to deal with these meltdowns is key because my son’s normal ability to think and control his behavior goes out the window. The following are some techniques which I have found helpful:
Get Quiet- When my son is becoming agitated, it is imperative that everyone else in the family get quiet so we can address what is bothering him. His agitation combined with the over stimulation of the noise of several people talking at the same time can put him right over the edge.
Give Him Space-Getting in my son’s face when he is overwhelmed makes things escalate quickly. I have learned to avoid physical contact as much as possible.
Talk Calmly- Even though I am often irritated at the same time, I have had to learn to quiet myself so that I can talk to my son in a calm way. My yelling or being upset only makes him more upset.
The good news is that while these times are unpleasant, they are becoming more rare as my son learns self control and coping skills. I am not ready to take him out of the country again for a while, but I think I am up for another field trip soon.