The meltdown. A common characteristic feared and dreaded by parents and caregivers to those with an ASD.
The meltdown happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses behavioural control. This loss of control can be expressed verbally (eg shouting, screaming, crying), physically (eg kicking, lashing out, biting) or in both ways.
My child has autism and yes, he will occasionally have a meltdown in public. As much as I try to avoid anything that could trigger a meltdown, there are no guarantees and sometimes it’s almost unavoidable.
There is nothing amusing about the meltdown. So when my child is having a meltdown in public, the last thing I want to see is people around me laughing at my son. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not.
A quick story…
We decided to take my son downtown on a warm Fall day. Things were going well, he was enjoying himself, taking in the sights and sounds of the city around him. We decided to visit the major mall in the downtown core, and that’s when things went downhill, fast.
My son immediately wanted to ride every elevator in sight. I didn’t bring any visuals with me (although I question how effective they would have been). We tried to negotiate with him, but he was past the point of reasoning. When he didn’t get to ride the elevator he wanted, he would scream, cry and flop to the floor. We knew then and there it was time to get out of dodge.
As we exited the mall, my son decided to flop onto the sidewalk outside of the mall. He did this in front of two women who were selling bibles, promoting love and acceptance. While my husband was dealing with our son, I was temporarily distracted by said women. They were laughing at us. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I was stunned. Without even thinking I gave them a piece of my mind. Instead of apologizing, they looked away and didn’t say a word to me. I was livid.
I have seen people point, stare, give dirty looks, comment and laugh when they see a child having a difficult time. People are quick to assume a child is badly behaved, but little do they know what’s really going on. It is these people that make venturing out into the community even more difficult to an already challenging situation.
This is one of many reasons why I am for promoting autism awareness and acceptance. If someone is having a meltdown, don’t judge them. It can make a world of difference to someone with autism and their carers.