One of the most difficult things autistic people and their caretakers have to contend with, is the dreaded meltdown.
In story after story, on blogs and in interviews, parents speak of frustrating meltdowns that happen at the most inconvenient times.
They look like temper tantrums or crying jags and draw stares and disapproving looks from family members and bystanders, while the parent stands by and seems to be doing nothing about it.
Adult autistics have meltdowns too. An autistic adult will often shout, cry or simply walk away when they are overwhelmed.
It is a problem, but the problem is not behavioral, it’s emotional.
If water is poured into a cup to a point below the rim, the cup will function adequately and hold the liquid.
If you continue to fill the cup, the water has no place go so it spills over the top.
Autistic emotions are like that, and the autistic’s cup is quite small. The amount of emotion that a non-autistic person can easily process, will not fit inside it.
This is when the meltdown occurs.
If the type of things that cause an emotional reaction in most people, are added to that the distress caused by lights that hurt the eyes, dozens loud conversations and other noises going on at once, and a clothing tag that is scratching against the skin like sandpaper, it is easy to understand why meltdowns occur.
They can sometimes, but not always be lessened or prevented by knowledgeable parents and caretakers, but will occur from time to time.
They are not about spoiled children or insensitive, inconsiderate adults, and they are just as frustrating for the person with autism as they are for caretakers, friends and mentors.
The parent cannot stop a meltdown with punishment. The autistic adult cannot just “shake it off.”
When the excess emotions have been released, the cup will have room inside and the meltdown will end.
Frustration felt by people walking by the screaming child in the store, is much worse for the child and the parent who loves them.
Disapproving stares and rude comments only shame the person making them.