Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How one Autistic person dealt with meltdowns as a child: On letting it out

Since We Are Like Your Children is about how many of us autistics have dealt with the problems that leads many NT or NT passing parents to think that Autistic activists are nothing like their children, here I will share an anecdote from my childhood.

During the time that my parents were getting divorced in third grade, I was having melt downs on a nearly daily basis.

I would scream. I would punch things. I would stomp my feet.

Oh my gosh, if they saw me, they would have given me the old "low functioning" label and called it a day.

My parents reacted to all of this with great maturity, probably better maturity than the "professionals" at my school.

They had me let it all out. As part of that, they had the wisdom to recognize that my meltdowns were not directed at them or at anyone in particular but were just an expression of some really overwhelming emotions.

As part of letting it all out, my parents gave me a safe environment to let it out. My parents told me to punch pillows or mattresses instead of things that would break.

When I needed to scream, I would also occasionally scream into pillows, also to spare my parents ears.

This gets at an important but perhaps already stated point: meltdowns are at their base expressions of emotion. These expressions of emotion aren't necessarily about blaming anyone in particular. Parents should look for better ways for meltdowns to be expressed, not look to cancel them entirely.


  1. I have learned that allowing myself to express negative emotions gives me an early warning system for meltdowns. When I start losing control of my words, then I know I need to take a break.
    I get frustrated when parents say they don't want their child to even sound rude when they are upset. 1. "Want" and "get" are different 2. It's better than how a meltdown goes if you're not allowed (or don't allow yourself) to express emotion/leave sensory hell/etc until too late.

  2. I just want to thank you all very very much for putting this blog together. I am following here and on your facebook page and I cant wait to learn more. Our sweet little 3 year old daughter, Selah, is Autistic and I long to understand better how she sees, understands, and processes the world around her. of course very person is unique and different, but I long to hear from other people on the spectrum and learn from your wisdom. Thank you so much!

  3. Mother of non verbal autistic beautiful 5 year old Bella.
    Thank you to see things through your eyes and experience is already helping me to be better at understanding Bella's world. She will let me in occasionally for a cuddle or a moment, but otherwise it is meltdown city and with no verbal language, no signing I have to watch her every move to see if I can interpret her mood.

    Thank you again