(Inside: Meltdowns aren’t fun, but there are a few things you should know about meltdowns, from a tween on the spectrum who just wants people to understand.)
I knew who was calling before I even reached my phone.
He had another meltdown.
Sure enough it was another call from the school.
“Your son is out of control… We need you to come get him…”
A deep breath as I get in the car, wondering what I’ll find when I arrive at my son’s school.
He’s been suspended again. We get into the car, and I see him sitting, looking defeated…
“Mom, they called me a weirdo… I didn’t mean to do anything… I just wish they knew…”
My son just wanted people to understand him. His teachers, his classmates, administrators…
When we got home and discussed it over family meeting, he decided to do something about it. So this post is written with my 7th grader to share what he thinks you should know about meltdowns.
What You Should Know About Meltdowns… From a Tween on the Spectrum
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#1 I’m the Same as My Classmates
People think I’m different than them because I have meltdowns… But I am really just the same as my classmates.
I do the same things as them, like I like the same video games and I like to play Legos.
I’m even excited to see Avengers Infinity War, just like all of the other kids in my class.
So if they just took the time to talk to me and find out more about me, they would find out that we like a lot of the same things.>
But instead people don’t really talk to me.
I have meltdowns, but I also have some really cool superpowers that people don’t know about.
Like, I can super focus on something.
I’m really good at art and Lego and robots and video games. I’m good at different things just like everybody else.
#2 Meltdowns Are Not Who I Am
Meltdowns don’t make up all of who I am.It’s like just a little sliver.
I don’t think they are ever going to go away, fully…
But I’m working on it, and they happen less often.
There are a lot of things about me that don’t have to do with my meltdowns.
But because I my meltdowns are so big, sometimes people forget that I’m a whole person.
#3 I Don’t Really Mean It
When I have a meltdown, there’s a lot of things that I say and do… But I wish you knew that I don’t really mean it. I’m just… I don’t know what I do.
Sometimes I don’t even remember what I did during a meltdown.
And I say a lot of really mean things during a meltdown, but I don’t really mean it.
And I’m really not trying to hurt people.
I get really stressed during a meltdown when there are other people around me. I wonder what they’re thinking and I’m pretty sure they’re all thinking one thing…
That kid is weird.
#4 I Feel Like I Can’t Share Who I Really Am
I also feel like I can’t share who I really am at school.
I can’t really say that I like Greek mythology, cause they might call me a geek or something.
And whatever they call me now sticks.
Until I go to a different school, everyone at my school will call me it.
But I want to be able to talk about Greek mythology… And space… And science!
I wish I could talk to other kids about the things I like so they could know who I really am…
But there’s something else that happens when I do talk about things I’m interested in that I wish you knew.
#5 I Can’t Really Stop
When I’m talking about something I love, I can’t really stop.
I’m not trying to be pushy or take over the conversation.I just get really excited when I’m talking and I want to talk for a long time about it.
I don’t always know what’s okay and what’s not okay when I’m talking to friends.
Like sometimesI joke and they think it’s not really a joke.
And when they’re upset or they’re tired of me doing something, I can’t always tell just by their face.
So I need people to be really specific and tell me “I don’t like when you do this” or “Stop saying that”.
If people keep getting frustrated without telling me, they’ll yell at me “STOP IT!” or “THAT’S ANNOYING!” and that can make me have a meltdown or get really angry.
#6 I Wish You’d Give Me a Second Chance
After I have a meltdown, I wish people would give me a second chance.
It’s not always my fault.
Sometimes it’s just been a bad day.
Sometimes there’s things I can’t control.
If I come back and try again, I wish people would give me a second chance.
#7 Some Things Set Me Off
If you are my friend, or my classmate, or even my teacher, I want you to know there are some things that will set me off.
My class can get really loud, and it doesn’t bother other kids. But it can really stress me out.
And the lunch room is the loudest place in my school.
We’re in the gym, so it echoes and I can hear every sound.
So after the really loud lunch room, it’s hard for me to go to recess and play and be friends. I’m already stressed from the noise.
Another thing is, I get really stressed when plans change.
So if someone tells me “hey, we’re going to do XYZ” and then it doesn’t happen, it makes me really upset.
Or if there’s a substitute teacher… It makes me really stressed.
If they knew there was a substitute that would be fine. But if I was expecting the regular teacher and then boom, there’s a substitute I wasn’t expecting…
It’s not good.
And then sometimes people call me names that really hurt my feelings…
Like weird. Nerd. Geek. Weirdo.
Or they’ll say “oh you’re bad. You say bad words.”
Or “you get in trouble all the time, I can’t be your friend”
And that’s really hard because my meltdowns are just a sliver of who I am.
If the kids in my class, or my teacher, or my principal, or anyone would take time to get to know me, they’d see that.
Okay, Dayna here again, and how incredible was that insight from Legoman?
We really can learn a lot when we take the time to listen to our superkids and see what’s going on behind the big behaviors.
So if your child struggles with meltdowns, I challenge you to dig deeper to see what’s really behind that defiant behavior, or any behavior you’re struggling with…
Because your child’s behaviors are much like an iceberg. On the surface you see…
* a child that is clingy and doesn’t like to be alone,
* a child that crosses his arms and shuts down
* a child that is scared of ever getting a wrong answer
* a child that doesn’t like to go new places
Or a child that becomes “hyper” when new guests arrive at your house.
It’s easy to look at these behaviors as just what we see. It’s easy to make assumptions about why our children are acting out or doing inexplicable things.
However, I challenge you to look for the other 85%. Look deeper.
What’s hiding behind what you see?
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