The meltdown. One thing that every parent of an autistic child hopes to prevent. We do everything in our power to avoid one. We are prepare beyond belief but yet, it’ll happen.
Most of E’s meltdowns occurs outside of home. It’s because of sensory overload and anxiety. Large crowds, loud noises, smells…it all gets too much. He screams, yells, wants to leave but even waking out the automated doors makes it worse at times.
As a mother, this breaks my heart. I don’t want my son to have to feel these fears. I don’t want him to be afraid. I don’t want him to miss out on having fun outdoors or going to gatherings. I just want my son to be happy and have fun and enjoy outings because I know he’d have so much fun…minus the crowds.
One way to limit a meltdown is to avoid outings. We can’t do that. We need things, groceries. We have doctor visits and therapy. We just cannot avoid going out in public. Sure, I may limit outings but it’s unavoidable. I also refuse for us to hide.
We had our recent meltdown this week. E had therapy and lately, it’s been difficult to get him to go beyond the front steps. Heck, it’s been hard to get clothes on him lately. I managed to dress him with little problem but the shoes weren’t happening. Tired of trying I just put them in our backpack. I gathered the tablet, noise canceling headphones, picked up E and walked out the door. He was slightly upset but got over it when I got to the car and placed him in his car seat. He was actually happy to go for a ride. My own anxiety lightened some.
The trip went well. He enjoyed watching the cars and big trucks go by. We even saw a train. More smiles and happiness. Therapy was the usual not wanting to be there but liked the games. Now, time to go…but not home yet.
Mommy had to get groceries. Plus, he was good and I wanted him to pick out a toy for himself. I know that I have a maximum of 30 minutes to get all my shopping done…on a good day. He was feeling good and so I explained to him where we were going. I showed him a picture of the store so he knew for sure where we were going and to sort of be a game and look for the store. All went well.
We arrived and headed to the toys. Success. I went about our shopping. Still being a success. I’m thinking, yes, we got this, but I still continued to hurry along. Got everything we needed, headed towards the registers, detoured to self checkout, that way he can watch and hand me things to scan. It’s just my other way to distract him from noises and the crowd.
We finished and started to walk towards the doors. It was that moment that an employee, who was stocking, dropped the pallet he was working on and everything came crashing down. Thunderous noise. Scared me. Even with noise canceling headphones, my son jumped. The look on his poor little face was total fear. He jumped up and into my arms, which I immediately began to hug him. The pressure helps calm him. Not this time.
He let out the loudest scream ever and you know what, I immediately felt the stares. I tried to calm him but wasn’t working so I told him I was going to walk out the doors and we were going to the car. I picked him up in one arm, grabbed the cart with my other and took a step to the automated doors and E let out another ear piercing scream. This time, not only could I feel the stares, I could hear the whispers. You know the whispers. I’m sure we all, at some point in our lives had thought what these people were whispering. “What a brat” “He needs discipline” “If that were my child…” You know, the ever so judgmental whispers.
I knelt down with E again, hugged him, told him he was going to be ok, picked him up and proceeded out the door but not before I caught the judgmental glances.
We got to our car and he was calmer. I grabbed the tablet, put on Mickey Mouse and placed E in his car seat while I put the bags in the trunk. I walked to E, gave him a kiss and closed the door. It was that moment when I heard these people, who were in every way making it clear they were talking about my child and myself, say some pretty hurtful things. No, my son wasn’t having a tantrum, he wasn’t being a brat. It breaks my heart how much people can judge someone and not even know their story, a child at that. No one likes a bully. I won’t even get into what I heard them say about me.
So I got into the car and it finally hit me. The tears. The frustration. The sadness. All these emotions with the biggest being, I just want my son to have a good time and to be happy and to be accepted. I sat there and cried and it started to rain. So I dried up my tears. I don’t want E to see me cry. I turned around to ask if he was ready and to my surprise, he was smiling and pointing out the window. “Look momma!” I looked up and saw what he was pointing at. Through the dark clouds, the sun was shining through and created a beautiful rainbow. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I have strong faith. My faith is what has gotten me this far. I looked up and smiled and said thank you. It was the sign I needed. Everything will be ok. Even through the darkest storms you’ll find the light.
So, I’d like to just say, the next time you are out and you see a child struggling, crying, just remember this post. Stop and be compassionate and don’t judge because you don’t know the entire story.