A few nights ago. I had one of those nights. You know the ones I’m talking about. Exceptional Moms. It was the kind of night that gets me to question why God chose me for this job. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I just want to have a peaceful sleep routine with my little boy and go to bed. And it just doesn’t happen. Various things go wrong. Mainly, the problem is that said Exceptional boy who has autism. becomes overstimulated and overwhelmed by his feeling. He has a big mother of a meltdown. The problem is that Exceptional Mom and Dad don’t do too exceptionally themselves. They also get overwhelmed by their son’s emotions, the speed at which it builds, and their own exhaustion and stress.
What’s a parent to do, you ask? Well, for starters, try not to let it snowball in the first place. Easier said than done. Also, Moms and Dads out there have to make sure they can handle their own feeling of tiredness and stress when this is building. This is possible if they keep in mind some quick facts about meltdowns in children with neuro developmental challenges. I wish I’d thought of these prior to our night of stress, but better late than never, right? So without further delay, here are 5 ways I have since learned can help the whole family deal with a child who is overstimulated.
5 Ways For Exceptional Families to Deal With Overstimulation:
1) Look for Signs of Stress and Distinguish between a Tantrum and Meltdown: This may seem obvious, but sometimes it is hard to miss signs that our kids are worn down. It is not always as easy as them mouthing off, rocking or flicking their fingers in front of their face. Michael’s new sign that he is overstimulated and will soon have a meltdown, is imitating word for word what you are saying, or starting to speak in gibberish while laughing. Tantrum is a fit they perform in order to get their way. It is loud, but short-lived, and they are completely in control of what they are doing. A meltdown is a whole other ballgame. It is long, fury and fear filled, and the child really does lose control of him/herself, and needs you to reign them in. Note: If they are asking for help like Michael did, it’s not a tantrum as I had mistakenly thought. It’s a meltdown ladies.
2) Give clear instructions expectations for play and bedtime: Sometimes we take for granted that our kids know that at this time they have to stop playing and get ready for bed. Even with five minutes warning, Exceptional Children may still get frustrated if they want to continue playing or are not finished unwinding in their view. Make sure they get what you are saying.
3) Have tools nearby to help your child calm down and be there for them: If your child like to squeeze things, jump on trampoline, or swing, try and direct them to those things so they can let off some steam. Offer deep pressure or a hug and stay close to them if they need you to.
4) No audiovisual stimulation (tv, videogames, computer, tablet) 2 hours prior to bedtime: Duh! I know. I knew about this, but took a Mommy shortcut to give myself a break while preparing supper. Wish I hadn’t.
5) Take regular breaks as a caregiver during the day: This cannot be overestimated. Breaks can be a walk, reading a magazine, yoga, a short meditation. Some of these can be done at a desk, kitchen table, even in the lunch room at work or bathroom if you’re alone. Remember, if you burn out, you’re no good to them, and you’re no good to yourself.
No parent is perfect, so cut yourself some slack when you make mistakes. You’ll learn and do better next time.
What are some tricks you Exceptional Moms out there have used? I’d love to hear from you. Remember, trust your instincts, love your child for the whole human being they are. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the autism is your child. Your child has autism. Big difference. And reach out to other Moms for support. We all grow that way. Until next time.