Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Sky drew this for you guys. Apparently the hero is a guy with a special brain like him. Like all of his stories, it's fascinating, well-developed, and fun to read. But do you see the faint lines in the paper, the places where edges don't quite meet? Maybe you can't see them. But, I can. See, this is the story I tore into 8 pieces, this story he spent over an hour drawing. Of course, I didn't plan to tear it. And I didn't know he'd spent so much time on it. But, there you have it. 

The story I tore.

Some of you probably think it's no big deal that I tore up a piece of paper. Others of you might think it was a horrible thing to do. I can tell you I feel guilty about it, even now. 

To me it represents the way our family's fabric is ripped apart by autism. I don't mean to be melodramatic. But, then again, maybe I do. See, I ripped this story in the middle of Sky's third major meltdown in less than 24 hours. I was hoping to get his attention, to help him see how his destructive behavior towards others hurts them. It didn't work. All it did is give us both a taped-up reminder of the things we can't quite fix.

This one started when Sky discovered that Stow had dumped out his rock collection. As soon as Sky saw his stuff on the ground, he started hitting Pink P and screaming. He was mad at Pink for not stopping Stow. It takes approximately 1 second to go from peace to chaos at our house. I can be standing 5 feet away and still not get there in time.

When Sky melts down, life stops indefinitely and everything falls apart. No matter what is going on, safety becomes the primary concern.  I grab Sky and Ren gets Stow and Pink.  Ren's back can no longer handle the wrestling it takes to get Sky into a safe place until the meltdown subsides. So a lot of times, it feels like I am the source and target for this rage that comes from some place none of us can understand. After the meltdown, when Sky has come back to himself, he usually can't explain why he melted down or  remember what he did during the meltdown. 

This is not a tantrum. You need to know this. There are distinct differences. Children who throw tantrums do it to get what they want. There is a clear desire and the tantrum is a way of manipulating the situation to their favor. They will be aware of who is watching and will take care not to hurt themselves. Tantrums end when the child gets what he/she wants or the parent is able to resolve the stand off in different way. Meltdowns aren't like this. Meltdowns happen when a kid is somehow overstimulated and out of sorts due to lack of sleep, sensory overload, illness, confusion, frustration, or whatever. When a kid melts down, he's not in control. He can't usually tell you what made him melt down. He is not aware of who is around or how his action affects others. He will hurt himself and those around him with no knowledge that he's doing it.  Just as there is no way to predict when a meltdown might start, there's also no way to predict when it will end. 

This is the picture Sky drew after the meltdown, when I brought him to my office to give him some peaceful one-on-one time with me.
Fortunately, Sky doesn't go through meltdown phases nearly as much as he used to, but they are still a real and peace-shattering part of our lives. Not long after any given meltdown, Sky is fine. Since it's not a conscious act on his part, he also suffers no residual guilt or anxiety. That, to me, is the cruelest thing about the meltdowns and the cruelest thing about autism. Because it's always the rest of us who are left to pick up the pieces.

1 comment:

FMBMC said...

A wonderful post about a hard subject. Just wonderful.