Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Autism Answer: Walking On Eggshells... Don't!

Probably one of the most valuable lessons autism has taught me is the importance of not avoiding meltdowns. I don't suggest being mean or pushing buttons just for the sheer tornado effect, but avoiding them entirely can be equally as harmful. 

We are never doing nothing. We are never teaching nothing. 

If you feel a loved one is in meltdown mode and you bend over backwards to avoid it, you are teaching them that the behavior is okay, that they can't handle life if the people in their world don't play by the rules, and you're making it harder for them hang with other people who may not know or want to bend over backward. I definitely suggest being aware of your environment and sometimes avoiding meltdowns, especially since you can then congratulate them (or you, if you are the autistic one!) on getting through something meltdown free-- which will reinforce the belief that we CAN do it! But avoiding meltdowns too often makes everyone's world smaller and smaller. 

NOTE: If you are the one on the spectrum, avoiding meltdowns would be avoiding things that you know overwhelm. You should certainly do that when feeling especially vulnerable, but my brothers have come a long way by learning to handle, and then enjoy the things that used to bring about meltdowns. My youngest son as well!

Learning the importance of not avoiding meltdowns helped me believe in, and teach, my brothers and my sons. It has also helped me willingly speak my own mind and insist on being treated kindly when I otherwise would have "walked on eggshells". What's funny is I think I made this mistake most with my oldest son, who is not at all on the spectrum! But I had this belief that if his days were mostly happy and his memories full of only laughter (and unicorns and rainbows!) then he would become a man with a strong self-esteem. I forgot that he would also become a man who was afraid of being challenged, unsure if he could handle it. Because I certainly didn't give him much opportunity or example that I believed he could!

So don't consistently walk on eggshells! Instead believe that you or your child can learn to handle round shapes, calenders with the five in the wrong place, conversations in surround sound, someone accidentally messing with a carefully controlled line of cars... etc! 

These things don't have to be learned by tomorrow, there is no rush, but it can be done!

So don't be afraid to ask for it!! Always with kindness and always with an honest interest in encouraging rather than pushing. 

And always with a motivator that the challenged child/adult has decided is worth going after!

Hugs, smiles and love!
Autism Answers