Tuesday 25 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance: Day 25


Day 25: 

Talk about meltdowns/shutdowns.  Do you have them?  How often?  What are your triggers?

I'm more prone to meltdowns than shutdowns, I think. These days I don't have either at any great frequency, probably one every few months or so, although it does depend on situations.

When I have a meltdown, I tend to slap my hands over my ears, rock back and forth, screech, hit myself repeatedly against a surface (sometimes something hard, like a wall, sometimes something soft, like cushions; it depends on what's to hand) and, if I'm not screeching, yell and rant a lot. It looks like a tantrum but I cannot reinforce this enough: an autistic meltdown is nothing like a temper-tantrum. I'm not doing it to manipulate or to get what I want; I'm doing it because I cannot cope, and it is not something I have any control over. They strike when I can't cope any more and I have no practical way of getting it out of my system; the hands-over-ears and screeching is more likely to occur if I'm in a situation of sensory overload, particularly if it's overwhelming noise - I think I try to drown out the unbearable noises, lights, etc by making my own noises and shutting out sound (hands over ears) and light (eyes screwed up).

When I have a shutdown, I just sit or stand (this one depends on how co-operative my legs are being!) there. I can't think, I can't process anything, I can't speak, I can't communicate at all, I don't move.

Triggers tend to be stress, overwhelming frustration, sensory overload, overwhelming confusion, complete lack of information about something, too many options with no clear-cut path, too many demands made of me, not having downtime (ie. being somewhere on my own - though I can generally accept Gideon into that space - to get away from people to de-stress from the stresses of socialisation) and certain lights/noises. If I remember anything else later, I'll come back and edit this post.

If I'm having a meltdown, I need to be removed from the situation I'm in if it's been triggered by sensory overload - if I've got to the point where I'm in meltdown I am no longer capable of removing myself from that situation so this is the one occasion where you're allowed to touch my wheelchair without permission; just grab it and get me out of there, please! Take me somewhere that's quiet and the lighting is low. However, please don't touch me because I don't have much control, if any, over my actions and if the meltdown has been caused by sensory overload, it's more sensory input and I can't cope with that at this point.

If I'm having meltdown caused by one of the other things, again, don't touch me. I know it can be distressing to watch, but don't try to talk me down - I need to get it out of my system. If you can do anything to maximise safety and minimise harm, such as giving me cushion, that's perfectly allowed. Once I've worn myself out, once I've got it out of my system, then I'm OK to be touched and talked to.

If I'm having a shutdown, don't expect me to respond. Just keep me company and wait it out.

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