Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

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how to deal with breakdowns
February 1, 2013 at 10:32 AM

My 4yr ds hasnt gotten an official diagnosis yet, I am in the process of that. One of the hardest things for us is when he gets upset and shuts down. Yesterday when it came time to pick my dd up from school, he did not want to go. he was on the floor curled up in a ball screaming, I couldnt get thru to him. i finally got him to get his shoes and coat on and the entire way to the school he screamed, thru himself on the ground, etc. Its like when this happens he shuts down and does not even acknowledge me. Is there any way to get thru to him and calm him? I feel so bad :( I do not yell, i try my hardest to stay calm and talk softly to him in hopes that my calm tone will help him calm down, but it doesnt seem to work very well. 


  • Sheriff6
    February 1, 2013 at 12:34 PM
    Your child may not be able to tolerate all the sensory input at school and so that may be part of the problem. He needs a very calm low sensory environment. Think of the noise, bright lights the stress of not being able to with draw when he needs to.
  • hwifeandmom
    February 1, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Once my kids have shut down, it's very hard to get them out of that mode.  Talking calmly like you do is good.  Sometimes I have to "shock" my kids to distract them out of their mood (I'll say something like "we need to get in the car, or I'll have to pick your nose (or kiss you 9 1/2 times, or something like that)").

    If you find activities that regularly send your son into meltdown (like picking up your daughter from school), then you might want to try making social stories, to help him prepare for the event.  Something like:

    "Every school day we need to pick up sister at 3:00pm.  Sister is at school.  School is a noisy place.  I don't have to stay at school.  I only have to pick up my sister.  I like when my sister comes home from school.  When we go to pick up sister, I get to take my [favorite toy] with me.  After we pick up sister and go home, mom will let me eat a snack with sister (or watch a movie with sister, or whatever a good routine for you is)."

    You can also print out pictures to go along with the story (picture of school, picture of favorite toy, picture of sister).  Acknowledge the things your ds doesn't like, but emphasize the positive points.

  • JTMOM422
    February 1, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    For my ds we have something we take with us to help calm him. He loves numbers and letters so we bring blocks with us. When he begins to get upset I hand them to him. This helps him because he focuses on the blocks. Try bringing a sensory item along next time. I would only allow your son to use these during the walk to school. It will have to be something that he really likes. Good luck momma

  • dawncs
    by dawncs
    February 1, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Routine is very important to someone with Autism. It is an idea to keep to a schedule because it will bring him comfort. You might want to look up Autism communication system online to find a way for him to express his needs to you at the moment. Even though you are waiting at the moment for a diagnosis, you might want to get him evaluated for Special Education services ( through your school district, and this needs to be done in writing. You might want to check into Autism Society ( and Autism Speaks ( for more information and ideas to help him. You might want to check out Easter Seals (, TheARC (, and Variety Club (

  • darbyakeep45
    February 1, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    These ladies have some good thoughts...hugs mama!

  • mommy4lyf
    February 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    They love routine... what I did with my son was to give him a schedule with a drawing telling what he will do for the day. They don't think like us. My son used to be nonverbal. Now, anywhere we go including vacation, grocery shopping, or holidays I have to write and draw in a piece of paper the itinerary. 

    Example: He's going to school tomorrow ( for pictures - I draw or cut out pictures or print online) if he's older, use the time

    1. go to sleep first then,

    2. wake up and then,

    3. breakfast and then,

    4. watch tv  (his favorite show in the morning) and then,

    5. use computer and then,

    6. get ready for school

    7. wait for school bus

    8. snack time, lunch time, playtime, music time etc.... it's up to you to get the schedule from his teacher

    9. school bus and then

    10. home (mommy, daddy and the name of your child)

    I learn this from experience and does work all the time... I sometimes talked like him when talking to adults LOL

  • emarin77
    February 1, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Children with Autism might go into a breakdown for different reasons.  One time my son got off the bus and dropped down to the ground in a curled in position and kept silent and did not let the bus driver pick him back up (he is very strong being only 4.5 years old) or sit onto my me (I use a power chair).  My husband had to come and pick him up.  After both sitting down to talk what happened his father distracted him with something else and started asking him questions why he was misbehaving.  Our son stated he was angry that he could not say hi to the other child that got off at the same bus stop.

  • Bobsie
    by Bobsie
    February 1, 2013 at 5:29 PM
    Sensory input helps my son. He has a vibrating toothbrush and vibrating hairbrush he puts on his head that distracts him and calms him down. Good Luck.
  • TheJerseyGirl
    February 1, 2013 at 8:04 PM
    My son has never been a behavior problem at all but when his little meltdowns happen, I just speak to him very calmly and explain how important it is that he helps me. If he has to take a ride and doesn't want to ,I ask him to bring his favorite things that would make him happy and a promise to stop and buy a treat .

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