Tis the Season

A mirrored room full of dangling lit ornaments with colors pink, blue, green and purple.

Tis the season for dysregulation and meltdowns. Starting from Thanksgiving onward, schools, home life, work, everything gets turned a little off its axle. For our neuro-diverse kids this can feel anywhere from exciting to dysregulating, to downright overwhelming. Its like a season for meltdowns.

Family meals for many kids is all the bad smells, tastes and textures. It can feel dysregulating for some kids to have strange folks in their space as relatives sleep over, and travel is like whole other blog post. Routines are disrupted, even for good things, and can throw one off their game and cause forgetfulness and stumbling over perfectly normal things in ones day. Sometimes its just that feeling of anticipation for good things and Winter Break nearly here.

By far the toughest for our family is the environment I can’t control much. That is school. There are performances, ‘fun days’, school dances, and even movie days. My son once told his teacher, sometimes things that other people view as fun; I don’t think are fun. Other times things like build a gingerbread house seems like the best thing in the world.

Thus in elementary school, when my son didn’t do a writing assignment and struggled with his academic work, one teacher thought it appropriate to dangle the gingerbread house as ‘motivation’. What happened was a complete imploding of emotions. Unable to concentrate and then unable to get the prize, my son melted down and not in a small way. Emotions were way to high. It broke the trust and bond with the teacher too. There are really too many instances to name where rigidity with a school and the high intensity of the holidays met with a bang and my kid in the principal’s office in tears.

So if I’m to give advice: parents, teachers, just breathe. Do the best you can do. Stop with the rewards and the taking stuff. Its not going to improve behavior. Its only going throw more fuel to an already burning fire. Let kids opt out. Maybe having everyone eat together isn’t a happy occasion for everyone.

Yes, teachers be more flexible. Its not going to cause the massive behavior uprising you foresee. It might just calm the waters. Our kids are going to mess up. This is not a time to punish the whole class or call out publicly a kid messing up. As they say, let it go. I know it feels like it, but I swear to you my child was never sitting there plotting your downfall as a teacher. Most of the time, he was petrified and just trying to feel safe at school. Other times he was just too excited and dysregulated and too young or even too overwhelmed to self regulated on his own.

Parents take it easy. Overexcitement can lead to meltdowns just like negative triggers. Listen to your kid and watch for those non verbal cues. They’re communicating with us in so many ways that isn’t speech. Find out if you can, something your kid likes to do. Maybe it isn’t even holiday related. Oh well. What routines you can keep going, just keep going, and be forgiving when things fall apart. They will. We’re human.

Right now our autistic kids just need to feel safe and regulated. It will be different for every kid and every family. In a season of meltdowns be a provider of accommodations, calm, and most importantly love.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Sign has a photo of ear phones around a heart.  Says Quiet Area
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