At some point, every parent has experienced their child having a temper tantrum in the store. If you haven’t, it just hasn’t happened to you yet (sorry).
Temper tantrums are usually brought on by some type of event. The child could be tired, want something that they can’t have, or just simply don’t want to be at the store.
Usually, kidos can be calmed once you know what the problem is. However, when a child has autism, it isn’t that simple.
Autism meltdowns can be hard to differentiate from a conventional temper tantrum. And what’s even more difficult, it can be hard to figure out why the child is upset and having a melt down in the first place.
My child is 3 so I am no stranger to temper tantrums, in public or in private. He also has autism, so I am familiar with meltdowns as well.
But this past Monday was different… he had his first public meltdown. And for what seemed like an eternity, nothing that I did would console him.
He couldn’t even get into the cart. His little arms and legs were flailing everywhere. Luckily, I was with a friend. She pushed the cart while I tried to hold my child.
If anyone reading this has ever been around a child while they are having a meltdown, you’ll truly understand how difficult it was. Not just for me, but for him as well.
You could tell that he was genuinely upset. He is non-verbal, so communication is difficult. The addition of crying, yelling, and throwing himself to the ground didn’t aid in solving the problem at all.
I’m not really sure what made him upset. It got to the point where he was laying on the floor in an aisle, kicking, flailing and screaming.
One lady looked at us with such disgust in her face. Truth be told I wanted to punch the expression off of her. But, I understand that the vast majority don’t understand autism. One major reason why we should push for autism acceptance more than awareness.
One of the store clerks must have someone close to them who is autistic because she came up to us in the middle of a melt down and tried to offer my son a small piece of bubble wrap. Despite his need for sensory stimulation, that didn’t avert the tantrum either.
It pretty much had to run its course. I eventually was able to pick him up from the floor, and once in my arms he began to calm down slowly but surely.
Well what should I do?
My advice to parents who may experience these episodes would be to not worry about the people around you. Tune them out and focus on your child. People may stare, comment, or even try to help. It’s best for you and your child if you let them be in their ‘bubble‘ while a melt down is occurring.
Another suggestion would be to let it run its course (if possible). As long as the child isn’t harming themselves or others leave them be. You may do more harm than good if you try to ‘stop’ the meltdown; usually this makes it worse, in my case it did.
Note your child’s mood before leaving the house or vehicle. Usually, there are signs suggesting that a meltdown is approaching. Sometimes there aren’t any until it begins, or some event triggers it. If you notice your child is upset, or in a mood that you identify with meltdowns, then it would be best not to add the anxiety of going out on top of that.