In Malaysia, there are many children with Asperger’s Syndrome who are not diagnosed as such because we are generally not very open to accepting the fact that there is something wrong with our child. Most parents will just brush it off or blame it on the children for being hyperactive.
However, this will only make things worse for the child who will then grow up thinking he’s to be blamed for being different. Instead, we should accept the child as who he is, and guide him to overcome the difficulties in life.
The Syndromes and the Challenges
Aspies (those with Asperger’s Syndrome) are different from one another. Some of the syndromes are repetitive behaviours, unable to cope with criticism, clumsy, sensory difficulties (like sensitivity to bright lights) and delayed language development. Many aspie children also have excellent memory and peculiar interests like collecting trains.
However, not all aspies have every one of these syndromes, which makes it more difficult to diagnose them. Another common challenge an aspie faces is meltdowns.
What Happens During A Meltdown?
When a child throws a tantrum, it’s because they want to try to get their way. It’s like a power play and it usually gets more dramatic if there are audiences. A tantrum is still under the child’s control.
When an aspie has a meltdown, they experience a loss of self-control and may do the following:
do not care about their environment
do not care about their safety
do not care how others react to their meltdown
Thus, it is important to observe aspies and identify the symptoms when they are about to face meltdown.
How Do You Calm A Meltdown?
Experts believe that because of aspies’ inability to effectively express what he is thinking or feeling, he will unwittingly turn to be aggressive and hence, face a meltdown. What can we do to calm aspies when they are having meltdown? So, how do we guide aspies to handle their anger?
1. Remove them from potential harmful stuffs like the glass coffee table and a wet floor.
2. Teach them to channel their anger to some physical activities. It can be as simple as jumping on the bed or punching the pillow. Just make sure that it is safe for him.
3. Find out if someone else had upset your child. If the other kid is in the wrong, get him or her to apologise to your child.
4. Design your home or at least your child’s room to be comfortable. You can add soft colours as opposed to strong and sharp colours.
5. Make a special corner for your child with some of his favourite toys or activities where he can go to when he feels a meltdown is coming.
6. Place the child in a comfortable environment like a warm bath or a beanbag. These have a calming effect on aspies.
7. Aspies need routine and may have a major meltdown just because of a small adjustment to his daily routine. They don’t like changes. However, I would advise that you to slowly break their routine. Life is not without surprises so you will need to prepare them for life’s hiccups.
8. Teach them to express their feelings. Once they had calm down, ask them what had happened. Encourage them to share their thoughts by asking questions like “Why were you angry?” and “What could you have done if the situation happens again?”
9. Check yourself. Be sure that you are calm too. When you are not calm, you will affect the child’s emotions and things can get worse. Don’t fight anger with anger. You should only teach him that it’s alright to hit out when they are angry. It’s easier said than done, that’s why you need supportive people around you. If you think you are going to lose your grip, have someone else to take over while you go into the next room.
10. Lastly and most importantly, reassure your child that you still love them, regardless of their meltdowns. Aspies respond well to love and care. Teach them to accept themselves and not see themselves as a problem. Help them to change.
Aspies may be different from “normal” children but it is by no means worse off. In fact, they can be very loving and kind. We as parents need to guide them along so that they can understand themselves better and are able to control their behaviour in society. This is no easy task, and quite likely that you will go through emotional roller coasters; however, with the right guidance, the child can grow up with high self-esteem and much fewer meltdowns.