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How To Help My Child With Meltdowns

My son melted down every single day, sometimes more than once a day, for several years.

It was so very sad. And brutal. And destructive. And exhausting. And so very sad.

We don’t see them as much now. (Thank you, Lord.)

But when they happen, the effect is just as devastating. 

He has been in a much better place lately, so the overwhelming, can’t control this even when I am trying feeling of melting down, just makes him more anxious and overwhelmed… so he melted down more often and longer.


When he finally calms down, every single time and through tears, he hangs his head and says, “I am so sorry, Momma.

My heart feels like it’s breaking right in half.



I try to reassure him – that I know it’s not purposeful, that we can replace what was broken, that I just want to help him and am on his side.

I hope he hears me, but through all of his exhaustion and confusion, I am not sure.

I hope he knows I understand more now – although I have to accept that the years of my not understanding have paved the way for his apologetic reaction and his feelings of shame.

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I hate that I took so long to figure it out.

I hate that I acted in anger and frustration over something that he literally could not control (especially at age 6, at age 7, at age 8…).

I hate that it took me years to even know what a meltdown was – not from my perspective, but from his.

I don’t want that for any mom, and I especially don’t want that for any child.

How To Help My Child With Meltdowns

I am sharing today a portion of a first person account of how a meltdown feels and what we can do to help our children. Maybe you are like I was, frustrated and scared, convinced it’s your fault and therefore yours to fix.

It’s not and this is for you.

What A Meltdown Feels Like For Someone With Autism –

by: at The Mighty

It’s never just a sandwich.

As an adult on the spectrum and a mother of children with autism, I am often asked about meltdowns and how they feel. I can tell you how it feels to have a meltdown from my perspective and how to help your child.

When you have a meltdown, it’s as if the world is ending. Everything is too much and you feel like an overwhelming darkness has engulfed your very being. Irrepressible anger that may seem completely irrational to an outsider can be inwardly devastating us internally.

When your child suddenly explodes because their sandwich has been cut at the wrong angle or another child has won a game, or even because they have been jostled in line, it’s the catalyst. It’s the last straw on the camel’s back. It’s not the sandwich, necessarily; it’s a build-up of things that may have happened during the day or even previous days. That sandwich was the last thing they could control and once that erred, their world crumpled. The last bit of control over their universe disappeared.

Smashing, ripping and throwing might be involved in an angry meltdown, as well as self-injurious behaviors to display outwardly the pain they’re experiencing internally.

How do I know this? Because it can take me missing throwing something into the bin or my PIN failing to go into my online banking properly and I will puddle, literally explode/implode and sob like my heart will break. It will be because of a build-up of things, and frustration will be the reason.

It’s never just a sandwich. (click here to read her entire post at The Mighty)

I firmly believe the only way we can really mother our children through meltdowns, is to learn what our children are experiencing first hand.

When my son was first diagnosed, one of the first questions I had for every single professional we encountered – what do we do when he melts down?

Not one could really answer.

So, I did Google searches and read books and joined facebook groups and eventually, met other mommas further along in dealing with the same thing. Even better, I eventually met adults on the spectrum who could literally describe it, just like Emma does above.

This information was invaluable.

It changed the way I reacted during a meltdown.

It changed how often he experienced severe meltdowns.

It allowed my son and I to work together, instead of against each other when he experienced a meltdown.

And most importantly, this information, this new learning, allowed me to better support my son and love him through it all.

I am his momma. I am on his side. I want the best for him.

I adore him.

And meltdowns can never change that.


Learning About Meltdowns

For more information and practical tips –

Calming The Explosive Child

The Best Advice I have Ever Heard About Parenting A Child With ADHD

Accommodating My Son’s Sensory Processing Disorder

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  1. Rachel Tiede says:

    You are so amazing and so wonderful and so fabulous, and you do such a fantastic job of educating people about Autism. Thank you for doing this! I hope that it is therapeutic for you, as well.

    One thing you said… “I hope he knows I understand more now – although I have to accept that the years of my not understanding have paved the way for his apologetic reaction and his feelings of shame…”

    I think sometimes you may be too hard on yourself, my friend. I don’t know, but I would guess that the “feeling of shame” is something that comes from way deep down and has very little to do with how you react to it. Does he know it’s hard on you? Sure. But nobody likes when someone else sees them at their worst, sees them when they fall, sees them when they are not in control. We’ve all done it. I wonder how many things we carry around and feel guilty about that others don’t even remember. Probably because they’re too busy feeling guilty about their own stuff. All I’m saying is… You’re an amazing Mom. So… give yourself a little break. Love you!!

  2. Rachel, you are always such an encouragement to me! Thank you so much for taking the time to encourage and share. You make me cry every single time! (in a good way…of course!). 🙂

  3. Wonderful post! I agree -the most heartbreaking thing is when my son would meltdown, be so obviously in pain, me not being to help, and then he would say he was sorry “I don’t know why I do that.” *sob* Thank you for sharing your perspective on meltdowns.

    P.S. I have a recent post about things others have written about meltdowns and I will add a link to you post. 🙂

  4. This is what I needed to read today. Thank you!

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