Although we have addressed the topic of meltdowns previously, it is a topic that needs to be revisited often, given the intense nature of the meltdown. “People with autism, new research suggests, may have an unusually large and overactive amygdala. This may be one reason why people with autism are easily overstimulated and have a hard time understanding and managing emotions.” – University of Washington
This is one of many neurological findings that helps to explain how meltdowns are very different from tantrums. They originate from a neurological place of sensory differences: an over-abundance of neuronal pathways. The brain, whether through too much sensory input, cascading thoughts, chemical overload or some cumulative effect of all of these, gets overwhelmed!
I know individuals with autism can help understand the horror of the meltdown better than any observer. So I would like to refer to Carly Fleischmann for her unique perspective. The following is an excerpt from her website:
Q: What do you mean when you say “I take over a thousand pictures of a person’s face when I look at them”?
A: It’s the way I describe how we see. All the images come at us at once. It is so overwhelming.
Q: Can you describe how you feel inside? Do you think this is different from kids who don’t have autism?
A: The problem is I don’t know what other kids without autism are feeling. I have fights with myself every day. Right when I wake up to when I go to sleep. I can’t even go in the washroom without telling myself not to pick up the soap and smell it or fight with myself not to empty all the shampoo bottles.
Q: Do you understand everything people say the first time? Sometimes it appears you don’t understand what you’re being asked – is there a lag?
A: I do understand everything the first time. It’s just hard to do what people want me to do right away. I might be standing really still or doing something and it takes time for me to get out of it without me exploding. A lot of times I have fits and people say I can control them but what they don’t get is they started them. It takes time for me to switch what I am doing. Even if it does not look like I am doing anything I am. And when you rush me I can’t help but explode.
Visit Carly’s website HERE.
by Lisa Rogers
The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.