Finding the Good in a Meltdown

English: Six year old boy reading "Diary ...
English: Six year old boy reading “Diary of a wimpy kid” License on Flickr (2011-01-07): CC-BY-2.0 Flickr tags: diary, wimpy, kid, book, read, bed, boy, hold Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday night, Ryan had a meltdown. Like most of them, the cause was something inconsequential — except to him. But there was something different in this meltdown, both in the way we reacted to it and in how he ultimately found a way to calm himself.

We were watching television as a family in the post-dinner, pre-bedtime hour. Veronica was trying to find something for all of us to watch. She happened to check what was on NHL Network (a replay of a junior-league game since there’s still no NHL season) and then changed the channel.

Big mistake.

Ryan didn’t even pay attention for the few minutes the game was on, but changing the channel sure got his attention. He immediately began screaming that SOMEONE STOLE HIS REMOTE and that is UN … FAIR!!!

Veronica and I both looked at him with the attitude of, “are you serious?” We hoped he would realize he was overreacting and calm down. For a moment, that appeared to be the case, but no. He stormed upstairs, slammed the door to his room, and then resumed yelling.

We decided to ignore him. Sometimes it’s best to just let him wear himself out. His explosions typically don’t last long. After a few minutes, he marched back down the stairs, but not to rejoin the family. He resumed his rant about having the remote stolen from him when WE SHOULD ALL KNOW HE WAS TRYING TO WATCH HOCKEY.

We both remained calm. We explained that was not the case and refused to change the channel back.

This was one of those moments when we faced a choice. We could accommodate Ryan just to end to the meltdown while inconveniencing the rest of us, or stand our ground and let the situation play out. Since we were safe at home and not, say, at the mall, we decided on the latter. Ryan would not get his way just because he was having a fit. Autism may be the cause of the overreaction, but the world is not always going to bend to accommodate him and that is a lesson that he needs to learn. It doesn’t make me feel great as a parent to acknowledge that, but it is reality.

We stood our ground. For around 45 minutes, Ryan alternated between screaming at us and stomping off to his room. We both remained calm, but firm.

After close to an hour, I told him he was done and would be going to bed without reading the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I took him to his room, went through our regular routine, and told him I loved him even though I was disappointed in his behavior. I reassured him that tomorrow was a new day, and left the room.

Veronica was certain he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. She knows her son.

What happened next was the encouraging part of the entire episode.

Ryan emerged from his room, apologetic. He told her he couldn’t fall asleep feeling like he did. He asked if he could read a book. She gave him another Wimpy Kid title and he read to calm himself, eventually going to sleep after a brief period.

That sentence needs to be repeated.

Ryan read a book to calm himself.

Ryan read a book to calm himself.


There, that’s better. It’s tough to appreciate it when you’re in the moment, but it really was remarkable. After all the carrying on, he communicated what he needed, decided that what he needed was a book, and calmed himself enough to go to sleep. Each part of that statement represents progress: self-advocacy, reading comprehension self-soothing.

Of course, in the morning he learned his sister had read the new Wimpy Kid at bedtime and lost it all over again. One step forward, two steps back. The solution this time was to let him read in his own to catch up to where we were as a family in the book.

If only reading could cure everything so easily!

Apologies for no post yesterday. I’ve been posting pretty much every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since starting the blog, but I was off from work yesterday, and commuting time is blogging time, so without a commute the day kind of got away from me.


3 thoughts on “Finding the Good in a Meltdown

  1. What an awesome outcome! I’m sure that we parents have some form of PTSD for all we go through when they have their meltdowns, but for him to communicate what he needed to calm himself down is HUGE!!


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