Picture it: Your family is enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. Everything is going just fine and then suddenly, it happens.
A meltdown.Your hopes for finishing your special meal are dashed as you resignedly deal with the situation at hand, trying to preserve your child’s dignity and minimize the episode, all the while wishing to be invisible in this crowded public place.
We’ve all been there! Even parents with typically developing children have dealt with screaming toddlers in the grocery store. However, kids with disabilities can struggle with anger episodes that extend well beyond the “terrible twos,” and the intensity and duration of these meltdowns can pose tremendous challenges.
Parents often tell me that one of the greatest heartaches that accompanies these episodes is the unsolicited advice and criticism from the crowd.
Hearing, “Get that kid under control!” or “That child just needs a good spanking” really hurts, whether or not the onlooker is a stranger, acquaintance or a relative. Even though many parents of kids with this issue are accustomed to such comments, they find that the judgment that accompanies the comments (or eye-rolls and looks of disgust) simply adds stress to an already difficult situation. One mother tearfully shared that her experiences at church were among the most difficult: “People think they can tell where the disability ends and bad parenting begins.”
Of course, not all onlookers present judgement; some attempt to assist. While their intentions are good, parents often find these attempts distracting. In addition, unwelcome touch or directions can exacerbate a child’s episode.
Whether dealing with negative comments or unsolicited assistance, parents must multi-task: manage the child for safety and educate those in the vicinity. Fortunately, OASIS@MAAP Services has created an inexpensive tool for parents: A meltdown card.
This card gives a brief description of what onlookers are seeing as well as directions on how they can assist. In addition, the cards provide contact information so that interested individuals can learn more about autism spectrum disorders. While these cards are specifically designed for parents of children on the spectrum, parents can certainly make a card that is specific to their own child’s issues.
Here’s to short-lived meltdowns and increased community awareness~
PS If you’re not familiar with OASIS @ MAAP, you can visit the site here: http://www.aspergersyndrome.org/Home.aspx The Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support center and MAAP Services (two of my favorite resources!) have recently joined forces. Collaboration at its best!
Also~This is not a paid endorsement for Meltdown Cards…I don’t receive any money from them. Not one thin dime. 🙂