Growing From Autism Meltdowns

We recently went to an amusement park and had a really great 2 hours until my son started having a meltdown and we decided it was time to get going. On our way out he ran away from me and into an igloo screaming “dance party” and running around dancing. My son looks like he is 6 years old so his behavior definitely stood out as odd. While inside the igloo he bent down and yelled “dance dance” in a toddler's face- something that was absolutely socially inappropriate and he has been working on 10 hours per week in therapy. To my surprise the little girl smiled at my son and I thought it was going to be okay. Unfortunately the mother didn't see her daughter smile before reacting and knelt down to the igloo opening yelling “get out of her face!!” with a piercing tone that echoed throughout the igloo.

My blood boiled at first. I wanted to yell back at her but my son was amping up more by the second and needed my direct attention to de-escalate. I coaxed my son out of the igloo and attempted to get him to apologize to the toddler even though I knew he was in no state to accomplish this. The woman rolled her eyes at us and pulled her daughter away as I continued to try to de-escalate my son. He screamed and sobbed uncontrollably the entire 15 minute walk to our car asking why the woman was so mean to him.

It broke my heart to see him in pain, not because this moment was especially hard, but because I know he will continue to experience these hard moments throughout his life. I explained that she probably didn't understand Autism and meltdowns. He kept sobbing, had difficulty settling down enough to get buckled into his carseat and sobbed most of the way home.

We got home and he asked to go to lay down in quiet dark room so we laid down together and talked. I explained that my job was teach the world about Autism so that these moments stop happening and that his job was to be kind and understanding of other kids who may be struggling. We talked about some of his friends who recently struggled with meltdowns and how he could help them next time. We also talked about how many people in the world don’t understand Autism and that's going to be an obstacle he will overcome with me right by his side.

As he fell asleep in my arms I thought to myself- I wish I could thank that woman. Her reaction allowed me and my son to have a bonding moment together. Her reaction helped him identify his meltdown triggers and coping skills. Her reaction helped build his empathy for others. Her reaction taught my son that the world isn't perfect but he can make it a more perfect place by helping others. And her reaction reminded me that my work educating others about Autism is not done and probably never will be.

So thank you woman at the amusement park who yelled at my son. I hope that you grew as much as my son did from this experience. I hope that at some point in your life you learn more about Autism and meltdowns and can understand what happened in a new light.

The mother of the child freaking out in the igloo

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