Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ritual meltdowns

Phew...just thinking about his meltdowns over his rituals gives me anxiety. It really is hard to explain to people who aren't living it what rituals and routines actually look like. It's a very OCD-like behavior (which I wonder if he also does have OCD). Basically the way I think of it, is he has a play going on in his head. When he is approached with a situation, he plays it out in his head in that split second how it will all turn out in the end. When it doesn't go as planned, the world is very scary for him so he screams until we can "reset" the situation and start over. You can imagine how frustrating this can be when combined with communication delay. Kids with autism use routines/rituals to make them feel safe in a world that makes little sense to them. For Michael, he is very literal and so things have to go in XYZ pattern every time. If you switch it up to be YXZ or XAZ for example, he doesn't understand what is happening and ends up in a fight or flight mode - aka meltdown.

Here's a couple videos I took of his meltdowns from the past couple of days.

This first one, I asked Rory to get the bucket down from the shelf. Rory wasn't listening to me so I went and did it. But in Michael's head, Rory was supposed to get it down. So it greatly upset him that I went and did it. Then I opened up one of the meat sticks and in his head I wasn't supposed to do that yet. So I had to pretend I put it back in the wrapper. You can see that as soon as I "reset" the situation, a switch went off on him and he was calm. It's pretty crazy to see that happen.

This one just happened last night. I was making some dinner and he wanted to help. He tried to push his chair over to the stove so that he could help me. However, on the way the chair got stuck. This wasn't supposed to happen. The more you interfere, the more "off" from the original scenario it is in his head and the more upset he gets. I had tried to help him by moving  stool that the chair was getting caught on. He was very upset and telling me that "It's the wrong spot, it needs to go in the right spot" This went on for almost 30 minutes until he made me move the stool back, get the chair stuck again, and he restarted the scenario. By that time, he was able to recreate a scenario where I do move the stool for him. I was then able to move the stool and he pushed his chair through the hole. Once he got to the stove, it started to get caught on the rug and the issue started all over again!

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