Both my wife and I have written about meltdowns on this blog before. And while they do not happen every day, and do not completely define the autism in our daughter, they are incredibly stressful for all involved. They mainly happen at bedtime, at the interzone between day and night.
I think we can cope better than before with them, and know that we just have to ride the storm – let our daughter know that she is loved and in a safe place. She is getting better at working her own way out of them – staying in her room shouting and screaming until she’s ready to be receptive. We don’t get angry at her – there’s no point and we know she’s not really in control of what is happening to her. All we can do is care for her.
Then, when the meltdown starts to fade, we can talk to her, comfort her, calm her and tuck her in. Virtually every night she listens to a Christiane Kerr meditation CD for kids which lets her float off on a magical journey. She sleeps deeply, which must be very good for her system. Snuggled up under several blankets and with a host of cuddly toys (mainly rabbits), she can shed all anxieties and simply give in to sleep.
But still the meltdowns leave everyone exhausted. So what can we do? Sleep. Sleep, the great redeemer. Hit the refresh button, restart the system. Don’t bring issues from the night before up the morning after. “Tomorrow is a new day.” As we did the night before, we show our daughter how much we care for her. The meltdowns are not forgotten, but we need to start the day afresh. Our daughter is normally cheerful enough in the morning (well, mostly), seemingly unaware or unconcerned with the previous night’s traumas.
My wife and I have been listening every night to Max Richter’s ‘From Sleep’ album, designed to be listened to during sleep. Richter describes the album as a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world”. And we need that more than ever. Thank you, Mr Richter.