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Handling demands during meltdowns
  • Hi there. I'm a new member and totally at a loss for how to support my daughter when she's in the midst of a crisis/panic atttack. She's almost 5, and when she gets in a frenzy, she tries to dictate EVERYTHING about what I do and how I can do it — when I can blink, what angle my head should be turned, how loudly I can breath, the placement of my hands and feet, my body position, etc. While this is happening, she is clearly in a panicked state and yells, cries, hits, etc. She does the same to my husband, and we have different views about how this should be dealt with. He tends to follow her outrageous and illogical demands in the hopes that it will eventually calm her, whereas I try and tell her calmly that she cannot tell me what to do with my body. We were doing ABA therapy but stopped after observing how much she seemed tortured by it and doing further research; one of her therapists advised us to walk away and ignore the behavior. My instinct is not to ignore it and to remain present and calm, but also not to cave into what she is demanding me to do because it reinforces the message that she can control others to an unreasonable and unrealistic extent. She is clearly genuinely panicked and out of control when she gets in this state, and it is heartbreaking not knowing how to help.

    So, what would you advise? Anyone else have experience with a child needing to exert this level of unreasonable control when having a panic attack?

    (I should add that she doesn't have a PDA diagnosis accompanying her ASD diagnosis, but I am 100% confident she has PDA.)
  • June67
    Posts: 454
    Welcome to the club we all know what you are going through, I'm sorry to say that I have no fool proof solution as what works with our DS one day doesn't work the next, it depends on the situation and how far in he is. For him sometimes ignoring works just moving a bit away giving him space to work through it and calming down himself but still being there so he knows he's not alone, other times this prompts a full on physical assault on my self or his brother whom I usually encourage to leave the room for his own safety. On other days distraction when I see a window of opportunity can work but often it's play along biting my lip until he works through it then reassuring him he's ok. All very hard and we haven't got our heads round it yet either just keep understanding that the child can't really help it and trying to catch things before they escalate is a good starting point. Sorry I haven't much real advice to offer apart from checking out advice and strategies from other threads. As parents you need to try and work together to find a consistent approach as any inconsistencies can lead to more stress for the child and yourselves. We haven't cracked that one yet either. Needless to say be reassured you're not the only family struggling with this and it's not your fault either, accepting things and not bothering about 'normal' but surviving the best you can and forgiving yourself if it goes wrong, you're trying and learning after all, can be a good start to this whacky life. Then you can concentrate on doing the best you can. Normal is dull and overrated anyway.
  • Holly59
    Posts: 2,526
    Hi Welcome.

    Can I suggest a few ideas . If there is a support group near you join one .

    There are also the groups listed under the FB list .If there is not one near you email the info address at the top of the page and they are updating the support groups as we speak. Lots of new ones emerging . You might also consider a training day .

    Don't forget a lot of the people won't have a diagnosis , I don't for my boys.

    Have you tried for an out of area referral if your area won't recognise?

    Are you keeping a diary? Is there a trigger why the meltdowns happen ? Have you started using PDA Stratagies. Again see what happens . If the school would be willing to work you you as a team , both using the Stratagies and see what happens . It will take a while , results don't happen overnight . You all have to be consistent. Your aim is to reduce the anxiety . Distraction has been successful most of the time for us . You can actually learn as you go along by tone of voice , body language , get in their quick . They can sense the anxiety in you as well . Although it's terrifying try and stay calm on the outside . It takes days to get over a meltdown. The hardest thing for me was the so nice one minute , then vile , then no recollection whatsoever afterwards .

    The one thing I have learnt , it's one heck of a steep learning curve , if things go wrong , what can be learnt for next time . How can I approach the situation diffently next time .

    Hope this helps a little .

    Pat xx
  • Thank you for the responses. <3 We don't have a local group, unfortunately. It's been very hard to tell what triggers meltdowns because she is so unpredictable. We are getting some allergy testing done to see if certain foods are more of an issue for her. Recovering from Easter has been a disaster because she had WAY too much crap. . . .it's just how family parties seem to go. :(
  • Holly59
    Posts: 2,526

    alanz0812 said:

    Thank you for the responses. <3 We don't have a local group, unfortunately. It's been very hard to tell what triggers meltdowns because she is so unpredictable. We are getting some allergy testing done to see if certain foods are more of an issue for her. Recovering from Easter has been a disaster because she had WAY too much crap. . . .it's just how family parties seem to go. :( </p>

    The sensory overload as well as anxiety tend to make Parties a nightmare .They can survive them and it's a nightmare afterwards .Just keep on compiling a diary , it's amazing what you pickup as you go along .

    Have you thought of setting a group up ? You will be surprised how many folks are in the same boat as you .

    The Trustees are always willing to put updates on the Social Media Pages for folks in the same predicament as yourselves .

    You are doing an amazing job . Keep watching out for those training days . Just put one on the Notice Board in Birmingham at £2,. Bargain of the Year ! It's a great way to meet other parents / Carers as well.

    Good Luck with the allergy testing , eliminate all possibilities .

    Pat xx

  • PDA_ASD_Parent
    Posts: 4,202
    Yes this very controlling behaviour is a nightmare. We too tried ABA for a period (before I realised we were dealing with PDA) and it didn't help at all. The ABA therapist said not to engage when youngest went off on one with ranting, but I knew from experience that walking away and ignoring, only enraged her more. She has always had a really big thing about being ignored and it ramps her behaviour up. We have two with PDA. With both, walking away doesn't work. They will follow me going nuts getting more and more physical. I have the same view that you do, that I won't give in to the being controlled as no matter what anyone says, they are still children and it will reinforce the message that it worked last time and it's like creating a beast. They won't find people in society they encounter giving in to controlling demands and it doesn't do them any favours in letting them think that they will get this submission from their parent.

    Our eldest will (screaming and ranting), demand I look at her whilst she rants, accuse me of sighing (when I haven't) and demand I don't sigh and all sorts. She will not allow me to move away and tell her that the ranting has to stop. If I give an answer she doesn't like she explodes still further and starts calling me names.

    Youngest will even in her calm moments try to control me. Such as last night she was reading and she saw some movement in her peripheral vision and started ranting at me accusing me of looking at her when I hadn't!
  • webbwebb
    Posts: 2,417
    Hi alanz0812

    Another thing to remember is that sometimes there aren't any triggers just before the child has a meltdown - it can be an accumulation of worries and anxieties that can tip a child into meltdown.

    It might be a sensory difficulty ? Our son would have meltdowns if I wore perfume or he smelt an air freshener.

    When a child is in a meltdown all the literature says to -
    Stay calm, be patient, let the child express themselves ie scream, cry, kick the door etc
    Say as little as possible, just be there to reassure them, don't hold them unless they are in danger ie near a road or other danger.

    It certainly sounds like your child has lost all control when gone into Meltdown but I would say not to do everything she is demanding of you at this stage, this would store up problems for the future.

    Try to make her less anxious on a daily basis, give her lots of calm spells at home or in community like the park etc. Try to prevent the meltdowns rather than deal with them once they have started.

    Hope this is helpful

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