Friday, 25 June 2010


I was meant to be writing about our first forays into Equine Therapy for autism- suppress your snorts please!- but instead, the last twenty-four hours have been consumed by that most autistic of phenomenons: The Meltdown.

When I told my dear dad that Lyla had gone into meltdown, he wondered if it was something to do with the hot weather?

Er, no.

Meltdown is nothing to do with the sunshine or even volcanoes and is much much more than a tantrum.

Meltdown is where the person completely loses control of themselves and their temper for an extended period.

Once an autistic person is in meltdown, the situation is irretrievable, the meltdown will not stop until the person is ready to stop. Usually this takes between half and hour to several hours. And the person is at very high risk of having further meltdowns over the next twenty-four hours.

Last night Lyla's meltdown lasted for three and a half hours.

She completely trashed our home: every wardrobe ransacked and clothes ripped/ vintage posters ripped up, cod liver oil bottle smashed into the carpet, box of scissors thrown at us (me and her sister), sofa cut with scissors, plants ripped up, pots smashed, files thrown around the rooms, trampoline net cut with scissors, storage cupboard contents thrown stairs, sister's birthday present destroyed etc

When Lyla started to smash the patio doors I knew it was time to take her out to walk it off. I was worried about whether this was a good idea as she was screaming at the top of her voice and hitting/ scratching/ kicking and biting me. Her face and hair and clothes were covered in mud and grass (from when she was ripping up chunks of grass and pulling up plants) and her little face was stained with tears.

To put it mildly, we looked odd! As she walked down the road, she was swearing and screaming and kicking the walls and fences of every house we passed. At one point I had to restrain her from really hurting her sister and a man in a car stopped and started watching us, looking like he was on the verge of calling 999. He wasn't alone. I can understand it up to a point - I would probably be worried if I saw a woman wrestling with a child on the street (and another child running away, shouting 'I can't take it any more).  I'm normally pretty resilient,  but this did get to me as I just felt like we looked so scummy- how can you explain what's going on to somebody? I expect for most people it was the first time they'd ever seen a spectacle like it.

Unfortunately that wasn't the case for me and Mya, her sister.

After three hours, we were all exhausted and she finally calmed down.

This used to happen every evening for a year until she started taking her sleeping medication.

It was hell.

So why did she do it? Who knows? It all kicked off when she refused to take her medication. But obviously that wasn't really what it was about.

Lyla's been having some friendship trouble at school and I suspect that her frustration with this is what caused the meltdown.

She will tell us what's the matter when she can.

For now, I'll have to spend the weekend putting the house - and myself- back together and helping Lyla - and Mya - to stay calm.....

In other news, the Horse Therapy was a galloping success (sorry), more info to follow later.

Doodle by Me.


  1. I hate meltdowns, and find the anger and violence very very upsetting. The only good thing is that my son's meltdowns would be fairly short. I don't think I would be able to cope with what you describe. Hope things have improved now.

  2. That's very intense. My son's meltdowns are not as destructive at home. He's been worse at school in the past. He used to trash the principle's office when he was in kindergarten. things are so much calmer now. But during a review session a few weeks ago the meltdown reared it's ugly head. I had to hold him for about a 1/2 hour and keep him still to soothe him. It was heartbreaking to watch him so out of control. He does well for long periods of time and then we hit rock bottom at times. It hurts like hell for me but I try to stay focused.

  3. Gosh. Poor you, poor her. Poor sister.

    I don't really know what your going through but I send you my love anyway. We all get highs and lows but that sounds very deeply low. Don't usually pray but will have a quick word on your behalf (just in case.)


  4. oh Rachel, I am so very sorry, if there's anything at all I can do, please, please ask! Even if it's just a rest for you . . . .sorry to hear that this obscured what looked like such a success on the horse-riding front. Hope it wasn't a trigger. After G did it he did not sleep until 10pm which is unheard of for him but then it calmed down . . . .

    I hope the weekend is better for you and please get in touch if you need too :)


  5. Hi Rachel... sending my love...

    Does it make it worse if you try to restrain her? My son had a few episodes of trashing the place & i never worked out whether it lasted longer leaving him or holding him down. (damage to 'stuff' vs to me) It was over a 2year period when he was 7-9 & was never diagnosed as anything. It was like a switch flipped now & again, he couldn't explain it & now can't remember the outbursts at all. But, it always came after something particularly great... which makes me think of Lyla after horses... perhaps the extra 'good' emotion triggers the reaction to the negative?

    I know you've tried allsorts but have you heard of EFT? here's a link to an article where it has helped a child with autism-

    there are details on the site of how to learn the technique yourself, and more articles on autism & working with children. a lot of reading but worth it (imho). it is quicker & easier to learn it face to face, but can be done on the phone too... one session with a practitioner would give the gist of it, & help you deal with things too.

    Please email if you want to know more about it, or for help with the basic technique if you decide to try it- (that goes for anyone else who thinks it might help...)

  6. I should cut and paste this blog to explain to people what a meltdown (as opposed to a plain old tantrum) is.
    My 6 yr old asd son is an absolute sweetie, but when he does kick off it's just a matter of waiting til the storm passes. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to soothe him while he's in one.
    My son tends to self-injure, which is very distressing...he head-bangs and hits his elbows off the walls. He's even taken to smacking his own bottom (something we never do, I hasten to add).
    Thank god the meltdowns seem to be less frequent for you these days (same with us). Long may it continue.
    Hope you all recover soon. XXX

  7. Thanks for your feedback- good to know I'm not alone in this! Feeling in a really dark mood today, just feel totally zapped by it.....

    Thanks @Blue Sky

    @C....yes, the destruction is quite hard to handle- it's taken 48 hrs and still nowhere near having sorted it!

    Thanks @Lou

    @Amelia....interesting isn't it? Wondering if it's horse-related (hope not!)

    Hi @ Suzi....unfortunately she's too strong for me to restrain her (although I have to try if she's going for her sister)...I've ended up with black eyes and broken teeth :(...I did do it more often when she did this every day and it didn't really help tbh....thanks for the link, someone also suggested this to me recently, it sounds v interesting (couldn't get their sign-up page to work tho' grrr!!)...I'm also investigating RDI, don't know if you know anything about this?

    @Jean Cut and paste away!! or link, whichever you prefer, the reason I wrote it is to explain to people who don't know what a meltdown REALLY means! Thank God yours are getting more infrequent too!

  8. We've all been there! Button had a biggie a few weeks ago, but thankfully it only lasted about 40 minutes - though it seemed like hours at the time! Of course, as fate would have it Mr Taz was out and I was on my own and if it hadn't been for my facebook buddies support, I might have joined him in trashing the playroom! They are getting less frequent, thank God! Well done for explaining it so well!

  9. Nobody can truly understand meltdowns until they experience one. I hope you have all recovered and things are more settled, so hard for all of you. Jen xx

  10. Hi Rachel, thanks for your kind comments on my blog. I've just had a read through your posts and have to say I am truly humbled - sorry to hear you are having a hard time & hope things got a bit better for you over the weekend. Your writing and artwork is stunning. Helen x

  11. Sorry, don't know anything of RDI Rachel. This is a new eft site with everything transferred from the old... maybe there are a few glitches? Would def give it a go, for you as much as Lyla... maybe even try yell for someone local?

  12. Hi I hate melt downs there is nothing you can really do about it is there. Do you find during a melt down that they seem to get stronger, I do with Pinkie. Its awful what they do during a melt down, but it is so exhausting for the parents. If you need to rant, rave or chat you know where I am . Great blog

    wendy xx


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