Yesterday was my birthday and we celebrated it by ticking a few things off my to-do list. My husband took leave from work so that we could send Arif for a trial/ assessment at an inclusive kindergarden located in Denai Alam, which is quite a distance from where we live.
Alhamdulillah his four hours at the kindy went well (I'll write more about this in a separate post). And since he seemed calm after we picked him up, we thought we'd have lunch at Jaya One, PJ, where I needed to pick something up and wanted to check out services at The School, which is an enrichment mall.
We got to the mall, which we hadn't been to in a long while, and we basically got bewildered... because the layout of the place is a little haphazard. There were many restaurants and cafes there, but we finally settled on Tedboy Bakery. It was more quiet and we didn't want Arif to get annoyed by loud noises or crowds.
Thankfully, our lunch was utterly blissful. Arif sat quietly, watching YouTube Kids and munching on fries. I ate all the fried mushrooms you see above (those brown round things) and the fresh strawberry/ yogurt drink wasn't bad. I'm not too sure about the coleslaw though... because the dressing tasted like peanut butter. Don't get me wrong, I love peanut butter! But with cabbage, it just tasted kind of odd to me.
I then had the Irish Lam Stew with Sourdough Bread. It's a light dish, but it was warming. But lunch wasn't the only treat I had :) I was happy to find out that my article has been published by Mummyfique, a Singapore-based parenting portal. Check it out...
You can read the full article here.
I'm quite proud of this article, because it's the first I've written about my experiences as an autism mum. Hopefully, I'll be able to learn more along my journey and share them with others, not only through this blog, but on other platforms too.
And now... about Arif's meltdown...
After our quiet lunch, I was supposed to pick something up from someone's office and visit The School to check out any enrichment centres that would be suitable for Arif. But we didn't make it...
We saw a play area and went closer to ask about their rates. When Arif realised what it was, he tried to climb out of the stroller. We couldn't take him to play, so we tried to leave. That's when his tantrum/ meltdown started.
It's hard to communicate to Arif that we would be back another time, because he has limited understanding of what we're saying. He's non verbal, so he can't express his frustrations. It may have started as a typical temper tantrum that grew out of anger and disappointment for not being able to play. But then it escalated into an epic meltdown.
It seemed like he had used up all his resources for self regulation... four hours at the kindy and another few hours in the car and restaurant... lots of new places and faces... the tiredness... it all caught up with him at once.
We made a break for the car... Arif kicking, screaming and wriggling, trying to get away from daddy's firm hold. Yep, to every onlooker, it seemed like we were torturing or kidnapping him (autism parents out there will be able to relate I'm sure *throwing Katniss Everdeen three-finger salute*).
When we got to the car, I insisted that my husband go and pick up the-thing-I-needed-to-get-picked-up on my behalf. I would handle Arif in the car. It was about 20 minutes of pure mayhem. My little one thrashed about so much, he ended up on the rear deck of the car. He then he thrashed onto the floor of the car, between the driver's seat and the back seat, and then he vaulted himself over to the driver's seat.
I had to use all my strength to get him back into the back seat, because the engine was running and I was worried that he might accidentally release the hand break, hit the gear stick or press on the gas pedal.
Finally, my husband appeared, and he slowly calmed down. This morning, I woke up with a sore neck and shoulders from struggling with my son.
Every time he gets upset, it breaks my heart. So you can imagine how I feel each time he has a meltdown. But these days, my feeling of sadness and being overwhelmed have been replaced by a sense of calm. It's like riding a storm. And I guess you could say, by now I've numbed myself to it.
I understand why the meltdown happens and that it's not my fault or my son's. It's important for me to stay calm and to help him through it. At that point in time, he is in a fight or flight state, from which he cannot simply deescalate.
But of course, meltdowns are something we need to extinguish as soon as possible. We need to help Arif reach a better state of self regulation and develop his ability to calm down. We also need to remember not to ask too much of our son. Perhaps the hectic pace of yesterday's activities were beyond his comfort zone. Maybe we pushed too hard. Lesson learnt, hopefully we can improve and grow from this, as we move forward in our autism journey.
PS: For more reads on autism meltdowns, here are a few good links I've found: