You can sense it before you see it.
The tension, the feeling that something is wrong.
That look when I walk into the classroom.
The little movements with her fingers.
Her quiet growls; it is building….
…..the afterschool meltdown.
I smell it oozing out of her every pore.
We walk to the car; she stomps her feet, I tiptoe knowing one wrong move could be the trigger.
I want to give her a hug, but it is the wrong thing to do.
I want to ask her if she is ok, but that is the wrong thing to do.
So I walk behind her, not muttering a word, but surveying the area, ensuring her safety.
Any moment now she could go.
Go…..bolt, drop to the floor, hide….meltdown.
We don’t get out of the school grounds today before it hits.
The car is her safety, the place where she just cannot hold it in anymore.
It is has been building for the last 5 hours and it can no longer be detained.
Something seemingly so minor is the trigger, and meltdown.
She wants to go home, but she doesn’t want to go home.
Rigid and red faced.
She is angry, shouting, swearing, biting, she is not in control of her body any more.
I ask her to calm down but she can’t process what I am saying so it esculates.
People walk by, people stare, people talk, it is all too much.
It is too loud, too bright, too everything.
There is no turning back now, no way it can be stopped until it has all come out.
Her anger increases.
Shouting, screaming, she tries to run away but I am blocking her path.
She climbs into the boot of the car and squeezes herself into a gap.
She screams and shouts, swear words and insults….
….then comes the silence.
Exhaustion. Sheer exhaustion.
It takes a while but she asks me to help her out, climbs into the car, and asks me to take her home.
It is like nothing has happened.
I want to ask if she feels better, I want to give her a hug, but they are the wrong things to do.
She can’t reflect on what just happened as she had lost control of herself.
Sometimes I wonder if she even knows she has had a meltdown, or the things she did and said.
But, she is fine in school.
Meltdowns after school are an almost every day occurance for my girl.
Just imagine that for a moment.
Imagine feeling anxious, scared, in pain, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty and not being able to communicate your needs.
Imagine watching the clock ticking by, that incessant noise ringing in your ears, waiting to be somewhere you can release your feelings.
Imagine not knowing what those feelings are.
She would have shown signs of stress as the day progressed that only I would recognise.
A subtle eye movement, a quiet growl, finger picking.
Things so subtle that they get missed.
Her stress levels slowly rise as the day progresses and then when she is in a place where she feels safe, she just cannot hold it in any longer.
After school meltdowns are a very real thing and present such a challenge for those with Autism.