I’m attending a workshop about autism this week, and as I’m sitting there the presenter is talking about ‘rage behaviors’ for people on the spectrum during meltdowns. She lists a number of behaviors I’m perfectly familiar with…and gets to one that throws me.
Internalized behaviors. She says that, though our image of meltdowns is of external behaviors – shouting, throwing things, etc – some people get quiet. They’ll just go and hide under the desk and direct their rage at themselves instead of the world.
The presenter said she prefers those with external behaviors, because it’s so easy for the internalized behaviors to go undetected, and therefore go without help.
“Excuse me!” I said, raising my hand. “Could you talk some more about these internalized behaviors. Because I’m wondering if my sister has them. After she’s been getting melty [her term for almost meltdown-y] for a while, she gets really quiet. She won’t let me talk to her and she goes and hides and shuts down. I never realized that she had meltdowns, and now I’m concerned she might have been having them all along.”
I don’t remember her exact response, but the presenter commented something along the lines of how I’d answered my own question.
Later on that day I told Caley what I’d learned and asked her if she realized she was having meltdowns. She hadn’t known, either. “But you direct bad thoughts at yourself during that time?” I asked her. “Yes,” she said simply. “I just really, really, really don’t like me then.” And then she added. “That may be an understatement.”
It’s hard to help someone avoid meltdowns if you don’t realize they’re even a factor. And, though you may not have to worry about accidental property damage or self-injury, internalized meltdowns as Caley can attest to are still a very bad experience, one we want to help prevent.
That’s it. I just wanted to share the signs of, and mere existence of, quiet meltdowns with you all. Do any of you have experiences, yourself or with your child, with internalized behaviors during meltdowns?
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