He Shoots, He Scores… He Meltsdown?

When you have a child who has aspergers… well you never know what can happen. One minute you can be sitting at a fun basketball game laughing, and the next you are standing behind the bleachers trying to calm your son down. This is what happened to us last night.

The kid’s school had a fundraiser basketball game where some of the teachers were divided into two teams and played against each other. For the past two weeks the hype for this game has been incredible. The teachers have been trash talking each other so much that the kids were so excited to go, even my kids… who are not huge basketball fans. After endless hours of begging, I decided to take the kids. Hey after all the profit from the game is going towards the 4th and 5th grade field trips… and well Jay is in 4th grade.

We were a divided house. Gracie was rooting for the Green team whose captain is a huge 2nd grade icon. (“He is so dreamy”, I overheard my 7-year-old daughter tell her classmate. I am so in trouble with that one!) Jay was rooting for the Red team as one of his teachers was a team player. The two were having fun going back and forth on who was going to win. We bought our tickets and snacks and proceeded to the gym to find some seats. Jay picked out our seats which just so happened to be next to two girls who are in his class. (Hmmm… no comment! LOL) Anyway some other friends joined us and we all relaxed and settled down to what I thought would be a great evening.

It was a great evening… up until the Red team lost. The buzzer rang, the announcer announced the winner and Jay freaked out. At first I thought it was the noise and all the commotion. People were cheering and everyone was getting up to leave. I quickly escorted the kids out-of-the-way, behind the stands where it was quieter and told them we would just hang out here a minute until it got less crowded. This did nothing to calm my son. When I asked him what was wrong, he said “My team lost!”

One of the things I love the most about my Aspie son is how passionate he is. This is also the thing that can frustrate me to know end. I tried to reason with him by telling him, “Jay there are no losers… it was a fundraiser… everyone wins. You win because it goes to your 4th grade trip to Jamestown.” Then I tried to use Jamestown to distract him. Usually distraction works… but not this time. So I did what any other mom of an Autistic child would do, led my temper tantrum child out of the gym to the looks and gasps of other parents. I didn’t care, Gracie, well she was actually more concerned about Jay then the other people bless her little soul… and Jay was so into his meltdown he did not seem to notice.

In the safety of our car, Jay tried to calm down and tell me why he was so upset. “Mom, you don’t understand. My team lost. I feel so bad. That was my team mom. Don’t you get it.” Then thankfully before I could tell him that I did not get it, he noticed a constellation in the sky and started rattling off facts about it. And as quickly as it had begun, it had ended.

I wish I could say that this was the first time this sort of thing had happened or that I was sure it was a fluke and would never happen again. But I know differently. I know we will have good days and bad days. But don’t we all have good days and bad days? Jay just wears his emotions on his sleeve. He is honest about how he feels. He does not understand why everyone else does not do the same thing. It must be so confusing for him. Think about it. We live in a society that allows us to express only the good emotions and forces us to hide our bad ones. If a basket ball player shoots and scores… well it is perfectly normal for them and everyone else to cheer and celebrate. But if they miss or they lose? A meltdown would be considered unacceptable. I am not saying that living in a world where everyone was not in control of their emotions would be ideal, but would it really be so bad?

4 thoughts on “He Shoots, He Scores… He Meltsdown?

  1. The social graces of losing and winning (even football players cannot do a funky end zone dance and celebrate excessively anymore) are certainly not strong points of many kids on the spectrum because they cannot self-regulate their emotions very well. I was watching a tennis documentary last year and it had some coverage of a match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe and my Aspie son said “That guy [Borg] is so boring. I hope the other one [McEnroe] wins. He’s great.” Not everyone is fond of McEnroe because he had tantrums and was rude, but you knew when he was happy and when he was ticked off and he was certainly not boring to watch and that’s precisely why my son liked him—McEnroe displayed immense emotion, which he could identify with. On one hand, life would be a bit chaotic if everyone displayed every emotion they felt in an intense manner, but on the other hand repressing emotions can be very unhealthy.

    When I first found out my son had Asperger’s, I kept a journal of his meltdowns—how many he had a day and what they were about so my husband and I could recognize and anticipate his triggers. It certainly helped a lot, but there are plenty of times they really can’t be avoided or expected. I find when one trigger fades away it is often replaced by another (usually from some new experience he encounters). He rarely has meltdowns in school anymore. He is becoming more self-aware and tries to remain calm and quiet (and he is on meds, which help him to be less impulsive). If there’s a large group assembly and it is too much for him, he will ask to be excused and they are okay with that. But when he comes home, he loosens up and relaxes and meltdowns often ensue (doesn’t like what’s for dinner, doesn’t want to be limited on how much time he can spend on the computer/Wii/Xbox). He can only hold it in so much, but he is slowly learning. I am looking into a small social learning group for Asperger kids this summer. His school does some counseling but it is one-on-one and I think he really needs to be with similar kids working on such issues. I am dreading the middle school years as the books I read say these are often the toughest years for Asperger kids.

    1. Where are you located? If you find a social group in the Northern VA area please let me know. The other day the resource teacher set up an in school play date during recess time with another boy who has Aspergers but is in 5th grade. The two really got along. Although I found it interesting when Jay described him, he was talking about how he was a little odd. When I asked what he meant, he commented about things that he himself does. He can see it in others but not himself. Interesting.

  2. Sharon, we moved from Northern VA to PA almost three years ago. The program I am looking into is a social skills group for grade school kids at a behavioral/mental health facility, which offers autisic spectrum programs. Thomas wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until we moved to PA (his initial diagnosis was general anxiety disorder), but our doctor in VA recommended In Step in Fairfax/Sterling as they had anxious child groups. I just looked online and they do have a social skills group called Stepping Stones that you could check out.

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