Anatomy of a Meltdown, Part 2

A Chartres-styly labyrinthAfter my daughter’s food throwing meltdown at the Vietnamese restaurant (read Part 1 here), we headed straight for the park. Katie swung hard for 20 minutes, then took off her shoes and practically rolled in the sand. Then her shoes went back on and she ran on the grass. More swinging, followed by spinning, followed by still more swinging. Finally, after a solid hour of nonstop sensory activities, she was ready to go home.

About halfway through her sensory binge, I told Katie I was sorry I hadn’t honored her request to go to the park earlier. I said next time we would go to the park first and then the restaurant. She didn’t respond. Instead she echoed whatever I said. For the first time this didn’t annoy me. I knew she was over-stimulated. We practiced what she could say next time if she needed to leave a public place.

Finally she asked for her monkey blanket and we headed for the car. I could tell both of us were feeling down. I asked if I could put my hand on her back and she nodded. “Katie,” I said. “It’s okay. We both made mistakes but next time we’ll do better.” I rubbed her back. “It would help if you could tell me what happened at the restaurant so Mommy can fix it.”


“Did you not like the fried rice?”

“Food was good.”

“Are you sure? You didn’t eat much.”

“Rice was good.”

I wasn’t sure I bought this answer. “So you would order it again?”

“Yes. Rice was … yummy.” More silence, and then, “I sorry.”

“It’s okay, Katie.” I know you’re sorry. I’m sorry too.”

We were halfway home when she said, “I want to see Sharon and the labyrinth.”

“You do? It’s okay if we skip it. Sharon will understand.”

“I want to go to labyrinth please.”

I looked at the clock. “Okay, but first Mommy needs to go home and change her shirt. Then we can say hi to Sharon.”

Katie waited in the car while I changed. Halfway to the labyrinth she said softly, “Too loud.”

I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “What’s too loud? The music?” My hand was already on the volume dial, turning it down.

“Restaurant … too loud.”

Suddenly the pieces fell into place. Long day at school, followed by two hours of therapy. No swinging; crowded restaurant, and a new one at that. Lots of noise and a long wait. Unfamiliar food. Unfinished Pepsi. Blanket wrapped around her like a shield. Sometimes even the headphones aren’t enough, and she snapped.

I pulled up next to the church and we both cried a little in the car. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“No, I’m sorry,” I said, blowing my nose.

“Sharon,” Katie said.

This was a strange statement even by autistic standards until I noticed where Katie was pointing. Sure enough, Sharon was standing at the gate.

We got out and Katie ran to the gate and greeted Sharon who hugged me. “Barb mentioned what happened. You didn’t need to come.”

“I know, but Katie really wanted to see the labyrinth.”

Sharon grinned. “Then come in and see it.”

So we did, and it was amazing.

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

[Part 3 will follow next week.]

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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One Response to Anatomy of a Meltdown, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Anatomy of a Meltdown, Part 3 | CYNTHIA J. PATTON

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