Meltdowns: “You ain’t seen nothin’!”

Whenever my friends describe “meltdowns” their young children have, I have to restrain myself from busting out into maniacal laughter.

They really have no idea.

If you’re a parent, you know what meltdowns look like.  They’re not pretty.

If you’re a parent of an aggressive child with special needs, you know what a meltdown feels like.

You’ve got the bruises, blood, or black eye to prove it.

It was my son’s aggression at an early age that clued my husband and I in that something wasn’t quite right.  He would smack his head on the floor at 13 months old when he was frustrated. He couldn’t go more than few minutes at daycare without banging into someone or something, constantly pulling out the hair of other children and the daycare providers.

In one respect, Big C’s aggression has been a blessing.  It’s helped us realize early in his life what his struggles are, and while it took a few years to really pinpoint the issues, we have a much better handle on how to handle him (and ourselves) when he gets overstimulated.

The great news?  Big C’s tendency for aggression have diminished tremendously over the past year.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’s still way more aggressive than the average four year-old (he threw an eight ball at my head a few weeks back because he didn’t want to end the play date), but at least he’s starting to recognize the aggression in himself and, every so often, stop himself before it escalates.

More often though, he has the meltdown, then explains later why he was upset.  For a four year-old, I think this is impressive.

Very recently, a new form of meltdown has emerged.  It’s one I haven’t quite figured out how to cope with yet.  I find myself just getting frustrated.

Lately, if Big C doesn’t want to do something or feels threatened in some way, he closes his eyes, starts rocking his body, and makes animal-like moans.  His ability to use language completely shuts down.  When I try to get him to talk, he just runs and hides.  This has happened several times in public places like daycare and preschool.

The only “strategy” that remotely works is to wait it out.  It’s not easy though.  I find myself getting more and more frustrated and less and less patient.

BUT, the last time this happened, a couple of days ago, after the meltdown subsided, he hugged me so tightly we both fell over and then he said, “I’m sorry I’m frustrating you.”

Seriously?  How do you not smile at that?

The moral of this story?  Epic meltdowns can sometimes lead to epic apologies.

What are some of your strategies for dealing with meltdowns?

Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more blogs about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!


This post can also be found on the blog, Sammiches and Psych Meds.

Published by Miranda Keskes

I am a freelance writer, editor, and tutor with fifteen years of high school teaching experience. Helping young adults craft their unique writer's voice is one of my passions. As the mother of a child with autism, I also feel compelled to share our story, connect with fellow parents, and raise awareness for a diagnosis that is still quite misunderstood. Learn more at my business site,, and my personal blog,

14 thoughts on “Meltdowns: “You ain’t seen nothin’!”

  1. We are working out some sensory issues with Isabel. One of her major triggers is getting dressed. We aren’t sure if the clothing is aggravating her eczema, or if it is something else, but we deal with the same meltdown with every piece of clothing. Screaming, running, hiding, and if I hold her down, she bangs her head on the wood floors. The same thing happens every single time I try to put her in her car seat. It’s exhausting. Wearing clothes and riding in cars are pretty necessary in life. The only strategy I have been able to come up with is either to abort mission, or wait it out and try again. But my patience is way down and my temper is getting embarrassing. I’m looking forward to reading other comments.


    1. That sounds unbearably frustrating! I wish I had a magical solution for you (if I did, I’d be a millionaire, right?). Big C has eczema too, but it’s much milder than what it used to be. I probably should have bought stock in Aquaphor.
      Thank you so much for reading, and best of luck with Isabel! 🙂


  2. I’m thankful that our son wasn’t ever aggressive in meltdowns, but everyone tells me how ‘normal’ he seems. We like to let them know that when you see it, you’ll know it. You won’t even hear the gunshot that hit him when he melts down. Teachers come back to us (every…single…year) at conferences and say, “You know your thing about not hearing the shot? That’s really true.” Ha! Like after 13 years we don’t really know what a meltdown looks like for him. LOL!!! Love the nuclear mushroom photo–true story there.


    1. That’s a great analogy! It can be true here too. Sometimes his meltdowns seem completely unwarranted. A catch phrase at daycare became, “There didn’t seem to be any reason he did it.” Obviously, there’s ALWAYS a reason!
      Thanks for reading. 🙂


  3. Oh, yes. We sure had our share of these! You’ve found my blog, so I know you know we do the gluten and casein free diet. We also found the compression techniques seemed to minimize some of the anxiety that would lead to meltdowns. Our naturopath said that meltdowns are sometimes caused by inflammation in the brain and the joints, so anything you can do to minimize that can help with the meltdowns and rage.


  4. Love this! I am amazed at your positive outlook on meltdowns and aggression. I’m not there yet 🙂 Our daughter is also 4 and has started to be able to communicate what has bothered her as well. I am always amazed and impressed. It is challenging how the meltdowns evolve over the years and knowing how to help cope with them.


    1. I completely agree with you about how the meltdowns evolve and get more manageable as we learn how to cope with them. I think about where Big C was a year ago, and the difference is quite startling.
      As for my positive outlook, don’t be fooled. I find humor helps me survive and comes after my own frustrations have subsided. 😉
      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!


  5. I’m a Mom of a sensory defensive 9 year old girl. It sounds like a positive thing that he is rocking and non-communicative. I believe it’s called ‘stimming’ and it’s a way for the body to block out the bad stuff and allow himself to calm down before lashing out. I see it as a good thing. My daughter also cannot handle any communication when she’s ‘in a rage’. We have to wait it out too. Good thing I have an understanding boss, because I’m late for work 3/4 of the time! Hang in there 🙂


    1. I think you are so right about him trying to block out the bad stuff through stimming. I’m getting better at dealing with it, but man, it is a challenge some days. I raise my glass to your understanding boss. My bosses are 33 bleary-eyed teenagers awaiting first hour to start, so I am not so lucky in that department. 😉
      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment!


  6. I have to say, this sounds like my five year old. Sometimes there’s aggression meltdowns (throwing things, knocking over takes and this past year, biting), but more often then not, he just shuts down completely and don’t respond. We’re waiting on a sensory disorder assessment, and I’m trying to see what triggers it (loud noises is one), but overall, we don’t know what sets it off and he usually won’t tell or he forgets.


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