It was only after our child’s FASD diagnosis that we understood that his meltdowns were not ‘bad behavior’. Instead, they are a direct result of the damage done to his brain when he was in utero. We understand now the key is to try to prevent reaching the point where a meltdown is imminent. Sometimes we manage to redirect the moment. Sometimes we are tired, or grumpy, or not paying attention and we handle it all wrong. We all try to “Take 5” – five, very conscious deep breaths when the mood starts to spiral. We try. And yet, spectacular meltdowns occur almost daily – things sailing across the room, accompanied by increasingly spicy vocabulary, gestures, and appalling rudeness. Deep distress and frustration boils out and over us all. But now we know none of this is heartfelt or intentional on his part. His brain just can’t stop it at this moment. The important thing is not to hold a grudge, because our child has a remarkable and admirable capacity to move on from such moments, to spring back with a great big hug and an “I’m sorry.”
This piece below is one that is written by and adult with FASD who experiences these moments. I strongly encourage those affected by FASD meltdowns to click on the link below and have a read. It has first-person insight and some very practical steps.
8 Reasons for FASD Meltdowns, by Savanna Pietrantonio
“Neurotypical people can manage inherently as the brain balances their self-regulating neocortex with their limbic emotion regulating system—‘wise mind’ and ‘emotion mind’. My brain because of prenatal alcohol damage can’t do that. Messages between these two parts of the brain get stuck like tangled Christmas lights and I am triggered into an emotional spiral down the slippery slope to meltdown….It is possible to get to the place on the other side of the meltdown to where you can look at it and see where intervention might have stopped the spiral and what might we do differently for the next time.”
This piece explains with empathy why meltdowns happen most often at home.
“When I Realized Why My Son Melts Down at Home but Not at School” by Michelle Meyers.