As we left the Big Box store that Ronan's been able to navigate like a boss lately, he melted. Oh, how that child melted down. Maybe it was because he didn't fall asleep until after 10:30 pm the night before. Maybe it was because I had to wake him up early on a day that he normally gets to sleep in. Maybe it was because I had to race him and his little sisters to the girls' school because I'd overslept and the girls missed the carpool. Maybe it was because I later took him to a store he had no interest in going. Maybe it was because we left the store through a different door. Maybe it was because he didn't get the special treat he's been offered during other recent shopping trips. Maybe it was because of of all of those reasons. Maybe it was because of none of those reasons.
Whatever the reason, Ronan had a meltdown that lasted for 33 minutes - ten of which were in the parking lot in front of a lot of other shoppers. The other 23 minutes were in the car. Those 23 minutes were not any easier. That's when things got a little carried away.
Ronan was still not cooperating once he was in the car, so we continued to wait things out. After several failed attempts at getting Ronan to communicate, I brainstormed with our therapist. At this point, I was in the backseat trying to encourage and to redirect Ronan to sit safely in his car seat. Since Ronan loves his movies so much, I thought if we could get him to request a movie, we could turn his behavior around. But then I thought of something better. Maybe if I turned on some music first, he'd asked for me to change it. Before I changed the song, I'd ask for Ronan to sit in his car seat. If I could get him in the car seat, I could buckle him up. If I could buckle him up, we could get going. That sounded simple enough, but because the situation had already gone south, and quickly, I wasn't sure my plan would work.
I turned on a CD. A favorite of mine, I thought for sure that Ronan would immediately sign "change".
Instead of signing change or asking for a movie, Ronan relaxed. Still firmly planted on the floor of the car, he quieted down, leaned into me, and enjoyed the music.
As much as I loved that Ronan was enjoying my favorite music and was finally not in fight mode, that song choice wasn't working. So, I switched to another CD. I picked a song that I knew Ronan did not enjoy. Within seconds of The Sound of Music's The Lonely Goatherd started, Ronan indicated that he was just about ready to get back to his happy little self.
That's when he made eye contact.
That's when he signed change.
That's when he responded politely.
That's when he climbed into his car seat appropriately.
That's when a 33-minute meltdown ended.
That's when all was once again right with the world.
That's when it was time for us to drive away from the Big Box store and get on our way. Once we were a safe distance away, a peace and calm fell over all of us.
Autism meltdowns are never fun. We work so hard to avoid them. But they happen. And some of them last a long, long time. I'll sit down with our therapists later to come up with a new plan for these types of shopping trips. We can't avoid stores, the public, and the world entirely, so we'll brainstorm new strategies.
I hate that we lost some of the momentum Ronan was gaining, but I'm so grateful that we have support to try, try, try again. We will always try, try, try again.