Meltdowns are Hard – Judgement is Harder.

Recently I experienced one of the worst meltdowns that Apollo’s had in public; at a grocery store.  On this particular shopping trip, I also experienced the worst case of public judgement that I’ve had (up until this point) in my parenting journey; people can be ruthless. All I wanted to accomplish on this shopping trip was to get medicine for myself, because I was sick.

What set Apollo off?

Apollo had brought in a little sandwich baggie of chips (Yes, I was SO desperate for him to cooperate long enough for me to get my medicine that I broke several rules and allowed him to bring in outside food).  As we were walking to the Pharmacy, (Athena was safely seat belted into the shopping cart and Apollo was walking right next to me), Apollo started throwing chips on the floor like confetti. I stopped, asked him to pick up the chips and hand them to me – he refused. I picked up the chips (that I then threw away), and told him that throwing chips on the floor is unacceptable behavior.  I gave him a choice to eat the remaining chips in the bag, or give them to me; he chose to eat the chips. I then told him that if he threw anymore chips on the floor, that I would have to take the bag of chips away from him. Apollo chose to throw more chips on the floor, so I had to take the chips away from him – he lost it.

In this situation, Apollo became VERY dysregulated, violent/aggressive (kicking, hitting, and biting me), screaming, etc; when I looked at his face, he had a look that he only gets during severe meltdowns. Within seconds Apollo went from attacking me, to self-harm and began repeatedly beating his head against the floor. Trying my best to calm him down, and diffuse the situation, I approached him from behind and wrapped my arms around him (bear-hugged him) in a tight squeeze, and sat on the floor (pulling him down into my lap) hoping, praying that I would prevent him from further hurting himself or anyone else.

*Apollo’s body craves deep pressure/compression and bear-hugs are typically the safest and quickest way to calm him down during a meltdown.*

At one point during the meltdown I had looked up, and found us surrounded by an audience; as if my children and I were the newest exhibit at the zoo…

I ugly-cried in front of an audience:

Those that know me, know that I loathe crying in front of anyone; so for me to publicly admit that I broke down and ugly-cried/bawled my eyes out in front of a large audience (while bear-hugging my dysregulated child) is a big deal for me. People often ask me what the hardest part about Apollo’s public meltdowns are, and to be honest it has nothing to do with autism or Apollo directly – it’s the actions, comments, stares, and judgement from others; that’s our reality.

On this day, only 2 (of about 20+ people) approached me, offered help/support/encouragement; I’m always super grateful for those that shows us kindness during these difficult moments.  The other 18+ people in the store stopped to stare, and dehumanized Apollo, make comments about my parenting; really hateful comments (yes, loud enough for everyone to hear), and were not understanding or kind.

I know the meltdowns are alarming. I am well aware of any issues, and the severity of the situation; this isn’t my first rodeo. I appreciate the fact that other people’s parenting strategies work well for them, but please understand that parenting is not a once-size fits all, and Autism is a spectrum; what works well for one, may not work well for another.  As Apollo’s mother, I know him and his needs best, so if you see him having a meltdown, trust that I’m doing my best in that moment. The last thing Apollo and I need during a meltdown is a peanut gallery in the background further overstimulating Apollo; increasing the chances of prolonging the meltdown or making it more severe.

Wrapping it up:

I went back and forth with whether or not to share this experience.  I never want my posts to come across whiney or like I want pity, because I loathe pity!  I do feel that people need to be more aware of these types of situations; especially, how they react to another person’s meltdown.  Maybe you or someone you know has been one of the 18+ (like in our situation) that has stopped to stare during a public meltdown, and did not realize it; it’s entirely possible! If you ever come across a individual having a meltdown in the future, please show kindness, offer help, or positive encouragement.  If the situation makes you uncomfortable (it’s ok if it does), and/or you have nothing helpful to offer the situation, then please keep walking.

As a parent of a child with special needs, it’s ok to admit that life can be hard, it’s ok to have a meltdown; just don’t unpack and live in those hard moments forever.

Thank you for joining me!



Disclaimer: The content on is based on the opinions of the author, unless otherwise noted.

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