This weekend was a long weekend from Em. She limited herself all weekend. Friday she was still on that over-stimulated high. I’m sure she’d been dealing with that over-stimulated high since sometime Wednesday. And when she crashed from that “high” on Friday night, she was pretty much out for the weekend.
Saturday, she kept to herself in her room. She slept most of the day. And if she wasn’t sleeping she was trying to get back to her routine. Music and Minecraft were high on that list. She complained of being tired and having a headache. She was very sensitive to her environment around her and she controlled it like the pro at this she is.
Sunday, started out as a repeat. However, we knew she needed to push herself out of that comfort zone. She did leave her room for about 2 hours and went outside. Overall though, she was struggling to cope and deal with the crash that came. We managed to avoid the rage and the sensory overloads and the ensuing meltdowns.
Why was it so hard for Em? In Em’s case it’s looking at it differently. There is all this input entering her mind. Sights. Touches. Sounds. Emotions. Tastes. Smells. And when she is used to being able to limit that input and process it slowly, those 3 days were constantly putting in that input and she had to respond accordingly. The expectations demanded it. AND she pushed herself to meet that demand.
She started using coping skills though to filter out some of that overload. Even to the point of sneaking in a nap during down time on Thursday. The progress for her is less than a year ago a situation like this would have had her in an emotional and sensory meltdown. She would have shut down right then and there.
Instead she held it together. Even when she came home she dealt with this “hangover” in a manner she controlled. She processed as much of that remaining information floating around in her head and gave herself a “reboot”. She rested quietly and found ways to make sense of it all.
Em’s not alone in these processing overloads that lead to “hangovers” and “reboots”. Many children on the spectrum find themselves holding themselves together with a shoestring that is frayed and close to breaking in certain environments. Either way, when the situation has passed they will have to deal with some decompression time that involves rebooting and sometimes be fatigued.
Dealing with those situations drains them of energy. They will appear to shut down. Sometimes sleep it off or embrace seclusion. They may not talk or communicate. They hear us, but are in the process of working through stuff in their head. In our case, we’ve learned that keeping it short and to the point, we may get a response from Em.
Each child deals with it differently. Either way, they will deal with these “hangovers” and “reboot”. I think we all have days we just shut down and probably for similar reasons. Just maybe not as often and we may rebound much quicker than they do.