I had the opportunity to gain insight from my 7 year old with aspergers after a meltdown the other day.
He is in a stage, I haven’t quite figured out why, where he is having meltdowns every day. It has been 3 years since he has had meltdowns like this. He frequently has meltdowns when it is time to go to bed because it is hard for him to stop “playing with his imaginary friends” (which is how we describe the times he zones out and is in his “autistic world” to enact imaginary scenes in his head while making noises and pushing on things for pressure). He uses the time I am putting his younger sister to bed to meet his need to de-stress. When it is his time to go to bed, he has never had enough time, so he melts down. The problem is no amount of time would ever be enough time, so we have to set limits. I give him warnings that the time is almost up and often give him a minute or two more after his sister is done, but still the meltdowns happen.
The other day after his meltdown which I was able to shorten by turning out the lights and saying we were going directly to bed instead of reading, he was contritely begging to get reading time back and explained to me that it feels like it is not him when he has a meltdown. It is like something else takes over. He feels like he is not in control. We talked about how it is very hard to calm down. We still don’t have any concrete ways to stop the meltdowns from happening or to get him to calm down, but I am very thankful that he was able to articulate how it felt to him. With these meltdowns, they often just need to run their course and I just need to intervene if he is harming something, someone or himself.