Monday, April 21, 2008

Pam's Story: Helping a family through a meltdown

There is a Winco [grocery store] close to our home. Great prices, but crowded on weekends. I try to avoid weekends whenever I can. One Sunday afternoon, though, I had nearly nothing packable for the kids' lunches the next day so I had to go. It was about four in the afternoon.

I walked up towards the entrance of Winco and it looked just like a scene from the movie, "The Birds" but with no birds in sight. This mom had a screaming and kicking 8 or 9 year old boy held around the waist. The boy was looking towards oncoming cars, who, had stopped, but the mom was waving her arm at them and yelling "Move on, move on." She was also yelling a child's name and saying "Go to the car." The boy had on sweat pants , sweat shirt, and simple hair cut. He was not using any words, just noises. I knew right away that he was on the autism spectrum.

I approached the mom with hand extended and said, "Hi, I am Pam, the mom of a young adult with autism." The boy stopped screaming and kicking and looked up at me while the mom shook my hand. He then turned around and was hugging his mom tightly, (gotta avoid this strange lady may have been his thought). I told the boy in a soft voice, "Hug Mommy, hug Mommy." I told the mom, "I am here to get you out of here." Then I asked her, "Where is the other child? "She said, "At the car with the groceries" How old ? "13". "OK, she is fine."

I then told the mom, you link one arm and I will link the other arm, and we will walk together to the car. And I did my favorite trick, which is to sing a song. Better to act weird than to be dangerous, I say. So I start singing the song from Peter Pan (tee dee, tee dum, etc. ) but a few words into it I forget the words and so I start singing "We're off to see the car (wizard) the wonderful (car) of (car)". The child is so surprised to hear me sing that even though he is starting to kick some again, it is all OK as he is kicking forward and we got to the car just fine with no one hurt at all. The child went into the back seat and curled up into the fetal position, which reminded me that as scary as meltdowns are for adults, the child, too, is feeling scared/overwhelmed, on the inside, too.

I assured the teen waiting in front seat that no teens saw me sing on the way to car. Mom was shook up and breathing hard and I had her take some breaths and told her, we are all OK, everyone is safe, and oh, by the way, try to come to a SEPTSA [Special Education Parent, Teachers, Student Association] meeting.

I then bought my own groceries and went home where husband ,Ed, sang for me the correct words to tee dee, tee dum from Peter Pan. I love that guy.


Pam said...

Hi Carol, thanks for sharing my story. And moms and dads everywhere, have a wonderful day, Pam

babs m said...

I'm so proud! I hope if that ever happens when I see it that I have the presence of mind to act so quickly....