Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Which Connor Has A Meltdown

So today I had a bunch of errands to run-- Connor needed a hair cut and we needed to run by the fabric store, the hardware store and the grocery for various odds and ends.  I decided to hit the fabric store first since it's the farthest away and work back towards home.  This proved to be a mistake.

Connor loves the fabric store.  His favorite aisle is the tulle aisle, because all of the tulle is brightly colored and sparkly and it sticks out far enough that he can run his hands through it on either side when I push his wheelchair through the row.  He adores all the colors and patterns and things to look at, but by that same token it can be pretty overwhelming-- especially when it's busy.  Because the store was having a major sale today, it was really, really busy.

I couldn't just run in and out because I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for; I wanted a fabric to recover the bench cushions on Ellen's two storage benches under her window.  Currently they are covered in a plasticky canvas-like material that is a color I think of as "nursing home beige."  Ew.  So I wanted something that was going to go with the rest of her room but not be too matchy-matchy. 

I would normally go without Connor for something like this, but they were having a 50% off sale today on their upholstery fabrics, which makes a huge difference since they can get pretty pricey.  So I had to take the little guy.  Connor, however, was not exactly thrilled with the idea of wandering up and down the upholstery fabric aisles for half an hour.  Connor wanted to race up and down the tulle aisle a couple of times and then go home.

After about twenty minutes, I found the fabric I wanted and pulled a number to get it cut.  We were two numbers away from our turn when the little guy decided he'd had more than enough.  So he started shrieking at the top of his lungs.  We're talking ear-piercing, breaking glass sort of shrieking.  Heads turned.  People looked taken aback.  Somehow I'd missed the warning signs, and Connor was in full-blown overstimulation mode.

Now, Connor knows how to behave in a store, and he understands the concept of an "inside voice," though when he has his hearing aids out he does get a bit loud sometimes.  But in this case it was less him acting out and more him being entirely, completely overwhelmed.  When he starts shrieking like that it's not because he's acting out deliberately, it's because he's trying to cover up all the other stuff going on by giving himself a familiar sound to focus on.  I can tell him "no" all I want at that point, but he's completely blocked out everything and he's not hearing me.  Normally I'd take him to the women's restroom-- hopefully an industrial white box with as little stimulation as possible-- and let him calm down there. 

But since it was almost our turn and I didn't want to either wait another fifteen minutes (which would prolong the problem) or put my fabric back and leave the store, I sat down in the nearest chair, picked him up and put him in my lap.  He immediately stopped shrieking and pressed his entire face into my chest as hard as he could to block everything out.  I made shushing sounds into his ear and I could feel his shoulders, which were rigid when I picked him up, slowly relax.  We stayed that way until it was our turn and I had to put him back in his chair.

So that little break gave us both a reprieve until we were almost through the check-out aisle, which is when he started losing it again.  The check out aisle has all these bins at Connor eye-level filled with all sorts of brightly colored objects, and I'm pretty sure that's what set him off.  At that point there was little I could do except grit my teeth, smile at the other folks in line and put my hand over his mouth to cover up the worst of the shrieking.  Luckily the line moved quickly, so it didn't take very long.

So I cut the rest of our errands short as there was no way we were getting through anything else without a meltdown and took the little guy straight home.  I grabbed a book and a popsicle, plopped down on the couch with him, and within five minutes he was leaning over asleep on my chest, which is how Jer found us when he got home this afternoon.  Jer moved the little guy to his bed, and Connor slept through the rest of the afternoon and on into the evening. 

It's been a long, long time since he's gotten that overwhelmed in a store.  He's made so many strides in the last few years that I forget sometimes how impossible it would have been for me to even take him into a store like that on a busy day when he was two or three.  I guess that he was still tired from our trip yesterday, and this was just too much for him.  Next time I need to hit a sale at the fabric store, I'll save the trip for a day when the little guy is in school!



the worstest mommy said...

It happens to all of us sometimes. Even at 10, my son still has meltdowns although they are different than they were as a toddler. Now he will become stubborn, obstinate, and if I don't acknowledge him immediately he will get louder, even more impatient, and when all else fails, he will start saying things to purposely "hurt." We still get looks because now people are wondering why I'm letting my child be so disrespectful...but I don't take his words to heart and I know where that anger and frustration is coming from.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh golly - poor you and poor Connor. Meltdowns are no fun for anyone. But WOW! You're RIGHT! Look how far he's come!

And he WANTS to stick out his hands and touch the tulle!

And if it helps, my three boys (15, 13, and 10) have a very limited tolerance for the fabric store, though they express it differently. *sigh*


3boys2dogs1life said...

I am the mom of a boy with a sensory processing disorder. When he was younger - one thing we could do in a place we thought would be overly stimulating for a visual standpoint, we would put dark sunglasses on him (even indoors). They just mute the light and colors enough that sometimes we could take the edge off for him. I don't know if Connor would tolerate that but you might try it sometime...
I love reading your blog and am so excited for your daughter's arrival.


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