23 December 2016

When i realised why my child has meltdowns AFTER school - Coke Bottle Analogy

Telling the difference between a meltdown, sensory overload, or tantrum can be quite tricky for people who don't understand your child's' needs fully.

Do those working with your child understand their needs fully to know when a reaction is imminent? 

I say reaction and not action because it occurs when something has happened that triggers a response that he or she has no choice over, making it an unconscious reaction as opposed to a meaningful action.

An action is something that is a choice.

My daughter doesn't choose to behave this way., and Sometimes it's impossible to tell the difference, whereas other times I can see it from a mile off, just from little behaviours, the way she acts, or the way she talks. Sometimes with just a glimmer in her eyes.

There are lots and lots of things that trigger these reactions from Lola. And sometimes it can be over the smallest of things, like the straw that broke the camels back for example.

I don't know whether you've heard of the coke bottle analogy but here goes.

(I once described this analogy to a teacher to help them understand why Lola behaved like she did at pick up time when I got there.)

 Coke Bottle Analogy

Imagine I have a bottle of coke.

your child wakes up in the morning and instantly there are demands placed on them to get ready for school - getting dressed and washed and going downstairs.

The clothes they're wearing feel uncomfortable.

Tags and seams are either too long or too short (my daughters are neither in my opinion but to her they have to be just right!)

Remember that Coke bottle you're holding?

Shake it a little bit.

Breakfast time, and there are too many choices, the TV that little one is watching is too loud making it impossible for the child to concentrate. They end up choosing the wrong thing and getting distressed because they're hungry 

It's time for shoes and coats on now, where did they leave them yesterday? 

You have to find them or you're going to be late otherwise.

Getting into the car now and putting the seat belt on, they're being restricted and the seat belt hurts.

Again shake the bottle a little bit.

You've arrived at the school now and getting out of the car, gathering up all the belongings, you realise you've left the P.E kit at home, walking in to the school and there are people everywhere.

Where should she look? 

Who's talking to her? 

Someone is calling her name? 

Where's it coming from?

Oh mind that curb, don't go into the road "Say hello darling"

Going in to a class now where there are thirty children running around excitedly, the teacher yelling, this way no that way, coats up, sit on the carpet.

Chairs are scraping, lights are whirring, lots of decorations everywhere.

Thirty bodies moving simultaneously.

It hurts.

Shake. Shake. Shake.

They are starting work now and she doesn't understand, she can't communicate this, so she does something else, gets told off for disrupting, or wandering aimlessly.
Shake it some more. 

Phew its break time, but she is she's thrown to the wolves - again lots of sensory overload, lots of bodies moving everywhere. 

Go and play Lola! 

Play with what? I have no imagination!

Play with who? I have no friends! The smell in the dining room makes me feel sick.

Shake. Shake. Shake.

"Do your work!" 

"More work time? I'm tired, I'm hot, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, it's too loud, it's too bright, it's too busy"


I need to move, I need to fidget, I need something to chew on... 'Oh here I'll just unstick this page and eat the blu tac.'
Shake that bottle harder.

It's assembly time now you're making me line up, walk carefully, and sit down. I can't sit still, I can't be quiet for that length of time and it's all just too much. 

Fidget, fidget, grunt, grunt, growl, growl

Kids are whispering and the teachers are tutting.

I copy them because it sounds good and I'm asked to leave. Why is everyone staring at me?

Keep shaking that bottle

It's home time now we have to find our coats and bags, ans try and carry them all, clumsily tripping over the strings on the bags.

It's crazy in the cloakroom. 

Where's my stuff I'm sure it was here...


Bump, trip, stumble, bang

Shake. Shake. Shake.

DO YOU WANT TO OPEN THAT BOTTLE?  Nope I didn't think so.

But I have to find a way to open that bottle slowly to release the fizz because if I don't the consquences are a nightmare.

Sometimes I'm not quick enough and it just can't stay closed any more.

It just goes pop bang and fizzes everywhere.

Sometimes it's when we get home, other times it's in the car on the way home but sometimes it's as soon as she comes out of the classroom.

It's like the straw that broke the camels back.

She has been holding it all in all day and then I pick her up and ask her to put her belt on and all hell breaks loose.

I have learnt to not talk to her much at pick up time, even when she asks me questions I side step them so as to avoid the inevitable confrontation.

It can be about anything.

Even something that wouldn't normally bother her can trigger one of these reactions.

I have to be so careful when I collect her from school and if she's is in a flighty mood I need to make sure I move swiftly to the car, to avoid a meltdown. The last time it happened she was hysterical, on the floor, banging her head on the concrete screaming her head off it was heartbreaking.

The bottle exploded!

I want to avoid that again at all costs.

Previously written for and published by Firefly Community

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  1. Ive never heard this analogy before but its brilliant and makes complete sense!

    1. Anonymous18/9/18 12:30

      Thanks beaut -over a year ago since you commented on this but my google account wouldn't allow me to comment last year! thankfully its decided it no longer hates me x

  2. Great way to describe a meltdown build up x

  3. That is the most helpful analogy I've ever read/heard. Thank you so much.

    1. Anonymous18/9/18 12:31

      You're very welcome Jenny,I do apologise for not replying sooner, however my account was messed up and now its all fixed yay!

  4. Well done! I get this totally!!

  5. As a father of 2 aspie children and husband to an aspie wife this is truly a wonderful way to explain it to others. Thank you for this.

    1. Anonymous18/9/18 12:32

      Thank you so much for your comment Logan, I'm so pleased its helped people.

  6. Totally get this. I might try not speaking to Joseph on the way home!

    1. Anonymous18/9/18 12:32

      Did you give it a go? how did it work? xx