Melting down on a plane


Meltdowns are a reality of our life, though thankfully not as frequent as they once were. There is nothing more difficult or stressful than watching your child meltdown, knowing that there is little you can do to help them until they calm down as they are in a state of neurological chaos and their brains are not working correctly.

Recently our Son had 3 meltdowns on a long-haul plane journey, which meant we had no safe space to help him calm down. The strategies that we have previously used did not work, and we had a captive audience living it through with us. I could feel the emotions of everyone on the plan, and I felt powerless and judged. It was not a great experience.

Three weeks later, the thoughts of that journey still haunt me and I can't see us going on a long-haul flight again - at least not in a hurry.

Hopefully with Virgin looking into autism friendly holiday packages, they will also consider training airline staff on how best to support parents if their child has a meltdown mid-flight.

In the airport, whilst waiting for our luggage, I started to write about how I was feeling. Below is what I wrote.



I am beyond sad, my heart has been shattered by the piercing screams of my son crying out.

All I can do is sit close by powerless to help him and unable to find a place we could escape to.

My heart is heavy, trembling from the fear and trepidation. My breath catches in my throat as I struggle to breathe and hold back the tears.

I see the stares and hear the murmurs -  the people close by who want me to sort it.

There is no escape for him. He needs to work through the emotion & regain control. He is aware of nothing around him - consumed by the feeling that the world is wrong and he is unable to cope.

There is no escape for us. Thousands of feet in the air there is no exit, no safe place, no distraction. The screams and punches continue to flow, and we sit beside him - quiet, waiting, reassuring. No words, just being there.

My body is numb after hours of tense muscles, as I sit waiting to reach out and help. Waiting for the storm to pass.

He comes back to us slowly, but not completely. I can tell by his eyes that he is still caught between two worlds, unable to speak or communicate. His little body is rigid and I can almost hear his racing heart.

We sink into our chairs, spent. I need to move, regain myself, so I can be there for him.

Another meltdown is over and we start to pick up the pieces - a word here, a word there ...on tip toes we dance, not wanting to trigger him again whilst emotions are high.

The plane is calmer now and the murmurs have quietened down. You can hear a pin drop as the other passengers say a silent thanks that it is all over.

Whilst they go home thinking of their nightmare journey, I head home wondering how I can help my Son and ensure that next time he is a little more equipped to deal with his emotions and frustrations. Wondering how I can make the world around us understand. Wondering how I can ensure that next time we are supported, rather than judged.




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Do you struggle with meltdowns? How do you cope with meltdowns? What do you wish people would do when your child melts down in public?


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