Autism and Meltdowns: Sign Language May Help

My youngest "The Little One".  Taken at Six Flags, NJ July, 2006.
My youngest "The Little One". Taken at Six Flags, NJ July, 2006.

Finding the Reason for the Meltdowns

My son was diagnosed with PDD-Nos on the autism spectrum soon after his second birthday. I noticed that the older he got, the more meltdowns he experienced. I watched his behavior meticulously, looking for triggers. I wanted to understand what was going on and what I could do to help.

Researching on the internet, watching his behavior and questioning every doctor, therapist, educator, expert and parent I could find - I found the answer.

There were two reasons my son was having these meltdowns.

1. My son was experiencing sensory overload brought about by any of the following:

  • flourescent lighting,
  • sounds produced in crowded places like malls
  • overpowering and plentiful smells that could be found in food courts
  • textures such as denim

2. My son was frustrated by his inability to communicate his wants and needs.

After discovering these two triggers, I started searching for a solution. There had to be a way for us to communicate. I went to his school and spoke to his team. I knew they were teaching him sign language. Unfortunately, he wasn't responding to it. Here's the other problem. I couldn't understand him, even if he used sign language. To make matters worse, they didn't offer any classes for the parents! How does a school teach a child a form of communication and not teach the parents?!

Back to the internet I went. I learned that there are different kinds of sign language. Wow. As if things weren't complicated enough! Then his Dad called me and told me someone at his job told him about these videos that teach sign langauge. It is geared for kids and their parents. I looked it up on Amazon and bought the whole set: which cost me several hundred dollars. I got the DVDs during spring recess. I put the DVDs on and he soaked them up. Of course, we all watched the videos to be able to communicate.

He returned from school that Monday with a note in his book bag from his teacher. She asked what I had been doing with him because he had an explosion of communication using signs. She couldn't believe how many signs he had learned in a week. He knew more signs than they had taught him. Best of all, we all understood what he was communicating. The meltdowns occurred less frequently.

Today my son is 10 years old. He reads, writes, draws and sings. He continues to attend special ed, but he has progressed immensely. We continue to encourage him to pursue his interests.

Signing Time Videos

These were the videos that I purchased. They helped us to communicate and put an end to the meltdowns. If you would like to see what the videos are like, scroll down to the bottom of this page to watch the youtube video. I purchased the entire set, but you can buy one or a small gift set to get started. I can't rave enough about what these videos have done for us.

Sign Language Puzzle

We purchased this sign language puzzle to reinforce the sign language alphabet. The puzzle piece shows the sign for the individual alphabet. It helps them become familiar with the sign. Great tool that can be used to quiz your child... or yourself!

American Sign Langauge Book

My older children were the models for this book. The photo shoot took place a good year before he regressed and starting exhibiting signs of autism. It is a great reference book that you can have on hand, for those times your child uses a sign they learned in school. It must have been weird for him to see his siblings in the book. LOL!

My son is pictured on the upper right hand corner and my daughter is on the lower left nad corner of the book.

Preview of Signing Time Video

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Leave your comments or questions here... 11 comments

NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

I can't believe schools don't involve parents more in children's education! But I love how you handled it, and how your son's skills skyrocketed. I worked for many years with persons with developmental disabilities and I'm familiar with the issues you brought up in this hub. I'm also very interested in sign language and learned some just on the job. But I'd love to learn more! Great hub! Thanks!


mom4autism profile image

mom4autism 4 years ago from Northeast U.S.

Interesting hub, my son also has PDD-NOS and we signed quite a bit in the early years. Sounds like things are going well - good luck!


supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY Author

@mom4autism Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment! Yes, things are going great. How is your son doing?


mom4autism profile image

mom4autism 4 years ago from Northeast U.S.

Hi, he is great - turning 7 soon!! It's a lot of work and preparation for sure, but all worth it when I look back and see how far he has come and how far he WILL go! I look forward to reading your hubs; it's always nice to know you are not alone :). Voted up!


supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY Author

@mom4autism 3 That's great! Thanks for sharing. It is comforting to know that there are others that understand one's life, isn't it? I will be sharing more about our journey in the near future. Following you to read more about your journey. ;)


supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY Author

@NateB11 I commend you! It's not an easy job, requiring much patience. We used the videos to learn sign too. They were so easy to follow. My daughter took them to college to brush up on it, since she babysits special needs kids. Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation!


mom4autism profile image

mom4autism 4 years ago from Northeast U.S.

Great and thank you - hoping we will have new ideas to share and look forward to reading more!


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Hope your hub can help many parents to better understand and deal with these very gifted people.


supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY Author

@Lipnancy Thanks. I am hoping the same as well.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

Voted up. I wrote a hub about how I learned more about autism--from my daughter who works with children who have autism in an elementary school. I also learn more from hubs such as this one. Thank you for contributing to educating readers and sharing your experience and your son's.


supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY Author

@ytsenoh Thank you for taking the time to read, comment on vote on my hub! I love helping people especially families with autistic children. Not only am I a parent to an autistic child, it was my job. I used to be an early intervention coordinator, so I know a lot about how the system works in upstate NY. I am planning to write more hubs about autism in the near future. Every stage of a child's development has new obstacles that must be overcome.

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