Sazini Nzula

@sazini-nzula | contributor
Sazini is a mother of two boys with autism, a scientist, advocate, happy gardener and global citizen. She is an Author, Speaker, Autism Parenting Consultant, Certified Qigong Sensory Treatment (QST) therapist, and founder of Dr. Sazini Consultation. She delights in promoting evidence-based approaches in autism therapy that also empower parents. She loves curling up with a good book.
Community Voices
Sazini Nzula

To the Therapist Who Said My Autistic Son Would Never Be Normal

Dear Therapist, Something happened last night that made me think of you. Funny how I may not remember your name, but every now and then, I think of you and that day we met all those years ago. I was so full of hope that rainy Tuesday afternoon when I walked into your office. My son was 2 and had just been diagnosed with autism. His pediatrician recommended that I bring him to you for occupational therapy assessment. She told me you had decades of experience, and knew a lot about children with autism.  You seemed friendly enough and suggested that we sit on the floor. You, me, my son, and two giant blue bags full of promising toys and whatever else you would need for the assessment. It quickly became very apparent that you were more interested in managing my expectations than in assessing my son. You knew that I didn’t know much about autism back then and wanted to make sure that I knew about “these children” such as my son. And so you told me that many of these children never talk, these children can never develop meaningful friendships, these children will never get a job, will never live on their own, and absolutely never have a family of their own. You said that my son would probably never tell me that he loved me. You would do your best and he would make some progress, but you wanted to make sure that I wasn’t expecting miracles. I was caught completely off-guard, stunned, speechless. From the moment you started speaking, I had not said a single word. Maybe you took my silence to mean that I was receptive to the information and wanted more. You went on but I didn’t hear you. I wanted to get out of there but was still glued to the floor by my historic loyalty to medical and allied health professionals. I’m a scientist, so we are kindred spirits. My son rescued me. When he began to fuss, it was further proof to you of just how difficult these children are.  You mentioned that the assessments would take longer because of his autism and you were not sure how much would get done that day.  I was probably being unfair to you, but it sounded to me like you were complaining. I bolted. I gathered up my son and fled as you said something about the next appointment. Even back then, I could not have told you how I was feeling. I was shaking and angry at myself for being so unprepared. I wanted to cry but couldn’t.  I didn’t have any cry in me so I wept silently, inside. As I buckled him in his seat, I made a promise to Ethan and to myself that I would never let anyone, no matter what their credentials, decide who he was and what his future had in store.  I  refused to believe that at 2 years old, his future could already be defined as extremely limited. I rejected hopelessness. Last night, as Ethan was going to bed, he said goodnight and that he loved me. It wasn’t the first time, but it made me think of you, perhaps because in the afternoon I had been sharing his journey. Yes, the journey has been really challenging at times, but there is also joy, laughter, and accomplishments. So many moments that I’ve appreciated even more because Ethan has had to work so hard for them. Proud moments like playing ukulele and singing for a crowd of staff and volunteers at his school.  He has accomplished way beyond what you were preparing me to never expect. By the way, he did learn to speak, at 9 years old. You should also know that most children with autism do learn to speak and only about 30% are minimally verbal. In contrast to your certainty that day, I truly have no idea what the future holds for him. I do know that he will continue to learn, grow, and develop as a human being. I want to thank you for your words that Tuesday afternoon all those years ago. I didn’t appreciate them at the time. Your words lit an inferno of stubbornness and determination.  Not only did I put my research training into practice for my son, but I sought and found a loving, supportive and knowledgeable community. I reached out to other parents and to adults with autism. I confirmed what I already felt in my heart that day. That there is no such thing as “these children.” People with autism are unique individuals and it is impossible to know at 2 what their future will look like.  I was able to identify those professionals who were willing to treat my son as an individual and believed in helping him reach his potential. I am grateful to every single one of them. I thank you because, without our meeting, I may not have been as discerning. You gave me something to work my hardest to prove wrong. Along the way, my son flourished. I became a better mom and a better human. For that, I thank you.

Sazini Nzula

To the Therapist Who Said My Autistic Son Would Never Be Normal

Dear Therapist, Something happened last night that made me think of you. Funny how I may not remember your name, but every now and then, I think of you and that day we met all those years ago. I was so full of hope that rainy Tuesday afternoon when I walked into your office. My son was 2 and had just been diagnosed with autism. His pediatrician recommended that I bring him to you for occupational therapy assessment. She told me you had decades of experience, and knew a lot about children with autism.  You seemed friendly enough and suggested that we sit on the floor. You, me, my son, and two giant blue bags full of promising toys and whatever else you would need for the assessment. It quickly became very apparent that you were more interested in managing my expectations than in assessing my son. You knew that I didn’t know much about autism back then and wanted to make sure that I knew about “these children” such as my son. And so you told me that many of these children never talk, these children can never develop meaningful friendships, these children will never get a job, will never live on their own, and absolutely never have a family of their own. You said that my son would probably never tell me that he loved me. You would do your best and he would make some progress, but you wanted to make sure that I wasn’t expecting miracles. I was caught completely off-guard, stunned, speechless. From the moment you started speaking, I had not said a single word. Maybe you took my silence to mean that I was receptive to the information and wanted more. You went on but I didn’t hear you. I wanted to get out of there but was still glued to the floor by my historic loyalty to medical and allied health professionals. I’m a scientist, so we are kindred spirits. My son rescued me. When he began to fuss, it was further proof to you of just how difficult these children are.  You mentioned that the assessments would take longer because of his autism and you were not sure how much would get done that day.  I was probably being unfair to you, but it sounded to me like you were complaining. I bolted. I gathered up my son and fled as you said something about the next appointment. Even back then, I could not have told you how I was feeling. I was shaking and angry at myself for being so unprepared. I wanted to cry but couldn’t.  I didn’t have any cry in me so I wept silently, inside. As I buckled him in his seat, I made a promise to Ethan and to myself that I would never let anyone, no matter what their credentials, decide who he was and what his future had in store.  I  refused to believe that at 2 years old, his future could already be defined as extremely limited. I rejected hopelessness. Last night, as Ethan was going to bed, he said goodnight and that he loved me. It wasn’t the first time, but it made me think of you, perhaps because in the afternoon I had been sharing his journey. Yes, the journey has been really challenging at times, but there is also joy, laughter, and accomplishments. So many moments that I’ve appreciated even more because Ethan has had to work so hard for them. Proud moments like playing ukulele and singing for a crowd of staff and volunteers at his school.  He has accomplished way beyond what you were preparing me to never expect. By the way, he did learn to speak, at 9 years old. You should also know that most children with autism do learn to speak and only about 30% are minimally verbal. In contrast to your certainty that day, I truly have no idea what the future holds for him. I do know that he will continue to learn, grow, and develop as a human being. I want to thank you for your words that Tuesday afternoon all those years ago. I didn’t appreciate them at the time. Your words lit an inferno of stubbornness and determination.  Not only did I put my research training into practice for my son, but I sought and found a loving, supportive and knowledgeable community. I reached out to other parents and to adults with autism. I confirmed what I already felt in my heart that day. That there is no such thing as “these children.” People with autism are unique individuals and it is impossible to know at 2 what their future will look like.  I was able to identify those professionals who were willing to treat my son as an individual and believed in helping him reach his potential. I am grateful to every single one of them. I thank you because, without our meeting, I may not have been as discerning. You gave me something to work my hardest to prove wrong. Along the way, my son flourished. I became a better mom and a better human. For that, I thank you.

Sazini Nzula

To the Therapist Who Said My Autistic Son Would Never Be Normal

Dear Therapist, Something happened last night that made me think of you. Funny how I may not remember your name, but every now and then, I think of you and that day we met all those years ago. I was so full of hope that rainy Tuesday afternoon when I walked into your office. My son was 2 and had just been diagnosed with autism. His pediatrician recommended that I bring him to you for occupational therapy assessment. She told me you had decades of experience, and knew a lot about children with autism.  You seemed friendly enough and suggested that we sit on the floor. You, me, my son, and two giant blue bags full of promising toys and whatever else you would need for the assessment. It quickly became very apparent that you were more interested in managing my expectations than in assessing my son. You knew that I didn’t know much about autism back then and wanted to make sure that I knew about “these children” such as my son. And so you told me that many of these children never talk, these children can never develop meaningful friendships, these children will never get a job, will never live on their own, and absolutely never have a family of their own. You said that my son would probably never tell me that he loved me. You would do your best and he would make some progress, but you wanted to make sure that I wasn’t expecting miracles. I was caught completely off-guard, stunned, speechless. From the moment you started speaking, I had not said a single word. Maybe you took my silence to mean that I was receptive to the information and wanted more. You went on but I didn’t hear you. I wanted to get out of there but was still glued to the floor by my historic loyalty to medical and allied health professionals. I’m a scientist, so we are kindred spirits. My son rescued me. When he began to fuss, it was further proof to you of just how difficult these children are.  You mentioned that the assessments would take longer because of his autism and you were not sure how much would get done that day.  I was probably being unfair to you, but it sounded to me like you were complaining. I bolted. I gathered up my son and fled as you said something about the next appointment. Even back then, I could not have told you how I was feeling. I was shaking and angry at myself for being so unprepared. I wanted to cry but couldn’t.  I didn’t have any cry in me so I wept silently, inside. As I buckled him in his seat, I made a promise to Ethan and to myself that I would never let anyone, no matter what their credentials, decide who he was and what his future had in store.  I  refused to believe that at 2 years old, his future could already be defined as extremely limited. I rejected hopelessness. Last night, as Ethan was going to bed, he said goodnight and that he loved me. It wasn’t the first time, but it made me think of you, perhaps because in the afternoon I had been sharing his journey. Yes, the journey has been really challenging at times, but there is also joy, laughter, and accomplishments. So many moments that I’ve appreciated even more because Ethan has had to work so hard for them. Proud moments like playing ukulele and singing for a crowd of staff and volunteers at his school.  He has accomplished way beyond what you were preparing me to never expect. By the way, he did learn to speak, at 9 years old. You should also know that most children with autism do learn to speak and only about 30% are minimally verbal. In contrast to your certainty that day, I truly have no idea what the future holds for him. I do know that he will continue to learn, grow, and develop as a human being. I want to thank you for your words that Tuesday afternoon all those years ago. I didn’t appreciate them at the time. Your words lit an inferno of stubbornness and determination.  Not only did I put my research training into practice for my son, but I sought and found a loving, supportive and knowledgeable community. I reached out to other parents and to adults with autism. I confirmed what I already felt in my heart that day. That there is no such thing as “these children.” People with autism are unique individuals and it is impossible to know at 2 what their future will look like.  I was able to identify those professionals who were willing to treat my son as an individual and believed in helping him reach his potential. I am grateful to every single one of them. I thank you because, without our meeting, I may not have been as discerning. You gave me something to work my hardest to prove wrong. Along the way, my son flourished. I became a better mom and a better human. For that, I thank you.

Sazini Nzula

How I Know For Sure My Kids With Disabilities Will Have the Best Year

This year, I’ve decided my kids will have the most awesome year ever! They have already had the most amazing first few days of the year that I can remember. At the end of the year, I will look back and probably cry when I see just how awesome 2018 has been for my boys. I know for sure that 2018 will be the most awesome year ever because I will make it a priority to focus on the positives and capture all the awesomeness they do or that happens to them. To do that, I will go as high tech as possible to make this effective: two large glass jars, some colorful paper and some pens. I will diligently write down all the wonderful things that my kids do or they experience and place them in the jars every evening and watch them gradually fill up. My sons have autism and we have some challenges. I know there will be times when at the end of the day I will struggle to find something to write. Parenting can be hard some days. I know there will be meltdowns, people will be unkind and say ignorant things, there will be plates left on the table, beds not made, fights between the boys, some outright refusals to do as I ask, the kids will be sick. It’s life. But I believe the monsoon rains of awesomeness will also come and balance out the drought. Days when more than one note will be added to each glass jar of awesome at the end of the day. Each of my boys frequently does some incredible things and has amazing experiences — and although I am super impressed and really moved in the moment — life has a way of taking over and within a few days, I usually forget all but the biggest of them. I’m just an ordinary one who shares the same experience all parents go through. In 2018, my kids are going to have the most awesome year ever because I will have my jars full of colorful notes I can reach into any time and remember just how great a year they are having. This year will be the most awesome year ever for my sons because I will have reminders of their wonderful achievements. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image by nastenkapeka

Sazini Nzula

Mom Responds to Shopper Who Yelled at Her Son With Autism

“ You are rude and have been badly raised.” I turned around to face the person who had said that to my son. In a split second I had figured out what had caused such harsh judgment. My son had reached out and touched the woman, making circular movements with his fist on her left arm. That incensed her even more, and she yelled louder at him. The words seemed directed at me though for being such a terrible parent. She was after all, saying Ethan was badly brought up and had no manners. We were at the supermarket, and Ethan had probably been distracted and ended up separated from his brother and me by the now irate shopper. In his need to join us, he rushed past, stepping on her foot and triggering the rebuke that first caught my attention. Ethan is on the autism spectrum and has severe language delays in English. The enraged shopper was speaking in French, a language he neither speaks nor understands. He did, however, understand that the shopper was annoyed and that he was the cause. He tried to apologize using the universal language of touch and completely missed the mark. Rather than understanding, he provoked a volley of insults. I was calm when I turned to face the shopper and spoke to her in French, my fifth language. I apologized for my son having stepped on her and explained that he has autism and not only has a language delay but does not speak French. I told her my son didn’t mean to offend her by touching her but rather, had been trying to apologize. A few years ago, before Ethan developed any language at all, I had tried teaching both of us American Sign Language (ASL). He never quite got the sign for “sorry” and would rub his fist on the other person’s chest instead of his own. Over the years I’ve managed to persuade him to avoid touching people’s chests. For that, I was extremely grateful that day at the supermarket. At least the police were not called. Although the woman’s facial expression remained set and dark after my explanation, she did at least stop her yelling thus allowing us to complete making our purchases. As soon as I had shepherded my sons outside the door, I switched into parenting for the benefit of those around me. I made sure all the people passing by heard me tell my son to ask to be excused rather than walking into people. I continued in my microphone voice to tell him not to touch strangers since some of them don’t like being touched. (I had to make sure they all knew he was well brought-up!) I pulled out of the parking lot feeling anger, regret and worry. I regretted having put on a performance for the benefit of complete strangers, many of whom would probably continue to judge my family anyway. I was angry at the woman. How dare she question my child’s upbringing! Has she any idea how much deliberation, research, soul-searching, sleepless nights and even money go into raising a child with special needs? I even found myself wondering if the woman would have been as angry and judgmental if, a blond, blue-eyed boy had stepped on her foot and then touched her. What role did the fact that a tall black kid had done it instead? What did the future hold for us when Ethan became a tall black, teenage boy with autism in our neighborhood? It’s been a few months since the supermarket incident, but it definitely left an impression on Ethan and me. Ethan remembers the incident as being funny. He always laughs when he recalls the incident in bouts peppered with “the lady’s foot,” “French gibberish” and “Madame,” the first word I said to the woman. More importantly, it taught him in a rather dramatic way, the consequences of not asking to be excused when one walks past people and accidentally steps on their feet. It achieved in a few minutes what years of my theoretical lessons had failed. As for me, I laugh at the absurdity of trying to parent for the benefit of complete strangers. What was I thinking? At least I know I will get a chance to redeem myself in the future because the judgmental looks, whispers and reproaches happen far too frequently.

Sazini Nzula

Autism and Flying: My Son's Meltdown on an Airplane

I did not see this coming. I should have, but everything had been going so well. I was not prepared for it. We had just found our seats, and I was already mentally organizing our bags and figuring out what needed to go in the overhead lockers and what I needed to take out for use during the trip. Our seats were the four middle ones, nowhere near a window like on the last flight. His meltdown started. My son was screaming, kicking, hitting and doing everything he could to get away. I dropped everything I was holding and focused on confining him to the small space of our seats. I was struggling to hold on. He may be a skinny kid, but he is strong. I call them “Bugatti meltdowns.” They go from zero to roaring past you at full speed leaving you wondering what just happened. Then you realize you have to catch and calm them. My immediate thought was that we were going to be kicked off the plane. My biggest fear in planning this trip was suddenly looming over us. A few weeks before, I’d seen the news about a girl with autism and her family allegedly being kicked out of a United Airlines flight. Being our first trip on an airplane with our boys, who are also on the autism spectrum, I was really afraid of the same thing happening to us. Especially since we had six flights to take. Six chances to get booted off. At least the family on the news was flying within the U.S. We were a continent away from home and still one more continent and yet another flight from our final destination. One passenger walking past interrupted my thoughts by yelling even louder than my son, enough that everybody could hear: “ Y ou should know better, you are old enough.” The woman sitting behind us laughed and nodded in agreement. The mother bear in me wished I could let go of my son and tear into them for being so ignorant and judgmental. I could feel the anger rising from my belly. That momentary focus on the two passengers and my own anger gave my son just enough leverage to shove me backwards into the aisle, smacking onto the man shuffling past. He responded by spewing F bombs and other profanities. I’m not sure if they were directed at me; it could have been just how he responds to everything, but each one landed on me like a guided missile. I felt angry and deflated. I saw the flight attendant talking to my husband, no doubt telling him we would have to get off the plane. We couldn’t possibly expect go through the next 12 hours with our son screaming like that. I accepted our being kicked off as the inevitable ending, but until the police escort arrived, I had to focus on one thing, helping my son calm down. The only way I could do that would be to calm myself down first. I’ve had plenty of practice getting meltdowns under control over the last eight years. I have a method that works well. I simply had to trust it would work on an airplane too. I took a couple of deep calming breaths and continued to focus on my breathing while I escaped to my paradise — my beautiful beach where I could no longer hear the rude remarks of fellow passengers and not feel the fear of our impending ejection from the airplane. I needed to focus on my son who desperately needed me. He had lost complete control and needed my help to get out of the storm he was swept up in. I went from barely hanging on to him to hugging him tightly and finally to having him sit on my lap while I rocked him. The tears and the sobbing finally ended. The storm of the meltdown had gone on for “hours,” but the end was finally in sight. By the time the flight attendants started their familiar mime of the onboard safety rules, pointing out the emergency lighting and doors, my son was fast asleep. He slept for almost 10 hours. I learned from my husband that during the meltdown, comments from many of our fellow passengers suggested they couldn’t wait to see London’s bobbies escort us off the plane. I also learned the flight attendant I had been so sure had already given the bobbies a call, had actually been working on a plan to move us to window seats once boarding had completed. This meant four strangers had agreed to give up their seats for us so my son would be more comfortable. In addition, when we landed several hours later, a kind grandmother who had been seated close to us stopped to chat. After confirming that my son has special needs, she was particularly concerned about his education. She wanted to know if we had managed to find a good school for him because he needed a school where people would understand him. Only after she heard that he was indeed in a good school did she gather her belongings and leave the plane. My son’s meltdown in an airplane did not get us kicked off the flight; instead it moved complete strangers to acts of kindness. They did what they could to show us their support and humanity. This experience was a reminder that I need to trust myself more. I actually sometimes know what I’m doing on the parenting front. And for all the judgmental people out there, there are some who are accepting and supportive. They are the only ones I have to focus on, the rainbows in whatever storm I may find my family caught up in. To all the rainbows out there, thank you! The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were traveling that was either incredibly challenging or where you faced adversity. Tell us how you handled it or wish you had handled it. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Sazini Nzula

To Myself on the Day of My Son's Autism Diagnosis: Here's What You Won't Hear

Dear Sazini, I know you thought today’s visit to the hospital would be quick and easy, simply a matter of picking up the piece of paper that confirms what you already know. You accepted Ethan’s diagnosis of autism several months ago. However, after you receive the official diagnosis, so many questions come flooding at you as you wait for the psychiatrist to finish the call he took on his flip-phone. Will Ethan ever talk? Will the meltdowns stop? When? How will you choose from all the available therapies? There are so many! Will you be able to handle everything without your family close by? You have a long road ahead of you, and I want to tell you something you won’t hear for a while and that will take you several years to accept: You have to prioritize taking care of yourself. I hear your arguments: right now you have to focus on Ethan, he needs early intervention. Between work, reading about autism until the wee hours and everyday household duties, your name barely makes the list! Here’s the thing: When you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise, Ethan will benefit. You will be a better mom when you are not exhausted and your mind isn’t foggy. I’m telling you this to save you from waking up in three years’ time with excruciating pain because your neck and shoulders have locked in place from carrying all that tension. (And by the way, please use that gift certificate to the spa. Your guilt about using it is irrational.) All the talk on the importance of early intervention makes you feel like you have to grab it all, do it all, for fear that you might leave out the essential therapy that will help Ethan. It’s true that early intervention will be helpful for you and Ethan, but it’s OK to take your time choosing between therapies and therapists. Not all of them are a good match. Trust your instincts; you know more than you give yourself credit for. One day, you will grab Ethan and walk out of an evaluation with a therapist because you’ll know it’s just not going to work out. After that, you will learn to interview potential therapists, and eventually, you are going to build a great team of professionals who work with you and inspire you. You will call them the “A-Team.” There’s one more thing you need to know: You are now a “waiter on lists.” There will be a list to get a social worker, for the special needs school, for the social skills group, and on and on. You will also wait for almost two years for the early intensive behavior intervention therapy provided by the government. You will feel angry, frustrated, abandoned, sad and disempowered on that waiting list. But those months of feeling forgotten on a waiting list will inspire you to help other parents. I know that right now you feel like you are in free-fall. As unfathomable as it seems, you are going to land on your feet. You will be happy and feel in control. You will meet many people who will need no explanations — they will just “get” you. They will become part of your community. They will be on their own journeys, but you will find strength in each other, laugh and cry together. Ethan will make tremendous progress and start to feel more comfortable in his own skin. He will learn to talk. He will sleep through the night. He will overcome many sensory challenges And yes, there will be days, then weeks and even months without a single meltdown. Remember to hold on to the good times with Ethan, because there will be many. Your life will be filled with joy, love and a dash of adventure. Knowledge and acceptance of people with autism continues to grow, and we really have no idea what the future holds. Help Ethan discover his calling so he can live a happy, fulfilled life. Sazini and her son. The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself on the day of the diagnosis. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Sazini Nzula

How I Deal When My Child With Autism Has a Meltdown

It is loud, frustrating, completely out of control, exhausting and sometimes even scary. A meltdown that sweeps the child as well as everyone and everything in its path is common in children with autism. It is dreaded by many parents as well as the children. In the early days following my son Ethan’s diagnosis with autism, such meltdowns were a common occurrence. One of the most memorable happened at the largest indoor shopping mall this side of town. It was on a Saturday, in winter, when it seems like the whole world converges at that mall. We were only going to one shop to buy a helmet and then straight back home, just the two of us. We never made it into the shop; he had a meltdown near the door. I was too absorbed in keeping Ethan safe and out of the way to notice the throngs of shoppers passing by. I did notice, however, the polished, black boots of the mall’s security guards. They were particularly close to our faces seeing as we were on the floor, close and very shiny. I looked at them for a moment, wondering who had summoned them; a concerned or an annoyed shopper? Meltdowns take a toll on caregivers who often struggle with how to handle them. In the beginning, Ethan’s meltdowns would leave me feeling exhausted and defeated. Since his meltdowns were quite common, I was pretty much always exhausted and defeated. It was only when I developed a strategy for dealing with them that I was able to sail through even his most spectacular meltdowns. This three-part approach transformed both of our lives, and I continue to rely on it: 1. Don’t take it personally. It’s easy to take a meltdown personally when you’re the one on the receiving end of the glass-shattering screams, punches, kicks and bites. On top of that, you’re also the one tasked with minimizing damage to property, keeping yourself and everyone else safe — including the epicenter of the meltdown, your child. Above all, it is you who is tasked with helping your child regain composure, because when a child with autism is in the middle of a meltdown, they may be unable to regain control on their own. Yes, you may be the one bearing the brunt of your child’s meltdown, but it really isn’t personal. You just happen to be the closest target; it could have been anyone or anything. Remember that at a certain point the child lost all control and desperately needs to regain control over the enormous force that has taken control of them. They are probably even more terrified than the little kids who are peeping from behind their parents’ tightly clutched legs. The meltdown is in no way directed at you. 2. Distance yourself from the meltdown. Allow your mind to take you away from the meltdown to a place of rest, quiet and peace. This can be a real or imaginary place. My escape was always a beach in Tofino, British Columbia, that I had visited during my pregnancy. When you allow your mind to go to that beautiful, peaceful place, you avoid being emotionally and psychologically sucked into the vortex of the meltdown. From that safe distance, you view the meltdown happening near you with detachment, as you would if the child involved was someone else’s. You remain neutral and able to focus on containing the meltdown while remaining relatively unaffected by it. In addition when you detach yourself from the meltdown, your emotions don’t feed into it, and it dies down much faster. This ability to mentally distance myself has not only helped me deal with meltdowns but also with other difficult situations. Parents of children with special needs are all too familiar with insensitive, judgmental remarks from family, friends and even complete strangers. Often such remarks are uttered while they are already dealing with a meltdown! By distancing myself from thoughtless comments, I am able to hear them but not allow them to affect me. It’s like having my own protective shield. 3. Know it will come to an end. All meltdowns eventually end when their energy runs out. They are utterly exhausting for the child. Simply knowing that a meltdown has to end keeps you steady and allows you to quickly regain the control that your child has lost. This summer, my three-step approach to handling meltdowns proved invaluable under extremely stressful conditions. As soon as we boarded the plane for one of our 11-hour flights, my sleep-deprived son had a meltdown. It was our first trip overseas, and the brief rest at the hotel had not been adequate. Even with the judgmental, snide remarks of some of our fellow passengers in the background, I was able to calm him down before we took off and avoided the very real possibility of being asked to disembark. I was thankful for this tried and tested method that had seen me through countless meltdowns before. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images