We were all sitting in the living room. My husband was watching TV, the little ones were on the computer and Kyle was graphing things on his iPad. Apparently Kyle had to listen to whatever was being said and was getting frustrated because he couldn't hear because of all of the noise around him. This would drive anyone crazy. My husband went to say something to him and out of Kyle's mouth came, "Shut up." This wasn't said in disrespect but out of frustration due to sensory overload and not having the ability to think about what he was going to say and how it would make the other person feel. Kyle was just trying to get his needs met.
This upset my husband, and quite rightly so. He sent him to his room for a time out. Not wanting to intervene I chose to do so anyway. I overrode the time out. Not directly. I had a discussion with Kyle as to what was going on and decided that the best solution was head phones. I also made sure that he apologized to my husband and coached Kyle on the correct way to go about having certain needs met. The meltdown fizzled very quickly.
To some it may seem as if I am giving in to Kyle, but if you look at it and try to understand where he is coming from and what he is dealing with you would agree that I am not. For instance, he is very sensitive to the sun. He frequently wears sunglasses when the sun is really bright. Is it easier for him and me to have him read in the car with his sunglasses on, or argue with him for ten minutes because I don't think he needs them? (The car is where he does his reading homework. That way it is done by the time we get home from school.) Does it really matter if he wears sunglasses? For me, however, the sun drives me through the roof but I can not stand wearing sunglasses. I try every once in awhile, but soon realize how annoying they are.
It has taking a lot of learning, patience and time (and I haven't mastered it yet) to be able to look at Kyle's behaviors and distinguish what is sensory overload, lack of understanding or just plain defiance. My determination of his behavior is how I decide how to react. Obviously if his actions are out of defiance or if he had prior understanding that his behavior was inappropriate then the reaction would be more severe. If it is a sensory issue, then it is my duty as a parent to try and lessen the sensory overload. If it is lack of understanding, then it is my job to use that time as a teaching moment.
I have noticed that the more I try to understand Kyle's behaviors and help him appropriately, the less meltdowns he has and the better everything is overall. Kyle's behaviors are never, or very rarely, intended to hurt someone or annoy them. He just doesn't understand. I am just glad that he is, for the most part, able to identify his sensory issues so that way I can help him be more comfortable.