Family member triggering childs meltdown


New Member
Omg i am so upset and overwhelmed right now. My daughter is 7 and has high functioning autism. We only recently found out what this all was and put a name with it. I am living at my parents house at the moment and still trying to get on my feet. Living here makes me feel so guilty and we have no where else to go. So until i can make enough money and save enough we're stuck. I know i sound really ungrateful and i am grateful to have a place that is warm for my kids and i. But this is the worst possible place for my daughter. My dad is one of those, "know- it - alls" that believe they're always right even when it comes to something that could be opinions rather than fact. He doesn't believe my daughter has anything other than lack of parenting going on with her. I truly believe he believes that autism is not real. Or maybe in her case believes its just an excuse. I don't know what exactly he thinks or believes but his actions really make me wonder. He triggers her DAILY!!!! he doesnt seem to understand her sensitivity and her meltdowns that can at times appear over the littlest things. Him being a major trigger and all he has to do is look at her wrong or speak to her and she'll flip. It hasnt always been like this, and is getting worse the longer we are here. Tonight he was on a kick about wasted drinks (he doesnt buy them) but i agree that wasting them is def something that needs to change. So my son was going to get something to drink and my dad wouldn't let him and told him to drink the drink that was my daughter's that they could share it. Anyone that has been around my daughter long enough knows that eating her food or drinking her drink will send her into another dimension. She understandably does not like other people's mouth on her utensils or drinks.. My dad who believes that it's ridiculous to be that way tells my son to just pick it up and drink it. So anyone who understands a meltdown can probably guess what happened after that.. i feel like i am failing my daughter and son having no where else to go at the moment. I dont Know How to keep things calm until we can move out. I cant talk to my dad because he knows all the answers. I sometimes wonder if talking to my daughter would be easier than talking to him. How do I keep things from escalating?

Thanks for reading, i needed to vent.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Welcome Megs

Can you possibly stay away from the house in the evenings for a while until your dad retires for the evening or something?

Take the kids to the library...visit a friend etc.

Take them to the park, for a walk...not sure if it's cold where you live....

Maybe trying to wear them out so they don't have stored energy too would be helpful.
Living with your parents is a stressful situation on its own, and the dynamics you have right now are adding to it.

It's probably unrealistic to think you can move out this weekend, so you'll need to find a way to deal with the current situation until you can get out (I'm sure you're already on the fast track to figuring out how to leave in a hurry).

Neither your father, or obviously your daughter, will behave like the adult here; so you'll have to be the adult for them. Try to take emotion out of the discussion, and focus on solutions to the immediate problem being raised. In the example you mentioned, would your daughter object to splitting her drink with her brother if you poured some into a cup for him?

I'm guessing that your dad is a baby boomer who was raised by parents affected by the Depression (or perhaps he was himself). Money scarcity is built in to him, and as a result anything that "goes to waste" is a trigger for him. My mother moved in with me after my stepdad died, and she was literally angry with me over taking out trash in a half-empty trash bag (I paid maybe $.13 for that trash bag). She fusses that we won't eat her expired mayonnaise (you know those expiration dates are a scheme by the food companies to get us to buy more when we don't really need it). Seriously. We've just agreed to disagree, and she feeds our expired eggs to her dog while bad-mouthing us under her breath.

So keeping your dad's triggers in mind, take inventory of the situation he's seeing: is it legitimate? Can you address that single issue differently in a way that prevents meltdowns on either side? Maybe let the kids drink Kool-Aid that they pour in a cup with their names on it? If he's insisting that you eat his rancid vegetables, politely decline ("ooh, you know, I'm not sure about that goo seeping out of that tomato... I'll just make myself a PB&J... I'm not really all that hungry" - and then make a mental note that you need to pick up some fresh tomatoes and discreetly toss the old)

Please understand I'm not saying your dad is right, I'm saying he has triggers too that he probably doesn't even realize. And perhaps he'll be less apt to trigger your daughter if he himself isn't getting triggered by the goofy things you never considered could be an issue.


Well-Known Member
The problem here is that autism, which one of my adult kids has, does not respond to reasoning or talking to. The little girl requires understanding and intervention to learn how to cope with a very real disability.

The father is an adult acting like a controlling idiot. Refusing to believe she is disabled. Traumatizing her.

I am a baby boomer and certainly would never act like him. Baby boomers are big boys and girls with the ability to not do what parents may have done. Old enough to be their own.people. the man is just being unreasonable.

I fear for the child unless she can move away from him. My son is doing really well, but he got tons of help and love. With autism, this is essential.
Hey, Somewhere - I didn't mean to offend, and I've not walked in yours or his shoes. I'm only offering thoughts from my personal experience with my mom, who sounds like his dad. And yes, he's acting like a toddler.


Roll With It
I have been in your shoes. It isn't easy. I lived with my parents while my husband was in grad school. My oldest has Aspergers and all 3 of my kids have sensory issues. Your daughter sounds like she has very strong sensory issues along with other issues with the autism.

I would tell your dad that the kids cannot share a drink after daughter has started one because it is germy. They cannot share a toothbrush, can they? The doctor would not allow it and it is cold and flu season. There is ALWAYS some bug going around, so this is always an excuse. Have the kids split the drinks before they start to drink them by pouring them into separate cups if this is a big issue.

I think he is just trying to control a life that seems out of control to him. He may be on the autistic spectrum himself. I remember going through a checklist about Aspergers (a type of high functioning autism) with my mom. We both were commenting that my father fit the list far more closely than my son did, and my son fit it very closely. I bet no one would have thought to diagnose your dad any more than anyone thought to diagnose my dad.

Whatever is going on, the important thing is to find a way to stop having your daughter get triggered. Is the house large enough to keep them apart more? Maybe have your daughter play in a different part of the house rather than near him?

I also know it will be hard, but you need to stick up for your child. Point out that your child has a DISABILITY that is not her fault. Tell him flat out that he needs to be understanding to her and to not try to be mean just to set her off. IF there is a problem with something, ask him to come to you rather than to insist that your children drink from the same container. Not only is that unsanitary, it is something that will put a great deal of stress on a child who cannot cope with it. doesn't he want her to enjoy spending time with her grandpa?

I would play up that guilt if it were my dad. Of course that worked with my dad. I used that quite a bit with my kids because my dad had a lot of trouble understanding the problems and thought we should just make all the kids do what my oldest wanted. That didn't work for the other 2, and why should they have to have their needs ignored? Having a daughter who was the most adorable creature on earth as a little girl helped a lot. Especially since she could cry on cue. It worked very well with my dad every time. He would think of how cute she was, and then he would actually see her. If he asked her about the subject she would get that chin quiver and a few tears in her eyes, with maybe one or two threatening to spill over but being bravely held back. She was GOOD at that nonsense and it took him years to figure it out. Which I found hilarious. Mostly.

I STRONGLY suggest that you get your daughter into an Occupational Therapist for testing for sensory integration disorder. Most people with autism have some degree of this. Sensory Integration Disorder is when your brain doesn't process input from your senses in the way a normal person's brain does. The world is always "too". It is too much or too little. You either need more of a sensation or type of stimulation or you need much less. It can be a type of motion, a sense of pressure on a part of your body, a sound, a taste, a smell, literally anything that one of your senses can detect. You either have a hard time detecting the world around you, or you feel you are being attacked by it.

How do I know how it feels? I have it. It doesn't go away as you get older. It just becomes something you learn to live with even though it makes you very strange. I am the pickiest eater in my house, mostly because many food textures are just wrong for me. Or else the flavors make me gag. Textures are a big problem for me. Fabrics, cotton balls, styrofoam, many other things are difficult for me to handle. I had to figure out ways to work around them or to do without them. I also cannot be around scented products for the most part.

What do you do for someone with Sensory Integration Disorder? Especially if you start young, you can do a LOT. The Occupational Therapist will evaluate your daughter and then will probably suggest brushing therapy. This is something you can do at home, but you MUST be taught by an Occupational Therapist (OT). You use a soft surgical scrub brush in a certain pattern over the body and then you follow it with gentle joint compression. This actually will retrain the brain to handle input from the senses in a more appropriate way. As long as you do it the way you are shown, there are no side effects and most children either enjoy it or don't mind it. It doesn't take long either. Just 2-3 minutes a few times a day and you actually create new pathways in the brain so that it handles sensory input in a better way!! With no medication and no scary side effects!

The other part of treating this problem is called providing a sensory diet and sensory breaks. Sensory breaks are short periods throughout the day where your daughter can do sensory activities to help her calm down and sort of center herself. Often these are part of a school day and are written into an IEP. While they take time away from "time on task" doing subject work, they increase productive time because your daughter is more able to concentrate and learn between these breaks.

The sensory diet is much like a nutritional diet. It is simply providing varied sensory input each day for her. I always thought of this as the best therapy from a parenting point of view. So often I had to fight with my son to get him to appointments or various therapies or to do exercises or whatever. This therapy was different. You can probably pick out many sensory activities your child would benefit from because they are activities your child likes. Activities needed in a sensory diet are always things the child likes to do, so the parent gets to tell the child they have to go play with a toy or craft they like to play with for half an hour. That is a gift when it comes to therapy!!!

You can learn more about Sensory Integration Disorder by reading The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz. You can find sensory activities in The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Kranowitz. Both are available in libraries. The "Has Fun" book truly is fun. We wore out several copies just by using them so often. Every kid in our neighborhood would show up every time I got the book out, or so it seemed. That was how much fun we had with it.

I hope this helps. I am sorry you are dealing with all of this. I also hope you can get your own place very soon.


Active Member
I just wanted to post to say that I'm so sorry that your dad just doesn't understand. My 19 year old son and husband are both on the spectrum. Fortunately, my family is and was incredibly understanding and willing to learn about autism. While there were a couple of family members who made comments etc., the majority got it. You are in a tough spot in not having your own place and I can totally sympathize. I agree with Susie in that you are going to need to stick up for your daughter to your dad. She needs the support (which I know you are giving her), but unfortunately is being undermined by your dad. It's critically important to her that she is supported. I'm not saying that your not. I'm more saying that what your dad is doing is undermining your parenting with her and that's not acceptable. My son had a lot of sensory issues and to the outside world I'm sure I looked like a lunatic, but these were things he couldn't help. His brain is wired in a way that he couldn't filter out many of the stimuli that I could. His dad is the same way. For example. My son was terrified of public toilets because the flush was generally automatic and so loud. Like the hand dryers. I carried a little portable potty around in my car for a really long time for him. The same with vacuuming. I couldn't do it if he was in the house. My broom got quite a workout. LOL. To someone who doesn't understand autism that would look like coddling. Which is what I'm thinking your dad believes he's seeing. But it's not. It's being sensitive to how someone else's brain is wired. How they see and perceive the world and how they react to sensory stimuli. I still make concessions that I'm sure other people would find odd. But it's what both my husband son need. That's it at the end of the day. It's what they need to function.

I'm really sorry you are having to deal with this. You sound like a wonderful and sensitive mom who is in such a tough spot. I wish you all the best.


New Member
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Awesome advice!!!

Ps.. my dad is the same way about expiration dates!!!! He will laugh at me in the most aggravating laugh when i turn my nose to something expired. He really is a genuine good man deep down. He just has a vey dry sence of humor.