Autism, PDA, and Meltdowns with Rachel Le

Inside: In this heart-to-heart conversation, Rachel Le, an autistic mom of three neurodivergent kids, opens up about her and her children’s diagnoses, their overwhelming journey, and the ray of hope she found using the Calm the Chaos framework.

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Ever feel like you’re just bouncing around rock bottom… everything is exhausting and difficult… 

And more challenges constantly keep coming up – especially when it comes to your kids’ behaviors.

Ever feel stuck, like each day is an uphill battle in pretty much every area of your life:

If that’s you, then you’re truly going to relate to this post. 

For this week’s podcast, I interviewed a guest who’s been there, felt that – much like many of us. She shared how she climbed out of that abyss and found both hope and a way forward.

Rachel Le – an inspiring mother from Ottawa, Canada, raising three neurodivergent superkids aged 11, 8, and 6 – isn’t just an ordinary parent.

Rachel received a late diagnosis and was officially recognized as autistic about a year and a half ago. She also believes she aligns with the PDA profile of autism (even though it’s not yet part of the DSM).

(For those interested: PDA stands for “Pathological Demand Avoidance.” It’s a behavior profile seen in some autistic individuals. Those with PDA will avoid demands made by others, due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.)

In our heart-to-heart conversation, Rachel opened up about her and her kids’ diagnoses, their overwhelming journey, and the ray of hope she found using the Calm the Chaos framework.

Let’s dive in!

She Used to Be a “Holy Mess”

Rachel was in a very dark place when she discovered the Calm the Chaos community.

Imagine the scene: 

Her middle kiddo on the couch, entirely tuned out from the world, lost in his repetitive stimming. And then, in a blink, those quiet moments would turn into explosive, hours-long meltdowns where nothing seemed to help.

These storms were so catastrophic she had to take some drastic measures – like locking her youngest (just a toddler then!) in another room, ensuring he stayed safe while she was with her nonverbal autistic middle child.

She was not only forced to neglect her toddler but also lacked the time or means to homeschool her eldest daughter. 

Add to that the frustration of being unable to take basic care of herself, such as showering, doing daily chores, or even sleeping more than 2-3 hours a day. Seeking support for her unaddressed mental illness wasn’t even on the radar.

Can you imagine the weight of guilt and shame she bore?

She lived on the brink of burnout and describes herself as a “holy mess” during that period.

I’ll be honest – it seems like an understatement.

A True Revelation

Rachel’s dive into the Calm the Chaos world was a game-changer. 

Up until then, it felt like everyone was tiptoeing around the big challenges, not daring to mention the kind of behaviors she was struggling with on a daily basis.

These were kids who were so dangerous to both themselves and those around them that traditional therapists were at a loss. Children like my Eliah and her middle kid, whom society often misjudged or misunderstood.

But when she reached out to Calm the Chaos, Rachel had a real and raw 45-minute conversation with Jason and me. We spoke transparently about our survival strategies during our own son’s most challenging episodes.

This was nothing short of a revelation for Rachel. She finally discovered that she wasn’t the only one dealing with this level of intensity. There were others out there, just like her, trying to figure it all out.

The Power of Ride-the-Storm Plans

During her first 90 days inside Calm the Chaos, Rachel focused on creating an emergency plan tailored to her middle child’s unique needs. 

This plan appealed to the logical, analytical aspect of her autistic brain:

However, beyond strategizing for her child, the most transformative insight Rachel gleaned was about herself.

Instead of being consumed by the constant mental chatter – the worries, the to-dos, catastrophizing her future, and asking, “What did I miss this time?” – she learned to hit the pause button. 

Identifying triggers isn’t the magical solution to meltdowns, as some therapists might suggest. 

The real journey is about understanding, adapting, and being compassionate, giving a break both to her child and herself.

Much like the straightforward guidance of a tornado plan – head to the basement or under the stairs and wait – the same principles apply when you create a “ride the storm” strategy for challenges with your kids. 

Get to safety. And wait. 

Make your plan simple, easy to remember, without too many steps, without too much talk, and stop. 

Show your children that you’re there for them, that they matter more than any daily task, and, most importantly, that they are safe. 

“Being there” instead of “doing” is simple, but it’s not as easy as it might seem.

It’s one of the most common first wins that we see inside the Calm the Chaos communities – when you’re able to pause, you take a huge step towards deeper and more meaningful connection with your kids – and you can feel the change immediately.

Where Is Rachel’s Family Now?

Starting from what could best be described as stage zero, Rachel began her journey with that basic emergency plan. Once she got a handle on that, she started crafting Calm the Chaos plans tailored to numerous situations. 

Over the past 5 years, she has crafted an impressive binder – essentially a user manual to help her be the best version of herself. 

(During the interview, she shared all the details, so make sure to watch the full episode on YouTube.)

Not only has she become a treasured member of the Calm the Chaos community… The transformation of her family dynamics is a testament to the effectiveness of the CTC framework. 

Rachel’s eldest headed back to school in 2021, while the homeschooling for her two younger kids underwent a radical transformation (which she attributes to the strategies learned from Calm the Chaos.)

Her middle one, who once seemed locked in his own world, now plays with everyone – in his unique style, of course. The family has made it a point to embrace and celebrate his distinct ways of interaction. 

Meanwhile, her youngest has gone through remarkable growth. He’s recently taken to planning his day meticulously, seemingly inspired by a family routine. 

Because of that typical ADHD twist, he’d sometimes hyper-focus on something and miss out on all the fun stuff. He now designates blocks of time for individual activities, ensuring a balance between spending time alone and time with family members.

Each member of Rachel’s family has found their unique path toward growth, advocacy, and empowerment.

There Is the Hope – Even in the Darkest Times

What I really like about Rachel’s journey is that it underscores the hope – even in the darkest times, when all seems lost, and the worry for your kids consumes you.

In her own words: 

“There is a new day. There’s going to be possibilities open for them. And this generation of kids is just so amazing. I’m so encouraged and hopeful. Seeing my kids, seeing other kids in our community, and the things that they’re able to do is just brilliant. They’re going to conquer this world!” – Rachel 

If you want to learn more about the concrete Calm the Chaos strategies Rachel applied to reach this beautiful place, how they helped not only her children, but also herself as a person with mental illness and a PDA profile of autism, and why community support is so important to her, tune in for the full episode.

And don’t forget to tell us if Rachel’s interview resonated with you!

Until the next episode, remember,

PS – if you want to know more about the strategies, tools, and plans you can apply to your unique situation, order your copy of Calm The Chaos Book.

Calm the Chaos Parenting is a podcast offering parents practical tools and strategies to navigate the challenges of raising strong-willed, highly sensitive, and neurodivergent children.

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This content was originally published here.