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Preventing Meltdowns in Children

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Many children experience meltdowns in an academic setting and at home. Some of these children are on the autism spectrum, others are not. Finding the underlying cause helps to prevent meltdowns.

One underlying cause relates to dominance. For example, a child may have a mixed dominance – that means some information enters the system through the right ear or eye and other information enters the left ear or eye. That information goes to different parts of the brain and the individual must look for it crossing from one hemisphere to the other. While looking for the information, at the very least, he takes a very long time finding it. At the worst, he gets frustrated or melts down. When the meltdown relates to dominance the solution is to establish a one-side dominance.

Another underlying cause relates to sensory perceptions. What seems like a normal sensation, visual, auditory, tactile to us may not be for this child.  This child may have hyper auditory reactions to sounds that register in a “normal” range. Further, a light touch may activate a violent reaction. Neurodevelopmentalists recommend activities that stimulate these senses to normalize the response.

While working on these underlying causes with a neurodevelopmentalist, one may create an environment to aid in preventing these meltdowns. Using visual strategies are especially helpful for these individuals in knowing what will happen and what will not happen as well as making good transitions.  Visual tools work well because they can overload easily with auditory input. Even though visual input usually works better than auditory, one can provide a “too busy” visual environment. Organization helps, but do not overdo it.

Visual calendars / schedules and timers can help the individual know what to expect and to change from one activity to another. You can Google “visual timers” to see the great variety of timers available. Each one will provide a unique solution for different settings. If a child needs to understand the passage of time, analog or other types will help. Digital types do not help for all needs, but one certainly needs to be able to use all kinds.

Rules or Expectations should be visually posted in age/developmentally appropriate ways. Remember the appropriate number of rules will vary for individuals. You need to post, review and refer to these rules when you correct the child. This helps the child know what to expect. Unpredictable situations set them up for meltdowns.

Linda Hodgdon, expert in this area gives, “12 Essentials Every Classroom Must Have for Autism and Asperger’s Success”.  

Do not try to implement all of these essentials all at once. Add one at a time. Starting with a personal schedule for the individual usually works best.


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