Jump to content


What do you do about meltdowns?

Recommended Posts

My youngest has autism and is prone to meltdowns. She is very bright but has language delays, so many times, she melts down out of frustration.


Here are some things that have worked with her:


-- routines. She knows that there are certain times that she's allowed to watch TV -- for instance, she loves "The Pink Panther" and she knows that he comes on at 2:30...so, unless it's 2:30, the TV is off. She's learned how to tell time beautifully with this system! LOL!


-- picture schedules. This doesn't work for TV, but it works for other things, especially schoolwork. She has a picture of each 'curriculum' (I cut them out of a homeschool catalog and glued them to a piece of construction paper) and she knows then which work she needs to complete each day.


-- clear instructions. If she's trying to tell us something, we'll remind her, "Use your words", because I can't understand her when she's screaming. Time out doesn't work with my daughter at all; it just makes her more upset. But I don't give in to the screaming either. I'll simply repeat the instruction to "Use your words" and, after she's taken some time to calm down, she'll tell me what she needs to say.


-- early intervention. If I can see something coming on the horizon, I try to cut it off before she reaches the meltdown stage. (This takes time and practice on my part, but it saves my sanity! If she has to hear her order first at the drive-through at McDonald's so she isn't screaming because she thinks you forgot to order hers, then, by all means, order her food first. Little things like that mean alot for my daughter)


-- reward charts. My daughter loves stickers and to see rows and columns filled up with stickers! She receives them for using the potty (yes, we're still mastering this at 6 1/2!), keeping her toys picked up, doing little chores around the house (she likes to unload the dishwasher, to take clothes out of the dryer, to sweep floors, and to dust), and then there's a reward at the end -- such as a trip to the ice cream store or the movie rental place, etc. This would also work to avoid tantrums, such as offering a reward for good behavior (start small, such as "good mornings", "good afternoons", "good evenings," before expecting it to stretch into "good all day")


Hope this helps!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dd has meltdowns with transitions. So I prep as much as I can for a potential transition. If she has to leave what she is doing, I start with a 10 minute notice, and it is specific. I usually try to say "After _____, then you will ____." Also, when I tell her, I am next to her with my hand on her, making sure I have her attention.


I do this again at 5 minutes, and 2 minutes. It's a lot of work, but it usually helps. I am finding that, as she matures and also as we make progress with our therapy, that she doesn't require as many advance warnings or as far ahead.


With your example, I would have said, "We're going to turn off the TV and eat lunch in about 10 minutes. We'll be able to watch this show on DVD later."


Then the 5 and 2 minute repetition. Then, when it was time to eat, I would have put my hand on his shoulder or hand, and said, "It's time to turn off the TV and eat lunch." And then I'd wait. I find kids with autism need a lot of time to process and transition.


Once the meltdown starts, I try not to say too much. I gently guide her to what she is supposed to be doing. If that's not possible, I stop and wait (not looking at her). Once it's starting to calm down, I like to label what she is feeling. "You seem angry...."


It's exhausting, I know. And some days I'm much better at this than others. The other night at the ball field, Austin's game ended abruptly. And his team was leaving the dugout and the other team was going in and parents to and fro, and that's a very scary time because Reece still tends to wander. So I had to stop what she was doing without a transition.. and she melted. So I stopped and she was screaming at the top of her lungs, "Stop holding me! You're HURTING me!" and I wasn't. Once she calmed down physically she was still screaming it, but I wasn't holding her any longer! LOL


A really great book that our RDI consultant recommended, that has helped me with this a bunch is The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It seems to be designed for older children with better reasoning skills (she wanted us to read it for Austin), but the ideas behind it have been very helpful for me with pre-emptive stuff for Reece.


Meltdowns are so hard on everyone involved! I hope you get some useful ideas from this thread! Hang in there! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I spend so much time each day with meltdowns with DS6. He has PDD-NOS. He will scream and cry. It appears to be tantrums, if it were not for the amount of them or the fact that he is already DX'd or for the fact that it seems so hard to reach him at times.


He is very smart though, so his IQ is not affected by his problems. But here is today's meltdown. He was called for lunch, did not come. He was told to his face, did not come. He was watching a cartoon on TV (avatar). Finally, we turned off the TV and told him he needed to come to the table. The most unreasonable part of this is that Avatar was on the TV downstairs where he could see from the kitchen table. Plus, it is being recorded. So why is he laying on the ground screaming..ok..now he got up and ran back in to the media room and turned the TV on. I just went in there and told him no and unplugged the TV to which he is screaming and kicking.


So what do you suggest?

My ds does not have the dx that your son does...but boy does this sound like him! No advice, but :grouphug:.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dd 7 (a twin) certainly has become *an explosive child*. She is a lot better right now that last month, but still we are sort of walking on egg-shells!! If she is hungry or tired (or upset or doesn't want to share etc.) then she will let it all out. She will get extremely loud, sometimes closes her ears while screaming (because fx. we are loud talking or the store-music is loud). If she needs to go pee and we are out, she'll become nuts instead of recognizing her need for the bathroom. It is so exhausting. She also gets violent if she feels like it; will take off her seat-belt in the car, will scratch us, try to bite sometimes (me especially) and of course, scream and be rude.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dd 7 (a twin) certainly has become *an explosive child*. She is a lot better right now that last month, but still we are sort of walking on egg-shells!! If she is hungry or tired (or upset or doesn't want to share etc.) then she will let it all out. She will get extremely loud, sometimes closes her ears while screaming (because fx. we are loud talking or the store-music is loud). If she needs to go pee and we are out, she'll become nuts instead of recognizing her need for the bathroom. It is so exhausting. She also gets violent if she feels like it; will take off her seat-belt in the car, will scratch us, try to bite sometimes (me especially) and of course, scream and be rude.


I think you're talking to me about The Explosive Child book? If not, just ignore what I'm going to write and excuse me for being clueless! LOL


It's been a little while since I've actually read the book, so my details aren't going to be as fresh. So I highly recommend getting the book from the library!


The most important basis that I started off gleaning from Dr. Greene is that Explosive Children aren't doing this because they want to. They aren't trying to manipulate us to get what they want. They aren't trying to drive us insane. They have a neurological 'thing' that makes them Explosive. He goes on to describe the different types of inflexibility (cognitive, executive functioning, etc) that leads a child to be Explosive at times. Dr. Greene emphasizes that these kids will do better when they can! We have to teach them the tools of flexible thinking. So often, when they become Explosive, we start modeling inflexibility.


He talks about Baskets A,B, and C. Basket A is the stuff that MUST be done and that you can't waiver on. He suggests this be a very small basket. Basket C is the stuff you're going to ignore for the time being. Basket B is the stuff that you're going to model flexibility with. This is where it comes into being more for older children, so I don't do "Baskets" with my 6 year old. Rather, I model flexibility for her when I can. I give names to the emotions she is feeling. I prepare her well for the things in Basket A that have to happen within a certain time frame.


When we started this last year with Austin, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed like I was giving in and giving him all the control. But I was surprised to find those Basket C behaviors (having to take ONE particular route to a destination, having to be the first one to be served his meals), those seemed to disappear as he was learning to be more flexible! And I originally had too many things in Basket A. For instance, I wanted his bed made immediately when he got out of it in the morning. So I moved it to Basket B, because it wasn't a safety issue, just my preference. And I was modeling inflexibility because there wasn't an absolute reason to make your bed immediately upon rising, that's just how I've always done it! LOL So instead, making the bed is included in his morning routine, and it just has to be done sometime before school time. We came up with that together.


And yes, for awhile when we first started this, I would have to stop what I was doing and take what seemed like 30 minutes working on the Basket B stuff every time it came up. It was annoying, frustrating, and I felt like I was not really the 'parent' anymore. But a year later, he is much more flexible to begin with, and he is much more accepting of the things I do ask of him. We're probably all a little more flexible, to be honest! LOL So the time invested in the front end has really helped. And that's what I'm hoping for my 6 year old. I've noticed that recently she has become a little more prone to meltdowns and inflexibility, so I probably need to take a look at my expectations and what may be going on with her developmentally.


Anyway, those are just a couple of examples. I highly recommend reading the book so you can figure out the root cause of your child's inflexibility (that causes meltdowns). He gives step by step ways to work through this Collaborative Problem Solving! It's really great!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My son, also Autistic/ADHD has approximately 10 meltdowns a day. It's a nightmare, so I can relate. :grouphug:


The countdown routine can work some. We are going to eat in 10 min, 5 min....etc.


Picture cues work very well since our children are very visually oriented.

I use a big piece of posterboard with a picture of a clock on it. At the local teacher's store, they have verbal cue cards that are in color and I cut them apart. I bought the ones for verbs. Then around the clock (since my son cannot grasp time) I put pictures in order of events. Get up, eat, get dressed, brush teeth, school, (I have the noun ones too) so I would insert the TV or computer ones within the clock at appropriate places.

Some days we do one or the other so pictures are side by side. For instance, he may go to the library with his sister or play on the swingset.

This has helped because it takes the unknown from his day. Autistic kids need to know their routine. It gives them stability and less reason for meltdowns. This has helped here anyway.


We have also found that the TV/videos have become more and more a source of discource in our home. While I admit I do use them just to keep my own sanity, my son becomes almost "addicted" to them. Pulling him away from them is near impossible. He has much better days when we leave it totally unplugged. If he has to ask "May I watch a video" and can only watch that one, he does much better. My husband wants to chuck the whole thing...I'm not ready for that yet.


I hope you find some peace.



If your child is very prone to these types of outbursts, there are medications that can help. My son was put on Risperidol (sp?) which has helped tremendously and saved our family. It's reduced the number of meltdowns as well as the severity and has allowed me to focus on behavior management with my son.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Nifferco. I had seen the book, but now I realise I have to read it (The Explosive Child). I was literally at my wit's end last month. She went for her regular check-up (at a new doctor's office) and decided to misbehave right then and there. It was horrible and we got to discuss depression in kids and I left, ready to research seeing a specialist.


Well, now I still have potential tantrums, but nothing like 10 a day anymore. She does need a lot of pre-warnings as to change of routine and what is going to happen, she needs frequent snacks, needs to have gone to the bathrrom, not to be too hot, tired etc. If you have all those factors just right, then you have the most amazing, sweet, loving kid. If one factor is askew then you have a monster kid, screaming, biting, almost-cussing etc.


Thanks for listening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish I had read it a long time ago!


*Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen MD*


I saw his show on PBS earlier this year and then read the book. I learned so much about how different areas of the brain influence mood, attention, etc. The book helps you figure out what might be going wrong in your brain and where, and what you can do to change it (diet, exercise, mental strategies, medication, etc.) Anger, anxiety, depression, rigid thinking, OCD, and other traits that kids on the autism spectrum may be dealing with are covered.


My own preference is to try to figure out the "why" behind troublesome things like meltdowns before trying to figure out what the appropriate response should be. Over the years I've figured out a lot of things about my dc on my own, but I think this book would've been a great shortcut!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can relate to yr situation more then I would like to admit. I have 3 boys with autism different degrees but it is autism. Transition is SO big. I dread when we have to do something differnt. I have been giving a countdown to warn him and when the meltdown happens I try my hardest NOT to raise my voice or show any emotion at all and make sure he is safe as well as the rest of us and wait it out. I don't if it's just my kid BUT for kids that need things to be the same they sure are confusing when it comes down to their routines and meltdown triggers. You think you've got down on the routine and those triggers then they CHANGE them on ya.:confused: LOL thats autism I have to laugh I would cry.;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Transitions were tough for my ds also, even if it was something he wanted to do!


Another thing I learned is that food played a big part. Meltdowns always occurred after eating cereal with BHT. And eating some protein with each meal was vitally important.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...