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Aspergers Students: Dealing with Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns in the Classroom


Tantrums, rage, and meltdowns (terms that are used interchangeably) typically occur in three stages that can be of variable length. These stages and associated interventions are described below. The best intervention for these behavioral outbursts is to prevent them through the use of appropriate academic, environmental, social, and sensory supports and modification to environment and expectations.

The Cycle of Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns and Related Interventions

 Initial stage

During the initial stage, children with Aspergers (high functioning autism) exhibit specific behavioral changes that may appear to be minor (e.g., nail biting, tensing muscles, indicating discomfort). During this stage, it is imperative that an adult intervene without becoming part of a struggle.

Intervention

Effective interventions during this stage include: antiseptic bouncing, proximity control, support from routine and home base. All of these strategies can be effective in stopping the cycle of tantrums, rage, and meltdowns and can help the youngster regain control with minimal adult support.

Rage

If behavior is not diffused during the initial stage, the child may move to the rage stage. At this point, the youngster is disinhibited and acts impulsively, emotionally, and sometimes explosively. These behaviors may be externalized (e.g., screaming, biting, hitting, kicking, destroying property, self-injury), or internalized (e.g., shutdowns, withdrawal). Meltdowns are not purposeful, and once the rage stage begins, it most often must run its course.

Intervention

Emphasis should be placed on youngster, peer, and adult safety, as well as protection of school, home, or personal property. Of importance here is helping the child with Aspergers regain control and preserve dignity. Adults should have developed plans for (a) obtaining assistance from educators, such as a crisis teacher or principal; (b) removing the student from the area (removing the upset student from the peer group is far less memorable for the peers than is moving the entire peer group away from the upset student); or (c) providing therapeutic restraint, if necessary. Especially in elementary and middle school, every effort should be made to prevent allowing a student to have a meltdown in view of peers as this behavior tends to “define” the student in the peers’ minds in years ahead.

Recovery

Following a meltdown, the youngster with Aspergers often cannot fully remember what occurred during the rage stage. Some may become sullen, withdraw, or deny that inappropriate behavior occurred. Other children are so physically exhausted that they need to sleep.

Intervention

During the recovery stage, kids are often not ready to learn. Thus, it is important that adults work with them to help them to once again become a part of the routine. This is often best accomplished by directing the child to a highly motivating task that can be easily accomplished (e.g., activity related to a special interest). If appropriate, when the student has calmed sufficiently, “process” the incident with him or her. Staff should analyze the incident to identify whether or not the environment, expectations, or staff-behavior played a role in precipitating the incident.

My Aspergers Child: Methods for Preventing Meltdowns at Home and in the Classroom

5 comments:

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The Monarch School

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Reed Restraining a child during a meltdown can be physically and emotionally harmful. It might be embarrassing to have to move the group of peers away but it beats the psychological damage of restraint.
9 minutes ago · Like

OPS, LLC said...

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group I respectfully disagree that the "proper" restraining of a child in the process of melting down (who may hurt himself in the process) causes psychological damage.

Anonymous said...

My son witnessed a meltdown in class the other day. He goes to a school for children with moderate to high functioning autism... one kid grabbed another and the other kid flipped him and slammed him off the ground... the lil guy ended up in the hospital. The other guy had no idea he had even done it... My son, a bystander was VERY shook up!

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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