Preventing Meltdowns in Students with Aspergers and HFA: Strategies for Teachers

In this post, we will look at strategies to prevent autism-related emotional outbursts in the classroom… 

Children diagnosed with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) require assistance from educators if they battle with behavior issues in school. Listed here are numerous useful techniques that each teacher ought to know.

AS and HFA may co-exist with other conditions including Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depressive disorders, and anxiety. But mainly, the disorder has an effect on a youngster’s ability to socialize. These children have a problem recognizing facial expressions, sarcasm, and teasing, and fight to adjust to unanticipated changes in routine. Their passions are usually very narrow, which can limit their capacity to connect with others.

As a result of these challenges, kids on the autism spectrum frequently experience rage, anxiety, depression, and irritation. There are many successful interventions that may be used in the school room to help improve the youngster’s learning experience. These can assist the student in feeling more comfortable and decrease anxiety, paving the way for academic achievement.

1. Create a Plan for Emotional Outbursts— Offer a quiet location for the student that has repeated meltdowns. This may be a trip to the bathroom with a classroom aide, or a visit to the school counselor. A written plan for coping during these times of high anxiety is crucial for an AS or HFA student’s success. Assisting kids on the spectrum inside the school room is an additional challenge for today’s overburdened educators. Nevertheless, with insightful monitoring, parental and professional assistance, and inventive techniques, a love of school and learning is usually fostered in kids with AS and HFA.

2. Make Classroom Rules Clear— Children with AS and HFA thrive on rules, but will frequently disregard them when they're vague or not meaningful. Educators should detail the most crucial school room guidelines and why they exist. An itemized list plainly shown, or a handout of the classroom policies can be quite beneficial.

3. Managing Felt Emotions— Another area by which these kids need practical assistance is in controlling felt emotions. Usually, felt feelings are way too big for the situation. One individual with AS states, “An example in my life is when I discover the grocery store is out of a specific item; I get a visceral reaction very similar to the horror I felt when first hearing about the 9/11 tragedy. I know cognitively the two events have no comparison and, yet, my visceral reaction is present and I need to consciously bring my too big feelings down to something more workable in the immediate situation.”

Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction and visual supports.

4. Minimize Surprises in the Classroom— Children on the autism spectrum require organized settings to achieve success. They don't like surprises. Things such as unexpected seating changes or unanticipated adjustments to the routine might lead to anxiousness as well as meltdowns. Educators need to provide sufficient warnings when there is to be a change of plans.

For instance, sending a note home to the moms and dads if a seating change is imminent would be beneficial. A back up plan can be presented to the class in anticipation of schedule changes. When the Friday schedule that usually includes watching an educational film in the afternoon changes if time is short, the teacher should inform the children ahead of time that they will work on free reading or journaling instead, as an example.

5. Promote Supportive Friendships— If it seems suitable, educate the class about the disorder. Create empathy by making children conscious of inappropriate words and bullying behaviors. Emphasize the youngster’s talents in classroom lessons to enable him to discover buddies with common interests. When the student on the spectrum appears to be struggling with relationships, group him during classroom activities with the ones that are more kind and understanding. At recess or lunch time, try assigning a classroom pal that will be loyal and guide the youngster through those more chaotic times.

6. Provide Sensory Support— Many kids with AS and HFA also encounter sensory processing issues. Sensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste, and smells can irritate the youngster, making him more likely to act out or withdraw. Consult the moms and dads to determine what these sensitivities are. Minimizing classroom mayhem, noises, and clutter will be a good start.

If at all possible, get the help of an occupational therapist and try to work sensory breaks into the youngster’s school day. Chores such as returning a load of books to the library or even doing a few jumping jacks in the hallway can go a long way in helping the youngster realign and get back to learning.

7. Sensory Diet— Regrettably, medical science doesn't permit us to take a blood sample to measure sensory dysregulation. However, we can figure out and employ a sensory diet to prevent dysregulation, and just like insulin prevents serious consequences for a diabetic, a sensory diet prevents serious troubles for the child on the spectrum. As one adult with AS states, “I spend time every day on sensory integration activities in order to be able to function well in my everyday life.”

A sensory diet employed proactively goes a long way in preventing the first stage of explosive behavior from ever occurring.

8. Visual Supports— An additional critical area of assistance to put in place proactively is visual supports. As one individual with AS states, “I can tell you the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is the monumental truth. Although each person with the disorder has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered by most of us to be our ‘first language.’ For me, the meaning I get from spoken words can drop out entirely when I am under stress, my sensory system is dysregulated or my felt emotions are too big.”

Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are very commonly used successfully with many kids on the spectrum. Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities portrayed on the visual schedule supports smooth changes, therefore keeping a meltdown away. For maximum effectiveness, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until behavior unravels to pull them out.

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Anonymous said... I feel your pain my daughter deals with being yelled at for crying nd melting down. I will be giving these out to all who deal with her!
Anonymous said... I printed this for my son's teacher. He often yells at him and compares him to the other kids. We have a meeting with him today to discuss my son's attitude...
Anonymous said...I have experienced meltdowns myself, being and individual with AS. I remember some feelings that I had experienced in 6th grade. Whenever my teacher was angry at me, even just the slightest hint that would express any kind of unhappiness because of me, I would feel as though I had just ‘become frozen’, and begin to cry. It became clear to me that she absolutely did not appreciate my behavior, and would draw all attention to me. To this day, I feel like this was not the correct procedure for a meltdown, and that every teacher should know and understand the facts and statements listed in the article above. (Ok, maybe I am currently only in middle school, but I feel that I have made my point.)
Anonymous said...Is there any way he can go to school and see what this sports Day is goiing to be about before Thursday? Or at least talk tothe teacher and have him/her give you allt he details they possibly can that you can relay to your 9 yr old? I know that knowing ahead of time some of the expectations and what is going to go on helps my son sometimes.
Anonymous said...Sports day is on Thursday and already my 9 year old Aspergers son is getting really worked up about. I am dreading it as I know it will end in tears and a meltdown again. Any tips on how to handle it or how to tell the school to handle it.
Anonymous said...Will the school not just let him join in if he wants to or give him a job like helping at the starting lines or making sure he cheers for his classmates. Thats what my son school does - if he wants he takes part if not he gets jobs to do that make him feel important.

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