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Crisis Intervention Tips for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

"I know they talk about how 'prevention' is key when trying to deal with meltdowns in children with autism (high functioning), but what about when the child is already full-swing into a meltdown? Is it just too late at that point to make any difference?"

It's never too late to intervene, but the task of actually putting the brakes on a meltdown will be much more difficult once it is underway. Having said that, here are some suggestions...

Crisis Intervention Tips for Parents of Children with ASD level 1 or High-Functioning Autism:

1. A step isn't completed until the child has given you his verbal consent to the conditions of the step. For example, [parent gently restraining the child] "I will let you go when you stop slamming your bedroom door. O.K.?" Be prepared to repeat steps if additional meltdowns occur before moving on to the next step.

2. Allow the child, whenever possible, to make choices as you move through the crisis intervention steps. For example, "Do you want to take your time-out in your bedroom or in the living room?" However, do not offer choices if they would compromise what you are trying to achieve.

3. Have a calm voice and demeanor, but convey firmness.

4. Help the child to see you as a problem solver. Let him know that you are aware of how difficult the situation is for him. Tell him your job is to help with this difficulty. Explain clearly that your help does not mean avoiding the situation or doing it for the child, but rather helping him to do it. For example, "You have a problem, and I am here to help you solve it."

5. Ignore or interrupt irrelevant comments. Respond with: "That doesn't make sense, I can't pay attention to that," or "That is off the topic, so I will have to ignore what you are saying," or "I can't help you with your problem while you are talking nonsense."

6. Keep your goal in mind as you go through the crisis intervention steps. For example, "My goal is to help my child use his words to express his frustration rather than using physical violence." Also, create new rules for responding in the future.

7. Make it clear to the child that you are in control. Don't plead or make second requests.

8. Practice/rehearse what has been decided as the appropriate solution to the problem. This may involve completing an activity, accepting a change, or restoring the environment after a meltdown.

9. Say what you mean and mean what you say at all times during the crisis.

10. Stay on topic during the crisis. The child may bring up extraneous or unrelated issues to try to justify his behavior.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

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