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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ask Amanda: Managing Meltdowns

At the Autism and Aspergers Support Group Inc Hawkesbury meet in July I was asked by a parent about how to manage meltdowns. There is not simple way to answer this question, though other parents did provide some suggestions. Some things that work for other parents and their children include:

  • Staying calm
  • Get down to your child's level and sit with them
  • Speak reassuringly, assuring them they are not "in trouble"
  • Hug them tightly or wrap them tightly in a blanket (for some children with Sensory Integration issues this can be comforting)
Since that time I have been reading some information on the topic. One book that I have found particularly useful is Managing Meltdowns: Using the SCARED Calming Technique with Children and Adults with Autism. It is written by Lipsky, who has been diagnosed with high functioning autism herself, and Richards.

SCARED stands for...

Safe - find an environment, or follow the child to an environment where they feel safe.

Calm - stay calm, speak calmly, talk in literal language.

Affirmation - show that you know what they are afraid of by putting it in words.

Routine - work with repetitive, routine behaviours that they may be using to help calm themselves (so long as it does not involve self-harm).

Empathy - show you are there to support and help.

Develop an intervention strategy - make a step-by-step, concrete plan for what to do if a meltdown happens again.

This month...

This month I plan to explore these six elements of responding to meltdowns in more depth.


Lipsky, D. and Richards, W. (2009). Managing Meltdowns: Using the SCARED Calming Technique with Children and Adults with Autism. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


Tracey,  January 11, 2012 at 5:53 PM  

Hi Amanda,

It was interesting reading the above, but I was wondering about managing meltdowns in older children? Specifically, my 8yo has Aspergers. When he uses violence towards his brothers he is promptly told that is not that you do and sent to his room for quiet time. This starts a meltdown of horrific scale involving all his belongings being thrown everywhere while screaming that he hates me, wants me to die and even sometimes saying I should go to hell. There is no way I can possibly approach him or cuddle him during these, could you please help with suggestions for these heart wrenching situations?

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