Information for parents of disabled children

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's just not personal.

Autism Family Camp Weekend 2009
Autism Family Camp Weekend 2009 (Photo credit: Camp ASCCA)
Children with autism have meltdowns. We say it. We acknowledge it routinely, as it is repeated like a mantra by parents trying to prepare professionals for the moment their child goes ballistic. Every parent knows there will be a moment when our lovable, sweet comedian isn't so funny.

There will be screaming, hitting, kicking, and other unwelcome social behaviors. What's surprising is not how many people don't understand the autistic meltdown, but how many professionals don't fully understand until the day arrives.

The severity of the autism can define how bad it gets, and it can get bad. If you're working with any disabled student, there are some things you need to know.

  • It's not personal. You're just there. They didn't hit you because they hate you. Something is getting to them, and, just like when dealing with Alzheimer's patients, this is a good time to pause, back off or get out of the way. 
  • They can't stop it. Only you can prevent autism meltdowns (except when you can't)!  Know what is pushing them too far. Get to know the triggers, and don't blame them for things they can't control. 
  • Safety first.  Worry about causes later, but at the height of the meltdown your focus has to be on the student and keeping everyone safe. Deal with the behavior before you discuss causes. The worst thing you can do is have that discussion in front of the student while he's already wound up. 

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