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Managing Meltdown Mayhem

You’ve seen it before: in the grocery store, in a restaurant, in nearly any public place attended by children and families. It’s the feared temper tantrum, and it’s a distinguished, easily-recognized event that occurs when a child doesn’t get their way.

While you recognize the child’s temper tantrum as an event that happens in many young children, you’re not likely aware of the context that caused that child to react in such despair, especially if they have a developmental disability.

Situations of anger, confusion and environmental discomfort can quickly take a situation from bad to worse. As a parent, caregiver or teacher, it’s important to learn how to identify a crisis situation and its basic components. With proactive thought and observation, you can learn to identify the appropriate steps to prevent future occurrences.

What is a Tantrum or Meltdown?

Tantrums and meltdowns are characterized by deprivation or dissatisfaction on the part of the individual, and they’re usually driven by emotion or discomfort in an environment. They typically occur when something is taken away from, or is not given to, the person who wants it. Tantrums which escalate further are often referred to as meltdowns, characterized by an individual losing control of their emotion. At this point, obtaining the desired goal or object will not resolve the situation. Meltdowns in children with Autism are largely driven by an overwhelming environment and lack of options, whether mental of physical, for coping with the issue.

So What Do I Do?

There are skills that will help you respond effectively to a crisis situation. These skills, available through Insights to Behavior, are centered around the ability to identify an oncoming crisis, comprising three common causes or contributors. It’s also important to know that most behavior occurs as a response to environmental events. When conflicting or stressful environmental events occur, problem behavior becomes more likely and can escalate into a crisis.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the type of evidence-based treatment used throughout all of Trumpet’s locations, is individualized and works to keep individuals from having recurring problem behaviors. Using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis in conjunction with crises stages, we can identify the actions that need to take place, and where.

Stages of a Crisis

A crisis contains five stages: setup, initial reaction, escalation, critical point, and resolution.

During the setup, environmental event often lead to problem behavior. The setup phase is the earliest and best opportunity to detect and change situations to help ensure that a crisis never occurs.

Initial reaction is the second phase, and is characterized by a reaction to the antecedent, or the event that occurs immediately prior to the problem behavior. This is the second best opportunity to defuse a crisis by eliciting an alternative appropriate response, such as asking for help with a difficult task or honoring a reasonable request.

Third is the escalation, which is reached when an initial reaction is not effective in producing the desired change. Unexpected behaviors are more likely to occur during this stage, so it’s important to monitor the environment at all times, looking for materials or other items that could pose a dangerous risk if the escalation becomes and immediate crisis.

Fourth is the crisis phase, which is reached when an individual engages in high level behaviors. This can include physical aggression, destruction of property and more.

Resolution, the final phase, occurs when the crisis is resolved, due to either effective crisis management or fatigue of the individual.

Here to Help

Trumpet Behavioral Health knows that tantrums, meltdowns and challenging behaviors are often faced by families of children with autism. That’s why we offer numerous events throughout the year to help parents pinpoint desired and undesired behaviors, while providing strategies that help you discover the value of reinforcement and learn possible interventions based on different behaviors.

Visit our event page to see what workshops are coming up, and feel free to contact any of our locations for more information on services.

Want to learn specific steps to take throughout each of these stages? Insights to Behavior, a product of Trumpet Behavioral Health, provides exclusive content and training to help parents and caregivers plan for crises, problem behaviors, and more. Click here to learn more.