Parents and caregivers of children with autism know that dealing with meltdowns is a part of life. We become adept at calming down our child as quickly and as best we can, whether at home or in public. It’s hard to surrender a child to environments where we are not present, knowing that others won’t know how to react. I’ll never forget the babysitter that called the fire department when one of my son’s had an anxiety attack.
But nowhere is this more frustrating than at school, where children are frequently castigated and punished for exhibiting symptoms of their disorder. Countless times, I have shared my hard-earned strategies for managing my son’s meltdowns with teachers and administrators in hopes that they would employ strategies that would prove helpful instead of inflammatory. Only one teacher ever listened to me and that all-too-brief period my son spent in her classroom was the only time he made real gains in being part of a group and becoming self-regulating.
Special education teachers in Seattle’s school system aren’t required to have any training in autism, even the ones heading autism inclusion programs. Teachers don’t like being told how to do their jobs, especially by a parent they consciously or unconsciously hold responsible for the behavior of an unmanageable child. Members of your child’s IEP team can readily turn adversarial when their classroom strategies are questioned.
Recently, I found an article called “Managing an Angry Episode” on the website of Minds and Hearts, which is an Australian autism clinic where Dr. Tony Attwood works once a week.
I recommend downloading this pdf file and taking it to your next IEP meeting and/or presenting it to your child’s teacher. It could really help lay the groundwork for discussing best practices for coping with an inescapable reality of autism and the meltdowns associated with it.