When dealing with meltdowns, the most important things to consider are the triggers that lead to a meltdown. It might appear that the behavior just erupts out of nowhere, but there is almost always a trigger. It might be a series of things that have a cumulative effect, making it difficult to ascertain just one culprit.

However, good data collection that looks closely at the antecedents will provide some clues. Data on the antecedents, or triggers, should include the time of day, persons involved, specific activities and location.  Any other relevant information such as changes in medication, illness or other physiological conditions should be included. 

Finding the trigger is the most essential component in preventing a meltdown. It is our best hope in helping an individual avoid the trigger[s] and/or develop coping mechanisms to deal specifically with that trigger. Sally Thibault is a parent that has created many good resources on the topic of meltdowns. If you haven’t seen her website, I think you will find her insight very helpful.  http://www.davidsgift.com.au/

Mrs. Thibault has also created a video:

Another resource has been developed by the Organization for Autism Research [OAR]. These videos go through understanding autism to strategies to the rumbling-rage-recovery process.





In Part 3, one of the professionals in the video comments that a meltdown is like having your emotions hijacked. This is an important understanding for adults trying to understand and support a person as they struggle through this stressful and difficult experience. As one student put it after such an experience, “Meltdowns are terrible.”

Once the triggers are identified, then a plan can be developed either with or for the individual with autism to deal with feelings of anger or anxiety in acceptable ways. The feelings chart is one strategy intended to help identify coping strategies when feelings escalate toward a meltdown. This strategy will be explored in more detail in our next blog.

By Lisa Rogers

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