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Thoughtful Response to Agitation, Escalation
and Meltdowns in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Rebecca Klaw, MS, MEd

This paper reviews ways of proactively and reactively supporting children and teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) during tantrums or meltdowns. Drawing on literature about managing outburst behavior in typically developing children and teens, especially utilizing information from Dr. Ross Greene's book The Explosive Child, Rebecca Klaw makes convincing parallels to individuals with ASD. She describes common characteristics of meltdown-prone children as well as the biologically based pathways leading to the profile of inflexibility and explosiveness. She also reviews the stages of crisis and gives suggestions for interventions at each level -- agitation, escalation, meltdown and recovery. Rebecca makes a strong case in this paper for the futility of routinely using consequences to manage explosive behavior in individuals with ASD.

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