How to Make S.E.N.S.E. of a Meltdown

Girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder having a meltdown


I know it can be incredibly difficult to determine the reason for a meltdown. Is it sensory or is it behaviour? We should all attempt to use appositive lens and think sensory first. Here is a way of doing so:


Making  S.E.N.S.E of a meltdown
S. Stop, assess the situation, don’t assume its behaviour

Stop and try not to react, attempt to remain as calm as possible. Analyse the situation in an attempt to identify a trigger. Do not force your child to end the meltdown as this can create additional negative reactions from the nervous system. Our children respond depending on our emotions, even if they do not realise that they are. For example: If you are stressed and angry, they become stressed and angry.


E. Environment change

Change the environment, if only for a very short amount of time. This can be small changes to the room to help you identify possible triggers for the meltdown. For example: turning the tv off, turning off the lights, shutting the door from external noise.


N. Note your child’s response to the environment change

Notice how your child responds to the change. Watch for changes in breathing rate, tone of voice, body movements, If you see appositive change, you are on the right track, if not try something else.


S. Sensory strategies and tools

Implement sensory strategies on the spot. Ask your Occupational Therapist what may work for your child. It could be using noise cancelling headphones, fidget toy, weighted blanket or a deep pressure hug.


E. Embrace the positive and learn from the moment

Embrace the moment as a learning experience and learn more about your child’s sensory needs, do not discredit yourself as a parent. Remember that the most important thing is that your child feels loved and secure. Learn from it, respond with respect and embrace your childs uniqueness.


Child with Autism Having Meltdown

Credit Angie Ross, OTR (developed SENSE)