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Manage Meltdowns Gently: Low Arousal Approach


When it comes to a child with autism, a tantrum and a meltdown are very different.

What is a Meltdown?

A tantrum and meltdown are two different things although it may look pretty similar. Meltdowns happen because the child gets too overwhelmed whereas a tantrum happens when a child doesn’t get what they want (How to calm an autistic child: 31 tips for managing autistic meltdowns, 2019).


What is a Low Arousal Approach?

The Low Arousal Approach is a person-centred, non-confrontational approach to behaviour management. When working with individuals with autism using the Low Arousal Approach, the emphasis is on prevention, de-escalation, and, in severe circumstances, planned and safe physical management. This technique has grown into an effective behaviour-management strategy not just for individuals with cognitive impairments and/or autism, but also for the care industry as a whole (The Low Arousal Approach: A Practitioner's Guide, n.d.).

A Low Arousal Approach is defined by four fundamental components, which comprise both cognitive and behavioural elements (The Low Arousal Approach: A Practitioner's Guide, n.d.):


1. Reducing demands and requests to lessen possible grounds of dispute surrounding an individual.

2. Avoidance of potentially arousing stimuli, such as direct eye contact, touch, and the removal of witnesses to the occurrence

3. Avoidance of nonverbal behaviours that might lead to confrontation, such as hostile gestures and stances.

4. Challenging caregiver perceptions about the short-term management of challenging behaviours.


How can we identify the cause of a meltdown?


Use an ABC chart. This would help you to find out the root cause of the behaviour and to better manage the behaviour. When anything triggers them quickly note it down using the chart. This chart also helps to ensure that you can identify the triggers and eventually minimise or stop a meltdown from happening because of something in particular (How to calm an autistic child: 31 tips for managing autistic meltdowns, 2019).


Antecedent: The events that occurred before the meltdown happened.

Behaviour: Your child’s response to the antecedent.

Consequence: What happened after the behaviour to either encourage/hinder a repeat of the situation.


Key elements of the Low Arousal Approach: Pre-crisis intervention (The Low Arousal Approach: A Practitioner's Guide, n.d.):

  1. Distract/Divert: Divert their attention to another activity

  2. Demand Reduction: Remove demands

  3. Managing Aversive Stimuli: Manage child’s sensitivities

Managing the critical incident (The Low Arousal Approach: A Practitioner's Guide, n.d.):

  1. Verbal de-escalation: Reduce verbal communication

  2. Recognizing nonverbal behaviours as a source of aggression: Be calm, avoid direct eye contact, give them their personal space an estimate would be 3 feet away

In conclusion, practising the steps above could help in the long-term for both carer and child, and they would definitely benefit from this.


Written by Jasvinder.


References


The Low Arousal Approach: A Practitioner's Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/6544/1/the-low-arousal-approach.pdf


How to calm an autistic child: 31 tips for managing autistic meltdowns. Meraki Lane. (2019, June 5). Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.merakilane.com/how-to-calm-an-autistic-child-31-tips-for-managing-autistic-meltdowns/


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