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Autism Meltdowns in Children and Adolescents: Practical Strategies for Prevention, Intervention and Post-vention



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Do you work with children and adolescents with autism who exhibit behaviors that interfere with their ability to effectively and efficiently navigate their environment? They appear willful, obnoxious, over reactive and unfeeling. They lose control of their ability to cope or regulate their behavior, which can send them spiraling into a meltdown. And, you feel frustrated, powerless and helpless after each meltdown.

Drawing on over 40 years of professional and personal experience, Kathy will lead you through dynamic discussion, video case examples and demonstrations providing dozens of strategies you can implement immediately with these children/adolescents—in any setting. Walk away with an array of practical strategies for:

  • Preventing and de-escalating meltdowns
  • Teaching and promoting appropriate behaviors
  • Providing instructional consequences/replacement behaviors
  • Developing self-control and self-management skills
  • … and more!

“Teach them in the way they learn” will be a mantra throughout the seminar.


Format: DVD Video – 4+ hours

Length: 6 hr 21 min

Details: Multi-disc DVD recording with electronic manual and instructions.


  1. Analyze functions of behavior to determine if a child with autism is having a tantrum or meltdown to inform intervention strategies.
  2. Implement intervention strategies to target social-communication skills deficits and subsequent behavior difficulties in children with autism.
  3. Utilize a “breathe card” and emotions chart as intervention strategies to develop self-control and self-management skills in children with autism.
  4. Design optimal therapy/classroom environment to manage overstimulation and sensory breakdowns in children with autism.
  5. Determine specific intervention strategies to defuse explosive behaviors and de-escalate meltdowns in children with autism.
  6. Integrate change of schedule cues and transition markers in therapy/classroom to reduce symptoms of anxiety in children with autism.

Functions of a Meltdown

  • Tantrum vs. meltdown
  • Stages of a meltdown
  • Sensory issues vs. behavior issues
  • Meltdown video

Strategies for the Meltdown Cycle: Intervention, Prevention and Post-vention

  • Sensory Issues
    • Optimal learning environments
    • Easy-to-use sensory tools
    • Overstimulation and sensory breakdowns
    • Incorporate a sensory lifestyle throughout the day
  • Executive Function
    • Increase attention and focus
    • Strengthen motivation and engagement
    • On-task and task completion skills
    • Visual reminders for routines and predictability
    • Visual structure for organization
  • Self-Regulation
    • Develop self-control and self-monitoring skills
    • Tools for self-feedback
    • Use high focus and interest areas as powerful incentives to change behavior
  • Social/Emotional Communication
    • Communication for positive social interaction
    • Appropriate interactions with their peers
    • First-person stories for positive behavior changes and affirmations
  • Explosive Behaviors
    • Recognize the triggers
    • Reduce symptoms of anxiety
    • Modeling appropriate behavior
    • Defuse explosive behaviors
    • Decrease maladaptive behaviors
    • Increase appropriate behaviors
  • Special Considerations
    • Collaboration with parents/caregivers
    • Strategies for helping the parent/caregiver with grief

Techniques for After the Meltdown

  • Strategies for instructional consequences
  • Chart appropriate/inappropriate behaviors
  • Activities for reviewing behaviors when calm
  • Use cartooning to facilitate feedback
  • Strategies for providing systematic feedback
  • Reinforcement for communication strategies
  • Identify feelings and review behavior

Hands-on and Small Group Activities

  • Demonstration video
  • Small group exercises: Brainstorm appropriate and meaningful replacement behaviors


Kathy Morris, M.Ed., B.S., has over 42 years of experience working with children and adolescents with severe behavioral difficulties including those with autism, ADHD and executive dysfunction. During this time, she has collaborated with families, educators, counselors, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and medical professionals throughout the world.

Kathy has been a speech therapist, teacher for self-contained programs, resource teacher and first grade teacher. She was a diagnostician/supervisor for all grade levels. Kathy was a LIFE Skills/autism/behavior/assistive technology consultant at a Texas education service center before leaving to start her own business in 1999.

Kathy has keynoted many national/international conferences. She is a frequent guest on a local news program promoting research-based techniques for working with children and adolescents with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and executive functioning differences. Kathy provides technical assistance in classrooms across the U.S, Canada, and several international countries.

Her video, Facilitating the Classroom Learning of Students with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, Grades K-6, has been an addition for campus and district staff developments as well as for those in clinical practice. In addition, she has an audio CD, Practical Strategies for Working with Students with Social Cognitive Differences in the General Education Classroom.

Speaker Disclosures: 

Financial: Kathy Morris maintains a private practice. She has authored an audio product and a DVD product which are published by the Bureau of Education & Research. She receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc.

Nonfinancial: Kathy Morris is the mother of adult children with autism spectrum disorders.