Tip Sheet for Recognising the Early Signs and  Triggers of a Meltdown  for an Autistic Child in the Classroom

Tip Sheet for Recognising the Early Signs and Triggers of a Meltdown for an Autistic Child in the Classroom

Signs of anxiety

  • Restless and agitated behaviour
  • Unable to easily calm down
  • Needing reassurance regarding the sequence of events and expectations
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Speech fluency is affected by hesitations, repetitions, stuttering and mutism
  • Not wanting to be separated from a parent
  • “Freezing” when uncertain what to do
  • Conversation topic changing to a monologue on a special interest
  • Ritualistic calming movements such as flapping and rocking
  • Becoming a ‘class policeman’ to reduce chaos and uncertainty
  • Needing to withdraw from the classroom by frequently going to the toilet
  • Being ‘jumpy’ in response to sensory experiences associated with anxiety

Triggers for anxiety

  • The possibility of making a mistake and schoolwork not being perfect
  • Too much noise, movement and chaos in the classroom
  • A change in routine or expectation
  • Transitioning to a new activity
  • A new social situation without a ‘social script’ of what to do and say
  • Too many demands, choices and questions
  • Specific auditory, tactile and visual experiences
  • Someone breaking the social or class rules
  • Having to wait or hurry up
  • The vulnerability to being bullied, teased, rejected or humiliated by peers
  • Observing an argument or conflict in class
  • The teacher being anxious or agitated
  • Having to socialize or work with a student you do not know
  • Being asked to explain your thinking and feelings
  • Not being able to complete an activity
  • Experiencing or observing social injustice and an event perceived as ‘not fair’
  • Being considered as stupid