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Tips for Managing a Meltdown

We can feel helpless when we watch our autistic child meltdown in front of us, and traditional parenting and teaching techniques do not work. What can we do? Tony and Michelle provide this free resource to help, based on over 80 years combined experience in autism.

Tips for Managing a Meltdown: By Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett


  • Have one person take control of the situation.
  • Stay calm, be assertive, and feel confident. Remember to keep the role of the adult, be firm and in control.
  • Use a slow, low tone of voice, and clear, simple, minimal words.
  • When speaking to your child, sit to the side and look away from their face (i.e. mid-distance, to side, and down).
  • Keep your body language calm, not imposing.
  • When giving directions acknowledge the emotions, give the reason for a direction then give a direction (for e.g., “I can see you are feeling really worried. You need a break. Sit on this bean bag.”)
  • As soon as your child starts to calm down provide praise and encouragement (for e.g. “that was the smart and the right thing to do”).
  • Keep your child safe by removing anything that your child might hurt herself on and anyone who is not needed.
  • Ask your child to sit down.
  • Give your child as much solitude as possible by giving her an area to herself that is quiet. If possible, create a permanent, quiet, calm space and call it a name like “Calm Space.” Ensure your child understands this space is not a punishment place like the “Naughty Corner,” or “Time Out.” I.e. use different spaces for these.
  • Appeal to your child’s special interest (for e.g. start a discussion or have your child make a list, or sort their collection).
  • Give your child an emergency/calming-down box (for e.g., a box filled with twiddly toys, puzzles, trucks, catalogues, radio to listen to, stress balls, or spinning things).
  • Give a compliment (for e.g. “You are a very intelligent girl”).


  • Don’t touch your child, unless it is a protective action to stop violence or you know it helps them.
  • Don’t match your child’s mood with your speech, (i.e. stay low and slow.)
  • Don’t threaten or use punishment.
  • Don’t try to turn the situation into a lesson, your child’s mind is not available for verbal teaching whilst in a meltdown.
  • Don’t say “No.”
  • Don’t talk about consequences.

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