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Irene: I work in a class where there is one child with autism who has increasingly had multiple “meltdowns” within a day every day(5 or more). The school recommended the parent seek help from a doctor. However the parents steadfastly refused. These “meltdowns are quite disturbing for all involved including the affected child. Is there nothing the school can do to help this situation. I fear, if this continues, someone will get hurt.This is in NJ.

  1. Regarding the suggestion to consult a doctor, I imagine that this was well-intentioned. But as a parent of a child with autism, to me this would feel like the school was trying to pass the buck.

    Medical doctors can help with GI and sleep issues, two that are common to autism. But there is very little that they can do about behavior – beyond medication that often does little more than sedate.

    My son once had very difficult behavior. What helped him was consistency, lots of physical activity, a way to communicate, and the knowledge that someone will listen when he does. Although his school was/is not the only player in the game, they certainly play a key role.

  2. Irene –

    There are certainly plenty of things the school can do! If the child’s behavior is disrupting his/her education (and it certainly sounds like it is) the school – NOT the parent – is obliged to do something about it.

    How does this child communicate? If he/she does not have a consistent means of communication, I strongly suggest that the school get permission from the parent to evaluate this area. If verbal communication is an issue, as it is with many students with autism, the evaluation should investigate the use of augmentative communication. This should be a priority. Not being able to communicate wants and needs would make most people act out.

    The school should also ask for permission to complete a functional behavior assessment, to get to the bottom of the behavior.

  3. The district has an obligation to determine what in the school setting is triggering the “meltdowns”. Then a plan of action can be developed. A functional behavior assessment is one method of doing this.

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