5 Tips to Deal with After-School Meltdowns

5 Tips to Deal with After-School Meltdowns

All day, your child’s experience is completely planned out. They listen to someone else’s directions, are told where and how to sit, and receive reminders to focus, on top of the plethora of sensory needs not having a chance to be met. 

That sets the stage for something many parents, and especially parents of autistic children, know well: the after-school meltdown. 

These meltdowns can be challenging for both a child and their caregivers. However, with patience, understanding, and tailored strategies, it is possible to help children with autism transition more smoothly from school to home. 

  1. Allow Decompression Time

After a day of trying to behave a certain way, unstructured free time is a great way to start the time at home. Provide a quiet and calming activity they enjoy, such as access to drawing materials or books they like, putting on music they like, giving them a weighted blanket or body sock, or sending them outside to run around – whatever works for your individual child. 

While sometimes unavoidable with therapies or extracurriculars after school, your best bet is to avoid overstimulating activities until they have completed the transition from school to home.

  1. Offer a Drink and a Snack

Often, kids come home from school dehydrated and needing food. Maybe they only took a couple bites of lunch, or maybe they used a ton of energy, but no matter what, meeting these basic needs first greatly reduces the chances of an after-school meltdown. 

Some parents offer a snack and drink on the ride home from school, while others offer it along with a calming activity upon arriving home. Either way, you are helping make the transition a smooth one.

  1. Prepare for Sensory Sensitivities

If your child with autism has sensory sensitivities, be aware of their triggers and prepare accordingly. If they are sensitive to the loud noises they have been exposed to all day, have a quiet space ready at home. If they are sensitive to certain textures, provide more comfortable clothing options. Allow them some time on a yoga ball or swing, or wrap them in a weighted blanket for some deep pressure. Use your own knowledge of your child, as well as their occupational therapist, to make a plan.

  1. Follow Your Child’s Lead with Communication

After a school day of complex directions, attempt to use clear and concise language when communicating with your child. Explain the after-school plan in simple terms, and offer warnings to prepare them for any remaining transitions. 

It’s tempting to bombard your child with questions about their day, but many kids need a chance to relax before giving you the details (if they do at all). Instead of asking questions, focus on reconnecting with the child to allow them the space to express any potential feelings or frustrations.

  1. Be Patient and Understanding

Despite all of these efforts, meltdowns can still happen. Do your best to remain calm and patient. Remind yourself they did not have enough time or space to release these feelings while at school, and you are their safe space. If you have calm energy, eventually they will match you. 

Our unique program at Gersh Academy specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum. We partner with parents to create individualized plans that work for the child. If you are struggling with after school meltdowns, or need any other information, reach out to us here



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