One of my favorite bloggers is Joel at NTs are Weird – An Autistic’s View of the World. When I have spare time, I like to browse through his older posts, and yesterday, I found one I particularly liked. Joel does an excellent job of describing the causes of meltdowns and shutdowns. Although Joel talks about meltdowns and shutdowns from the perspective of a person with autism, I believe his words apply to people with other disabilities as well. I especially liked this passage:
To understand the cause of a meltdown/shutdown, we have to look a bit further than the behaviorists typically look. They’ll see a kid, who after being called a “retard”, punches the tormentor in the mouth, causing him to lose his two front teeth. They then assume that being called a retard was the motivation for the behavior, further determining that the result therefore was totally out of proportion to the insult.
Well, that’s well and good, but it isn’t the way we work. Often, the little insults, problems, and stresses will build up over time, until the point where one - even something very minor - will be just enough to make it too much to handle.
He has really nailed it on that description, especially as it applies to children in school. I have requested numerous times that a functional behavior assessment be conducted for Ashley. Ashley can display negative, self injurious behavior at times. She can have meltdowns, and can ‘stim’ to beat the band. My requests for the assessment are grudgingly met, and usually conducted and conclusions drawn in the course of an hour. My school district employees do exactly what Joel described – they reach a conclusion before they have enough information. So, as we face the start of a new school year, and Ashley will have a new teacher, a new aide, and more-than-likely new peers in her class, I need to figure out how to introduce everyone to this concept. I have to convince them to not take things at face value, and to understand that Ashley is not consciously choosing to have a meltdown. Maybe I should just send the link to Joel’s blog entry to them!