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Dear ADDitude: What Accommodations Help with Meltdowns?

“My son is quick to react when provoked by other kids. What accommodations would help?” ADDitude experts and readers offer advice.

Q: “My son is quick to react when provoked by other kids. He erupts into temper tantrums at school, even when his teacher smooths transitions and offers him a safe place to cool off. What accommodations could help with these angry outbursts?”

ADDitude Answers

You are lucky to have a teacher who is willing to cope with this. If you haven’t already done so, request an evaluation. In your letter, make sure to mention the social problems your son is having. These are obviously interfering with his ability to learn and pay attention in the classroom. Set up a time to talk with the guidance counselor, who might be able to provide additional suggestions or talk with your son, when he needs a quiet place.

It’s important to look for triggers to your son’s emotional outbursts. Is he feeling inadequate? Is he feeling that he can’t keep up with the schoolwork? You mention that other children are provoking your son. Is he being bullied? Besides these triggers, your son may be overstimulated by the sights and sounds of the classroom. Have you looked into hypersensitivities or sensory challenges? Finding the cause is necessary when looking for solutions.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

A Reader Answers

Your son needs a 504 plan with a functional behavioral analysis. The analysis will determine what triggers his inappropriate behaviors and what can be done to prevent the meltdowns. Ask for a formal evaluation in writing, and address it to the principal of the school. State that you want your son to be considered for Special Education services so your child will be successful in school.Give a brief summary of his educational history, what has been done in school and his medical diagnoses. Lastly talk about how he acts at home and how he is having social issues with the other children.

Take the letter to the principal and write the name of the person you gave the letter to on a piece of paper that you will keep along with the date. Ask for a written acknowledgement of receipt. It will take time for the evaluation to be conducted. Start to look for an educational advocate that can look over the evaluation and attend the meetings with you. This is just the beginning and your son’s education will be much more successful if it is set up earlier rather than later.

Knowing the triggers can change his day. Rewards charts are great, but you want to prevent the inappropriate behaviors from happening. In relationship to the other students, there needs to be consequences for them as well. I used points for groups of students. The points were given for group behaviors. Negative behaviors were ignored while positive behaviors were awarded points. I would say, “I really like the behavior of Team 4.” The result of that statement was the emulation of the Team 4 behaviors. The points were written where all could see. At the end of the week, the team with the most points won a small treat. It works with all kinds of students.

Posted by Bensonadvocates

[Free Download: A Sample Accommodations Request Letter]

A Reader Answers

You should have a meeting with the response to intervention (RTI) coordinator, teacher, school counselor and assistant principal. It sounds like the established plan to deal with your son’s behavior is not effective. This team can help you revise it.

Do you have an outside therapist? I have a an 8-year-old son. His plan involved removing him from the classroom and giving him a time out to calm down. Eventually, we found he needed to be in a calmer setting all day, so he was moved to a different classroom.

You need a classroom that is tight on routine and very structured.

Posted by Meme2013

A Reader Answers

The school staff needs to teach your son to recognize when he’s becoming unregulated and upset. Once he can identify his feelings, you’ll see big changes. In the meantime, ask for break sticks that he can use whenever he needs a break.

When he turns in a stick, he can take a walk, get a drink – whatever they agree to. Also, possibly ask for people to check in with him throughout the day so if something upsetting happens, he can talk about it and move on and not carry it with him all day. Hope this helps.

Posted by Sporty

[20 Classroom Accommodations That Target Common ADHD Challenges]

A Reader Answers

The first step is to seek and understand. Meaning, can the teacher identify when these meltdowns tend to occur? Is it at a certain time of day or triggered by something in general? That really helped us to come up with a plan together and suggestions for how to handle meltdowns in school. My son also has a really rough time transitioning from one activity to another. So he needs a little more warning when an activity is coming to a close. He would tantrum if he didn’t get to finish something, finish his drawing. The teacher has implemented a timer system that gives him some room to independently change tasks.

Or, it could be the kids your son sits next to are contributing to some stressor. After working with the teacher we were able to identify kids that were more patient (mainly girls) and now our son is buddied with children whose personalities don’t clash as much. (My son is ODD too so this approach had a lot to do with that).

I love the suggestion of break sticks above. I agree about asking people to check in throughout the day. I know it’s made a big difference to have a few trusted adults just give our son some extra TLC from time to time. It doesn’t take much, a high five or two minutes from a few of the faculty, but makes him feel loved.

Hang in there!

Posted by Oakie

A Reader Answers

Helpful resources are The Explosive Child by Ross Greene and Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser. The books explain different ways of preventing and dealing with meltdowns. They have been very helpful for me.

The only way to avoid meltdowns is by trying to solve the underlying problem. if we can get the child’s perspective and concerns on the table we can try to collaborate and come up with a solution that addresses those concerns and that is durable and realistic

Posted by krtsinohio

A Reader Answers

If you haven’t already, you need to see “30 Essential Ideas for Parents of ADHD Students” by Dr. Russell Barkley, an internationally acclaimed ADHD researcher. It’s long, but direct, sincere, and often witty. It’s available at Also check out “ADHD Info for Teachers” on the same blog to find out exactly what your teacher should be doing.

Has the school evaluated your son yet? If not, request a complete evaluation in writing, addressed to the school’s principal or the school district’s Special Education Director.

Posted by ADHDTeacher

[How to Talk to Teachers About Your Child’s IEP]