Ask the Experts

Q: How Can My Child Prevent Meltdowns at School?

Meltdowns happen. At school. At home. At the grocery store. They key is to have an action plan established for how to deal. Here’s how to put one in place for the classroom.

Q: “My child is having meltdowns at school. They come on out of nowhere, and really disrupt the class. The teacher doesn’t know what to do, and my daughter comes home embarrassed that she acted out in front of the whole class. What can we put in place to help?”

If you have a child who has meltdowns, it’s very important to have a pre-planned escape venue. This can be a physical place within the classroom. For example, it could be a quiet rug in the corner of the room that any child is welcome to use, where the teacher places some favorite fidget toys, drawing or coloring materials, or sound canceling headsets to drown out background noise.

In addition, your child should have a pre-planned list of strategies for calming herself down. This could include deep breathing or listening to a soothing song. If your child would do better outside the classroom, there needs to be a plan for where she will go and how the teacher knows that she will get there safely. Do we need someone from an office to come pick her up? Is there an aide in the class who can bring her to the agreed upon place? It needs to be done in such a way that your child does not feel punished, ostracized, or kicked out.

It’s important to use specific language that communicates, “We’re helping you. You know that this is where you’re going.”

Help your child learn to recognize the signs that she is starting to melt down so that she can give a signal to the teacher that says, “Hey, I need to go out” — whether it’s for a glass of water so she can come back or to go to that separate space.

[Free Download: 7 Parent-Teacher Conversation Starters]

If your child starts to use the signal, the teacher can acknowledge that with a small reward just affirming the fact that, “Hey, you took care of yourself in a positive way. That’s great.”

This advice came from “The ADHD Guide to Productive Parent-Teacher Cooperation,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC in September 2018 that is now available for free replay.