Meltdowns are hard on everyone: the child, the parent, and the bystanders. But what if consistent ABA reinforcement could help reduce their frequency and severity? In this post, we’ll share several key reasons why ABA therapy aids in averting meltdowns.
ABA promotes emotional regulation
Working with an ABA therapist can help your child build vital emotional self-management skills, which in turn, can help to minimize the chances of a meltdown. At the end of the day, these self-control skills are key to preventing meltdowns and promoting independence.
For instance, teaching your child how to appropriately communicate what he or she wants and does not want can lessen your child’s need to use meltdowns to get wants and needs met. Additionally, building functional communication skills and consistency in the application of behavioral strategies between you and your child are key when meltdown behavior occurs.
Yes, it’s true that as a parent you can plan ahead and help your child to avoid sensory overload and other “triggering” experiences. That said, you cannot anticipate every possible situation.
As we wrote in our post, What to do when your child has a meltdown in public:
“The truth is, meltdowns happen to even the best of kids with even the best of parents. So don’t beat yourself up or think that you’ve failed. Ultimately, you can’t control another person’s responses. However, you can prepare for the possibility of meltdowns and equip yourself to respond appropriately when they do happen.”
While ABA reinforcement can’t prevent every meltdown, it can teach your child successful self-governance–an invaluable, lifelong skill.
ABA empowers your child to learn social protocols step-by-step
Recall the discouragement and frustration that arise within you when you’re asked to do something new without adequate instruction or coaching. Then, multiply that feeling by a thousand.
As you know firsthand, your child moves through a world wherein others expect him/her to make sustained eye contact, carry on complex conversations, pay attention to both spoken and unspoken communications. This can be unnerving and difficult.
Many children with autism have the potential to socialize successfully, but they need step-by-step, measured instruction in order to do so. While they may not initially grasp social conventions intuitively, they can learn them with practice, and reduce the frustration often associated with meltdown behavior.
ABA reinforcement empowers your child to identify and communicate emotional states
One of the fundamental tenets of ABA therapy is that all behavior is a form of communication. Every time your child bangs her head against a wall or throws herself on the ground, she’s trying to communicate something. Of course, you’d prefer that she express herself in a non-harmful way, and that’s where ABA comes in.
ABA clinicians help children with autism by teaching them to identify, label, and express various emotional states. (Check out our free Labeling and Identifying Emotions video lesson to see this process in action!)
The best ABA therapists provide children with opportunities to practice skills such as recognizing facial expressions, verbally naming emotions, and describing how others feel using context clues. These lessons offer a new vocabulary for expressing emotion, one that’s healthier and less dysfunctional than melting down.
ABA reinforcement provides immediate, consistent behavioral feedback
If you’ve watched an ABA clinician work with your child, then you know that the therapist provides ongoing feedback in response to the child’s behaviors. For example, if your child flails in her seat, the clinician says, “Sit nice.” When your child looks away for an extended period, the therapist says, “Eyes on me.”
The result of these brief, consistent prompts is that the child learns what type of personal behavior is acceptable. This sense of structure and order is very grounding for children, as it enables them to understand the results of their choices. The child learns, “If I do A, then B happens. If I scream and tantrum, I don’t get what I want. But if I complete my lesson well, I always get my reward.”
Children are smart and efficient; once they understand what behaviors effectively get them what they want, they will choose those behaviors more often, and in doing so, develop a solid foundation of safe, responsible behavior.
Begin ABA therapy to prevent another meltdown
If your child is struggling with ongoing meltdowns, help is available. You can start a proven behavioral therapy program today and take the first step toward promoting healthy communication.
After all, while it’s important to know what to do when your child has a meltdown in public, it’s also essential to work on stopping meltdowns before they start. So don’t wait; sign up for FirstPath today!