Monthly Archives: February 2013

Meltdowns 101


HiRes-2I recently attended a workshop that discussed using social skills to address challenging behavior.  The presenter was Linda Davidson for Region 20 ESC.  One slide in particular caught my attention and I wanted to share it.

My teachers are very good about using strategies to try to head off negative or disruptive behavior.  But sometimes that isn’t enough.  The teachers who directly work with students who struggle with behavior know how to deal with a full “meltdown”.  But teachers who don’t come in contact with these students regularly don’t always know how to handle it and will often inadvertently escalate the situation.   So this is information for those teachers who don’t work with this daily.

What is a “meltdown”?  It may look like a temper tantrum, or it may look like sever defiance.  These are different for every kid and start for different reasons.  You may see screaming, kicking, rolling on the floor, covering ears or eyes, crying; you may also see complete silence, head down, refusal to move.

What causes a “meltdown?  It’s different for every student.  Some students have sensory issues and it may be caused by loud noises or a smell, it may be a change in schedule, or a request the student doesn’t like.  There are many reasons for what can cause these types of behaviors.  Again the key it to know your students and head them off before they start, but here are some tips for what to do after it’s too late to prevent.

If you come in contact with a student who is having a meltdown first get help so you are not alone, then remember these strategies.


  1. Remain calm: if you act excited the student will notice and could increase behaviors.
  2. Avoid excessive talking, questioning and handling: the student may not fully understand what is going on and if they are spinning out of control you aren’t going to be able to explain anything to them.
  3. Zip it and show it: use pretaught visuals instead of words (the key is pretaught, if they don’t already know and use them, this isn’t the time to introduce them.
  4. Remember this is NOT a “teachable moment”: This is the number one mistake I see; wait for the kids to completely come down before trying to address the behavior.
  5. Proximity control: not too close you could get hurt, or too far away they could run or hurt themselves.
  6. The Antiseptic Bounce: move the child away from the problem area, change in scenery
  7. Wait out minor meltdowns: once it starts you often have to wait it out.
  8. If the student becomes aggressive, remove other students and restrain only if necessary.


I hope you never come across a student who is having a major meltdown, but if you do these simple suggestions can help.  The number on thing to remember is to GET HELP!  Even if you are just going to wait it out, don’t do it alone.


Take advantage of Targeted Feedback


I recently attended a workshop over evaluation.  One of the presenters discussed various forms of data that can be used in an evaluation.  Best practice dictates that you have multiple data sources that contribute to your finding of, or lack there of, a disability.

One of the sources that she discussed that I haven’t given much thought to was targeted feedback.  If you are new to education, or a parent who isn’t familiar with this term, targeted feedback is feedback over a specific skill that a teacher gives a student.  It goes beyond Xs for wrong answers and checks for correct answers.  It targets the specific skill the student is struggling with in order to assist them in making progress toward mastering that skill set.

Good teachers do this all the time, whether they realize it or not.  When you show or tell a student that their calculation is correct, but they put the decimal in the wrong spot.  That is targeted feedback.  When you discuss verb tense to correct a writing problem.  That is targeted feedback.  Even novice teachers do this naturally because we all understand that if a student is going to make progress and not make the same mistakes over and over we have to re-teach what they are missing.

So how does this tie to assessment? If you have a student who is in Tier 1 or 2 RtI and you think they may have a disability, information from this feedback and follows ups on how effective it is could help in an assessment.  You can keep this data through work samples.  The student completes an assignment.  You mark what was right and wrong and give targeted feedback on how to correct the mistakes, document this right on the work sample.  Then follow up by writing on the sample or in a separate documentation form if this targeted feedback was effective or if you have to find new means to re-teach the information.  How many times and ways you are teaching a given concept before the student reaches mastery is important.  That’s part of RtI.

You can also use exit tickets that cover topics you’ve provided targeted feedback on.  An exit ticket is a ticket with a question from class that the student must answer and hand to you on the way out the door.  If they miss it you quickly re-teach and provide examples.  It’s one way to see if students are retaining concepts taught during class.

EX: The student is struggling with verb tense and you’ve provided targeted feedback in several ways.  Have them do an exit ticket on verb tense and keep it as documentation as to if they are making ground toward mastery or continuing to struggle.

You wouldn’t have to do this everyday or with every student.  Pick 5 students a day and write exit tickets specifically for them.  Or pre-write questions and randomly select students to answer them on the way out.  You can change this strategy to meet the needs of your classes.

There are lots of little things that teachers do everyday that can help in determining if a child has a specific learning disability and more importantly help in designing interventions to meet the child’s needs.  If you have a student who is struggling get with your evaluation personnel and ask what kind of data you should be keeping to help with an evaluation.