Freedom From Meltdowns
Dr. Thompson's Solutions for Children with Autism
By: Travis Thompson, Ph.D.
Baltimore:Paul H. Brookes Publishing: 2009
Book Review by: Lon Woodbury
One reviewer captured well the essence of this book. "If only this book had been there for me to read when my daughter was young and having almost daily meltdowns! Dr. Thompson leads us into one of the most challenging issues in autism spectrum challenges and makes it understandable, treatable and preventable."
Packed with definitions, case stories and insights about a multitude of aspects of Autism, this practical book about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be invaluable to anyone with an interest in ASD. It will be useful for the person who wants a readable introduction to ASD, a parent looking to understand what their child is going through and needs, or a professional child care worker wanting a practical review of ASD.
The author focuses on meltdowns and temper tantrums--the most scary, confusing and difficult to deal with aspect of Autism. Starting from that focus, he expands into relationships with other disorders and health conditions: how some have enough similar behaviors to be confused with ASD, some often occur concurrently with ASD, and how they can contribute to meltdowns. For example, a meltdown is more likely for an autistic child when the child hasn't had enough sleep. Or, in another example, bipolar disorder occurs with ASD at a rate much higher than with the mainstream population.
Especially helpful to parents and professionals working with an autistic child, the book explains events and environments that can trigger a meltdown, and provides suggestions for techniques that can prevent or diminish the possibility of an emotional explosion. This included a section on improving communications skills to help children find more positive ways to communicate and get their needs met. It also discusses how the physical environment can be a trigger for a meltdown and ways to modify a physical environment to facilitate learning and reduce distraction. Specifics related both to home and school are presented.
One thing that impressed me was his sensitivity to what the child must be feeling that would lead them to a meltdown, with a discussion about what the "payoff" of a meltdown might have for the child. He does a good job of trying to "get into the child's head." One part of that was a discussion as to why a child might self-injure. One insight he presented, for example, was that in some cases, in some way, the self-injury child has found a way to release brain painkiller chemicals, basic reward mechanisms designed to alleviate physical suffering, but in these situations with the self-injuring child, something has gone seriously awry. Working from these insights, he has a number of suggestions as to what might be done to help the child stop.
He even has a section on cultural differences and how different cultures in the United States might differ in their perspective of ASD. He provides hints as to how the professional working with an ASD child can take those different cultural perspectives into account in intervention work.
Another reviewer seems to summarize the value of the book. "An invaluable resource for teachers, parents, and anyone who wants to help reduce challenging behavior in children and adults with autism and related disorders…."