5 ways to reduce your students' frustration (Autism + Special Needs)

frustration break down autism

If you’re a special educator or special needs parent, you’re probably very familiar with dealing with breakdowns. As a teacher of 13 students with autism, I know I’ve certainly am.

I’ve chased screaming kids around stadiums during field trips when they were overstimulated. I’ve been at the eye of what I like to call a “student tornado” when desks were flipped, iPads were thrown, and the room’s air filled with curse words and tears. I’ve worked with students who cried for an extended period of time because they refused to complete their work.

But what can we do as parents and teachers to help minimize these breakdowns? How can we be proactive and keep them from happening?

This blog will provide 5 proactive ways to minimize breakdowns among kids with autism and learning disabilities.

  1. Get noise reducing headphones for your child.

noise reducing headphones autism

Sometimes kids will breakdown simply because they are overstimulated! Kids with autism, disabilities, and/or sensory processing disorders may perceive noises, lights, and sensations differently than the average human. Fluorescent lights may flicker and give them a migraine, other kids chattering quietly in the corner may be overwhelming, and the sound of a person typing on a keyboard in the corner of the classroom might sound like the pounding of a drum. All of these little noises add up and may cause kids with disabilities to shut down. They might express their frustration by throwing objects, ripping papers, jumping up and down in anger, or screaming. In order to minimize these sensory related breakdowns, get noise reducing headphones for your kids. My students like these: http://a.co/d/7QhSifA

2. Get lamps and/or light filters for your classroom/house

light filter autism special needs

Just as I mentioned in #1, many breakdowns are sensory related! Overhead lighting and fluorescent lights in schools these days are incredibly harsh! These lights might cause kids with disabilities to have migraines and then… breakdown! How can we prevent these light related migraines? Turn off your lights in the classroom and use floor lamps in each corner. Target and Walmart have some super cheap options and I promise, they’ll work wonders! I used these in my class and loved them! http://a.co/d/bPIYv9u

You can also try these light filters to tame the awful glare that we call fluorescent lights! http://a.co/d/3QWlG0X

3. Watch social stories!

Our website has plenty of social stories that teach kids what to do in moments of frustration. The frustration social story and activity is now free- check it out! I use this video with my students who are prone to breakdowns every morning and its helped them develop strategies for how to cope in moments of frustration. They are now able to sense frustration building and minimize it by taking deep breaths, drinking water, taking a walk, or taking a break. I’m so impressed with the progress I’ve seen. Hope it works for you too!

Check out our activity as well here: www.diverselearninghub.com/frustration

4. Create routines for your kids and students

change transition autism special education routine

Many kids with autism and disabilities have trouble in moments of transition or change in schedule. Fire drills, field trips, assemblies, etc are all breeding grounds for break downs because the routine is broken and kids have difficulty adapting. In order to prepare students for these moments, check out our animated social stories and activities for events like assemblies or fire drills. Watch these with your students for 1-2 weeks before the event in order to prep them for the change.

Stick to routines in the day-to-day so your students and children know what to expect from every class period! Be sure to alert them of any changes in schedule.

5. Have students meditate/relax before each class period

breathe relax autism special education

My students love listening to meditation apps for kids for a few minutes before every subject change. It relaxes them and gives them a chance to reset and breathe before each new class period. I’m amazed at the results that a little mindfulness brought my kids!

Hope these help! Best of luck and reach out if you have questions!

<3 Lauren