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Effective Crisis Planning & Management


August, 2016


Children with autism can present with some very dangerous behavior including aggression and self injury as well as destruction of property. The best time to figure out what to do in a crisis is NOT in the middle of the crisis. It is important to plan ahead and know what to do in these situations before it actually occurs. Developing a crisis plan with your team or behavior specialist is a critical first step to effectively managing a crisis situation.

Many families will work with their therapist or behavior team to develop an actual crisis plan that identifies triggers, warning signs of escalating behavior. This plan has specific tools and strategies to be used to keep everyone safe and de-escalate a crisis situation. Emergency information cards with the crisis plan and important information about your child can be posted in your home for caregivers, therapists, and first responders.  Knowledge of local crisis intervention centers and the best prepared facility if an ER visit is necessary can also be very helpful.

Remember that it is very difficult, and at times impossible, to redirect the behavior of a child with autism who is in the middle of a severe meltdown. There are other effective strategies that you can use to keep a child and those around him safe and de-escalate a dangerous situation:

  • Always remember to remain calm
  • Focus on returning the situation to a calm state
  • Instruct others to leave the area
  • Provide space and refrain from touching the individual
  • Use simple language and give short, clear directions
  • Remove distracting elements
  • Go to a less stressful place
  • Provide a calming object or activity

The best way to effectively manage a crisis situation is to prevent it from happening.  Being prepared ahead of time, identifying warning signs of dangerous behavior, and implementing strategies to de-escalate a situation before it reaches a crisis is key.  

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