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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: No More Meltdowns by Jed Baker, Ph.D.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jed Baker speak at a Future Horizons conference- where he shared many of the same concrete and logical strategies he describes in his book- No More Meltdowns. I recommend attending one of his presentations to fully appreciate his wisdom, experience and humor.

Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out- of- Sync Child wrote the foreword to this book because as an educator she recognizes the critical role of sensory-based strategies as part of the four-step program to prevent incessant meltdowns. As an occupational therapist, I too appreciate how Dr. Baker explores the child’s sensory challenges when evaluating behavioral triggers and implementing interventions. For example, a child ran away from a  school staircase because the reverberation was aversive to his auditory sensory system. An effective intervention such as using the staircase at a quieter time could only be implemented after identifying this sensory-based trigger.      

Dr. Baker’s book begins with a detailed explanation as to what exactly a “meltdown” is- an escalating negative emotional reaction. Parents of children who respond to the common methods of consistent rules and consequences- don’t need to read this book!  However, when rewards and punishment no longer work and actually escalate the power struggle -it is time to look at Dr. Baker’s 4-step program. This involves:

·        Accepting and appreciating your child

·        De-escalating a meltdown

·        Understanding why a meltdown keeps occurring

·        Creating plans to prevent meltdowns

Readers learn how factors-such as an overactive emotional center, sensory processing disorder or difficulties with abstract thinking interfere with the development of self-control. Dr. Baker provides many strategies but here are a few of my favorites:

1) use the 80/20 % rule-this means that since kiddos who have learning and behavioral challenges have a history of failure, spend 80% of the time with activities, including school work that we know will be successful and 20% of the time introducing new material.

2) children who are in the middle of a "melt down" cannot respond to logic.
Since their out of control behavior is escalating  - they are best managed by.....
*sensory interventions such as jumping into a crash pad,
*enhancing communication (i.e. pictures, Ipad)
*and handling our own feelings during the crisis.

3) strive to prevent meltdowns in the first place by recognizing that:
*fear of failure leads to anger
*one size solutions do not fit all
* punishment works, but we pay a big (negative) price for it, and   

* misbehavior is often unintentional.

Dr. Baker states this simple rule: REWARD EFFORT, NOT OUTCOME!

This is also my Occupational therapy mantra as I strive to create fun, therapeutic activities that meet a child’s sensory needs with just enough cognitive challenge to be interesting, assure success and build self-esteem. Using sensory modalities, visual supports, tweaking the difficulty level, even the time of day tasks are given and providing a reward system may all be included in the OT and psychologist’s bag of tricks. Now readers, especially parents have the positive interdisciplinary tools spelled out for them in No More Meltdowns.     

I recommend that you jump, skip and crawl through a cloth tunnel to get to read this book or get to Dr. Baker’s next presentation. You will be richly rewarded!
 No More Meltdowns is available at Future Horizons. Please use code PEDIA for a 15% discount on most books and conferences:
and on Amazon. 

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