Behavior is Communication: MELTDOWN

Welcome back to the second installment of our Behavior is Communication Series. The Sensory Path strives to be a helpful resource for educators. While our primary business is selling Sensory Paths as an educational resource tool, we’d like to be known as the one-stop-shop for both tangible resources for use in your building AND informative resources that support the faculty and staff at schools. 

We’ve heard from a lot of teachers this year. They’re all saying the same thing. Behavior is off the charts. Teachers have never seen anything like this before. 

What. Is. Going. On? 

If you think about it, we are finally back in the classroom full-time for the first time in almost 3 full years. That’s an extraordinary and unprecedented absence from the traditional classroom. The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for decades, especially in regard to the impact on out current generation of students. 

As experts in childhood development and education have stressed during the entire pandemic, students need to be in school for a variety of reasons. The US classroom is more than just a place for students to come learn how to read and write. Our classrooms are the first place students experience society and learning how to interact socially. Further, our schools often serve as the number one place students are diagnosed with a number of developmental or learning delays. 

Students who were in kindergarten in 2020 are currently in their third-grade year. That is a huge gap relative to their age. The loss of those years in a traditional classroom setting are devastating. Despite districts and teachers doing everything in their power to deliver a quality education during this pandemic, some things are beyond control. 

Behavior issues in the classroom are directly related to the three-year loss of in-classroom socialization and teacher interaction on a personal level. Many of our students may have missed out on crucial evaluations that lead to proper medical diagnoses. Failure to catch learning disabilities or differences in neurological processing prevents students not only from receiving the appropriate remediation and therapies, but also prevents them from receiving appropriate accommodations to support their learning. 

Under the consideration of everlasting pandemic disruption to our educational system, the behavior crisis makes a little more sense. One behavior issue that teachers have seen more this year than ever before is the MELTDOWN. 

This academic year students are more prone to what seems like a spontaneous meltdown. Once a child has reached the point of total meltdown, it can be extremely difficult to restore peace and tranquility to the child. A meltdown early in the day can cause a permanent disruption for the entire school day. One student having a meltdown can then trickle into a larger issue that negatively impacts the entire class. 

It is important that we remember these meltdowns are not always within the student’s control. More often than not, meltdowns are a neurological response to an internal dysregulation. Many students have missed the socialization experiences that teach them how to reconcile their internal thoughts and feelings in an acceptable way. There are some fundamental development skills missing that provide students with the necessary verbal and non-verbal language to communicate what’s going on inside their bodies. This inability to effectively and appropriately express themselves leads to excessive amounts of frustration. As the day progresses and the frustrations build, each task becomes more and more difficult. Students lose their ability to process information in clear and concise ways as their emotional and sensory systems become more and more dysregulated. 

Eventually students reach a tipping point and they can no longer tolerate the internal chaos. This is where we met the meltdown. 

As previously stated, it can be really hard to reverse the meltdown and get our students back on track. It’s going to take an intentional and targeted approach. While a student meltdown can be incredibly frustrating for a teacher, children are very sensitive. They may be able to sense your frustration or anger. This can only escalate the situation. The student is already upset and feeling that they’ve also upset you can only cause them to further spiral. 

The Sensory Path can be a valuable resource during a meltdown. Aside from providing a distraction to whatever has upset them inside the classroom, the movements on The Sensory Path are mindfully sequenced to clear “roadblocks” in the neurological system of the student. As the student works their way through each Sensory Path element, they will reset their proprioceptive and vestibular systems with targeted movements. This allows students to restore a sense of internal calmness and regulation. 

Students thrive in an environment where they feel understood and supported. Behavioral issues are more often indicative of something deeper than just a bad attitude or a bad day. Having schools that are equipped with the resources to support our students is so important. 

The Sensory Path Company is proud to support our students in providing engaging, multi-sensory movement spaces. 

If you have more questions on managing student meltdowns, reach out to us! We’d love to help in any way we can. We’ve got a team of qualified professionals ready to offer support. Email us today! 

Hang in there, teachers! You’re doing great and we LOVE you and your students over here at The Sensory Path. 

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