De-escalation of a meltdown or aggressive outbursts

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De-escalation of meltdowns and aggressive outbursts

De-escalation of


Keep yourself and others safe

Maintain safe distance, evacuate if necessary. Use proportional force, if necessary, to keep yourself and others safe.


Give verbal commands to cease any aggressive or otherwise unsafe behaviour

Talk calmly but firmly with simplified language. Avoid negative labelling of them as bad or naughty. Acknowledge their emotional state and describe the desired behaviour e.g. - I need you to stop throwing things now - I can see that you are angry - I need you to be calm now.


Give them time to comply

Avoid eye contact once verbal command has been given. If it is safe to do so turn your back towards them.


Direct them towards a safe place and/or activity to calm themselves

Talk calmly and again avoid any negative labelling of behaviour. Direct them to a calm place and not a place of punishment. (Consequences come later.) E.g. Would you like to go and sit on the reading cushions?


Ignore secondary behaviours

Try to avoid being drawn into arguments or giving them additional attention for negative behaviours. If the original behaviour has ceased then perceive any secondary behaviours as evidence of de-escalation.

Give them the time they need to be calm

Again avoid eye and where possible turn your back towards them. Allow plenty of time for the stress hormones in their bloodstream time to dissipate. Until these are back to normal nothing meaningful can be achieved.



The purpose of this is to understand what triggered the behaviour. It is not always easy to establish a clear cut cause and effect. For example, many people find it difficult to express their feelings through language. It is also often the case that what appears to be a trigger was in fact just the last event in a series of events that escalated the situation. Avoid labelling negative behaviours until fully investigated.



It is important that appropriate and proportional consequences are given for disruptive and physically aggressive behaviours. Acknowledge their right to feel and express anger. But equally, make it very clear that the consequence is because the way they showed their anger or frustration etc. was not acceptable and broke rules.

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De-escalation of meldowns / aggressive behaviour


Printable A4 resource containing the above procedure for dealing with aggressive behaviour and 'meltdowns'.

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Index of Calming Strategies

Restrictive Physical Intervention

Breaking Things Social Story

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