5 Tips for Handling a Meltdown in Public

Whose kid is screaming? That’s not MY kid, right!?!? All parents have experienced less-than-ideal behavior in public. Its hard to know how to respond to a meltdown in private and then when a meltdown happens in public, there are more variables that are out of control. Its embarrassing. People stare! People judge! It may be crowded and loud. Sometimes, a child with special needs having a meltdown in public can be even worse. Some children with special needs may respond in an exaggerated manner which may be very loud and possibly even aggressive. Some children may seem ‘too old to act like that.’

  1. Stay Calm

Many children can read other’s moods and stress levels, even if they can’t communicate that. It is critical that the child’s behavior doesn’t then escalate the behavior of the adult, which could be disastrous for everyone. Get down on the child’s level and communicate. Use simple directions to the child because some children may struggle to communicate when their behavior is escalated.

  1. Be Patient

When a meltdown occurs, we want it to end as quickly as possible. No one wants this to be happening. Sometimes, we have to help the child to work through the situation so that they can learn from it. Sometimes, we have to give the child time to calm down before we can move on. Take a deep breath and know the meltdown won’t last forever.

  1. Ignore Others

Simply put, it’s no one else’s business.  You don’t want to be dealing with the meltdown any more than they want to be in the proximity of the meltdown. Most importantly, having a meltdown isn’t fun for the child. It’s not fun for anyone. People are rude and it stinks but sometimes we just have to have thick skin to get through the situation and continue with awareness opportunities at other times.

  1. Don’t Take It Personally

Most of the time, children with special needs are not having a meltdown just to spite you or just to make you angry or to embarrass you. All children learn in different ways. All children tolerate things in different ways. All children have to learn how to respond to non-preferred stimuli/circumstances in different ways.

  1. Problem Solve for Next Time

Not every meltdown is preventable but there are things we can learn from meltdowns so that we can help to set up children for success. Identify things that may trigger problems for children. Either avoid those triggers or practice responding to those triggers. Pre-teach and provide expectations prior to experiences which may have caused problems in the past. When appropriate, collaborate with others to help the child be successful.

What are your tips for responding to meltdowns in public?

Got-Autism Guest Blogger Lisa Houseworth, JD, BCBA has worked with children with special needs using the principles of ABA and Verbal Behavior since 2001. In 2005, Lisa graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education, and then continued her education by graduating from the University of Dayton Law School in May, 2010. She completed coursework to earn her Board Certification in Behavior Analysis from University of North Texas and her clinical supervision from Step By Step Academy (Columbus, OH), Carbone Clinic (Valley Cottage, NY) and through Cherish Twigg, BCBA. Lisa has had experience as the director of center-based programs in Dayton, OH and Wapakoneta, OH, school consulting, staff training and also overseeing in-home programs. She has worked with individuals ranging in age from 2 years old through young adults. Lisa currently works part-time for Key Behavior Services in Dayton, OH. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging, travelling and couponing.

What does ‘Autism Awareness’ mean to OTs?

Got-Autism asked our guest blogger, Alex Lopiccolo what Autism Awareness means to him. He decided to team-up with fellow-OT, Elizabeth Tenace to come up with this response…

Early intervention is key to helping children on the spectrum improve their daily functional goals to interact with people and their environment. For Autism Awareness, we would like more parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms that a child on theKidsPlayTim1 Autism Spectrum may exhibit. Then parents could ask their Pediatrician to do a screening and, if needed, get testing done to get their child a diagnosis. The sooner a diagnosis is received, the faster therapy services from insurance companies may get covered.


Possible “Red Flags”…a person with ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to bealone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests (trains, washing machines, etc.)
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel

Many people on the Autism Spectrum display characteristics such as the inability to socially connect with others. They may also have repetitive behaviors that disrupt their functional life. They do this when they are overstimulated, anxious, or to change their arousal level. They may lock out joints, grind their teeth, flap their hands and play with their ears. But typical people have similar behaviors too! They change their arousal level by shaking their leg, twirling their hand, stroking their beard, or chewing gum. Many people have habits or behaviors to help with concentration and cope with their anxiety.  We help people on the spectrum replace their atypical behaviors to more socially appropriate ways of meeting their needs.

Another thing that “Autism Awareness,” means to us is understanding. Often people on the spectrum as well as their families feel isolated by the diagnosis. People with ASD often All About me Family Counters1_Got-Autismhave difficulty making friends because they may not understand social nuances such as body language and “unspoken” social rules (ex: conversational turn taking, friendly teasing,  sarcasm, etc.).  Often “neuro-typical” people become uncomfortable, frustrated, or impatient with people with ASD. Their knowledge frequently comes from movies, television, and books, which often give an unrealistic portrayal of people with ASD.

By providing more information we can help people improve their understanding of people who are on the spectrum. This can be done, and is being done in a variety of ways. Depictions of people with ASD in media such as books are becoming more accurate and varied. More information is easily accessible to the general public from children’s picture books to well produced documentaries. Parents and teachers can also facilitate understanding by helping children with and without ASD talk to each other and ask questions. Steamroller

All in all we all have a little Autism in all of us. Some are more severe, some are less.  Learning how to interact with and respect people regardless of differences can help everyone make more friends.  We therapists are here to help you and your family.



Written By: Alexander Lopiccolo, COTA/L and Elizabeth Tenace MS, OTR/L

Sensory Processing Disorder & Your Child

Many children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may have auditory defensiveness/sensitivity.

What is SPD?

This is a condition where someone is highly sensitive to sounds that most people can tolerate, filter out or modulate. It puts their Central Nervous System (CNS) into a fight, flight or freeze reaction which makes their bodies feel like they are in danger. The person’s adrenalin will spike from the sounds. Crash Pas_Got-Autism

As a result, they may act out in a negative behavior response in public, school, home or at work. This may also result in a more stressful/upset day because the CNS is thrown-off from its typical self-regulated path to a more stressful and emotional path for the rest of their day.



What are some calming techniques? 

There are many different ways to help with sound hypersensitivity. Many Pediatric Occupational Therapists (OT’s) are trained in Therapeutic Music programs. These programs have the patient wear high definition headphones with specially recorded music to exercise the inner ears and the auditory centers of the brain to help the child regulate the sound. And there are some other benefits too! If interested, ask your OT about which Therapeutic Music programs they use.

wilbargerAnother technique OTs are trained in is the Wilbarger Protocol for Sensory Defensiveness. The Wilbarger-Therapressure-Brush is used for a specific brushing and joint compression protocol that may also help regulate a person’s CNS to decrease the hypersensitivity to sound.

Are there products that can be useful?

If your child is not seeing an OT, you can get them noise cancelling headphones to Plane Platinum Headphones_Got-Autismhave in the classroom, on an airplane, out in public or at home while someone vacuums, uses a blender, flushes a toilet, etc. These headphones block out extraneous background noise and dampen loud noises, but allow conversational level speech to be heard. 10549

I have children dampen sound to help them get used to it at a lower intensity vs. canceling all sound out, unless they’re performing a concentration activity (homework, paper work or learning a new skill by themselves).

Privacy Pop Tent_Got-Autism











Another idea is to create a special space for your child – somewhere they will feel
secure and can relax and be themselves. A Privacy Pop Bed Tent is a great place a person can seclude themselves and get away to block out sound and visual distractions while relaxing with no worries.

Also try bean bags or hug chairs where the body will sink in and feel loved. The deep pressure it provides may help relax the CNS and be the key to calming down after that frightening sound.Hug CHair Lounger_Got-AUtism

Now you have many therapeutic tools to look to for helping anyone with auditory sensitivity, it’s time to see which ones work best for you or your loved one!



Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.


Related Products:
Music Therapy
Bed Tent
Wilbarger Brushes
Hug Chair
Bean Bags

Play Date Gifts That Last

~~ By: Alex Lopiccolo, COTA/L, CPT, NC aka Mr. Alex

You want your child to interact with the world around, make friends and get to know how to be a part of society. Just because he’s on the Autism Spectrum should not prevent him from enjoying a play date or mingling with other kids. Got-Autism guest-blogger Alex Lopiccolo provides some valuable insights on how parents can guide ASD kids on play dates.

When two children on the Autism Spectrum have a play date there can be little to no peer interaction.  They may not even make eye contact or be on the same topic.  The parent(s) may need to lead the structured play date just like a therapist would during an Occupational Therapy session.  But that doesn’t mean kids with Autism cannot have play dates.


Children with Autism may not understand the concept of many toys and you may need to guide them on how to share and play together as a team.  As the Wonder Pets would say, “What’s going to work? TEAMWORK!”  With Candy Construction, they can use Teamwork to construct a house, railroad, maze, automobile or plane, make a candy pie or anything they agree on with their creative imaginations. Once again, they may need some guidance to get started. Give two or three choices and/or guide a conversation by cueing the kids to ask each other what they would like to do.

Candy Construction3_Got-Autism

Another way to have children work together to build a specific design from the booklet. If they need it, an adult can direct them to take turns finding pieces and placing them in the correct place according to the chosen design. Most children are attracted to candy so you can also use it for a Q & A game of what’s their favorite candy then build the conversation from there to see what things they can bond with.

Manners & Social Skills

Something else that is difficult for children with ASD is manners and other social skills.  I need to give verbal prompts every session when teaching children on the spectrum social nuances and manners. The two keys to teaching these skills are frequent repetition and fun learning experiences.

Blunders Board Game_Got-Autism

When children with poor social skills are on play dates with children that have typical social skills, they may be seen as mean or rude when they don’t say anything or when they run into others, walk over toys, don’t say please, or burp in someone’s face without knowing or saying “excuse me”. By playing the Blunders board game, children can learn how to work through these real life scenarios.

Adults can also help any kid to recall other instances of when they or their friends might have had to work on manners. By playing this game during a play date, it may also give a neuro-typical child some idea of how their friend sees the world. This is a great game for the Special Ed, Speech Therapy, Art Therapy, Family Counseling, Occupational Therapy, Play Therapy or your household during family time.



Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

The Benefits of Proprioceptive Input

~~ By: Alex Lopiccolo, COTA/L, CPT, NC aka Mr. Alex

Proprioception is the concept of knowing where your body is positioned in space. In other words: body-spatial awareness.

The connective tissues, joints and muscles have proprioceptors deep inside and they are triggered through exercise. Children with proprioceptive dysfunction feel as if they are wearing dad’s baggy sweater, sweatpants and socks. These children often appear clumsy and have poor motor skills because it is difficult for them to know where their body parts are in relation to anything else, be it another person, the rug, furniture, paper, or anything else.

Here are some activities and sensory products you can use to help your child reap the benefits of proprioceptive input or “heavy work” for a home exercise program:

Crashing into Crash Pads

bar jump

This high intensity, forceful, proprioceptive input repeatedly done over a short duration can often calm the Central Nervous System.

  1. Have your child run and perform a high jump over a pool noodle into a crash pad. Make sure to have multiple cushions for safety. Also, start the noodle low to work on technique, form, and safety.
    Crash pad jump
  2. From a high platform or step, have your child squat then jump with a ball and throw it to a target while moving through space to land on the cushion.

Dark Space with Compression using Sensory Sack

Covering the eyes makes the child rely on the proprioceptive (body awareness) and vestibular (balance) senses. Sensory sacks filter out the extraneous visual stimuli and dampen noises.

  1. Ask your child to do animal walks in the sacks (bear, crab, starfish, and snake).
  2. Make crawling obstacles under chairs, through tunnels and over the couch.

Isometric Push and Pulls

Pushing or pulling against a stable surface, or with an adult giving the resistance, recruits more muscles and proprioceptive feedback.yc2start

  1. Play foot wars on your backs with the soles of your feet against each other’s and push back and forth with moderate resistance.
  2. Have the child try to break the adult down while the adult is in tabletop position. Explain rules, take turns, and be safe.

Deep Pressure with Heavy Blanket or Steamroller

SteamrollerDeep sustained pressure like a heavy comforter on you at night helps calm and organize the Central Nervous System.

  1. Place the weighted blanket on your child’s back and have them crawl to get an item and bring it to a target.
  2. Have the child crawl through the steamroller as part of an obstacle course.

Compression with Bear Hug Vest

bear hug vestUsing a compression vest combined with heavy work activities may help calm the child’s Central Nervous System and decrease negative behaviors associated from hyperactivity, anxiety, and more.





Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

“Presumed Competence”

There is a line out of a movie that has had a profound effect in my life.
It’s from the beautiful documentary, Wretches and Jabberers. Tracy Thresher, a non-verbal man with autism is asked a question by the parent of a child with autism, “Tracy, you have said that you know you were loved as a child, but if there was one thing you could change about the way your parents raised you, what would it be?”
Tracy slowly typed out these important words, “I wish they would have presumed competence.

As the parent of a 9-year-old son who is non-verbal with autism, I have played Tracy’s response over and over in my mind, sometimes with a heavy heart while other times feeling elated with inspiration. I pondered those words the day I tried to teach my son how to empty the dishwasher only to have him complete the task as if he had been doing it his whole life. I pondered those words certainly, as I realized that I had been an unintentional enabler of laziness, not just his mom standing in the gap for him.
On one recent occasion, the words “presume competence” weighed especially heavily on my heart as I faced my son’s intervention team for his 4th grade IEP meeting. I intended to insist on changing the focus of my son’s IEP goals to becoming what I called “total concept driven.”
I had rehearsed my speech again and again in my mind, looking for a way to be firm, yet confident. “No more “first-then” focused goals. No more enabling splintered skills by presenting over-simplified concepts out of context. Let’s focus solely on context-driven concepts with an emphasis on executive functions.”
I was bracing myself for the infamous “pushback” that nearly every parent of a special needs child can relate to. I knew my son had many more cognitive gifts than he was given credit for and I was, (and am), determined to facilitate him reaching his upper limits, not sit idle, allowing his precious life to simply click by.
Have you ever been in such meetings when you listen to a panel of people explain where they think your child’s deficits lie and you wonder if you are in the right meeting? As I advocated for his goals to be redefined to a higher standard, I fielded comments that challenged what I knew to be true of my son with their underlying, (though somewhat compassionate), air of “You are in denial.”
I tried to explain that my son’s non-verbal protests to schoolwork below his skill set consisted of him fussing, rushing through the task at hand, or scribbling on the paper. It was not an expression of “I can’t do this” as much as it was, “Why should I do this, AGAIN, when I mastered this skill two years ago?” My insistence was met with an element of disbelief.
Later that day, my son’s intervention specialist was working with him on a subtraction worksheet. He tried to rush through it, whined and scribbled on the page in protest. Remembering what I had said, the teacher decided to take a break from math and just talk with my son about his school work.
She shared my thoughts with him and that I had said he may be bored at school because the work was so easy for him. She said, “It that true? Are you bored at school?” He vocalized a high-pitched “yeah”.
She, then, apologized for underestimating him and promised that from then on, she would give him more challenging and interesting assignments. In that beautiful connecting moment, he did the most profound thing: With a grin on his face, he turned the math sheet over and on the back wrote the words, “raise bar.”


“Presumed competence” grants liberty to people like my son, and like Tracy Thresher, who have intelligent minds beyond what we often give them credit for. It’s not always easy to grant such liberty when the smoke screen of autism can cloud one’s view of the truth. In fact, it may be nothing shy of an art to fully access their gifts and support their gaps. That being said, it is my heartfelt hope that we will heed what a wise young boy once said and consistently “raise bar.”


To those who choose to presume competence in folks like my son and facilitate their sense of liberty, I offer this personal tribute:

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes,
and you are one of them.
Many may try,
but only few walk through that door,
the one marked
and bring forth my smiling son.

-Vicki Sotack

Parents take heart: extra time effort and therapy bills make a difference for special needs kids

summer shoesFor many parents, the end of the school year is a jubilant time of celebration and planning fun and relaxing summer activities and vacations with their families.

But for families living with children who have special needs like autism or Aspergers Syndrome, it can be a time that creates more than just a bit of anxiety at the prospect of spending more time together during the day. Often summer time translates to lots of additional work and effort on the part of parents to manage their children’s activities and guide behavior. Add therapy sessions into the mix and suddenly the summer schedule can become quite exhausting!

These are days when parents need encouragement the most. We need to be reminded that all the work and effort and therapy bills do make a difference for our children.

In that spirit, we wanted to share one of our favorite stories that we think really reinforces the notion that all that we do is NOT in vain. Carly Fleishmann is a young girl living with autism. She is non verbal, and until she was 11 years old, she did not communicate. But, through the relentless dedication of her parents and therapists, she has broken through and has made an amazing connection with the world around her using electronic communication tools. And the things she says – the insights that she is giving to what is really going on inside the mind of a person living with autism – is astonishing!

“People look at me and assume I am dumb because I cannot talk.” — Carly Fleishmann

Learn more about her story at her website: Carly’s Voice
Also, this news story: Girl with Autism – that aired last year on ABC’s 20/20 tells more about Carly’s incredible story!

What does your summer routine look like with your special needs child home from school?

Got-Autism offers communication skills therapy tools and resources that include assistive technology, ABA and language therapy, interactive software, games and electronic devices.

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Photo credit:  Alex of Gothenburg via flickr cc

Why Got-Autism?

In 2005 our son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Asperger Syndrome. SPD and ADHD didn’t sound so bad. In our naivete, ADHD and SPD sounded manageable. It wasn’t until the developmental pediatrician said the word “autism” that our world literally fell apart.

After recovering from the initial shock, we began the list of therapeutic interventions and protocols. In my quest to locate therapeutic resources, I was hard-pressed to find any comprehensive line of autism-specific products. Growing up in a family business, it wasn’t a far leap to think “why can’t we do this for others affected by autism.”  In living with the challenges of autism 24/7, I wanted to create a product line that would take the sting out of autism for both child and family.

With the support of family and my Hydrotech colleagues, Got-Autism opened for business in November 2008. Today the Got-Autism store features over 1500 therapeutic, educational, and sensory solutions for the autism spectrum, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and other learning and behavioral differences. Just like the autism spectrum itself, our product offering is vast and unique. We also carry the latest autism resources for parents, educators, therapists, and professionals working with developmental disabilities. From oral motor fidgets to social skills activities to customized indoor sensory gyms, we have products for all ages, abilities, and budgets.

Our mission is simple: to help those with autism achieve satisfying and productive lives. Ultimately, we want to encourage and give hope to families raising children with autism. In this endeavor, Got-Autism donates 5% of every purchase back to the autism community. Got-Autism is financially supporting seven autism-related non-profit organizations: Families with ASD , 4 Paws for Ability , ACT Today for Military Families , Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati , Summit Academy Schools , Safe Haven Farms , Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding & Horsemanship .

From sponsoring awareness events, funding therapy services, to helping with the costs of training autism service dogs, we believe in paying it forward. We not only want our customers to be inspired, but also empowered. This is the inspiration for our work.

We get our best product ideas from our customers. If you’re looking for a specific resource for a child or for yourself, we’ll be happy to help!  Got Autism? Yes! We do too! Thanks for sharing the journey,

Tammy Andersson

From Access to Achievement: Assistive Tech Vendor Fair

Got-Autism participated in the Spring AAC/AT Vendor Fair in Lima, Ohio today.  The purpose of the vendor fair was to bring together regional vendors whose products help increase accessibility and / or communication in academic settings for Ohio students with disabilities.  Vendors’ products were on display and vendors showcased their products/ services in classroom break-out sessions.   Attendees included school district administrators, teachers, para-professionals, parents, therapists, and other care-providers.   This was a wonderful opportunity to share the Got-Autism story, our mission, and our product line.   Got-Autism is a unique company offering a one-stop shop for all things autism:  educational, therapeutic, and practical life products.   Got-Autism also offers a vast array of resources for both parents and professionals.  The fair was jointly sponsored by both Region 1 & Region 6 State Support Teams, as well as the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI).  It was a great day for educators, administrators, and parents to come together to learn more about the latest resources that can help close the achievement gap for students with disabilities.

Welcome to Got-Autism

We believe in the unlimited potential of autism. Got-Autism is dedicated to helping those on the autism spectrum realize their goals and dreams while supporting parents and professionals in the process.

Choose from a wide selection of therapeutic, educational, and practical life products for children on the autism spectrum: ABA Tools, PECS, Social Skills, Occupational and Speech Therapy Aids, Turn-taking Games, Sensory Diet Activities, Developmental Toys & Fidgets, Autism/Asperger Books, DVDs, Video-Modeling, Awareness, Apparel and more!