Activity: Your Part in a Meltdown

The purpose of this activity is to develop skills in response to a meltdown by an individual with FASD.


  • video: ‘Opening the Brain Boxes
  • copies of relevant video slide notes
    • find these in the product details of the video linked above

Activity overview

Having established the 3 part “anatomy of behaviour” (slide 18), role play these common FASD “downshifts” (slides 23- 24).

One person plays the person with FASD, the other plays a supportive adult – a teacher, a police officer and a coworker or boss.

Activity instructions

Downshift Scenario #1

A child sees teasing happening on the playground. For a brief moment, the scene is processed rationally but it quickly descends into:

  • emotional turmoil
  • searching for meaning
  • reviving past wrongs
  • being paralyzed by ego-centrism
  • assuming the worst

Reflexively, the emotional process triggers the chemical process that causes the body to act on this perception-turned-conclusion.

Downshift Scenario #2

An adult driver with FASD sees police lights in the rear view. She pulls over thinking frantically about license and registration (which she has), unpaid parking tickets (which she doesn’t have) and the speed she was traveling through a school zone.

Regardless of her innocence, this registers in her emotional brain as crisis. Memories of a recent police visit to a party flood her system with emotion.

The idea of losing her license, although hypothetical, reflexively floods her body with the physiology that makes the first thing out of her mouth sound defensive and confrontational.

Downshift Scenario #3

A young man with FASD arrives at his workbench one morning to discover a new tool and a 6" manual.

Rationally, he knows there has never been a tool he has not been able to learn. Rationally, he knows the manual and the tool are somehow connected. Rationally, he knows the boss has always given instruction to new equipment. It registers, though, as something he will not be able to do.

He imagines losing his job. He imagines a third grade teacher who was once aloof about his reading struggles. He suddenly feels 8 instead of 28. Without warning his body, now primed for action, reacts.

Modified: 2015-09-09
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