Tantrum vs Meltdown

Today my mom asked me how I knew Heidi wasn’t just having a 4 year old tantrum.

Then I started thinking and thought I’d share in our house how we know the difference. I think actions are determined on how to handle each one differently so it’s important to understand there is in fact a difference.

A tantrum is simply a way for child to express their anger, sadness, frustration. It’s easily recovered from. And crying ceases when given the object of their desire.

You might see

Whining

Crying

Hitting

But it’s usually diminished after a few minutes.

A meltdown is a tantrum of epic proportions. It can go on for up to an hour.

It’s irrational.

There could be hitting.

Harming themselves.

Or completely shutting down and just sobbing.

A meltdown goes on for a while and leaves the child emotional and distraught for most the day.

I think it’s important to understand there is in fact a difference in both.

A tantrum may also lead to a meltdown if it’s one of those days.

The sensory systems of our children are heightened. They feel and see differently than a typical mind.

I’m not saying the response of a meltdown should be tolerated. I’m suggesting that there is a way to teach and grow alongside your children by understanding it a little more.

Just some thoughts from one Autism mama.

What I wish I knew about sensory meltdowns before the diagnosis

There was a time when sensory wasn’t in my vocabulary and I was clueless to a lot of behaviors.  But these are just my thoughts on what I’ve learned over the years and how we handle meltdowns in our house.

When one of the kids is having a meltdown.  I don’t mean a tantrum either I mean a full blown sensory meltdown…I always try to take a moment and step back to look at the entire picture.  See what is causing the meltdown.  I let both my kids meltdown as they need to.  It needs to come out, then we need to work together to see how we could have helped prevent the meltdown.

The meltdown is always a product of a variety of things.  You see your child isn’t sobbing uncontrollably, or hyperventilating over the fact that they couldn’t get their pants up  easily or because they dropped their toy.  It was the straw that broke the camels back.

In our case it’s been a major upset in our routine.  We started school this week, and even though its at home there are different rules in place and it’s different than the usual.  Then there’s the fact that Miss H has started ballet and has been gone from the house for 2 hours a day.  EBE has struggled the most with this.  And he worries about her, he’s a sweet little soul.

And Miss H is loving her new profession as a ballerina, she is such a social butterfly.  But anytime we get home (or in the car) from exciting activities like this we usually have a lot of struggles after.  As exciting as it is, it does cause sensory overload.  She doesn’t remember to use the bathroom as often, she forgets to eat, it’s a combination of things.  Thankfully we have weighted blanket that someone so generously gifted to us.  It’s gotten so much use, and truly is helpful when the kids are on overload.

And in these moments I’m exhausted.  It’s hard to watch your child struggle.

But it’s only a fleeting moment in time.  And I know the meltdown will end.  This is just part of growing, and changing.  This is part of our journey with Autism.

But I will tell you.  There’s a gentleness to both my spectrum kiddos, a kindness for everyone, and heart for things that the typical don’t always see or understand.

So I will tell you this.  If you are overwhelmed and exhausted after your child’s meltdown.  Also think about how they feel.  They are growing and working through something.  Help them. Rather than give it another label.

Labeling it won’t effect the outcome, but providing coping tools, sensory input, a lot of love can make it easier on everyone.  A few essential oils helps out too.

Danielle