Tantrums v’s meltdowns

Meltdowns come in all shapes and sizes. It can be hard to tell the difference. To parents of a child with special needs that difference is incredibly important. A tantrum is usually with a purpose. To get a reaction, to get what they want etc. A meltdown is a different animal altogether.

A meltdown can seemingly come from nowhere. Meltdowns are usually beyond the child’s control. Which, depending on the level can escalate scarily quick. Sam has sensory processing problem, he doesn’t have much self control at all. He also has a high tolerance for pain. He doesn’t have many full on meltdowns but today was a bad day 😔 While I was out on the school run Sam was upstairs (dad watching him) when he started screaming. He wouldn’t let Stu in the room shouting ‘bye’ over and over. We’ve learnt that when he needs space, he needs it in order to process-without our help.

This is heart breaking as you just want to help. But that little 4 year old can’t accept it. Anyway Stu got in, Sam cracked him and threw himself around. Trashed his room, when he started scratching himself Stu tried to stop him. Because of Sams under sensitivity we think he doesn’t feel it the way we would. He goes into meltdown because he’s had too much sensory input. Today it could have been a scene in the film he was watching.

I’ve just read that sensory overload is like filling a jug full of water a little bit at a time, but sometime the water flow is too much, too fast and the jug overflows.

Something in that room today flooded Sams brain and he reacted how he did. By the time I got home he was in his dads arms, he then got into bed with me and fell immediately asleep 😴 I don’t hold much hope for this evening as he slept until 5 had some dinner then took me upstairs. 6pm until 10pm when he finally fell asleep. I often say I wouldn’t take his autism away, it makes him who he is; but by god what I’d do to be able to take that awful sensory overload away.

Next time you see a child having a tantrum in the shop or on the street discreetly look and see if there might be something more to it. I say discreetly because meltdowns feel intensely personal. It’s Sams meltdown but I feel it in my chest every single time. 💙

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