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How to know the difference between a tantrum and a sensory meltdown?

Do you ever notice a pattern in your child’s behavior? Does it ever feel like your child tends to have a breakdown more often when around people, heavy sights and sounds or busy, overcrowded places? Have you also wondered why your child chooses to throw that fit when around a bigger crowd for a more eventful spectacle for others, you may think? Then think again - maybe we need to dig a little deeper here. It may be time to ask yourself what seems to be the triggering pattern for the tantrum. Your child maybe having what’s called a sensory meltdown.

“A sensory meltdown is a fight, flight or freeze response to sensory overload that is often mistaken and misunderstood for a tantrum or misbehavior”. The main way to tell the difference between the two is that tantrums typically have a purpose behind them - a child perceived need or a want. But a sensory meltdown comes without a warning and is a triggered response to external stimuli that the child's brain interprets as a threat or danger from the environment.

Where we have our own ways of tackling tantrums depending on what works best for our families, meltdowns can be addressed most effectively by removing the source of the stimuli or removing the child from that environment which seems to be causing the breakdown.

It always helps to think about the patterns surrounding our children’s behavior. More often than not, there is always a story yearning to be unraveled.

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