What is the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum?
This is a tricky question! Every child has tantrums – it is actually an important part of typical development.
Children with disabilities can sometimes have meltdowns; a full “computer shut down and restart”. This can happen for many reasons that can be sensory-, communication- or emotionally-based. The reasons will be different for each child.
It can be tricky to work out what types of behaviours are “tantrum” and which are “meltdown” based.
- Child is usually telling you what they want e.g. “I want an ice cream”.
- Child will stop crying/hitting/screaming when they get what they want.
- Child looks and checks you are watching them.
- Child keeps themselves safe during.
- Child is not communicating at all e.g. no words, pointing etc.
- Child does not stop when problem is fixed.
- Child does not check that you are watching them e.g. they are in their own world.
- Child may not be concerned by their safety e.g. head banging.
- Child only stops when they have “calmed down” or “worn themselves out”.
- Hitting, screaming, biting, crying, kicking.