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 meltdown a full “computer shut down and restart”. This can happen for lots of 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 self safe
- 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