Sensory Meltdown VS Tantrum
I want you to know that you are not alone, I know how hard this can be for you. I have carried my kids out of restaurants, malls and dentist offices while they screamed, yelled and even took off their clothes, more times than I can count. I know how exhausting it is when you have a child who has meltdowns, especially when it's several times a day. 

I have avoided bringing my children to different events or putting them in many situations in fear that they would have a  meltdown. I remember being so consumed with how embarrassed I would feel if everyone was staring, judging and talking about us.

You have no reason to feel ashamed, nor do you have anything to be embarrassed about. 

Over time, we learn how to avoid meltdowns, we learn our child's sensory triggers and our own as well. We learn new, more effective ways to cope in these situations as well as what sensory tools we need to bring while on an outing. This will get easier over time, I promise you. 

Sensory overload happens when one or more of our senses become overwhelmed. This can happen if a child smells something different that is too strong, they are in a crowded new place or they are in an environment that is too loud. 

The brain is receiving too much information at once to process it properly. 

Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that happens when a person finds it difficult to process sensory input. 

Children who have Sensory processing Disorder usually fall into two categories, a seeker or an avoider. Most people think that you have to be one category or the other when in fact, it's more common to be in both.

Hypersensitive means that you are more sensitive (over-responsive) to input than others. This may look like covering your ears when a vacuum is turned on because it is too loud. Or struggling with the feeling of your clothing, even to the point of not being able to wear clothes. At times we refer to people that are hypersensitive as avoiders, they want to avoid certain types of input because they are more sensitive to them.

Hyposensitive means that you are less sensitive (under-responsive) to input than others. Meaning you may want or crave more input to feel regulated and fulfilled. This may look like constantly moving, spinning, jumping, or playing rough with others. At times we refer to people that are hyposensitive as seekers.

There are several other conditions that are connected to sensory overload and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Tourette's Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Sensory Processing Disorder Types Of Sensory Input 
(our senses) 

1. Tactile

2. Visual

3. Auditory

4. Gustation
5. Olfactory

6. Proprioception

7. Vestibular

8. Interoception

What causes a meltdown?  

- Overstimulation

- Changes to routines

- Excessive demands

- Seeking sensory input 

- Unexpected or unpredictable

- Situations that are new or unfamiliar

- Sensory Overload 

- Dysregulation 

- Hungry or thirsty 

- Inability to communicate needs 

(even minor changes can cause extreme stress)

Signs Of Sensory Overload 

Sensory overload can feel and look different for everyone. 

- sleepiness
- anxiety
- reduced eye contact 
- inability to relax
- changes in muscle tone
- self-harming behavior
- increased stimming
- physical discomfort 
- loss of balance 
- shutting down
- meltdowns
- stressed
- stomach aches
- nausea
- screaming 
- angry outbursts 
- fidgeting
- hiding
- restlessness 
- hyperactivity 
- increased chewing objects 
- distracted
- emotionally withdrawing 
- unable to complete tasks 
- unwilling to participate
- running away
- sweaty 
- doesn't want to be looked at 
- increased sensitivity to clothing
- socially withdrawing
- fast breathing 
- avoiding situations 
- disorientated 
- crying and yelling 
- covering ears
- panic
- muscle tension
- covering eyes
- avoiding places 
- glazed over eyes 
- doesn't want to be touched
- difficulty focusing
- high levels of excitement 
- unable to concentrate 

Signs Of Sensory Overload
- anxiety and panic
- reduced eye contact
- self-harming behavior
- increased stimming
- meltdowns and angry outbursts
- fidgeting and hyperactivity
- increased chewing objects
- distracted and difficulty focusing
- emotionally withdrawing
- unwilling to participate
- running away or hiding
- increased sensitivity to clothing
- socially withdrawing
- fast breathing
- crying and yelling
- covering ears or eyes
- muscle tension
- avoiding places or situations
- doesn't want to be touched

Tantrum VS Meltdown


- A meltdowns are not a choice and are neurological

- The child is reacting to feeling overwhelmed

- Continues without reaction or audience
- A meltdown is not goal dependent 

- The child is experiencing too much sensory input to process 

- Will not bargain 

- Fight, flight and freeze response 

- The child may shut down and get tired  

- Children will cry, scream, yell or run away
- May require assistance to gain control 

When your child is having a sensory meltdown, it doesn't mean that you are a bad parent. 

When your child is having a meltdown, it is important to remain calm, your child needs reassurance that they are safe. Eliminate the sensory input that is causing them to meltdown by taking your child away from the overstimulating environment. Take them to a place where it is calm and remove anything that is dangerous so they cannot hurt themselves. Eliminate the sensory input that is causing them to meltdown.

Encourage them to practice their mindful breathing techniques and give them some space to do their breathing. Ask your child if they would like to be hugged, squeezed and held. Some children want to be held, while others do not want to be touched at all. 

Another great idea is to put together a calm down kit for your child to take on outings so you're prepared for unexpected meltdowns. This calm down kit could include: 

1. noise reduction headphones

3. weighted blanket or weighted lap pad

4. bubbles

5. sensory chew necklace

6. sensory calming bottle

7. calm essential oil roller

8. weighted vest 

9. kaleidoscope 

10. silly putty

11. chewy or crunchy snack

12. sunglasses

13. mini massager

14. Play dough or sensory putty 

In addition to staying calm, as hard as that can be, try to be understanding, don't try to reason with them or make demands when they are in a heightened state. Most importantly, don't judge them or try to discipline them.


- A tantrum is behavioral 

- A tantrum will stop when children get wat they want and their goal is accomplished

- Children will have some control over their behavior during a tantrum

- uses bargaining as a tactic 

- Can develop into a meltdown 

- Tantrums are a choice 
- They will have an angry or frustrated outburst because they're not getting what they want 

- Children will cry, scream, yell and hold their breath

-The child will usually look to an audience to perform

- A child usually checks for engagement 

          When your child is having a tantrum, it doesn't mean that you are a bad parent. 

When children have tantrums, they are struggling to communicate their needs or wants in an appropriate way. When your child is having a tantrum, remember to be empathetic and stay calm. Give them some space while staying close by so you know they are being safe. 

You want to create an environment that is safe to express their feelings. Offer them a hug and let them know that you love them. When talking to them, get down to their level and talk calmly, face to face helps them feel like they're being heard. 

Set up a calm down space with calming tools where they can practice their breathing techniques or listen to calm music. 

If you do not handle tantrums earlier on, it can lead to more intense behavioral issues later on. Tantrums are a completely normal part of being a child, as a parent, it is up to us how we handle them. It's imperative that we don't give in to what they want no matter how embarrassing their behavior can be while out. They need to learn that adults make the decisions. 

Modeling good behavior during tantrums will help our children learn how to behave. If we are yelling and getting angry, they will think that is how they should behave too. Not only toddlers have tantrums, but teenagers also have tantrums as well. Validate your child's feelings while settings appropriate limits on unwanted behaviors. If you take a positive parenting approach, your children will gain great self-control skills and learn to self-regulate.

How to avoid meltdowns and sensory overload

We cannot stop all meltdowns, but we can try to avoid some from happening. You can avoid certain situations or sensations that cause your child to feel overwhelmed when you are aware of what triggers them. 

Therapy can be very beneficial for children who are struggling with sensory overload. An Occupational Therapist can assist you in learning your child's triggers and help you to set up a sensory diet for them. 

Activities such as breathing techniques, meditation, yoga and mindfulness training can be extremely helpful for your child and you as well.  

Explain your child's needs to your family and friends so that they are aware and able to help. When you are attending family functions there are different strategies you can use to make it more sensory friendly for your child. You can ask them to turn the lights down dimmer, lower the music, invite less people or have a designated calm down quiet space for your child. 

Large gatherings, parties, concerts, sports games with flashing lights, loud music and big crowds can be very overwhelming to someone who has sensory challenges. These types of events can cause children to go into sensory overload and have a meltdown. As fun as they would be for some, they aren't as fun for others. Avoiding these places will avoid sensory meltdowns. 

You should always have a plan B. If things are not working out and they are too much for your child, plan an escape route. If you plan ahead, you can figure out where the closest exits and bathrooms are located.

If your child is triggered by loud sounds, take noise reduction headphones with you. If your child is bothered by bright lights, you can take sunglasses with you. A calm down anxiety kit with therapy tools to assist your child are always helpful for outings. 

Regular sensory activities, heavy work activities and following a sensory diet will cut down on meltdowns, how often they happen and their intensity. This will give them the sensory input they need for all their sensory systems. Don't wait until it is too late, and they are already overstimulated, have regularly scheduled sensory breaks throughout the day. 

Use social stories to explain where you are going and what they will be doing so that your child knows what to expect. If they know what to expect, they are far less likely to meltdown from unexpected situations. Providing predictability for your child will make them feel a lot less anxious. Visual schedules of events and counting down to an outing will cut down on anxiety and sensory meltdowns. Give them warnings when it is time to leave and how much longer they have. Using a visual timer can be helpful so they see when it will be time to transition.

What you can add to a calm down kit 

Click here for more ideas for a sensory calm down kit 

Snug Kids Earmuffs/Hearing Protectors – Adjustable Headband Ear Defenders for Children and Adults
Little ears need protection from the high frequency and loud noises that come with crowds, sporting events, fireworks, monster trucks, or even everyday household items like a lawn mower, edger, or vacuum cleaner. Snug ear muffs muffle any intense sound around.
Unlike some ear muffs that don't rotate or adjust, Snug ear muffs hug little ears with a soft padded headband and a skin-friendly breathable plush ear pad. These ear defenders give all-day comfort without feeling squeezed. Fits on a wide range of ages, may fit on some adults.

Laura, the owner of Munchables, created this fun Bubble Popper Chew Necklace® to act as either a fidget toy or a chew necklace.  It is the perfect 2-in-1 sensory aid!  One touch and your fingers can't stop pushing, poking, and popping! Please note that this patented popper fidget makes an audible pop sound. Unlike the many handheld poppers on the market, this style is made of high-quality silicone that is safe to chew on.
Munchables can aid with anxiety/stress relief, act as a sensory toy for autism or ADHD, and safely stop oral fixation habits (thumb sucking/nail biting/finger sucking).

Reecio Weighted Lap Pad Blanket (3 lbs, 20 x 24in) for Toddler Kids & Washable Cover, Uni
que Cotton/Minky Fidget Cover Designed in The USA, Travel Size Childrens Throw - with Wash Bag (Sensory Sea)  Calming Balance: by compression gravity , warmth & friendly print. If your kid tends to fidget, feels nervous or has sensory processing issues, use the lap pad to reduce agitation & add calm to family activities. Watch the video - Attaching the Cover.
Sensory Play: a heavy lap mat with a variety of textures including minky dot, soft fleece, flaps, ribbon & a zip to provide fun tactile play in the home classroom. Soothe BIG emotions with gentle deep pressure. Great addition to your child's Calm Down Corner.

Playlearn Glitter LED Calm Down Jar - 2 Pack 
This sensory calm down jar is great tool to help your child or student relax and stay focused. The calming effect of the moving glitter creates an atmosphere ideal for attentivness and staying on task. LED lights included for maximum enjoyment.
Product Dimensions 5.75" x 2" x 2"
Power Source Battery powered

Hand2mind Mindful Maze Boards, 3 Double Sided Breathing Boards with Finger Paths, Mindfulness for Kids, Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Board, Anxiety Relief Items, Occupational Therapy Toys
A screen free way to teach kids how to sooth themselves with hands-on resources that help build social-emotional skills for children by providing cues and physical objects to guide kids through breathing exercises. Mindful Maze Boards would make a great addition to your therapy toys.
Each set of our Mindful Mazes comes with three double-sided mindful maze boards. Mindful Maze Boards would be a great addition to your calm down toys for your classroom, daycare or home calming corner!
Our calming sensory toys are perfect for occupational therapy activities for kids. 

Kozie Clothes Kozie Cushy Sensory Weighted Lap Pad Our Cushy, Kozie Weighted Lap Pad is a great Sensory Strategy designed to help with self-regulation, calm, and focus. Weighted Lap Pads are easy to transport from one environment to another, such as in the car, at the dinner table, watching a movie, doing homework, playing a game, or carrying in the backpack. Our Kozie Lap Pad utilizes deep pressure tactile and proprioceptive sensory input, which help to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine plays a significant role in motivation and reward, and serotonin affects emotional processing and mood.  Influencing a state of calm, alertness, and sleep.  Think of them as “happy neurotransmitters.”

Fidget Toys for Adults and Kids - Calming Stretchy String Stocking Stuffers - 6 Pack
BunMo Stretchy String anxiety relief toys are the perfect sensory toys for autistic children. Widely used for Autism, Adhd and Add
Durable, Strong and Calming Fidget Toys - Fun to Wrap, Stretch, Squeeze, Squish and Twirl
Learning Tools. With bright, vibrant colors. Create patterns, shapes, letters and numbers. Increase focus with our stress relief toys
6 Pack, 6 Colors – Each super stretchy fidget toy is 11 inches long and can stretch to over 9 feet
3rd Party Test Anxiety Toys, easy to clean, hypoallergenic, nontoxic, and absolutely no phthalates or Bpa's

Wikki Stix Fidgit Stix
A fun, simple and colorful presentation just for those who need some hands-on fidget “therapy”! 36 Wikki Stix in six bright colors, in a reclosable poly bag making it easy to keep this fidget toy handy.
Ideal for fidgety fingers on airplanes… or during those long, boring zoom meetings…or just to have something soothing and calming to manipulate in-hand.
Easy to bend, twist and shape… again and again. Soft, pliable and quiet…perfect for fidgety fingers whenever the need arises.
Easy to tuck into briefcase, carry-on or purse…and a super fun stocking stuffer!

Little Chubby One Sensory Textured Squares - Mini Pillows and Patches - Set of 20 Different Covered Squares Promotes Sensory Learning Motor Skills Tactile Awareness and Vocabulary Great Gift for Kids
20-Piece Set: Little Chubby One’s Sensory Textured Squares includes 10 pairs of pillows and patches, boasting bold colors and various textures to help children develop tactile discrimination skills.
Developmental Skills: A relaxing and calming activity for kids, these textured squares encourage children to engage in hands-on, tactile play, helping them to develop social and emotional interactions.
Textured Squares: Is the material scratchy, slippery, silky or soft? With multiple, textured surfaces, children can enjoy a variety of hands-on activities including matching, descriptors, communication and tactile discrimination.

Calming Bottle - Plum Purple - 8oz (Fidget/Time-Out Bottle)
Calming Bottles from The Calm Mom are an original away to gain some calm back in your life. The uses are endless - we’ve had customers use them at doctor’s or dentist’s visits, for dementia patients, as a meditative focus - the uses are endless. *** Attention-grabbing sparkles swirl in the bottle when shaken, then settle towards the bottom when put down. The settling time is about three minutes. Bottles also contain an auditory factor that allows the contents to mix more easily - no more clumped, stuck glitter at the bottom. Bottles are plastic, with caps firmly fused. *** They’re also known as Hush-Bottles, Glitter Bottles, and Sensory Bottles. One bottle is included - 6.9” x 1.75”, 8oz. Item is for Theraputic purposes only. Please do not allow bottle to be dropped or thrown. For ages 8+

Therapy Shoppe Junior Earmuffs
Durable Junior Earmuffs designed especially to fit children! Feature an adjustable, padded headband and comfy, liquid-foam ear cushions. These quality sensory earphones reduce environmental noise up to 22 decibels; allowing the wearer to still hear conversations and commands. The perfect sensory diet tool for kids who have auditory defensiveness, autism, sensory processing disorder, central auditory processing disorder, high levels of stress, anxiety diisorders, and/or noise sensitivity (kiddos who are hypersensitive to sound). Excellent for classrooms, travel, school lunchroom, parties and family gatherings, concerts, and more. Use with adult supervision. In black.

24 Pack Bundle Sensory Fidget Toys Set-Liquid Motion Timer/Grape Ball/Mochi Squishy/Stretchy String/Flippy Chain/Easter Egg/Marble Mesh/Squeeze Bean/Cube for Autistic Kids, ADHD, Anti-Stress Toys
This fidget toys set for sensory kids is packed in a transparent storage box, convenient for collecting these hand toys after play with. Can take around as fidgets for classroom to students as prize, cool travel gargets toys for kids teen girls and boys.
This sensory toys set is also best calming stuff and stress relief toys for teens, adults, great gadgets for autistic kids, or people with ADD or ADHD and OCD or high stress/anxiety levels, autism stim toys. By squeezing, stretching and flipping with these fidget toys, can relieve anxiety well. And the same time develop the children creation, visual training, desktop fidget toys for adults.

Happy Place KidSafe Essential Oil 10 ml
Happy Place was formulated with both children and adults in mind. Occasional anxiety is a common experience today, going to a “happy place” can help encourage some much-needed feelings of calmness and tranquility. This soothing blend of herbal, floral, and citrus essential oils may help ease physical responses that may result from anxiety, such as agitation, restlessness, poor focus, and repetitive behaviors. Happy Place offers the uplifting benefits of Bergamot, the calming properties of Lavender and Roman Chamomile, along with the balancing properties of Frankincense Carteri, Patchouli, Vetiver, and Clary Sage. This roll-on comes pre-diluted at 3% in Fractionated Coconut Oil.

Snug Kids Earmuffs/Hearing Protectors – Adjustable Headband Ear Defenders for Children and Adults
Little ears need protection from the high frequency and loud noises that come with crowds, sporting events, fireworks, monster trucks, or even everyday household items like a lawn mower, edger, or vacuum cleaner. Snug ear muffs muffle any intense sound around.
Unlike some ear muffs that don't rotate or adjust, Snug ear muffs hug little ears with a soft padded headband and a skin-friendly breathable plush ear pad. These ear defenders give all-day comfort without feeling squeezed. Fits on a wide range of ages, may fit on some adults.

QB Hive Unicorn Sensory Bottle - Zen Bottle - Sparkle Glitter Jar - Meditation & Mindfulness Tool - Great for Focus
Easy to Use - just give this calming unicorn themed jar a vigorous shake and watch the glitter move and shine.
This shimmering unicorn sensory bottle is sure to please with the combination of glitter and confetti shaped like unicorn horns, heads, and full bodies.
With eye-catching and mesmerizing pink, purple, blue and gold, you'll start to believe that unicorns may not be fantasy after all!
Useful anywhere – use to unwind, add a unicorn theme to your home, bring to the office to reduce stress, use as a meditation & mindfulness tool, as a fidget and focus tool, and more.

Frankie Smunchie Smunchies® are a 2-in-1 hair & sensory accessory lovingly made to provide discrete sensory companionship at home or on the go with unmatched hold & lift for your hair. 
Pinch, smoosh, fidget & squeeze to your heart's content. Smunchies are designed with your wellness in mind providing an easy go-to for self-soothing and sensory processing. 
We strive to curate luscious and soothing textures, colors, and patterns that deliver a sensory experience with just the right squish and give for tingle-worthy feels.
Smunchies offer all the benefits of your regular scrunchie or hair tie and more!
Our patent-pending squishy interior delivers an unexpected added lift & support keeping your hair way up and out of your way effortlessly.

11''Stretchy Spaghetti Ball,Fidget String Noodles Sensory Toy,Fiddle Autism Stress Toy,Pasta Autism,ADD,ADHD Classroom Tools
Stretchy Spaghetti Ball Fidget Noodle Sensory Fidget Fiddle Autism Stress Toy Fidget or sensory toys help with sensory integration, build motor skills, and teach self-regulation. They help maintain focus and help a child on the autism spectrum, a.d.h.d, a.d.d and/or sensory processing disorder, better process information. For some children sensory fidgets can also be helpful in maintaining socially acceptable behaviors. A fidget toy provides an outlet for excess energy, making it easier for a child to control or reduce their impulsive reaching out and touching everything around them.

Playlearn Spiral Liquid Timers - 3 Pack
Often children want to self-regulate but need help getting there. The Liquid Timer is a great resource: visually captivating, and mentally calming.

Watching the gel drip down in tiny drops and following them to the very bottom, will quiet the loudest minds.  Children won’t be able to resist turning it over again and starting from the beginning!

Made durably to endure normal usage.

hand2mind Mindful Maze Garden Pack, Finger Labyrinth for Kids, Mindfulness for Kids, Sensory Play Therapy Toys, Calm Down Corner Supplies, Social Emotional Learning Activities (Set of 2)
2 double-sided boards cover 4 breathing patterns.
Breathing tracks are large enough to fit pom-poms, rice, beans, etc., to add a multisensory element to exploring mindfulness.
A screen free way to teach children how to sooth themselves by providing cues and physical objects to guide them through breathing exercises.
These Mindful Maze Boards would make a great addition to your calm down corner toys, classroom, daycare, or home calming corner!

Fun and Function's Weighted Fleece Zippered Vest for Children Large (Ages 7-9) Navy, Helps Kids with Sensory Issues, Autism, ADHD, Mood & Attention, Sensory Over Responding, Travel Issues
Stay warm and cozy while looking cool! This vest looks just like a stylish fleece vest, but removable weights are tucked inside for soothing proprioceptive input. Weighted vests act like a gentle hug, helping to ground the body and helping those with sensory needs focus and calm down. This weighted vest is made using 100% polyester fleece material to provide long-term strength and use. It has a zipper closure for easy on and off, eight interior pockets for removable weights, and exterior pockets that can be used as fidgets or chewies.

Bergamot + Ylang Ylang Essential Oil Relax Rollerball Blend
Use the Relax Rollerball Blend - part of the Star Essence Line of products - when you are feeling stressed or facing a challenge. Apply before a presentation or a test to provide a sense of calm and boost your confidence. The curated blend of oils in the Relax rollerball can help with situational anxiety.
Safe and developed for children. Relax Rollerball blend will help your child or student stay relaxed during times of tension. One method of using this blend is to roll the blend on the palm of your hands, make a “tent” with your hands over your nose and mouth and deeply inhale through your nose.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Therapist. I am an adult who has ADHD, a parent to children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and now a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (ADHD) If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another. Please always consult with a professional.

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