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Springtide seeks to reimagine the way individuals receive autism therapy and support. Learn what makes us different and how are results stack up against the competition.

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Springtide provides 1:1, personalized therapies, including ABA, speech, occupational and physical therapies. In addition, we offer social skills classes, functional living skills training, school readiness training, language acquisition and family coaching.

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We believe in a world where autism care isn't so complicated. We make it easy to get started with Springtide. After our initial call and intake, we carry the torch and do the heavy lifting for you.

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Our mission is to be the partner for families on their journey. We offer a wealth of resources to our current parents, as well as free resources for the community.

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Meltdown vs. Tantrum: What's the Difference?

If you have ever parented a toddler, you are very familiar with tantrums, all they entail, and maybe even have a few reliable tools in your toddler toolbox at this point. 

After your child received an autism diagnosis, the word “meltdown” might have entered your vocabulary. Though every child, and person, can experience sensory overload that in turn can become a meltdown, those with autism experience them more often. 

Deciphering whether or not your child is in the midst of a tantrum or a meltdown can inform your actions as the parent. Here are three ways to tell the difference to ensure you are on the right path towards restoring the peace.

Tantrums Have More Obvious Triggers

One major distinguishing factor is the cause of their intense feelings. When a child is throwing a tantrum, it is often the result of not getting something they have asked for, want, or need. They have been told “no” and want to change your answer.

Meltdowns, on the other hand, are a reaction to a buildup of stressors, an overstimulating environment, an unexpected change, or sensory overload. They have become so overwhelmed and dysregulated by the resulting stress that they have reached their limit and cannot hold the feelings in any longer.

Meltdowns are Typically More Intense

Tantrums and meltdowns both result from big feelings, yet during a tantrum, the child still has some control over their emotions. Often, they are still cognizant of their environment and the people in it, and this tends to reduce the amount of violent or destructive behavior.

During a meltdown, the fight or flight response causes such intense emotions that can cause a loss of control. Common behaviors during a meltdown are:

  • self-injurious behaviors like head banging or pinching oneself
  • running away, also known as eloping within the autism community
  • violence towards others 
  • destroying property

As the meltdown is occurring, a child will not be able to listen to instruction, apologize, or act in a rational manner. The meltdown itself is what is intended to regulate their body. 

Tantrums Resolve More Easily

Because tantrums are usually less intense, they tend to be easier to resolve. Tantrums are often a “battle of wills”, as the child is learning what will work to get their way. Comforting the child, holding the boundary, and remaining present with the child will help the child work through the more intense feelings. 

A meltdown can last a much longer time than the typical tantrum, and can often feel impossible to resolve. In fact, many parents feel any action they do take only makes things worse.

There are ways to attempt to lessen the frequency, duration, and intensity of meltdowns, though, so you can start to feel equipped to handle these moments. 

  • Remove the child from an environment where there is a lot of sensory input. Turn down the noise level in the space.
  • Label the emotion they are experiencing so they feel heard.
  • Give the child a tight hug OR give them space.
  • Offer sensory and fidget toys.

Figuring out what works for your particular child will be a process of trial and error. Every child responds to stimuli and experiences comfort in unique ways.

How You Can Mitigate Meltdowns

As you work to find what helps your child, there are some beginning steps you can take.

Be sure to pay attention to and even document potential triggers. If your child seems to shut down or refuses to eat in a restaurant, and perhaps become upset later, bring noise-canceling headphones the next time. Maybe the stress of the stimuli is a trigger.

If you are noticing meltdowns following a sports practice, try giving the child a break halfway through. 

Paying close attention to when the meltdowns typically occur, and trying different ways to meet their needs in order to avoid the triggers, can help develop a more clear plan. 

At Springtide, our BCBA’s and RBT’s are skilled and knowledgeable in working alongside parents to create plans to help mitigate some of these meltdowns, determine the reason behind them, and enhance the quality of life for you and your child. Reach out on our website, email us at hello@myspringtide.com, or give us a call at 888-260-1609.

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Springtide Child Development was awarded an Award of Distinction with The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) and is a member of The Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP). These awards celebrate exceptional special needs providers that are leading the way in the areas of clinical quality, staff satisfaction, qualifications, and consumer satisfaction.
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