Posted in Autism

Tantrum Versus Meltdown: Learning To Tell The Difference

One of the earliest things I had to figure out as a parent of an Autistic child, was the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.

When my son was a little over 2 years old, he started having meltdowns. This was before he was diagnosed with Autism so I had no idea why my son was having these uncontrollable “tantrums” and nothing we did made him stop. He would just cry and cry for sometimes 30 minutes at a time.

After he was diagnosed, I started researching and realized that he wasn’t throwing a fit at all, he was having a meltdown.

If you are a parent of a child with autism or sensory processing disorder, it’s important to know the difference so that you can properly help your child.

Here are some tips that will hopefully be helpful in telling the difference.

Tantrums Vs Meltdowns


Tantrums happen when a child doesn’t get what they want, like a piece of candy from the grocery store, or to have dessert before dinner.

The key factor here is that the child is in control, and can stop when they want. Often times when a young child is throwing a tantrum, they will stop periodically to see if they are getting their parents attention.

Tantrums are attention seeking, angry outburst because the child is not getting what they want at that point in time.



Meltdowns are not bad behavior, they are neurological reactions to feeling overwhelmed or having sensory overload.

Every Christmas my extended family gather at my grandparent’s house for a Christmas dinner and Christmas festivities. My family is very large and my grandparent’s house isn’t that big so it can get really crowded.

The first time I brought my son to the Christmas gathering he sat under my grandmother’s table, covering his ears and crying for the majority of the party. Nothing I did helped him calm down. He was having a meltdown. The number of people and the noise completely overwhelmed him. Because he didn’t know how to deal with how he felt, it lead to a meltdown.

Meltdowns happen when children with sensory processing disorder or autism are in a situation that is out of their control or makes them feel overwhelmed.


Strategies for Tantrums

  1. )let your child know what your expectations are. Tell them what you expect their behavior to be. My son will sometimes throw tantrums in the store if I tell him we won’t be buying any candy that day. I have found that it helps, before we even go into the store, to tell him what I expect of him. I expect him to have good behavior. Sometimes we still have tantrums, but they are fewer.
  2. )Identify the cause. If you don’t already know, figure out what why your child is acting up. This can be helpful in figure out a solution.
  3. )Let the consequences be known AND follow through. If you are out in public, this may mean leaving the current location, whether that be the grocery store or a restaurant. Whatever consequence you say will happen, you have to follow through.
  4. )After your child has calmed down, and you have given them the consequence for their behavior, it’s important to reinforce positive behavior. Why it is important to obey, and that tantrums will not get them what they want.

Strategies to Help Prevent Or Reduce Meltdowns

Now that we know the difference, how do you prevent a meltdown? Well honestly, sometimes you can’t. However, they are some steps you can take to try.

  1. )First of all, know your child’s triggers. Knowing what can cause your child’s meltdown is huge in helping prevent them. If your child gets overwhelmed by big crowds, then it might be best to avoid them as much as possible. If your child doesn’t like loud sounds then its best to try and keep things from getting too loud.
  2. )Safety. Safety is very important. If your child is having a meltdown, they need a place where they can calm down and not get hurt. When my son was younger, when he had a meltdown we had to just put him in his room and let him calm down on his own. My husband and I go in there and trying to help him calm down just made it worse. So we put him in his room because it was a safe place where he could go and be himself so he could calm down.
  3. )Look for warning signs. A good way to defuse a meltdown is before it even starts!      This can be done by observing your child and looking for signals of frustration or that they are starting to get overwhelmed. Identifying these signs can help you calm your child down before they have a meltdown.


I hope this blog post was helpful. Leave a comment and let me know what strategies you use!







Posted in Autism, Family

6 Potty Training Tips For Kids With Autism

Potty training can be a very challenging time for parents. If you are a parent of an autistic child, potty training can be an even MORE of a challenge.  When my son first turned two I decided it was time to start potty training him, however, he wanted nothing to do with it. After he was diagnosed with ASD I started to understand why he was taking so long to get used to the idea. I also realized that I needed to be patient with him and that it was OK to wait until he was ready.

This was the hardest part for me, patience. When it became obvious Garris wasn’t ready to use the potty, I tried getting him interested in it. We read stories about using the potty, such as the sesame street book “P is for Potty”. I also found clips of from the movie “Elmo’s Potty Time” on YouTube. I also talked about the potty whenever we were in the bathroom.

6 Tips For PottyTraining Your Autistic Child

1. Get prepared

To begin your potty training journey properly, there are a few things you will need.

  1. A potty seat or chair. We bought a seat that fits on the big toilet. We figured we might as well get him comfortable using the big toilet now, that way he isn’t scared of going on it later.
  2. Underwear!! Lots of underwear! (unless you don’t mind doing 20 loads of laundry a day!).

Fun fact. When we started our potty training journey, I had…wait for it….THREE pairs of underwear for Garris. THREE. That’s it!!!

I quickly found out this was not the way to go.

  1. Make sure your child is ready.

When your child is ready to start potty training they start to give you cues. Now I researched this until I was blue in the face, but I really think it comes down to not just knowing what cues to look for, but also knowing your child. One of the signs I noticed with my son was irritation with his diaper. He would pick at his diaper when it was dirty or wet. If I didn’t notice it soon enough he would take it off (this is not fun!).

Garris also started showing a huge interest in the toilet. The toilet suddenly was the most interesting thing in the world! He started following me into the bathroom every time I had to go, then stare in awe as the toilet flushed.

In the end, the main deciding factor was his awful diaper rashes. They took weeks to go away, and after many doctor visits and creams that didn’t work, we decided to give potty training a try.

  1. Routine

Establishing a routine, even if they don’t potty every time, is important to get them used to sitting on the toilet.


I put Garris on the potty multiple times a day, but there are specific times where I always have him sit on it so that he knows when to expect it. For example, every morning when he wakes up, the first thing he does is sit on the potty. The same goes for after lunch, before snack and dinner time as well as before bath time and right before bed.

A predictable routine does wonders in helping Garris learn new things.

  1. Encouragement/Praise

Encouragement is huge! Little kids love it when they know their parents are proud of them. Because of my son’s autism, he tends to get frustrated very easily with almost everything. When he sees my husband and I making a big deal about an accomplishment, he knows he did something right. This makes him more willing and eager to use the potty.


  1. Look for cues for when they need to “go”

Look for cues that your child needs to “go”. If they can speak then this won’t be too hard, however, if your child is non-verbal like mine, this can be a little challenging. It has actually taken me quite a few months to figure out my son’s warning signs that he needs to “go”.

As I mentioned, he is non-verbal, and he also hasn’t picked up on any sign language we have tried to teach him. This made potty training a little more challenging. What I started doing was making a conscious effort to pay more attention to him and how he acts while we were working on potty training. Once I started doing that, I quickly noticed that when he needs to use the potty he does a little dance, if you will. And on occasion he will also take my hand and pull me towards the bathroom, but that is rare.

If you don’t already know your child’s cues, take the time to just sit and observe them and how they act. I was surprised to notice that Garris was already trying to tell me when he needed to go, I just wasn’t seeing it.

  1. Patience

We still have a long way to go but Garris has made so much improvement. For the most part, he is day potty trained. When we are at home he can wear underpants all day, usually without any accidents. He recently started being able to take his nap without wearing a pull up! I am so proud of him.

We haven’t quite tackled night time potty training yet. To be honest I’m not quite ready for that one, but he will let me know when he is ready. I just have to continue to be patient and give him time.

Above all else, patience is your friend. IT is going to take time! AND that’s ok! One of the biggest lessons I have learned being a mom of a child with ASD is that I have to be patient. I need to give him time to adjust and become comfortable with new things. So be patient with your child, It might take them longer than normal, but they’ll get it eventually.

Posted in Autism, Family, Life, Parenting

An Unexpected Turn

My heart is heavy today. My son was diagnosed with ASD. For those of you who don’t know, ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have never felt more lost in my life.

When the therapist told me this, I felt numb. Everything went silent for a few seconds. Part of me had a suspicion, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe that my little boy wasn’t developing the way he was supposed to. Then I started to feel panic. I don’t know the first thing about Autism. How would I help him develop the skills he needs to develop?

The next thought that entered my mind was, what will the rest of his life look like? What will his quality of life be? d1e8deeda35b1f0c75309db158011f18Will he have to be in therapy for the rest of his life? I honestly wanted to just pretend like none of this was happening. I thought maybe if we just ignored it, it will go away. Maybe if we just waited a little longer, everything would get better and my son will would be fine. Maybe the doctors are wrong.

I had to take a step back and remind myself that it was going to be okay, that my child wasn’t diagnosed with a fatal disease, he has autism, and that’s okay. It will be okay. My son is going to be okay. Yes, it will take a lot of learning and a lot of changes, but it will be okay. My little boy is still the same little boy he always has been, he is beautiful, he is smart, he Is unique.

The Doctor gave me a lot of material to help me learn about ASD and a list of books that I might find helpful. Over the last few days, as I have been educating myself, I have started to feel more confident about my ability to help my son. We have quite the Journey ahead of us, but we can do it! Right now I am reading An Early Start for Your Child With Autism by Sally Rogers, Geraldine Dawson and Laurie Vismara. Since I started reading this book, I have felt so much better. I have some peace of mind. 13696522_285395028501136_1986167958_n

There is still a lot for us to figure out. We have a few more appointments set up. We don’t know where he is on the spectrum, and we don’t know what kind of therapy he needs. Right now its just a lot of unknowns.

For anyone else out there who may be going through the same thing, who may feel lost, I know how you feel. At first I was afraid to tell anyone, out of fear they would think differently of my son, or that they would judge. That has not been the case! Over the last few days I have gotten a lot of support from family and friends. Don’t be afraid to let people help you. This isn’t a journey you have to walk by yourself. You are not alone!