Birchwood Bugle Articles

Meltdowns Vs. Tantrums: What’s The Difference?

If you have an autistic child, then meltdowns are likely all too familiar and common. You know what they look like and may even know your child's meltdown triggers already.  However, most people don't know what a meltdown is; they assume it's just a tantrum.

Many people use the words meltdown and tantrums interchangeably, but the thing is, they are two completely different things.  On the surface, a meltdown and a tantrum may look the same, showing similar types of physical behaviours. However, they are not the same and should not be treated the same. 

A meltdown is an intense reaction to being overwhelmed or overstimulated. When a person is having a meltdown, they are struggling to regulate their bodies based on the sensory information that they are receiving. Basically, their bodies interpret this incoming sensory information as a threat.

A tantrum, on the other hand, is driven by a want or a need. Tantrums occur when a child is denied something that they want. They are often about gaining attention or having an audience, and they usually subside when the behaviours are ignored. Meltdowns, in comparison, do not subside when ignored. They persist with or without an audience.

An older child’s tantrum may include, slamming things down, tears, making angry roars and accusations: ’You hate me.’ ‘Nobody understands.’  It’s hard for a parent when a child has a tantrum. It’s hard not to react with frustration or by giving in, but these strategies often encourage similar behaviour and so are counter-productive in the long run. 

The first thing to know is that an eight year old’s temper tantrum is not the same as a toddler tantrum. Just watch the child’s facial expression.  A toddler in a tantrum is distressed. They need emotional support to regain their equilibrium. The toddler can’t help their tantrum. Sometimes life is challenging and big emotions can overwhelm because the young child’s brain is still under construction.

An eight year old child’s tantrum is different. Look closely and you’ll see an angry face. Margot Sunderland, author of ‘What Every Parent Needs to Know’, refers to the tantrums of an older child as ‘little Nero tantrums’ because the child has learned to use this tactic to rule the household. The child’s tantrum gets them what they are demanding, so they learn to USE angry outbursts to control others.

We have included 8 ways to help your child when they are having a meltdown and 8 top tips for dealing with an older child's tantrum.

We would also like to announce an open door drop in session for well-being on Tuesday 19th November, 2:30-3:30pm.  Mrs Day, Mrs Webb and Mrs Spies will be available to discuss support the school can offer children, demonstrate how to access local services and use tools such as ‘Dimensions’ to identify resources that may be of help.  We will also be joined by representatives from the Warwickshire School Health and Wellbeing Service.

 

8 Ways To Help Your Child When They're Having A Meltdown

Meltdowns are extreme in autistic children and they can be difficult for both the child and the parent. As a child during the middle of a meltdown, they might not be able to verbalize what is going on. They won't be in control of their bodies and may sometimes make unsafe decisions. As a parent, it can be overwhelming and scary to witness, but there are lots of things you can do to help.

 1. Keep Your Child Safe And Provide Them With A Safe Space.

During a meltdown, your child may make unsafe decisions such as hitting someone, breaking a nearby object, throwing an object, etc. Remove things from the environment that may become dangerous to your child or those around your child. You can also try to remove your child from the environment, but oftentimes, that won't be possible. Create a calm down corner ahead of time as a safe place to retreat to during a meltdown is also a great idea.

2. Try To Stay Calm.

This point is so important. I know it's hard to stay unruffled, but you absolutely have to. Take a deep breath and wait for the meltdown to finish. Stay with your child and be present.

3. Limit Verbal Language You Use.

During a meltdown, you can't expect logical or rational responses from your child so trying to reason with them is a waste of time. Just don't even bother. Instead, use short phrases like "I'm here" or "you're safe" during the meltdown to remind them you are there to help them. Do not try to have a conversation with them about what is going on. You'll just be adding to the "noise" they are currently being overwhelmed by.

4. Give Your Child Time.

Meltdowns can vary in length, sometimes lasting an hour or longer. Even after the meltdown is done, your child needs time to recoup and rest. Don't dive into a discussion immediately after the meltdown to figure out what was going on. Your child just spent a lot of energy during the meltdown and needs a chance to rest first.

5. Provide Deep Pressure.

Deep pressure is extremely calming. You may find it helpful to provide your child some form of deep pressure during a meltdown, such as a tight hug. Watch your child closely to see if they would be receptive to the idea of deep pressure. If not, wait until the meltdown is over to offer deep pressure.

6. Track Behaviours So You Can Identify Patterns And Triggers.

Be sure to make note of what lead up to the meltdown, what happened during the meltdown, and how long the meltdown lasted. Writing this information down in a journal can help you identify patterns and potential triggers so that you can hopefully, one day, help your child regulate and avoid or reduce the intensity of a future meltdown.

7. Provide Calm-Down Tools.

Creating a calm-down kit for your child can be extremely helpful. It should be filled with fidgets and tools that your child enjoys and can use to help them regulate their bodies.

8. Never Punish Your Child For A Meltdown.

It's important to remember that punishing a child for a meltdown is never a good idea. Your child wasn't behaving this way to get attention. It was your child's physiological response to the stimuli around them.

 

8 Top Tips For Dealing With an Older Child’s Tantrum

#1. Choose to stay calm.

Focus on your breathing. Slow deep breaths will help keep you calm so that the most rational approach can be used and any frustrations or anxieties can be controlled.  You want your calm to be stronger than their anger. The strongest emotion will be the most contagious!

#2. Don’t hook in to the behaviour.

Be like teflon not like velcro. Show with your warm, soft eye contact and with your open body language that you are ‘there’ for your child – but refuse to be drawn in to the tantrum. Just let the outburst roll off, like teflon! Your child’s tantrum is about them, your response is about you.

#3. When your child is overwrought, don’t try to reason.

Once the emotional (Limbic- feeling section) part of your child’s brain has been triggered, the reasoning part of the brain (Neocortex- rational and thinking section) is temporarily ‘offline’. So explaining doesn’t work – the conflict is just likely to escalate. Rather, refuse to be drawn into discussion about the issue until your child has calmed down. 

#4. Acknowledge your child’s emotion.

Keep calm and, try to see life through your child’s eyes.  Without being drawn into trying to explain or justify, name their emotion. ‘You’re upset.’ ‘You’re angry.’

#5. Avoid threatening or punishing your child.

Your comments like, ‘You won’t go to the movies’ or ‘You’ll be grounded’ aren’t helpful. They are already reactive. Threatening comments will just push them further into the tantrum. Calmly sidestep the fight.

#6. Needs not Wants.

Give them what they need (compassionate connection) not what they want (the toy in the bottom of the shopping trolley!)

#7. Assure her you can talk about it once everyone has calmed down.

If your child shouts something like, ‘It’s not fair.’ or ‘You don’t love me.’ it’s tempting to try to explain yourself – to tell them that what they are saying isn’t true when they makes accusatory comments. But their reasoning brain is ‘offline’ when they are angry. Now is not the time to try to reason. 

#8. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you’ve told your child that they can’t have the toy till you’re home, then calmly and firmly stick to what you said. Your child will test you to see if you mean what you say.

When you cave in even once, or state consequences your child knows you won’t follow through, you set yourself up for more of the same nagging, tears, shouting or other annoying behaviour.

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience
 

We would all love life, especially childhood, to be a carefree time, however, youth alone is no shield against Life’s ‘ups’ and ‘downs’.  The ability to thrive, despite these challenges, arises from the skills of resilience.  The good news is that resilience can be learned.  Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity and can help children manage stress and feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.  Experts have agreed that there are 7 ‘C’s that determine how resilient we are:

  1.        Competence: This is the feeling of knowing we can handle a situation.
  2.        Confidence: This is derived from competence and is the belief in their own abilities.
  3.        Connection: Developing close ties with family, friends and the community to help develop a sense of security.  This helps prevent children seeking alternative destructive paths when reaching out for love and attention.
  4.        Character: Developing a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong.
  5.        Contribution: Recognising that the world is a better place because they are in it.  Understanding the importance of personal contribution and how this can be a source of purpose and motivation.

Teach children to contribute by:

  1.        Coping: Learning to cope effectively with sources of worry or difficulty will help a child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges.
  2.        Control: Children who feel like they can control an outcome feel more positive about being able to overcome adversity.

Next half term, we will be focussing on a different element of developing resilience each week and will be including practical ways you can build these in children to help them thrive.

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

As promised in our previous newsletter, here is our first instalment of some practical ways that people can build their own and their child’s resilience.  This life skill will support an individual’s ability to cope more successfully with difficulties they may experience at different times in their life.  This week our focus is on building competence.

Competence: This is the feeling of knowing we can handle a situation.

Support the development of competence by:

  •          Helping children to identify their own strengths.  This explicitly identifies the skills and tools a child already has at their disposal and helps them to feel equipped.
  •          Instead of trying to ‘fix’ the problem for your child and shield them from the difficulty, encourage them to make decisions which empower them and make them feel capable.  This may include: adding the word ‘yet’ onto the statement, ‘I can’t do it’ so that it implies an intension to try.  Instead of discussing and listing all the barriers, list all the possible solutions / ideas and ‘try them out’.  Celebrate when a barrier has been overcome by problem solving. 
  •          Identify strengths in others, but avoid comparisons that may make a child feel like they are not skilled enough to have a go.  If a child feels like they don’t possess a particular skill that they think would be useful to their situation, encourage them to proactively think / research ways to develop it.

Next week we will be looking at Confidence and how this is linked to competence but different.  If you have any questions or would like more information on developing health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us either through class teachers or the main office.

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

At Birchwood, we recognise that personal attributes are equally as important as academic achievement.  We know that resilience is a fundamental life skill that helps children to thrive and can help them endure and overcome difficult circumstances outside of their control.  We hope you found last week’s article on competence useful and are ready for our second instalment which will focus on confidence.   

  1.        Confidence: this is derived from competence and is the belief in their own abilities.

Build confidence by:

  •          Recognise what the child has done well.  Make time and look out for opportunities to tell your child what they are doing well.  This will help to encourage the behaviour through positive reinforcement.
  •          Praise honestly and precisely.  Be sure to highlight specifically what has been done well rather than giving general praise such as ‘well done’.  General praise can quickly loose its value whereas specific praise such as ‘I’m so proud you persevered until you learned how to tie your laces,’ sounds authentic and is useful for identifying what action is generating the praise.
  •          Focus on the best qualities such as fairness, integrity, persistence and kindness.  These are qualities that instil pride and are respected around the world.  These are the qualities that people are drawn to when looking for friendship, 
  •          Identify regularly the child’s strengths so that they can see this too.  Find something daily to compliment a child on the way they approached or handled a situation.  These compliments are vital for a child to be able to accept critical feedback.  If a child isn’t confident in their own strengths, they are likely to receive critical feedback more negatively.

Next week we will be looking at Connection and how important positive relationships are for developing resilience.  If you have any questions or would like more information on developing health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us either through class teachers or the main office.

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

Being self-aware and knowing strategies to help ourselves is vital for both adults and children if they are to become effective practitioners in successfully managing their own well-being.  It is for this reason, that we not only share these with the children in lessons but also with the wider school community through our newsletters and on-line links.  We hope you found last week’s article on confidence useful and are ready for our third instalment which will focus on connection.   

Connection: Developing close ties with family, friends and the community to help develop a sense of security.  This helps prevent children seeking alternative destructive paths when reaching out for love and attention.

Help children connect with other by:

  •                      Building a sense of emotional safety.  Being mindful of the words we choose and our tone of voice is critical when communicating with others.  Sarcasm and jokes can often cause emotional harm rather than disperse worries.  Phrases such as ‘man up’ can often make people feel inadequate and do not offer practical suggestions on how to manage a situation. 
  •                      Building a sense of both physical safety.  When someone believes they are at risk of harm, such as lack of food, shelter or protection from physical danger, then their brain will not be able to access their higher order thinking skills in order to assess a situation logically or identify solutions.  For this reason, sharing concerns over these matter with children without any answers as to solutions may negatively affect their well-being.  Giving children precise information when they ask about the set up at a new club or venue can often alleviate worries.  If you do have worries of your own about any of these issues, please do not hesitate to contact us at school.  We are able to sign post people to support services and can offer a range of support through the school.
  •                      Allowing children to express their emotions to different people in different circumstances.  This helps the child feel more comfortable in reaching out during difficult times.  It also provides opportunities to address conflict openly and resolve problems. 
  •                      Fostering healthy relationships helps to reinforce positive messages and values.  Children will look to both other children and adults as examples of how to behave and manage a variety of situations.  Integrity is quickly lost if a child is given advice by someone who does not follow that advice themselves.  Spending time together, communicating and taking part in shared activities helps children build up trust.

Next week we will be looking at two elements of resilience; Character and Contribution, and how important developing and being aware of our own set of morals and using these to guide our actions, can benefit both us and others.  If you have any questions or would like more information on developing health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us either through class teachers or the main office.

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

We are very fortunate to live in a country that values mutual respect and tolerance, individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law.  When these values are translated into actions, then the people within the community thrive.  Everyone has the right to experience these values through the actions of those around them, but everyone also has a responsibility to protect the rights of others by making considerate choices.  Children develop their morals and learn how to behave within a variety of community settings by looking to the adults around them.  We hope you found last week’s article on connection useful and are ready for our fourth instalment which will focus on character and contribution.   

Character: Developing a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong.

You can strengthen a child’s character by:

  •          Demonstrating how behaviours affect others.  As and when opportunities occur, take the time to point out how their own or someone else’s choices have effected someone else wither positively or negatively.  Encourage them to empathise by thinking about how they would have felt.
  •          Helping children to recognise themselves as caring people by pointing out and praising positive choices.  Be specific and do this often to encourage this behaviour and help the children identify what it is they are doing that valued.
  •          Demonstrating the importance of community.  Lead by example; engage with clubs, events, opportunities to help neighbours, volunteering etc.
  •          Avoiding hateful or racist statements or stereotypes.  If children hear this regularly by the adults around them, then they are likely to believe that this is acceptable behaviour.  This may cause them difficulties when people challenge their behaviour.
  •          Encouraging the development of spirituality or the process of reflecting upon their place and role in the world around them.  Having discussions about how even though they are only one person out of billions on the planet, they are important and valuable because they can make a difference.

Contribution: Recognising that the world is a better place because they are in it.  Understanding the importance of personal contribution and how this can be a source of purpose and motivation.

Teach children to contribute by:

  •          Communicating that many people in the world do not have what they need.  Identifying things to be grateful for can develop a sense of satisfaction.  It can also ignite a desire to help others when they are aware of the difficulties some other people face.  Discuss how a lack of something may effect a person’s daily life.
  •          Emphasising the importance of serving other by modelling generosity.  This does not always have to be with money.  You can model generosity with your time, efforts and sharing what you have.
  •          Creating opportunities for each child to contribute in some specific way.  At school we have a chosen charity each year.  Discuss how they could support this.  Is there a charity close to your family’s heart?  How could they help?

Next week we will be looking at two elements of resilience; Coping, and how to deal with worries effectively so that we are better prepared for life’s difficulties.  If you have any questions or would like more information on developing health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us either through class teachers or the main office.

 

Family Information Service (FIS) have lots of information which is being continuously updated on their Facebook pages that is useful for families ahead of, and over the school holidays.  This information includes summer holiday welfare scheme, children and family centres, foodbanks and holiday activities.  Please also be aware that the FIS helpline is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday over the holidays.

Warwickshire FIS Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WarwickshireFIS/

Direct link to School holiday activities/support on FIS Facebook notes pages - https://www.facebook.com/pg/WarwickshireFIS/notes/?ref=page_internal

Additionally schools and families may want to sign up to the fortnightly FIS newsletter - https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKWarwickshire/subscriber/new

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

Many people are often perplexed as to why a group of people can have a similar negative experience and yet some of them appear to cope well with it while others become overwhelmed.  Like many things in life, it’s about knowing what your options are and choosing ones that have the best outcomes.  If children do not know what the options are, how can they choose?  How can they know what their options are if no one ever models and discusses them?  While we include many lessons and activities in school to cover a wide variety of situations, there is nothing like using real life opportunities as they arise to give learning a purpose as well as making it personal and valuable to the child.  We hope you found last week’s article on character and contribution useful and are ready for our fifth instalment which will focus on coping.   

Coping: Learning to cope effectively with sources of worry or difficulty will help a child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges.

Positive coping lessons include:

  •          Model positive coping strategies on a consistent basis: such as: ensure they are calm, identify the source of adversity, generate ideas for overcoming it, evaluate which one is the best choice, try it out, reach out for help.  Encourage children to use deep, slow breaths to relax them and ensure they are able to think clearly before discussing anything. 
  •          Reminding and encouraging children to use these approaches as daily situations arise.  Use the language of calming down, identifying the difficulty, problem solving and evaluating to help them identify the skills they are using.
  •          Knowing that simply telling a child to stop negative behaviours will not be effective on its own.  The human brain only retains information it considers valuable.  By explaining the reasons behind expectations, children are able to identify how they and others benefit from more positive choices.
  •          Understanding that many risky behaviours are attempts to alleviate worry and uncertainty in a child’s daily life.  Some behaviours are attempts at avoiding certain situations because of worries.  The body will often activate a fight, flight or freeze response if it feels threatened.  At this point, the body is reacting and incapable of thinking clearly until it has returned to a calm state.  Sometimes the mind can overreact to a supposed ‘threat / worry’.  It is vital to talk about how this can be overcome because ignoring this type of response will often lead to future overreactions and become an unhelpful learned coping strategy.  Encourage children to talk regularly about their choices and what’s on their mind.  Model this by using your own (child appropriate) examples.
  •          Focus on developing positive strategies rather than condemning a child’s behaviour.  Pointing out why these are better alternatives.

Next week we will be looking at the final element of resilience; Control, and how feeling in control is linked to feeling more positive about being able to overcome diversity.  If you have any questions or would like more information on developing health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us either through class teachers or the main office.

 

 

Improve your wellbeing by developing your resilience 

There is much research to support the belief that people who feel like they have a level of control over a situation are more likely to feel calmer and more content when things do not go how they wish.  Knowing the different choices that we have and accepting the ones we don’t can reassure people that the situation is not hopeless.    We hope you found this series on resilience useful and feel more equipped to support both children and adults with developing their resilience so that they can thrive.  

Control: Children who feel like they can control an outcome feel more positive about being able to overcome adversity.

You can empower a child by:

  •          Helping children to understand that life’s events are not random, but usually the result of an individual’s choices and actions, either their own or another person’s.  Talk through the steps that led up to a positive or negative experience to help them identify which choices helped them and which did not.  Where another individual is involved, encourage them to problem solve to identify what steps they could take so that they feel confident and competent.
  •          Understanding that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling.  Encourage self-discipline and point out how their actions produce certain consequences, either positive or negative.  Use praise to help build confidence and encourage positive choices.  Taking time to point out successes and what a child is doing well and looking at other people for what they can do better will help develop their competence too.

Next year we will be looking at mindfulness techniques for becoming calm and reflective as well as exploring the 5 steps for well-being (Connect. Be active. Take notice. Keep learning and Give) in more detail.