Tantrum vs Autism Meltdown

Now that I have a second child that is “neuro-typical” and is entering the “terrible twos” I really see the difference between having a tantrum and an Autism Meltdown.  Johnny was a happy even-tempered baby so it came as a big surprise to us that after he turned two he would get REALLY upset so easily.  I was pregnant and dealing with first trimester challenges and I was faced with a very different side of my loving boy.  Over and over again I was told its normal for toddlers to have tantrums at this age and it will pass.  I would sit and think am I the only one that has a two year old who throws their toys in frustration, cries and hits for what seems like an eternity?  The only thing that would calm him down was me, sitting on the floor with him between my legs and my arms wrapped around him securely giving him deep pressure saying reassuring words in his ear until he calmed down.  My Dad who lived with us and helped raise him would also sit and just hang on tightly until Johnny would calm down too and then hide all the big toys so he couldn’t toss them across the room.

I also wrote about my experiences with “meltdowns” here:


and here:


“Princess” is now 2 and she’ll get upset when we tell her something that she doesn’t want to hear or to get what she wants but it passes so quickly or you can use the strategy of “re-direction” to focus her attention on something else. She does get upset when she is over tired, hungry and frustrated but again it passes very quickly and she is back with a cute smile on her face like nothing had ever happened.

This was not the case for Johnny and sometimes is still not the case for him.  We now understand that because of having Autism, at 18 months he was behind developmentally in terms of verbal communication and gross motor skills which then made it difficult for him to develop social skills.  At the same time we were unaware that he had sensory integration challenges that were actually very present since the day he was born (I will write about that in a later post).  I cannot imagine how Johnny must have felt at a young age facing these challenges every single day and having problems self calming or self regulating.

I wish that we would have had this comparison chart 3 years ago when these behaviours first appeared.


One of the Autism groups I follow on Facebook recently shared this from “Autism Daddy”.  

*Please share this chart with family and friends to help answer the question that you no doubt get asked “is this typical behaviour for a …. old or is this autism?”

This chart might help people think twice when they see a child or an older child getting very upset at the super market and instead of thinking “what a brat” or “wow those are terrible parents” there might be empathy and understanding instead.

*credit to:




I have just started following his posts and he’s very informative, edgy and has a great sense of humour from the “Daddy” perspective raising a 9 nine year old boy with severe Autism.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. vaughanmom says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      You’re welcome 🙂


  2. caffieneplease says:

    Thank you for this! I have a 1 year old and I’m amazed at his “tantrums” compared to my older son. Its night and day, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      You are welcome:) Yes it really is night and day. I am finding the same thing with my 2-1/2 year old daughter vs my 5 year old ASD son.


  3. I was constantly being told that my toddlers “tantrum’s” were normal (kicking, punching, purposefully attacking people and vandalising the living room). I was constantly glared at when I was forced to drag him around the supermarket on his knees, because he didn’t like his safety reins and refused to stand up in them.

    He’s going to be 17 in June and has lived with foster carers since he was four years old because I couldn’t cope with his strength and his violent outbursts on account of my (as then undiagnosed) medical conditions. He is still almost non-verbal and recently had the police restraining him when he “kicked” off in public on a day out.

    Thank you for helping me to get the message out that autism has nothing to do with personality or “being naughty”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      Your welcome 🙂 I think the question that gets me the most fired up is “when is it his autism and when is he just being a 5 year old being bad and trying to get his way?” I want to scream sometimes but then I try to remind myself….one person at a time…change their mind.


  4. Thanks for sharing! You are not alone. They are each so special. God bless you and thank goodness tantrums do not last forever! Take care 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      Thank you for stopping by and reading and your kind words. It means a lot:)


  5. fabs says:

    I have a big mommy feeling my child is autistic he is 2 and he gets so angry he hit the table with his hand but his arm way up high 4 times fast or he would trow every toy he sees when his mad he is consistently pinching for no reason grinding his teeth at the same time he would pinch any one this has been going on for 3 months now he trows him self back really hard it is so difficult every day because he is always hitting his little brother or getting so angry just because i say no to him or even because he wont get his way he repeats when i ask a question but wont answer it i would say can you say “ily mommy” he babels and then he ends it with ily mommy he also ends it with a long tone at the end i have 3 specialist coming to my home on the 3rd from the program child birth 3 and i hope and pray they help me i don’t want to spank him because i feel he is autistic and that is not his fault time outs don’t work and he also has night terrors i am very worried and want answers i am willing to help him.His step father has been in his life since he was 5 months but we just separated he does not think he is autistic but then again he is never around only on the weekends .I am so confuse and worried !!!! i feel i don’t know my baby any more i cry every day because i am worried plus i work as a care giver at a home 10pm till 6 am so i am emotionally and mentally exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      Thank you for sharing your very personal experiences….that means a lot. I just want to say that you can do it but right now you need answers and guidance…..and some respite if you can access it. From what you have told me you are experiencing a lot of behavioural challenges from him which usually means that he is giving you a big cry for help. By two years old an average child makes big developmental leaps and bounds so when my son wasn’t and would look around at other children I think it really upset him. Many times sensory issues are present as well the child feels everything more (i.e. textures are painful and sounds are too loud) or isn’t feeling enough sensations and likes to toss their body into soft things or needs deep pressure. The harder part is if a child can’t communicate with us as parents or with other children they express their frustrations by pinching, hitting, tossing toys across the room etc. An OT (occupational therapist ) can really help by watching your boy and giving him alternatives to express his frustrations. i.e. specialized fidget toys, stretchy toys, play doh, big soft cushions, etc Communication is everything as well so a speech pathologist can help with hiving your son a way to let you know what he needs so he doesn’t get upset and angry. Just remember that even thought its very frustrating for you…its even more frustrating for him. What I find hard to remember sometimes is that some Autistic children feed off of the emotions of others more then a typical child so trying to stay calm as much as possible when things are not working out really can help him calm down faster. Also when he’s melting down less words is better…make sure he’s in a safe place from the other children and let him let it out and then when he’s calm speak to him. When he’s upset his audio processing won’t work as well. That’s when using pictures to explain can help too. The other thing I want to add is try not to say the “no” as much and stay away from phrasing thing negatively. It can lead to more frustrations. Instead try to tell him what you want him to do in a positive way and the minute he does do any little thing you like….praise him like he just won the lottery. That way he will start feeling more happy about what he’s doing, he’s pleasing Mommy, and he’s not feeling that he can’t do anything right. I hope some of this helps and good luck next week with the professionals coming in. Feel free to send me another message about how that goes:)


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