Autism and meltdowns – so what is the difference between a child’s tantrum and a sensory meltdown?

Autism – so what is the difference between a child’s tantrum and a sensory meltdown?
Autism – so what is the difference between a child’s tantrum and a sensory meltdown?

The difference between a  tantrum and a sensory meltdown?

Pretty much everyone involved with, or part of, the autism community has seen a sensory meltdown of some description.  And all parents have seen a tantrum especially during the “terrible 2s”.  For a lot of parents and caregivers of younger children on the autism spectrum there is some confusion as to the difference between the two.  This is compounded by the fact that a “normal” child’s tantrum can trigger a sensory meltdown in a child on the autism spectrum.  (Actually the reason I’m penning this article is that that is exactly what happened to our son John yesterday afternoon).

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to look a few differences between the two.  (Between you and me it is worth sharing with those members of your family who look oddly when meltdowns occur.  No names no pack drill but we know who we mean!.)

So what is a tantrum?

Well a lot of them can be described as goal orientated.  The child (or adult) has an outcome they desire ( but are thwarted in reaching)  thus the rage.

You might notice that the tantrum, often,  ends quickly and often easily once an outcome has been ascertained.

A lot of people comment that a tantrum is a two way thing.  In the sense the child is keeping an eye on the parent or caregiver to find out how they are re-acting.

Most children having any kind of tantrum still try and avoid getting hurt.

Do be aware that kids on the autism spectrum can have tantrums rather than meltdowns so do look for the signs.

And a Meltdown?

We sensory meltdowns are cause by just that sensory overload.  Now, of course, if a person is tired then this increases the chance of a meltdown.

Crucially the difference is that the person having the meltdown leaves their own zone of security.  The key point is that they are not interested in the reactions of those around them.  This can lead to safety issues because they can endanger themselves physically.

One of the key issues is an inability to communicate effectively.  As the meltdown is not goal orientated it is often hard to find a way to calm the situation.

Finally just because the problem has been resolved does not, necessarily, mean the situation follows suit.  One can still have huge residual problems.

How to cope with a meltdown?

When we started the blog this was one of the biggest issues for my wife in caring for a child on the autism spectrum.  So I ran a blog asking my readers for their tips and ideas.  You can read the results here.

If you have any tips about meltdowns and tantrums please do feel free to share in the comments section below.

And remember you are not a bad parent! Always!



Caregiving: The Costs, Concerns & Choices

Did you know that there are currently around 6 million people in Britain helping and supporting their family, partners or friends who are ill or disabled?

Caregiving, which can most often be unpaid, can cause an incredible impact on an individual’s life, whether it’s the person giving the care or receiving the care. This just shows that increasing the awareness surrounding caregiving is crucial for all parties, which is where the below infographic comes in, as it outlines the key costs, concerns and the options involved around caregiving.

Whether you’re a professional caregiver, friend or family caregiver, someone looking for advice on caregiving or someone in need of a carer, check out the below infographic by UKS Mobility and help spread the awareness of caregiving.

The infographic outlines what exactly caregiving involves, the financial and emotional costs which can impact an individual, some key concerns and myths, how to find the right caregiver, as well as depicting the various options regarding caregiving.

Caregiving Costs Concerns and Choices
Caregiving Costs Concerns and Choices

Lack of community services to support carers is piling pressure on emergency care

Lack of community services to support carers is piling pressure on NHS emergency care
Lack of community services to support carers is piling pressure on NHS emergency care

Due to a lack of appropriate support in the community, unpaid carers are reluctantly taking their loved ones to A&E, according to new research published today by Carers UK [1]. The charity’s report comes as the NHS prepares for its annual challenge of increased A&E visits and hospital admissions during the winter months.

Carers identified serious difficulties accessing primary and community support services, with 1 in 5 saying they had no option but to take their loved one to A&E because it was impossible to see a district nurse or a GP out of hours, and 1 in 10 saying they didn’t know where else to go.

The report, Pressure points, found that the majority of carers who have taken their loved one to A&E in the past 12 months believe their admission could have been prevented with more (55%) or higher quality support (50%) for the person they care for, more local support for them as a carer (32%) or access to a district nurse (25%).

A reduction in the provision of local care and support services is contributing to a rise in A&E visits and hospital admissions, as families say they have nowhere else to turn. Indeed, there were over 500,000 more visits to A&E in the first quarter of 2016 than the same period last year [2].

This growing demand on the NHS is forcing many people to be discharged from hospital too early, often without the right support in place at home and without proper consultation with their family. Over half of carers (58%) said that the person they care for had been discharged from hospital too early; with 12% saying their loved one had to be readmitted at a result. Not only is this counterproductive for the health of the person being cared for but it also causes undue stress and anxiety for families and friends who are often unprepared to take on caring responsibilities or coordinate aftercare themselves.

A lack of community health and care support is not only resulting in more people being admitted – or readmitted – to hospital, but it is also leading to many people having to stay in hospital for longer than necessary as they wait for an appropriate care package to be put in place to enable them to go home. What’s more, the cost to the NHS of delays in discharging older patients alone is £820 million a year [3]; with the number of delayed discharges, and therefore costs, continuing to rise [4].

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“The majority of care provided in England is not by doctors, nurses or care workers, but by family and friends. These carers have told us that they aren’t able access the support they need, when they need it, from community health and care services, so they are reluctantly having to turn to A&E.
“What’s more, a lack of consultation, support and information at the point their loved one is discharged from hospital means that many families are taking on a caring role in a crisis and feel unprepared. This isn’t sustainable and is leading to many people being readmitted to hospital shortly after they’ve been discharged, piling more pressure on an already stretched NHS.

“With more and more families picking up caring responsibilities and older people with care needs being encouraged to stay at home for longer, a step-change is urgently needed to boost investment in community services and involve carers in decisions about the support they, and their loved ones, need to manage at home.”

 Carers UK is calling for:

A Carer Friendly NHS programme, introducing a new duty on the NHS to identify carers and promote their health and wellbeing, as well as policies which ensure carers are involved in decision making around hospital admissions and discharges, and the adoption of a Carer Passport scheme

Increased funding for social care, with the Government putting in place a sustainable funding settlement for social care and ring fencing funding for carer breaks

Greater access to social care and health care in the community, including looking to new technologies to facilitate virtual health consultations and access to electronic patient records

Greater support from primary care services to better help carers look after their own health, including annual health checks for carers and free flu jabs

To download your copy of Carers UK’s Pressure points: carers and the NHS report, visit:

Carers UK recognises that deciding to care or continue caring for someone who is coming out of hospital can be very difficult. The charity has published a fact sheet which outlines carers’ rights during the hospital discharge process, the steps that should be followed before the person is discharged from hospital and advice on what to do if things go wrong. The fact sheet, Coming out of hospital, is available at:


[1] Pressure points: carers and the NHS (2016) Carers UK

[2] A&E Attendances & Emergency Admission Statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England (July 2016) NHS England


Total A&E Attendances
2015 2016 Percentage change
January 1,732,067 1,906,920 10.10%
February 1,654,846 1,870,776 13.05%
March 1,942,967 2,087,553 7.44%
TOTALS 5,329,880 5,865,249 10.04%


[3] Discharging older patients from hospital (2016) National Audit Office

[4] Monthly A&E Report (June 2016) NHS England: In June 2016, there were a total of 171,300 delayed days, of which 115,400 were in acute care – an increase of 31,800 from June 2015.

For practical advice and information about caring, contact the Carers UK Adviceline on 0808 808 7777 (10am-4pm, Monday-Friday) or email Our listening service is available Mondays and Tuesdays, between 9am-7pm.


Carers UK responds to report warning of growing strain on sandwich generation of carers

Carers UK responds to report warning of growing strain on sandwich generation of carers
Carers UK responds to report warning of growing strain on sandwich generation of carers

Carers UK responds to research published today by Macmillan Cancer Support, which shows that around 110,000 people in the UK are caring for a parent with cancer, whilst also looking after their own children [1].

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said:

“In raising awareness of the pressures facing people who are caring for a parent with cancer whilst also looking after their young children and often juggling work, Macmillan’s research highlights a far wider and deeper issue for carers who support loved ones across many conditions.

“Indeed, there are a staggering 2.4 million people who are sandwiched between raising families of their own whilst providing care to an older loved one with a disability or chronic illness. And it is women who are more likely to shoulder this responsibility, with our research showing that they are four times more likely than men to have given up work due to multiple caring responsibilities.

“Today’s report adds to growing evidence that this is fast becoming one of the hardest pressed generations [2]. As a society, we must recognise that we all likely to either receive or provide care at some point in our lives. Without the right support at the right time, caring can take a serious toll on carers’ health, finances and ability to have a life outside of caring. With this in mind, the Government must use the opportunity of its new Carers Strategy to make lasting change in the way public services and workplaces support families.”

Carers UK is here with advice, information and support wherever you are on your caring journey. For practical advice and information about caring:

[1] Under Pressure – The growing strain on cancer carers (2016) Macmillan Cancer Support

[2] Caring responsibilities in

Homecare: The World’s Fastest Growing Industry?

The senior citizen population in America is growing enormously, with 10,000 people a day crossing the threshold of their 65th birthday. On the face of it, this increase in life expectancy is very much a positive development, but the offshoot of people living longer is the increasing burden being placed on the healthcare industry to provide the care that is needed for the elderly population.

It’s not that the healthcare industry is in decline or even stalling – far from it. This is a sector worth $84 billion in the USA alone, with a workforce of 1.7 million people and enormous growth projected in the next decade. The main difficulty is that the growth of the industry isn’t quite keeping pace with the increase in people requiring care, as America’s senior population is expected to stand at roughly 84 million people by the end of 2016.

Another factor in the struggle to meet the demand for home healthcare is the increased regulation of the industry, with providers of healthcare being required to meet higher standards of care than ever before. It is unarguable that patients deserve the best of care, but when licensing for healthcare becomes stricter, the pool of suitable providers gets smaller, and the demand for care is even less likely to be satisfied.

To see more about the current status of the homecare industry, read the infographic below from Be Independent Home Care (

Homecare - The World's Fastest Growing Industry
Homecare – The World’s Fastest Growing Industry