The external behaviour of tantrums and autistic meltdowns can appear to be similar, but how can we distinguish between these two? Let\u2019s learn about the differences between tantrums and autistic meltdowns in this sixth episode of AskMeDoctor! Season 2, with Dr Foo Chee Hoe, a paediatrician from Dr Foo Child Specialist Clinic.\u00a0 Q1: What is an autism meltdown? Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Dr Foo: An autistic child is special. Autistic child or we called a child with autism, tend to have a different way of communicating.\u00a0 They are usually very hypersensitive to their sensory input, which means that they can be very hypersensitive to brightness, lighting, sound, smell, and other sensory input. So when a child is overwhelmed by too much sensory input, they are going to face sensory overload. They have no other choice but to intensively react. So, their reaction could be in the form of a physical reaction.\u00a0 For example, by hitting someone, biting, and jumping. The reaction can also lead to aggressive behaviour.\u00a0 So, they will be crying very loudly, uncontrollably, and screaming. It is an intensive reaction to sensory overload instead of being overwhelmed by themselves. They have no choice, they are not intentionally doing it and they are not actually in control. We understand that autism meltdown is uncontrollable, so it could be anything or happen anytime in supermarkets like Tesco and Giant. Then how do we distinguish between tantrums and autism meltdown?\u00a0 Q2: How to distinguish between tantrums and autism meltdowns? Photo Credit: Beacon Support School Dr Foo: From a layperson who had no experience in managing children with autism, it can appear to be almost the same thing.\u00a0 But, it is important to distinguish between these two, because the way we manage them is very different.\u00a0 A tantrum can happen to any child. Usually, it happens when a child is very frustrated because they do not get what they want. So, there is some motivation behind it. They have an aim, they are frustrated because the parents could not give in to them. They do not let the child buy something or do something that they want to, or they are just unable to communicate what is and what is their desire to their parents.\u00a0 So out of frustration, they will throw a tantrum. They will also physically or verbally react, they will roll on the floor, make a scene, jumping, shouting, and crying loudly. Then when the parent says no, they will go into a tantrum because they can\u2019t take the \u2018NO\u2019 answer. I think tantrums are the motivation behind it, they are trying to blackmail the parents or manipulate the parents into achieving something. There is a goal in mind.\u00a0\u00a0 Photo Credit: Psychology Today The autism meltdowns are due to sensory overload and the child is overwhelmed, they do not want to react in such a way but they cannot control because they are very hypersensitive to certain sensory input. For example, an autistic child who is very hypersensitive to loud sound, and especially when there is someone who is doing vacuum cleaning.\u00a0 Photo Credit: Adobe Stock The vacuum sound triggers the child to an autism meltdown because there is a sensory overload of sound, which then the child has no choice but to intensively react to.\u00a0 From the outside, it looks like both of them are behaving like they are getting a tantrum, but a child who is throwing a tantrum, they want to do or they want to get something.\u00a0 They want to attract attention. While an autistic child who\u2019s having a meltdown, he actually doesn\u2019t want to go into a meltdown if he can afford to.\u00a0 It\u2019s just because there's too much sensory overload and will cause them to melt down. There is no aim in mind, he is not trying to manipulate the parents, he\u2019s not trying to achieve anything and if he has a choice, he wouldn't want to go into a meltdown too. So, these are very two different things.\u00a0 Q3: What is aggression? Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Dr Foo: I think aggression, in the community of developmental paediatricians and expert parents in autism, they use the word aggression to define aggressive behaviour. When you are violently and physically doing a reaction such as kicking or biting someone. So, in both tantrums and autism meltdowns, aggression can happen.\u00a0 Stay tuned with part 2 to know more about tantrums and meltdowns with AskMeDoctor! series at Motherhood Story and don\u2019t forget to catch up with a new episode every week on our Facebook page.