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Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Application Project
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Many people think the words “tantrum” and “meltdown” mean the same thing, however
they are actually quite different. It can be hard to tell the difference between them by just
looking at an upset child. Knowing the causes of tantrums and meltdowns can help you learn
how to manage them.
And they can look very similar when you see a child in the middle of having one. For
children who have sensory processing issues or who lack self-control, a meltdown is very
different from a tantrum. Knowing the differences can help you learn how to respond in a way
that better supports your child. Knowing differences and the assisting with coping skills is
essential of how to handle them and teach skills to diminish the behavior.
A tantrum is an outburst that happens when a child is trying to get something he wants or
needs. Some kids with learning and attention issues are more prone to tantrums. For instance
some may be impulsive and keeping their emotions to themselves. These students also get angry
and frustrated quickly. A child may get angry if they are not first in line, or not getting attention
or what they want. Yelling, crying or lashing out isn’t an appropriate way for him to express his
feelings, but he is doing it for a reason, and therefore has some control of his behavior.
A meltdown is a reaction to feeling overwhelmed. For some children this happens when
there is too much sensory information to process. The noise in a gym might set them off. For
others it may just be a reaction to having too many things to think about or do. If a child is
presented with too much information or too many items to complete or process the brain may
become flooded. Once that happens some of the experts say that a “flight or fight” response may
kick in, and may become a form of yelling, crying, and lashing out or running away.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Literature Review
According to the study done by Watson, Watson, Gebhardt (2010), there are a number of
situations in which tantrums are more likely to occur. Bedtime, mealtime, bath time, parents
diverting their attention from the child to another person or object such as telephone, and
discontinuing a favorite activity are typical situations that can trigger a tantrum. Outside the
home, much to parents’ consternation, tantrums are more likely to occur in very public places
like a restaurant, grocery store, playground, and place of worship. At school situations such as
transitions from snack time to clean-up time, interactions with other children, and being given
directions or commands can often cause a tantrum. (Watson, Watson, Gebhardt, 2010.)
Children who have a history of intense and frequent tantrums are at risk for developing
more serious emotional and behavioral disorders in later childhood (Kann & Hanna, 2000;
Needlman, Stevenson, & Zuckerman, 1991 Sanson & Prior, 1999).
Young children’s temper tantrums offer a unique window into the expression and
regulation of strong emotions. Previous work, largely based on parent report, suggests that two
emotions, anger and sadness, have different behavioral manifestations and different time courses
within tantrums. (2011; Green, Whitney, & Potegal).
Disruptive preschoolers displayed violence during tantrums significantly more often that
the depressed and healthy groups. The disruptive group had significantly more tantrums at school
than depressed and healthy groups. The disruptive group had more difficult time recovering
from tantrums than healthy preschoolers. Finally, depressed preschoolers were more aggressive
significantly more self-harmful tantrum behaviors than preschoolers in the healthy and disruptive
groups. (2008; Belden, Thomson, & Luby).
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
The date on which this analysis is based consist of observed tantrums had by 296 children
in the Madison WI area during the period 1994, 1996. (2009; Qui, Yang, & Potegal). Anger is an
important emotion that can intrude into daily life as low intensity irritation. At higher intensity, it
underlies overt aggre4ssion at great social cost. Most recently it was found to play a role in
incidents of road rage (e.g., Lupton 2002, Parker et al. 2002). Anger at its most intense has been
claimed to play a causal role in 35% homicides (Curtis 1974).
Intervention research for problem behaviors of persons with developmental disabilities
has been changing its focus in recent years, moving more toward no aversive interventions (Repp
& Singh, 1990) and away from punishment procedures (Guess, Helmstetter, Turnbull &
Knowlton, 1987; Lundervold & Bourland, 1988; Matson & Gorman-Smith, 1986). Increasingly,
studies employing different methodologies have been directed toward identifying the function of
problem behaviors and proposing a treatment based on that function.
Autism is characterized by impairments in social interaction, atypical language
development, and patterns of behavior that are restricted and repetitive (American Psychiatric
Association, 2000). In addition to exhibiting these core symptoms, children with autism
sometimes engage in self-injury, aggression directed towards property or other people, temper
tantrums, and other behaviors that cause problems and therefore are targeted for reduction. In
October of 2006, The Food and Drug Administration of the United States (U.S. FDA) approved
the antipsychotic drug, risperdone, for the treatment of such behaviors, collectively labeled as
“irritability”, in children with autism between the ages of 5 and 17 years (U.S. FDA, 2006).
In 2008 the prevalence of mental disability in Udupi was found to be 2.3%. The behavior
modification approach like token economy is one of a number of ways to reduce temper tantrum
behavior in which structure can be introduced. The purpose of this study was to enable the
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
intellectually disabled to develop the skills of adaptive coping towards tantrum. Individuals with
mild and moderate intellectual disability were included in a controlled group and an
experimental group. The token economy for 21 days was given to experimental group leaving
control group received with no intervention. From day 21 to day 42 there was not intervention in
order to see for any decline in the results, which was followed by follow up observation on day
42. The results, there were no significant improvement in Temper tantrum after intervention in
experimental group as compared to control group. The present study found that token economy
was not effective in reducing Temper tantrum among individuals with mild or moderate
intellectual disability in 21 days duration. (2015, Varghese, Valsartan, & Shaina).
This study of the behavioral tendencies such as assertiveness, aggressiveness, and
submissiveness of single parent children and normal parent children who have two parents. 75
single parent children and 75 two parent children joined in the study. CATS (Children Action
Tendency Scale) (Deluty, 1979), which was adapted to Turkish Usakli (2006) was used as an
inventory. At the end of the study, it is found out that the single parent children are less
aggressive and more aggressive and submissive than their two parent peers. Families, teachers,
school administrators and school counselors should be aware of the behavioral tendencies of
single parent children. It is recommended that future studies can be about the intervention
programs for single parent children to overcome their aggressiveness and submissiveness.
(2013, Usability).
A brief functional analysis was used to examine the influence of termination of
prechange activities and initiation of post change activities on tantrums exhibited by 2 preschool
children. For 1 participant, tantrums were maintened by access to certain (pretransition)
activities. For the 2nd participant, tantrums were maintained by avoidance of certain task
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
initiations. Although advance notice of an upcoming transition was ineffective, differential
reinforcement of other behavior plus extinction reduces tantrums for both participants. (2006,
Wilkder, Chen, Atwell, Pritchard, & Weinstein).
The cause of meltdowns and tantrums are different, and so are the strategies that can help
or stop them. We must remember that tantrums usually have a purpose. The kids are usually
looking for a certain response. Meltdowns are sometimes a reaction that is beyond a child’s
control. A child can often stop a tantrum if he gets what he wants or he is rewarded for using a
more appropriate behavior. But a meltdown isn’t’ likely to stop when a child gets what they
want, often times they don’t even know what they want.
It is important to identify these three things when understanding and handling temper
tantrums or sensory meltdowns. An Antecedent is an event that sets the occasion for a behavior
or what happens right before a behavior occurs. Antecedents can be factors in an individual’s
external environments such as an instruction by a teacher or a mother turning the TV off. An
individual’s internal feelings can also be antecedents, such as pain or hunger.
Behavior is anything that someone does. Behaviors can be observable like shaking your
head or they can be internal like feeling pain. Most of the behavioral interventions focus on
external behaviors that are observable and measureable.
A Consequence is anything that immediately follows as a result of a behavior. For
instance a child may say “juice” and the result would be them receiving juice. Consequences can
increase the likelihood of a behavior happening again, decrease the likelihood of a behavior
happening again, or have no effect on the occurrence of a behavior in the future.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Through direct observation, data can be collected on antecedents, challenging behaviors,
and consequences that follow. Using all of the above data can be analyzed, and a potential reason
or purpose of the challenging behavior can be determined and possibly identified.
Tantrums and Development
Prior information indicates that some of the first tantrums may occur around the age of
12-15 months as toddlers become more mobile, more of aware of their likes and dislikes, and
more able to recognize the existence of objects out of their sight. Tantrums typically peak
between the ages of 18-36 months. This is when parents and teachers are likely to see an
escalation in the frequency, intensity, and/or duration of tantrums. Some may engage in a
tantrum for a limited amount of time, seconds to longer periods of time, which may be hours.
After the age of 3, and as language skills develop, many children exhibit tantrums much
less frequently, although tantrums still appear from time to time. If a child has learned that a
tantrum is an effective way to get what they want or avoid what they do not want to do, the
tantrum may remain to be a significant problem for the parent and the teachers. There is no
magical age that children stop having tantrums.
Tantrums in the Classroom
Handling a tantrum before and after can make a difference in the effect of the behavior
there after. There are certain behaviors and strategies you can implement to reduce the risk of a
meltdown taking place. Some strategies to help prevent behavior in the classroom:
It’s important to talk with the kids about tantrums and emotions. Discuss why
people get upset a few times a week. Try to role-play so the kids have
opportunities to think about how to handle their emotions in a positive way when
they become upset or frustrated.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Get to know your students by talking and knowing their likes and dislikes and
what makes them happy or sad. Find out what triggers them to be upset; this may
help to determine when a tantrum may be looming. Read facial expressions and
notice which times of the day are most difficult for them.
Pay attention and know their triggers. Many tantrums can be prevented by
keeping a close eye on how they’re doing throughout the day. “Most tantrums
start off because a child is hungry, tired or bored,” says Helen Adeosun, founder
of Care Academy. If you can recognize those signs you can often deter a
meltdown before it occurs.
Become a master of the art of distraction. Directing a child’s attention away from
the negative emotions can help him or her calm down before a tantrum begins.
Even something as simple as asking them to come see something that you wanted
to show them, may divert their attention away from the meltdown.
How to react when a disaster strikes…Keep everyone safe. Some kids may flail
around or throw things during tantrums, so the first job is to keep everyone safe,
the student having the tantrums and anyone around him or her. Prevent accidents
by moving the child (or the class), have a plan in place to do when this happens.
Keep your cool. Don’t lose your temper. Tantrums are normal for young children
and their inability to maintain their behavior should be expected. “Tantrums help
children work through their feelings and release stress and anxiety,” says Kuhn.
“Most adults have unrealistic expectations of how children should behave, and
that’s what cause things to become problematic.” Not everyone has the same
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
background, home life, or learns how to manage and handle behavior the same,
our beliefs may not be the beliefs of others.
Provide a calm space. When kids are overstimulated or frustrated, removing them
from the environment can give them space to work through their feelings without
becoming even more upset. Designate a calm space where kids know they can
visit if needed.
Talk through it. Get down to a child’s level and talk through the behavior or the
feelings, in a quiet voice to allow them to understand that you do understand them
and want to help.
After a tantrum…getting the class back on track after a meltdown. Don’t ignore
the behavior or the disruption. Talking about what just happened may not be the
first thing we want to do, but it assists them to working through the problem or
the behavior and may deter it from happening again.
Encourage empathy. Children need to understand why they or their friends are
having difficulty with certain things. Have conversations discussing why we feel
the way we do sometimes and how we get upset and act out. Children can be
empathic to each other and encourage peer relations and modeling good behavior.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
If your child or a child in your classroom is exhibiting challenging behaviors, it is
important to do some important research to determine how to handle them and what they are.
Some things that are possible to do would be to conduct a functional behavioral assessment.
Define what the challenging behaviors look like and understand the function or purpose
of the behavior. Some questions that may need to be answered to look for patterns in behavior:
o What was the child doing before exhibiting challenging behavior?
o What happened after?
o What did the child get or avoid from exhibiting challenging behavior?
o Does the child have communication skills? How do they communicate
needs and wants? Do they point, talk, make gestures?
o What activities is the child most successful doing? What activities are
most rewarding and what is most frustrating?
o Consider the child’s developmental levels and academic levels.
All of these things should be taken into consideration for any child to determine and
define whether the behavior is a temper tantrum or sensory difficulty. Know the difference
between sensory overload and a basic tantrum, know the child, learn things about them by
talking to the parents, teachers, and observing the child.
Establish routines with the child, consistency and a schedule that is understood by the
parent, child and teacher. Token economies may be used to reinforcement positive behavior
support and to assist you in getting the desired behavior.
Most importantly get help, get assistance and find the resources to utilize through school
and work with the parents to assist in determining the behavior that needs to be addressed and
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
changed to make progress for the student. If you start early with assistance and help to provide
services to a child then behaviors can be assisted and extinct through continual services and
support from all parties being consistent with a plan. Numerous documents and reports indicate
that the consistency at home and at school assists and provides expectations for the student and
also provides results for changing the difficult behavior.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Morin, A. (2017). The difference between Tantrums and Sensory Meltdowns. Parent Advocate, a
former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Watson, S.T., Watson, T. & Gebhardt, S. (2002). Temper Tantrums: Guidelines for Parents and
Teachers. National Association of School Psychologists.
Mullen, J. K. (1983). Understanding and Managing the Temper Tantrum. Child Care Quarterly,
Wilder, D., Chen, L., & Weinstein, P. (2006). Brief Functional Analysis and Treatment of
Tantrums associated with Transitions in Preschool Children. Journal of Applied Behavior
Analysis, Spring 39 (1); 103-107.
Duda, G.D. (1990). Using Functional Communication Training to Replace Challenging
Behavior. Center of Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning.
Mireault, G. & Trahan, J. (2007). Tantrums and Anxiety in Early Childhood: A Pilot Study.
(Volume 9 number 2).
Usakli, H. (2013). Comparison of Single and Two Parents Children in terms of Behavior
Tendencies. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 3 No. 8
Varghese, S., Valsaraj, B.P. & Shalini. (2016). Effectiveness of Token Economy on Temper
Tantrum among Intellectually Disabled Individuals. International Journal of Health and
Sciences and Research. Vol. 6, Issue 1.
Drecktrah, M. & Marchel, M. Functional Assessment: Analyzing Child Behavior. Early
childhood News, The Professional Resource for Teachers and parents.
Temper Tantrums vs. Sensory Meltdowns
Weeden, M., Ehrhardt, & Poling, A. (2009). Conspicuous by their absence: Studies comparing
and combining risperidone and applied behavior analysis to reduce challenging behavior in
children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 3, 9-5-912.
Decreasing Student Tardiness to Class
The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of research on the effects of various
ages of students’ tardiness to class. In addition to analyzing the effects, this paper will also
examine various interventions intended to decrease tardiness in order to increase academic
performance. Tardiness to class is a common problem in many high schools, but can also have
negative repercussions for students of all ages. Successful implementation of interventions to
decrease tardiness depends on many factors, but can have a positive effect on all students, not
only those who are tardy.
Keywords: task engagement, time management, self-monitoring, tardiness
Decreasing Student Tardiness to Class
Student tardiness to class is a common occurrence found especially in high schools.
However, this behavior is present in all ages with negative consequences. Finding ways to
decrease tardiness is a challenge for schools and depends on many factors, including the makeup of the student body, teacher and administrator buy-in, and resources available. As Conley &
Enomoto (2009) …
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