Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support
Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support

Sensory Processing Meltdowns 

Children with sensory differences ... painting the world beautiful.  

Sensory Processing Meltdowns 

Jeanette Loftus

child with sensory differences struggling with sensory processing disorder having a sensory meltdown Sensory Processing Meltdowns
I know how hard this can be for you but know that you are not alone. There is a community standing with you and they know how difficult this can be for you. I have carried my kids out of restaurants, malls and dentist offices while they screamed, yelled and even took off their clothes, more times than I can count. I know how exhausting it is when you have a child who has meltdowns, especially when it's several times a day.

I have avoided bringing my children to different events or putting them in many situations in fear that they would have a meltdown. I remember being so consumed with how embarrassed I would feel if everyone was staring, judging and talking about us.

For us parents, it can be absolutely heartbreaking to see your child having a sensory meltdown. You have no reason to feel ashamed and you don't have anything to be embarrassed about.

When a child has sensory processing disorder they can get overwhelmed and have sensory meltdowns. Sensory meltdowns can be causes from being overstimulated and having reactions to sensory overload. These meltdowns can be overwhelming for the child and for their parents too. There are many sensory strategies that can help de-escalate these sensory meltdowns.

child with sensory processing disorder having a sensory meltdown supporting a child through a sensory meltdown
Sensory processing disorder meltdowns can be caused by something being too bright. too loud or being too overwhelmed in a crowd. Sensory meltdowns can be caused by changes in a child's routine or unexpected things happening.
Children with sensory processing difficulties, experiencing these meltdowns can happen quite frequently and have a significant impact on the child's life.
It is so important for parents to understand why children with sensory processing disorder have meltdowns and how to prevent them from happening.
If you are trying to help a child through a sensory meltdown you need to be able to recognize their sensory triggers that are causing them. All children have different reactions to sensory input so what causes one child to meltdown could be different for another child. When a child has a sensory meltdown they will possibly try to run away, cry, yell or When your child is doing this and reacting to the sensory input in their environment, they are not doing this on purpose.
They are overwhelmed and having a difficult time. it is important to know and understand your child's sensory triggers. They are different for each child but some could be loud noises and for other children it could be from overwhelming smells or being around too many people.
When you know what causes your child to have sensory meltdowns then you can try to avoid exposure or minimize it. It can be difficult learning a child's sensory triggers at first and knowing what to do for them but I promise you it does and will get easier over time. 
Your child will need a safe and quiet environment to express their feelings. Ask them if they would like a hug, let them know that you love them. 
When talking to them, get down to their level and talk calmly. Being face to face with your child will help them feel heard. 
Set up a calm down space with calming tools where they can practice their breathing techniques or listen to calming music. 
It is important to deal with sensory meltdowns and tantrums right away to prevent more intense behavioral issues later on. Remember, tantrums are not the same as sensory meltdowns. 
frustrated young boy upset and frustrated with sensory overload and next to a diagram about sensory processing disorder sensory overload about to have a sensory meltdown
Learning how to avoid your child from having meltdowns takes time. It doesn't happen in one day but we learn our child's sensory triggers over time. As parents, we will learn ways to cope when we are in these situations and what sensory tools we need to bring while on an outing. I promise you, it gets a lot easier over time. 
Sensory overload is when one of our senses or more are overwhelmed. This happens if a child smells something strong or in a noisy crowded place. It can happen for many reasons and it is different for each child. 
Being calm and supportive during meltdown will help our children learn how to calm. If we are getting angry and raising our voices then they will think that is how they should act too. Validate your child's feelings and your child will have better self control skills and learn to self-regulate. 
upset little buy having sensory processing disorder meltdown next to diagram about sensory meltdowns
We cannot stop all meltdowns, but we can try to avoid some from happening. You can avoid certain situations or sensations that cause your child to feel overwhelmed when you are aware of what triggers them.

- Overstimulation- Changes to routines- Excessive demands
- Seeking sensory input
- Unexpected or unpredictable
- Situations that are new or unfamiliar
- Sensory Overload - Dysregulation
- Hungry or thirsty
- Inability to communicate needs (even minor changes can cause extreme stress)
Therapy is really beneficial for children who are having a difficult time with sensory overload. An Occupational Therapist can help you learn your child's triggers and set up a sensory diet for your child too. They can show you many ways to keep your child regulated so they have less meltdowns. 
Calming activities like breathing techniques, meditation, mindfulness and yoga can be extremely helpful for your child and for you too. 
Explain your child's sensory needs to your family and friends ahead of going to family events. This way, they are aware and able to help you and your child. When you are attending family events there are different strategies you can use to make the event more sensory friendly for your child.
You can ask them to dim lights, lower music, have smaller gatherings with less people and have a calm down quiet space for your child that they can go too when they are feeling overwhelmed. 
It can be very overstimulated and overwhelming to attend larger events like sports games, concerts and parties. There tends to be a lot of noise, loud music, bright lights, flashing lights and a lot of people.
These outings can cause a child to have sensory overload and will cause them to have a meltdown. These places seem like they would be so fun for many people but for those of us who have sensory differences it can be a lot for us. 
Not attending places like this with your child who has sensory processing disorder will minimize and avoid more sensory meltdowns.
boy having sensory meltdown ways to reduce sensory meltdowns
Children who are struggling with sensory processing disorder need a calm environment. If your child does have a sensory meltdown, it is important to create a safe and calm environment for your child. This can be a room that is quiet and away from others or a space that is comfortable and familiar for your child. Keeping things calm, reducing sensory input in the environment can help your child feel calm and safe. 
Signs Of Sensory Overload
- anxiety and panic
- reduced eye contact
- self-harming behavior
- increased stimming
- meltdowns and angry outbursts
- fidgeting and hyperactivity
- increased chewing objects
- distracted and difficulty focusing
- emotionally withdrawing
- unwilling to participate
- running away or hiding
- increased sensitivity to clothing
- socially withdrawing
- fast breathing
- crying and yelling
- covering ears or eyes
- muscle tension
- avoiding places or situations
- doesn't want to be touched
signs of sensory overload diagram with little girl sad on a swing having sensory processing disorder sensory overload
When you are making plans to go out with your child, you should always have a plan B which is your back up plan. You want to do this just in case things don't work out and you need to leave. If you plan your outing ahead of time then you can see where the bathrooms and closest exits are to where you and your child will be seated. 
It is important to take your child's sensory tools with you when you leave. Having a calm down kit for outings can be helpful and reduce meltdowns too. If your child tends to have sensory meltdowns from noise then you won't want to forget their noise reduction headphones and if your child doesn't like how bright the sun is or bright lights then you can bring along their sunglasses or a hat with a brim. Sensory tools and toys can be so helpful when planning trips outside of your home. 
Using deep pressure can be very calming for a child who has sensory differences. You can press on their skin or massage them. Another option would be using a weighted lap pad or weighted blanket for deep pressure. 
Deep breathing and mindful activities or listening to music that is calming can sensory meltdowns and how intense they can be for your child.

Children need their sensory diet all throughout the day. This will help them stay regulated. We need to provide them with sensory activities regularly throughout the day or they will have sensory meltdowns.
A sensory diet is a plan of schedule sensory activities that will regulate your child's sensory system that your child's Occupational Therapist will plan with you. 
Having a sensory diet in place can prevent sensory meltdowns. 
myths facts sensory processing sensory meltdowns boy having a sensory meltdown
We cannot wait until they are dysregulated and having a sensory meltdown to provide sensory activities for their sensory diet. We need to provide these activities all throughout the day to keep them regulated. 
When your child is having a meltdown, it is important to stay calm for them. In that moment your child needs reassurance from you that they are safe and okay. It is important to take away or reduce sensory stimulation in their environment that could be causing their sensory over load.
If possible, take your child to a place where it is calm and always remove items that could harm them during their sensory meltdown. 
Encourage your child to practice their mindful breathing techniques and give them some space to do their breathing. If your child enjoys hugs, give them tight squeezes. Some children do not like to be touched but others feel calm when they have pressure from a hug.  
Regular sensory activities, heavy work activities and following a sensory diet will reduce meltdowns, how often they happen and their intensity.
Sensory activities and following a sensory diet will give them the sensory input they need for all their sensory systems. Don't wait until it is too late, and they are already overstimulated, have regularly scheduled sensory breaks throughout the day. 
little girl having sensory meltdown by a diagram of meltdown vs tantrum, symptoms
Social stories can be a great way to explain to your child where you are going and what to expect because when a child knows what to expect they are far less likely to meltdown from unexpected situations. 
If your child has predictability then it will make them feel a lot less anxious. Visual schedules for all events and a count down to the day of the event will help them reduce any stress and anxiety about the outing that they may be having. If your child known what is happening and when, they will have a lot less anxiety and less chance of having a sensory meltdown too. Children who have sensory processing disorder thrive on predictability. 

Give them warnings when it is time to leave and how much longer they have. Using a visual timer can be helpful so they see when it will be time to transition. An OT can provide some sensory strategies to help your child when they are going out for an outing or event. An occupational therapist can work with you to create a sensory diet for your child, this will help your child get regulated and have less sensory meltdowns. 

We have to talk calming to our child during a sensory meltdown and validate their feelings.  Talking to your child during a sensory meltdown can be challenging for you and your child. This can help them feel understood. loved and supported. When your child feels supported and understood this may help them de-escalate.  Remember, it is so important to be respectful of your child's needs and what they are wanting from you during this time. 
It is important to give your child the space they need to have a sensory meltdown. Sensory meltdowns can be quite overwhelming and exhausting too for for a child with sensory differences.
It is important to give them time and space to calm down and regulate their emotions. You may need to remove them from a busy or overwhelming environment or take them somewhere else to have a sensory break in a quiet space. 
Helping a child through a sensory meltdown requires patience, understanding, love and you need to be prepared. When you know the symptoms and triggers, create a safe place for them, stay as calm as you can and use mindful calming techniques.
You can learn how to reduce sensory meltdowns for your child and learn new ways to support your child to prevent future sensory meltdowns. 
diagram of sensory meltdown iceburg and symptoms of sensory processing disorder around the sensory spd iceberg
Meltdown- A meltdowns are not a choice and are neurological
- The child is reacting to feeling overwhelmed
- Continues without reaction or audience
- A meltdown is not goal dependent
- The child is experiencing too much sensory input to process
- Will not bargain
- Fight, flight and freeze response
- The child may shut down and get tired
- Children will cry, scream, yell or run away
- May require assistance to gain control
Tantrums- A tantrum is behavioral
- A tantrum will stop when children get what they want and their goal is accomplished
- Children will have some control over their behavior during a tantrum- uses bargaining as a tactic
- Can develop into a meltdown
- Tantrums are a choice
- They will have an angry or frustrated outburst because they're not getting what they want
- Children will cry, scream, yell and hold their breath
-The child will usually look to an audience to perform
- A child usually checks for engagement
Sensory meltdowns can be very difficult and challenging for children who struggle with sensory processing disorder and for those around them too. It is so important to always seek professional help if sensory meltdowns are happening daily and are significantly impacting your child's life. 
Occupational therapists trained in sensory integration can provide sensory strategies to help your child manage their sensory meltdowns. 
An occupational therapist can help you create a sensory diet for your child too. Sensory diets can be so beneficial in managing sensory processing difficulties. If your child has the right professional support and sensory tools, you can help your child overcome the challenges of their sensory meltdowns.
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DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional. Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links on my website.  Each of your purchases through links on my website for Amazon affiliation links or sponsored links support me but no additional cost to you so thank you. I appreciate it so much!