Difference between tantrum and sensory crisis.
Your child may even stop in the middle of a tantrum to make sure you are watching him. When he sees that you are watching, he may continue where he was. His tantrum is likely to stop when he gets what he wants, or when he realizes that he is not going to get what he wants through his behavior.
This is how a sensory crisis works. The noise at the amusement park or the pile of clothes to try on in the changing room at the mall is the sensory information that floods your child’s brain. Once this happens, some experts think fight or flight response as a response. That excess input overflows in the form of screaming, crying, attacking or running away.
Remember that someone who is experiencing a sensory meltdown is in survival mode – they are fighting their environment and it is pure physical and psychological torture. Their senses are on fire and they have little control over themselves. No one chooses to be in a crisis, and when you understand what is going on with the nervous system and help someone through it you are not “giving in to” or “reinforcing” negative behavior. You are throwing someone a lifeline.
Sensory crisis in adults
“It is the organization of sensations for use” (Jean Ayres, 1979). The brain is the one that “integrates”, that is, it locates, distributes and orders sensations. When these sensations circulate in an organized or integrated manner, the brain can use this “sensory information” to form perceptions, behaviors and learning. In short, our body responds with actions, and this generates a feedback that re-enters through our senses to the brain, creating the possibility of learning.
We would be faced with a dysfunction in this Sensory Integration, in the way in which the nervous system analyzes sensory information, which means that the brain is not processing the information from the environment and the body itself in a correct way.
Sensory crisis autism
I was working away from home and I fell and broke my ankle. My colleagues helped me all the way, from taking the ambulance to the hospital to helping me at the airport to get home.
The doctors had to immobilize my ankle with a knee-high boot. The boot had metal bars on both sides and a pneumatic pump that applied pressure to keep my ankle in place. I left the hospital on a pair of crutches.
As you can imagine, I felt trapped and claustrophobic with my boot and crutches. Not only did my ankle hurt, but the feel of the metal and Velcro holding the boot in place was unbearable. Walking with the crutches made me nauseous. And I had to live and work in those conditions for months.
At one point I felt it was too much for me and one night I had a sensory crisis. My husband asked me what I wanted for dinner after a day full of meetings and a miserable doctor’s appointment. That simple question was the trigger. Suddenly I was shaking in my chair saying, “I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. I can’t deal with this.”
How are the crises of an autistic child
This is how a seizure happens. The noise at the amusement park or the pile of clothes to try on in a store represent sensory information that overwhelms your child’s brain. When this happens, your child’s “fight or flight” reaction is triggered. That information overload spills over in the form of screaming, crying, aggression or running away.
Knowing the difference between tantrums and sensory meltdowns is critical to helping your child. It may also help to have a better idea of the types of situations that may be challenging for your child. You might also explore tips on how to deal with noise and other sensitivities.