The Sensory Checklist

The Sensory Checklist

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The Sensory Lens Part 2

Sensory Meltdown or Age Appropriate Tantrum?

First, establish if the meltdown is sensory related (fight or flight panic) or a more typical behavioral tantrum.

  1. Is there any direct sensory stimulation that is clearly over or under whelming them?
    • Use your sensory lens. Look for something you’ve tuned out, or wouldn’t normally notice. ( IE: The bathroom fan humming in the background, a square tile room that causes echos, fast moving objects or videos, a new smell from new hand soap or perfume, etc.)
  2. What is the status of their basic body needs?
    • Food (blood sugar low? Allergy or food sensitivity – what did they just eat?)
    • Hydration
    • Sleep / Rest / Quiet Time
    • Elimination (last time peed or pooped?)
    • Health (feeling ill or body otherwise uncomfortable)
  3. Are they panicked or emotional? Medical definition of Panic as defined by Merriam Webster is “a sudden unreasoning terror…” What I look for in a small child that tells me their panicked.
    1. A sudden onset and a fight or flight response.
      • Sudden physical aggression
      • Sudden running away, hiding, trying to crawl into a small space
      • Sudden emotion: crying, screaming, etc.
      • Sudden physiological symptoms: rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, nausea or vomiting.
    2. The inability to communicate their needs.
    3. A facial expression of terror or anger.

Once you’ve established it is a sensory meltdown – your response should be one of calm support and assistance. Remember your child is in a state of panic, and needs your help to guide them back to equilibrium.


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