What is a meltdown? How is it different from a tantrum? First off, a tantrum is an outburst of anger and frustration, usually by a child. Tantrums can be caused by catalysts, but the most common thought is that they occur from a child wanting something and not receiving it (for a variety of reasons) or from internalized anger after having done something that resulted in discipline. This is not an autism meltdown! A meltdown for the autistic person is very individualized for each person on the spectrum. In general, meltdowns are brought on by sensory overload, mental exhaustion from social interactions, copious amounts of stress, or any combination of the three. Navigating conflict used to always result in a meltdown for me, since I could hardly keep up with my own emotions, much less figure out the body language and speech patterns of the other person. During a meltdown, an autistic individual may cry, throw objects, scream, stim, or engage in self-harm. A meltdown cannot be talked out of. A meltdown is a sign that a person on the spectrum has been being stretched thin for too long.