Okay the title isn’t that catchy but it’s 100% true unless you’re someone who uses one of those standing desks(I assume you’re not because sitting is more fun). But I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what I do … Continue reading
We perceive some behaviors to be behavior as negative and draw a conclusion that the intent was negative as well. But, since we can choose to assign intent to behavior why must it be negative? You can make the choice to assume positive intent in your child’s behavior. Continue reading
For more than two years I suspected something was wrong or different with my twins. I believed their behavior extended beyond the large scope of “normal” in child development. I’ll try not to bore you with the entire lengthy process but for more than two years I followed all the appropriate channels. I made appointments with their primary care physicians. I explained that my sons were having meltdowns that lasted for hours, they didn’t play with toys, didn’t enjoy the park, they couldn’t be in the car more than 10 minutes, or at a friends house more than 15 minutes, they’re scared of bathrooms, slides, swings, smells, everything. They’re crying all the time.
For two years I was basically told:
Meltdowns are common for toddlers. They’re exploring their new sense of independence. They’re testing you. They’re testing the limits. You’re just overwhelmed. You’re tired. You’re stressed. You have twins. They need to socialize more. You need to be more strict. You need to use time-out. A light spank is fine.
You’re not doing something right.
For a while, I conceded. I slipped snugly into the mold of the “hysterical mother.” What did I know? Maybe this really was my fault. I was a new parent, one toddler can be stressful so two toddlers can be chaos. For a while I thought, “Maybe this is something I can parent my way out of.” I tried(very briefly) to believe that maybe the intuition I have as a mother is misguided. Maybe my ego got in the way and I am the problem. I didn’t have to try long because I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter what parenting philosophy you subscribe to; you can’t discipline your child because they’re crying that the sun is too bright. There’s no amount of time-out that will help my child when he’s crying that the cool bath water is burning his skin. You can’t spank a child that screams because a flushing toilet hurts his ears. (we all know I feel about spanking, if you don’t feel free to read this) You can’t punish your way out of Sensory Processing issues.
We didn’t know then that our sons had Sensory Processing issues. My WebMD and Google PhD had led me to suspect it(I know you google symptoms too, don’t hate), but I knew that I wasn’t really in a position to diagnose my own child. The only thing I knew I could do was to follow my heart. I didn’t punish them for things that I believed were out of their control and I tried to help them through the melt downs. I stopped taking them to places that they didn’t enjoy in the name of “socialization” and I followed their lead. It helped some, I learned to manage and some of our issues really did improve. We still had meltdowns and I learned to deal with them better. But I still kept making appointments, I kept pushing the doctors to give us a referral.
After two years we finally got a referral for one of my sons to be evaluated by an Occupational Therapist at Therapy Management Group here in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the evaluation I talked with the Occupational Therapist, Patrick, and explained, “It seems like my son has a base line of discomfort and anxiety that’s much higher than what’s normal. It feels like he’s generally more uncomfortable, on higher alert and on edge more than other children, so any small thing that happens on top of this is enough to send him into a melt down.” I explained that we used to deal with three hours of meltdowns in the morning and another three hours in the afternoon/evening. I explained that their meltdowns aren’t as long but they’re still frequent. They’re only half an hour or so but they’re scattered through the day every few hours.
For the first time in two years I was finally talking to someone who understood and said they could help. During the evaluation Patrick was patient with my son, he asked me questions, he explained what was going on. I won’t go into all the explanations and details but I finally felt like I wasn’t crazy. I felt validated. I felt relieved. I left their office that day with a plan. We had at-home exercises to do, they had a solid treatment plan. We have help now. I can’t say enough good things about this office. Every single person I’ve talk to there is so nice, they’re all so helpful.
My son receives his therapy from a woman name Jo (but asks about Patrick every week) and watching her work with him is such a gift. He just loves her. He’s only been there a month(that’s 4 weeks of at-home exercises and 4 visits to the office) and we see improvement literally every day. Before we got help for him, it felt like we only got to see short glimpses of who my son really was. We got to peek at the truest form of him between hours of screaming and crying and meltdowns. It’s been two weeks(almost three) since he’s had even a small episode. It really feels like we’ve been given back the son we had before these issues became so consuming.
So, the whole point of this post :
- Parents: I’ve talked to a lot of parents who have children struggling. For some of them, getting help was an easy process. For others like myself, it’s kind of a nightmare. I’ve heard too often of family physicians dismissing a parent’s concern, leaving a parent feeling defeated. Don’t give up, keep pushing, keep asking questions. It’s so worth it.
- Occupational Therapists: I don’t know how often you’re thanked for the work you do, but THANK YOU! I have so much gratitude for those who are helping children with sensory issues. The work my son’s OT is doing is amazing and their team saved our family when we were drowning in the madness of the last two years.
As always, if anyone has any questions about anything I’ve written you’re welcomed to throw ’em at me.
On a rainy December day in 2010 I sat, stoic, next to my husband in a medical office waiting room. Keeping my eyes lowered, careful not to look around too much, I tried to focus on the new patient forms I was quickly filling out. I scribbled in name, date of birth, current medications, family history. Stopping briefly, I stole a look across the room, over the scattered magazines, past the plastic plants and met a woman’s gaze. “Was this her first time at a place like this? If we were here for the same reason, was she as confident as me or riddled with guilt?” I gave her a small smile before returning back to the forms and scoffed at the amount of information being requested. Continue reading
Emotional, sensitive, quirky, bossy, spirited. All adjectives that can be used to described one of my sons and although I use them lovingly, the behaviors that result from such big emotions in a small body can be less than lovely.
Prior to having my own, I knew that children sometimes cried and threw fits. I had witnessed mothers holding a screaming child in grocery stores. I had seen the occasional frustrated preschooler hitting her mother and the son who hits himself. Like a lot of people I assumed that that the behavior probably wasn’t an everyday event. I also kind of believed it was the parents fault for allowing such awful behavior(we can all laugh at our mentality before having our own kids right?)
Fast forward some years and here we are. I’m the mother in the grocery store. Although I’m not holding a screaming child I’m rushing around you if you’re too slow. I know my child has a small window of time in public before he becomes overwhelmed and over-cranky. The little hand I hold in the parking lot and at the park has been balled into a fist and planted firmly in my face with all the force a 4 year old can muster. I’ve held those hands in attempt to stop them from hitting his own face as well.
I am the mother to an “emotional” child.
A “sensitive” child.
A “quirky” child.
A “controlling”, “bossy” child.
But, I’ve learned a few things I want to share.
Discipline doesn’t stop or help the meltdowns
That kid needs a spanking. Lazy parents. Entitled brat.
My child doesn’t have deafening screaming fits(sometimes for hours) because I failed as a parent. There’s no method of discipline or parenting that will make his meltdown stop in an instant either.
Even if I wanted to do something to him, what should I be doing ? A time out? I can’t send a hysterical child to sit alone for however long because he’s upset. “Something’s upsetting you? Go be alone so I’m not bothered by it.” Send him away to think about his behavior? Nope. I’m fairly certain all my child would think about is “why is no one helping me?” Spank him? Forget about it. We all know how I feel about that.
All I can do for my child who will have a melt down because I gave him the wrong color cup is try to help him. What does it mean if I take a minute to switch his juice to his favorite car cup ? It means nothing to me but it shows him that I take his problems and preferences into consideration. It shows him I’ll help him.
I don’t always have to know why he’s upset
Sometimes something insignificant (to me) will happen that sends him into a tizzy. I won’t know what happened and he sometimes won’t be able to tell me. He might try. He might not. Sometimes he’s just too upset.
I don’t always need to know what upset him. Sometimes I just need to let him know that I’m here for him. I can sometimes hug him or sit with him if that’s what he wants. I can explain to him, “I can tell you’re upset but I don’t know why. How can I help you, what do you need?”
Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way I’ve allowed myself to be open to his emotions whether I understand them or not.
There is no time limit
My son can cry hysterically for five minutes. He can also cry hysterically for well over an hour.
No one enjoys the sound of wailing. It’s heart breaking. It’s truly annoying sometimes too(hey, I’m human okay?). It creates a lot of stress for the family when it’s frequent and the duration is long.
When we pass the half hour mark everyone is on edge, nothing is helping and he can’t be consoled I have two options. Yell at him to stop. Punish him. Spank him? But if I do any of those Ill only be hurting him, invalidating his emotion and turmoil and make things worse. OR I can weather the storm.
Weathering the storm is HARD. It requires more patience that I have sometimes and requires a tag-team effort between my husband and I. We take turns offering to help, offing a hug, offering conversation. Like I said, sometimes nothing helps. We must ride it out.
There’s no ill-intent with his crying
My son doesn’t scream and cry to manipulate me. He can’t even wipe his butt right now, so I don’t believe he’s a master manipulator. He’s not doing it to “get his way”, sometimes he can’t even explain what’s wrong. He’s not doing it to upset me.
In fact, (and this took me perhaps too long to understand) it’s not like he enjoys having melt downs. Sobbing for 10 minutes isn’t fun. Much less over an hour. These meltdowns are much harder on him than it is on me just listening to it, trying to work through it. I mean, can you imagine losing control of your emotions 2, 3, or 6 times a day ? Can you imagine how exhausting and crummy that would feel ?
It’s got to be awful. I feel for my son, truly.
He can’t help it
This is the most important point for me and one that I need to remind myself of often.
He. Can’t. Help. It.
Seriously, he can’t. Right now he has no other tools in his bag to help him deal with his emotions. We are working on it. But these things take time. I have no doubt that he would prefer doing anything other than becoming a hysterical mess. It’s not fun. He hates it.
And he can’t be punished or shamed for it. All he needs, all every child needs is a gentle hand, a soft voice, a comforting hug and to know that you’re here to help them however you can. And if you can’t help them, just try not to hurt them.