Holding It Together
SPD Children Hold Together, Or Do They?
The behavior of an SPD child shows us how they are really feeling. The result we may see of SPD, are in the behaviors we see in our kids.
We can come to understand why an SPD child is showing better behavior in school, and in other places, only to completely melt down when they get home. When they are in school, they see what is considered appropriate behavior. They know what gets them in trouble. Or why other kids laugh at them. They don't like disapproval any more than we would. They are embarrassed to be punished in front of their peers. They want to blend, and be like other kids. As they begin to progress in therapy, and can finally feel some measure of control, we frequently begin to see that there are periods of time they can hang on - by their finger tips. Steeling themselves through the school day.
They grit their teeth and hold....hold....hold on to their emotions, their feelings, and just want to appear as calm and collected as possible. And when they get home, when they are in the safest place they can ever be, where they are accepted for who they really are, and loved anyway, they let LOOSE! They sometimes fall apart, crying, or in anger. They can become as obnoxious as we've ever seen them. They may crash and play risky. Speak hatefully to their parents and siblings. Fall completely apart. They can't hang on any longer.
Ways to Help Children Who Are Struggling
Can we help them through this? If we understand what is happening, we can.
If this sounds at all like your child, there are several things you can do to help her. Consider some of these options, and apply what you feel she would find comforting.
If you pick your child up from school:
Have either soft, slow music playing on the radio, or a favorite DVD. She may prefer silence, or calming music. Think: Sensory Comfort and Calm. Have ready in the car, a weighted lap pad for her to lay across her lap, or even a heavy item in her lap, for the ride. A drink ready for her, with a straw can be comforting, and give her soothing input on the ride home. A crunchy or chewy snack can help alleviate aggression or the feeling of being overwhelmed. A fidget of some type to squeeze in her hands. It's okay to say: "Let me know what makes you feel better." Because this overwhelmed feeling is not pleasant for her.
If your child gets off the bus:
When she comes in the door, have your home as quiet as possible, with the exception of calming music if she prefers that. A scented candle that she loves would be soothing. A strong deep pressure hug that lasts a few moments would steady her. Pressing down and releasing several times on the top of her head would be calming. Again, a thick drink with a straw, or a snack that he has to chew or crunch. A weighted blanket or object. Rolling up in a blanket to settle a few minutes. Some kids want an immediate Epsom Salt bath to calm and sooth away the stress. Ask her what she thinks would be soothing right now. The kids almost always pick exactly what they need if we offer them good choices.
When your child arrives home:
Some kids need to go outside and swing. Or jump on the trampoline. If it is activity she seeks, provide it in a safe environment, and let her go at it, without interrupting for a few minutes. Large heavy muscle movement is actually very calming to some of our seekers and crashers. They stop when they have had enough. If she is taking it out on your poor home? Try to find alternative ways she can get similar input on something that is safe and available. Even a mattress on the floor. Hanging upside down in a swing. Spinning - outside, hopefully! until she doesn't need to spin anymore. If she speaks harshly, try to understand how she is feeling, and work on providing enough sensory input, until she is feeling calmer, and more in control.
It may also help to ask your therapist about the How Does Your Engine Run? The ALERT Program. When we help our children to understand how they are feeling and what they can do to help themselves in any given situation, we are giving them healthy strategies for a lifetime.
The good news? The fact that she is able to feel in control for some of the time is great, and shows you therapy is working. You'll see longer and longer periods of control, and less meltdowns, if you give her both preventive sensory input before school and on occasions where you feel she is trying hard to hang on, and even again afterwards, when she is overwhelmed to the point of losing control. Often we can do preventive measure like I just described. You should see a change in her behavior, and her trust in you will grow, as she realizes you truly do understand how she must be feeling.
She falls apart with you in particular, because she loves and trusts you more than anybody, and knows you love her anyway. She can be herself. And you can help her learn how to combat this, prevent it, and show her how to cope with it, so she won't feel as much need to fall apart. She can hold it together sometimes, and in certain situations, because she really is improving and is capable sometimes, and for awhile. It grows.