(If you’d rather watch the video, scroll to the bottom for the youtube link!)
This morning was hard.
I mean, I knew it was coming, Mondays are traditionally difficult, but it was still hard.
Last night, he went to bed in a good mood. He’s the sweetest guy ever and he was full of hugs and I love you’s after a weekend away. This morning, he was a different kid. It started with breakfast because we have no good food. I offered a few of his favorites, he said he wanted pizza. The clock was ticking and it was way past time to leave for school without a rush so I agreed. Pizza is better than an empty stomach, right? I heated up a few slices and handed them to him. He wandered into the laundry to eat alone… 5 minutes later I came in to make sure we were on the right path for getting to school on time, and what I found was uneaten pizza.
The conversation went something like, “hey bud, we should probably leave in about 3 minutes ago, do you want to bring that pizza in the car or eat while I get your back pack and shoes for you?” You know choices… His response? Explosion.
I’ve seen this same scenario play out and I’ve learned that pushing him to do the shoes, the back pack, the food… it only leads to a more explosive child so we work together to get things moving. (and then we work on independent skill building like getting ready tasks on days when his mind is in a positive place.)
In these moments, he isn’t in control. He’s in the red zone and we prioritize what needs to happen in the moment so we can move forward. Today that meant learning at home through zoom without a camera on. But before that could happen, I watched him calm himself and it occurred to me that… he freaking calmed himself using his own set of strategies and many of them were strategies I have never considered calming strategies so I wanted to share… with his permission. Keep in mind, I am not an OT. I’m just a mom sharing the things that have been successful for us and the families I work with. Hopefully they help you too!
Ripping up paper.
This is something that is awesome for kids who explode in destructive ways. Regular paper left over from the mail is fine, but I find that light cardboard or cardstock works best. Think cereal boxes… Does it make a mess? Yep. But this kind of mess is easily cleaned and provides the destructive outlet some kids seek.
Punching pillows on a moving surface.
This could be a swing or a rolling chair or the bed if it’s a little wiggly. Many kids benefit from the vestibular output of the moving surface and the input of punching a pillow. This is great for kids who seek intense sensory experiences which is common for kids who explode.
Hanging upside down.
This is another vestibular experience that will help children calm down and refocus their energy. Hanging off the couch, the monkey bars, the side of the bed. This can be a powerful vestibular input activity because it’s a unique experience and possible a distraction from the triggering incident.
Pushing against the wall.
Never in a million years could I get my kiddo to do wall push ups like the OT recommended. However, if I asked him to sit between the wall and the couch and push with his feet… He would do this all day. Now I find him seeking out closed spaces like this to push from.
Sure, weighted blankets or vests are options, but if your exploding kiddo is like mine, he has to WANT the type of help we are offering so those things were only helpful if he was in the right space. Instead, he would climb in between the mattress and the box spring. Half in half out… and breath deep. Nontraditional? Yep. But it worked for him. Deep pressure activates the parasympathetic nervous system comes helping calming your child. At the same time the brain releases of dopamine and serotonin leaving your child with more “feel good” than “feel bad”. Maybe it’s not a mattress and it’s a big hug or it’s your dog laying on top of them. It doesn’t matter what it is so get creative with how you can offer up that deep pressure.
Now I have to say that at any given time had I offered up these techniques, my son would have probably refused them. It’s taken us YEARS for him to find a way to help himself, but I see some of the things we taught him modified in ways that work for him. Tomorrow, none of these may work, but today was a win, even though it was hard. I’ve had to learn to be flexible with my expectations, look for creative solutions to tough problems and really pick and choose my battles. Sometimes, I still have no idea how to help in a situation, but other times like today, I see that all the hard work we are putting in is paying off.
This weekend, a friend’s son had his first haircut in a public place. I celebrated with her, because I remember that day for us. I remember a child who punched the hair dresser as I stand their humiliated.
We have come so far.
All of our kids figure things out at different rates.
But keep pushing because our kids have bright futures too.
This video was originally recorded for the Mom Spot, a private facebook group for moms just like you.
We saved you a seat. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheIEPMomSpot