trying to help defeat the witch

One of my best friends is a fantastic dream interpreter.  Through her analysis, she has taught me to look for some deeper meaning into some of our subconscious dream induced thoughts.  I do think it is helpful to reflect upon those dreams that stick with you. Sometimes I don’t even know I am anxious about something until I have a string of anxiety dreams. Reflecting on those in my waking hours can help me to identify and deal with those sources of anxiety.

I always ask my kids when they wake up, “did you have sweet dreams?”  It is really just a informal welcome back to the world of being awake and much less of an inquiry.  Recently, M has been telling me about the dreams that he remembers upon waking.  Recently he told me he had a dream that he and “Bubbie” went on a date.  Bubbie is his beloved blanket, the two of them are practically inseparable.  He is the object that we did a 45 minute detour to pick up on a recent trip out of town because I don’t know what M would do without Bubbie to snuggle with at night. I don’t think he really understands what a date is but I think a “Bubbie date” is pretty darn cute and it represents the magic and innocence of childhood in a way that I absolutely don’t want to forget.

Over the weekend, when I asked him about his dreams, he said, ‘I had a dream that I was in my room fighting an evil witch, and you came in my room and told me to “calm my body.”‘ Oy.  That one threw me for a loop.  The way in which he recounted the dream communicated how unhelpful it was for me to come in while he was defeating forces of evil and tell him to calm his body.   Evil witches have been a fear thing for both kiddos since this past Halloween. The Disney witches have only added to this image M has of witches being a sly enemy.  It is not surprising that he had a bad dream about a witch. It was however, very insightful for me to know how unhelpful it is to him when I tell him to calm his body.  Even his subconscious knows that telling someone to be calm, when they are already trying to fight off the bad feelings of dysregulation, is USELESS.  When M starts to get dysregulated, it is like a reflex for me to tell him “YOU need to calm your body.”

Thankfully, this dream stuck with him and now it has stuck with me.  Next time I start telling him to “calm his body,”  I am going to stop myself and instead of talking, I will  fight the witch with him.  We know lots of calming techniques  and none of those involve telling him to calm down.

Here’s a great source of calming techniques aimed at the preschool age crowd if you are searching: http://connectability.ca/2010/09/23/calming-strategies-to-use-with-children/

 

 

 

 

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trying to adjust my expectations

I go long stretches where I forget that M is significantly different than other kids.  I’ve mentioned this before, but people will often tell me that his issues are normal toddler/preschooler behavior. He is also SMART and quite a sweet and empathetic little guy. It is easy to forget that I need to take great care in choosing my words and actions when parenting M. When I have things managed well, this is absolutely true. Our behavior issues fall within the range of normal. But I often fall back into bad routines where I expect too much, change too many things in our environment and demand way too much of M. Then there is often fall out.

In the past two weeks, we have been kicked out of both dance class and Mommy & me gymnastics. We had a long stretch of success at gymnastics because we were taking a class meant for 18 – 30 month olds and M was already a year older than the oldest other child.  M2 was the second oldest. I definitely was starting to feel a little unwelcome coming from the other parents and I talked to the Coach about moving them up to the next level (meant for 2 – 2.5 year olds) and she said M wasn’t ready because he couldn’t sit still or follow directions. Okay, this is true. He can’t. Not in that scenario. She did say however, that she felt that M2 was ready.

This week, I made the mistake of taking them to a make-up session for a session we missed while camping.  Well, those babies in that class were all between 18 and 24 months. The stars were misaligned, I got there at 9:10 thinking the class was at 9:15, it was at 9:30.  That meant we had to wait a full 20 minutes for class to start.  In addition, the little snack store was closed so we couldn’t do our usual routine of getting a crunchy snack to calm nerves (this is a common OT trick).  I keep asking myself, why didn’t I just walk out then, before class started and before things were going worse. I knew things weren’t going well.  I threatened M that he needed to take some deep breaths and calm his body. I could see him tense his muscles and hold a grimace on his face.  I mentioned that his “engine was running too high“* and asked him what we could do to calm it.  BUT, we should have left.  I know better.  There is no coming back from that kind of overstimulation/dysregulation. Class started and within minutes, he wanted to use the rings and some little toddler was waiting patiently to use them while his mom helped out. I moved him away before he had a chance to push the kid off the platform and instead he shrieked and screamed and then punched me in the face.   Three coaches ran from their respective groups and stood by as he screamed and flailed in my arms.   We walked away and one of the coaches ran up to me and said, “this really isn’t working out.  We think its best if you don’t return to class. M is really too old for this class, anyway.” I got home to an email saying we had been “withdrawn” from our usual class.

For dance class, this happened as well just a couple weeks ago. I wrote about not fitting into dance a while back so that seemed inevitable.  The teacher was a bad fit for M.  She was the stressy/anxious type and that tends to be his worst match.   She send a kind but firm email saying we were not welcome to attend any more classes. Saying, “I’ve found that the energy has channeled itself into something beyond my skills.” I agree with her assessment of the situation. But I really wonder that why, since I knew it wasn’t working, did I push it?

I was super sad yesterday feeling a bit defeated.  We had a rough few days around the house, too.  I was giving way too many “time-ins” and not in a “hey, we need a break together” kind of way but in a very punitive way.  That’s the thing, about FASD.  It is so much less about the way the child is acting and so much more about the way people around them are acting. If I want M’s behavior to change, I have to change the way I do things.  As we in say in the FASD parenting world, you have to think “neurobehaviorally”.  This basically means adjusting the environment for success. It also means not punishing/disciplining children for things that they can’t do.  For instance, M really struggles with impulse control. It is not my job to punish him when he hits but instead to avoid putting him into situations that allow him to act on those impulses.

I cannot expect him to behave in a overstimulating environment.  That’s unfair, he can’t.

My FASD parenting support group had some great suggestions and good support.  It turns out group lessons are a really hard thing for many/most of our kids.  They reminded me to adjust my expectations and to look for classes for kids with special needs or just to do private lessons.

 

*The Alert Program is one of the proven intervention for helping Executive Functioning for FASD.   It has also been shown to actually help grow frontal gray matter in the brain to practice these skills.

Nash, Kelly Jennifer. Improving Executive Functioning in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Using the Alert Program for Self Regulation®. Diss. University of Toronto, 2012.

Soh, Debra W., et al. “Self-regulation therapy increases frontal gray matter in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: evaluation by voxel-based morphometry.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 9 (2015): 108.

 

trying to categorize and analyze the meltdown

So after many weeks of really good sleep, last night was ROUGH.  In fact, M woke up around 11pm having a BIG meltdown. This was like the meltdowns he used to have as a young toddler in which he wants everything and nothing at the same time.  Except now he has words. It sounded like high pitched screaming combined with phrases like, “gimme some spaaaaace!”, “don’t leave me!”, “I need my Bubbie (blanket)!”, “I don’t like Bubbie!”, “I need agua!”, “I don’t like agua!”, etc. and those phrases are spoken in rapid fire succession. It is nonsensical and I feel helpless for how to help him.

My mathematician side needs/likes to categorize meltdowns. I pretty much use the same scale as hurricane categorizations.  This one was a  category 4, but mostly because of the length – 2 hours ish. It was only a 3 in severity. We’ve never had a category 5, I am saving that for a really special situation. Plus, then I can still say, “it could be worse.”

http://www.whitehoskinscook.com/img/~www.whitehoskinscook.com/pictures/blog/hurricane-categories.gif

The scary thing was that we aren’t even in hurricane season.  I mean we’ve had a little rain here and there and an occasional afternoon thunderstorm and definitely some overall cloudy days.  This caught us totally off guard.  I should have seen this coming, and from what I can guess is the cause, it was my fault.   There was really just too much change this week.  A special event at school. I was away this past weekend. And the icing on the cake: we went out on Wednesday night and left the kids with a babysitter. They had a great time with the sitter but M was slightly off schedule.  Yesterday (Thursday), he was in a very rough mood, literally running into walls, me and M2 just to blow off a little steam.   He gets this look on his face and I know it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay out of his way. That’s pretty much what I did last night. I didn’t work very hard to help him release the tension in a productive way. I cooked a meal for dinner that was a gamble whether he would eat or not.  I lost.  I should have probably had him do some sensory work.  It’s easy to think back and give a list of “should haves.” He went to bed hungry, irritable and overly tired.  3 hours later, he was up screaming and totally dyregulated.

I did try some new methods for helping to bring M out of the meltdown. I had some success with this.  One of the techniques I learned at Dr. Chasnoff’s seminar a few weeks ago was to ask questions that activate the other parts of the brain during that “fight or flight” meltdown phase.  It definitely seemed to help.  I think I need to keep practicing this technique because a few of the questions that I asked seemed to send him reeling but overall successful.

I am thankful that this doesn’t happen as often as it did in the past and I am hopeful that we all get a good night’s rest tonight.