OH MY GOSH!!!! It has been a WILD couple of days. Parenting a child with special needs, especially sensory processing disorder, can be QUITE a roller coaster!
Yesterday we tried, failed, tried again, almost failed again and then successfully went to the pool. Would that it were as simple as the description. No. Stomping, screaming, crying, door slamming, issuing ultimatums, hiding swimming suits – and that was just ME! haha! Just kidding. It wasn’t me.
Sensory processing disorder CAN/MIGHT include difficulty managing transitions and new experiences. Little Miss becomes very anxious at the opportunity for a new experience. We haven’t been to the swimming pool for over a year. But she has always LOVED to swim, so yesterday when she said she wanted to do something fun; I offered the pool. She enthusiastically replied yes! New bathing suit on, towels in the bag, ready to go. If I could have walked out the door RIGHT THEN I think we would have made it without incident. Maybe.
But I could not. We were having our family dinner first, so we sat down. Well “WE” might be an overstatement. Everyone else was at the table already so Little Miss and I were the missing members. But I was the only one who sat down. She ran to her room, yelling, ripped off her suit, got dressed and carried on in her room for the entirety of the dinner “hour”. This is not a disobedient little brat. This is a stressed out child with no neural pathways for processing transition.
The same thing can happen with any transition – she was going to visit a friend today for a while. She had never been to this friend’s house alone, although we’d gone there together numerous times. So it was another outburst of refusing to go, being angry, etc.
Schedule schedule schedule and
structure structure structure and
preparation preparation preparation are the keys to survival.
Advance planning is key. When she knows what is coming next she can handle it much better than if I launch a surprise attack. This alone doesn’t work, but it helps. Structure is very important – we do the “same” things every day at the “same” time. It might not look like it on the clock, but in terms of sequence and approximate time, we are doing things the same way daily. For instance, she has to get dressed before she can get on the computer. We have to brush her teeth and comb her hair before we go outside, etc. We do those things every morning after waking. Before bed we get a drink of water, put on jammies, brush teeth and have a bedtime story. We do our chores in the morning and do something fun in the afternoon.
Preparation looks more like this: Sometimes I get photos of things so she can remember she was there before. I take photos of her with every one of her doctors, with smiles on both their faces so when we have to go for an appointment she can look at the picture and remember what that person looks like. Or we talk through what an experience will be like: “Remember Suzie’s staircase that goes up to her room? Remember her pink bed? Remember when you were on her swing in the backyard?” and that helps. Regarding the pool, we had taken a bike ride around that pool a week ago. I offered to drive by the pool to see it first.
She left her school of 7 years this spring and attended a new school for summer school. She’ll begin at the junior high in August. That’s a lot of big transitions. Yes, they are all buildings, but the staff is completely different at each. The floor plans are different, the structure is different, the kids are different. LOTS of change, lots of transition. I believe her anxiety over junior high is causing some of these meltdowns this summer. We’ve visited the junior high. She has met the teachers, she has photos of the staff and a little book about the school. We’ve done what we can, but she is still anxious.
I also have to prepare me. I have to go to bed at night and remind myself that we can get through another day. I can stay unemotional in the midst of all her emotion. I can be the calm for her storm. I can weather her storm. I can remind myself that this too shall pass, and I can look at her meltdown for what it is: a child whose brain will not help her cross the bridge from point A to point B. Her brain has bailed out on her – it is a frozen computer screen and she has no CTRL + ALT + DELETE keys.
Personally? I hold on to God – I don’t know any other way to get through this life but with the grace of God through Jesus. I’d be a wreck without Him! I still cry, I still get exhausted but ultimately I know she is HIS child much more than mine and he’ll help me parent her.