Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Afternoon meltdowns... What now?

Since starting preschool, D has been experiencing increased anxiety and meltdowns in the afternoon. Preschool is a busy, stimulating and work-filled environment, so it isn't really a surprise to me. What is surprising is that none of our tried and true methods for calming his over-stimulated nerves are working, in fact they are making things worse.

Here I am, every morning, fighting his tears and trying to pretend that I'm not sad too. He is having preschool anxiety and so am I, and I have no idea what to do about it. 

Right now, I feel like this school is the best place for him to be. He needs the social practice with adults and with kids his own age. He needs the practice with writing, colors, his letters, and everything else cognitive related. He also needs the occupational therapy and speech therapy which he is hopefully going to be approved to get as well. Right now he is less than 50% understandable to most strangers. Not like that's so horrible. Some kids don't even really speak and they're his age or older. There are a few I have seen in this situation, so I'm not really making a comparison to other kids.

I'm just saying, he could be better and he needs this school to help him get there. As much as he loves me and loves to be at home, we were about to kill each other. He needs variety and room to move and things to be constantly changing and stimulating him in exciting ways. Even if I was Super-Mom and had a magical Mary Poppins-style bag with endless games and things in it to keep him occupied, I still would not be able to meet all of his needs here at home. That's why he needs the school.  

On a side note: How awesome would that bag be to have?! And I would also like to be able to snap my fingers and clean everything up when we were through.

I know he enjoys school because he tells me all about it when I pick him up in the afternoon. I bring him a "special treat" as a reward for being such a brave boy and going to school when he didn't want to. It's usually a package of fruit snacks or a juice box, but it's just enough. He tells me all about his fun day at school and I feel pretty good about it. 

Then we get home ... and our afternoon takes a turn for the screaming, crying, sobbing, epic meltdown of yesteryear. Oh yes, hello Captain Freakout. I thought we'd seen the last of you.

This brings up a few questions: If D is doing so well at school, why is he having such a hard time 1) leaving in the morning? and 2) regulating once he is home? What am I supposed to do about this? How can our family possibly function with D so upset that he is literally crying, screaming and throwing an all-out fit for nearly 3 hours every day after school.?

The answer is eluding me. I keep thinking it's somehow just lurking in a corner and all I have to do is look at something from a different angle or just keep trying until I find the solution, but how much longer can the rest of us survive these hours of terror? What am I supposed to do?

I took a video of only 17 minutes of one of these meltdowns where for the majority of the time he was in obvious high-irritation from sensory overload. That's only a fraction of the entire length of that meltdown... the full thing lasted over an hour.

He responds well to some things sometimes, but then the next time you try that thing, it's literally like torture. He actually cries at you and screams like he's in pain and is saying "Owie! Owie! That hurts!" 

This isn't really a cry for advice, although if someone holds the magic key, then please, by all means, share! D has only responded well to changes in our afternoon routine of staying home for some "relax time." He has spent time in his own, or mine and Daddy's room, alone, where he cries, screams and otherwise throws his fit, but at least he's away from the family and whatever stimulation is bothering him most, namely everything!

What I wouldn't give to know exactly how I can help him! It is beyond frustrating. At times it's heartbreaking. I'm his mother and I should be able to know what he needs and know what to do for him. But this time, Mommy can't just make things right with a sticky bandage and a kiss. It's hard not to feel a little guilty.


  1. You're in my thoughts and prayers. I know Heavenly Father sent that darling boy to the right mommy. Hang in there.

  2. I'm going to make this for some of the kids at school to help them calm down. Take a large mason jar, fill it with water and glitter and food coloring. When they are upset they shake the jar and watch the glitter sink to the bottom. They don't get up until it's all settled. They (hopefully) learn that if you shake it up again you'll have to sit longer. It's worth a shot anyway!


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