My husband loves to fish. Loves it. It has been a joy to see him take our oldest son fishing. They always seem to truly connect and have fun. The whole day usually provides the right sensory input my son craves.
He is 5 and has mild SPD. What this means to me is that we try to give him the heavy lifting he loves and we try to predict what will cause a meltdown. We try. And a lot of time, he is very centered. And then lately there have been some huge meltdowns.
Ironically I feel like I’m the one who is learning. If I remain calm, focus on getting him organized, we can usually figure it out. Not so easy when he’s trying to lash out physically, I’m by myself, and my 2 year old is screaming and clinging to my leg. Ah, but last weekend was 3 glorious days with 2 parents. Man on man defense that has become so critical during a major meltdown.
On Saturday the whole family went fishing. This was a big experience for everyone. A lot if times it is a new experience that drains Tegan. He still naps sometimes. Having a little brother on the boat and using a new pole and 2 parents giving directions was a lot.
He kept himself focused throughout it all … until the ride home. That is when he started yanking on a rogue car sear strap. I tried to verbally redirect his disorganized energy into looking out the window, singing, talking, kicking his feet, anything so he wouldn’t whip that strap at his brother. No such luck. Of course I was out of gum, food, and drinks. So we pulled the truck and boat over.
I got out and relied on my “MacGyver OT skills” to try and get him out of his flailing maniacal state. I pulled dandelions from the ditch and had him blow the seeds into the air (trying to engage his oral center to calm him). I held his hands and pulled him close and pushed him away (trying to give proprioceptive and vestibular input). He tried to do chair pushups (proprioceptive). I got him out and held him. (good old fashioned Mamma input). The energy continued. I thought “yeah most parents would be firmly commanding him to stop. Not trying to give him the right input”.
Then I spotted a water bottle under the seat! I yanked it out like it was some sort of emergency medical device while telling my husband what i was doing (as if he was my paramedic partner.) We were calm and going to help this boy make it home! I quickly dumped the water on the dandelions and handed Tegan the empty bottle. “Here!!” I said with enthusiasm. “See if you can crush this … And then blow it back up.” I had no idea if he could even do it. I jumped back into my seat and my husband pulled the truck onto the road. He assumed we still needed to hit the store for gum. Once I heard Tegan exclaim “Look Mommy, I did it!” I knew we were ok to go straight home. He proceeded to crush that thing and blow it back into shape for the next 20 minutes until we got home. Clearly he needed to work out all that stimulation from fishing.
I felt a sense of accomplishment for gently helping him find what he needed in that moment and knowing he just needed help, not a directive. SPD has taught me that most if the time when my son is behaving out of bounds, he has a need, and my job is to help him find it. As one if my mentors said “Watch him closely. He will show you what he needs.” And so I will continue my job as a sensory detective until he can find the magic on his own.