We finally did it. After reading suggestions since before his diagnosis to keep a behavior diary, at 4 1/2, months after we halted OT, after starting school, after maturing and growing, we finally did it. I busted out an excel spreadsheet, tucked the pages into a report cover, and hung a pen on the side.
We scribbled in the car, after he was in bed, at the dinner table. I wrote down when he hit me, and when he just shouted instead. We jotted down what he ate, and how much, except for his school meals, since we don’t see him there. I nagged poor husband to fill out what went on while I was at work. He sighed, scribbled, sighed some more.
And finally it was done. I set it aside for a few days, and Monday afternoon, bed bound by my cleaning frenzy of the morning, I read it all. Soon we’ll take what we learned and see what we can shift in our lives to help calm, support, and treat our son. This is what we found:
As everyone knows, sleep is a huge factor in mood and behavior. If the kid doesn’t sleep, the kid is aggresive and hyper. The nights when Simon woke up around 2 am preceded days with more violent behavior. No surprise there.
I realized that he eats a very high percentage of processed carbs in his diet. Crackers, snack mix, cereal, bread, and more bread. These things aren’t necessarily bad, but we need to cut it back, and increase the protein he eats. Especially in the morning.
Compression works better than other proprioceptive input when he’s nearing or in a meltdown. He prefers heavy work type activities, but it was the compression that helped him the most in the bad moments. When we could manage to squeeze him, to get him under his weighted blanket, or get him squished in our couch cushions, he mellowed out more than when he pushed our bodies, jumped on his bed, or played tug of war. He certainly needs those other activities frequently, but in the heat of the moment, compression is the best bet.
Simon’s tactile defensiveness is currently sky high. He had gotten better about over the last six months, but lately he’s been stripping at the slightest bit of water on his skin, shoving my face away when I try to kiss his check, and slapping my arm if I touch his hair. I think this is huge sign that he’s just overloaded in general.
Now that he’s older and has more control of himself and his response to sensory input, our response to him is starting to have an affect on his behavior. When he feels like he’s being forced into something, he fights. If we sigh, raise our voices, or give any hint of exasperation or anger, he stiffens, shouts, and often fights. The good news is, he’s getting more control of his system. The bad news is, we have to stay calm in order for him to succeed, and calm is not a great strength for either of us.
We do too much with our son. We’ve known that one thing a day is the best for him, but when we wrote it all out, it hit how much he actually does each day. He missed his quiet time one day of our recorded week, and sure enough, that evening, he was a violent little monster. And it was our schedule that did it to him. We need to get more serious about “one thing.”
The most difficult things for Simon are transitions, dinner, and bedtime. We might be able to use a simplified version of the strategy in The Explosive Child book to help with dinner and bedtime, working out a method, transition tool, or something that Simon will agree with that might help him move on to sitting at dinner and starting his bedtime routine without bruising his parents. He’s terrible at problem solving, but hopefully we can find a way to talk with him or play with him that will help us figure out what will work for him. And transitions in general, well, that’s what I hope the professionals can help us with.
It’s a long list of big issues, some expected, some not, and all of it requires more work for us. It’s worth it, of course, but we have to be realistic about what we can truly do. It’s a great wealth of insight from one week of journaling, and I would suggest to everyone, don’t wait like we did! Do it early, and do it often. As Simon matures, shifts, grows, and changes, and as our family and environment does too, it makes sense to pick up the pen and spreadsheet again, and see what our son’s daily life has to tell us.