I don’t know what is going on in M’s head right now but she’s not in her happy place, that’s for sure.
The darker mornings are definitely helping her not to get out of bed so early, which is a real blessing in the half term. However, anything – and I mean anything – I try to get her to do, from eating to getting dressed, has been met with piercing screams. Sadly she has also been like to this to B, which isn’t great for either his sensitive ears or his nerves. I’ve been realising that he takes her sudden noisy mood changes to heart more than is healthy, BUT, and this is important, he still cannot resist winding her up. He really should know better by now.
Anyhow, I thought getting everyone around the table for a delicious brunch of eggy bread might settle her, and it did for about half an hour. The screaming began again over something that was so insignificant it can’t even be called anything, and I stepped in. M was sobbing, and no cuddle was enough to comfort her. I suggested she might try and draw what was the matter, as it as helped in the past. To be honest I wasn’t expecting her to agree as she has been spectacularly resistant to anything she perceives as a demand, but she headed for the kitchen to find pencil and paper. She drew this.
It broke my heart to see she labelled herself as bad. I’m not daft enough to think that sad wouldn’t have been on her list, but it hurts when your child is so desperately unhappy.
Part of me is immensely proud that she was able to draw and write how she was feeling so accurately. There was no way I could get any more than a shrug from her in conversation so to be able to locate and then articulate her emotions on paper is a huge step. It also shows how visual she is, all that information was locked up in a child who couldn’t verbalise one word of it.
I reassured her that she is not bad, she might do “bad” things like throwing and hitting but that does not make her bad. I asked her if she wanted to draw things that would help her feel better, and she went off meekly to comply. Two “demands” in a row and she coped with them, a small breakthrough.
This was her wish list. The top people are friends (not specified) and the bottom three are her siblings currently at home. On the right as you look at the picture is a TV and a sofa – her DVD viewing all sorted out.
She was able to explain that she thought her siblings didn’t love her, which they do, but they had all shut her out today (realistically because she was driving them nuts) so I went with her to ask for a hug from each of them. Then I reluctantly let her watch a DVD. I have been trying to wean her off too much screen time but faced with such an obvious plea I would have felt utterly heartless doing anything else.
The remainder of the day has been slightly easier. She got the play dough out after the DVD and was busy for ages making biscuits and cakes. I think the sensory feel of it is calming for her. Then we had a lovely Skype conversation with her big sister which left her laughing and happy. The visual side of Skype really engages her. She still hates the telephone.
I do wonder if she is struggling to process the change between school and holiday time. She was in a state for several weeks after the summer holiday, and now we have similar behaviour. She would choose in a heartbeat to be at home rather than at school but she is not good at the switch, and it seems to be getting harder rather than easier.
Right now she is asleep, and with any luck she will have a peaceful night. Tomorrow is another day. Clean slate time.
I thought long and hard before deciding to share the photo in this post about whether M would be upset if she saw it. The aim of my blog when I’m talking about autism and sensory issues is to share our experiences and anything that might help other people in the same situation. I decided M would like to think that other people with extreme sensory difficulties would be pleased if they got some ideas from what helps her, so I have justified this post that way.
Anyway, this all happened a week ago. It was Monday and the school had their sponsored walk to raise money for the Parent Council. My heart sinks when I hear the word “sponsor” as for people like us with no family nearby it basically means “put your hand in your pocket” but in this case I was more concerned that M would refuse to do the walk – she’s fine and happy to run about for hours on the beach, or to bounce for ages on the trampoline, but getting her actually walk anyway can be fraught with stress. The plan for the Junior class was to walk just over 2.5 miles to the local lighthouse, have a picnic there and a play on the rocks (how do you risk assess that eh?) and then walk back to school.
Luckily it was a clear sunny day and I left her at school looking cheerful about the prospect of a day outside.
As it was the last Monday in the month it was also her monthly additional needs drama club in town 40 miles away so I needed to pick her up half an hour earlier than school ends, something that is written into her plan. She came out smiling but I could tell she was weary.
It was hot in the car and she took off her jumper after some persuasion. As I have a classic Land Rover there are no air bags in the front and as a treat I let her ride up front with me. She is just as safe there strapped in and with her booster seat than in the back, in fact possibly more so as she is always more relaxed and sits in her seat instead of trying constantly to lean forward to reach me.
I had to open the windows and the sunroof to let some air in, but it does make it noisier. She was struggling and I passed her the ear defenders. Then she put her fleece back on. She was desperately unsettled and asked for her blanket. This is not her weighted blanket (which I have taken on longer journeys) but rather a length of pink fleece that I keep in the car for occasions like this.
Even thought it was far too warm she draped the fleece around her and tucked herself in a cocoon. Then she tried to tip her head back. I shifted the seat but then her neck wasn’t comfortable, so my fleece got rolled up as a pillow.
Finally I thought she was getting somewhere but she was still quite frantic under all the covers. I tentatively brought out my last weapon, the dreaded dummy (soother if you’re American). She took it gratefully and sank into a sort of trance for about thirty minutes.
I know there is a lot of controversy about the use of dummies, and especially in a child of M’s age. All I can say is that her dentist thinks this is preferable to teeth-grinding so sometimes at night when M is particularly stressed, one of these is produced and she calms enough to sleep. I don’t use them often, and I’ve never used one in broad daylight before but it definitely did the trick.
By the time we arrived at the theatre, she was calm and rested enough to face an hour of drama with no fuss or anxiety. I am still astounded that she preferred to be bundled up on a hot day in several layers of fleece (although fleece is her very favourite texture) but I could see that if I had tried to dissuade her from any of the calming measures she needed, the drive would probably have been very different, and not in a good way. She was physically drained but she was able to recharge happily and enjoy her class.
However, I am seriously thinking about buying her some sensory chews from a website. A dummy is not a great look for an eight year old!