Sensory overload is my son’s biggest obstacle to staying calm and focused. He objects to the quantity of “kids, voices, and touching” at school. Overstressed at school, he acts out later at home.
Several weeks ago, Tyoma’s case manager and I improved his schedule. We reduced his five day a week double kindergarten to four days. He stays home midweek, on Wednesdays.
A full day provides both Tyoma and me with structure and routine. By adding a restorative hump day, our week flows smoothly. Aggression, irritability and mischief still arise, but the intensity is easier for us to control.
Now we need to conquer Tyoma’s second biggest obstacle to staying calm and focused.
I view off-Wednesday s as a celebration, a splendid occasion for fun. We’ve surveyed the airport, explored forests, rode skyscraping elevators, performed multiplication gymnastics, and experimented endlessly with gooey household substances.
I am an inferno of excitability. My zest infects Tyoma. If he is anxious, we tempt the Meltdown Gods. Wrapped up in the excitement of an adventure, I lose sight of my little passenger. I don’t realize trouble is afoot until the point of no return looms.
I need an enthusiasm detector hardwired to my person. A device with an air horn to alert me when I am waaay too jazzed. At home, my husband gives me “take it down a notch” hand signals. In fact, my collage stems from a scolding I received over a recent singing and finger snapping extravaganza near Tyoma’s bedtime.
A two part plan helps me modulate myself.
First, I take a big, deep breath when I see something thrilling. I took Tyoma for a walk to the local pond earlier this week only to discover it brimmed with tadpoles. When I saw their fat bobbly bodies waggling in the water, I almost shrieked with joy.
No hyperbole. The wail was in my throat.
I love toads, frogs and tadpoles. Witnessing a joggling throng of pre-toads was like losing thirty pounds overnight (for me, at least!). I caught myself, kept quiet and discretely toe-walked. I am proud of this, because I yearned to holler “OMG! TADPOLES, TADPOLES!!!” and spin in circles.
I am building self-awareness.
I know I do this. This knowledge gives me extra braking power–a split second to silence myself. This brings me to my next coping strategy—enlisting my son.
Future happy moments will catch me by surprise, so I’ve asked my son to alert me when I forget myself. We have a hand signal and a phrase to help me reduce my volume.
Over the weekend, I burst out in song (yay, I’m cooking pork chops!). Tyoma asked me to “take it down a notch.” This was an improvement over him flushing a cup of Legos down the toilet.
I may still whoop, hoot, dance and startle the unsuspecting. I am, however, working on curbing myself when Tyoma is anxious. Together, I foresee much progress!
Digital elements by Tangie Baxter and Tumblefish Studio.