Today was a rough one. There were meltdowns galore, and he was in a love/hate relationship with Mommy all day long. During the course of his last year of therapy, it has become apparent that my Little Spidermonkey has a SPD element(Sensory Processing Disorder) with his autism. More specifically, he is hyposensative. For him, this causes him not to process or “feel” pain in the way most of us do and he sometimes needs sensory input to subside or avoid meltdowns. It also makes it hard for him to judge what is too rough when playing with others. He hits when he plays…hard. Through weeks of positive reinforcement of what “Okay patting and playing” is and saying “We don’t hit” while holding his hands down to his side, I’ve finally gotten him to stop play hitting and banging his head on things. When he’s angry, he’ll still pat, but nothing like the MMA smack down he was giving. He’s a big boy. He’s only two, but he’s easily the size of an average four-year-old. Getting a grip on his SPD was a matter of being the sooner the better.
Sensory input for my little guy comes in the form of hugging and giving gentle, but firm compressions on his arms and legs. As far as SPD goes, I feel fortunate. I have a child with autism who needs hugs, and I am a hugger. We are a perfectly paired duo. If I catch his frustration soon enough, I can sometimes avoid a meltdown altogether by quickly applying this technique. It gives him time out for his mind to catch up with his place in the room and his current activity. It also allows him a mental time out to calm down and let go of building frustration. SPD can affect children and adults in many different ways. It can affect many different senses or just one. For hypersensative individuals, sights, sounds or even light touch might overwhelm them. Knowledge is power, but with a two and a half year old, even the best knowledge sometimes just is not enough to make every day a stellar day. …and that is okay.
In our struggle to guide our superheroes through this spectrum adventure, we need to understand that we are human. They are also(but don’t tell the Spidermonkey I said that). No one is perfect. Despite our best efforts, there will be mortifying meltdowns while you’re trying to use a public restroom and your sympathetic neurotypical infant will scream simply because her brother is. People will look at you like you’re killing them both. Life happens that way sometimes. Take a breath, muster a smile and love the moment with all your heart. I can’t promise that there is a magic recipe for spectrum toddler wrangling, but I can promise that the bad moments pass. By the end of the night, my superhero was “rawr”ing at Lion King and issuing group hugs for everyone. As for your superhero’s supersized meltdowns, just remember, “This too shall pass”.