We’re right smack dab in the middle of coronavirus, many of us already ordered to "shelter-in-place" facing frightening times that make us anxious and fearful. Raising grands makes it even more complicated as we attempt to keep everyone, including ourselves, from going bonkers as we hunker together inside a four-wall structure.
We deal with tantrums, sibling confrontations, as we rack our brains trying to think of how to keep children busy while frantically trying to hold down the fort.
Now is an opportune time, however, to patiently work with a child who has issues. After all, we have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide and are literally a captive audience.
Again, I’m not a physician or psychologist. I read, study, process, and then decide what I to do based on facts. Ever wonder why physicians do NOT like us to go to the net to get our info? My take is that we just might find alternatives that don’t include psychiatric or medical help.
So, on I trudge, not to prove anyone right or wrong but to find out what will work best for my grandchild.
After all, I know him better than anyone. I know his moods, when he’s about to explode, and the triggers that lead to explosive episodes.
After Luke's pediatrician witnessed a full-blown tantrum she suggested he see a child/family psychologist.
Although I knew I was not going to put Luke on long-term meds, I attended the appointment.
After spending some time with the psychologist she said, “First of all Luke is too young to be diagnosed and, at this time, he’s a normal rebellious three-year-old trying to become independent.”
I started thinking about the day we saw his primary physician. We were in the office for over two hours. First, a nurse came in, asked questions, took Luke's blood pressure, weight, height, and then an ear and throat check.
Fifteen minutes later, an intern appeared and repeated the exact same process, only wanting more information about Luke’s PBS diagnosis.
Twenty minutes after the intern left both Luke’s pediatrician and intern arrived and, once again, checked vitals, prodded his tummy, and looked into eyes, ears, and throat.
Next, the four of us trudged down a hallway and into the bathroom, keeping vigil over Luke as he attempted to potty. When he became irritated, I asked the pediatrician and intern leave. No matter the age no one likes to share private moments.
By the time he "performed," he’d had it. Out of the bathroom, raging down the hall screaming bloody murder as mother's peeked out closed doors trying to see who was murdering one of their children.
Most of the time was spent in an 8 x 10 room with no windows and a couple of dilapidated toys Luke had no interest in.
Frustrated, I did everything in my power to avoid erupting into my own temper tantrum.
And then I was told Luke more than likely had ADHD and ODD.
That's when I began my research.
WHAT ARE SENSORY ISSUES?
Sensory issues look a lot like ADHD and ODD. The difference is that ADHD and ODD many ties need the help of medication, whereas coping skills can be taught to deal with sensory challenges.
I’ll be honest. It takes bucketfuls of patience to remain calm as we help our “littles” discover how to cope. And consistency is a must.
You don’t have the experience to do this? Yes, you do.
Most bad choices are made under pressure, or we're too tired to think straight, or there’s just too much going on. We have learned through consequences that we need to be rested and in a calm environment to think through things before reacting or responding.
When we were raised we were sent to our rooms, paddled on the butt, or sent to bed to think about our behavior. No one had ever heard of sensory issues.
But now we’re equipped with new info and it’s up to us to help our grandchildren learn ways to cope when they become overwhelmed.
Sending a child off to school without knowing what to do when they feel overwhelmed can be handled in the privacy of our own home. Teachers do not have the time to deal with each child individually. If we don't address the problem ignoring it could lead to a child being harshly disciplined, ostracized, or ridiculed by classmates. Being left out of social functions such as not being invited to birthday parties or sleepovers has long-lasting effects and can develop into questioning self-worth, feeling not good enough, or smart enough to fit in anywhere.
Below is a partial checklist for toddlers who may have sensory issues. At the end of the list is a link for signs of older children. Remember this is only a partial list. Luke walks on his tiptoes some of the time, which is a sensory issue; he also enjoys touching simply everything when we go out in public; clothing, cans in grocery stores, etc.
Infant/ Toddler Checklist:
My infant/toddler has problems eating.
My infant/toddler refused to go to anyone but me.
My infant/toddler has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
My infant/toddler is extremely irritable when I dress him/her seems to be uncomfortable in clothes.
My infant/toddler rarely plays with toys, especially those requiring dexterity.
My infant/toddler has difficulty shifting focus from one object/activity to another.
My infant/toddler does not notice pain or is slow to respond when hurt.
My infant/toddler resists cuddling, arches back away from the person holding him.
My infant/toddler cannot calm themself by sucking on a pacifier, looking at toys, or listening to my voice.
My infant/toddler has a "floppy" body, bumps into things and has poor balance.
My infant/toddler does little or no babbling, vocalizing.
My infant/toddler is easily startled.
My infant/toddler is extremely active and is constantly moving body/limbs or runs endlessly.
My infant/toddler seems to be delayed in crawling, standing, walking or running.
Click on the link for symptoms of sensory issues for older children: .https://childmind.org/article/sensory-processing-faq/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9tbzBRDVARIsAMBplx8cumALA-SJyUIhzpa2lroaQ-TDICariyGZeMg_2o10BiEO4Fc_21kaAud4EALw_wcB
WHAT HAVE I DONE AND HAS IT MADE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes, it has made a difference although veeery slowly.
I started with, “Yes, I will get you what you want in a little bit.” The moment Luke wakes up in the morning he says, “I want xxxx." Teaching patience ranks high on the priority list. When a child with sensory issues feels they are not in control, LOOK OUT!
“I want juice,” Luke demands. I started waiting five seconds before I handed him his juice. Anger came quickly but I was not about to give in. Being in control of emotions is key.
We’ve all seen someone blow up in public, making everyone around them uncomfortable. Red faced, shouting obscenities and harsh criticism at a clerk or waitress, they are bullies we choose not to be around.
After I mastered five seconds, I upped the anti to, “I’m busy but I’ll get you that as soon as I can.”
Once a child knows you are true to your word and not being ignored they begin to learn the first step to mastering emotion.
If you respond to bad behavior your rewarding that behavior and the number one goal is to have your full attention.
However, if they’re throwing things around the room with a force that could destroy your left pupil, discipline needs to happen. I’m not above popping the butt with the palm of my hand. At eighteens-months it might be a slap on the hand but at three it takes more than a gentle pat to let them know that throwing, hitting, or biting will not be tolerated.
Fun story: When Luke woke up yesterday morning he was immediately upset when he found I was talking on the phone. He came up behind me and hit my bottom a few times. When I got off the phone I said, “Luke, remember when Nana’s on the phone it’s your turn to be quiet.”
His response: “I sorry I had to spank you, Nana.”
Notice the words “sorry” and “had.” This is what I tell him after he calms because yes, I am sorry because I don't like to spank. And I always say “had” because he wasn’t because being nice.
As much as we hate the sound of a child’s piercing cry; as much as our hearts break as tears roll down chubby cheeks, crying is the best release for anger and sorrow for young and old. Babies have cried themselves to sleep for decades learning how to self-soothe. As for my own experience crying not only releases emotions I don’t know how to release but makes me relax and tired enough to finally get some well-needed rest.
My NEXT STEP.
I purchased a tenthouse; as opposed to a penthouse. ; )
Tents come in all sizes and shapes. This one happens to be approximately 30” x 40”. They come decorated for a macho boy or a girly girl to anything in between. I paid $28.00 and encourage not look for a sensory tent as they cost more. A tent is a tent.
After his new home was upright (which was easy to put together although I let Papa Anthony Damrow, Luke’s uncle who has raised him with me since he was born do the dirty work) I filled it with sensory toys such as the Fidget Toy Set I found on Amazon. Fidget toys aren’t just for kids but for anyone who is stressed. These simple toys are designed to release negative energy into a ‘thing’ such as a squeezable ball, or a twisty, turny object and this kit has many toys including a calming toy that can be turned upside down and watch colors and shapes slowly and gracefully and glide to the bottom and then turned back over. Mesmerizing.
Has the tent helped? II was like “pinch me.” If you are part of the human race a private “you” place to be alone and work through feelings is only a must but a necessity, even if only two or three..
Lukas feels more independent. This Is his house; his "tenthouse" space that belongs to him and him alone. No one is allowed in unless asked or invited. His stuffed puppies share the space and the conversations are musical and ongoing.
My space is the garage. I actually turned the lock around so that I can lock it when I’m INSIDE the garage. This might sound strange but there are times I need to walk away for a few minutes to bring myself back to calm.
Every child is unique. We can’t change genes. If you find your grandchild needs meds to calm overwhelming feelings you can still apply techniques for sensory issues.
Environment makes a difference and we were chosen to provide the loving home that screams our grandchildren, “You are special. You are needed. And, kid, you rock!”
Whether two or in their teenage-years, it’s important we acknowledge feelings instead of saying, “grow up or get over it.”
Our grandchildren need to know no one is perfect, including them, but we are here to help them become the person they hope to be.
Please feel free to join the newly developed group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/grandsunite/
Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website at