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3 year old with aggessive rages: To evaluate or not?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
This post is primarily directed toward parents of children who are intensely spirited who have considered or gone down the path of an evaluation. (Please note, we are not a family who will use any physical means of consequences/punishment. To date, we have not tried any token reinforcement systems such as a star chart, sticker chart, etc. though if need be, we are not opposed to it.)

I am trying to determine if I should take my three year old child in for an evaluation. This level of aggressive behavior has been present for about two months.

My son can go from zero to sixty over situations such as requests to wash his hands, use the bathroom, etc. Basically, non-preferred requests. His rages involve a great degree of physical aggression (directed mostly toward me or my husband) and, while the actions are not hard - that is, they do not really hurt - they are very directed. When he rages it looks like the following: Pre-warning of request is made: "In 5 minutes, it will be time to use the bathroom". Time reminders are delivered in a non-emotional voice at three and one minute's time. When the five minutes are up he is given the choice to walk by himself or with me/my husband. (Even if we have tried to assist the transition by helping him find "safe" places for his current project, talking about the next fun activity that will follow the non-preferred task the following scenario will still occur.) This is when he screams and comes at me/my husband - hitting, kicking and spitting. He is permitted to take a break should he not desire to engage in the request but once aggressions have occurred he is instructed to take a time-out in his room. He will usually go to his room (a positive) but will continue to rage (screaming, kicking furniture) for 15 minutes to an hour. No amount of talking helps at this point. He has demonstrated he needs the space to "rage" until he is done. At which point, me/my husband goes in a checks in with him. We talk about what happened, what a safer choice would have been and practice calming techniques. We always model the following language, "When you hurt someone, you can say 'I'm sorry.' or 'Are you okay?' He usually chooses one of the phrases but apologies are never required.

On a good day, he usually has two episodes and on a bad, closer to six. I taught in early intervention rooms prior to obtaining my teaching license and taught a primary (K-2) behavior classroom for years before having my own children. I have read many a book and think my approach is solid and grounded. (Not that I am perfect but I feel like the manner in which I am addressing his needs is not the heart of the issue.) I provide clear boundaries, an appropriate level of choice, positive redirection, lots of cuddle time, etc.

We have had no big changes that have triggered this behavior. HOWEVER he did stop napping consistently around the time of the increased rages but I have tried everything possible to make naps happen and it is not working or worth it. Any quiet time or nap time is now met with more raging - lasting one hour typically. He has very developed linguistic skills. His diet contains a very limited amount of sugar. For example, he is allowed three vegan fig newtons per day if he remembers to ask. We get outside a lot and spend the majority of the day outside if possible. He has always been an intensely spirited child who has gone through three other phases of aggression. This one is more intense (perhaps because he is three?) in the degree of aggressions - approximately 20-25 on a bad day - and the duration that the episodes last. When he did attend daycare for a short while he did display similar intense behaviors yet not the level of aggression as that was not at the time he was in an aggressive phase.

Although this has been a very long post, I know as a specialist I would still have many clarifying questions. Here is my question: What would you do? Would you seek an Early Intervention evaluation? Would you look at diet? Would you just wait it out and appreciate that this could just be an intense child learning where the boundaries lie? Please advise.
post #2 of 13
I would definitely seek an evaluation. Knowledge is power. You can choose what to do with the information you get from the evaluation. I felt relief when I finally got my older son evaluated and had my questions answered. I felt relief when I was evaluated and diagnosed as a teenager, and wished that it had been done earlier in my life. I think that your concerns are valid and should be investigated by a professional.
Good luck!
post #3 of 13
What does you gut tell you?

It sounds to me like you're leaning toward an evaluation. Remember that an evaluation is just that. You can then have information that will help you determine whether the best course of action is to wait and see, to work on some skills or to try something else.
post #4 of 13
Evaluation and diet. Trust your gut.
post #5 of 13
You are clearly both an involved/caring mom AND a mom who has experience in the area of early development... I would not disregard your gut concerns. Go ahead and get an evaluation... the information you gain (even if no issues are discovered) can only help!

As an aside, my DD (now almost 5) dropped most of her naps around 3 years of age. She DID nap at daycare/preschool most days, but NEVER at home for us (which was 4 days out of the week, including weekends). For literally 8 months, part of each day at home was built around giving her a "car nap". She usually fell asleep reliably in the car if we started driving between noon and 1:00, and we'd just drive around for between 1.5 and 2 hours. This was a pretty big imposition on our days home (and family time) not to mention expensive since it was right around when gas was at its most expensive... but was a VERY needed choice in our family. Her behaivor/mood/cooperation were SO vastly improved with the sleep it was worth it. Will you DS fall asleep in the car? not that there isn't possibly something else going on, but maybe he is just in the "between" stage where he isn't going to voluntarily nap, but still needs the sleep. Have you tried adjusting his bedtime earlier to make up some of the no-nap deficit? my DD does NOT sleep later in the morning when she is very tired from the day before (or from a late bedtime) but WILL go down earlier if she is tired. For example, she JUST gave up her 1 hour nap per day at pre-k (in our district, they have to offer nap until kindergarten and she has always slept well in school settings) and to deal with the exhaustion and wild behavior after school time, we've had to move from putting her in bed around 7:40 (and her falling asleep by 8) to putting her in bed at 7:15 (and her falling asleep almost before we leave the room at 7:20).
post #6 of 13
We have a very "spirited" 3 year old (spirited isn't even the word...she has some horrible rages that can go on for hours and are very aggressive and destructive). We had her evaluated, but we knew what the problem was. She has reactive attachment disorder with selective mutism, and her evaluation confirmed that (as well as showed that she falls on the autism spectrum, but possibly only becaues her RAD/SM causes some pretty severe social delays and issues that mimic autism really well.

We also took all artificial anything and all refined sugar out of her diet and have seen some positive changes.

So I would definately go for an evaluation...if for no other reason but to get some help on how to work through the rages.
post #7 of 13
We are dealing with a lot of the same issues. We have decided to go for the testing. Our LO needs our help and we need help to know how to help him. Hopefully soon we have some news! Good luck to you guys!
post #8 of 13
It could be nothing or it could be something. Its hard to tell just from one post. What I can say though is my son was like that at 3 and it just got worse and worse until he was suicidal and so aggressive that I couldn't be left alone with him by 6.5. He was diagnosed at 7 with bipolar disorder and now that is mostly stabilized on meds it is like a completely different child. He will never be "normal", he will always struggle, but I can't even imagine life if we hadn't sought help for him. We didn't seek help for him until after he got incredibly severe at age 6.5, I wish we had done it sooner. Good luck to you.
post #9 of 13
You just described my oldest when he was, oh, 20months to age 3.5 or so, peaking between 2-3 and still lingering until nearly age 5.

The techniques you're using are exactly what we did, and he responded very well to them. But it was a long process. He still raged. He was never physical towards us, but instead he self injured and/or was destructive. If I kept my calm and utilized the techniques you described, then I could either prevent a rage, or I could help bring one to and end after only 5-15 minutes vs the hour plus that it used to last.

When the behaviors were still happening inconsistently close to age 5, I decided that they were no longer "normal" and that there had to be an underlying cause. I met with his preschool teacher and the school OT and described everything about Ian from birth on. The school had started to note fine motor issues and some inconsistent attention issues. We discovered after putting the whole puzzle together, that most of his behaviors were stemming from deep-pressure sensory-seeking. It all made sense! So his school started putting him in a pressure vest, or allowing him to be on the ball, having him do taco rolls, etc before fine motor tasks, and we saw an immediate result. But the behaviors at home didn't stop.

So I cut gluten. Within a week the behaviors stopped. No more aggression, no more anger, no more "quick temper". He listens, he's calmer, he sleeps better. He no longer requires the pressure vest at school even.

Now we've had some other symptoms emerge, like he's now highly emotional, will cry at the littlest thing (very unlike him). He also occassionally pees with surprising frequency (like 4 or more times in an hour). I'm not sure what's causing those...I'm assuming that it's something in trying to balance the new foods he's eating, but I'm watching closely.

If I had known about Early Intervention before he was 3, I would have put him in. The techniques from the book Raising Your Spirited Child were very helpful to me. But it was the gluten that finally stopped the behaviors.
post #10 of 13
it's hard to tell from one post, but there is enough concerning info that I'd vote to evaluate, just because when a little one is so unhappy that much of the time, I think you have to hunt for answers. you've put a lot of thought into this so far, but since the problem persists, IMO it's time to inform yourself with some outside opinions.
post #11 of 13
Seek an evaluation by all means, though it might be hard getting one if he is that volatile.

I had my DS evaluated for his agressiveness and other issues, and he is mildly SPD. But what has helped more than anything else, right now, is using Native Remedies homeopathic "BrightSpark" and "TulaTantrumTamer." I mean for real!!!

My mom is into that stuff, but the other night before leaving she said, "There are some pills in that container on the counter, if he gets out of hand give them to him." My DS was being very mean and aggressive to his little sister next morning. I mean really....nas--ty. I am really skeptical, or I was about mom and her little white pills, but not anymore. Five...maybe six minutes later the difference between what he had been to what he was, was phenomenal [not sure about that spelling.]!

And mom said he was wonderful all day!

These little pills are expensive, even my mom comments about that, but what is the value of your child? And the price of medical expenses, etc..

Anyway, it is an idea. And yes, I know the ingredients that went into making the original mother tincture. I know taken in large doses they could kill, but these are minute infinitesimal doses and they help rather than harm. My DS is 4.
post #12 of 13
Evaluate! My son is almost 5 and we are dealing with a very dangerous child right now. He has been diagnosed bipolar and we are researching medication. It is okay to evaluate and not follow through with recommendations if you gut tells you not to. For us it has become a safety issue for the whole family. I also think you get to a point where you have tried everything and need to look for a physiological reason for the behaviors. If you want to work with diets and supplements by all means do, but it won't work for everyone, it hasn't for my son.
post #13 of 13
I agree with pp, could be nothing and could be something, and also with the suggestions that you both look at diet and consider evaluation. Neither are invasive or irreversible interventions, and both can give you valuable information and potential solutions. You are describing my son at the age of 3 (prior to this he was a very laid-back non-temperamental child). Now he is 7, and we delayed a long time, lulled into a false sense of security by well-meaning friends who, trying to be supportive, assured us that this was typical behaviour for boys. (In our case it wasn't.)

Diet worked wonders for us in terms of eliminating the aggression (we used the FAILSAFE diet to determine what he was reacting to). He still displays dyspraxic and mild ADHD symptoms so we are going forward with an evaluation (just done), further supplementation and "brain-training" exercises.

Good for you for getting on it. We delayed a long time, lulled into a false sense of security by well-meaning friends who, trying to be supportive, assured us that this was typical behaviour for boys. (In our case it wasn't.)

Good luck!
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