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Sensitive, Spirited Toddler - Just Temperament, Right?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Back story:  DS is 15 months old and has always been a high needs baby/spirited toddler.  I've read Dr. Sears books and Raising Your Spirited Child - the latter helped immensely, giving me tools to help with transitions (he needs the next day's events spelled out, for example, step by step - then I remind him what's going to happen that day, in the next few hours, in the next few minutes, over and over and over - but it helps alot).  He has trouble unpacking his day at night, stopping activities, slowing his body down and settling to sleep, but we've found a routine that helps, among other things.  He's always been extremely sensitive to crowds, noise, stress, etc. and we keep our outings short.


He is extremely persistent (he was never the baby that you could redirect to another toy - he would remember and INSIST on the one he had - as a toddler, ditto for activities and everything else), intense, SUPER active, and has always (since early infancy) been easily frustrated by his limitations, exploding like a volcano.  He still needs to nurse down to sleep and needs me next to him, even for naps (which I do, because it's crucial he gets rest), though this is sloooowly improving.  He is loud, wild, and a total chatterbox all day every day.  


He is quite bright (was putting 2-3 word sentences together before 12 months) and has recently become very interested in letters, and can identify a few (totally led by him, I don't initiate or push - he points and asks, or tells me what he thinks they are, finds more of the same on a page, etc.).  He can follow complex directions.  He figured out on his own very early that keys go in locks, how to turn things on and off, can stack several thin, cylindrical blocks on top of each other without help - things like that.  So, no motor/mental delays or anything.  He is, by turns, the most serious baby anyone has ever seen and the most happy, joyful, friendly lil guy.


I could go on and on - point being, he is just very, very, VERY.


As a baby, he was super sensitive to clothing and cried and cried every time we dressed him (in soft cotton - learning how to help dress himself helps).  He can't sleep with a blanket on, he screams if he's barefoot on sand at the beach (has to wear sandals even in water) and, recently, completely loses it (purple-faced terror screaming) if water touches him.  He can play with it in the sink (loves to pour from cup to cup) and even in the bathtub if he's only in it up to his ankles - but if the shower sprayer hits him with a drop (which occasionally happens because I have to bring him in the shower with me, to avoid a certain complete and total meltdown), he loses it and can't recover.  Ditto if I pour a cup of water over him to rinse him off (even if it's just his body).  Washing hands can be a battle.


Ok, if you are still reading - I guess I'm just checking in - is this still all normal?  I think it's just his temperament - he likes to feel in control, he's very particular and sensitive - but I guess I want to make sure.  Any thoughts (or bathtime ideas)?

post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 

Should add - he gets upset about having dirty hands (or making messes) - absolutely freaks out at fingerpaint on his hands.  Things like that.

post #3 of 20

Although your DS is VERY young and it is very early to tell but it sounds like you may have a gifted child with sensory issues. He may benefit from OT. I would mention it to your pediatrician. Is he a good eater?

You may want to post this in the Parenting a Gifted Child section.

post #4 of 20

Doesn't sound normal to me. Also, the above poster said it's too early to tell but IMHO parents wait too long to get these sort of things evaluated. My nephew was diagnosed with autism. We ALL knew it a long time ago, his parents were in denial about it, though, because he was really good at puzzles and was super attentive (and had a TON of energy) and great with motor skills (walked when he was 8 months old, etc) and he was a whizz kid with his iPad and had a lot of energy so it seemed like he was just, I dont know, gifted or something? Well, he is autistic. I'm not trying to scare you into thinking your child is autistic, but what you described sounds a lot like the sort of things his parents would say were the things that made him "really smart!" but it turns out those were the very thing that led to the diagnosis.

post #5 of 20

I also want to add about the "gifted" thing. . . when one has issues in an area of life they overcompensate in other areas (even physiologically the brain does this, not even by choice, just for survival). So a child looks like he is excelling in things and then gets labeled as gifted, but in reality they are compensating for issues on the other side of things. Just because a child does -really- well in some things doesn't mean he/she is gifted.

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you both for your input!  RJ11 - yes, he is an excellent eater, with a very wide palate.


At this point, I'm really not sure what to think.  I guess I will continue to watch him.  I haven't really discussed it with the pediatrician, on either side.  We don't fully disclose all the things he's doing that seem "ahead" because when we so much as hint at it, the peds eyebrows already go up so high.  We haven't discussed his sensitivities, because up until now, I just chalked it up to being a HN kinda kid - I'm starting to wonder where the line is, though, between temperament and other things.  I don't want to overlook something, but I'm not sure if it's really that big a problem, either.  I was a pretty sensitive kid with things like the seams in my socks and textures of certain foods.


I may cross-post in Parenting a Gifted Child - that forum sometimes intimidates me (and I'm a former "gifted kid"!) for toddler issues - there is alot of flack against parents of younger children, IMO.


Thank you both!

post #7 of 20

I just started a similar thread in the Childhood forum http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1360252/what-is-the-outer-age-limit I put it there rather than here because I wanted the experience of parents with older children and similar issues. I think the replies there could help you. We face similar issues, especially the bathing thing sounds all too familiar. DS was also an intense infant and very gifted with language (he is being raised bilingual, but at 26 months is already speaking full, correct sentences including past tense and some complex grammar structures). He has just started with letters and counting....all on his own. Also very picky about clothing (at the moment he refuses to get naked at all which makes bathing that much harder) and being messy. I always wonder what is just normal toddler diva fussiness, and what is not. It's hard to say and we are still figuring it out. I need to go talk to our pediatrician too...


Anyway there is a whole range of sensory issues and there are a few good books out there....I am also looking into them, check that thread or just google or look on Amazon. (here is one site / book) In my son's case I don't believe he has full-blown SPD but is highly sensitive (as his father is) and does need special care in certain areas because of that.


I wish you the best of luck, do seek out resources and support. It is not a disease, it is actually a gift, and from what I understand it gets easier with age.

post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you, PJ!  I did read through your thread, and both my son and I score very highly on the "Highly Sensitive Person" tests someone mentioned.  I completely agree with what you said there - I'm not keen on labels or diagnoses, unless they are truly necessary - but, like you, I think it's probably time to talk to the ped.  I will look into the books as well (I'm a total bookworm, so no encouragement needed there! winky.gif).  Thank you very much!   It is hard to tell what is "normal" and what is not at this age, I think - when toddlers are still new to so many sensations and are experimenting with control anyway.  He definitely stands out from the crowd, that's for sure - but he comes by that honestly. wild.gif

post #9 of 20

We meet again, Pickle!


As a fellow mother to a spirited toddler, all of that seems perfectly normal to me!  I can see where moms with more "normal" kids might see red flags with the sensory stuff, but being highly sensitive is a characteristic of spirited kids.  I'm only just getting around to reading Raising Your Spirited Child, and halfway through I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner.  


Oddly enough, the sensitivity characteristics are the ones that are least strong in my little one.  He doesn't seem bothered by loud noises, eats all foods without problem (so far), lets me clip his nails, sometimes holds his hands out to be cleaned, but mostly doesn't care.  He is VERY intense, persistent, energetic, difficult to transition, perceptive, and unpredictable, but not to much sensitive.  It sounds to me like your little guy just sits highly in the "sensitive" column.


That isn't to say that there isn't something more going on or that he wouldn't benefit from an evaluation and OT.  Some of the tips in the book are OT things.  Just for reference, my older brother has true SPD 30 years ago before we knew anything about it.  He cried nonstop for the first several months of his life.  To this day he refuses to wear shoes unless absolutely necessary, can't be out in bright light or extreme temperatures, and grimaces if he is touched, at all.  He registers physical touch as pain.  My parents waited four years to have their next child (me) because he was so difficult.  Because of his "quirks" he was presumed to be autistic/MR, a label my mother refused to assign to him.  She was right!  What he went through as a kid doesn't sound to me like what you're describing.


Sometimes other children seem so serene and easygoing compared to DS that it's easy to think that there might be something wrong with him.  Thanks to posts like this and books like RYSC, I know he just belongs to a separate class of kids.  Thank goodness he's not the only one!

post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you, luckiest! orngbiggrin.gif  I'm always glad to have your perspective.  I do need to re-read that book.  I just remember, on reading it the first time, that DS fit ALL of the characteristics.  Intense, perceptive, energetic, persistent, etc. etc.  I got something out of every.single.area (he has gotten a *wee* bit better at having more regular bathroom and bedtimes...well, sometimes, haha).  AND maybe that's ok?  It doesn't seem to be impacting his life as dramatically as your brother, for instance.  Like you said, it's become our "normal" and I've gotten used to dealing with it, to some extent.  I did think it was unusual that one kid would hit on the whole book though.


I agree that that book has alot of great tools in it.  As I mentioned, the advice on transitions has literally changed our lives - it takes a lot of work and repetition, but it makes a world of difference.  I remember the scene where the teacher helps the little boy make his handprint turkey - because he's scared to death of putting paint on his hands - the gentle way they worked through that was great (and reminded me of DS, of course).  If OT is that kind of stuff (I'm completely unfamiliar with it) maybe that would be helpful.


He is a very unusual kid - everyone who meets him comments on it - for one thing, he's alot more clear/present in his interactions than many kids even a year or two older.  If he were in Waldorf, I imagine they'd say he incarnated much too quickly - he never had that dreamy baby phase - he was born eyes wide open, alert, focusing on people.  There was never that ethereal quality or figuring-out-this-new-world filter.  He's just like a tiny adult who (much to his frustration) can't speak totally fluently yet, haha.  So where the line is from "bright, super sensitive, hyper aware kid" to other things...I just don't know.  I certainly don't want to deny him help if he needs it.

post #11 of 20

I would love to chime in. My kid is sensitive, but not in the way that yours is. He's super bright and very advanced for his age etc. His sensitivity is towards other peoples energy. He can be intense, but it's mostly the fact that he's 3. 

If your child was mine, I would speak to my ped just to rule out the biggie issues (autism, severe sensory issues etc). I would get him evaluated just to officially know if there is something to be aware of. Perhaps it could change your life. OT from what I know, can be a HUGE benefit to the super duper sensitive crowd. It helps give them ways to process new experiences/transitions etc. Plus, there won't be anything gained if you don't but there is the potential to gain a huge amount!

If nothing else it will give you even more tricks in your bag to help get through the day and give your LO the best start in life - all that we ever want for our kids!

post #12 of 20

PS Have you looked into food allergy/intolerance/sensitivity? That can change a persons entire world if addressed...yet another avenue to pursue

post #13 of 20
Originally Posted by pickle18 View Post

- he never had that dreamy baby phase - he was born eyes wide open, alert, focusing on people.  There was never that ethereal quality or figuring-out-this-new-world filter.  He's just like a tiny adult who (much to his frustration) can't speak totally fluently yet, haha.  So where the line is from "bright, super sensitive, hyper aware kid" to other things...I just don't know.  I certainly don't want to deny him help if he needs it.

Haha! This reminds me of our little guy. I was in such a daze after the birth I hardly noticed it, but all the midwives at the hospital and everyone who saw our pictures on Facebook commented how wide-eyed and alert he was as a just-born baby.. I was just looking at a friend's pictures of his newborn the other day...all sleepy and still sort of in the womb, mentally...and I had to think again: that was not our baby! He was alert and awake from day 1! He could hold his head up from a week or two old! Not for long....but he could. He met all the physical baby milestones very early because, in my motherly intuition, I think he was very frustrated being in a body he could not control. He became more content the more he could move his body (of course he crawled very early and that also helped a lot).

It's very comforting to know we are not alone!
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the advice, organicviolin!  I completely agree with you - I suppose it can't hurt, and could potentially be a really good thing for him.  At the very least, more OT strategies could improve our daily life.  I will talk to the ped at our next appointment, and maybe check out some reading in the meantime.


eta: I hadn't approached the area of food sensitivities, just because he doesn't seem to have any other symptoms of food allergies and, frankly, it's a bit daunting! (especially since we are vegetarians)  I agree, it's something to consider - I've just had it on the back burner.

Originally Posted by P.J. View Post

He was alert and awake from day 1! He could hold his head up from a week or two old! Not for long....but he could. He met all the physical baby milestones very early because, in my motherly intuition, I think he was very frustrated being in a body he could not control. He became more content the more he could move his body (of course he crawled very early and that also helped a lot).
It's very comforting to know we are not alone!


Yup, this is our lil dude to a tee! thumb.gif  He was immediately responsive to our voices, making eye contact, even smiling!  And he could hold his head up that early as well - in fact, at his 2 week check-up, he scared the doctor to death because he rolled over on the exam table and almost fell off!  It is very nice to know we're not alone - so many people think our kid is so bizarre (of course, we know he's just extra awesome winky.gif).

post #15 of 20

I can relate. My boy is a little over 2.5, and very very as well, which can be hard for me sometimes as I am a calmer, more introverted person by nature. Mine STILL kicks off blankets, and goes back and forth with freaking out when we rinse him- currently, he must be held by dad in the shower to rinse off after a bath! He tells me when tags on clothing bother him, and I cut them out. (I'm also very sensitive to things like that, also including lighting, etc.) He was also very alert when he was a newborn. I'm in the process of reading Raising your Spirited Child and it's helpful. He's extremely persistent too. We nursed until he was nearly 2.5, and for the last few months it was literally just so I could get him to sleep, lol. (Now, most nights we have to take him for a car ride to get him asleep, luckily only about a five-seven minute drive is needed!) So yes, I can definitely relate with you! Some things got easier when mine became able to express his feelings, but it definitely goes both ways haha, like when he wants ____ and can't have it! lol. I find that lots of physical activity (running, playing soccer, and riding his trike are the top three for him) and art help, and sometimes I just need to let him use the ipad or watch some pbs, or set him up in his room with train set and/or some books so I can breathe for 30 minutes, lol. It's a lot of work! :)  As far as bathtime goes, I find that it changes so suddenly- he was fine with taking a bath, then hated it for a week, then suddenly was fine again- we've had that happen a few times. Holding him in the shower would help during those times. 15 months might still be a little young (?), but having him have "alone" time (obviously I'm still nearby and checking in on him) everyday helps both of us a lot. I have toys in his room that stay in his room, so they're special for him to play with, but we have varied success with this- some days he is just NOT in the mood! 

post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks, astromum!  It certainly sounds like you have your hands full! smile.gif


I agree - sometimes letting him have some space to play in the same room as me, but not really with me, is helpful.  And he's just gotten into drawing with pens and crayons - I think that gives him a sense of control, too.  

DS started with the "No mom!" a few months ago - he really likes that one, as you might imagine.  And he's pretty good at pointing/babbling/grabbing things to get his point across - and yes, there is hell to pay if it doesn't go his way, haha.  Overall, I think we are just keepin' on keepin' on - I read the book Sensational Kids, recently - it had a few new ideas to try.  I'm going to keep an eye on it as he gets older - we may end up in OT yet.

post #17 of 20

YES with the drawing! I hadn't thought of it the way you said it, but it's so true, the sense of control they have. It's totally worth the coloring marks that *somehow* end up all over the house for both of us to have some calm time. ;) And that book sounds good, I gotta track it down!

post #18 of 20

Good for you for checking him out! Hopefully you'll find that with some extra "tricks" up your sleeve everyone will get through the days a bit easier! Here's hoping mama!

The most common triggers for food allergies are dairy (mostly pasteurized), corn, wheat and soy. The way I would go down that road is by keeping a food journal. What DS eats and then his reaction. 

11 am snack of yogurt - 12 bouncing off the walls or whatever it is.

Do that for a week and see if there's a pattern, if there is, try eliminating that food for a few weeks (in can take the body a couple of weeks, especially with gluten! to rid itself of all of it) and see what happens.

I also have tons of great food resources as well if you're interested that may or may not be helpful to you. Just holler if you'd like them.

We do eat meat here, but it's all pastured, grass fed,  humanely raised. We do a ton of veggie dishes and vegetarian meals as well though yummy.gif my kids adore the old rice and beans! 

post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks, organicviolin!  You make it sound much more do-able - I will keep it in mind. smile.gif

post #20 of 20

my pleasure eat.gif

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