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Behaviour Help for HFA 3 yo

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

DS just started preschool in September and before this we've never really had any real "behaviour" issues with him- I guess we're lucky in that regard. He has his bad tantrums and normal kid stuff but nothing we couldn't handle and nothing that I couldn't try different ways to address it and eventually find something that worked to avoid, eliminate or defuse the behaviour. So I'm just baffled now and would love to hear any of your suggestions.

 

We've been getting lots of complaints from his teachers about aggression and hitting all of a sudden. It started out as DS would have a meltdown and when the teachers tried to calm him he would lash out physically at them. We quickly found out that it was because they were getting too close, too quickly when he was upset. Hugs don't calm him, neither does close face talking (doesn't work for me either!). Anyway, then he began hitting and pushing other kids, with little or no provocation it seems. Although he is a quite a big and strong 3 yo his pushes and hits are not hard at all, it doesn't seem he is trying to really hurt anyone. Nevertheless in the preschool world this is THE behaviour that they won't tolerate- we are already at the point where they are talking about us having to take him out! Not because he has really hurt anyone just because it happens so often, like all the time. I've seen it myself. I can't tell what sets him off- a lot of the time he doesn't even seem angry- a kid will just walk in his vicinity and he will reach out and softly smack him on the arm or whatever. Or he will walk up to a kid and lightly push him. :( He has hit and pushed harder- when someone takes his toy, or otherwise "provokes" him but usually it is these softer but aggressive touches. He hasn't really hurt any of the kids like I said, he has hurt his teacher once by head-butting her when he was upset and she got way too close to his face (she doesn't seem to get this either :irked) Now it has spread to home and his baby sister- he used to be nothing but gentle with her. 

 

We've tried all the usual stuff. Positive reinforcement when he is using appropriate touches (lots of this). Natural consequence of removing him from play. Talking about good touches and bad touches. Direct and brief admonishment when he does the behaviour combined with all the above ("We don't hit" "We don't push"). Read books and watched videos about no hitting etc. NOTHING works. We just can't get through to him.

 

Like I said, this is THE behaviour they won't tolerate in his school and if he is kicked out of this school there is no where else he can go. So we are in a pretty desperate place.

post #2 of 30

Expat-mama, did you make changes in his diet at the end of the summer?  I seem to remember a thread about that?

post #3 of 30
Thread Starter 

Yep, we did. We are going back on the diet straight away. *Sigh*

It's hard because DS was actually losing weight for a while last year and was literally eating rice crispies with rice milk for 2 out of 3 meals :( and now he is eating so well I'm afraid of what will happen... I think we will try taking just gluten and soy out and see if we can manage with at least minimal amounts of dairy.

 

But I'm starting to get a better picture about what is happening at school now though. DS had a field trip today and DH was the chaperone so spent a lot of time there. I haven't really spent time with the class since the acclimation period at the start of the year, just observed for 10-15 mins at pickup time. Anyway, it seems that the other kids in DS's class are unusually docile, compliant and quiet! Seriously. I have noticed when I pick up DS and they are still having lunch or when they are having "choice activity" time that it is eerily quiet- the other kids don't talk! Don't laugh! It's weird (maybe it's a cultural thing? but I think a Canadian preschool would be far more boisterous). Except from one kid who is a year older than DS who is DS's bestie in the class, none of them TALK.

Also DS is very gifted (a topic for another thread- but he is reading at 2/3rd grade level can do simple math and other stuff) and I think he is bored and disinterested in what they are doing when they need his "cooperation" (sit and listen, be quiet). We knew this would be the case, but figured he would be learning social stuff and as a bonus a second-language since it is a bilingual school (he has already picked up an amazing amount of Arabic).

 

So it is becoming clear that there are a lot of factors that could be causing this behaviour. Diet is a big one we are considering. But I'm thinking DS is just smacking people to liven up the place! :eyesroll So I don't know where that leaves us. 

post #4 of 30

Hi....

 

I totally get it.  Mine lost a lot of weight on the diet initially too.  That, I think, is the detox period which lasts six months to a year.  Then amazingly, he put on a great deal of weight on the diet, in the more normal range (30%), after he got used to getting more of his calories from nuts, meats, complex carbs and the like.  His taste buds matured yes, so he was willing to eat other foods, but, I also did a lot of explaining about food, how, we eat healthy foods to help us grow, sometimes, we like something better with ketchup, mustard and spice and to try the food again that way...etc. 

 

I went back and forth with the diet so I TOTALLY recognize the pattern of behavior change.  Since they grow and develop so rapidly at this age, it can look like they've matured, and you don't trust if the diet played a part in the learning and growth or if it was just greater maturity.  But, i'll be curious to know, if in two weeks time, you notice a significant change in his ability to tolerate touch and physical proximity and if he also tries to interact in a playful way with the other children.  It used to take only two weeks to see it when my son was very young. 

 

My son went from being very awkward in his preschool, which for him, was not physical pushing or touching, but he used "echolalia" to try to connect.  The other boys called him "echoboy"....ouch.  It took two weeks and he started to make friends.  

 

If I were you, I would worry less about calories and food variety and stabilize his school life.  I'd take all three out, gluten, dairy and soy, and then try and reintroduce a tiny amount of diary after he's stabilized.  Then, do it so infrequently that you'll know if any change in his behavior is due to the food he ate.  I would give my son a cheese stick or a yogurt drink, once a week, in the lunch box, for example, since like you, I probably worried the most about calcium intake and milk has tons of calories. 

 

But I have to tell you, now that he's older and can tell me what it feels like to eat the food off diet, I am glad we are "cold turkey".  He says he feels very fuzzy headed and unable to think clearly when he eats dairy. 

 

Having a calm quiet environment for a preschool can actually be advantageous for a child with sensory issues so I wouldn't attribute your son's behavior to being in a "too quiet environment".  My children's preschool was very well modulated.  People spoke in quiet tones, the walls were painted in muted colors and the children were very sweet and peaceful.  (It was waldorf)  Maybe he is bored, but, I he certainly wouldn't be if he could figure out how to interact with the other children.  You don't need words to play cars or tag.  Being gifted can certainly complicate things a bit, but, being so young, gifted children often benefit the most from being in environments where there is no academic learning at this age, and they can focus on learning how to play and be a friend.  These are life long skills that if learned in childhood lead to happy adults :)

post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 

We just came back from a session with a behaviour therapist and consultation with our developmental pediatrician. They both are thinking that DS's behaviour at school is related to him being bored and UNDER-stimulated. Both also think we should try the diet again.

Also that the hitting behaviour and resulting attention and actions taken by teachers and staff and us have all become a reinforcing thing for him- he likes it because it all unfolds so predictably. He hits and then he can predict what will happen next so it is comforting when faced with other unpredictable things going on. The whole thing of liking routines etc. Behaviour therapist said it is imperative to ignore the hitting and avoid going back to the predictable reactions and when needed just silently and calmly remove him from the situation with as little fuss as possible and if we are consistent with this the hitting should stop in max 3 weeks. 

Actually this approach worked for a similar problem we had a long while with inappropriate things DS would say in public and to strangers because he liked the predictable reaction he would get from others and us. We totally ignored it and it stopped within a couple of weeks. Talking about things only seem to exacerbate these things with DS as he loves talking and is really stimulated by verbal interactions and excited when people get emotional when talking about things. 

 

I wonder how the teachers will react when we tell them they should IGNORE the behaviour. Hm.

post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 

 Maybe he is bored, but, I he certainly wouldn't be if he could figure out how to interact with the other children.  You don't need words to play cars or tag.  Being gifted can certainly complicate things a bit, but, being so young, gifted children often benefit the most from being in environments where there is no academic learning at this age, and they can focus on learning how to play and be a friend.  These are life long skills that if learned in childhood lead to happy adults :)

I agree with this in theory. But I really think DS is not really capable of "figuring out" how to interact with other kids. I mean isn't that the nature of ASDs?- they can't figure these social things out the way others naturally do. They have to be taught systematically. I think this will be how DS learns how to interact in a social way but I am starting to think  he is incapable right now, at his age and level of development, of really learning all he needs to not be so stressed at school and to function well in the environment. I'm so worried that the anxiety he is feeling and the reprimands he may be receiving for his inappropriate behaviours and interactions will affect his self-esteem and will cause him to have a negative association with teachers and other kids and any school-like setting (I think this may already be the case).

 

DH and I have been talking a lot about this and thinking that it may be best to keep DS's social interactions limited to what he can handle- small play dates and activities in controlled environments. This might mean home-schooling him until he has learned (through therapy, social-skills groups, play dates etc) how to handle a school-like setting. I can feel the stress and anxiety emanating from DS when I pick him up from school. Even though he says he likes it, maybe he is just not ready. 

post #7 of 30

Every child on the spectrum is different.   My son on the spectrum IS able to learn social interaction easily and well when he can concentrate on interaction and only interaction.  A play based preschool was marvelous for him, as was summer camp during the regular school year, where he'd make huge leaps in social skill.

 

Like your son, he's on the "milder" end of the spectrum and likely has the social communication disorder diagnosis that will be given to many kids who used to have PDD-NOS.   Did your son speak early?  Do you see him as being a child who relates more through his intellect and fixed interests like one with aspergers?

 

It may be wise to take him out.  OR, change his diet, and wait a month and see if improvements occur in his ability to interact and manage his reactions to the other children.  Don't minimize the effect of being able to think clearly and well on a child's ability to modulate their reactions and make leaps in development.  I've seen it happen so many times for my son I can't overlook it any more.  For me, rewinding back to the time when my son was 3 and 4, changing his diet made HUGE improvements in his social language within 2 weeks.

 

I think, if I may hazard a guess, your son has NO idea what he is doing is inappropriate so he isn't even seeing himself in a negative light.   Many children have phases where they hit, pinch and push other children, of course, not to minimize that your son isn't coping ideally, but most children get through this phase without negative consequences to their self esteem.  Unless, however, they get "stuck" there and are known as the child who pushes and hits.  The hope, i'd imagine, if he stays in the program, is to figure out how to help him get through this phase. 

 

One idea....something my children's preschool used to use, was a montessori technique, where children who wanted to play alone, without sharing, could play on their mat, which was a rug remnant, that they'd sit on with their toy.  No other child or teacher would be allowed to enter their space while they were on the mat, nor, would they have to share.  I wonder if the school would be willing to create some rules and structure that would make it feel safer for your son.  Teachers also can also stagger lines to snack or the bath room, even taking a child alone if needed to prevent people from entering your son's space.   These are the kind of interventions that could help him reduce his anxiety.

 

But, what I am also responding to is the thought that children on the spectrum don't learn social interaction unless taught.  When my son was diagnosed with PDD his neuropsychologist explained that it is common for children with high functioning PDD to copy social interaction.  It makes good role models for interaction important and why going to preschool was so helpful for him.  He literally learned how to play by watching other children do it and copying them.  It was such great fun for him, that he hasn't stopped and it has served him in good stead, as, he has many friends and considers himself a good friend.  But, some children on the spectrum may need these skills explicitly taught.  Certainly, that's true but isn't always.

 

 

I think it is hard to tease these things out at age 3 though.  You're in a tough spot. It certainly isn't a bad idea to pull him out nor is it a bad idea to push it and see if he can resolve this especially if the school is willing to make some changes to reduce his anxiety.  Are they?  Or is it all on you?


Edited by livinglife - 11/16/13 at 9:13am
post #8 of 30

Not much to add, except to say that some of this may just be him being 3--it's one of those tough ages, and it's like they literally become a different kid for awhile...it's not my favorite age for this reason.

 

If he's in a public pre-school, and has an IEP/IFSP, you may want to call a meeting and put together a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  That might help a lot--basically, it outlines what the known issues are, and outlines a consistent set of responses for what is done when those issues occur at school.  If it's a private preschool, you can't do something that formal, but you may want to try something similar--a behavior plan is always a good idea when you have a kid who's struggling.  It's basically just a reminder that some approaches are more effective with your particular kiddo and should be the go-to strategies.

 

Hope you figure out something that works better soon.

post #9 of 30

Sageowl, I think part of the problem is that they're overseas....no IEP's....

post #10 of 30

I have little to offer in the realm of concrete suggestions - diet did exactly nothing for YoungSon, and social interaction was really rough, until he learned by watching and copying, just as Livinglife said. Therapy, social group classes, and formal lessons had no impact - we just had to wait it out. In our case, that meant withdrawing him from school - that environment really did not work for YoungSon. Today, at 17, he is thriving, has several really good, long-term friends, and is in high school with no accommodations.

 

But I wanted to heartily recommend a book: "The Reason  I Jump". An autobiography written by a 13 year old Japanese boy with autism, this is the most insightful, amazing view I have ever seen of what autism feels like from the inside. Jaw-dropping in its depth, it really made sense to me about how his brain works.

post #11 of 30

I don't know either. DS1 who is 4.5 but more like really 3.5 cognitively, can be very aggressive. It used to be with random kids at parks, he would just walk up and kick them in the shins. That has passed. He is very aggressive with his younger sibling to the point where they can not be together. We spilt them up constantly,for everything.  DH takes DS2 away so DS1 and I can eat dinner together alone even. It's not ideal, it bites honestly but we've tried so many things and this is just what we have to do right now. We haven't had problems with him being aggressive at school. He is very passive there. For now anyway. 

 

I'm wondering if a break from school for even a couple weeks might be enough to push the reset button? That might be something I would try before you are forced to take him out. 

post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peony View Post

 

 

I'm wondering if a break from school for even a couple weeks might be enough to push the reset button? That might be something I would try before you are forced to take him out. 

I agree with Peony. I don't think that the teachers can just ignore the actions, since they affect the other students.  Can you imagine a kid going home to their parents and saying that another kid hit them, then the teacher tells that parent, "Well, we're ignoring the behavior to try to stop it." LOL!  So it sounds like keeping him at home to settle things down would be a good idea for everyone involved.  

post #13 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by QueenOfTheMeadow View Post
 

I agree with Peony. I don't think that the teachers can just ignore the actions, since they affect the other students.  Can you imagine a kid going home to their parents and saying that another kid hit them, then the teacher tells that parent, "Well, we're ignoring the behavior to try to stop it." LOL!  So it sounds like keeping him at home to settle things down would be a good idea for everyone involved.  

While I see what you are saying, I don't think it is for other parents to have a say in how the teachers manage my son's behaviour. How they react to and manage my son's behaviour has nothing to do with how the teachers are responding to OTHER children. Ignoring my son's behaviour in order to promote a more positive pattern and reduce the effect on other children does not stop them in reacting with the requisite compassion and care for the other children. This is how inclusion works right? Special needs children require different styles and methods of education than other children.

post #14 of 30

I'm really dismayed reading about your situation and how it is being handled and interpreted. 

 

My HFA son had exactly the same issues when he started preschool, except that we knew before then that he had the tendency to hit and be physically aggressive. By keeping him away from stress and limiting his social interactions to very small playdates (one or two friends at the most) that were highly supervised we managed well. But preschool made it all just blow up. In no time at all every day I would pick him up and hear about how he hit a kid, threw something at someone, etc.

 

IMNSHO you have to view these behaviours as a response to stress. It's not about attention or making things predictable, so much as it is his way of dealing with a surge of emotions that he cannot handle. For my son it is almost always sensory-related, and it took some real experts (and my own trial-and-error experience) to figure out what some of the triggers were, as they can be almost invisible to people without those issues. Also, he gets stressed out with social interactions, which require a huge investment of mental and emotional energy (you wouldn't guess if you just watched him a bit), and he gets fatigued and frustrated and blows up. 

 

At his preschool, they took it seriously and got funding for a special aid to basically shadow him at the school. He never hit another kid again, but not because the impulse was gone, just that someone was there to redirect and prevent him from getting to that place of overload more often. That your school would consider "giving up" on him and booting him out is disgraceful.

 

DS is now 9 years old and it is still an issue. However, now he is attending an after-school program (we homeschool and preschool was his only year of formal schooling) at a centre for kids with autism, he goes twice a week for 3 hours. At first he was hitting kids pretty much every day, and during spring break or summer camps it got really bad. But they worked hard at figuring out what the triggers were, again mostly sensory-related, and I'm happy to say that he is going on two months now without a single incident of hitting. This is not so much because he is able to completely control his impulses (although he does get better and better each year, but it's a slow process) but because they have figured out his triggers and now avoid putting him in situations where he will blow up. Just being there is a hard enough challenge, and I'm very very pleased with his progress, but my point is that they looked at hitting as a sign that the environment was not working for him and they took steps to adjust it as best they could and make allowances for that. They saw it as a failing on THEIR part, not his. 

 

Having "that kid who hits other kids" has been an extremely challenging and painful part of my journey as a mother. I know your child is not a bad kid, and I hope that everybody involved in his care treats his hitting as a sign of stress, which it is, and uses it as a motivation to seek out what those stresses are. The more we adults figure out what those are, the better we can communicate that to the child, and the more the child understands himself the better he gets at self-diagnosing his moods and self-regulating. My son has made huge improvements in the last year because of this, and it has made our lives much less stressful too. Big hugs to you!!

 

PS - you might also consider this a sign that he is simply not ready for preschool, that it is too stressful for him, and pull him out. I would have done so in a heartbeat had the preschool not brought in the aid (he really liked going so I was willing to continue). Our decision to homeschool had already been made before he went to preschool, but if it hadn't I still would have done so because I could see that full time school would be way too much for him to handle and would have made everything a lot worse for all of us.

post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by expat-mama View Post
 

While I see what you are saying, I don't think it is for other parents to have a say in how the teachers manage my son's behaviour. How they react to and manage my son's behaviour has nothing to do with how the teachers are responding to OTHER children. Ignoring my son's behaviour in order to promote a more positive pattern and reduce the effect on other children does not stop them in reacting with the requisite compassion and care for the other children. This is how inclusion works right? Special needs children require different styles and methods of education than other children.

My son is on the autism spectrum, and we dealt with a similar situation in K.  Basically, what I meant was that they either had to come up with another way to deal with it besides putting other children in the way of getting hit or it would be better if you took him out instead of having him get kicked out.  So, yes, I get inclusion, considering I have 2 kids on IEPs and one on a 504, so you're preaching to the choir here.  

Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
 

 

 

At his preschool, they took it seriously and got funding for a special aid to basically shadow him at the school. He never hit another kid again, but not because the impulse was gone, just that someone was there to redirect and prevent him from getting to that place of overload more often. That your school would consider "giving up" on him and booting him out is disgraceful.

 

 

Exactly what Piglet said here would be the best way to deal with the situation, so I'd push the school to support him, while protecting the other kids.  Like Piglet, having your kid be the "kid who hits" sucks, so if you can do something in order to help your child not be the hitting child, whether that be an aid, reducing stress, or simply giving him  more time before putting him in a stressful situation the better.  

post #16 of 30

I'm just assuming since you are overseas and if this preschool doesn't work, there are no other options that the schooling options are very limited. Not all schools are equipped nor able to handle inclusion. While I do agree that other parents shouldn't be having a factor into how your child's issues are handled, if it is something like a private school not a school where inclusion has to be done, like a US public school, other parents will have input.

 

I've been on both sides of this fence, it's a very difficult to balance here. I've had the child that was granted access to inclusion in schools that have never done it prior (we've been here several times now) and I've had the child where another child's inclusion caused significant damage to my child because this classroom/school was not equipped to handle the inclusion. I know the feelings where you are so utterly grateful this your child be will "allowed" to go to school here and the utter rage because other child is smashing my child's face into the wall daily because of their behavior issues. This was obviously an older child then your 3 year old but actually the behavior plan called for ignoring the behavior. I am not ashamed of this at all but yes, I caused a stink about this. I lobbied heavily to have the child removed from the school after all my other efforts to change the situation failed. For the sole fact that there where NOT the resources to maintain safety, nor was it possible to create. When it didn't happen, I started with ultimatums, them or me. I took it to the level where there was no place else to go. And yes, I yanked all three of my children from that school as did several other families causing severe financial strain on the school. I can't even begin to describe how nasty it got. I don't regret it for a second, I would do it all over again. I feel sad for the child in the middle of all for it, but not at the cost of my own child's physical safety. 

 

And now I'm once again in the boat where I am utterly grateful to yet another school that agreed to take my SN child and to have inclusion in a setting where he is the only one with SNs. And I live in fear that something will go "wrong" every day and that we will burn our bridge with the only option we have left. It's a tough place to be in. If this school doesn't work, I don't know where he will be allowed to go. Public PK is very limited in my area even though I am in the US, he still got refused. They obviously can't refuse him for K but we are already having massive battles with the school district as far as what does K look like for a child like DS1. 

 

My heart goes out to you. 

post #17 of 30

HI Expat-Mama, I happen to like the plan come up with by your specialists.  Often children who are sensory sensitive and sensory reactive organize themselves around reactions to their behavior and it can be oddly calming because it's predicatable.  You hit, you get chastised.  You'd rather he organize himself around positive reactions which are calming and give him feedback for modulating himself.  As long as "ignoring" his hitting doesn't mean just redirecting.  Did your specialists come up with a behavioral recognition plan for positive interactions, like constant positive feedback for keeping his hands to his sides, keeping his hands in his space,  using his hands gently, etc? 

 

I'm sure you've had the chance at this point to come up with a plan and I wish you luck in it's success.  I also have a "feeling" that cleaning his system out with the diet will also aid this process enormously.

 

I look forward to learning how things go.  I would hope that your private preschool is willing to give it a go and try to help him get through this successfully.  Unfortunately, in the world we live in, there are many young children they have either already met or will meet, who struggle with spectrum disorders and I hope that they will be more than willing to learn how to help him.

 

The other children, at three, are going to have "short memories" as long as he gets through this.  Really, despite the pain we parents go through when our child hits other children, and the worry we have as parents, three year old's often push and hit.  It's when they get stuck in an endless loop of reactivity that no social learning can be made.  The other children learn too, to be accepting, patient and understanding.  Sometimes "kids have things they're working on" would be what the teachers used to say about my son when he'd echo other children.  Your son's working on keeping his hands calm :)  In a child's mind, that's all they need to hear sometimes.

 

Good luck with your plans.  I too think it can work. 

 

Blessings

post #18 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peony View Post
 

I lobbied heavily to have the child removed from the school after all my other efforts to change the situation failed. For the sole fact that there where NOT the resources to maintain safety, nor was it possible to create. 

 

I agree with this. I won't put my child in a situation where they can't handle him. It's not fair to him or any of the other children. I'm all for inclusion, but inclusion without the appropriate supports in place is bad for everyone involved.

 

I hope you can find a place that is able to support your son in the way he needs, OP. We have been feeling truly blessed to have our autism program, and DS has truly blossomed over the last few months...

post #19 of 30
Thread Starter 

Just a quick update, we have put DS back on the GFCFSF diet and it seems to be helping a lot. The hitting and temperamental behaviour have all but stopped and he does seem more focused and "with it" lately. He is showing more of his sweet side and has made some surprising strides in a few areas in just a couple of weeks. I'm done questioning if the diet actually does anything. It seems to, so we'll stick to it even though it's so difficult and expensive where we live. We've also had some success with communicating and collaborating with the teachers and staff at his school. It's not perfect, but it's what we have and DS is happy there for now.

post #20 of 30

Yay!!  I'm so happy to hear from you.  I was just thinking about you yesterday.  I know that sounds funny, on an internet forum, but, I so relate to the struggle of whether the diet helps or not and I was wondering how your son was doing.

 

My son has now been on the diet for almost 4 years and he's still growing and developing in amazing ways which I don't think would be possible without dietary intervention.

 

He's about to have a neuropsych and I think that the spectrum diagnosis will be dropped.  I'm curious to see what residual issues are clarified.  He definately has a learning disability of some kind, or the new social communication disorder which is actually defined as a language based learning disability.  BUT, he reads emotions now, can explain his feelings and is an A/B student with a group of sweet quirky friends.  He is on solid footing and I am so happy for him.

 

Take care, and I hope that he starts really enjoying preschool soon by making friends :)  I know he can do it.

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