I've written about Ian in the past, I consider him my typical, yet "spirited" kid, and Connor my special needs kid. But I'm starting to doubt that the older he gets... I'm going to try to sum this up in a bullet list for those short on time
but I'll go into more detail below the list... He will be 5 in March.
--He's often on the brink of "losing it", we have to be very careful not to push him over the edge.
--He has signs of being sensory seeking: LOVES water, is sometimes very particular about his clothing, when he's beginning to "lose it" he will start running into things, banging things, kicking things, throwing himself around (and this isn't anger, yet, this is just him seeking sensory input I really believe, the anger/violence comes later)
--He is EXTREMELY extroverted, and if he doesn't get the social input he needs each day, he has SEVERE meltdowns by evening. Definitely not the kind of kid who can just have a lazy-stay-in-your-pajamas day.
--He is very gross-motor oriented, always has been, but not fond of fine motor. He's not delayed in fine motor, but doesn't *like* it. I.e. is capable of following multi-step directions, but if they involve fine motor skills, he will suddenly be clueless. At school it's a bit of a problem, if he's supposed to color the shapes, cut them out, sort them, and glue them on the next page, he gets antzy, he becomes "forgetful", he gets overly silly, etc. Anything to avoid doing it. He can do it, but doesn't want to.
--He is extremely bright, knew all his letters by sight before he was 2 (Ian, what letter is this? Or Ian, show me the R) and knew the sounds of the letters well before 3. He starts Kindergarten in the fall, but is already reading simple words, sounding out the harder words, noticing patterns in words (Look mommy, those two words have the same ending [ing, for example]) And none of this is us working with him, truly! He's just a sponge. I remember explaining to him about how electricity goes through the lines to the outlets in our house when he was 2. Was VERY verbal very early, speaking in paragraphs understandable by strangers before age 2. But hates to color, doesn't like puzzles or any other activity that requires focus on fine motor skills.
--He had lots of reflux as an infant, but we never treated it because it didnt' seem to effect him. He gained weight, was happy, ate well, slept well (with accomodations like elevated bed) etc. I didn't know about dairy then, and suspect now that he was sensitive to dairy.
--He's only just recently beginning to have formed stool, he's always had loose stools. I've mentioned this to every dr he's ever seen, no one seems to be concerned with it. He potty trained early, though, just after his second birthday. **He does have a deep sacral dimple, it was xrayed and ultrasounded around one year old, nothing was found.
--He has chronically swollen glands in his neck, so big that you can see them when he turns his head. No signs of environmental allergies. He doesn't seem to be sick too often, did have some repeated ear infections between 6-12 months old, but those stopped completely when we moved to the United States, I think those were environmentally triggered.
**Those last three (and the next) lead me to suspect a food intolerance**
--He is very reactive to foods, if we get lazy and eat too much junk food, too much processed food, etc, then it reflects in his behavior almost immediately. I haven't been able to identify any particular ingredient, though, I don't know if it's sugar, dyes, preservatives, etc.
--I've never considered this to be associated with anything, but you never know. He was extremely bow-legged when he was born, and it lasted past his first birthday. We lived near the equator when he was born, so he got PLENTY of natural Vit D exposure. My husband was SAHD and would go for long walks with him. We didn't use sunscreen all the time, either. I have no idea why his legs were bowed... Because it didn't effect his motor skills, and because he was an otherwise healthy baby, the drs weren't worried about it at all.
--He's always required advance notice of a transition, particularly if it means the end of a gross motor period. I have to give him a minute-by-minute countdown if I have any hope of leaving the park without a huge tantrum.
So now more background...we knew at like 9 months old that Ian was going to be a challenge. He was the baby who required us to rearrange furniture because no matter what barriers we created for him, he crawled/climbed/scooted around them and got into things over and over. Very intense, very focussed. As an infant he was a breeze, I always knew what he wanted/needed and could easily provide it. But as soon as he got mobile, things got interesting!!!
Tantrums started not long after his first birthday. The "screaming, throw yourself on the ground" tantrums. By age 2 they got really severe, to the point of him self-injuring even.
**OH, this is probably important...he never seemed to feel pain normally as a toddler. I used to have to follow the trail of blood and then look him over head to toe to find an injury, he never told me about them. He also was FEARLESS, once went down a really high slide (I couldn't reach the top of it) on his BELLY and went flying off the end of it. He was probably 18 months old then.
So during a tantrum he would bang his head on the floor repeatedly until bleeding even, and because he didn't feel pain, it was no big deal to him. It meant that I coudln't ignore attention-seeking tantrums though!! His fits were so severe that I couldn't restrain him, I couldn't put him in his highchair because he'd literally tip it over. I tried putting him his room so we could both calm down, but he'd destroy it in a matter of minutes...dumping drawers, pulling clothes off hangers, ripping sheets off the bed, breaking toys, repeatedly kicking the walls, etc. For a while he was completely out of control.
During that same time, Connor was his sickest, we had just bought a house and moved, I was separating from the military and starting a new job...it was about as much stress and transition as you can have. I actually "unweaned" Ian to try to help him through that period.
My mom sent me the book Raising You Spirited Child, and I found it really helpful, and slowly the worst of his behaviors eased.
I thought we had turned the corner over the past year, but the holidays showed me that he's still very precarious. I know it's stressful for any kid, but now that he's back to his normal routine, I'm dealing with a resurgence of bad tantrums. Last night was pretty bad, and now it's not just crying, he yells at me "NO FAIR!!" and even "I HATE YOU!!" I'm shocked by that last one, he's never heard us use that word (towards a person anyway, I might say I hate pickles).
I watch him and can physically see him downspiraling and incapable of stopping himself. I try, God I try!, to not downspiral also, but it's really hard!!! He can take the whole family down with him sometiems. Last night he had pushed my last button, all my patience was gone, and I caught myself screaming right back at him. I realized what I was doing, so I walked out of his room. Then I looked at my husband and said "I can't expect him to not yell and scream when I allow myself to lose control like that!" After I cooled off, I went back in there and was able to calm him down talk to him, and then all was fine.
Two years ago a fit like that would have lasted hours, and would have basically ruined his day. So definite progress is being made. The fits are much less frequent, too.
SO...definite progress, but at this age, is this still in the realm of normal? Do "normal" almost 5 year olds still throw these kinds of tantrums? I have an exceptional amount of patience most times, and I'm very in-tune with him, which is how we got through that horrible 2-3 year old stage. I have no doubt that he could easily be labeled ADHD otherwise. I've filled out the development assessments sent home from his school, and I commented to my husband when filling out his 3 year old assessment that if they had asked me those same questions a year before--or even 6 months before--then I'd be answering very differently and he'd be flagged for evaluation. (his school, by the way, is the integrated preschool at the public school, he's one of the 8 typicals in the class). But if I hadn't learned the coping techniques from the Spirited Child book, then I would probably still be answering the questions the same, you know? So is he really "getting better", or are all the tendencies still there and we're just managing them fairly well? Does that make sense??
It's exhausting feeling like we're on egg shells with him. He is such a great kid, so loving, so much fun, and most people have no idea about these behaviors he exhibits at home. But I am constantly watching him like a hawk, watching for signs of decompensation (for lack of a better word). Always thinking three steps ahead...what's the next transition, how am I going to prep him for it, what contingencies do I have available if he tantrums?
So what are your thoughts? I don't really know what else to do, except continue to be in tune with him, watch for triggers, watch his diet, get him the social and gross motor he needs every day, etc. It's just getting hard to give him that much focus and attention when I have two other kids, you know?