My 6-year-old DS seems to fit an aspergers diagnosis, but he can't be evaluated for another 3-6 months (the wait list at the local developmental pediatrician's office). Until I can get him in for an evaluation, I am trying to find things that are helpful for discipline and day-to-day interactions. He has major meltdowns and tantrums that I can't predict nor can I stop them from intensifying. My current way of dealing with them is staying at home so that we're not in public for them (the last one he pushed a shopping cart that nearly hit an older woman after a 10 minute screaming and kicking fit in the check-out because I wouldn't give him a piece of gum, a treat that sometimes works as a bribe to keep him calm for short trips in a store). Staying at home doesn't stop the outbursts from happening, it simply keeps them more private and ensures he won't hurt others outside the family. He also has no idea when he's taking physical play too far with my 3-year-old DS who often has bruises from this play. I keep reminding him that screaming means stop, I physically remove him, but a lot of what I do often results in aggression toward me or a meltdown. Time-outs, redirecting, and other gentle forms of discipline seem either not to work or make a situation worse. I have locked him in his room when he gets to a point that he is hitting and kicking and out-of-control. This results in a scraming fit that eventually wears him out and he either falls asleep or gets out all his aggression and it's like a switch is flipped and he's calm and sweet again. Google has provided me with a lot of information on what aspergers looks like, but not much that I can do about it or to make things better. My younger son idolizes him and is starting to mimic these outbursts, but he's much easier to calm down. I am tired of being hit, name called, and emotionally drained and I need better tools to cope. Having a routine helps, but even then I am constantly asked about what we're going to do next or when we're going to do something fun, or when we can do a project together (even if we've been doing fun projects together all. day. long or he knows what to expect next). We are a family who doesn't spank or do other forms of physical punishment, so it's really hard for me to see him hit his brother and me. There was one day last week where I have never wanted to hit a child more after a long day of meltdowns and hitting and I don't consider myself an aggressive person (I didn't hit him, DH was there to take over when I was done and drained).
I have started preparing him for public situations and explaining to him what to expect and what he'll see and do and how he should act, but this has only shown minimal improvement. Taking things away or expecting him to pick up his messes (natural consequences) usually results in a tantrum before he'll pick up. I need ideas that will help, before we're able to get in for the evaluation.
(FTR, the aggression and tantrums are only part of the reason I'm wanting him evaluated, this is just a small part of his various symptoms, but these are the ones that I have run out of ideas for what to do.)
Hey, I was just scrolling through the posts and happened to see your post.
Our DS was just recently diagnosed with aspergers. We originally tried the school district. I was wondering if you have tried to get your DS evaluated through the school district yet?
One help that has worked for us is to break up the day in "tasks" and then "fun time". For instance, when he wakes up, he does his "morning tasks". Teeth brushed, get dressed, have breakfast, brush hair and feed his pet fish. After the morning stuff is finished then he gets to play a game for 30 minutes (which gives me a chance to do things). Then we have play time alone together while his brother naps. Then we do "afternoon tasks" (one of which includes finding some thing *not on the computer* to play alone) and after those are completed, we go out on our walk. And so on... you get the idea. It really works to motivate him and break up the day in sections so he doesnt feel bored and knows what will be happening next. It also helps me to schedule time to play with alone his baby brother (which I do while he has his alone time). So each of them get time alone with me each day.
Its tough and doesnt always work out - but it helps me to have something to aim for - otherwise its total choas every day.
Hope this helps!
Regarding planning/structuring the day -
Would it help to post a chart outlining in hourly (or 1/2 hour) segments, the plan for the day? If his reading isn't there yet, you could use pictures to represent activities. With YoungSon, it helped to see the schedule, visually not spoken. We used cards with velcro to attach, so that they could be switched around as plans changed.
My approach when we were at the stage you are was to drop as many expectations as possible. If having him pick up his own mess reliably brought on a meltdown, I just avoided the issue. Of course, this meant some toys and projects were avoided as well. Legos were outlawed in my home for years! As was anything to do with painting. It just was not worth it. With us, food was another major item. When I completely dropped the expectation that he eat regular meals with the family, and a normal healthy diet, life around our house was much more pleasant. I just kept huge supplies of the foods he would eat. And, over the years, he came to eat a nearly full diet (still avoids mushy textures, but that is all). You didn't mention eating, but it was a big issue with YoungSon, where dropping expectations really worked.
I second the recommendation of The Out-of-Synch Child. Sensory issues can be invisible, yet overwhelming.
Also, it might be helpful to read The Explosive Child. I don't have much to say about their sort of scripted child-rearing approach, but the first half of the book, dealing with philosophy and attitudes, is enlightening and valuable. Basically, their point is that children do well if they can. If they are not doing well, it is because of some skill they are lacking, not intentional misbehavior. The solution will be to learn the skill, not consequences. Not an instant cure, but a very helpful perspective.
Thank you for your replies. I started homeschooling DS about a week ago. I have found that the more structured the day, the better he does. I have a daily schedule that has our activities for each day (contains both pictures and words) using magnets that can be changed daily and I've found that the more detail it contains, the easier our day goes. For example, yesterday I was doing a workout while DS ate breakfast and he said, "mommy, you can't work out, it isn't on the schedule!" So, I've added my activities to the daily schedule too. I'm hoping that this continues to help give our day a bit of structure and gives DS a more predictable day which gives us some more peace in the house. We've only been doing this for a week and it isn't perfect, but it does help. I've also looked up sensory diets and found a few things helpful. I've started doing some dry brushing, experimenting with various types of massage and compressions, and done some spinning and jumping exercises with him (anyone know where to find a "sit 'n spin" type toy for an older child?). Since we've stayed at home most days we've homeschooled, I don't know if this will help with outings, but his structured day is definitely showing improvement. I need to get some kind of schedule organized for his morning and bed time routine too. I haven't gotten that organized yet! I've never been one who likes a lot of structure, so it's been more of an adjustment for me! Food is surprisingly not an issue with DS. He's willing to try a bite of almost anything, but if he doesn't like it, he won't eat it again and he's very strong and vocal about his dislike! Overall, it's fairly easy to get a wholesome diet in to him. His main dislikes are things that most kids crave: spaghetti, mac and cheese, most pasta, rice, and he's picky about grains in general (a gluten free diet is probably something I need to try based on his preferences and dislikes). However, he loves meat (fish, beef/bison, chicken, pork), veggies, quinoa, millet, and cheeses (this is one area I feel is easy!). I'm definitely going to check out the book suggestions.
We're still waiting to hear from the developmental pediatrition for an appointment time (it takes up to 2 months to get an appointment after sending in the referal from his ped which happened 3 weeks ago). I hope to have the basic evaluation by the end of the year. In the meantime, just thinking of his being an aspergers child has helped me cope with his outbursts more easily, but I definitely look forward to having a professional evaluation and advice for how to help all of us cope!
An occupational therapist should be able to work with your child, even before a specific diagnosis. In my experience, it just requires a referral from a regular pediatrician to get insurance to pay for OT. I don't know what your insurance is - if you are paying out of pocket, independent clinic can sometimes be flexible about charges.They can set you up with sensory help, and like a PP said, sometimes the root of behavioral problems is sensory. Also, they have experience with kids like this, and can generally offer some behavioral support as well.
Thanks for the information about OTs. We've met our deductible for the year, so it would be cheaper if we were able to go now rather than the beginning of next year. I'll call DS's doctor to see if we can get a referral until we can see the developmental ped.
Have you seen the bilibo? DS spends quite while rocking and spinning in his. My 8 year old can still spin round in it so I;m hoping it will last a while longer.