DS (5) is out of control.(21 Posts)
DS has always been a difficult child for one reason or another - he was a refluxy baby, and has always required a lot of attention and energy.
Many people over the years have remarked on how 'full on' he is - not naughty, but demanding. Mostly, I think, in the fairly typical way that young boys are, and people either just don't know, or forget.
However, over the last 3 weeks or so, he has become a wild beast of a child. Once he has dissolved into a tantrum, there is no coming back for it. No consequences touch him. He is now sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his (very recently decorated) otherwise empty bedroom, because he has lost his things through either bad behaviour, or being defiantly dangerous by climbing with things, etc (or in many cases, both!)
Reasoning with him doesn't work. Shouting doesn't work. Counting down from 3 with a clear consequence doesn't work (that's how he's lost most of his toys!). Nothing works. Everything I can think of has been tried.
Last night, I had my parents on the phone for half an hour, with them trying to speak to him and explain that they also found his behaviour unacceptable and disappointing. He was rude to them, and deliberately urinated in the corner of his bedroom in protest.
Even if you make a momentary breakthrough, it really is momentary. Even if he cries, he cries for a short while, and then laughs and taunts you, asking you to remove more things, or shout at him again, etc.
So far as I can tell, nothing has changed. The first time he was this bad, we were on an overnight stay in a hotel, on a trip for him, seeing things that he wanted to see. The next morning, he was still being so naughty that we had to forego breakfast and the remainder of things we all wanted to do, and return home. This was at the start of the Easter holidays, so he wasn't tired from school, nor upset by something that day.
We are firm and consistent, but also careful to tell him how loved he is, and spend time with him, etc., etc., etc.
Where are we going wrong? How do we reach him?
I know this is really long, but I wanted to give a reasonably clear picture of what's happening, so I can get some useful advice if possible!
A few things stand out to me, but do you mind if I ask first, what is he like at school? At any clubs he attends? How is his school work going?
We both work FT, so don't have too much contact with his actual teachers, although we do get feedback from them through Out of School Club staff, and parents' evenings.
Generally, they are very positive about him. Their main concern has been that he isn't too interested in playing with other children, but prefers to spend time with the adults - this has always been the case, and at soft play he will gravitate towards children of 10+, rather than of his own age.
Also, not sure if it's at all relevant, but they have started him on a physio-type programme to hopefully improve his motor skills. I have wondered for a while if there may be an issue like dyspraxia for a number of reasons - most days I have to sign the accident book, for example!
However, he is very bright - good with his reading, numbers, etc., and can be exceptionally charming when he wants to be!
Just summing up then:
He was a high needs baby.
He has reduced awareness of danger.
He doesn't respond to usual behaviour management techniques.
His behaviour is worse when in unfamiliar places even when it is a treat.
He struggles with motor skills.
He struggles socially with his peers.
He is academically able.
He experiences uncontrollable meltdowns.
His behaviour is far better in school than it is at home.
Everything on this list could be considered to be a symptom of High Functioning Autism or Asperger's Syndrome. There are other common aspects that you don't mention like taking things very literally, sensory sensitivities, the need for rigid routines and deep interests which are also common.
Try Googling Asperger's and Tony Attwood who is a world expert on it and see if you feel that it describes your DS.
That's interesting. In a lot of ways, it would make sense - and I'm not scared of the 'label', or whatever. That said, there are some things that I'm not sure fit:
- The intensity of this has become much worse only in the last few weeks, although there have been signs of it before.
- I have done the 'Sally/Anne' (theory of mind) test with him, and he 'passed'.
- He is very capable of fibbing, negotiating, etc!
- I wouldn't say that he has sensory sensitivity.
- He can engage people in (unusually complex) conversation.
- He is very fond of cuddles and affection.
There are lots of things that do fit, though. Funnily enough, that Tony Attwood site mentions that trampolining doesn't have the same difficulties that most other physical activities do - and DS's trampoline is one of his favourite things.
I'm not sure if the things I've mentioned rule out an ASD diagnosis? Or if it could still be that, but not in the stereotypical sense?
Thank you for the replies so far, by the way - if nothing else, it's helpful to talk about it!
I wouldn't say that any of those things rules out a diagnosis but different areas use different criteria, DSMIV, DSMV or ICD are all in use, depending on who you are assessed by.
My DD2 has a diagnosis of AS and passed the SallyAnne test aged 7 because, like lots of other children who are academically able she'd learned to think about it logically. She still misses the intuitive aspects of theory of mind. The only way she differs from your DS in that list is that she does have big sensory issues.
AS is more of an overall picture than a tick list so no one trait or strength should rule out or confirm a diagnosis. It's about the affect the over pattern of difficulties has on the child's day to day functioning.
It's something to bear in mind.
If your DS like trampolining so much he may find it is having a calming effect. You may be able to replicate this effect by deep pressure activities when his behaviour is getting difficult to manage. Carrying heavy loads, pushing hard with his arms, wrapping him tightly in a hug or a blanket, could give him the proprioceptive feedback he is seeking on the trampoline.
You also might like to try giving him visual timetables showing the structure of his day, week, term so he feels more secure in what is happening now, for how long and what's coming next. Take note of whether it helps him.
Also try giving him down time when there are not too many social demands on him. So don't go to a soft play centre and have friends over to play on the same day. He may enjoy social interaction with older children but still find it stressful. Again, whether this helps is significant.
Have a think about the tantrums. Are they for a reason, i.e. targeted at getting something he wants, or are they the result of overwhelming stress, frustration or exhaustion? If they are the latter there's no point in punishing them. They are best managed by allowing them to run their course and then asking the child to help sort out any resulting mess after they have calmed down. The best prevention is teaching the child to recognise their triggers and ask for help to manage them.
Pp's have said what was on my mind. Either that or ADHD.
I'm on my phone right now, so can't type as much as I'd like, but that is all really interesting. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me those things.
We have had another very difficult evening, with my mum here to help, which has resulted in him chipping paint off his bedroom door by hitting it with things in a tantrum. While he is still in his tantrum mode, he does go through the motions of apologising, but immediately reverts to the terrible behaviour.
The thing that confuses me more than anything is the sudden onset. He has always been a handful, but this pattern of particularly bad behaviour has sprung up very recently. It doesn't seem to tie into any other particular trigger event. With autism, or anything else, can this be the case? Or must I be missing something?
Right this second, he is being very good. He is doing as he is told, saying he will never behave so badly again, & being generally lovely. I know from experience that this is untrue. I know that he will do much the same again.
As for what causes the tantrums, I think it is a combination of the two. It only really happens this badly when he is tired, but it is triggered by not getting his own way - even if that is being allowed to be particularly silly / dangerous. We have tantrums over the most ridiculous of things, because he simply doesn't like being told what to do.
Have you looked up PDA ?
I'd suggest reading the book the explosive child for some tips
It sounds like you could do with a few more strategies of how to manage him in your toolkit, as it were.
My kids school offered a couple of parenting classes that were useful for developing strategies for actually disciplining children. Of course they don't like being told what to do but they need to know you are in control andare going to set the boundaries for him. He won't like it but he will get used to it if you are consistent.
Have you looked up PDA ?
Definitely worth doing. Pathalogical Demand Avoidance is an element of any Autism Spectrum Disorder but it can also be a diagnosis on its own. Some clinicians don't recognise it as a stand alone disorder.
If you are thinking in terms of ASD, you could look towards school as a reason for his behaviour escalating. Demands on children to organise themselves, deal with noisy, sensory stimulating environments and interact socially increase as they go through school and lots of children with ASD find it increasingly hard to cope. They often mask their problems while in school in an effort to blend in socially and attract attention but home is their safety valve and behaviour deteriorates there.
He's above the age now when meltdowns are usually about true loss of control. If he is still doing this regularly, rather than just keeping going until you give in, he probably doesn't have much choice about it so apologies and punishments are pretty meaningless. That doesn't mean that making amends and clearing up aren't a good idea though. They are but not until the episode is well and truly over.
Children in meltdown can take an hour to calm down enough to truly process thought and language. During that time they can be on a hair trigger and it take very little to send them straight back up again. When you sense he is on the way down isn't the time for discipline. Its a time to concentrate on teaching him ways to self calm. The trampoline could be very effective as could a weighted blanket, tight wrap, hiding in a den type space, brisk walking, whatever he finds helps to bring him down.
Another thing to remember is that consistency and predictability are key to reducing stress and improving behaviour. Treats, days out, surprises can increase stress and result in behaviour that sabotages them.
Things that cross my mind - Aspergers, impulse control disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder. Or simply needs more boundaries/rewards.
He might just be a very very sensitive child? If the problem is being told what to do, can you give him a choice between two things so he feels he has some control. 'Would you like to put your socks on first or brush your hair?'
Also use a timer and give him notice. 'We have five minutes before we need to leave the park. I've put the timer on and we can do xx when it rings in 5 minutes'
Let him know in advance what is happening next. Make it sound interesting even if its not - so to get him walking to school. 'After we have put your shoes on, I need to show you the amazing cobweb outside. Shall we count the spiders legs?'
Also more sleep. Early nights. Black out blinds if the light is keeping him awake?
My mum sent me an interesting read called raising your spirited child
You might find it worth while.
My little brother has asberger's but had more social awkwardness and didn't express emotions very well.
I do remember mum taking him to do laps running around a field before bedtime so he could settle himself. It seemed to help!
Hello everybody - thank you so much for all of your replies. (Sorry for vanishing - been mega busy with work & other stuff)
The PDA thing is fascinating, and in so many ways sounds exactly like him. I'm still not sure about the sudden escalation, so I am going to try some of the other methods.
We already do timers and things, but I'm going to make more of an effort to be massively positive about everything, and a lot more reward-heavy. Basically I'm going to try 'training' him in the same way we do the dog
I have ordered that Spirited Child book, and also some stress balls & things - I think I'm going to try to create an area of his bedroom where he can go when he starts to feel particularly angry, so he can learn to express himself in a better (safer!) way. I do also feel like I should acknowledge that he feels as he does, and that it is normal to feel angry or upset sometimes, but that we can't use that as a reason to hit people, etc.
Now it's been a bit longer since the last massive outburst, I have less panic and frustration, and feel quite sorry for him. Whatever the cause of his unhappiness is, it is obviously a very intense level of emotion for a 5 year old to deal with.
They certainly don't tell you about this at antenatal classes, do they?!
Ok, firstly when I read that bit about "where are we going wrong?" my immediate thought was this: please try not to think that it is necessarily something you've done wrong, I know some brilliant parents who do everything they can for their child but they're still difficult in many ways. I know how you feel because my DD is the same, to the extent that our GP has referred us for specialist help. She can scream so loudly the whole house vibrates. I'm at the end of my tether too. I really hope you have a close circle of friends that you can talk to about this because it's helped me a lot. It WILL be ok
Basically I'm going to try 'training' him in the same way we do the dog
You might be interested in ABA.
They certainly don't tell you about this at antenatal classes, do they?!
Nobody ever tell you when you got it right either. You just have to bumble along making best guesses and hoping you made the right call most of the time.
Please read The Explosive Child, it stands in good stead whether you are considering the possibility of ASD or not. It doesn't make any difference.
I would ditch the rewards and telling off for a start. I would go for empathy and understanding the triggers that might set him off.
I have an ASD child who found change/transition very difficult (for example holidays, even though he loved the expeditions and seeing the sights - he would berserk because his normal routines were upset, like not being able to sit down at meals, running round in circles, screaming - yet could talk for hours about the Vikings etc (this was a trip to York ) My ASD child is extremely affectionate and chatty/intelligent and presents no particular problems at school apart from phonics/handwriting, social skills.
I wonder whether your child is very overtired and needs a lot more structured day, with an earlier bedtime and very little demands on him after school.
I would tell your parents to stop lecturing him too. That won't help. He'll dislike them and regard them as enemies when they could be his allies. ASD children are very black and white about who is on their side.
It is hard when they are screaming and ranting but there are lots of ways you can reduce the incidences once you know the buildup and triggers.
Rewards can be re-introduced as positive reinforcement but taking things away for bad behaviour won't help him, unless he is actually relieved to have less stuff in his room, and similarily time out will only work to relieve his stress rather than as a punishment - he might actually crave a bit of time to calm down.
The other thing that I only found out recently (ds2 is 12 now!) is that a lot of the impulsive behaviour is sensory seeking, because if you have poor self regulation you are constantly craving some physical feedback from the world around you. Try reading the Out of Sync child, in a nutshell it is why most children feel better when they've been to the park and climbed, kicked footballs, and wrestled with large heavy objects (also trampolines)
Is he not just very, very tired at the end of the day? I have to get my DD (5) into bed and asleep by 7pm each night for her to be in a reasonable frame of mind the next day. The more tired she is, the more demanding and unreasonable she becomes.
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