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Can anyone help? How to deal with 3yo RAGES (terrifying)

(28 Posts)
SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:04:26

I've posted about 3.5 yo DD before but getting so worn down by it.

She is fundamentally happy, sparky, very creative and incredibly loving.

BUT... her rages are horrendous.

I can't really call them tantrums because they're not what I would classify as a tantrum eg Child wants something they're told they can't have and they start to kick off.

These aren't related to anything she's told she can't do or can't have. They SOLELY happen in these kinds of situations: when she is asked to choose between two things and can't decide; when there is a smell she finds offensive; frustration at not being able to do something INSTANTLY or to her satisfaction eg when she is drawing a picture and gets it 'wrong'.

She will scream, just loud back of the throat screaming noises and often also bizarre rambling phrases the more worked up she gets (eg today, in the middle of a particularly horrendous meltdown in the swimming pool changing room when she had lost it because she thought her hands smelled funny) she was screaming at me 'You're the only one I can trust with the truth'... I don't think she even knew what she was saying (!) but it is incoherent.

She will end up almost sick with screaming.

She will sometimes run at me in sort of wild angry desperation, push and shove me etc.

In mid-scream, she will suddenly stop, wail 'I'm sorry, please help me calm down' and then as soon as I say, "Ok, DD, let's take a deep breath...' she wil scream 'NO!" again and start screaming all over again.

Today at the pool she was whacking the cubicle door with her hands so hard I thought she would really hurt herself.

It was terrible. And it's the 3rd similar one so far in the last 7 days.

My response is to remain calm, speak gently and simply, say as little as possible except what I think might help eg, 'Can I help you, DD? Shall we count to 10 etc.'

But fucking hell, today was a bad one.

I CANNOT do what might be advised in the case of a child throwing a tantrum eg warnings, threats, 'If you don't stop this nonsense we won't be going swimming etc'. Because part of the escalation in her case is always an awareness that she is doing something terrible and therefore if I point it out, as it were, it just escalates it even further, if that were possible.

Also, it just wouldn't help. She is always very distressed by these meltdowns and will apologise, wretchedly, as soon as she has calmed down. She's not being 'naughty'. She just loses control.

I know the triggers: Hunger, tiredness, over-stimulation. But I can't always avoid these. Sometimes even though she is hungry she won't eat enough. Sometime even though she is tired she won't have a short nap. I give her as much down time as I can. I keep snacks to hand.

I don't know what to do. I am starting to dread going out anywhere and doing anything because the smallest of things can set her off.

Please, can anyone help? Today's was terrifying. Sll 3 rages this week have lasted over 15 mins (that's 15 mins solid, in public, of screaming until she's almost sick and bright red in the face)

Should I have her checked out by anyone? I'm almost scared. Is this normal?

She is very highly-strung - my entire family is highly strung - but what am I doing wrong and how can I help her?

Thanks and sorry for the essay...

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:13:25

Oh and sorry, I should add, her pre-school say she is a delight, that she is chatty (like a little adult in many ways, htough obv not emotionally), helpful, engaged and engaging... It's only with me that she gets into these terrible states.

pennycarbonara Tue 15-Nov-16 20:13:53

Sounds very, very much like an aspergers / ASD meltdown would in someone older. However I've no personal experience of dealing with them in a toddler.

Matchingbluesocks Tue 15-Nov-16 20:16:37

I'm sure someone more knowledgable will be along but would they be able to do anything for potential adhd or similar at such a young age?

This might seem like an odd suggestion but can she go to nursery more (could you go back to work?) if she behaves there...

PerspicaciaTick Tue 15-Nov-16 20:18:38

That sounds very frightening and I imagine your DD finds them even scarier than you do, imagine losing control like that and not knowing how to stop it or what it means.

If your HV team is supportive, I'd have a chat with them about it all.

In the meantime, you are doing a great job staying calm and reassuring. Comfort and hug her as soon as she is calm enough to let you near. Make her feel safe and secure.
One of the turning points for my DS was when we were able to have a chat (very casual while sat on sofa watching CBeebies) about how he felt. He said he had lots of big feelings. Next time I could see him starting to lose it, I was able to say "Is it your big feelings? I'm here. You'll be OK". After that we often talked about big feelings, I think just having me acknowledge them and be a confidant for him helped him make progress and talk about his worries rather than scream and panic.
flowers for you both.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:18:52

Penny, thanks.

Honestly, that was what was going through my mind earlier today when I was watching her.

BUT she has no other obvious signs of anything ASD-related, in my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the matter. (My cousin has one autistic child and another ASD but I don't know much apart from what I see with her)

She is phenomenally verbal, incredibly creative in her playing, socialises really well with other children and cousins, chats to adults nicely, has a great sense of humour, is starting to learn really well at pre-school, enjoys all kinds of activities...

There is the smell issue which has been growing for a while, she notices 'funny' smells and will get very upset by them (retching etc) but it comes and goes. It's worse when she is tired.

I just don't know where these rages comes from, they are from 0 1o 500 in a millisecond.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:23:07

Thanks so much everyone

Perspicacia, thank you and that is GREAT advice - mentioning it casually may help.

That said, I'm not even sure there would be room for me to have that little word of, 'Is it your big feelings?' in most of these cases. Certainly not today - she jsut went from being fine and cheery to LOSING it in about 2 seconds flat. (my hair brushed against her face while I was getting her into her cozzie, that was what started it, and before I knew it she was just OFF...)

I think it is terrifying for her thought. sad

Matchingblue, I hadn't considered anything adhd related and know NOTHING about it. If anyone can advise, that would be amazing. I will have a quick Google as I literally know nothing.

I was recommended The Highly Sensitive Child book on here a few weeks ago and that has been very helpful but I still feel helpless in so many ways when she kicks off.

Thinkingblonde Tue 15-Nov-16 20:23:11

Could you film her on your phone to show to your gp or health visitor? Even a voice recording?

blushingmare Tue 15-Nov-16 20:24:48

I'm sorry op, this sounds really tough and very distressing.

I am not an expert, but do have some experience and professional training in this area and she sounds to me like she might have some sensory processing difficulties.

Unfortunately it's not something that is well recognised by medics, so it will depend how knowledgeable your GP is as to how a discussion goes with them, but I think it would be worth making an appointment and talking it through.

Not wanting to scare you, but it's one of those things that can really improve with intervention in the early years, so worth getting it checked out now.

Intervention would normally be occupational therapy with a therapist trained in sensory integration (not all are). NHS provision of this is varied. If you can stretch to seeing someone privately it might be worth it.

Good luck!

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:30:07

Thanks blushing and Thinking.

Thinking, I did actually think today that I shoudl film her but there was no way I could have. If it happens at home though, I might.

Blushing, the 'sensory' thing has popped up in my mind a few times but I don't really know what it means IYSWIM. Her issues with smell do seem extreme at times (today for example).

I thinkk I will go along to the GP (my HV isn't great sadly) and just see if they think there is anything worth investigating.

I really really don't want to pathologise what might be 'just' the Terrifying Threes... I just don't know if what has happened recently is anything on the scale of normal.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 15-Nov-16 20:32:19

I think being open about it and developing the words to talk about it can help put it into perspective. Not as an instant fix, but in terms of both of you recognising it is a familiar situation, one that you have successfully weathered before and you will get through this one. It takes some of the anxiety out of it for you both.
My DS is 8yo now and copes much better with anxious situations... partly because we have learned together how to get through them.

SittingDrinkingTea Tue 15-Nov-16 20:35:42

I'm not going to try and diagnose your DDvia the Internet, but what I will say is ASD can present very differently in girls and the things people think of as typical markers such as social awkwardness aren't always present.

Your DD sounds a lot like my DDs bff who is currently being investigated for ASD. She's very social, perceptive and has empathy in spades, but she also can't cope in certain situations and has meltdowns which she can't control or be distracted from.

fluffandsnuff Tue 15-Nov-16 20:36:18

Blushing- not an expert but was wondering same thing. Researching for something else and came across this www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/the-difference-between-tantrums-and-sensory-meltdowns

Might be a useful read for more info

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:39:31

Thanks SO much to everyone.

SittingDrinkingTea, that is a fantastically helpful pointer, THANK YOU. I will bear that in mind as we proceed.

fluff, checking out that link now thank you.

If I'd cared what anyone thought today (I was beyond caring, frankly) I'd have been trying to tell them that she wasn't tantrumming and so whatever looks they were giving me (a few sympathetic, a few of the Control Your Child variety) were misplaced. She does tantrum, sometimes, or rather she used to when she was pre-verbal, but I can tell the difference. What's happening at the moment isn't a tantrum

Frustratedmummy79 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:40:29

I agree that it sounds like it may be related to sensory processing. Swimming pools are incredibly sensory overloading places - the smell, the wet floor on her feet, the acoustics..... Children often "cope" at school (for cope, see hold it all together) but then explode when they get home. Often it might be one tiny insignificant thing but it's essentially the straw that breaks the camels back and they experience complete sensory overload. Google sensory profile Winnie Dunn PDF and see if you can fill in the caregiver profile. It might help you to pin point whether she does have sensory sensitivities and what they are. As mentioned above, an OT with an interest in sensory integration/sensory processing would be helpful

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:42:22

Thank you FrustratedMummy.

Yes, i was just saying this to DH - that I could understand to an extent what the 'issue' was - it was very warm in the changing room, there was obviously a smell, the sound was odd and echoey...

DollopofTrollop Tue 15-Nov-16 20:45:46

Yep ASD /ADHD and sensory issues!!! My DS was fine at school until yr 4. See help from HV soon!

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 20:50:36

Thanks Dollop.

I'm starting to think now of other things that are standing out for me recently. She can get very very anxious about something seemingly small and repeat and repeat her question about it. Eg we were in a shop a while ago trying to choose her a small toy as a treat and she kept repeatedly and repeatedly (think 20+ times) asking the same question about the toy she was considering: she wanted a doll but didn't want one that had any extra features eg lights or a button you pressed to make it talk and she kept on and on asking, 'But this one doesn't DO anything, does it, mummy?' She must have asked me 20 times in the space of about 3 minutes.

She has done similar with other things recently, not very often but it's very marked.

Cakescakescakes Tue 15-Nov-16 20:53:08

This sounds very similar to my DS when he was that age and we subsequently got an ASD diagnosis. (Although he had other difficulties). The rage was incredible and he was so upset and sad and physically drained afterwards.

I second the pp who mentioned how vastly different the presentation can be in girls though. They often receive diagnosis (and support...) much later because they are often better socially etc which everyone thinks is the main ASD difficulty. The MChat online questionnaire is really useful to help identify potential ASD traits and is respected by doctors etc so maybe google that. It was spot on for my DS but maybe with girls it might not be as accurate.

blushingmare Tue 15-Nov-16 21:00:37

OP - sensory processing difficulties means that the sensory system is not working as it should be. It may be over responsive or under-responsive, or both in different contexts. It means that sensory experiences can be very overwhelming for the child (if the system is over responsive). So a strong smell, hair brushing face, irritating clothes, noise, crowds etc etc produce over the top physical sensations that are frightening and unpleasant for the child. It's important to remember they are physical sensations, so a smell might actually make them feel sick, a tickle might sting, a noise might hurt their ears etc. This makes the world a confusing and frightening place for affected children and they develop a whole range of behaviours as a result. The behaviour that comes about is dependent on the child's personality and individual reaction to fear/stress, so behaviours will be different in every case.

It's a complex area and that's an over-simplification, but might give you an idea. There are parallels with ASD/ADHD, and children with those diagnoses often have sensory issues, but sensory processing difficulties can exist in isolation too.

It is very common for a child to have developed strategies to enable them to hold it together well at nursery/school and then release it all at home.

Hope that helps.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 15-Nov-16 21:02:38

Thank you blushing. That's a very very good starting point for us to think about.

I am going to call the GP surgery tomorrow and get an appointment with one of the most sympathetic GPs there.

Cakes thank you too, I will google that questionnare.

PilkoPumpPants Tue 15-Nov-16 21:10:06

My dd was exactly the same as you described at that age. It wasnt ever a tantrum over wanting something, just pure rage about nothing. Thankfully at 4 she's grown out of it, but she still has a temper over certain things. Never ever towards anyone else other than me or her dad. Always good as gold at school or with family.

Hopefully it's the same for you and your dd.

wildlingtribe Tue 15-Nov-16 21:12:06

I can relate soooooo much. I have a 6,4,2,7mo and I find this with my middle two. Watching this thread with interest. And hugs to you.

Tanito279 Tue 15-Nov-16 21:12:21

I don't have any experience of ASD etc but I do have a threenager. If you google ADHD symptoms she has them all, but I think most toddlers do at some time. Anyway when she starts screaming, hitting etc I grab her in a big hug and sit on the floor with her on my lap. I put her head on my chest and hold it there with my hand on her other ear. Sometimes I do have to hold her there quite forcibly. Then I rock gently and murmur stuff like "I know" and "it's ok". When she's quiet enough to hear me, I invite her to help me blow up a balloon. Deep breath in and long breaths out. Sometimes I gently blow on her forehead. We do this until she's calm. Even if she has a tantrum in the car, I'll still do the balloon thing while driving. The breathing exercise also helps me to calm down and not shout or cry.
I'm only sharing this as a temporary coping strategy.

blushingmare Tue 15-Nov-16 21:18:59

Tanito- the strategies you've described are very much what a sensory integration therapist would recommend. Strategies for coping with sensory processing difficulties involve using "proprioceptive" and deep pressure input, which is basically things that squeeze and squash (like hugs, being squashed, wearing weighted/tight garments) and activities against resistance like carrying heavy things, working with resistance bands, or... blowing up a balloon!

Very instinctive smile

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