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Y5 9yo loses control and it's getting serious

(10 Posts)
Mij Thu 03-Mar-16 09:44:08

Long, sorry.

DD1 has always had epic meltdowns, right from 10mths or so. Consequently I've read many, many books and articles about ways to help her, help us, etc etc. We go through patches of calm and patches of storminess so I'm used to ups and downs, but I really thought she'd have gained some self-control and self-regulation skills by now. To be fair to her, she probably does have fewer meltdowns, but now when she does properly lose it, it's getting quite frightening.

There are 2 types - the devastating (to her) disappointment ones when she just bursts into uncontrollable sobbing, and she's often mortified about, particularly if they happen at school or in public, and she says afterwards she doesn't want to do it but she couldn't hold it in any more. These can be triggered by relatively minor things (like not being able to take a jointly made bit of artwork home, even though I've eg photographed it) but often turns out to be a 'last straw' thing, once I've heard about all the other little things that have gone wrong that day. I can at least understand these a bit more.

But she's also started having uncontrollable, quite frightening rages. This morning it was because her younger sister (they share a room - we hope she'll have her own room by the end of the year) turned off their alarm clock. Apparently they have some kind of arrangement where DD2 can turn it off if it's been going on a while and DD1 is showing no signs of shifting. DD2 said this morning she had a headache so she jumped up and turned it off. This was absolutely not unreasonable. DD1 screamed like a banshee, threw herself around the room, risked hurting herself and damaging things, saying the kind of stuff people say when they've lost it (I HATE HAVING A SISTER) The entire street must have been able to hear her. I took DD2 out of the way and said what I usually do - that we can talk when she's blown herself out because it's impossible to listen/fix anything in that state.

These 'rage' meltdowns are a loss of control, they're not tantrums to get something she wants. They seem to happen more around times of stress or excitement. Last night she was up doing something she loves and has been looking forward to for ages, and any kind of costumed event (yeah thanks WBD) causes immense excitement and a LOT of planning in our house, so this was partly down to the fact that she had planned leaping out of bed and getting dressed really fast so I could do something specific to her hair, and the one tiny detail of her sister getting to the alarm first amounted to, in her head, the entire plan going down the pan. This makes 'treats' or even just 'nice stuff' (and I'm mainly talking about events: theatre, cinema, days out, but also eg finding just the right new shoes) almost inevitably involves some kind of vile outburst. It makes me sad, down, not want to bother.

She's always handled disappointment badly. We don't try to protect her from it because she needs to practise and that's life, but we do sometimes try to manage her expectations because she imagines how things are going to be (sometimes without any kind of justification eg anything from thinking we're going to go abroad for a holiday this year to getting an ice cream at the park) and then falls apart when it doesn't happen.

She's always found school (the institution and structure, not the work - she's pretty bright academically) challenging and she's had a tough couple of years around friendships and some unpleasant behaviour towards her at school, which to the school's credit they've been very proactive in dealing with. She has contact with a senior TA who's very sympathetic and who's discussed calming down strategies, and worked on confidence (which she actually has buckets of in many ways but school has ground her down a bit) but I'm starting to wonder if we need to look elsewhere for support. She can be very anxious and for a good few years has displayed symptoms which in an adult you'd think of as depression, but we've coped with it all ourselves so far, and we talk about everything. She's smart - she knows when she's being handled or fobbed off so we're as honest and open as we can be.

So, do I go back to school and ask them to step up work with her? Do I go to local CMHS? I've wondered occasionally whether she may be (mildly) on the spectrum but I've mainly been of the opinion that we should (re)expand our ideas of what's 'normal' rather than pathologise everything.

And yes, I've considered mindfulness - for me mainly (I don't always have great MH tbh) and maybe doing it together.

Any advice welcome (though don't talk to me about charts or rewards/punishments. She's not that kid. She'd seen through their inconsistencies and pointlessness at school by Y1, despite still being a sucker for a sticker at the dentist)

DelphiniumBlue Thu 03-Mar-16 10:12:05

You have my sympathy.
I'm no expert, but I think some sort of counseling might be in order - will school refer her? If she is on the spectrum then help with specific strategies might make a big difference.
In the meantime, it sounds as if her expectations are unrealistic, maybe get her to look at the sort of minor things that could go wrong with any plan, and discuss this, to deal with it in advance? And more discussion around how imperfections and things not going right are normal, not catastrophic.
I'd also be pointing that she can't treat a younger sibling like that whatever she feels.
She does sound very egotistical and her reactions seem to be dominant ing your family life to the detriment of all of the rest of you.. Thats not fair, particularly for DD2.
As far as the alarm is concerned, the rule has to be that if she wants to be the one to turn it off, she must do it within x number of rings. If she doesn't, then anyone can turn it off AND she will not be able to use it next time.
If she is on the spectrum, then clear rules and consequences will make sense to her. Personal responsibility is important, does she understand how, for example, her own failure to get up and turn off the alarm triggered the situation?
Initially, I'd ask the school for advice on your next step, the inclusion manager or senco should be able to help. If not, then GP but I think school are more likely to have specialist knowledge about local provision.

Mij Fri 04-Mar-16 00:24:33

I don't know about egotistical - not sure what's normal at this age as pretty much everyone under the age of abt 20 is pretty self absorbed if iirc wink and she can be incredibly generous and kind. And she understands this stuff intellectually, but just has little control over her emotions. And she does come from a long and venerable line of over reactors but I don't think I was ever this bad. My dad can still fly odd the handle for England (not that DD1 sees that).

Shemozzle Fri 04-Mar-16 00:49:36

Wow, she sounds just like my 8 and a half year old DD. I'm afraid I don't really have any advice but couldn't not reply after reading that. I home educate her now so I can't help with the school stuff. She was going to be assessed for ADHD but I declined it because they admitted the only support they would offer in school would be medication. I didn't want to stick a label on for no reason, I just wish there was some help or solution available.

So many lovely days we have are ruined by her outbursts and I am not patient at all with them. Excitement is a trigger for her, as is leaving friends houses and sometimes really minor things like bedtime can cause her to trash her room and kick floors etc for half an hour. She is always apologetic afterwards but no reasoning with during. I've long learned not to try and surprise her with nice things as she builds up something unimaginable and then is disappointed which is horrible when you've put a lot of thought and expense into nice things.

One thing we have discovered is she seems to have some dietary triggers. We can't let her have too many salicylate foods though we don't stick to salicylate free anymore because it is too limiting. But if she has MSG in particular she is much more likely to fly off the handle. I looked into this route when she had an epic meltdown when we arrived at a festival and we were trying to set the tent up. It was a particularly hideous one and it seemed to come out of nowhere. It was mostly because she was excited as that is a big trigger, but it was so extreme and over the top it was like she was on drugs, her eyes dilated, not making any sense at all, so It made me wonder if the Wotsits she has just eaten may have something dodgy in. I then realised that I could link her having foods with MSG in right before many big meltdowns and that is when we started looking into diet. We have to be careful to with grapes, balsamic vinegar, raisins, berries, apples, artificial clues, sweeteners and a few other things. Try looking into the Feingold diet if it is any interest to you.

2kids4cats Sat 05-Mar-16 08:11:10

This all sounds very familiar. You have my sympathy.
Read up on ADHD in girls (they present differently to boys) and ASD.
Epic meltdowns at 10yrs old are not the norm. It's often a little thing that causes an epic meltdown, the straw to break the camels back, as they say. Think of your child as a bottle of Coke. All day long it gets shaken slightly with over stimulation, arguments with friends, a remark from a teacher, something going wrong etc...then when they get home, that bottle of Coke is opened and they explode.
Go to your GP and ask for a referral to CAHMs, it will take time, so go now and then reassess in a few months when they send an appointment. If you are desperate, like we were, go private.

ApocalypseSlough Sat 05-Mar-16 08:30:33

You've had some good advice here. Maybe also come up with a safety word- she can to signal to you when she's about to blow and you can step in. It wouldn't have worked over the alarm clock but maybe with the shared art work if you'd known you could have got out of there swiftly maybe with it wink
But mainly- you! I'm full of awe at your OP. She's very lucky to have you in her corner. stdavids

Devilishpyjamas Sat 05-Mar-16 08:40:01

The challenging child by Stanley Greenspan is good for better understanding this sort of behaviour.

My youngest (now 11) does not have ASD but can fall apart very easily. Much less so in the last year tbh. He's only ever fallen apart at home. It is similar to an autistic meltdown (I am very familar with those) & in his case tends to come from having a somewhat inflexible understanding of things coupled with anxiety & a loss of control when things don't make sense.

He reacts to foods as well.

ovenchips Sat 05-Mar-16 09:05:47

Some good advice. Particularly the dietary idea. I did major dietary intervention with my DC for years (completely different scenario to yours though) and so I have seen what a difference it can make. At one point, my DC reacted to apple juice (apples are v high in salicylates) and they would get very dilated pupils, red patches on cheeks and OTT behaviour from it. Is your DD prone to shadows under her eyes, patches on skin etc? That can sometimes indicate food intolerances.

I think, from reading the whole post and not just focusing on the epic meltdown situations, that your DD may be dealing with a fair bit of everyday anxiety (which would contribute to the whole meltdown scenario). I would recommend magnesium and B6 supplements for this. You could try baths with Epsom salts in them (a form of magnesium and make for v relaxing baths!) you could also give her adrenals extra support (inability to handle strong emotion/ stress is a classic low adrenal symptom). I take ACE (adrenal cortex extract) for my adrenal issues and it makes an unbelievable difference to me. If you were interested I would read up about adrenal issues and see if it might apply to your DD. There are some adrenal 'tests' involving looking at eye pupil function in darkness and light (which involves getting them to stand in a dark cupboard!) and drawing an imaginary line on her stomach with your nail and see what kind of mark it makes. It might all sound a bit weird but I can only say it has worked for us!

Could I ask if your DD is aware of herself when she loses it? If not, would it be worth videoing her so she can see what she does and can also maybe explain to you why she does certain things? You might understand more about certain triggers or ways in which you could intervene when she's full flow, that might help (or things to avoid too).

Good luck anyway with trying to get a handle on the meltdowns. You sound like a really sensitive and thoughtful parent who is already handling tricky situations really well.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Sat 05-Mar-16 09:39:04

Have you adopted my daughter?

Agree charts behaviour plans etc don't work - same intellect - same over reaction -

We have tried ignoring temper completely - this works as long as there's no danger - throws the washing downstairs etc

Love bombing also works

We also have secret hot chocolates and trips to Maccys - DH taking for breakfast this morning - so she feels special (we also do this for the other two and they all think they're special)

Means to an end

Mij Sun 06-Mar-16 20:31:30

Wow, thanks everyone. Sorry, busy weekend, haven't stopped, so only just catching up. And got to rush so sorry if I don't answer everyone/thing.

I'm going to go and look at everything that's been suggested. But in general: yes, she definitely does have a garden variety of anxiety (not trying to trivialise, more acknowledge how common it is actually, and how the f*cking current way education is going is making it SO much worse), no I hadn't thought of diet at all. We're veggie, and have a 'good enough' diet re: not too much 'added' stuff, mainly cook from scratch and I'm a bit draconian about lunchboxes but yes we still have some pre-made sauces, bought snacks, crisps about once a week.

I've thought about ADD (someone a while ago told me that if I was at school now, someone might consider referring me to an ed psyc because of my hugely tangential brain, can't remember wtf I'm in the middle of once distracted etc etc - very good for ideas and problem solving; very bad for some basic everyday function) but like thought she might be mildly on the spectrum I've always held back from going down that route in the hope that we can help her cope and gain skills without a diagnosis. Maybe it's time to at least get advice from school on that.

But mainly thank you for being lovely and not saying 'well she sounds like a brat'. I had a particularly crap parenting evening yesterday (seriously, I had a meltdown to rival DDs and cancelled Mother's Day blush) so was feeling utterly awful and defeated and like they'd all be better off if I just sodded off to a cave somewhere. So having a good day today (DP reinstated Mother's Day and DD1 demonstrated her outstanding sense of humour with a series of great cards and homemade bits and pieces) plus this has really helped.

I'll probably be back with more questions once I've read all this again properly!

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