Saturday, May 09, 2009

100 miles per hour and out of control

For some reason, Jennica came home yesterday in total sensory overload. I wish we knew what set it off, but we probably will never know. In any case, it was an experience that we hadn't seen at that level in a month or more, and it was a HUGE reminder of how far we've come.

Mike's Mom has been here for a week staying with us, so we all decided to hit a local restaurant for dinner last night. I went to pick up boys after track practice, Mike and Gerri went and picked up the girls at the day care, and we all met at the restaurant. The instant that Jen walked into the restaurant, I knew she was "off" because she was immediately very clingy to me. She tends to be a little clingy with me anyway when she's tired, but this was beyond that. I tried to convince myself that I was imagining things, but within minutes, she was a "frog-on-a-hot-rock" and wouldn't sit down, which was another bad sign of things to come for our evening. For the next five minutes, she swung between clinging to me, and bouncing around the restaurant like a ping-pong ball. We got dinner ordered.......and then things deteriorated when the appetizer arrived and she LOUDLY demanded that they were all hers and she wasn't going to share. A typical fight ensued........but typical to a 2-year old, not a 5-year-old with good language skills. She did a lot of yelling! I did a lot of quietly trying to convince her to cooperate. Mike finally took her outside for a minute to catch her breath, and she came back calmer. But it didn't last.

I ended up literally having to feed her dinner one bite at a time. In the roughest days of months gone by, this was really typical when she went into overload, but we've gotten past that.....until last night. For whatever reason, when she loses the ability to reason, she also loses the logical ability to understand that food satisfies her hunger. And the hungrier she gets, the worse her reasoning skills get. Its a horrible downward spiral that used to result in hours of out-of-control behavior that we now know could have been corrected (or at least minimized) by a good meal. We also now know that there is a blood sugar issue involved when she's hungry (one that isn't diagnosing in usual blood tests), and that the hungrier she gets, the less her brain identifies hunger as the problem. Once again, its pretty common in sensory kids to have difficulty recognizing their body cues of hunger, cold, heat, etc.....but Jen has come a LONG way in these areas. Which added to the "shock factor" of dealing with it last night. I think I'd almost forgotten just how bad it can be.

About halfway through her dinner(which she had buried in ketchup in a fit), she started to improve, and started using her language again. Interestingly enough, she commented that she didn't like the music in the restaurant. We keep getting more and more hints that auditory input (sound) is HUGE for her. And oddly enough, in the middle of this, she kept asking, "What was that?" I finally figured out that she was asking about the bell in the kitchen that the cook rings when the next order is ready! Despite the music, all the conversations around us, the clang of dishes and eating utensils, etc..........she was picking that bell out each time it rang!

So....... we finally escaped the restaurant with everyone frazzled.......but alive and grateful to be out of there. We got home, only to have the next phase start when she flipped out over the noise from the lawnmower. More screaming and yelling. We got her in the bathtub, and watching a movie..........only to have her TOTALLY lose it when it was time to go to bed. By this time is was an hour past her normal bedtime, and we tried to skip her usual bedtime story on the premise that she had watched a movie and we would read tomorrow......Saturday. Seems reasonable, right? And in her usual behavioral state these days, she would have totally been able to understand that and hop in bed. But she just wasn't with us last night. After 5 minutes of screaming in her bed, we went to Plan B. Read the darn story! (There was a time not so long ago when I would have insisted that we said "no story tonight" so "stick to my guns" and "follow through". I am SO SO SO grateful that we've moved beyond that point! There is a time to hold your ground.........and a time to realize that she's not doing this to be a brat. She's out of control due to a brain issue and trying to prove a point is akin to punishing an Alzheimer's patient for forgetting things. Move on.....)

So........I read the story and she was sound asleep for the night within 10 minutes. Mike and I were both exhausted from the effort, and it was a huge reminder of just how far we've come. It took a solid hour for my blood pressure to return to normal, but eventually I relaxed and life moved on.

This morning, so far, she's just fine. No remnants of last night's sensory overload, and no clue as to what triggered it. I admit to having some tension in my neck this morning, just waiting for a behavioral explosion from her. She's fine...I'm not. The effort of the fight took a lot out of me. Always trying to pick up the clues and fend off the next fight before it comes........trying to think through what is causing it so you can eliminate it.........and wondering if you're being manipulated and walked all over by a very smart 5-year-old that knows how to push your buttons.

I had forgotten just how bad it could be. The bald spot on the top of her head is almost grown back in from where she was twisting her hair so badly that she pulled it all out. The scabs on her face from the last gluten rash are finally totally healed and gone. She's taking her supplements easily each day now. And she's sleeping all night every night. Thank you very much.......I think I could have done without the reminder of just how bad it can be. And the reminder that Sensory Processing Disorder never really goes away.

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