My son is like a bottle of champagne. As he goes through his day, anyone looking at him would think he’s just a little boy just like all the other little boys at school. He’s cute. He has a smile on his face and he seems to go effortlessly transitioning from class to class from activity to activity. When I look at him I see the little baby that I first held in my hands. I see flashes of memories of special moments that we’ve had together over the years. I see all of his successes and a few of his failures. I also see moments that make me giggle.
But when he gets off the school bus every day, from the moment his eyes look into mine and then I look at his clothing and I get hints of how he’s doing. I see how fast he moves off the bus or how slow he moves off the bus and it gives me clues to what kind of day he’s had. If he’s teasing his sister, has a smile on his face or he excitedly wants to tell me something that’s important I read between the lines.
If he starts throwing his body at the massive mounds of snow that line the sidewalk for the two block walk to our house I know he is dis-regulated. A little boy that once looked at me with eyes full of stress and anxiety turns a five minute walk home to a 20 minute walk home as he throws his body at each and every mound of snow from the driveway and halls his body up the big mound and then slowly slides down. He might pause and take the snow and rub it slowly on his face and make his cheeks so very cold in red but it makes them happy so I let him. We live in the city so the houses are very close together so there is a 10 houses to every block so he has 20 mounds of snow to go up-and-down. Mother nature is providing heavy work and sensory integration for his body was craving it.
You see he’s trying to keep up appearances all day. Stubbornly and determinedly he is trying to be in the grade 2 classroom and be just like any other little boy. Watching his peers trying to do what they do trying to keep up. Whatever he is feeling inside, he is not sharing with the teachers or his friends. He puts a smile on his face and this is what I hear:
He is doing just fine. Yes a smile on his face he’s just giggling right now. No he just seems fine. He seems like his self. No we don’t see anything happening with him today except his normal self.
When he comes home he is in danger of popping a cork if I don’t handle him carefully. Little things become big things like his his zipper get stuck in the front. He doesn’t want to carry his backpack. He wants me to carry it and has tears of frustration. His sister starts singing a song that suddenly annoys him and he tells her to stop singing. I ask him to follow his after-school routine which begins with taking off his gear, going to the bathroom and getting changed but I get resistance every step of the way.
I am very proud of Johnny for trying so hard at school to appear to be self regulated. I know from little things that are casually mentioned to me when he is dis-regulated at school. I see that his hands are extremely dirty when he comes home. His bag is very disorganized and everything is just tossed in. When he gets changed I will notice that he’s got more bumps and scrapes on his arms and his legs that weren’t there this morning because he’s become so clumsy because of dis-regulation.
So now our biggest challenges is getting everyone that works with Johnny to truly understand what self-regulation is and why it’s important to happen all throughout the day not just when trouble begins and dis regulation looks like. We have had occupational therapist visit the school observe Johnny work with Johnny consult with the teachers present plans tools but if they see only what they want to see a child that looks like the coping and do you not understand that self-regulation happens throughout the entire day then Johnny is just another champagne bottle that instead of bursting and blowing it’s cork at home might just blow at school. His occupational therapist and his Daddy and I believe that just like a champagne bottle you carefully handle it and you help him be able to cope at school so that he’s not trying so hard throughout the day to hold it together so he doesn’t have to just let loose when he comes home with his family. A sensory diet is very important. Unfortunately you get a new teacher every year so all the hard work we’ve done will have to begin again so I believe the new tactic is going to have to be is to empower Johnny and to really teach him what self-regulation is what his body needs and why so that he can take the lead in this