I have five sons and one is a Special Needs Child. My youngest three are currently 6, 7 and 9. They are rambunctious, and definitely keep me busy. They also don’t really get along (conflicting personalities is the way I normally describe them). My 9 year old is fairly calm except for the occasional bit of attitude (he is entering those tween years after all). My 6 and 7 year old sons are a handful, and they do not get along. At all. Worst enemies. In an ideal world they wouldn’t have to look at each other, breathe near one another, let alone live together. But its not an ideal world.
A little background:
My 7 year old has a range of behavioural and anxiety issues. His official diagnosis is Selective Mutism with Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Autistic tendencies. Although not autistic, he has all the sensory issues associated with autism, including (but not limited to) food issues, issues being touched, and issues with noise. His tempertantrums and fits started when he was about 20 months old, and its not an exaggeration when I say this kid can scream for 10 hours straight (almost without taking a breath).
It wasn’t until Kindergarten that we really saw how “different” he was from the other kids. Until that time, we thought it was just some behavioural issues, perhaps related to being the “middle” child (Thomas is 14 months older, and Hayden is 17 months younger). Kristopher was a super easy baby, although he never liked to be touched, held or cuddled. That should have been my first clue that he was a little different, but honestly it wasn’t until Kindergarten that we really saw it.
His first year of Kindergarten he didn’t speak in the school at all. AT ALL. He was 100% mute. But almost as soon as I picked him up from school, the melt downs would begin and they would continue at full speed until bed time. The psychologists have told me its because I am his safe person, and home is his safe place, so when he is with me he feels safe letting it all out. Selective mutism is an anxiety based disorder, and there have been times where I have watched him in school and he appeared to be in pain, holding everything in all the time. I remember the end of May during his first year of Kindergarten, after school while on the playground, he said something to me in range of one of the other children from his class and it was the first time another student heard him speak. “WOW, Kristopher can talk?” His classmates had no idea.
Kristopher ended up repeating Kindergarten. He’s smart, but socially and emotionally he just wasn’t ready for grade one. To make a really long story short, we went through a whole lot of testing with my family doctor, behavioral clinics, The Children’s Hospital, a pediatrician and a couple psychologists to get the diagnosis that we currently have. The school has been incredibly supportive, and I feel so lucky the kids go to such a wonderful school. His second year of Kindergarten went MUCH better, although we never got to the point where he would talk in class. He did, however, speak outside on the playground, and he did participate in class (but it was side by side play, not interactive play) and on field trips whereas his first year he did not.
Grade One saw AMAZING changes. It took months, a lot of patience, and a lot of work, but by the end of the school year he was talking and fully participating in class! I volunteered at the school three times a week (once in Kindergarten with Hayden so he wouldn’t feel left out) and the other two days with Kristopher. I also volunteered for all the Kindergarten and Grade One field trips on top of this. It started with me taking Kristopher out of the class room and working with him in the conference room, then the library, then around the corner from his classroom, then outside the classroom door, and finally in the classroom. It was hard, it was frustrating, and it was incredibly rewarding. The changes were dramatic in the classroom, but really slow at home. As soon as he would step off the school bus, everything he held inside at school would come out and hours of tempertantrums and screaming would start. In June, we finally saw significant changes at home, a much calmer Kristopher (which also meant much calmer EVERYONE in general). Kristopher is a bit of a catalyst in our house. His melt downs affect everyone, and then we are all stressed out. When things are calm its awesome, but more often then not things are loud, and stressful. But I digress.
The thing about selective mutism is that generally the changes at HOME are the last ones to be seen, and things can actually get worse (WAY WORSE) before you start to see any improvements. Anyways, June saw some great changes at school, and for the first time at home things were calmer and more relaxed and everyone was happier in general. I had some really great plans for the summer. Nothing too busy, but day trips and movies and summer fun. Leaving the house (just the process of leaving the house) is very stressful for Kristopher, and just the idea of it will start a melt down (and often we can’t get out the door no matter what my intentions are). July started off really great, with a trip to the Science Centre, the Calgary Stampede, and several trips to the neighbourhood parks, etc. But then the third week of July happened, and the fighting and the bickering and the melt downs started up. The melt downs are not just at home either, its whenever we go out. Most days, as soon as I say “lets get dressed,” or mention going out, that is enough for the melt downs to begin. It also doesn’t help that my youngest two do NOT get along AT ALL. They fight like cats and dogs, and its non stop. They fight over who gets a cup first, or who gets to turn on the TV. Its like they are in competition over absolutely everything, and nothing we do gets them to stop.
Hayden has also started having tempertantrums and melt downs, and not because there is anything different with him. Its all totally learned behaviour. He has this perception that having a full out tempertantrum will work to get him what he wants. He really hates it when we say NO and he thinks throwing a fit will get us to say YES. Its not successful, but he continues it anyways. He also feeds off Kristopher, so when Kristopher is having a melt down Hayden will either join in or go out of his way to make the situation worse. With Hayden its a phase, and I have every hope that grade one (and being in school all day) will help settle him down. Fingers crossed, anyways.
I try to stay patient. Oh how I try. Some days it literally takes all the strength I have to just breathe and remain calm. The final moment for me this month where I was just totally 100% fed up and DONE was when we went to the eye doctors, and during the process of ordering a pair of glasses my youngest two started bickering and fighting and ended up in a fist fight in the middle of Walmart. We’ve done very little since that day a couple weeks ago. I’m really ready for September, and the routine that September brings.
I fully admit that I am STRESSED THE HECK out. I don’t really have a lot of people to talk to, and even less who understand. I rarely get out of the house without at least one of my kids, and I don’t get a lot of sleep. I also fully admit to venting on my personal Facebook timeline my frustration, and feeling totally fed up. I have moments throughout the day where I just burst into tears and I feel like I can’t possibly take one more fit, one more melt down. I also fully admit to using inappropriate language on my Facebook timeline (which isn’t against Facebook guidelines by the way). Its my way to cope. When I have a bad day sometimes I just need to YELL and SCREAM and just get it out there into the universe instead of keeping it all bottled up inside. Facebook is a wonderful resource for me.
I am doing the best that I can. I vent sometimes, I cry sometimes, I want to punch the walls sometimes (although I don’t). Life is hard, and having a child with special needs really affects the entire family dynamic in a multitude of ways. He is very intolerant of change, and requires things to be done a certain way, and of course the personal dynamic between Kristopher and Hayden is enough to drive anyone insane. Sometimes I feel like I am a horrible mother, but I’m not. I’m not perfect, and I don’t pretend to be, but I love my children fiercely (all five of them). They are my reasons for everything. Everything I do is for my boys, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (except for maybe that slurpee that Hayden dumped all over my desk while responding to me saying NO to him earlier today… I’d change that. I really wanted that slurpee).
To sum it up, all summer my kids have been on top of one another, fighting, and bickering, and going out of their way to aggravate one another. I really hate summer. It will be nice once school starts for several reasons.
- The kids will each get a break from one another.
- I’ll get a break from the kids, and some actual quiet in day light hours.
- We will get back to a strict schedule and routine, which will make everything better. Kristopher lives off routine, and having that school schedule, and knowing what to expect every day, is calming for him.
Hopefully all the progress that Kristopher made in grade one continues into grade two, and there isn’t too much regression that happened over the summer. I expect September to be both wonderful, and difficult. September is bitter sweet. I love back to school and all that brings, but its also the anniversary of my Dad’s passing (and his birthday) and despite it being 9 years, I’m still in mourning, and still trying to cope with that too. It will be hard to get back to the school routine, but hopefully once the routine is re-established things settle down with the kids. I expect that Kristopher will have some regression for the start of school, but hopefully it doesn’t take him long to get to where he was at the end of grade one.