Advice Wanted About Preschool Situation

by Stephanie

My daughter qualified for pre-school services through our school district. She has SPD and has been a difficult child (to say the least) from day #1 of life. Over the summer, she seemed SO HAPPY and so well regulated for the first time ever while attending a two day a week camp. Really, it was the first time in her life that I had any relief from the daily battles of having a child with SPD can cause. It was wonderful to see her SO HAPPY! It felt like things were finally "normal" after so many years of struggling.

Needless to say, once she aged out of the state early intervention program, the school district evaluated her and said she qualified for their program. It seems like a wonderful program with a ratio of 7 kids to three adults. Most of the kids in her class are autistic. She is not autistic at all and is incredibly verbal. Definitely the highest functioning in the class. The program is five days a week and a bus picks her up and takes her home. She receives OT at school and then we have private OT. Her teacher says she seems so happy at school and that she is a delight to be around.

Since she started school in early September, my child is literally unraveling and falling apart before my eyes. She is an absolute MESS at home in every area. Our home life is almost unbearable because of her. Her moods change minute by minute. She seems like she has some sort of SEVERE mental illness, but I realize it is probably all due to SPD and the transition from having camp two days a week over the summer to a very very structured school program five days a week plus taking the bus to and from school. She is a very sensitive girl.

We are thinking about pulling her out of the school program where she has an IEP, OT services, etc. Most people would LOVE the opportunity to have their child in something like this, but I honestly feel like five days a week is too much for her and that it is too structured for her right now. Maybe in a year from now she will be ready, but I think she is not ready right now and it is ruining her. But, I feel horrible if I pull her out knowing that she qualified for the program. Any thoughts??



Thank you for writing, and I understand your concerns. If there is one thing those of us who have been on this SPD road for awhile have learned, it is to trust our own instincts concerning our children. No one knows your daughter better than you, and you can trust yourself to discover what could be setting her off.

It sounds to me that you are correct in your feeling that this five day, bus ride included, school setting may be just too much for her, at this time. And yes, our kids can become completely overwhelmed, lose control and even regress. I understand you feel fortunate for her to have this opportunity, and before you make a decision to remove her this year from the program, there are a few strategies you can try.

Ask the school personnel who are involved in your daughter's care to describe her behavior to you at various stress points during her day. How is she feeling/behaving upon arrival? Midmorning? During and after lunch? Is there a certain point during the day when her behavior regresses and what is happening right then? To discover the path to her complete meltdowns, you can uncover the triggers that are accumulating as the day wears on. Then step by step work on reducing what is probably many small stresses, to reduce the triggers culminating in total overload.

Remember, it is cumulative through the day. From the moment she wakes until she goes to sleep the brain is registering all the positive and negative sensory input.

Start with when she wakes. Does she need a brushing, joint compressions and proprioceptive input before she gets on the bus? Your OT should have shown you how to do either the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol, or the Burpee Buzzing and Brushing Method. The bus ride. For your daughter, starting the day with a bus ride with all the sounds, excitement and motion may be starting her off on the wrong sensory foot. She could be feeling overwhelmed by the time she even gets to school. From there it could be downhill the rest of the day.

A positive sensory solution may be to drive her and even arrive a few minutes early, walking her to class and allowing her to transition and settle in before the other children arrive. That may help.

You maybe able to arrange for her to get more calming input throughout the day, to help her feel focused and organized. Or possibly come to the school during the lunch hour and provide a brushing and deep pressure, or something else that she finds calming. Arrangements to provide her with needed sensory input should be in her IEP. Is it being followed?

When she gets off the bus, there are many things you can do to help her feel better. Please do read my article, Holding It Together for in depth information about this.

If you work on reducing her total sensory overload at home, the bus, during school and after school... you may see a great difference in how much she can handle. If this does not help, then you still can remove her this year, continue your private OT, and give her more time.

School may present the biggest challenge our kids can face, and when we understand how to help them and even teach them how to help themselves it can be much easier for them. Good Luck!

Michelle Morris
Administrator, SPD International

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Mar 30, 2010
another idea
by: KH

Isn't it also possible that your daughter might be mimicking some of the behavior that she is seeing in her new preschool? We observed that with our son when he went to a new preschool. That might be a part of what you're witnessing.

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