Could DS's (4.5) Behavior Be Caused By Giving Up Naps?

by Doreen

DS did come down with a cold over the weekend so that may explain some of his behavioral issues but I've really noticed it more over the past month, at least. He loves school and his new teacher so that doesn't seem to be it. I thought it might be sensory related because he gets very intense with these and seems to go into meltdown mode over the littlest thing that doesn't go his way.

For example, he sat out in school yesterday for awhile because he threw a fit when he didn't get his first choice of "station." The teacher has stations set up with different sensory exercises and they each rotate picking first. DS gets locked into things and if he doesn't get what he wanted, he starts crying and screaming. He has a hard time self-soothing and I thought that was typical for SPD. I definitely don't give in to tantrums and he knows that I mean what I say. Still, he carries on and can get so worked up. Usually he'll fuss for a couple of minutes but the other night, he went on and on for about 15 minutes because he lost a privilege and I refused to give in.

It just seems to have gotten worse, after getting better in the past, so I'm wondering if the nap transition has something to do with it. Yes, he and his sister still take naps in the afternoon but I've noticed over the past few months, he has a harder time settling down and sometimes doesn't even fall asleep. He's in that in between time so he's cranky if he naps and cranky if he doesn't.

Are there tips I can use that can help him calm down once he starts getting hysterical. Time out, ignoring the behavior and distraction don't work for him. Will he just naturally learn to calm himself as he gets older and gets more therapy? He receives OT in school and privately. Actually, he seems to have made quite a few breakthroughs with his hypersensitivity and proprioceptive work. He has really taken to the swings and takes many more chances than he ever did before. I guess I have to take the good with the bad - maybe this is all part of a developmental spurt?

His speech is pretty much caught up and our school and private OT's specialize in SPD but we seem to have hit a blip in the road. Most of the time, DS is a happy, fun loving kid. He's extremely social and can be the life of the party as long as things go his way! I've tried talking to him calmly and telling him to breathe deeply, etc. - forget it. I do keep his day structured, which he loves but I even become unglued when he flails himself down to the ground screaming because he doesn't want to go to bed... even after he's been given a 10 min., 5 min, 2 min and 1 min warning! Sometimes it's something like that, sometimes it's because his sister doesn't want to share her bike with him. He just goes from happy to meltdown if something isn't the way he wants it - he has such a hard time regulating his emotions.

I know kids with SPD have a hard time regulating themselves but, if he's making progress in other areas, shouldn't it spill over into that as well? He still has issues with distraction - I would say that's the biggest thing now. Any tips? I would appreciate it.

The SPD Help Line Answers...

Hi Doreen,

I'll tell you, I can certainly relate (as I'm sure MANY other parents can too) to the "he's in that between time so he's cranky if he naps and cranky if he doesn't". I had SUCH a hard time getting my daughter to fall asleep for a nap (from day one it seemed), that I finally just gave up trying at a year and a half. That was a long couple of years! But, it just wasn't worth the 1-2 hour effort of trying, trying and trying. You Know? In fact, she was also the only kid in daycare (1-3 yrs old) and preschool that would NOT take a nap!

But, yes... your son may indeed be going through that developmental transition in which he is phasing out of naps, and as his body adjusts to a different sleep/wake cycle, he may be crankier for a while. You may have to ride this one out... hard for me to say for sure without really knowing him.

His sudden meltdowns, difficulty sleeping or falling asleep, frustration level when things don't go his way are developmentally "appropriate" and probably aggravated by his SPD and regulation issues. Transitions, changes in routines, not getting his "way", etc. are typical of SPD children. Our kids, more than other 4 year olds, need predictability and routine. When they have their mind made up or set on a particular activity, it can be exceptionally difficult for them to accept any deviation or change. In a world that can be so overwhelming and unpredictable for him, especially since his tendencies are on the hypersensitive side, the littlest things could really throw him off.

As for the sleep issue-- I want you to read the Help Line submission entitled SPD And Toddler's Sleep Issues for particular suggestions and resources that may help.

Also know that it is not uncommon for our SPD Kids to "regress" or have setbacks when they are ill. Your experience with that is one we have heard over and over. It may help you to talk to other parents who have, and are going through similiar struggles. May I suggest our online support group AllAboutKids in which you can get advice and support from over 1000 other parents? If you are not already a member, I do highly recommend it. They are so wonderfully helpful, supportive, and validating!

Know that I feel confident these issues will improve as you are indeed doing all the right things for him.... OT, structure, help with transitions, reaching out for help, and obviously learning about and understanding SPD and his regulation issues. And you are right... as he makes progress through sensory integrative OT, it should and will "spill over" into other areas. However, this will take time. I know you are patiently waiting... you may have to just wait a little longer.

As long as he is in therapy with an experienced SLP and OT (which you say he is... hooray!), who are using SI theories and treatment strategies to address the SPD and regulation issues, things will improve!

Also, as long as he has a sensory diet and/or home programs you are following through with as home, these issues will improve as well. It sounds like you are probably on track of that as well. Great!

I want to suggest one particular program which may be particularly useful for him, given the struggles you mention... Therapeutic Listening. Has your OT suggested this yet? Is she trained in it? Have you tried it yet? MANY have had tremendous success with this in regards to internal regulation issues.

I am pleased you are doing all that you are and finding the help you need for him. Keep communicating with your OT, keep up the intense involvement, keep reaching out for help, keep up the search for knowledge, be patient and know things will improve with time and therapy.

Anyone else have any input? Let Doreen know. And Doreen... if you need anything further, just respond/ask below.

Take care.

Michele Mitchell

Comments for Could DS's (4.5) Behavior Be Caused By Giving Up Naps?

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Dec 28, 2007
A thought...
by: Anonymous

My son, who has been steadily progressing due to speech therapy and OT he's been getting for several months now, recently had a backslide as well. All of a sudden he was throwing fits again, ones that I couldn't talk him down from. And getting that spacey look that means nothing I'm saying is getting through, etc. So I asked his OT about it at one of our visits. You know what she asked me?...Is he going through a growth spurt? Well, what do you know? I had just realized a few days earlier that ALL his pants had suddenly become too short. So I told the OT, "yes, why?" She told me that a lot of SPD kids can get out of whack while they grow and their system needs to re-organize afterward so they may seem to regress during those times. And sure enough, after about a week, he was back to his "new" self. We went through 4!!! different present openings for Christmas, and he waited his turn and shared toys and was probably better than a "normal" 3 1/2 year old. If Michele reads this, she can tell you if this is something she's heard of as well, but it sure seemed to be the case with my kiddo.

Michele Mitchell comments...

Yes, indeed Jessi... this does appear to be fairly common during growth spurts or different developmental stages, such as puberty, etc. Right on! Thanks for your input. Much appreciated.

Nov 06, 2007
Thank you Michele
by: Anonymous

My OT uses "The Listening Program" towards the end of their session while DS is performing some fine motor task after doing all his swing, scooter and climbing work. It really helps him to focus. She hasn't recommended it for home use though.

DS hasn't had trouble going to sleep since his colic lifted at 4 mos but he's very sensitive to missing sleep if he needs it and any change in that routine.

I will check out All About Kids. Thanks for your response. It just makes me feel like we're on the right track and just need to ride out the storm a bit more. I appreciate it.

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