by Catherine
(Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada)

What can I do to help my 9 year old son with his more intensive meltdowns? I hold him in my arms but he is a very strong boy-- I make sure I tell him how much I love him and hug him until he calms down. This process sometimes could last an hour for the meltdown to be better. It worries me for him because as he gets older it is getting harder and harder for me to hold him in my arms. I do this because I do not want him to hurt himself. I have gotten hurt from his meltdowns but I would rather be the one to get hurt than it be my son. Are there strategies I can do so no one can get hurt-- when he gets his meltdown he often throws himself on the floor and wants to hit himself-- at this point I am holding him in my arms on my lap on the floor and making sure he does not get hurt.

Also, how can I reduce his meltdowns? School this year has been very intensive for him and the classroom has been very loud. My son has not had so many meltdowns in a week since he started Kindergarten where he was being bullied by another classmate. Thankfully I acted fast on the matter and it still took the school 2 months before they suspended the child for a whole year from Kindergarten. His meltdowns were greatly reduced after I took care of the bully with the school. Now in Grade 4, his teacher is rougher with the kids and I feel the school is not meeting his extra needs on his IEP.

Need your help? I love my son soooo much and I want to do everything I can to help him.



It sounds like your son may not be receiving OT therapy through school or privately. Because if he is in fact getting services, then my question for the school or private OT would be: Why are you not being taught that this is a regulation/modulation issue and offered strategies to help him to improve, and you to cope with it?

Possibly this may be something to ask for in the next IEP meeting. A Functional Behavior Assessment to allow the school to discover the causes and develop a positive plan for the triggers that are setting him off, during school. The school OT, if he has services through the school, should also be working on regulation issues and advising you on how to help at home.

If school is this intensive for him and you feel he is completely losing control when he arrives home, as a result of the overwhelming triggers throughout his day, I would like to suggest you read my article: Holding It Together; for kids who are struggling, but making it through their school day, only to completely melt down once they arrive home. Yes, there are strategies in that article for immediate help, that may lessen his distress, which is the underlying cause of his loss of control.

You have every right and reason to be very concerned, and bless your heart for coming in here and looking for answers, ideas and help! Let me say right now, this can and does get better! Regulation/modulation issues can be worked through and show vast improvement through a strong home sensory diet, a good OT that is knowledgeable about this and possibly a couple companion programs, like Vital Sounds' Listening Therapy CD's specifically designed to help these issues.

If you do have a school OT and she cannot address this issue, then please do consider a private clinic instead of, or in addition to, his school OT. Look for an OT who is SIPT certified and familiar with these problems. You are right, you cannot continue to lovingly but forcefully restrain him, as you will get hurt yourself, again and again. This issue must be addressed from a neurological standpoint, to get to the underlying processing deficit that cannot control emotions and reactions to overwhelming input.

There is a book that might help you to have greater understanding and learn positive ways to approach and react to his meltdowns that you might find useful: The Explosive Child

Utilizing strategies to diffuse the potential at home for the meltdowns may help you to see less and less of them in the short term, and specifically addressing regulation in OT, with home support can reduce this for the long term.

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