I remember the day Benji came home from an extra curricular morning program–he went straight to the living room and face-planted in between two couch cushions, wiggling his way into the crack.
I went to him and placed my hand on his back. “You ok?”
I heard a muffled “Yeah.”
So I let him be.
He stayed there for 20 minutes. He then emerged, refreshed and content.
SPD is an odd duck.
Benji has developed some coping mechanisms that seem strange but help him regulate his system when he feels overwhelmed and out of control. In addition, Aaron and I have discovered some techniques that Benji doesn’t really like in the moment but that ultimately help him regulate too.
I remember one weekend that was particularly busy–we spent the day at the lake on Saturday and then invited friends over for dinner on Sunday. Benji was a bit frazzled by such a busy weekend and was in a delicate mood when our friends arrived.
When we sat down at the table, his plate was “not right.” He fell apart, knocking the plate and his silverware to the floor.
I snapped, my stress level already elevated from the “company-cooking-cleaning” and ordered him to go to his room.
We all sat down to eat but a few minutes later, I exchanged glances with Aaron.
He raised his eyebrows. Me?
I shook my head slightly. I’ll go this time.
I peeked into Benji’s room.
“Benji?” I said softly. “Do you want to come back and eat?”
I frowned, looking around his bedroom.
I checked his bed, Micah’s bed, the closet, the corner by the bookshelf.
Where is he?
Finally, I looked under Silas’ low toddler bed; the space underneath is divided, with space for two drawers that we’ve never installed.
Benji was curled up in one of these drawer spaces, desperately trying to contain compulsions that felt larger than his body.
“Will you come out? Do you want to eat?”
He would not talk: whimpers and grunts expressed how he felt.
“Please come out.” I reached under the bed.
He pushed me away, pulling himself tighter and toward the wall in his tiny box.
I felt helpless. My desire to comfort and soothe was tinged with impatience and blanketed in frustration. I was torn between my son and my guests. I beseeched and cajoled.
But he would not talk.
He would not come out.
I let him be.
I went through the motions of eating and visiting with my friends but the guilt and concern pulled me back to the room.
“Enough. Come out!” He fought me but I got him out from under the bed.
I tried to hold him tight, to soothe his system through deep pressure, a technique that Aaron has had great success with. By holding Benji’s arms and torso in a firm hug, Aaron has been able to help Benji’s system regulate. “I can literally feel the tension leaving him,” he’s told me afterwards.
I tried, but it didn’t work. I realized that Benji is too big and strong for me to comfort in this way. He struggled and fought me, wanting both comfort and separation at the same time.
I finally gave up. I didn’t know what to do. I swallowed my tears and went back to dinner.
Benji didn’t come out until everyone was done eating.
Aaron sat with him while he ate, while I entertained our friends in the living room.
The food helped, as I thought it would. We’ve learned that Benji’s moods rest on the delicate pinnacle of a solid schedule of meals, snacks, and sleep. Not enough of either food or sleep sends him toppling over the edge.
It is a constant experiment with what helps him. Like I learned that Sunday evening, the deep pressure works for Aaron but not for me.
Sometimes Benji can regulate on his own in the couch cushions or under the pile of pillows on his bed.
Sometimes I make him run the frazzle out of his system. He fights me on this too but after a few laps around the house, he can adjust and focus.
He struggles to talk when he is upset so sometimes I just sit with him in silence. I wait, and we both breathe, sitting there on the top bunk, for 20-30 minutes. One time I sat with him for 2 hours, trying to help him calm himself.
We’ll talk about what happened and I watch him return to himself, his happy, jovial, funny, quirky self.
Sleep, food, solitude, silence, running, regulating, rest, and respect.
Each day is a unique but I’m doing the best to meet his special and challenging needs.
How do you meet your child’s unique needs?
What works [or doesn’t work] for you?