Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thrilling, Thunderous Threes

Baby J was always my (relatively) easy kid. He met milestones, ate well (with some coaxing), napped and slept well (again, with some coaxing), and had a very mild-mannered, pleasant disposition. 

He seemed to skip the "terrible two's." He would have a tantrum occasionally but nothing that would last longer than a couple of minutes.

Then he turned three.

At that time, Baby J made major developmental leaps. His vocabulary and ability to communicate exploded. He truly learned to play WITH his peers, rather than along side of them. He has mastered (most) letters, counting matching and puzzle games. He is skilled on the playground and loves to hop, skip, jump and dance. His is very focused and has learned to sit and be an active circle-time participant. He is perceptive and demonstrates sincere empathy and concern for others and can describe feelings with uncanny accuracy. It has been thrilling to watch him grow in such remarkable ways.

At the same time, when Baby J's third year rolled in, so did the thunder. Tantrums have reached unprecedented proportions and he is downright disagreeable at times. Husband and I are having a difficult time trying to get him to listen and follow direction and Baby J is getting more and more frustrated when things don't go his way. He's fighting meals, sleep and pretty much any activity with fits of rage and tears. Transitions are exceptionally difficult. He's been acting out by hitting, kicking and head-butting. Husband and I are at a loss, we don't know where the violence came from - he certainly doesn't see it at our house even on tv - and we feel like we have tried just about everything: ignore, timeout, explaining, validating feelings, first-then, etc...and no, we don't and will not spank.

We are definitely seeing signs of anxiety and some sensory issues are emerging. Last week, he had an epic meltdown because there was a fly in the house. He can't stand to get his hands dirty and sometimes needs deep pressure input to calm down. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have noticed the sensory stuff if I didn't have another child with diagnosable sensory issues.

I'm pretty sure the acting out, anxiety and sensory difficulties can be mostly attributed to having a sibling with some pretty intense special needs. Baby J, at just 3-years old, has to cope with a minimum of 4 different "special friends" visiting and playing with his brother each week and he is certainly jealous of the attention his brother receives. He is very perceptive and I am sure that as much as we try to shield him, he feeds off of the stress husband and I are dealing with. Baby J needs more positive attention and husband and I need to be more patient with him. Sometimes, we forget he's just 3. A baby, still. And he is not able to understand the reason his brother gets so much attention.

I am not at all concerned about Baby J developmentally or socially, but I hate to see him struggle like this. Husband I are working hard to find opportunities to do special one-on-one things with Baby J. But that's not enough. I have talked with his brother's occupational therapist about some ideas for sensory play and input. I am also planning to take him to the behaviorist at his pediatrician's office (they are awesome!) to try to get some ideas on how to help him cope with the anxiety - not because I'm an alarmist but because there's no reason for him to be so stressed when we can help him. 

I am not looking to medicate him but I would certainly consider some occupational therapy for a short period of time. I am also looking in to things like weighted blankets, chewey toys (oh yeah, he's been clenching his jaw and biting himself and no, he's done with the whole teething thing) and a mini trampoline to help him deal with his energy. I started doing yoga with him and we are getting outside a lot more now that the weather is better. And he loves preschool, so we need to find more opportunities for him to be around his peers.

I spend so much time focusing on Bean, his doctor appointments and therapy sessions. It's time for me to spend more time making sure that I'm meeting Baby J's emotional needs in addition to his developmental progress. I don't expect him to be cheery all the time but I'm hoping that with a little extra attention and energy, the balance will shift from mostly thunderous to primarily thrilling. Baby J is an amazing, smart, witty boy that deserves a childhood full of happiness and free of worry and I'm going to do my best to give it to him.


  1. I could have written your post...we have some of the same issues with Barrett right is hard. I know a lot of it stems from being a brother to a special needs little girl who gets ALOT of attention. However, he also has some sensory processing stuff going on. We just had an evaluation done at his preschool this past April and we are getting him some pragmatic speech therapy as well as OT. I have the speech part done now I am working on the OT. Never easy, huh?! ;) xoxo Hugs to you! BTW-the 3's have been much harder then the 2's for us too...hoping this August the 4's will be better and brighter in all areas!!

  2. Erin, we relate on so many levels! Thank you for sharing this about Barrett. It's nice to know that we're not the only ones in this situation! XOXOXO

  3. I don't know if this is helpful or not, so forgive me if it's not... but Mad has been going through a lot of the same sorts of things even though Fynnie is developmentally normal. I also, though, attribute it to not getting enough attention. When I see her so frustrated or anxious, I actually address it (depending on the situation, of course) by asking her, "Do you need some more love?" and letting her come fold herself up on my lap. Not a total solution, but part of how we deal with things.
    Also, I think older toddlers like ours are at that age of developing rational fears. So the fly thing could just be something along those lines.
    None of this is to suggest that your concerns are unfounded or that your ideas for how to deal with them are anything less than stellar. It's awesome you have such resources! I just wanted to throw out there that you might have gone through some of this regardless of Bean's special needs.

  4. Thanks, Shan, for your input. I think you are definitely right and a lot of it is age related and attention seeking. I have been talking to his brother's OT and she has observed him and does feel there's some anxiety and sensory stuff worth exploring. So, we're going to check in with the ped - can't hurt to ask :)