Friday, September 9, 2011

Keeping Calm

My son had three major incidents at school yesterday. And that is a lot, even by his standards. Here are the things that prompted them:

First, for some reason, in the middle of class, Kai wanted to get some gummy bears from the school’s snack shop. As the snack shop isn’t even open on Thursdays, the staff couldn’t accommodate him even if they wanted to. But once Kai gets an idea in his head, it is difficult for him to be flexible and he often becomes angry. The inability to overcome his disappointment at not getting a gummy led to the first major incident where he threatened the staff and had to take a timeout outside of the classroom.

Next, his class went outdoors during PE. Kai had on short pants and complained when some grass rubbed against his legs. We have experienced similar situations and once he gets agitated, it seems impossible to calm him down. This time, the staff at school brought him inside, but he kept getting angrier, and tried to hurt the staff members who were helping him.

After two major incidents, the school’s policy is that the student is not permitted back in the classroom for the remainder of the school day, instead having to stay in a study room. This led to the third incident, as Kai got angry that he was missing out on a special viewing of the Ant Bully video that the rest of the class was watching.

Three incidents for three different reasons. In every case, a seemingly small thing triggered a reaction, and the staff couldn’t get Kai to calm down before a major incident occurred.

As luck would have it, the topic for this month’s S-O-S Best of the Best is Calming Techniques for Stress and the Special Needs Child. As our son’s day in school yesterday illustrates, we have yet to find solutions that work much of the time. It is no particular comfort to us that the professionals at our son’s therapeutic school haven’t found easy answers either. So, I will be very interested to read the perspective of other bloggers on this topic.

Still, in the hopes that others will find some value in our own attempts, here are some calming techniques that we have tried with some degree of success:

Big Pillows and Air Mattresses – From the time he was able to run around, Kai has loved crashing onto a big air mattress we have on our basement floor. I’m sure there is a sensory need that is fulfilled by the crashing. More recently, as he is outgrowing the air mattress, we got a big foam-filled pillow/bean bag chair. He can crash against that as well, but he also uses it to sit in to do homework on occasion as the feel of the pillow around him provides comfort. These don’t really help to calm him much once he is agitated – nothing really does – but is more of a proactive device to keep him from getting dysregulated in the first place.

Trampoline – Yes, we are a “trampoline in our living room” family. For the first few weeks after we got it, Kai was on the trampoline several times a day, and I think it helped to proactively head off more aggressive behavior. Lately, though, with his lower energy levels, he hasn’t been on it at all. Hmm, is that a clue as to why he had three incidents at school yesterday?

Blanket – Like Linus in the Peanuts cartoons, Kai turns to his blanket often for comfort. After a bad day at school, he will often run to his bedroom to snuggle with his blanket as soon as he gets home.

Angry Octopus – After explosive incidents at home recently, Kai has asked us to read Angry Octopus with him. A wonderful story by Lori Lite, Angry Octopus tells the tale of an octopus who explodes with anger, spreading his black ink cloud all around. The octopus is not happy about not being able to control his anger, and finds comfort when a Sea Child comes along, teaches him to relax, and be in control of his body.

I think that Kai really relates to the octopus in the story. It is great that he wants to read this story, and it helps him to regain a relaxed state. Hopefully, over time, he will be able use the relaxation techniques taught in the book to prevent his anger from rising in the first place.

One side benefit of reading Angry Octopus with my son is that it reminds me how I can calm down as well. And maybe that is just as important. After all, you can’t get your child to calm down when you are not calm yourself.

Okay, that is all I’ve got. This next S-O-S Best of the Best will come out on September 15. I can’t wait to read what other bloggers find helpful with their children.


  1. Kai is going through a lot right now. I am hoping for the best for him.


  2. Thank you!

    I love "gambatte." There's no word in English that conveys the thought quite like that.

  3. Yuji, I hope your son's school staff keep trying. There IS a way to reach him--they just need to find it. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  4. I think you have a very good arsenal of techniques YUji
    I am also so touched by the way you always seek to understand the reason for your child's meltdown
    Many parents dont bother

  5. Thanks, K. It is not always easy to understand what prompts a meltdown, and sometimes it is not for the obvious reason. I don't always remember that in the heat of the moment, but try to at least reflect on it later.

  6. Ooo. That book sounds great. I will have to add it to our list. also, best wishes with school. You'll all figure it out.


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