Having a child with special needs, I am not a novice when it comes to public temper tantrums. With Dex having Down Syndrome, Autism, and Sensory Processing Disorder (and more), I have witnessed it all. I have been through blocks of weeks or months during which I stopped going out unless I could do so alone. And, I have to say, there is something of a very specific experience a parent that has a child with special needs has, that most with typical children do not.
How many classmate birthday parties did we go to last school year? None. Not even for my daughter’s classmates’ parties. It is nearly impossible to get a babysitter for us and it is out of the question to take all of my children with me. There would likely be negative behaviors or messes or elopement, things we have already experienced in the past and do not wish to again. It is easier to just stay home. It’s not worth the stress and the struggle. There is less sensory overload at home and it is a safe and calm environment for a child sensory wise.
We did attend a dear friend’s daughter’s graduation party over the summer. It was a stressful mess that has caused me anxiety still to this day. Dex just wanted to play Minecraft with the other boys but they didn’t want to include him, tricked him into giving up the game controller, and they didn’t understand that he wasn’t stealing their game when he picked it up to look at it. The rest of the party was spent with me following Dex around, making sure he wasn’t in the other boys’ way so they wouldn’t get upset at him and it was too stressful. I literally cried as soon as we got in the car. I felt everything closing in on me.
Of course, shopping usually has its own challenges. Things being thrown out of the cart… repeatedly. Hitting siblings. Screaming. Crying. Kicking. Running away. All these things make you ready to pull your hair out. We do not go unless I really need to pick something up or it’s just me alone.
Luckily, we are thankful for some pretty awesome social therapies we have been consistently working with and hope to continue to see amazing progress. Dexter has been received his regular services at school, including OT, PT, and Speech. At home and in a clinical setting, he has been involved in ABA. Although we see progress, sometimes it seems slow. Sometimes, we regress. But we will keep on doing everything we can.
My Nifty Tricks
Bag of Things
I have a bag of things in the car, ready to go for whatever. It has extra clothes, a container of wipes, paper cups, several types of individual bags of snacks, water bottles and juice boxes, sometimes a bag of candy or fruit snacks for emergencies. This bag has saved us more than once.
If your child is about to tantrum because we are too close to missing a meal, I’ve got it. Need to clean sticky and uncomfortable hands? Got it. Someone spilled something on their pants? I have got this. Another accident? No worries, I have undies. You can never go wrong with extra snacks and extra clothes!
Notepad – If we are on the way out the door, I grab a small notepad and a few crayons or colored pencils. My daughter loves markers and she uses them correctly (read: Not on her skin), so she gets those. These are sure to keep a child busy while I have to pick up a few things at the store. Just plop them into the cart and hand them the stuff. Ask them to write or draw specific things or they can do free form. Or have them write you a ticket for a silly thing.
Fidget – Fidget type items will help keep your child busy and less stressed. This is especially helpful in new environments or where there may be triggers. The Busy Bracelet will help keep your child’s hands, and therefore mind, busy so that he can be calm. It will help keep their anxiety down and allow you to finish up the shopping or the appointment.
Tablet – Yes, sometimes and sometimes more than sometimes, we will use electronics. Dex is very involved in technology and loves all manner of electronics. He likes to explore to see how they work and what they can do, and has taught us a few things already that he’s learned. It is also helpful that I have a Hotspot on my cell phone so we can get internet connection on the go. These I especially use when Dexter has a long appointment and he needs several activities to make it through.
Singing – Yes, I said singing. If you keep your kiddos involved in singing, you can buy yourself some time. We love to make up silly songs. Just start singing with what you see near you, and ask the kids to throw in words when you stop, kind of like fill in the blank!
Word Games – I know, boring, right? But, hear me out. These keep kids’ brains busy while you’re driving or you guys are walking and kids are getting antsy. It is sort of a tradition when we drive to school drop off to play I spy. Our favorites include: I spy, say a word that begins with the letter…, name ten items per assigned category.
Remember, if you keep your child busy, with whatever it is, the chances of getting to a tantrum are low. Some things that can help with the sensory overload of the environment that can lead to tantrums is to keep your kiddo busy. Wrist fidgets such as the sensory bracelets and marble maze busy bracelet can help.
-Bag of Things
-Notepad & Writing Utensils
-Fidget of Fidget Toy (like a wrist fidget)
-Tablet or Other Electronics
Do you have any tips that have worked for you to add? I would love to add them to our list and our life! Please comment them below!