I can already tell this is going to be a challenging break from school. The J-Man spent much of his day finding various ways to stim. Clearly being away from the structure of school did not sit well with him, even though last week you could tell he was really ready for a break from the rigors of school. Left to what would seem to be a more relaxed schedule, he instead couldn’t figure out what to do with himself except run around, make seemingly random noises, and stim much of the day. It didn’t help that it was so dang cold today that we couldn’t go out.
The reality is, there’s no way we can recreate at home the rigorous structure of his classroom. Clearly I underestimated what we need to do over the break, though. All day you could tell he needed something, and relaxing to Signing Time or The Wonder Pets or me walking around with him singing songs wasn’t nearly enough to help him regroup. He didn’t melt down or anything, but he just looked lost, disoriented, or sometimes generally unable to intentionally decide what he wanted to do next. He just went into random mode sometimes.
His stimming was way more in effect today than usual. Most of his regular stimming involves flapping his hands and arms, running around while doing the ‘stim dance’ (you’d have to see it to understand it), banging his fists together (like a very dramatic version of signing ‘more’, which is not what he’s actually doing there), banging blocks together, clapping his hands forcefully, or – and my least favorite – rapping his fist on the top of his head. It doesn’t seem like he’s hitting his head hard enough with his fist to cause much discomfort, though. He’s not pounding his head, just sort of ‘knocking’ on it like you might a door.
His teachers have commented that he seems to be aiming to perfect the full-body stim, which is where my term ‘stim dance’ comes from. If you can imagine flapping your whole body while running, that’s pretty close, as impossible as that sounds physically to do.
Even when the movements aren’t as pronounced and the motions could theoretically mean something else (e.g., clapping to applaud), it’s still pretty clear when he’s stimming because he gets this look on his face that’s something like a cross between startled and smiling with a lot of facial tension thrown in. If he’s making noise during all this, it’s nothing intelligible as speech, just moaning sounds or babbling.
I don’t worry much about it on average days, but I do pay attention to the frequency and duration of them as that’s a clear indicator of how he’s feeling. If the signs indicate that he’s getting more and more overloaded, I go straight to the ‘sensory diet’ stuff like brushing, deep pressure, joint compressions, and so on and/or carrying him around for a couple of minutes and singing to him.
Usually, the benefits of the sensory diet last longer than they did today. He just seemed adrift most all day and clearly struggling with the big change in schedule. Again, no major behavioral problems, but clearly we need to improve the routine before things potentially get much harder for him. So that’s what we’ll be working on tonight after he goes to bed.
On a positive note, I figured out during one of his focused periods that he recognizes some letter signs! I signed ‘E’, ‘A’, ‘I’ and a couple of others, and he verbally told me what they all were! However, this seemed like it was mentally taxing for him as he got that “I’m almost about to be really upset!” look on his face after a couple of signs, so I didn’t push it. Still, that was great! He’s never done that before!