"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, October 18, 2010

preschool diaries: an update

It's been some time since my last entry in the preschool diaries. It's not because I no longer need the therapy. Ooooooh, no no no no no. It's not that. It's because things with Evan have been spiraling in so many different directions that I didn't know where to start. So here goes....

Several weeks ago, we ran out of Evan's Zyrtec. We had been relying on the allergy med. for decent sleep. I had read about "allergic insomnia," where insomnia actually IS the symptom for an allergic reaction. Well, Evan is allergic and Evan has insomnia. Seemed like it made sense to medicate him so we did. And it helped! Nights weren't perfect, but they were better. We kept waiting for his behavior to improve (a decrease in tantrums, less anger, fewer screaming episodes, etc.) now that he was getting better sleep....but it wasn't quite a clear correlation. So, maybe the Zyrtec wasn't our best fit? When we ran out of the medicine several weeks ago, I bought Claritin to replace it. The two days that Evan had Claritin coursing through his system were two of the absolutely hardest days of my life. Evan was a different child. He was scary. He had no self-control. He was up in the middle of the night crying for "school to be closed for weeks and weeks and weeks." He was anxious (even more so than usual). He was jittery and couldn't make eye-contact. He was miserable. We were miserable.

So we stopped all medication (except for the nasal spray that we have to use to keep his chronic congestion at bay). We crossed our fingers that his sleep wouldn't be thrown totally off-course without the drugs, but the alternative--keeping him on the drugs--was out of the question.

That was just over two and a half weeks ago. Since that time, we are seeing at least one night-waking per night, but we don't think he is spending that much time awake after we tuck him back in. His behavior has been a roller coaster.....we have really, really good days and really, really bad days...but I don't think it's allergy- or sleep-related. He's just a very anxious, very controlling, very stubborn child.

No offense, kiddo.

His hardest moments follow the most stressful-for-Evan situations: having playgroup at our house is really hard for him. School, of course, causes anxiety. A change in schedule or routine can throw him into a tailspin, etc. It's all very clear in hindsight--after every Very Difficult Time, I can trace back to the event that acted as the catalyst. I need to be better about anticipating what is going to be difficult for him...and help him deal before, during, and after the event to keep the resulting tantrums to a minimum.

We have put several different Incentive Programs into effect. There is a sticker chart to record daily behavior. Stickers can be earned when he remembers to: Use nice words; Use nice hands; Be a good listener; Have a happy dinner (yup, this was a major meltdown time); and Keep pants dry (yup, we're dealing with this now, too). If he earns a a certain number of stickers during the week, he'll earn Special Time on the weekend. His choice of activity, his choice of parent "date."

There's also a "Happy Bath" sticker chart. If he comes to the bath the first time he's called, he earns a sticker. Three stickers earn a chance to read extra books in the playroom before bedtime.

And finally: "Okay, Mommy Chocolate Chips." Every time I give him a direction, as in, "Evan, it's time to go upstairs and get dressed," if he says, "Okay, Mommy" and Just Does It, he gets a chocolate chip. Can't say, "no," can't say, "in a minute," can't freak out, can't feign hearing loss.

I think these "programs" are working. And it's definitely helping me to focus more on the positive points of our day than the negatives. He either earns a sticker/chip/special time or he doesn't. I can keep my emotions out of it....I'm trying really hard not to take everything so personally. It's hard, though.

So that's where we stand. Preschool is....well....no real change there. He has played a few times, I hear. When I picked him up from school last week, he took me into the Rainy Day room where they had spent their recess time. He walked me around the room, showing me the things he had used. This is a really positive step. He's still not talking to the other kids and he's not interacting with anyone in any sort of structured activity, but he's taking baby steps toward involvement. And, and! He talked about school. He told us all about the Helpers Chart. He told us what the different jobs were and who had done which job that day. He told us what job he would like to do someday (Napkin Helper, Chair Stacker, and Garbage Man) and which one he wouldn't (Weather Man).

Lesson Learned:
I think we're on the right track. It's been a long six months. For me, and I'm sure for him, too. It's got to be tough to be so little and to not know what to do with the stress and anxiety that I know he feels. It's my job to help him learn how to deal, though, and I'm not sure that I'm doing a good enough job of that. But we're getting there. One day at a time.

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