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The Sensational World According to Jaimie: Understanding When A Kid With SPD Has Meltdowns

by Chynna and Jaimie Laird

Grams came up to visit last weekend. The kids rarely get to see her so it’s always a special time. As much fun as her visits are, though, they can also be a whirlwind of emotions, stress and build up to a major meltdown for both Xander and Jaimie. It’s a bit easier for Jaimie now because she’s finally at the stage where she is able to self-regulate much of the time (that basically just means she’s in-tuned enough with her body to know when she’s getting overwhelmed and do what her body needs to bring it back down and/or stay regulated). Xander, however, is nowhere near that stage.
Just like I used to with Jaimie a few years ago, I prepare myself for the big meltdown during, or shortly after, Grams’ visit. You have to look at it this way: ‘sensational’ kids, especially those who are tremendously affected by their sensory issues, thrive on routine, the familiar. In our house that doesn’t mean keeping everything absolutely the same (how boring would that be?) but more have those staple times (eg: morning routine, bedtime routine, special events on weekends like library or swimming lessons) always there so they know that no matter what else is going on, they have those familiar times to feel safe. Bedtime is our ultimate staple time and not matter what else is going on or who is visiting, that time never changes.
Xander had a huge meltdown the day that Grams left. It took hours to calm him down. And my wonderful, knowledgable and experienced Jaimie knew just what to do to help out. Not only did she explain what was going on with Xander to her siblings, she also helped keep the rest of the waters calm by choosing a calm activity to entertain them while I dealt with Xander. How amazing is she?
The one thing I wanted to let people know before getting to Jaimie’s post is understanding the difference between a tantrum and a sensory meltdown. When Jordy and Sophie have a tantrum, it usually comes from a place of anger or frustration with being prevented from doing something or a way to test boundaries. When Xander or Jaimie have a sensory meltdown it comes from a place of feeling overwhelmed, scared, confused or frustrated when their bodies aren’t working the way they want them to. There is a fine line because kids with SPD can also have tantrums (they are still kids afterall) but meltdowns are very different and need specific calm down tools, strategies or exercises to bring the child back down. In a tantrum, such things won’t make a difference. The child will simply need to cool down until he’s ready to talk. It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes but it’s all about learning, watching and seeing/hearing what our kids are trying to tell us. I’m still on the learning train.
Here are Jaimie’s thoughts.

This is Jaimie now. Yeah, so Xander wasn’t very happy the day that Grams went home. I kinda knew at dinnertime that he was going to get mad. Mama always says that it isn’t always that last thing that me and Xander get mad about that’s really what’s wrong. It’s a bunch of stuff, you know?

Things were a bit different all weekend and that can mess things up. I know I get kinda cranky when things change. But it wasn’t too bad because we still went to our swimming lessons and to the library and stuff like that. Grams just went with us that’s all. But even that can make that sparkly feeling in your stomach happen because it’s different.
I don’t have alot to say today about this but I but I felt really bad for Xander because I know how bad it can feel when you really want to have fun with everyone else but you feel a bit scared because things aren’t the same. So this is what I think people should understand about when kids like me and Xander have meltdowns.
~ When we’re upset like that it’s not because Mama said we couldn’t have a treat or have a playdate or something. It’s because our bodies don’t feel good and we didn’t get to do what we need to so we can feel better. So, we’re not ‘bad’ just not feeling good.
~ Yelling at us only makes things worser because then we don’t feel good and your yelling-ish voice hurts our ears or scares us. Sometimes when Dad yells it makes me even madder because my ears are sensitive too. Same with Xander. His ears are even more sensitive than mine.
~ When we’re tired, things feel even worse or we’re even more sensitive to stuff. That’s what Mama says. And I know what she means too. My skin feels more tingly-ish and I can’t eat the stuff I usually can or my eyes go all over the place instead of just staying on what I’m trying to do when I’m super tired. So we need to have sleep at night and have rests. (Actually, I really H-A-T-E rests but I know why Mama says we need calm down time. I still don’t like it, though.)
~ We’re okay if things get different than normal but you need to talk to us about it or whatever. I mean I like surprises sometimes but not if it’s something I didn’t do before. Xander is even more scared. Just talk to us and make sure we understand so we can get ready. Mom always does that.
~ Make sure we have our fidgets or sensory tools. I don’t use mine as much but I like having them there, you know, just in case. Xander takes a squeezy ball, like, everywhere.
~ Okay, so this is a big one. If Xander is already screaming and crying, it means that he’s upset. He can’t hear you anymore so you can’t try fixing stuff then. Mama usually just puts Xander in his safe place until he’s calm enough to do the exercises he needs. It just doesn’t work when he’s already mad or upset or whatever.
~ If we’re out some place when it happens, just take us out. Mama always says it’s cuz something in the place might have just made things worser. It’s kind of like if your tummy hurts and you eat cake or something. You’ll just make it worse or even puke!
~ Help siblings feel better. That’s what I try doing because I know Sophie gets scared if I’m upset or Xander is. Jordy is used to it but it still bothers her, you know? So if it’s Xander that’s upset, I just talk to them or read or whatever so they don’t get sad too. Because if everyone is crying, it’s just craziness.
Okay, that’s all I can think of right now but Mama said I could write more if I think of other stuff. I guess another thing I thought of is people shouldn’t stand there staring at us when a meltdown goes on. That makes us feel bad too because we can’t always stop what’s happening, kinda like a volcano blowing stuff up. So if you can’t help us, please don’t stare because that’s just embarrassing sometimes.
I hope this helps.
That’s all.
By, Jaimie
Our Featured Guest Columnist:  Chynna Laird
About the Author:  Chynna Laird – is a freelance writer and multi award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. She’s authored a children’s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella, a YA paranormal suspense novel and an adult Suspense/Thriller

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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