Oh boy oh boy did we have some increases in undesired behaviors from ALL of our children during this wild quarantine time. This tells me a couple of things: we are all stressed, adults and children alike.
Emotional Regulation, Autism, & ADHD
Adults are pretty good at knowing what they need to feel better: a snack, a run, a shower, screaming into a pillow, listening to music. These all fill some sort of sensory need. I tend to like to go for a run. Maybe my body needs sensory input with the pounding on pavement. Maybe I need to be outside where it’s quiet. I’m not fully sure, but I do know that I tend to feel better afterward.
Our “neurotypical” children also do a decent job of letting us know what they need. Though during this time, we might not be able to give it to them (socialization, taking a trip, seeing friends…all things that are hard to come by right now).
Our children (and adults) with ADHD are having heightened symptoms. Did you know that emotional dysregulation is a symptom of ADHD? This is true for both males and females. Females tend to “fall apart” and males tend to “blow up”, but both behaviors can occur in either gender.
Our children with autism are feeling especially anxious. They thrive on routine, predictability, consistency. The pandemic has brought us none of that…and it has been a hot mess at our house! Thankfully, I have been able to find and create some resources that have helped within our household.
Tips and Tricks to Help
First, for our neurotypical children and adults: make sure you have some sort of schedule in place. This could be a simple to do list, a planner, a calendar, etc. For our children (and adults) with ADHD, offer a little more visual support and plan to change things up often. I’ve found my children with ADHD get used to one method of keeping track of things, then it disappears…they enjoy and thrive with novelty. Some things that have worked: The Brili App, the Cozi Calendar , Alexa routines, and old-fashioned block schedules (checklists).
For our individuals with the strongest needs (safety, regulation, impulsivity), we need more. Sometimes A LOT more. Sometimes, for whatever reason, these kids and adults are not getting enough sensory input (maybe they’re stuck inside, unable to communicate or sense what they need, lacking a support they used to have: OT, swimming, etc). Their body may let us know that they are wired to go at all times of day. There are holes in the dry wall. “Beaver” marks around the bed.
Here are some things that may help.
A schedule. This is a must. I’ve gone on and on about schedules before, but I’ll say it again. VISUALS VISUALS VISUALS. Kids today are just plain visual learners. I tend to think visuals are for nonverbal kiddos, but really, they’re for us all! I like to use visuals for schedules, pragmatic language, feelings, safety….everything.
I also like to make copies of these visuals (and social stories) to share with teachers and parents.
I’ve also put together many resources to teach children what TO do. This is hard sometimes. As parents, it’s instinctive to yell “no” and “STOP” all day long, but this becomes ineffective pretty quickly. There are lots of options to use at home and several one page and book-style social stories on things like biting, throwing, etc. I’ve also added some visuals to help with general communication (again, remember that even verbal children might need visuals to help express themselves). These include sheets on feelings and sheets that have pictures to help cue “I want ___”.
I have several social stories to help with managing undesired behavior and teaching desired behavior.
I Can Take Care of Things teaches what to do instead of throwing. It comes with an interactive set of Boom Cards, a printable version, and a one page visual.
I Can Be Safe is a free social story to prevent elopement. It teaches the child what to do instead of running away. Click the image to download a free copy.
That Hurts! is a social story that teaches the child ways to have safe hands and feet instead of hitting, kicking, biting, etc.