Category Archives: Emotional Regulation

Start your engines!

The race to the end of the school year has begun and Lily is off to a good start.  We all survived the first day of middle school.  Lily even described it as ‘awesome’.  Hmm… that’s never happened before.  Of course, they haven’t started doing any work yet, but she still was able to manage the stress and anxiety of a chaotic, new situation.

She was okay in the morning, in good spirits, until it was time to get out of the car.  She got very flustered… which side should I get out on? how do I cross the street? which way to I go after I cross the street? should I get out now?  I tried to explain calmly and she was able to pull it together and get out of the car.  Her sister and I watched her walk away and Zoolander said, “That stressed me out.”  Agreed.

I thought about her all day.  What’s she doing now?  Is she doing alright?  Is she freaking out and the school is going to call me any minute?

Lily called when she got home on the bus.  She was bubbly and happy and said it went great.  She told me that she started to get freaked out once when she got to her locker in the morning and wasn’t sure what she was supposed to take to class.  So, she said she just thought about it and decided to wait for the girl who has the locker next to her and figure it out.  Great self-talk and problem solving to control her emotions.  When we met with Lily’s psychologist the next day he was proud of her and we all had a long discussion about self-talk and the different types of self-talk, which led into our next topic… math.

Lily got upset when we talked about math, but instead of getting frustrated and shutting down like she usually does when she has to face a difficult topic, she really hung in there and talked about her worries.  She’s very anxious about the math knowledge she is missing and has convinced herself that she will not be successful, which, after what she’s been through at school, is understandable.

I tried to explain to her that we chose the math program she’s in for several reasons, one of which is that her teachers feel that it’s better for a learner like herself.  I told her that she has such a unique mind that none of us really know what is exactly right for her but that we’re all trying to figure it out.  DR talked to her about staying positive and keeping an open mind and trusting that we’re all trying to help her.  I told Lily that I would ask the school for some answers to her questions and that seemed to help.

On a more fun note, I took Lily and sis to the racetrack near our house today for the Super Chevy Car Show.

I promised I would take her because she loves cars.

We got to the car show at the end of the day and it looked like it was almost over.  She was immediately worried that we had missed it.  The ticket windows were closed so I told her that we would just walk in.  She said she felt uncomfortable about that.  Lily is very black and white about rules.  I had to force her to go in and she was mad.  I ignored it.  After looking at a few cars, she got over it and had a great time.

NOT a Corvette

In Kindergarten, Lily told us she wanted to be a car designer and still loves cars.  Currently, she loves Corvettes.  It’s their round tail lights that she says she loves.  She asked if she could get a Corvette when she turns 16.  I told her that they aren’t very good in the snow.  When she was in the midwest this summer, visiting Grandma and Grandpa for 2 weeks, they surprised Lily with a visit to the home of a member of the local Corvette club.  Lily got to take a ride in the women’s Corvette convertible and Lily said it was the best day of her life!

Atomic Mom Freak Out

Ok, I had a complete emotional freakout at Back to School night tonight.  Me, the mom, not the 10-year old with the emotional regulation issues.

It started a few weeks ago with a couple of miscommunications with Lily’s new school, one of which was the fact that when they gave us her school schedule, she didn’t have the electives that we had talked about at her IEP Transition Meeting.  When I spoke to one of the school counselors about it, he wasn’t familiar with Lily’s IEP and told me that all the electives I thought she would be most comfortable in were full.  I emailed the team at school but didn’t hear back.  Lily told me she was okay with the electives they gave her so that’s what we planned on.  Lily reviewed her schedule many times, even walking around the house and pretending to walk around to all her classrooms.  Sounds good, right?

So, I rush home from work to make it to Back to School night, but I’m stuck in traffic, stressed because we’re going to be late. I start feeling sorry for myself.  My husband is out of town and I have to handle this back to school stuff myself.  Then I start getting irritated with him because I talked to my neighbor today and she was telling me about parent portal passwords, after school activities, blah, blah, blah and when I ask where she got the info she tells me at the orientation last week.  She says there was a manned table setup with fliers about all this stuff.  I immediately know that the father of my anxious child would never have stopped by one of the tables and picked up fliers because he would have had to talk to the strangers and figure out what the fliers were and which ones to pick up.  Arghhhh… sometimes his weirdness is annoying.  Until we started figuring out all this stuff about how Lily works, I never realized how much of the stuff he has…. not the ADHD, but the social anxiety.  He hates new situations, big group situations and talking to people on the phone.  In the 25 years I’ve known him, since high school, I have helped him compensate without even knowing it.   Okay, anyway… back to my freakout.

I stop at the house to pick up the girls and they aren’t ready to go and haven’t eaten any dinner.  I yell at them, which gets Lily upset and she starts muttering that it’s all her fault.  I give them a ham and cheese rollup and in the car I try to get myself together again.  I tell them I’m sorry for getting upset, but that I’m stressed because I’m late.  I jokingly tell Lily that I need to work on regulating my emotions and she laughs.  I explain that I’m going to calm myself down by talking to myself and telling myself that I can’t do anything about being late and that’s not worth being upset about.  I tell them that I’m going to try to think about something else to try to clear my mind.  Okay…. nice self-talk, right?

We walk in and the gym is so full that people are spilling out into the hallway, blocking the doorway.  I push our way through, we stand in the hot gym and I realize that I’m feeling very agitated.  Now we’re supposed to walk through our child’s schedule with them.  When we get to her first GT classroom, her teacher hands me a sheet of paper.  It’s a new schedule for Lily with different electives.  I’m immediately alarmed… you can’t just make a sudden change like this for a kid like this.  Lily sees my face and looks at the schedule.  She’s shocked and then upset.  I try to make the best of it for her… Shop class (or whatever they call it now) and Keyboarding.  Those are actually two great choices for her.  She’s very Visual-Spatial and she wants to be a car designer when she grows up so Shop will be great.  She is also going to use a keyboard for all her written work at school, so more keyboarding skills can’t hurt.

We move on to GT Math.  In the hall, I pass a friend who also has a 6th grade kid with Sensory issues.  She asks how I’m doing but then sees my face and says, “Overwhelmed?”  I nod and she nods in agreement and says, “Call me.”  It’s briefly comforting to know I’m not the only one.

In math class, the pit in my stomach gets worse.  I can hardly follow what the teacher is saying… Math Minutes, Math Timer, Math blah, blah.  I want to ask for more information on all these workbooks, but all the other parents seem comprehending and composed.  The teacher says that the students will have to copy their math problems from the math book on to paper.  I’m thinking, Lily can’t do that… doesn’t she know that.  Teacher says no calculators.  Lily’s IEP says she can use a calculator.  Visual learners often had a hard time with rote memorization and so have a hard time moving on to more advanced mathmatical concepts because they are stuck on simple math facts.  A calculator is a huge help.

Lily was starting to get that look on her face.  I look around the room and notice that none of the lights had the light filters on them. The filters are pieces of fabric that cover the lights and attach with magnets.  Lily can see the flicker of flourescent lights and they give her a headache.  They installed them in her elementary school classroom and they made a huge difference. so we made sure to put the light filters in her IEP.   The story of the voodoo eye doctor will have to be for another post.  In the classroom, I was getting pretty upset. Had everyone forgotten everything we’d talked about at our meeting?  Is this what I was going to have to fight all year?

After her presentation, I approached the teacher and asked if we could talk before school starts.  I was caught off guard when she said, “How about next week?”  I told her I meant tomorrow.  She said no.  No?  Who says no?  She said she didn’t have time.  I was so startled and immediately so angry, I turned and left.  I was trying not to cry.  WTH?  I went back in the room and immediately burst into tears.  I told her that I wanted to talk about Lily’s organization and how we were going to get information back and forth and some other IEP issues.  She was short with me and said that we had already taken care of that in our IEP Transition Mtg.  I was stunned.  I walked down the hall crying and passed by the other GT teacher.  She asked if I was okay and I shook my head no.  I took Lily to her two ‘new’ electives, all the while trying to decide what to do.  This isn’t going to work if the communication is this poor.

I decided to stop back in the first teacher’s classroom.  One of the counselors who had been at the IEP mtg was there.  They both asked me what was wrong and I started crying again.  I started a big speech about communication and explained why the sudden change in electives was not a good thing for Lily.  They both told me that they had all met to talk about Lily today, even GT Teacher 2.  They assured me that they would make sure that everything in her IEP was taken care of, that they had ordered the light covers, that she could use a calculator, that they planned to talk with Lily about her BSP and explain to her where she can go when she needs a quiet place.

We probably talked for 45 minutes and they were so reassuring, just as I remembered GT Teacher 1 to be from meetings and visits.  In fact, GT Teacher 1is the one who finally convinced me to give the public middle school a try.  After our IEP Transition Mtg in the spring, we talked for a long time and GT teacher 1 told me that she wanted to try to help Lily and that she was up for it.  What more could you ask for?  A teacher who is passionate about figuring out 2E kids, who relishes the challenge and who will be there to make sure this kid doesn’t get lost in the system.  Tonight, she was just as kind, hopeful and encouraging as I remembered and she didn’t even look at me like I was completely insane for losing it.

P.S. I noticed that somehow Lily had managed to sneak “Ye Olde Spice Bag” into her locker.  No, I don’t think the other middle school students will think it’s weird when you sniff mustard seed between classes.

Little Soup Chef and the Couch Crisis

Ahhh, adjustability.  Tonight, Lily had a great night… mostly.  When I came home from work, she had dinner ready and the table set.  She had made soup from scratch using beef bouillon, chipotle seasoning, an assortment of spices and kale.  It was actually pretty delicious.  She also made grilled cheese sandwiches in the microwave, which were not quite as good, but she said she had given me the softest one!

This girl is definitely not a recipe cook.  She likes to dream up concoctions, which are usually surprisingly tasty.  She’s already kind of a ‘foodie’.  She’s always had gourmet taste.  As a toddler, she ate all the exotic olives off the Thanksgiving relish tray.  She never liked ‘kid’ foods and preferred more adult flavors… loves lemon, balsamic vinegar, sushi and wasabi.  She says the milk at the grocery store tastes like the carton and that’s the reason we get fresh milk delivered.

We were on track for a smooth evening when, just before bed, Zoolander told me that Lily was in her room sobbing about the new couch we bought while she was at camp.

Dad, sister and I had actually discussed this at the furniture store.   I suggested taking a picture of the couch and sending it to her at camp so she wouldn’t be caught off-guard when she came home.  They wanted to surprise her.  They won and Lily seemed okay with it at first, but she eventually lost it and cried and cried for the couch that she professed she loved.  She said she hated the new couch, but I cuddled with her on the new couch and explained exactly why we bought it until she calmed down and she finally decided that it was pretty comfortable.  Sometimes she just needs someone to help her walk through something and then she’s fine.  Couch crisis averted.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Wine: The Return from Camp

“Lily”, she wants to be called.  That’s her code name, “Lily”, my oldest twice exceptional daughter.  She’s 10.  My youngest daughter, 8, requested the faux name, “Zoolander”.  So now you know.

Anyway, “Lily” has been away at summer camp.  2 weeks.  Sleepover.  We missed her terribly and worried every day.  Would we get a call from camp because Lily was having trouble?  Maybe she would get upset about something and be unable to recover… What if there’s a change in plans, like horseback riding instead of swimming time, and Lily gets frustrated with the unexpected change?  What if there are rowdy games that are too loud and chaotic and Lily gets too overwhelmed?  What if the girls in her cabin are more socially advanced than Lily and she doesn’t fit in?  Maybe they talk about boys and pedicures and don’t get Lily’s quirky sense of humor or her interest in Corvettes & herbal remedies?

I don’t know.  We have to be prepared for a phone call, because whenever we get comfortable and expect that Lily will go through life like everyone else, we’re caught off guard by a phone call about Lily.

I didn’t leave any special instructions or tips for Lily’s camp counselors.  I felt like it was either all or nothing.  Sometimes, I think I should just write a ‘Guide to Lily” that I hand out to everyone who comes in contact with her.  But I know an instruction manual isn’t the answer.  I’d like Lily to eventually know herself well enough to be able to advocate for herself, to ask for what she needs to be more comfortable in the world.

We did receive a postcard from one of Lily’s counselors while she was gone.  It said that Lily is ‘definitely an amazing free spirit who isn’t afraid to explore and step out of her box.  She has really been into participating in Wilderness Exploration and loves to learn about plants.’  That didn’t surprise us.  Earlier in the summer, she pored over a book about edible plants and said she wanted to grow up to be the kind of witch who heals people with plants.We were relieved by the postcard.  Sounds like her counselors really get her… Lily is definitely ‘an amazing free spirit.’

When Lily saw the three of us walking up the path to her cabin she bolted toward us and plowed right into her sister, grabbed her and they hugged each other for a long time.  Lily told Zoolander, “I love you!”  Then she dragged us to her cabin.  She immediately showed us the bracelet she’d been awarded in a special ceremony the night before.  On it was a wine glass, tipped over with wine spilling out.  It was supposed to represent a trait and strength that each girl had demonstrated at camp.  Lily excitedly told us that her bracelet represented ‘adjustability’.  My throat immediately tightened.  I blinked to stop my eyes from stinging.

Lily’s counselor pulled me to the side and asked, “Does she have a hard time with loud noises at home?”  “Yes”, I answered.  “Well, she was amazingly flexible this week and just really worked hard on being adjustable and going with the flow.”  She seemed to be referring to a specific incident, but my mind was stuck, wondering… how did they know that flexibility is one of things that she has a hard time with and was something that we’ve been working on–regulating her emotional response to changes, part of her struggle with her Executive Functioning.  It still freaks me out that her college-age counselors showed such insight.  Do they train them to do that?

As we left, I watched carefully as Lily said goodbye to her bunk mates.  They all seemed to like her and I didn’t see anything unusual in their interactions.  Lily was over the moon the rest of the day, full of stories and songs about camp.  I asked her if the overturned wine goblet on her bracelet meant that she shouldn’t cry over spilled wine and she laughed.  She told us that the girls in her cabin were full of ‘drama’, but she did meet another girl who will be going to her middle school this fall, in the same grade.  One more familiar face to help with the transition… I hope.

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