Monday, February 20, 2012

Helping Your Sensory Child Out of a Meltdown

Pin It

It was the perfect scenerio.  Or so I thought.

We had just left church.  Grams was sitting in the back seat beside Bubs (age seven); cuddling the whole way home.  We picked up pizza for supper and talked about the fun experiences we had had at church and during the day with family.  With everyone sitting around the dinner table, someone mentioned that Bubs was not there yet.  Thinking he was still changing his clothes, I took Grams up on her offer to check on him. 

The look on her face said it all. 

For the first time, Grams had been told by the grandchild who adores her to "Leave Me Alone!  I don't want you!".  I went into Bubs' room wondering what had happened.  Thinking back through the prior few minutes, I couldn't come up with anything that would set him off. 

I realized immediately that he was out of control and that jumping on the mini-trampoline would be the only thing to calm him down.  While Grams tried to talk Bubs "out of" the emotional quicksand that he was sinking in, I brought the trampoline into the room to give our visitors some sense of removal from the situation and still try to help Bubs save face in front of his family.

Then we started jumping. 

Understand that Bubs does not want to jump during these moments.  I am literally holding his arms and bouncing him up and down.  (Yes, this is exhausting!)  At some point, his body will take over and he will begin to bounce on his own.  As soon as he stops jumping, I immediately start the process again.
Up and down.  Up and down. 

During this portion of the "meltdown," I name his emotions outloud.  "You are feeling angry because..."  "You are sad because..."  "You wanted..."  Depending on the situation, sometimes I will pray outloud the emotions.  "Dear Jesus,  Bubs is struggling right now.  He is feeling.... because he .... and he needs You to help him get control, take deep breathes, and let Mommy help him."  This part of the process may take 5 minutes or 50 minutes.

Progress occurs when I see two things.  First, when Bubs starts jumping continuously on his own, I know that he is started to get in control.  Next comes self-control with his mouth.  He will stop telling me, "I hate this!", "I don't want to!", or telling himself how much he has messed up again.  It is at this time that I talk to him about taking deep breaths and I start to firmly rub his back and arms while he jumps.  The second stage is typically much shorter lasting up to ten minutes. 

It is when he wants to be held that I know he is done.  I can see the little-boy-eyes replace the defiant, out-of-control look that he had.  I hold him tightly reassuring him that I love him and that God loves him.  As the tears flow, we pray asking God to help him.  I always include in my prayers, "Thank you God that You love Bubs so much.  That you made him so special.  Thank you love him no matter what he does or says.  He is Your child and nothing can or will change that.".

This jumping process is one that we sometimes go through several times a day.  Sometime we only use it once a week.  But, it is what I have found works the best to help Bubs gain control.  As he has gotten older and is starting to realize his needs, Bubs will ask to jump when he starts to feel the need for sensory input.  This is when God shows me that we are making progress.   

Back to our story...

It was during the end of the second stage that it all came gushing out.  Bubs began to tell me what was wrong.  I thought maybe something happened at church?  Maybe he was sick and got scared? 

No, this draining, heart breaking "meltdown" all happened because he wanted to sit at the big table and not at the kid-table for supper. 

That's all. 

See...normal kids would have either said something or thrown a fit and gotten over it.  But for Sensory Processing Disorder kids, anything out of their control turns into an hour long fight to get back in control.  It is a fight to bring all of their emotions back into control.  A fight that in the end no one even remembers what started it. 

To find out more about our journey with Sensory Processing Disorder, click here. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this, especially your prayer. Sometimes I wonder what my son is hearing when I answer him because I will tell him that he can do something that he wants to do, but we have to do 1 thing first. Then he starts to have a meltdown. I get so confused and don't know how to help him because then it's like he's stuck in the meltdown. He's getting better, but I'm really trying to learn quickly, and I'm not learning quickly enough for my desires. Anyway, kind of rambled off the point, but I appreciate this post very much.

    And on another note....we've been going back at the ABCJLM 2 yo curriculum in our own way, and he's actually getting it! I think he's understood things for a while (he just turned 6), but now he's articulating it a little bit. Thank you! He's having surgery next week, so we'll very likely get even further behind, but that's ok, we're making progress.

  2. Yes, thank you. Our Boy Two has gone back to long, long tantrums again, and it's encouraging to read through your patient process.


The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.