The spin cycle

Yesterday was such a great day for Sara.  She was engaged and able to stay focused on what was said to her.  She had a great day at school, walked home with a friend and had a fun play date until dinner time.  The evening was effortless and she went to bed on time and fell asleep easily (rare) and stayed that way until morning.  It felt like a great start to hopefully a great week.

And then she woke up.  Not easily mind you.  I had to crack the blinds slightly and turn off her white noise.  I had to remind her that today at school there was a special class called Roots of Empathy that she was looking forward to attending.   She just groaned and pulled the blankets over her head.  I am thankful for “special” events at school because they propel her to wake on days when she isn’t ready.  I cheerfully reminded her that today is the first day that they meet the cute baby that the class will be learning about this year.  I ignore the fact that she is ignoring me and I continue to tidy her dresser chatting her awake.

I get to the part about how I wonder if it will be a cute baby girl or a cute baby boy.  “Cute baby girl” is the phrase that I know will get her attention.  And it does.  I see her stirring, trying to wake herself to discuss the potential of a cute baby girl.  The struggle is real.  To draw her out even more I mention how sad it would be if she missed because she might be the only person in the class who would know what to do if the baby gets overwhelmed.  Every word is strategic.  And working.  I leave the room and do a few things, when I return she is awake, lying there slowing getting the energy to get out of bed.

She eventually makes it downstairs and eats breakfast.  This takes some time and is still part of the “coming awake” ritual.  When she is finished I send her up to get dressed.  This is when she starts to spin.  I know that getting dressed can trigger an avalanche of sensory chaos.   She disappears upstairs and shuts her door.  Everything centers on timing.  I always give her about 10 minutes alone before I call upstairs to check on her.   Sometimes she opens her door fully dressed and says “Oh I was just trying to find my bracelet” but sometimes there is no response.  That is when I head upstairs.  Today there was no response.  As I am steps from her door it opens and she is fully dressed and I have a moment of relief – Oh!? Good she is dressed!  yay!.  But then I registered the look on her face and realized it was that morning.  She whimpers “I don’t like these clothes.” with a bit of desperation in her voice.  I can hear it.  Here eyes are darting and her face is pleading “help me”.  I say “Ok what is wro…” and she cuts me off  “These sleeves are too tight.  And they are itching me here”.  She is already wrestling with the sleeves.  Pulling at them like they are burning her.   I say with calmness “Ok… lets fix that”.

By now I am in her closet pulling out all the clothes that felt fine yesterday.  “What about this?”  I say as I pull out shirt after shirt.  They are all “too something”  Every option that produces a “NO” almost makes her more desperate and panicked.  Finally I find a butter soft, loose cut T-shirt and she agrees to try it on.  Which means she already knows it will suit her needs that day.  So shirt disaster- solved!  Then she tells me the pants are bugging her.  I run through a list of options.  No luck.  I drag out MY pants.  Nothing acceptable.  I gently remind her that she is spinning.  That she needs to stay calm and that we will find something.  Discouraged she says “these are fine, never-mind” and just changes her shirt. Eyebrows knitted up, determined to push through and get on with it.

Then she heads into the bathroom to do her hair.  I hold my breath.  This is another huge trigger.  I watch her face twist in anguish as she pulls an elastic out of her hair.  The pony-tail she made didn’t make the cut.  To lumpy.  Not smooth enough.  She is definitely going to spiral if I don’t help her.  When I offer she says “No I’ve got it” angrily and rips a brush aggressively through her hair.  I suggest that we go down to the sensory room for a bit and then do her hair.  But in one swift motion she scoops up all her hair into a bun and says “It’s fine”.  She is determined to get to school to see that cute baby girl.

I tell her we have a few extra minutes and convince her to go down to the sensory room.  She does.  We play a fun game and in no time she is laughing.  Disaster averted and I send her off to school.  That baby BETTER be cute!!

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