Issues with 3-4 year old - any ideas?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by racheline, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. racheline

    racheline New Member

    Hi - this is my first post here. I don't know what to do and have been trying for a couple years now to find out what is going on with my son. I was going to get him evaluated this summer but I was told the county only evaluated for possible autism (and no variations of it - only "full blown" autism). People who see how "good" he can be when he's happy and occupied - figure he's just a little boy who is full of energy. But my entire family (and my husband's) as well as close friends all tell me there is something else to it.

    My son who will be 4 in a couple months is not just "full of energy" like many boys are. He's full of MORE energy than most kids he plays with. I was just watching a video of him from LAST summer when he was 2.5 and when I saw him in comparison to all his other boy cousins (ages 2-4 at the time) - mine is the only one acting a little "different" - much more excited than the other kids. My mother in law who raised 3 boys - has a difficult time with him because of his hard to manage "energy".

    My husband and I have picked up also on the fact that when he's given negative discipline he basically goes "into himself" (does this growling sound and grits his teeth) and won't talk, won't make eye contact and often will lay on the ground or even go into a sort of tantrum or hide under a table. This was evident last night when my old fashioned grandparents got on his case about several things (such as having his shoes on when sitting on a chair on his feet to boost his height at the table). He was very upset.

    We've tried to implement as much positive discipline as possible, saving any negative discipline for when the positive is not working. Things have improved with this tactic but not entirely. There is still something a little "special" about him but we can't figure it out. I'm wondering if also at home he needs more activities like crafts and playing board games with me (though it would be a challenge trying to keep him still enough) and more outdoor play. I've heard if boys don't get enough physical play it can make them a bit "antsy".

    He's also been in trouble a few times in Sunday school class - for not listening to the teacher, not coming when called, and once when a little boy started a fight with him over a toy and he did not back down. I can see how that would upset him and once he is upset he becomes unmanageable. When something upsets him at home sometimes there is nothing else I can do to calm him except to pick him up and place him in bed and tell him he must calm down before he comes out - I give him that quiet dimmed place to calm himself - otherwise he begins to destroy things, hurt his sister, hurt me, get into things he knows he's not allowed to. It's like he gets "set off".

    One more thing I'll mention: when he is tired is the absolute worst. Obviously most little kids get cranky and maybe even into trouble when they are tired but when my son nears bedtime or tires himself out - his energy level actually intensifies and he is unable to sit still, begins literally jumping up and down in an almost vibrating way and begins to REALLY act out for attention (many times by biting the baby or hurting her in some way). We try not to let him get to this point but sometimes if we are out during the day and he gets tired (from being more stimulated than usual) - it becomes a total nightmare and I often must stop whatever I'm doing and get him back to the car and home for a nap. He does not usually need a nap at home unless he's been more active in the morning than usual.

    Sorry so long - I hope someone has any idea if there is something we are not realizing or something that could help us out with his behavior. I just hate it when he "shuts down". At that point I'd swear he was autistic but then when he "snaps out of it" he seems "mostly" "normal".
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Hi racheline,

    At first when I was reading your post I was thinking "just a very active, difficult temperament" but the more you described him it sounds like something is going on there. Even strong-willed children do respond to consistent discipline eventually and usually don't routinely destroy things and hurt parents, siblings, etc because they aren't able to control themselves.

    I think you'll want to talk to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation done on him but I think it would benefit you to do your homework first or else I'm afraid you'll wind up with someone who will want to medicate and/or do behavioral therapy without really digging into what's behind the behaviors.

    I've got a couple of book recommendations for you. The first is "What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions" by Dr. Douglas Riley. In reading through it you might find something or some things that sound familiar.

    Also "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene to help you formulate a plan for dealing with the challenging behaviors. See the thread at the top of this board for some help as well.

    What's the family mental health history like?
    Outside of high energy and tantrums, is there anything else that's unusual in his development or behaviors?
    Any speech delays (or advanced speech)?
    Really quirky behaviors?
    Really fussy about food or clothing?

    You might give Melatonin a try before bedtime. A lot of parents here have good success with it and few report side effects.

    Hang in there--we know how exhausting these little darlin's can be!
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Most austistic kids seem almost normal at certain times and really go into thier shell when they are outside their comfort zones.Does he have speech delays or quirks or does he repeat what you say or what he hears? Does he play inappropriately with toys or not at all? Does he have strange quirky interests such as staring at a lightbulb and switching it on and off with great fascination? Does he make any strange throat noises or flap his arms or rock? Does it seem at times that he is hared of hearing because you call him but he is in his own world?
  4. madregrande

    madregrande New Member

    Just to let you know that you are not alone, my 4 year old son is exactly like that. When you discipline him, it becomes worse. Others judge us when we don't jerk him up and spank him for things, but we know that if those people saw how he reacts to a spanking, they would leave well enough alone. It is very difficult when they go into themselves like that. He will be 5 in February, and he has begun to mature out of that a little. He also goes into hyper drive when tired or overstimulated. The only thing you can do at that point as a parent is put him in his room where it is safe and quiet, because you cannot reason with him at that point. He is not thinking rationally. We have to also use positive things, or just change the subject entirely to something he likes like just out of the blue start talking about a tv show. That usually makes him laugh, and re-directs his entire mentality and behavior. That is just one of the many ways we cope with that. My son has Sensory Integration Disorder which is the driving force behind the ability to become so overstimulated, and the out there behaviors as well.
  5. racheline

    racheline New Member

    Sensory Integration Disorder is one thing that I've been suspicious about but have gone back and fourth because he'll display some "signs" but then seem normal at other times or in other ways. And I'm not sure how or where to have him tested.

    I even wondered if too much tv was causing him to act these ways but after cutting it down to 2 shows, then 1 shows then no tv at all for awhile - he actually got WORSE even after being used to no tv for weeks and weeks.

    When he was younger I was scared he had autism because he'd line up his cars in a row from largest to smallest - all across the room - for hours and hours. I don't know about speech delays. All I know is that when he "goes into himself" - when he's upset about something - he will NOT talk normally - he does this "growling" thing and you can hardly understand him. I recognize many behaviors related to autism (because my cousin is autistic and so is my very good friend's son). He doesn't have many of the obvious ones (like standing on tippie-toes or flapping arms or rocking). When I call him it seems he CANNOT just come - he ALWAYS HAS TO do or get something first. Even if he's totally un-interested in his hot-wheel cars at the time - if I call him - he suddenly freaks out and acts like he's never going to see his cars again unless he grabs them right then.

    He sneaks into the kitchen and takes food that he will eat in his closet, under the table - I SWEAR we do not starve this kid - in encouraging him to ASK first - we usually let him have what he wants as long as it's not candy, chocolate, etc... I try not to buy anything he can't have. He's given plenty of yummy AND healthy snacks, three meals, water and occasional all natural juice (watered down a bit).

    When we are with other children he'll be VERY shy if he does not know them - sometimes even if he does. With his cousins who he knows very well he will become over-excited to see them, very loud, very physical -running, etc.

    I don't know - I assume if he has anything it is a mild version/case - but still - I think there is something setting things off and I'm dying to know what to do for him. I'd like to do more crafts and games with him but it is sooo difficult once he's excited about something like that - and even to correct him in anything (like "let's use less glue" or "let's cut the part we're supposed to" - then he shuts off/down and our fun time is over pretty much).

    He also LOVES to get the baby to crawl into a bedroom (his, hers or even mom and dad's) and then shut the door and he'll try to do things to her he knows are not allowed - which often involves hurting her, piling up blankets or clothes on her. Today he shoved cold scrambled eggs from his breakfast plate into her mouth and up her nose - poor little gal. I think he views her as a doll in a way? I admit I almost lost it with him (it is very hard to see you child get hurt - even when it's your other child doing it!) - but tried to just calm down and explain to him that she is not a dolly and we cannot put things in her mouth, on top of her, etc. I feel like it's useless to even tell him that. It's like he's not hearing me. He wouldn't look at me, and was just too upset to really hear me. I may try having a talk with him later while he's in a good mood. I've just got to help him understand this. He's so fast and I'm so afraid even when I'm right there with them - that she'll get seriously hurt one day.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Please have him tested. He has tons of red flags. Here is an online test to sort of see if your child is a good bet to be on the autism spectrum. He really does sound like he has maybe Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, a more milder form of autism. My son has that or Aspergers. These kids just don't think like other kids. They aren't "bad" they are confused. they need early intervention for a good prognosis. Heres's the test:

    Please take him to a neuropsychologist. Often professionals who don't know enough about Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified or Aspergers miss it in youger kids and that delays important treatment (not medications, but interventions). Doing odd things is part of it. Sensory issues go along with it. Social cluelessness too.

    Good luck.
  7. racheline

    racheline New Member

    Scored 58 "may suggest mild Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)". I will try to find someone who won't just want to drug him.
  8. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Interventions--not medications--are almost always the first line of treatment for young children with Autistic Spectrum diagnosis's .

    Check and see if there's an Autism Society chapter in your region. This is a really helpful parent group and you can pick up some excellent recommendations for professionals for diagnosing or ruling out Autism in any form.

    I understand California has regional developmental centers and that's where many families in the state with young children wind up and I believe it's free! Do some calling around and see if you can make an appointment directly or if you need a pediatrician referral. Take along a printout of your results of that Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) online screening.
  9. racheline

    racheline New Member

    I've called the screening people for our county and they told me unless I suspected he had "full" autism and not just a "form of" autism they wouldn't test him. Maybe I should call again?
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    No. Go to a NeuroPsychologist at a university or children's hospital. Or call your nearest Autism Society and ask who tests in your area. It's hard to detect when it's not classic autism, at least in younger kids. If not treated, it becomes obvious as they get older and become more and more different.

    Good luck!
  11. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    MM, she's in California where the system is different than the other states and I believe the regional developmental centers are very reputable.

    I really doubt that the county can refuse to test him just because a parent doesn't think a child has full Autism. Most of us parents truly don't have a grasp of that until we're way on the other side of the diagnostic fence and have lived with the diagnosis for awhile. If I were you I wouldn't even discuss degrees of Autism with them while trying to set up an appointment. It's totally unrealistic for the average parent just starting in evaluation process to have a firm grasp on what degree of Autism--if any--a child might have.

    I just found something written by a knowledgable friend a few years ago.
    So, here we go. Step 1, call your County Education Office (or your
    neighborhood public school, and they'll give you the number) and request
    a developmental assessment on your daughter, ASAP. Mention the
    Preschool Specialist program if the receptionist doesn't know what to do
    with a preschooler. If the referral comes from the parent (rather than
    a teacher), it gets a more prompt response. They will mail you a
    referral form, which you then fill out and return to them. Once they
    have the referral in writing, they have 50 school days to complete an
    evaluation and meet with you to discuss findings and determine
    eligibility for sp. ed. services (speech therapy, physical therapy,
    occupational therapy, behavior management, etc.). Since it's already
    the end of the school year, your evaluation probably won't happen until early
    Fall, but at least your paperwork will be in the system and the
    "countdown clock" will have begun ticking.

    Step 2 (also ASAP), call your local Regional Center for Developmental
    Disabilities and request an "intake evaluation." In CA, state and
    federal MR/daughter $$ are disbursed through 21 Regional Centers, which act as
    both an eligibility filter and a service referral conduit. At the
    moment, the Lanterman Act is still law, which means that *every*
    California resident who is determined to have an eligible developmental
    disability is legally *entitled* to support services designed to
    facilitate his/her full participation in the local community. Waiting
    lists, etc., are legally prohibited. Of course, with our current state
    budget and our family-unfriendly governor, the Lanterman Act is in
    serious danger of major revision, if not all-out repeal. So, I cannot
    emphasize enough the importance of starting the RC "intake/evaluation" process
    ASAP -- particularly since they work year-round, not just during the
    school year.

    Step 3, while you are waiting for the school and RC to push all their
    paper around, go back to your regular pediatrician and get a referral to a
    developmental specialist. If your Dr. doesn't know anyone, call the UC
    Davis MIND Institute (if you're anywhere near Sacramento), or the UCLA
    NeuroPsychiatric Institute (if you're in So. CA), or the UCSB Autism
    Research and Training Center (if you're on the Central Coast).

  12. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    PM me...I might be able to provide some info specific to CA. Where are you?