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Life with Athena Part III

Meltdown life. Toddlerhood is already a bucket of fun. Living with the real-life equivalent of a Sour Patch Kid. Athena is like living with an extreme version. In the last 18m we have had to learn how to decipher the difference between a “normal toddler tantrum,” and “I am overwhelmed and need help.” One of the main focuses of SI has been coping and regulating strategies.

Athena being Athena, knows certain strategies and sometimes won’t let us help her because she wants to wallow in her feelings. This means we are on our toes circulating through the various tricks. Sometimes day by day, sometimes month by month. Joint compressions are a great example. She loves them. About a month in she realized they calmed her for bed and she fought them. So we stopped. We’ve brought them back around a few times now. She’s currently on a compressions kick and has been asking for them.

I have video of meltdowns, just clips. We were having full meltdowns upwards of 30min. We’ve managed to get them much shorter, and a little more spaced out. We can go days with minor blips. We can go days where it feels like it’s just meltdown after meltdown.

Our next steps:
There is another round of evaluation we would like to have done. As she is 3 she no longer qualifies for early intervention. We are also not working with our local IU. As I am homeschooling, I am not worried about needing any kind of specific diagnosis for IEPs or 504s. This next round of testing is really just to give us more insight into how her brain works. As a parent, I want to be able to raise my child well, and part of that is knowing what’s going on up there. We are expecting her to score as “gifted” as her EI testing has suggested such. I’m sure her proprioceptive SPD will come through. But otherwise, there are no expectations.

We will continue to homeschool. I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but the term is loose at this point. She is 3. It’s more about having some structure to the day, and helps me have some ideas of what to do with her so every day isn’t a total crap shoot. If she picks up the alphabet, 1-10, shapes, colors, and some basics, then great!

She gets bored very easily so if there is not a degree of routine, structure, or direction, it doesn’t turn out well for us. I get overwhelmed, she gets bored and starts making poor choices, and we all end up frustrated. The tone of our days are very seriously determined by my own planning a prep. Something I enjoy, but often struggle to execute.

Some products & activities that are a saving grace for us:
Mason jars with straws– various drinks of differing viscosity gave plenty of entertainment as sucking the straw was one way to give her that oral input she was seeking. The silicon straws meant she could chew and not destroy them. Smoothies, milkshakes, even just orange juice, were all used to tickle those receptors.

Mini trampoline. My parents actually got this for us in the Spring with the initial lock down and park closures. It has been a life saver. It was outside through good weather and we brought it in a few weeks ago. At least once a day I tell her to, “go jump. You need to jump.” And she goes and bounces a bit. It helps get some extra jitters and energy out, but also fulfills that deep pressure need.

Spider Swing– Ethan’s parents got this last Christmas and it has been so fun! She loves to swing, and this particular style allows her to lay on her stomach, sit like a regular swing, or even lay. It’s easily one of her favorite spots in the yard. SPD kids like her often like the feeling of swinging/swaying.

Vibrating tooth brush- there is no real good way to say “oral stimulator” without giggling like a middle schooler but that’s what it is. It is essentially a baby toothbrush with a dual sided silicon head. It is battery powered and vibrates. Great to give her additional stimulation, especially when she’s anxious or upset. She started chewing her nails/fingers, and I pulled this back out as an alternative.

Animals- From a young age, Athena has shown interest in all kinds of animals. We have 2 cats, a leopard gecko, and beta. My parents have 3 dogs. We were frequent flyers at Zoo America until shut down. Her favorite shows are Dr. Pol, Secrets of the Zoo Columbus Zoo, Too Cute…really if there is a zoo or vet show, she is watching it. I probably don’t have to go into detail as to how animals are amazing for kids with extra needs. Athena is no exception. She loves to feed and snuggle our animals- testament of Gimli’s rotund shape.

Swimming Lessons- As I mentioned in a previous post, bathing was exciting for her. Baths and swimming give all over pressure; a SPD kid’s dream! Last winter we did weekly swim classes. Not only are they obviously useful, but she loved them!

There are honestly so many more, but it would take more time than this mama has to get them all out. Sensory Bins, finger paints, and Little Tikes Slide, are just a few.

I’ve talked a lot about our amazing therapists, but it would be a travesty if I didn’t also mention our families. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by 2 of the most supportive families possible. My parents take Athena about one weekend a month to help give us a little smidge of a break, and give her a change of scenery. It doesn’t hurt that she loves to run around the yard with their pack of dogs. Ethan’s family is quite literally 4 houses down, and have come to help watch her, and rescue me, when it feels like the house my implode at any moment. We are the embodiment of it takes a village, and we are so grateful for the many villagers who have loved on us, and our tiny human the last three years.

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