We had a meeting at Polar Bear’s school today to discuss his recent diagnosis. The educational psychologist (EP) was there, without a doubt the best person to have when going through the diagnosis process, our EP was fab. The deputy head (senco) was there along with the lady from CAHMS who diagnosed Polar Bear, another fab lady who actually knew her stuff. The meeting started off well. The deputy head went through some of the issues they were still having with Polar Bear and asked us if there was anything we could suggest to help, they also listed the strategies they are using including what is and isn’t working. One of the great things about this school is that they listen to us parents and act on our advice. So when the deputy head mentioned issues with avoidance I jumped in with information about PDA. The deputy head listened and agreed that it fitted and I managed not to cry. The EP agreed too and offered some strategies which might help. Overall, the first half of the meeting went great.
Then whirlwind Monkey arrived. My partner had been picking him up from nursery and we were supposed to be finished by the time they arrived to pick us up. But meetings tend to take longer than expected so they joined us at the school. Most typical kids might be shy, they might stick close to their parents in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people, they may sit quietly while the parents talk. Cue laughter.
Monkey happily walked into the class room we were commandeering for the meeting and proceeded to run around, grabbing random objects from the tables and throwing them around. He emptied a toy box they got out to ‘distract’ him then found a tub of glitter which he opened and emptied onto the floor, a look of pure delight mixed with mischief on his face. I joked to the CAHMS lady that she’d be seeing him soon too as he raced around grabbing pencils and drawing on any available surface.
Polar Bear tried to draw his attention by showing him some musical instruments. Whilst that did distract him, it also meant we spent the rest of the meeting trying to hear each other over the noise of Monkey clashing cymbals together accompanied by my partner and I trying to shush him. In the end my partner took Monkey back out to the car so we could wrap things up in peace.
Afterwards, I realised I’d seen this behaviour before in Polar Bear. When he was younger and I was trying to convince him to get dressed for school or at school when I was called in to deal with his ‘behaviour’. This behaviour where they laugh or giggle while throwing toys or items. Where they run around and climb on furniture, spit in your face and take their clothes off. Behaviour where they kick and hit and lick your arm, where they try to make a mess and spill things and draw on things. Silly behaviour. What others might class as naughty behaviour.
This is a panic attack.
Why did it take me so long to see this. I already knew this behaviour in Polar Bear was linked to PDA. Usually it showed when I was trying to make him conform to a demand like bedtime or getting dressed. But with Monkey it wasn’t as obvious. He would act like this whenever we go out, at cafes and restaurants, at meetings and play groups. Anywhere where there are large groups of people. I thought he was just difficult and hyper, I should have realised it was anxiety.
Anxiety. And now I know. Monkey has PDA, it just took me a while to figure it out. He also has a lot of sensory issues. He displays differently to Polar Bear, they don’t react to anxiety the same nor in the same environment. Polar Bear masked when out whereas Monkey seems to get worse when out. So the ‘silly’ behaviour flummoxed me.
But why do they react that way? Why does feeling anxious cause Monkey to act silly? It’s like someone fed him crazy pills. I can see why some people think it’s ADHD, it truly is hyper behaviour but not in that they have lots of energy, but that their brains seem to go wild. I guess it’s some combination of fight and flight mode, running around throwing things and acting silly.
Now that I know what’s causing the silly behaviour, I can find ways to reduce or manage it. Reducing time spent out in busy places for a start and not expecting him to sit still and be quiet when out for another. Something tells me we are going to have a much harder time when Monkey starts school than we did when Polar Bear started school. The deputy head will have to do lots of reading up about PDA, just as well we flagged it early then.