Andy had a meltdown at school last week. It was horrible...and all over a lost paper hat.
Andy's school had an evening celebration for Dr. Seuss' birthday. It was for students only, so I wasn't able to attend. I was hesitant to let Andy go because I knew there would be a lot of students, which would be overstimulating, and it was outside the norm. Let's face it, Andy doesn't do well with schedule change or things outside his normal routine. However, he really wanted to go so I figured I'd let him give it a shot.
I walked him inside the building, signed him in, and watched him walk down the hall. He was already looking all around, so I could tell it was a little chaotic for him. I sought out the principal and asked her to keep an eye on him for me. I then went home and tried to keep myself busy so I wouldn't worry too much about him.
The two hours crawled by...and I thought all was well.
I sent my husband to go pick Andy up when it was time. A few moments after he left to go get him, I got a phone call. When I picked up the phone, I saw on the caller id that it was the school. Oh, man, this couldn't be good.
It was the principal. She said, "I just wanted to call you to tell you what happened." Yikes. Not what I wanted to hear.
She said Andy had been doing very well. She kept checking on him periodically. He was having a good time, transitioning from activities without difficulty. Then, as they were moving to the last station, Andy realized he didn't have his paper Dr. Seuss hat that he had made when he first got there. She said it was just a paper hat that they had cut out and pasted together. He thought he had left it in the art room so she took him to go find it. It wasn't there. She said Andy was devastated and just broke down.
She then proceeded to go check with each group of children to see if she could find the missing hat. No luck. She said that he was so upset, and she couldn't find a way to calm him down. She asked him if he wanted to go jump on his trampline. She offered to let him make another hat. She offered to take him to his quiet place.
It wouldn't have mattered what she did at that point. Once he melts down, he doesn't even know what he needs to feel better. She said she just felt terrible because he was so upset and she couldn't do anything to fix it. She kept apologizing as if she had done something wrong. It is such a helpless feeling. It can happen in an instant. One minute everything is fine, then the next minute the paper hat is gone and it's total meltdown.
When my husband arrived at the school, Andy was sitting against the wall of the gym crying hysterically. He had one of his friends sitting by him patting his back. (How sweet is that?) Apparently he was causing quite the scene, and all of the parents were staring at him because they just don't get it. It's a good thing I wasn't there because I would have had to educate every last one of them about SPD and why he was having a meltdown.
He cried the whole way home...cried while he put on his pajamas...cried and cried and cried. He would stop crying for a minute or so, then remember the hat and cry again.
I gave him a lot of deep pressure and then I wrapped him tightly in his blanket and snuggled him until he finally calmed down. The meltdown lasted about 45 minutes from start to finish.
It breaks my heart that Andy can't even go enjoy a celebration with his friends at school. It breaks my heart that little things become big things. It breaks my heart that SPD sneaks into our lives all of the time.
It wasn't about the paper hat. If he hadn't lost the paper hat it would have been about something else. It was just too outside of his routine, too crowded, too overstimulating and he just broke down. His poor brain just couldn't take another second, and the stress and anxiety just poured out of him as tears.
I dream for the day when he matures enough to be able to tolerate the little things. I dream of the day that he can enjoy the normal every day things that most of us take for granted.
Most of all, I dream for the day that he can control his SPD instead of his SPD controlling him.