Emotional Overload?

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It’s time for the summer to come to a close. It’s also time to review Jake’s goals with his various case management agencies.

One goal we always have is for safety; that he’ll recognize situations that are potentially dangerous, and act accordingly.

I’ve been reflecting on this a bit and I’ve decided that Jake’s problem doesn’t lie as much in not recognizing the unsafe situations, but rather in his inability to properly outlet his emotions. Maybe it’s not the right way to phrase it, but I don’t think Jake knows what to do with his emotions. Happy or sad; this is the case.

In the instance of the broken windshield, chronicled in Today Was A Bad Day, he became overwhelmed with emotion and lashed out at his surroundings, breaking Mom’s van.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the movies, and when the movie was over, he got mad, stomped on the ground (as he has hundreds of times before), and stormed off into the lobby. In essence, he bolted, but he didn’t do so blindly into the night, just to the relative safety and calm order of the lobby. Yes, it’s unsafe to run from your parents in a crowded movie theater, but I think it’s only part of it.

Beth sings in church, and when she’s done and the congregation applauds, Jake gets mad and acts up. However, Beth also sings in the car, the tub, the kitchen, and on most mornings during her make-up applying routine. Jake never freaks then; only when others are around. He’s either proud of his mother, or embarrassed by the attention she receives. Either way, he has no proper outlet for those feelings, and the result is a tantrum.

I’ve never seen him clap his hands. Physically, yes, he can do it, but I mean as a show of appreciation for a job well done or an enjoyed performance.

We used to blame his outbursts on difficulty with transition. When the movie ends and we need to transition back to the car, he’ll get mad. When the song is over, and Mom returns to her pew, he’ll get mad. I’m now thinking that it has less to do with transitions, and more to do with a build-up of energy with no societally-appropriate release.

His favorite teacher is currently Mrs. Ford. She’s wonderful, and seems to have an easy connection with Jake. He’s been counting down the days until he gets to see her again all summer on his iPad.   As a surprise treat, he got to see her a little early because Liv had a 5th grade open house at the middle school yesterday. Jake’s Mrs. Ford was there. He’d been waiting for this all summer! Instead of going in and saying Hi, he hid across the hall in the teacher’s lounge. After he wouldn’t come to her, she went to him – and he hid, crouched on the floor behind the photocopier.

When we got home, he excitedly asked Beth if she was proud of him for seeing Mrs. Ford. We tried to explain to him that he didn’t really “see” Mrs. Ford, as much as “hide” from Mrs. Ford. There was no transition to use as an excuse for his behavior. One could argue that seeing her ahead of schedule was too much of a change, but I think he was happy to see her, and didn’t know what to do about it.

I’m not sure where to go from here. He’s got the charts of faces to help him label his emotions. He’s done the game where you pause TV and ask him what the people are feeling (in simple terms, of course). He even sometimes will ask why someone is sad or happy or mad. Identifying emotion in others is one thing, but labeling it in oneself is a more advanced skill. I know plenty of adults who struggle with this task.

Any ideas?

Anything that’s worked with your child?

Do you think I’m way off base, or am I on to something? If I’m on to something, what in the heck am I supposed to do next?  


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    • Wanda on August 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm
    • Reply

    Ryan I think you are right on target. When things would start to become overloaded / too emotional especially negative emotions my daughter would do what I refer to as pushing air *arms at sides fingers spread wide bring arms up and push down* this was a sure indicator to get her calmed down. If there was some physical outlet for his emotion it would still be hard to get him to recognize but as you & Beth are so goo at anticipating him & could cue him to the outlet in hopes that he may start to recognize. Like if using a rubbery stress ball when you know Beth is going to finish singing have Jake carry ball and cue him “ball” having previously worked with him that when you say ball he starts squeezing stress ball & may change his focus from the end of singing and ease through with focus on ball. I am not very adept at putting into words but hope you understand. You are doing a great job.

    1. That’s a great idea, Wanda! Thanks, we’ll try something like that and let you know how it goes.

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