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5 year old throwing tantrums at pre-school
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5 year old throwing tantrums at pre-school

My 5 year old son is throwing temper tantrums at pre-school when he is redirected or told that he can't do something. The tantrums last sometime an hour and the school can not calm him down so they call me and I have to pick him up from school. My husband and I are at our wits end right now. At home, he does not do this because we are very firm with him when he starts to throw a fit. At the beginning of the school year, he did not exhibit this behavior. This behavior has escalated during the past month. When he throws these tantrums, he kicks his shoes off and rubs his head. He just loses controll and can not regain it.

My son does stutter and is seeing a speech therapist. I have attributed this behavior to the speech disfluency since he may have trouble communicating but now I am begining to think there is something else going on. He has always been a very emotional child. He is the oldest of 3.

My concern is that when he starts kindergarten this behavior is going to interfere with his learning. I am to schedule an appt with a psychologist. Is there anyone out there experiencing this. Please help.
13 Comments Post a Comment
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535822_tn?1389452880
Have you asked the school what is triggering the melt downs I fancy something is , what happens prior to him having one .Have you asked him why he gets upset ant school, could there be any teasing problem there ?
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973741_tn?1342346373
Hi there.  I had the EXACT same problem with my son in preschool.  He was different at home than at school.  He also had some speech issues.  It turns out that my son had sensory integration disorder or sensory processing disorder as it is also called.  Basically, my son's system was overwhelmed in the school environment.  If you think of your brain having lots of little gates that hold back things so you can focus, remember the rules, etc. . . .  well, with a sensory kid, the gates all lift with chaos going on in the brain.  Meaning, they can't concentrate, they can't remember the rules, they can't control themselves.  

Sensory involves many things.  My son would have meltdowns that made no sense to others.  Washing his hands was a big trigger.  Easy to say just don't wash hands but readjusting routines like that really doesn't solve the problem for WHY a child reacts in such an over the top way.  He'd melt down big time and they couldn't calm him nor could he calm himself.  So, it was different things that triggered the meltdowns.  He also wouldn't follow rules, do as was asked, sit in the circle, had difficulty with peers, and was just really creating chaos in the class.  Made me very very sad as he is just the sweetest kid and I believe in my heart, he didn't enjoy what was going on anymore than anyone else.  HE felt bad when he meltdown----  it was a symptom of how bad he was feeling.  

We had an evaluation by an occupational therapist which is the specialty that treats sensory.  Oh my goodness----  my son LOVED it.  They do things that work directly on the nervous system as well as behavior modification.  I learned all kinds of things as my son started this therapy.

In preschool, your son is being asked to do things that challenge him---  or is hard for him.  Hand writing is a biggie.  Many many kids that have issues with speech, also have fine motor difficulties.  All kinds of fine motor activities surface in preschool from using tongs to pick something up to painting.  If a child has the least little difficulty, they will often try to avoid the activity OR get very frustrated.  My boy did both.  

Sensory kids also have trouble with 'regulation'.  This means they get upset easily and can't calm down easily.  All kinds of strategies that one can use to help with this.  

There are many things a preschool classroom can do to help a child with these kinds of issues and if you would like ideas----  I am happy to help.

My son is now 8 years old and in the second grade----------  he still does occupational therapy but at school now, he has no IEP and functions quite well.  

I'm happy to share ideas of what we did in the preschool classroom and elementary classroom (especially kindergarten) if you are interested.  

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Avatar_f_tn
First of all I will like to thank you. I have read up on SPD and it sounds like my boy may exhibit some the signs of SPD. I agree, Pre-K is probably challenging to him and he is frustrated which is probably causing the meltdowns.I am going to schedule an appt with an OT to have him evaluated and I will keep you informed on the results.

I am glad to hear that your son is doing so well which gives me hope with my son. Can you please share some ideas that you did with your son in school. Once again thank you, I feel a little relief right now. In my heart I feel that my son has SPD.
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171768_tn?1324233699
I have a unique perspective. I have both worked with children with SPD and I have it. I can totally understand why children have difficulty functioning in the classroom setting without any interventions or modifications.

Each kid is different, so what works for each kid is different. For some, I found that if I was sure to give them a sensory activity early in the morning, then the rest of the day went better. For some, sand and water play helped. For others things like playdough, fingerpainting or shaving cream.
One extremely sensitive child who had tremendous difficulties needed deep pressure. His parents refused to have him evaluated so we had to do the best that we could. When I saw the warning signs, I would ask if he wanted a squeeze. If yes, he would sit in front of me, wrap his arms around his legs, and I would give him a firm, tight squeeze. It seemed to calm the senses down.

I am a very educated, articulate adult and even I have a lot of difficulty recognizing when my sensory issues are acting up, and even more difficulty understanding and articulating it. So it is no wonder that these kids have trouble. SPD often does come with speech delays and fine motor concerns. On my very bad days, I have more difficulty speaking (never had issues in the past) and i actually lose fine motor coordination. But the worst is the internal sensations. These are the ones that I cannot describe and others can't see. On the bad days, everything is "off" or out of sync. I feel so sick but cannot articulate how. OT interventions do help, and they do kind of "reorganize" my nervous system. We are still working on discovering which ones help me the most. Deep pressure is definitely good for me, as is quiet, dim lighting, and music. Fluorescent lights are terrible. Loud startling noises are agitating. Vibrating things like a back massager are good. Play doh and therapy are helpful.

Be patient with him. Know that if it is something like SPD, you cannot discipline it out of him. However, you can work with an OT to make his life much easier. If you give more specifics on some of his behaviors and sensitivities, I may be able to give some more specific tricks to try while you wait for an evaluation.
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1006035_tn?1391310794
The teachers absolutely should not be sending him home. If they keep doing that they are reinforcing his behavior and he is quickly going to learn that he can just scream and yell and you'll come get him. We went through this with my daughter. She'd kick off her shoes and just run. There has to be a way to calm him down at the school. The teachers probably just don't know what to do. A little education can go a long way. You may also want to get him an IEP so professionals can come into the school and help him. That takes some pressure off the teachers, who do have other students to watch.

Like specialmom suggested I would get your son into occupational therapy asap. Speech therapy is very good, my daughter has that too, but OT really addresses his sensory needs. Is there another room your son can go into to calm down? My daughter often goes into the baby room to take a break. Might I also suggest looking into weighted vests and/or blankets for extra deep pressure? My daughter has autism. We have dealt with and are dealing with many of the same struggles. We also got our daughter an assistance dog. The idea is to get him to help with the running (which is called stimming) and other negative behaviors. Good luck!
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973741_tn?1342346373
the reason why different things work is that sensory can be in a range---  some kids are underresponsive and some are overresponsive and some are like my son and are both under and over.  It is so interesting because on one day, a certain thing will be great and on another, it will be terrible.  It can be quite a task to interpret what kind of day he is having and what he needs.  Do you find that when you are congested that your sensory symptoms are much worse?  We have experience that with my son and our OT is now doing a study on this.  And do you actually lose fine motor ability at times or have difficulty???  Interesting as well.  

When I get a chance, I will post ideas that I believe will really help the poster in the classroom.  We've had great luck with them and some are now instituted throughout our school based on the suggestions we've made and how they help other kids besides just my son.  

I'll post soon when I get my thoughts together.
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973741_tn?1342346373
Okay, so I wanted to get back to you with some ideas to help your son.  

First, with your additional post, I would suggest that you seek the evaluation of an occupational therapist.  See if your insurance will cover it---  and to do that, you often need a referrel from your primary care doc.  They may have some suggestions where to go but in all honesty, I researched myself and found an OT office that specialized in sensory integration disorder and told my doc where we were going.  She happily wrote the referrel for me. Be prepared to answer many questions and then they will work with your son.  He's going to think this is a blast as kids love OT.  If your son has an issue with handwriting, for example, they are the ones to help him.  This is so valuable prior to kindergarten starting!  They also will work with him (and YOU) to modify his behavior and coping skills.  So very wonderful to have a professional help you with that.

Some things you can do right now----  some nervous systems require activity to be 'just right' or regulated.  When not regulated, things can be blown out of proportion and a child with sensory issues can not deal with their environment.  Some activity that directly helps the nervous system are things like climbing a play structure (that heavy muscle work to pull yourself up), hanging and doing monkey bars (stretches joints, works muscles---  sends a powerful message through the nervous system), swimming (the perfect activity---  heavy muscle work AND deep pressure), rolling down a hill, running back up the hill and rolling down again (spinning - vestibular activity, running up a hill--  heavy muscle work), swinging (a very calming lateral exercise), biking (same, calming lateral exercise plus heavy muscle work), kicking a soccer ball, hitting a baseball, etc.  If you do lots of these activities----  every day (and yes, take your little ones with you and get them running around too which is what I did with my younger son when my older boy was diagnosed at 4), you may see his nervous system slow down and that he becomes more regulated.  

At school, have the teachers watch for triggers.  You may see a pattern that will help you with your next step.  Give your boy choices in school, and lots of them.  Does he want to sit next to Bobbie during circle time, sit on the asst.'s lap, or pull up a chair outside the group?  Choose any of those three.  He'll feel like he has some control and be more willing to comply.  Have a cool down spot in the classroom where he can go when upset.  A pop tent works great or under a table or a bean bag or rocking chair in the corner.  Then AS your son is getting upset, his teacher says "oh, you look upset, why don't you go to the 'peace' spot".  And no one bothers him there as he collects himself.  My son's kindergarten teacher had a peace spot which was helpful for that age.  You work on coping skills for when he is angry or upset while he is at home and then he can take them to school with him.  Model or act out things for him such as you getting really upset and start to blow up and then stop yourself.  Take some deep breaths, then say out loud, hm what can I do when I'm upset.  Then list choices---  take deep breaths, go to the cool down spot, use my words, open and close my hands really tight, etc.  

Let me know what other problems  you are having in class and I'll give you some more ideas.  
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171768_tn?1324233699
I wonder if the impact of congestion is related to the vestibular system?
It is interesting you mention that because I have noticed a possible correlation. However, my situation is a bit more complicated because while some of these problems are caused by an underlying sensory sensitivity, it was aggravated by surgery and pushed it more into disorder territory. It also caused the vestibular problems.
Here's what I have noticed. My "bad" eye fatigues, and when there is that fatigue the other symptoms are exasperated. Congestion due to either colds or allergies contributes to my eye fatigue which then  effects everything else. We have also noted a significant correlation between this eye fatigue and my loss of fine motor coordination. To the point where my OT was able to elicit this loss of coordination by giving me scanning activities that fatigued my eye. I do have other triggers for the loss of coordination, and sensory overload is a definite one. I have 2 different responses- one is tremors where my hands shake to much to do certain tasks. The other is actual loss of fine motor coordination. For example, inability to hold papers together and staple them. On bad days it is too much effort to coordinate holding a clipboard in one hand and signing my name with the other. On good days these aren't issues.
We;re still working out what my "sensory diet" is and you are right- some days something helps tremendously and it is bad the next. It is very very frustrating and I am an adult who can articulate these frustrations and maybe begin to understand them. I cannot imagine what it is like for a child.
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Avatar_m_tn
I think my child might have the same issue.  I don't know where to have her tested and her school is about to kick her out.  Could use some help.
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Avatar_n_tn
Could you please explain more about sensory issues? My son is 5 years old, and I am frustrated of all his bad behaviors. I really need to know more about this issue.
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973741_tn?1342346373
I'm happy to try to help.  My son has sensory integration or processing disorder.  Basically it involves the brain and nervous system.  The nervous system sends faulty signals at times.  The nervous system has a hard time regulating or modulating.  At times, the brain is disorganized and thought is chaotic.  So even when a child knows what to do, when in that state due to being sick, tired, overwhelmed, exited, nervous, etc. . . .   they can't think of it or do it.  Sometimes motor planning is involved which means that they have trouble doing certain things. Writing for example.  Kids with sensory often have trouble with fine motor and writing and by 5, are expected to do a bit of that in school. So, since it is hard, they act up instead of doing it.  

Anyway, it helps to hear about your child and for me to see if anything fits sensory.  You can also read about it at this web site "sensory processing disorder".  

My son is now 9 and doing really very well.  Sensory is treatable (without medication).  Let me know what all you want to know about it.  peace
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Avatar_f_tn
I could have written this lady's post. My 3.7months old does this exact thing. He doesn't do them at home either. As per the triggers, I do not know cos it's usually as soon as we enter the classroom he starts it all off.
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Avatar_m_tn
    could you give us more information about what is going on so that we can help.  I really doubt that you child is 3.7 months old.  How old and in what grade?  How long has this been going on?  Did it happen last year too?
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