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4 year old is disconnecting, moody and listless

My, usually outgoing, happy 4 year old son seems to be loosing interest in EVERYTHING. He loves the water and prefers to play inside and especially outside, swimming, riding his bike, taking walks and just playing. He loves to play imaginatively one on one with me and feels like one of the guys when hanging out with his Dad, my brother and our male friends and neighbors. He collects Hot wheel Monster Jam trucks and Hot wheels cars (He knows exactly which item he wants next with backup in case it's not there. He knows that he will not always get a toy when we're out and there are no tantrums over a simple "Not today Buddy". He's a very well behaved boy and he earns an allowance which he saves to buy the toys. He was very excited about it until recently when he got in this funk. He's advanced for his age and has a different understanding of things than his age group but sometimes he turns things into something they're not as any preschool aged child will do. He has always had but lately he has a lot of OCD'ish tendencies like having to wipe his face every three strokes or so when he's brushing his teeth, needing the toilet lid down when he, or anyone, flushes (He will literally run into the bathroom, throw the seat down and step back when he hears it flush). He has been holding his BM's because he says he doesn't want to pee when he poops. He takes only showers now because he says tubs are dirty and sitting in water is gross. He has no interest in animals and turned his back to them the entire time we were at a local petting zoo. We have a kitten and he doesn't want it touching him but he'll pick it up and put it in a box in the corner and walk away. He pleasurably kills insects and lays on his belly to inspect them. Don't even know how this started but he's been on a "zombie" kick since he was 2 1/2 no matter how hard we've tried to redirect him (until recently when even that doesn't interest him) He likes to be the zombie or hunt zombies.He doesn't like Play Doe or soft foods like ice cream, pudding, jello applesauce because of the texture but, ironically, he'll play in mud all day if we let him (usually) He has to stop and pick up items off the ground and put them back when we're shopping or he's unsettled for days about the mess he left behind, etc. but his toys are all over the house. Not an issue. We are not filthy but we are not neat freaks either so it's not that he is constantly hounded to be neat and tidy at home. He's just really obsessed with being clean and cleanliness. Lately he is not interested in playing with his toys, going outside to play or going places he normally likes to go. I take him to the park and he sits on a bench We go with friends and their kids and he just walks around watching the kids play looking sullen. His smiles and laughs are forced for our benefit. He only goes to the store when he has to and he doesn't look around or talk about anything other than the things that have fallen off racks or shelves. He doesn't answer us when we try to strike up a conversation or try to suggest play ideas (or ask him what he wants to do) but instead will cover his head with a blanket or tucks it in his shirt and writhes around on the floor like he's being bothered. We don't make a big deal about it and will ask one more time then tell him that he can let us know when he's ready to play. We don't want to give him a big reaction as a reward. He's overly dramatic, quiet and moody. When he does get interested in something he gets angry easily, stands up and stomps into his room fists and teeth clenched and growling. He will not talk to us about what's bothering him and we've been working on "using our words when we feel frustrated, angry or sad...asking for help, talking about things, etc.

The only change is that his Aunt sent him a new tablet 4 months ago and he was beginning to become obsessed with playing games on it, becoming angry when it was time to stop playing, the battery died or he lost too many times in a game. I was concerned about screen time from the beginning and had a 1 hour limit set that got away from me for about 4 days. The thing is, he's had a tablet since he was 2 and a half that he used  to pass time while running errands (15 minutes max). Same games and apps as no...no issues and no asking for the tablet. After his 4 day run he's been back on the 1 hour limit with no issues. He actually puts it down after 15 minutes or so so I break his time up over the entire day.

Maybe it's a phase...maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing...but he was tested at 2 years old and was found to be on a 4 and 5 year old level across the board. Mental illness runs deep on both sides of his family. I have anxiety issues but it's internal jitters and I always appear calm, his father is bipolar but removes himself when feeling moody and his uncle has very subtle OCD tendencies that don't affect our household. These are just the people he is in contact with daily. I just want to catch any issues before it's a problem for our LO down the road if there are any. Any suggestions?
2 Responses
189897 tn?1441126518
COMMUNITY LEADER
I think that you are wise to be concerned.  He does show a number of symptoms of sensory processing disorder...so this would be a good place to start looking.  The two links below should be helpful.  Let us know what you think.
     https://www.additudemag.com/what-is-sensory-processing-disorder/
     https://www.additudemag.com/screener-sensory-processing-disorder-symptoms-test-children/
2 Comments
Thank you Sandman2. My lo's pediatrician and the nurses there have always had a curious fondness of him. He always said he was a sensitive boy but by 2 years old was convinced he was on the Autism spectrum or Asperger because he shut down the second he walked in the room. Head down, arms rigidly to his sides and wouldn't even come to me when called. Like he felt vulnerable. He did this a lot in new situations but after 5 minutes...literally...you could set a timer by it...he was his friendly, expressive self again. It was later concluded he was not on the spectrum or Aspie. Since he was a baby I have done tentative searches of his endearingly quirky ways and it always gives me SPD. Thank you for the links! I have not seen these articles and am always looking for new insight. Also have an appointment set with Ped. later this week. I don't want a label for him...I just want him to have a fair start =)
   The thing about SPD is that it always manifests itself in so many different ways.  But, fortunately, it can really be dealt with if you have a good plan.  
  One of our Community Leaders, SpecialMom, has a son with SPD and she has become quite knowledgeable about it.  If I remember correctly, it was discovered about the time the boy was 4 or 5 (I think he is 10 now).  Anyway, I will message her to take a look at this post.   She has a vast amount of experience in this.   Best wishes!
    Oh, I would assume you have seen this link as it is the main web site on Sensory - but just in case.  It almost has too much info, so I usually start with the other ones first.  It is - http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/
973741 tn?1342342773
Hello!  Sorry I'm a couple days late here but wanted to write to you.  What a great mom you sound like.  You are very in tune with your child and clearly want the best for him.  It can be confusing to navigate at times, right?  

I have a question, unless I missed it, you didn't mention preschool or something of that nature.  Has he been in preschool?  I was/am a stay at home mom when my kiddos were in the toddler/preschool years and enrolled them in a 1/2 day preschool 2 days a week.  Thought it would be good for them.  Well, my eyes were opened wide with my first son through this experience.  At 3, the staff of the school told me they had some concerns about my son.  Now, I hadn't noticed a whole lot myself.  He was my first born and my boys are very close in age, so I was really to be honest, just managing through the times and trying to enjoy them.  In retrospect, I did notice some things but didn't put it together as a problem/sign of an issue.  I went to observe my child at school one day and that changed everything for me.  I had been skeptical about it all as to me, my cherub was wonderful (and he was . . .  just with a few challenges).  But seeing him in the school environment caused me to leave and immediately start working on how to help him.  

He was diagnosed with sensory integration or processing disorder.  This can look different in different kids.  Regulation of mood and appropriate responses can be affected and was with my child.  Avoiding anything difficult.  Issues with fine motor.  Sometimes gross motor.  Tactile issues, Picking about clothing, eating, etc.  Being inflexible and very controlling of things, etc.  

If you have a chance to look at the link Sandman provided, that would be helpful to see if you feel anything that you are seeing can be related to sensory.  By the way, my son has a great deal of anxiety and tics as well.  

So, is your son not wanting to sit in a tub due to how it feels to him?  

I encourage you to possibly seek an evaluation from an occupational therapist.  OT helps in so many ways including teaching coping mechanisms for mood/regulation issues, when a child feels overwhelmed, improving fine motor, etc.  They are who diagnoses sensory processing disorder.  

You talk a lot about your child's intelligence. Which is awesome.  But I have something that is my opinion and a caution.  Both of my sons are quite smart.  My sons have been in our school's gifted program for a very long time.  I have found that many parents will buy into the idea of the quirks of the gifted child rather than working on them as problems.  I could have gone the route of this with my son but he'd never have gotten the true help he needed to be successful.  The kids of families that we know that wrote it all off to giftedness have kids that struggle socially, emotionally and academically.  Those kids could have benefited from true intervention.  So, even if your child does test into a giftedness program, don't let that lull you into accepting things as they are and not offering him help and coping skills.

As to the idea of mental health and OCD, you can talk to your doctor about that as well.  But OCD usually does not manifest until age 10 to 12.  

If you think he has sensory issues of any sort, I have many ideas of things that can help that I'm happy to share.  Come back and tell us what you think!
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