Bubba has always had significant issues with self regulation--regulating attention, sensory input, impulsivity, anxiety, the list goes on and on. We have slowly, but successfully, been helping him develop self-regulation skills by first helping him recognize when he needs to use them and then by teaching him (and practicing) an arsenal of tactics to keep himself in check. Currently, if we can cue him to do something like deep breathing or tight squeezes or incorporate something (like heavy lifting) into something he is doing when we see his energy, frustration, or fear escalating, well then, he is pretty successful. But if we miss the precursors and therefore the opportunity to interject, he can escalate rather quickly and in seconds any skills are useless.
In the car this weekend on the way to my parents' house, we had to make several detours because of heavy flooding. Bubba does not like to take the highway to my parents house, but rather the "short cut" as he calls it. Bubba doesn't dislike the highway completely, but we have come to figure out that to him the highway means A) a long trip, B) a long time coped up in the car, and C) the possibility of falling asleep (Godforbid he sleeps!). We typically let him choose the direction as it usually doesn't matter to us; however, this time, we had no control over the situation. We continued on through the short cut until we were greeted by a "Road Closed" sign. Hubby and I looked at eachother. Shit. Shit. SHIT!
So I started the prewarning: "The road is closed." "Water is on the road so we can't take the shortcut..."
Before I could do anything else, Bubba was screaming--that uncontrollable, uncertain, fearful yelling. It increased each time we turned around trying to find a way to avoid the highway. Eventually we determined there was no other way than the highway. So we headed to the ramp. As Bubba increased the intensity of his screaming, I automatically instructed methodically: "Take a deep breath."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hubby breathe in deeply and noticed the instinct fill my chest as well. As we both exhaled, Bubba continued to scream until we got off the highway.
Sometimes we need those reminders to take a deep breath. And sometimes, sometimes, we just need to get off the damn highway.