Too Much Fun!

Autism self regulation“Too much fun.”  A misnomer, right?  Not in Kirsten’s world!  Too much fun is a problem.  It sends her heart racing, fills her with anxiety, and before you know it she’s in full-blown fight-or-flight mode.  Not pretty!

We had a potential melt-down-event the week of her last birthday.  Bully that I am.  Can’t help myself… birthdays are to be celebrated! 

Kirsten and I selected a special treat to make for her school friends (M&M Blondies. Yum.)  I planned for this one.  Planning is good…  We talked about it frequently the week before the event to diffuse some of the excitement (school treats do TO qualify as an ‘event’!). We shopped together for heart-shaped cookie cutters and gift bags.  And we let her teachers know in advance.  Covered all the bases.

B-day minus 1, we got busy.  Kirsten arrived home from school to a kitchen all-ready to go.  Ingredients and baking supplies sitting out.  Butter softened.  Heart-shaped cookie cutters, ribbon, and gift bags awaiting our final product. 

Beautiful!  And overwhelming.  Me: “Kirsten, are you ready to make cookies?!”  K: “Just mommy do it.”  Me: “Oooh no Kirsten.  You are helping too.  It’s for your birthday!”  And so she set about adding and mixing.  Kirsten loooves baking.

All was well until it came time for the M&M’s.  Too colorful. Too pretty. Too fun!!!  Off she went.  Judging by the stressed look on her face, there was no use in going after her.  She wouldn’t be back.  One quick check found her immersed in her favorite de-stressing activity: coloring maps.  Love those things!  I headed back to the kitchen.

Left to my own devices, I baked the blondies, cut them into heart-shapes, wrapped each individually in plastic, placed in clear gift-bags, and sprinkled with ribbon curls.  They were so cute, *I* was excited!  This could be a problem…

Hiding our creation behind my back, I tell Kirsten, “Listen, it’s nooo big deal.  You’re just going to share these with your friends.  No big deal.”  Then I show her; and wait for it.  Eyes widen… pupils dilate… voice is raised… and arm is swinging.  K: “Cookies at school! Cookies at school!”  Awww – she likes it!!

The next morning while getting ready for school I’m explaining, “Kirsten, it’s no big deal.  It’s just cookies.  At lunch time you will share them with your friends. Nooo big deal.”  K (looking a little relieved): “No big deal.”  Me: “That’s right.  And if you feel scared, what do you do?”  K: “Take a GABA.”  Me: “Yes, take a GABA.  And tell your teacher.”  She’s learning!

The day starts well.  No meltdowns.  I load up her backpack and we head off for the bus.  It arrives promptly at 9:10 and off she goes.  I’m feeling good about this!

Twenty minutes later I get a text from her amazing teacher, Elizabeth: “The cookies are great!  Kirsten passed them all out and everyone wished her a happy birthday!”  Seriously?!  Not exactly what we’d discussed.  Me: “Funny girl – she just couldn’t wait!” Elizabeth: “She got off the bus with her backpack open and said ‘Get them out!’”  A girl with a plan…

Upset that she didn’t have her “moment” around the lunch table?  Absolutely not!  Kirsten knew what she could handle.  Get that excitement behind her so she could relax and enjoy her day.  “Get them out!”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.    Take a GABA, tell your teachers, or the third option – remove the problem?!  Conquering self-regulation.  Smart girl!!

Your turn! How does your little one handle excitement?

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5 Responses

  1. Dominique says:

    I have a question what is a GABA

    • Autism Makes Me Laugh | Tammy says:

      GABA is a supplement (gamma-Aminobutyric acid – an amino acid). It’s our main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It works really well to reduce Kirsten’s anxiety. Stops those neurons from over-firing! I purchase it over the counter (Whole Foods, Henry’s, Vitacost…)

      As an RN, I need to state: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. ;)

      • Tara Black says:

        Out of curiosity, what dosage does K take? I am always interested in the more natural treatments for Megan’s anxiety. We had a bad experience with an anti-psychotic a few years back, so we have just stuck with Valeria root caps and melatonin at night…

        • Autism Makes Me Laugh | Tammy says:

          Do a search for GABA and anxiety. Get more background info… I give it to K 3x/day and the dose has varied over the years depending on what’s going on with her. Higher stress (physiological or situational) and she’ll need more. I’ll do a write-up on this soon. It has made a huge difference for her!