Thursday, May 2, 2013

Homeschooling and Living with OCD


We have suspected for many years that Selena suffered from OCD. We would see times of habit, ritual, rigid schedules, perfectionism, and anxieties. Selena had a very hard time adjusting to our move to our new home, and we really began to see even more signs of OCD tendencies in her. At times it got to the point that it was hard to take drives in the car, as we would wind up with a little girl so stressed out she would be screaming at the top of her lungs. She has finally learned to take a few deep breaths, and while she complains of an upset tummy she will fall to sleep allowing us a pleasant drive. She didn’t like to be out after dark and would complain that it was way past her bedtime and have a complete melt down from not being home.

The past few months have revealed even more evidence towards these OCD tendencies. Our sweet Selena suddenly started waking many times through the night and very early in the morning. She was getting to where she never wanted to leave home or not much anyway unless she knew exactly where we were going and when we would be home. She had to know exactly what we were going to do, what we were going to get and how long it would take. This also led to issues of having to use public restrooms, as well as would we be home in time for her to eat her meals.

The stress from her OCD was getting the best of her, the once little girl who could be consoled was becoming less consolable. Sleep was getting to be a rarity in our home as well. We finally made an appointment with our Pediatrician who after observing Selena playing with some paper cups, and listening to our concerns recommended putting Selena on Melatonin for sleep at night. She also pointed out what observations she was making that led her to believe Selena was OCD. (Now keep in mind this will not be totally an absolute diagnosis until she is between 7 and 8 years old)

Our first week on the Melatonin was a dream come true. Selena was sleeping, had more energy during the day and seemed to be doing fine. After the second week, we began to see things we did not like, aggression, heightened OCD symptoms, and a lack for self safety. We had to adjust the amount of Melatonin we were giving her. We feel we have found a healthy balance, while it doesn’t always take care of all the sleep issues it does allow Selena enough rest to cope through the day.

So what things do we see with her? The list below is just a few of the things we deal with on a daily basis:

  1. Bedtime ritual of having a specific time for bed, no exceptions. Pillow has to be fluffed just right and positioned just right. The covers have to be straitened at least twice even though the bed was made that morning. Bedtime story, so many kisses and hugs, and the same ritual of goodnight words must be said.
  2. Meals are another challenge in it self. New foods must be on a separate plate from her normal food. Her food can not touch, so we have to be careful to keep everything separated with enough space in between foods. Do not even think of reaching over into her space to help her with anything, that all has to be done before the plate is given to her. Don’t let her watch too closely to food preparations as if she sees foods being cooked together she won’t eat them. If her food touches or something she doesn’t like ends up on her plate, she is automatically done eating.
  3. Fear of using a public restroom or a bathroom outside of ours in the home. This seems to be connected with how will the toilet sound when it flushes, will it be loud or echo. She tries to plug her ears and flush at the same time. She shakes from anxiety, or gives up and won’t flush at all.
  4. Fear of getting her clothes wet.
  5. Having to have everything in a pattern that meets to her reasoning. Sorting, the way she puts things away, arranges things, and nothing in between. Her books and toys have a place, and there is no changing that at all.

An example of what an outing looks like for her and I. We went out today to buy her a new bat and a batting helmet for softball. She knew this meant we would go to Big 5. We arrived 10 minutes before the store opened. She started to stress, her anxieties rose, and she just knew she would not get a bat and batting helmet that day. While I assured her we were just early and she would indeed get her things, it wasn’t enough. I told her let’s go see if we can get your hair cut first, when they couldn’t get her in for over an hour, I decided to schedule that for the next day. Now this really threw Selena over the top, “I can’t get my hair cut, I can’t get my bat or my batting helmet. What am I to do?” I could hear the tears just surfacing. To take her mind off the wait we drove to Safeways and picked up what we needed for dinner. Upon returning to Big 5 she discovered they were open, she could indeed get her bat and batting helmet. We also got her a pair of shoes, but by this point she was too worried about getting home in time for lunch. Knowing she had been under so much anxiety we didn’t stop to do anything else but came home and fixed lunch. The afternoon should be pretty quiet until it comes close to dinner time. I will have to fix her something totally different from what we are having, because she refuses to eat red meat now, but I will still have to offer her a little bit of our food on a separate plate, even when I know she won’t touch it.

Homeschooling is just as exciting. We must start our day at the same time 8:00 a.m. She gets upset easily if she is having a sloppy day and her writing doesn’t look as nice as she wants it too. Since we have been working on subtraction, she does not appreciate having addition problems thrown in the loop. I do have to say though that homeschooling so far has not been as affected like other areas of her life.

Outings, she is always worried we will be late, even though we have never been late to anything. She worries about where we are going, who will be there, what the bathroom will be like, what the noise level will be, will she have fun, what will there be to eat, (did grandma pack a brown lunch?) as well as what happens should she spill a drop of water on her clothes.

My heart breaks to see her go through this, I wish I could just take it all away from her. Though knowing and understanding it more is the power to have less stress in our home and for her. I have found a lot of great information on line, and have a good friend who has a daughter just like Selena which helps to get ideas and just talk to. When I discover some great sites that I find to be very helpful in dealing with a child with OCD, I will share a post of resources, but right now I am still just researching.

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  1. I feel for you. {hugs} My James has OCD as well, so I know in a real way what this is like. It is totally exhausting. It is heart wrenching. I am hoping that Selena will get better with the help you are able to give her. I am glad you are seeking help while she is still young. It does help. Please email me if you want to discuss anything with me. We are by no means out of the woods with James, but it is getting better. Alex has sleep disturbances too, which we are trying to get help for. Steven and I have been taking turns with who is awake at night and who is up dealing with the children. {hugs}

  2. Oh that would be tiring and stressful, I feel for you. Are there things that can be done as she gets older to help her cope more?

  3. My heart goes out to you and to Selena.

  4. I am hoping that your consistent love will help Selena outgrow these tendencies. I find it difficult to comprehend - Anna was always very flexible for a young child and adjusts well to expected or unexpected changes. Big hugs to you and Selena.