Regression… It’s a dirty 10-letter word?
Regression – It’s a thing all kids go through when they are under stress. Regression is when a child exhibits behaviors they have grown out of and/or are developmentally younger than they are. A few examples of regression is when your fully potty-trained four-year-old starts having accidents or when your independent first grader starts having a temper tantrum every time you mention the word “school.” Typical regressive behaviors include temper tantrums, whining, aggression, thumb sucking, and baby talk.
As I mentioned, regression is a thing a all kids do when they are under stress – like when they are frustrated or a traumatic event occurs in their lives – such as the arrival of a new sibling, the divorce of their parents, dealing with death, moving, or the start/end of school or daycare. These situations can leave children feeling insecure, angry, or scared. And as children they often lack the proper communication skills to share how they feel with their parents and will revert to the behaviors they know will attract adult attention; thus regress.
Ok, so you already knew all this? Good, so did I. I wanted and needed the reminder. I should also point out that the information is on point for so-called “neuro-typical” children. When we’re talking children on the spectrum, well, there are a few more things to consider…
so…my sweet little Vivian has been on this downward regressive spiral for a few weeks now. As a reminder, Vivi is my six year old, who just entered the first grade, is on the spectrum, and is completely non-verbal. Also, she’s a tiny thing, at about 30 pounds my almost two year-old is almost as big as her. We have struggled to find a way for her to communicate effectively, and I think this is where much of her frustration and tantrums come from.
Vivian’s regressive behavior, started suddenly a few weekends ago with what I will call “hard” tantrums. At her norm, Vivian tantrums regularly, with crying, yelling, running back and forth and flinging her body, but in these tantrums she was screaming as loud as she could, walking/running on her tip toes and with her tip toes rolled over (ouch!), pulling at body parts, and really flinging her body on the couch and other pieces of furniture. Vivian also had multiple bathroom accidents, which hasn’t really happened in months, and her eating has regressed as well. She has eating issues, but they’ve gotten worse. She seemed to have lost the desire to feed herself completely when we are around — I say it that way only because she does much better with feeding at school and at ABA. On the bright side, we’ve managed to get her to gain 1.5 pounds over the past month (which is a really great, great thing)!
So as the days turned into weeks I racked my brain to figure out what wrong — something medical (pain, ear infection?), some change in environment? Other than starting school two weeks prior and a new schedule to go along with, going on a weekend trip to see a maternal biological relative (this never to rarely occurs), and the addition of another ABA therapist, I couldn’t think of anything. Sure, any or all of these could trigger regressive behaviors, but we hit the trifecta with Vivian’s regression here. It’s been rough.
So, in the effort to find an answer to what might be going on here, I took her the pediatrician to see the regressive behaviors could medically-related…but no. Actually, everything came up pretty darn perfect, medically speaking. And, as I mentioned, even with the new feeding struggles, we managed to pack some more weight on her. So that was one dead end. At this appointment, we did decide to put her on a medication to increase her appetite and hopefully aide in the weight gain. But no answers about the regressive behavior.
Then my hubby took Vivi to the developmental/behavioral pediatrician for a check-up and it was decided to take her off one of medications meant to help with anxiety sometimes associated with children with severe autism. We originally put her on this medication in the hopes that the some of tantrums and anxiety would subside, and more functional communication and academic learning could occur. Well, with the uptick of tantrums, the medicine was obviously not working so we decided to take her off and see how it goes without it. But no real answers about the regressive behavior.
So here we are, still without answers, and it almost seems like Vivi is “settling” into this new regime of this regressed behavior. Which is a bit sad and depressing. And it makes me really wonder what was the cause of the sudden flashback of regressive behavior and aggressive tantrums. Is it medical? Is it environmental?
However, this particular amount of regressive behavior has been extreme, upsetting to see without knowing the cause and being unable to correct the underlying issue for her.