As parents, we often wonder what to do when our children display overwhelming and extreme behaviors. There are two ways of looking at this: from the internal environment inside their body or from the external environment.
A lot of times, the overwhelm comes from the external environment—e.g., loud noises, big crowds, and overall social stimulation. This can be more straightforward when thinking about how we can take kids out of those situations to make life easier. However, sometimes it is not possible to take kids out of these situations (e.g., they’re in a big classroom, at a sporting event, or playing a sport). In these cases, we have to find ways to help them better respond to those social stimuli in a way that doesn’t cause an extreme reaction. Let’s explore both options further.
The external environment can be overwhelming for some kids, and it's important to find ways to help them better respond to social settings. One way of dealing with the external environment is by adding something that might help in the situation, such as blue light glasses or a weighted blanket. Another possibility is that all the extra stress and energy is coming from the inside, and their body is over fueling their brain.
There was a seven-year-old boy we took care of recently who was struggling in school, as well as with sensory and emotional outbursts. We performed what we call Insight scans on him which is a technology we use in our office to measure where the stress is.
First there is the EMG scan, which simply looks at the muscular energy and muscular attention that’s in the body, that’s fueled by that nervous system, the body connecting to the brain. When the body is overwhelmed and is holding a lot of energy, that scan lights up with lots of red bars, which this boy’s EMG scan did.
That shows there is too much energy and tension which signals to the brain that he needs to go fast, constantly move, and can’t stop or slow down. So chances are if we throw a curveball at him like telling him to clean his room, do his homework, or sit still in class, he’s not going to respond well.
As we start to care for these kids, it’s amazing because we can actually see that tension comes off their nervous system and those red lines turn to white. The white lines mean there is less energy and more organization in their body.
In response, all those signals going up to the brain are being received better and it’s easier for them to adapt to what’s around them. Transitions become easier, or when we have to take something away, they may not like it, but it will be a better transition than that bull in a china shop freak out mode.
The second scan we do is the HRV, heart rate variability. It’s not a heart test, it’s actually a nervous system test. What it does is look at how the body is handling stress from the external environment. There is a green box on this scan and we want the white dot to be inside the green box. When the white dot is down to the left, out of the box, it tells us two things.
One, that our body is working way, way too hard to handle the stress in the environment. When it’s over to the left, that means our nervous system is going way too fast, more on that gas pedal. If the white dot is lower than the box, it means it’s tired too. That’s what this seven year old kiddo’s HRV scan looked like.
What’s really cool is as we started to adjust him and take tension off of his nervous system, off of his body, we could see the white dot start to move up closer to the green box. What that means, is that after a few months he became more adaptable.
He’s able to respond to transitions, his behavioral challenges have improved, and he has better emotional regulation. He’s more comfortable sitting through his classes. He’s able to adapt to his environment better and that’s really how the brain and body work together well.
Right now is an opportunity for parents who know their kids well enough that will allow us to provide personalized care plans created just like they need! If they are struggling with feeling overwhelmed either due to external or even internal stimulus, let's schedule a call with our team. We can help you create a plan that works for you and your family. Click the link below to get started!