I’ll never forget what my five-year old told me this spring: “Mom, I’m bored at Tee ball practice. I misbehave when I’m bored. I don’t want to misbehave any more, can I please stop?”
The Engineer is five. Five going on fifteen, as we joke. He’s smart, he’s intensely curious, and we’re very proud of him. And although we’re proud of him, we’re becoming realistic in a way that verges on pessimism. He simply can’t handle a lot of the things that most neurotypical children do without even thinking about it.
The Engineer is a 2e kiddo – some of his diagnosis are slapped on by doctors who have no idea what to call it, and some diagnosis are a perfect fit. I’ve spent hours pouring over information and researching trying to figure all of this out, just like you probably have.
I lucked across some information about overexcitabilities and thought “wow, that’s us!” It’s scary when you read an info blurb that describes your kid perfectly.
He’s a fit for three different overexcitablity categories: Psychomotor, Intellectual, and Sensual. He’s smart, sensory input is overwhelming, and he’s always moving (or talking.) That’s a difficult combination to consider when you’re planning things to do.
Right now, our list of extracurricular possibilities has been crossed off and marked through on just about every line. We’ve spent more money than we should trying new things, only to realize that it just. won’t. work.
Swim lessons: we quit after one memorable incident that closed the pool down. Tee ball: he quit. Preschool gymnastics lessons: they kept trying, but he kept running off to do his own thing on the balance beam or swing from the bars. Church? We’ve had to leave one already because they couldn’t handle him. Playgroup: we can’t find a consistent group of kids that will tolerate his quirks and keep up with him.
At 5, he’s expected to listen, to follow rules, and to stay with the group in extracurricular activities. He can’t. He just can’t, it’s impossible. So we look for family things to do together where my husband and I can help him stay calm and focused.
When we’re considering options for extracurricular activities, we look at 4 main criteria:
- Can we do it as a family?
- Does it encourage hands-on input and physical motion?
- Is it a strict, rule-based setting?
- Is it in a loud, chaotic environment?
Of course, there aren’t many things out there at his age level that fit all of our criteria. We’re looking at things like maker labs, robot clubs, and 4-H, but I’m tired of exposing him to failure and criticism from other people. For now, we’re taking a break from experimenting.
As parents, we’ve had to re-align our expectations with what he’s actually capable of. His dad dreams of being his baseball coach and playing catch with him. I dream of summer camps and learning opportunities.
The thing is, it’s not about us or what we think he would like to do. It’s about him. It’s about helping him develop good self-esteem, to limit his exposure to bullies, and to have fun. Extracurricular activities are supposed to be fun, not a dreaded chore!
The most important thing that I’ve learned about living with overexcitabilities is to be flexible. Do what’s best for your kid. Sometimes that means that you put your dreams to rest and find an activity that brings out the best in your child.
He’s five. If we can help him to learn to cope and regulate perhaps he’ll be able to manage on his own. Maybe even do the things we would love to share with him.
Until then, we’re crossing things off the list until we find something that works.
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