Our journey really began much earlier now that I think back. After Ellie began walking, her personality started to change. She wasn’t the content little baby I bragged about anymore. Ellie was 2 years old and attending a moms day out program here in Waco a couple days a week. I started to get notes home about her being aggressive towards the other kids. She was hitting, scratching, bumping into and knocking kids down. Sometimes she was provoked and sometimes it seemed to come out of nowhere. As a parent, I had always been on the other side with my older child, Cole. He seemed to be the one who fell victim to the biter or hitter of his class. This was totally new for me. It broke my heart to have the bad kid in the class. I just thought, what have a done wrong? What could I do differently?
I left so many things crying and beating myself up about her behavior for the day. We would go to Chic-fil-a with friends for play dates and Ellie just couldn’t deal. She was showing the same signs of aggression there. I would spend half the time running into the play place and the other half apologizing to the parents of the child she had maimed. It was awful. I remember crying out to God. I needed so much patience that I was incapable of giving on my own. The aggression started to happen everywhere we went that had more than a couple kids in a confined space, like a play place or classroom. Church became an issue as well. I left several times in tears and making excuses for her to the teachers. We finally stopped going and watching online because Ellie couldn’t handle an hour in a classroom with other kids. She also began to have major issues with teeth brushing, changing clothes, teeth grinding, she suddenly became a super picky eater and she started to have trouble sleeping. I was so discouraged and truly in crisis mode. I hated that we couldn’t do birthday parties, play dates, or play after moms day out on the playground with all the other kiddos and their moms. I felt judged and left out of so many things. Ellie was still so little that she wasn’t noticing these things yet, but I knew it was only a matter of time before her feelings would get hurt. The thing about the aggression was, it didn’t seem like she was deliberately hurting the other child. She was sorry but seemed unable to control her reactions to situations. I knew my child wasn’t the monster she appeared to be. I prayed for God to give me overflowing patience, grace and kindness when dealing with my more than difficult child.
That next fall we switched schools, thinking maybe that would help. It only gave me a whole new set kids to attack and parents to apologize to. I thought maybe it was a discipline problem. I tried all kids of discipline, none of which worked by the way. Living in Texas, most people are big proponents of the wooden spoon, belt or spanking your kids. Now I want you to hear me say this. I am not against spanking. We spanked Cole and we still have to do it every now and then. But spanking never worked with Ellie. It seemed to hurt her feelings more than hurt her body. She seemed to be almost super human when it came to pain. I can remember back to Easter when she was two and we had our life group from church at our house. A child drove our Fisher Price Dune Buggy right over Ellie. She got completely RAN OVER. The wheel started at her right foot drove all the way up and over her face. I was terrified. She was upset, but not distraught like she should have been. It scared her but she stopped crying and was eating candy a minute later. I remember everyone being shocked at how quickly she bounced back and quit crying. I just thought I had one tough little girl.
The continued aggression and lack of ability to focus went on for about a year. I tried lots of things to change the behavior, but nothing seemed to help her. I just knew in my mommy heart that something was right with Ellie. She needed help somehow but I didn’t know what kind or how to go about getting it. We went through a failed evaluation for OT and for speech. The occupational therapy evaluation was most difficult because although they couldn’t get her to do the exercises in the evaluation, they scored her as normal. I wanted to stand up and scream at the top of my lungs. “Seriously? She is literally running and bouncing off of the wall and ramming into me full force!” How can this be normal? I cannot live with this as our normal. I knew that they were wrong. As a mom, you just know. I grieved the loss of my idea of normal, but I knew with all of me that she needed me to advocate for her above all else. I prayed at the end of each day for answers. At that point, I believe I could have handled any diagnosis just as long as I knew. I needed to know how to help her.
We were able to get her into a play therapist shortly after. I wasn’t sure if this is what she needed, but I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. Everyday was a battle from the time she got up, until she finally fell asleep. It felt like a physical battle, with bruises both emotional and physical.
I knew it was the worst at school, but didn’t know how bad until we were asked to only bring her for half a day. She couldn’t get through lunch and nap time without completely unraveling. This was a breaking point for me and I emotionally couldn’t take any more of this. It felt like such rejection. Rejection of my beautiful child and of me in a way as well. I cried out for God to help me help my daughter.
She gained ways to express her feelings through play therapy and I learned a lot about the things that were bothering her, but I knew there was a core issue we couldn’t fix through this therapy. Almost nightly I read books and articles about symptoms and therapies to help kids with behavioral issues. Searching for a diagnosis to stand out like a billboard with giant flashing lights. Finally after hours and hours of reading, I read the book Out of Sync Child, by Carol Stock Kranowitz. There was a chapter about sensory seeking children and suddenly all of the world made sense. I felt like I had just conquered the world. Relief flooded through me. I had finally found some answers. I praised God for answers. Now to get her help.