Why Does My Child Keep Overreacting?

It’s always a good idea to remind ourselves that our children with special needs have brains that interpret and assimilate information differently. In a previous blog I wrote about “brain wiring” with respect to people with autism. A neurologist who was evaluating my son’s behaviors said, “It’s the way his brain is wired.” I’ve certainly observed that my son sees and comprehends the world around him in his own unique way. This is especially true for children with sensory integration dysfunction, who receive all kinds of confused signals as their brains process sensory input. These kids have curious, peculiar behaviors at times that seem so out-of-place.

With this “different brain wiring” concept in mind, we can easily understand how a child might have an exaggerated reaction in certain situations. Dr. Marin L. Kutscher, in his book Kids in the Syndrome Mix, explains that “People do not overreact. Instead they over-feel.” He means, for example, when a child is screaming over some small event, he or she is actually feeling tremendously pained or overwhelmed by it. The feelings the child is experiencing are themselves exaggerated, causing a naturally big reaction.

Instead of wondering why our child overreacts, the question should be “Why is this particular event causing my son or daughter so much aggravation?” We should make some observations. For example, is the sound of a common motor amplified to the point that it is exploding in her ears? Is the child incapable of understanding that waiting in line will eventually come to an end? Does he not understand that something taken away still exists and isn’t gone forever? Is she incapable of using language to communicate her wants, so that it feels like she’s a tourist lost in a foreign country? Is his body refusing to respond and function the way he needs it to? No wonder the child is overwhelmed. No wonder the reaction seems so overblown.

By legitimizing a child’s reactions and understanding them, we can begin to provide help. If sensory signals are being confused, we can pursue sensory integration therapy. We can play games that teach patience and use motivators to promote language skills. We can pursue physical and occupational therapy for our kids and meanwhile teach ourselves techniques to use at home. Most of all, we can practice a bit more patience, and stop seeing ourselves as inadequate parents. The fact that these special kids may have higher levels of sensitivity is not our fault, but we have an obligation to help them cope.

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.