So, Max started back to preschool earlier this month (is September almost over already???). After a 5 week summer break, he seemed quite excited to return to class...and to his beloved teacher, Mrs. "B". I had neglected to tell him, however, that the campus would be quite crowded as all the kids were returning, and there would be lots of activity all around him.
We actually arrived at school a few minutes early, but just as we pulled into the parking lot, Max had one of his signature "episodes" of gagging, choking and vomiting up mucous. It was quite unpleasant for him. I cleaned him up, and put him in the double stroller, alongside his sister. Well, that was a mistake. When faced with overwhelming sensory input for which he is unprepared (kids screaming, sirens blaring, etc), Max will start to hit the closest person to him. (Yes, he has some sensory issues.) So, as I'm pushing the stroller closer to the drop off location, he's getting more and more anxious. When we arrive, he's had it and begins to hit Jozey. I should have seen this one coming. The teacher greeted him with an enthusiastic "Hi Max"; but when he continued to hit his baby sister, she pulled him out and issued a time out.
Max burst into tears, of course, and started calling for me. I couldn't help but feel so guilty for leaving him there. But, I knew that once he was in class, he would be fine. His behavioral outburst was a reaction to the overstimulation. Nonetheless, I was worried about him all morning, until one of the assistants called and told me he was fine.
So that was the first day...and he's been fine ever since.
But, that begs the question, where is the line between encouraging "bad" behavior and responding to a cry for help because he's overwhelmed? I know that hitting is inappropriate; but I don't believe he does this out of any malice. It seems to be a physiological response to some sort of sensory input, usually related to sound. (Another example, we were at a birthday party where a balloon burst. Max got noticeably upset and started hitting; fortunately my husband was holding him at the time.) I know Max's brain is wired differently from Jozey's, or from any typical kid for that matter. But, does that mean we can't retrain his brain to respond differently? More appropriately?