Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

The Puppy Stage

with 5 comments

Cubby, my two and a half bundle of energy is in what I call the puppy stage.  I know this because he just bit me, and the last thing to bite me was a puppy.  The time before that, it was Pudding, when she was going through her puppy phase.  If you picture a puppy, wagging its tail in the air and nipping at your toes, you have my boy right now.  He is testing the boundaries, and looking for a reaction.  When he gets one, he finds it funny….at least until he goes on time out.

Last week his teacher talked to me about this behaviour at school.  He has been hitting and crashing his bike into other children, and then laughing at their reactions.  Oh dear.  As a spectrummy mummy, I hear hitting and crashing, and I think sensory.  He is looking for additional proprioceptive input, albeit in a very inappropriate way.  But when I think of him laughing at other children in tears as a result of his actions, I worry.

Cubby is my verbose child.  He understands emotions, and has demonstrated empathy.  He is the first one to tell me if somebody has wronged him, in what way, and how that makes them naughty.  Unlike children with a language delay who lash out in frustration, he can use his words to express himself.  So why has he started to do this?

Is is Sensory or Behaviour?

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you take a look at Hartley Steiner’s post  on this very topic.  Cubby’s advantage in life- his verbal skills- might actually work against him in this instance.  I know I’m probably guilty of expecting too much from him.  The ability to communicate well doesn’t preclude him from feeling overwhelmed in a new social situation.  The demands of preschool with intense social interactions, and new sensory experiences might certainly be more than he can handle.  I made my long overdue contact with an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, and mow we’re waiting for an appointment.

Like a puppy, my boy is exploring his new environment with all of his senses.  Like a puppy, he is testing the boundaries.  The problem though, is that until recently, Cubby spent most of his time playing with the only other member of his litter: Pudding.  Unlike most puppies (or children), Pudding doesn’t always respond in an expected way.  Sometimes he would hit her and she wouldn’t notice.  Frequently she would laugh.  Sometimes, but quite rarely, she would hit him back.  The same action on his part gets a variety of reactions.  Often the only way to get Pudding to react to him was to get physical.

When Pudding went through this stage, I was the other member of the litter, and every time she bit or hit me, I reacted consistently.  She learned very quickly that she shouldn’t hit or bite.  Cubby’s learned behaviour is off, as a result of being a younger sibling to a child on the spectrum.  He is taking what he learned through interacting with his sister and applying that to others.  Something tells me that this puppy stage is going to be harder this time around.

Whether motivated by his sensory processing difficulties, or an atypically learned behaviour, the challenge now is to guide Cubby to more appropriate interactions with the people around him.  The good news is the both puppies and little boys can be encouraged to adapt and respond to sensory stimuli in a socially appropriate way.  Though I think our four-legged friends tend to be much more obedient.  Either way, perhaps I should buy a whistle.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Sibling

Tagged with , , , , , ,

5 Responses

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  1. iPhone’s dog whistle app has no noticeable effect on dogs. Just saying.

    Lily has been biting me for three years now.


    November 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm

  2. i know how worried you must be. it seems as if the best place for him to learn better ways at school is with his teachers. and he will not be the last one in the group to act out for sure.


    November 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm

  3. Oh my gosh, I’ve been there! I forgot about the puppy stage….. She’s a little past that now, but still chewing the furniture.


    Michelle Detwiler

    November 11, 2011 at 7:53 am

  4. Good question and a hard one! I have a lot of difficulty still (and sometimes now more than when my son was younger) determining whether he is engaged in manipulation or sensory overload – a lot. I can understand how the laughter after the inappropriate behavior coupled with his good language would worry you. My guess is that it is totally sensory overload. Laughter at our house can also appear two ways, just like the meltdown/sensory question. In the situation you describe, it really seems he is seeking the proprioceptive input and then the laughter is like a nervous reaction or anxiety. It is a very difficult stage to make sense of… I’m glad Pudding has made it out! I’m hoping my son will pull his other foot out of the puppy stage soon. With all the good progress we’ve had, we’ve also had our share of meltdowns with additional understanding of receptive language. That might be something to consider as well, given how smart he is… 🙂


    November 12, 2011 at 5:40 am

  5. Oh dear. I have had similar situations with my younger two as they see the oldest do things that they think is OK when in reality it’s just him trying to cope. I had to explain to a dance teacher why my daughter started to bang her head on the floor when she got upset…and had to explain that’s what her older brother did when the input was too much. I just thanked my lucky stars her dance teacher is an Occupational Therapist during the day and she understood where I was coming from.


    November 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

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