Hypo vs Hyper Arousal
Raising kiddos with trauma can be difficult, overwhelming, frustrating, maddening, and rewarding!
Children who come into your home, who have never learned love…true love, will do anything they can to stop you from loving them – it is my belief that they can heal. These kids are resilient and amazing in their own right.
Children who have experienced trauma have a heightened stress receptor in the brain, making traumatized children more anxious, nervous, fearful and subsequently, more aggressive.
This stress causes kiddos with trauma to act in one of two ways:
Regarding arousal states: Hyperarousal, Calm arousal, and Hypoarousal.
- Calm arousal is the ideal state and that most times during the day we fluctuate within various levels of calm arousal. However, when we become to over-stimulated (fear, pain, anger, trauma triggers etc) to the degree that it pushes us outside of our window of tolerance this is hyperarousal.
- Hyperarousal is characterized by excessive activation/energy often in the form of anxiety, panic, fear, hypervigilance, emotional flooding etc. This keeps us system stuck and impacts our ability to relax, often making it difficult to sleep, eat and digest food, and optimally manage our emotions. At the most intensified level this may result in dissociative rage/hostility.
- Hypoarousal may occur when we have too much hyperarousal, surpassing the pain/emotional overwhelm our brain/body is able to tolerate, causing us to plunge into a state of hypoarousal (shutting down or dissociating). In this state, our system can become stuck, characterized by exhaustion, depression, flat affect, numbness, disconnection, dissociation, etc.
Here are some activities that may be used to decrease arousal during respite and at home:
- Diaphragmatic breathing (deep and slow tummy breathing)
- Drinking from a straw
- Throwing a therapy/yoga ball at a blank wall or outside wall
- Jumping on a trampoline or mini-trampoline
- Weighted blanket
- Therapy/Yoga ball (rolling along the back when the child is lying face down on the mat – gentle but firm pressure)
- Heavy work (lifting, pulling, pushups, wheelbarrow races, crab walk, leapfrog, etc.)
- Music (soothing and calming music and sounds)
- Comforting food (hot chocolate or something chewy but smooth such as a tootsie roll)
Here are some activities that may be used to increase arousal at respite and at home:
- Anything that stimulates the senses!
- Smelling essential oils (smell is the fastest way to the thinking brain)
- Chewy crunchy food
- Jumping on a trampoline or mini-trampoline
- Gently sitting and bouncing on therapy/yoga ball (simulating rocking motion)
- Rocking chair
- Weighted blanket
- Finger painting
- Dancing and music
Respite can be a wonderful healing time for the child as well as the family members. Many parents report that it takes a good week or two for that feeling of being constantly “on” to subside. As parents who have to be so hypervigilant with regards to their child, you don’t realize how much energy that is stealing from your day until you get a break.
YOU SHOULDN’T AND DON’T HAVE TO WORK THAT HARD!
While in respite, your child will be working hard on goals and being a productive and respectful part of a family. During this time, it is also important for you to take time to nurture and replenish the tanks that have been depleted by caring for an energy challenged child.
Prior to your child’s respite or brain-cation, you will be asked to have set goals for what you would like your child to practice during their time here (ie speaking respectfully, cleaning up after themselves, etc.). If you have a therapist that you are currently working with, I highly recommend working with your therapist on appropriate goals for your child to work on while in respite.
In addition to the set goals, your child will be given age-appropriate tasks/chores to complete as well as journaling assignments. Depending on the goals for your child, Yoga, Meditation, Heartmath (Biofeedback), EFT and Neurofeedback may also be part of your child’s daily routine while in respite.
Your child is within line of sight of the respite provider at all times except at bedtime and quiet time, where the child is placed in a safe room by themselves with an alarm on the door. All interactions with other children are under supervision.
If you are ready to find out more about a respite or brain-cation for your child, please follow the link below and schedule a FREE consultation.
I look forward to learning more about your family, the journey you have been on so far, and your hopes and dreams for your family going forward…hugs mama!!
Great Question! Days can vary based on school schedules and various appointments but typically will look similar to this:
- 7:00 am – Alarm on door is turned off so child can use the restroom, get dressed and do their routine
- 7:30 am – Children come into the kitchen for breakfast
- 8:00 am – Breakfast Cleaned Up and ready for Yoga/Meditation/Mindfulness Exercise
- 8:30 am – Journaling
- 9:00 am – Online School
- 12:00 pm – Lunch
- 12:30 pm – Jumping on trampoline, riding bikes, going for a walk
- 1:00 pm – Online School or Neurofeedback
- 2:30 pm – Free time (depending on the child goals and behavior this could include electronics, outside time or time for finishing homework)
- 4:00 pm – Neurofeedback or Quiet Time*
- 6:00 pm – Dinner
- 7:00 pm – Clean Up after dinner, Showers, Family Movie/Games
- 8:00 pm – Ready for bed, Read
- 8:30 pm- Lights Out, Bathroom (if needed), Alarm on door turned on
*Quiet time gives them time to decompress in their room with no interruptions. They can read, journal, play with lego’s, activity of choice, or rest.
Children can get creative but we do our best to ensure the children are set up for success and therefore not tempted to sneak out.
- We use an alarm on the bedroom door where your child sleeps. This is controlled from the outside so your child can not turn it off. I turn it off in the morning and turn in on in the evening. The alarm will make a LOUD sound so generally if the kiddo is one that likes to test boundaries, they generally only test once or twice before they get the picture.
- I have had some children think they are cleaver and take the alarm off the door, the good news is I have many spares AND Amazon delivers:-)
- We have motion sensors set up throughout the house. I am sent alerts to my phone if someone is roaming the house after the house alarm has been turned on.
- We have a house alarm and alarm sensors on all the windows. If your child tries to be creative and disarm it, we will be alerted to it prior to turning the alarm on and of course, if they try with the alarm turned on, well…they will get a scare when they try to disarm. I am very thorough in my communication with them upon their arrival, they can see our alarm panel and I point out the sensors on the windows and doors. If they try to disarm, it usually only takes the 1 time 🙂
YES, YES AND YES!!!
This time is not a punishment for your child and while they are here practicing new skills and getting their heart and brain healthy, they still need contact with those that love them.
I tend to let the parents lead how much or little contact they wish to have in the beginning…
After the first week, we will schedule at least 1 Zoom or FB Video chat a week. I encourage parents to send texts and pictures to my phone to let their child know they are thinking of him/her. Sending little care packages or cards are also a big hit.
While I encourage contact with your kiddo, it is also important for you to remember the goal is for you both to have this time to work on yourselves so that when your child comes home, you can both be better ready to handle the next phase of your journey.
From Day 1, your child is treated as part of our family!
Your child will experience the holiday with our family…it gives them an opportunity to possibly experience new traditions and share favorite family traditions of their own.
For local families, if the child has worked hard on making good choices, the family can choose to grab the child for the day and celebrate the holiday that way. We also invite local families to share in the holiday with our family.
Holidays are stressful for our kiddos with trauma…I just ask parents to make sure that whatever is decided, will enable the child to as successful as possible. We do not want to set them up for failure when they have been working so hard on making good choices.
No matter what, we always make time to connect with the family on the holiday…we have even coordinated meal time and had the family join by Zoom to enjoy the meal together.
Let’s get creative and figure out what works best for your family!
It depends on the child…some children do better processing information and some children will use the information to amp up and make things miserable.
So my first question is…How does your child handle information?
Second, whether we are having a call two days before or a call the day of, we do it together! We schedule a Zoom call and I introduce myself to the kiddo and most often one or two of my children will pop in to say Hi:-)
Sometimes my children coming in is planned and other times it is just the nature of working from home…LOL
Together, we talk to the kiddo about why they are coming to my house and what they might expect (they are not asked if it is ok, this is just one of those times that just is)…there is no shaming in this conversation or making them feel bad for past choices.
The kiddo has an opportunity to ask questions…most don’t but I still ask because it’s important for them to know they have a voice.
After the phone call, the child may have questions and I am available to answer any questions that come up.
On the day of arrival, one or both parents bring the kiddo to my house. The parent(s) will help get the child settled in their bedroom putting clothes in the dresser, etc.
My eldest child will have art supplies, puzzle or game waiting for when your child is ready.
I will have a brief conversation with the parents but ask that parents don’t linger, we can catch up by text or phone later.
I will pick your child up at the gate at the airport and we snap a picture together and send it to the parents. Once in the car, we can arrange to have a quick call for you to remind the child how much they are loved.
*I take pictures of your kids the day they come and the day they leave – it is truly amazing to see the transformation in these kids! Some grow, faces and eyes soften and genuine smiles appear…the differences are noticeable and I can’t wait for you to experience the differences.
This is a great and tough question!
Children I work with for respite:
- For respite, I work with children with Autism and children with developmental trauma that have been adopted.
- Children between the ages of 6 and 14.
- Both boys and girls
- Children who have been unable to heal or are stuck and need a fresh environment to move beyond their current level of healing.
Children I am unable to do respite for:
- Children that display sexualized behaviors
- Children that rage with intent to destroy
- Children that intentionally injure or harm other children near them
Please know that while I would love to take every child…it is not always the right fit.
If for any reason I am unable to provide respite for your child/family, know that it isn’t because you or your child are bad or not good enough.
My heart is for everyone to be successful! I do not wish to set anyone up for failure and the best way I can do that is by being completely transparent on whether I feel like your child can be successful in my home due to my own family dynamics.
If I am unable to provide respite services for your family, know that I can still provide support through Parent and Family Coaching.