6yo with “Ferrari engine, bicycle brakes,” poor social intuition

I’ve had so many struggles with my son, now 6. Toddlerhood was great though exhausting for me—I think in part because I was willing and able to give him enormous amounts of attention. But around 3 things became really challenging. Summing it up, I think the biggest problems are:

  1. He gets too wild and/or intense with touch—e.g. bumping into us, pushing or pulling way too hard, or doing random unwanted things like jumping up and bopping us on the head. At least once every few days he gets into a mode where he runs around the house making us worried he is about to break something or hurt someone. Or he’ll randomly toss a large/hard object to get it out of the way. Even when not in this wild mode, he seems to crave stronger touch, like nuzzling heads together so forcefully that it hurts me.
  2. When he has momentum for doing something (wild energy, or just a strong vision for a project or game), he barrels onward regardless of others’ feelings and requests. At other times he can be thoughtful toward others—e.g. he really wanted me to have a good Mothers’ Day, and worked hard at that! But my feelings have distressingly little power to stop him when he’s in motion. I read the phrase “Ferrari engine, bicycle brakes” somewhere in reference to ADHD, and think of that a lot.
  3. He seems to be very low on intuition about others’ feelings and helpful responses. Things like saying sorry when you bump someone, or asking what’s wrong if they look sad—his little sister does those things spontaneously at 2, and he had to learn them much later, like a second language. There are still many moments where I feel like there is an obvious social response he should give, and he just doesn’t.
  4. He is also relatively easily triggered to very intense emotion, and has a really hard time calming down. Loud sounds, frustration (something he’s trying to do that isn’t working), and waiting for attention can all send him off the rails. 

I’d be grateful for any suggestions, perspectives, or advice! I have often felt like we need more help, but I’ve been too immersed in the daily struggle to figure out what help to get. Things we’ve read about ADHD have seemed to help make sense of home, but he has no such problems at school (I do get the sense that school is effortful for him, and he comes home with little in the tank). 

Many thanks in advance for any ideas!

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You sound like a really wonderful, attentive and caring mom. Bravo to you for patiently making it thus far with a sometimes-challenging (and I'm sure also awesome) kiddo! I suspect beyond ADHD that he has some sensory processing issues - the hard/heavy touches, the sensitivity to noises, the hard time calming down...all sound like SPD. There have been several posts on BPN lately (and in the past) for with info about testing and recs for OT, which I think may be of great help to him, and you! Good luck!