Monday, March 28

Itchy Scratch DON'T Touch ME!

I thought I'd try to explain another one of the senses that cause the biggest problems for Kathryn.  This is what overwhelms her everyday... all day long.  It is called Tactile Defensiveness.

Tactile Defensiveness is defined this way: "Children who have tactile defensiveness are sensitive to touch sensations and can be easily overwhelmed by, and fearful of, ordinary daily experiences and activities. Sensory defensiveness can prevent a child from play and interactions critical to learning and social interactions. Often, children with tactile defensiveness (hypersensitivity to touch/tactile input) will avoid touching, become fearful of, or bothered by ;

textured materials/items
"messy" things
vibrating toys, etc.
a hug
a kiss
certain clothing textures
rough or bumpy bed sheets
seams on socks
tags on shirts
light touch
hands or face being dirty
shoes and/or sandals
wind blowing on bare skin
bare feet touching grass or sand
(as defined on Sensory Processing

It is because of her issues in this area that finally sent me looking for answers to her odd behavior.  You see, she HATES socks.  I mean HATES them.  The tiny little seam at the end by her toes makes her CRAZY.  Seriously.  We have literally spent 30 minutes pulling a sock on and off trying to get just the right "fit." Usually it ends in a meltdown with her crying and asking not to wear them.  I went in search for seamless socks and a friend of mine found a website that sold them.  I was so excited.  When I went to the site I realized it was a site for kids with Autism and SPD.  I was perplexed and began reading.  After about an hour and following various links from that site, I realized that Kathryn was not just odd but that she probably had SPD.  Honestly it was like a light shown down from heaven and pointed the way to the answers.  I was so thankful. 

So... back to our struggle with Tactile is so hard to find any clothes that "feel" right to her.  When she was younger and I didn't know she had SPD we would force her to wear what we wanted her to wear.  What a mistake... but now we know.  She would spend all her time being miserable and totally unable to concentrate on anything but the itchy - scratchy clothes she had on.  She was so easily brought to a total and complete meltdown.   

I guess what makes me really sad about this is that she LOVES to play dress up and to look fancy.  But it is hard to dress like that when all the fancy clothes feel so itchy and terrible to her.   Now it seems all she wears is the softest cotton t-shirts and leggings.  She looks pretty ratty-tatty most days, but she is comfortable and with the comfort comes the ability to think more clearly and to be less agitated and for that... I say HURRAY!  Now don't get me wrong, I will spend hours wandering from store to store feeling the inside off all the dresses or shirts.  I am on a mission to help her feel good and look as cute as she really wants to.  At this point she is honestly afraid to try any new clothes.  It takes a good week for her to give something new even a try.

Another example is a hug or kiss or a light touch on her shoulder to show affection.  She will pull away in a total "fight or flight" response.  She will hit or throw her arm out to block the unwanted and offensive touch.  It isn't that she doesn't love you or crave affection from you, it is that it feels like sandpaper scratching her skin.  Who wants a kiss that feels like that?  The touch really must be made by her initiating.  If she initiates it, then she knows what to expect.  It is that simple.  I'm learning how and when to ask for a hug or to accept the high fives when then are offered as secret super kisses. 

She is getting Occupational Therapy to deal with this.  One of the techniques we use is the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol  It allows us to give deep pressure input to her by way of a soft bristle brush.   At first she HATED it... but she now realizes it helps.  It is one of those things I say, "I don't understand how it works, but I know it is working."  We do it before school, after school, and before bedtime.    Some of the other techniques being used in OT for her is that she will sit in a huge tub full of dried beans and rice with her legs exposed so that she feels all the sensations.  There are "prizes" hidden in the beans and so she digs with her hands to find them.  Again... it is all about de-sensitizing her to tolerate that which feels intolerable.

It is so hard to explain, but if you ever witnessed her complete and utter meltdown because another childed brushed up against her or put a hand on her shoulder and she will break down in tears.   Hard to believe but it is so true.

Well... that is the SPD lesson for today.  So just remember,  say hi to her, tell her you love her and if she jumps in your arms and gives you a hug, consider it a triumph.  Feel extra honored and blessed, but please don't take it personally when she chooses not to be hugged or kissed.  It may have been an extra stressful day and she may just be in sensory overload and the thought of one more touch is unbearable. 

So that is where we are Right Here... Right Now


Susan said...

Lana - So glad you discovered the issue and have some strategies that are helping. I've run across kiddos with this same issue over the years. I say let her wear her soft clothes and be a happy kid - that is the important thing. You are being a great mom and your efforts will pay off. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Susan Oglesbee

Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free said...

My daughter's best friend behaves JUST as you've described. Her mom has tried everything under the sun to help her--except THIS. I seriously cannot thank you enough for this post. Passing it along!

elissa said...

Girl, this is so, so very hard. I pray for you guys on a regular basis, and I hope with the diagnosis and the OT techniques, that this becomes more manageable. On a practical note, we buy long pieces of fabric in soft cotton or slick polyester from the fabric store instead of costumes (which are frustrating to the point of tears for Jordan.) That way she can make her own in textures she can tolerate.

~LL~ said...

Sweet friend.... going through so much, but you are dealing with it gracefully and, with the help of God, you are helping your precious daughter!

Love to you all!

dealightfullyfrugal said...

My son has the same problem with his socks and it is so frustrating. I am wondering now, if he has SPD. Thanks for sharing-I am going to do some research now. said...

Hi Lana- New follower.. found your link on another blog. And, then I saw your bio. Our youngest son has dyslexia and I write about that, but our posts on the socks reminded me about our struggles with our son and refusing to wear anything with buttons. So, we would shop together and I would rub a new tshirt against his cheek for him to decide if he was comfortable. He is at the age now where he can wear his buttoned shirt for school (charter school with dress code). Socks are an issue. We just buy the best quality cotton fabrics and that has helped alot. Crocs saved us!My mother in law found some nice sheepskin slippers that he loves!
I'm a new follower and would love a follow and visit. Oh, one more thing... i took a yoga class and the instructor would come around class and gently tug at our wrists and ankles. It feels so good. So, I tried that with my son and he loves it. Just a gentle tug of his wrist and his fingers... it's really relaxing! And, my son to this day loves a bath over a shower. He is 10. It relaxes him. laura