Sunday, April 10, 2011

Balancing Act

Last night after Boo went to bed, I spent some time reading through the MomNOS blog. It been a favorite of mine for some time, and I am in the process of reading it from beginning to end. One post in particular really resonated with me. It was about the importance of sensory integration activities, and the signs that the child's sensory needs are not being met. I gave this a lot of thought, especially the concept of "Push, Pull, Lift, Carry" that was mentioned as being the keys to sensory regulation. I recognized that Boo has been under-stimulated sensory-wise the last several days. My mom has described this as "it was a rough-and-tumble day." I have noticed Boo having decreased ability to self-regulate, to attend and focus, to be still, and to listen and comply with requests or instructions. He has also been climbing into bed with me in the middle of the night, pushing so closely up next to me and even sticking limbs under my body, that I nearly end up shoved out of bed. This was something that was mentioned by MomNOS as well. So today, I focused on trying to get those needs met. Before church I asked Boo to carry his bag across the parking lot. The Boo bag is a large canvas bag with his name embroidered on it, which holds spare clothes, snacks, toys, books, and the requisite disposable cup in case of a public bathroom emergency. It is quite heavy and he enjoys carrying it on his shoulder just like Mommy. He had a very hard time being good during church. After church I took him to Grandpa's house to play while I went home to mow the lawn and then went to a mother-daughter program at church. When the weather is nice he likes to spend most of his time at Grandpa's house outside on his tricycle, riding all around the yard. The terrain is very irregular and I figured the activity would be good for his sensory integration. Hours later we went home and Boo watched a video for a while and ate some supper. Then he was climbing all over the furniture, hanging upside down, acting rambunctious. He got out his "Mr. Blue Ball," a large blue rubber ball that my mom got him so he could use it to sit on while watching TV to help develop his core muscles and balancing skills. (something she read in a book on sensory integration dysfunction) He was enjoying sitting on the ball, but quickly got out of control with bouncing on it and then kicking it in the house. Desperate to harness his energy, I decided to pull out something we hadn't tried in probably nine months. I got out the sit-n-spin. He was excited about it at first, spent a while using it appropriately and really enjoyed it. I took a picture of him on it and he noticed me doing so. That distracted him completely. He came up to me and raised one foot in the air, asking me to "take a picture of my stinky foots." I did and showed him to it, which delighted him. Then he got on all fours and put his head down and asked me to take a picture of that. I remembered that his teacher had told me last week at parent-teacher conference that he would not attempt a forward somersault. I took the opportunity to work on it in a low pressure environment. I helped him get into position and showed him how to push over. He thought it was fun a few times, then he wanted to watch me do it. Believe it or not, at my age I can still do a somersault! But after three, I dared not do it again. For whatever reason, Boo had decided to go down the hall and hide in his bedroom with only his head sticking out into the hall to watch me. When I told him I was done somersaulting, he ran down the hall full speed and crashed into my open arms, knocking me backward. He often does this same activity, only crashing full speed into the couch instead. I decided to use the activity that seems to fulfill a sensory need for him. I gathered up pillows and piled them on the floor behind me and then held two large pillows in front of my body and head and encouraged him to run into me with the pillows. He really embraced the game, squealing with sheer delight as he ran, and laughing with joy as he pushed me down. We played this game for probably 20 minutes. Then he decided it was MY turn to run, and he positioned himself among the pillows, put two in front of himself, and giggling, told me to "go." I jogged down the hall, fell to my knees in front of him, and used my arm to push him backward into the pillows. When he tired of that activity, he just went craaaazy! Throwing hotwheels, spinning the sit-n-spin with his hands as fast as it would go, waving the sit-n-spin's "steering wheel" around in the air like a magic wand, running, crashing, etc. I tried to get him to take a bath, which is an activity he loves and usually relaxes him. He insisted he did not want a bath, but he did ask for some computer time. By then it was 8:00 and I intended to have him in bed by 8:30. I was hesitant to allow computer time because it is so hard to transition away from it when time is up. But I glimpsed an opportunity and grabbed it! I told him that he could have 30 minutes of computer IF he would brush his teeth. Tooth brushing is one of our biggest fights. He HATES it with a passion. He doesn't like the way it feels. Especially on his upper molars. There have been a few small seasons when it wasn't much of an issue. He still didn't like it, but would allow me to do it. But whatever technique seems to be working will wear thin in just a few weeks and we are back to an ineffective wrestling match. Because of this, I am ashamed to admit how poor of a job I have done at insisting that it gets done. I was pleasantly surprised when he ran to the bathroom and pulled his toothbrush out of the drawer. I had bought him a Thomas SpinBrush a while back. His occupational therapist had suggested a vibrating toothbrush to "desensitize" him to brushing. He took out the brush and did a fairly good job at cleaning his teeth. He was hesitant to do his top molars. Since he was so agreeable, I asked if I could help him, and he let me brush his teeth also. When I did it without pushing the button, he requested that I "tickle" his teeth. I got a good brushing done on the bottom and the fronts, but when it came time for the top he became antsy and implored "not on my skin!" When computer time was up, I was shocked by the absolute fit that ensued. Tantrum doesn't even begin to cover it. I have not seen a meltdown of this magnitude for months! I had been in hopes that all the sensory integration activities would help him to regulate and to calm. But just the opposite happened. So I am thinking that perhaps I overdid it. Perhaps it was too much in one day. Maybe I swung the pendulum to the opposite side, with the same result. I will have to work at finding that delicate balance between under-stimulated and over-stimulated.

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