Friday, April 12, 2013

Operation Overcome Sensory Issues

The kiddo used to be so terrified of the vacuum cleaner he wouldn't go near it, and he'd cry when I was vacuuming.  I had to vacuum when he was sleeping, and if it woke him up he'd scream.   He would also cry when we ran the blender, food processor, or was near a leaf blower.  Anything with loud, continual noises.

The kiddo used to plop on the ground and cry when a gust of wind blew over him.  Or if we drove with the car windows down he'd scream and put his arms over his head until we rolled the windows up.  So, generally we drove with the car windows up.

The kiddo screams when you wash his hair or he gets water splashed in his face.  I can't tip his head back to wet or rinse his hair without screaming.  I use a wash cloth to wet and rinse his hair, and remain very careful of his ears. 

I was doing my best to protect my kiddo from what I thought were simply his fears.  But I didn't want to baby him anymore.  I mean, can you imagine a 16 year old freaking out when he sees a vacuum cleaner or is out driving with his friends who have their car windows down?!  

I learned a few months ago that it wasn't fear that was causing his reaction, but that he had sensory processing disorder.  Kids with sensory processing disorder are oftentimes either over or under sensitive to certain stimuli.  

So, I set out on a mission to him learn to tolerate the vacuum cleaner and wind in his ears and wash his hair without screaming.  I've been reading this awesome book called Raising a Sensory Smart Child that I would highly recommend to any parent whose kid has sensory processing issues.  I learned you have to make gradual changes to help the child get used to the things they have a hard time processing.  Seemed like a no-brainer, but I had become a protective mama bear who did not want to subject her cub to the things he didn't like.

So, to start Operation Overcome Sensory Issues, we started driving places with the windows down a little bit.  Then a few days later a little bit more.  And a little bit more.  Until now, we can have the windows down so much further.  Victory!

I still wash his hair using a wash cloth rather than using a cup or tipping his head back, but he no longer screams when I do so.  I accomplished this feat by trying to figure out ways to make washing his hair more fun.  We started by singing while shampooing.  This worked a little bit, but not enough.  So I got a mirror so he can watch while we shampoo and would be all excited about it: "Look, the shampoo makes bubbles in your hair!  Do you want to touch the bubbles?"  Now he helps shampoo his own hair.  There are smiles instead of tears.  We'll work on the water over his head at a later point, but I'd still say this is victory!

With the vacuum cleaner, I left the vacuum cleaner standing in the middle of the living room for a few days.  He would walk way around it.  Within a day or two he was walking much closer to it.  And a few days later, he touched it!  Victory!

So, today while he was sitting on the couch playing his beloved Angry Birds, I told him I was going to vacuum.  I wheeled the vacuum to the furthest room from him, his own bedroom.  I vacuumed the room then came out to see how he was doing.  Still engrossed in his game.  I told him I was going to vacuum again, and I did.  Before long I was vacuuming right in front of him and he just watched intently, not a tear, not a scream.  When I was done and I was praising him he pointed at the lines in the carpet the vacuum cleaner had made and grinned.  Victory! :)

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