Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Which I Feel Like A Cruel Mom But Do Connor's Sensory Work Anyway

With the weather heating up and the sky blue, Connor and I have been spending quite a bit of time outside.  This means that he's been introduced to his arch nemesis.

Our lawn.

Connor hates grass.  He doesn't care about how it looks, or smells, or anything like that.  He hates the way it feels.  We don't have spiky Bermuda grass or anything in our yard-- we have Kentucky Bluegrass, which is about as soft as you can get.  Connor disagrees with me on this one.  He has sensory issues which make him extremely protective of his feet, and thus believes it is about on par with broken glass.

So what do I do?  I torture the kid, of course.  I was doing some work outside yesterday and, since it was time for Connor to do some sensory therapy, plopped the kid down (sans socks) in his lawn chair next to me on the grass.  For the first five minutes or so Connor sat with his feet splayed out as far up in the air and away from the grass as he could get them.  When he absolutely couldn't hold them up anymore, they eased down into the grass, where he tolerated them being for about ten seconds.  Then he began emitting a high-pitched whine, which quickly escalated until he was screaming like I was attempting to kill him.  The dogs all down the block started barking. 

My response, which may seem counterintuitive, was to reach over and gently but firmly press his feet down into the grass.  Connor calmed down almost immediately.  Deep pressure he can handle; he actually enjoys it most of the time.  It's the light pressure-- like when his feet are barely touching the tops of the grass-- that he can't stand.  I kept my hands on his feet for about thirty seconds, until he had calmed totally down, and then went back to gardening.  Connor kept his feet down for another five seconds or so, and then jerked them back up into the air as high as they would go.  We repeated the cycle probably about five or six times before he dissolved into tears and I put a soft blanket under his feet.

I always feel like a really mean person doing this sort of thing, but it's an important part of his sensory therapy.  Repeated exposure to textures that are just outside his comfort zone slowly desensitizes him to them, and he's come a long, long way over the past few years.  I always explain to him why we're touching whatever it is that we're touching, I always touch whatever it is with him, I don't surprise him with the textures, and I always praise him both during the therapy and afterwards.  But just because I know that it's good for him to be pushed like that doesn't mean that I don't like a horrible mom while I'm doing it-- especially when he cries, since he's such a laid back kid. 

I guess moms just have to be mean sometimes.  But I don't have to like it.




Niksmom said...

My Nik was very much the same way. He couldn't even stand the feel of sitting on the grass fully clothed w/shoes on. Made working in my garden very challenging.
That was a few years ago. Now, he's ok with it.

Do you use the Wilbarger brushing at all? Through our OT we've found that when we brush Nik's palms and soles of his feet just before introducing the activity (like grass or sand), he tolerates it better. That said, your mileage may vary. :-)

Herding Grasshoppers said...

You're a good mom.
You're a good mom.
You're a good mom!

And I love the pouty look he has in the picture!


Ellen said...

I laughed out loud at "arch nemesis," though trust me, I know sensory issues aren't funny. I wrote about this recently on 5 Minutes, knowing just how much to push our kids. Like with Max at Disney World; he hated the rides, but Dave and I forced him to go on a few, which could seemingly qualify as child abuse because Max HATED them.

Maybe you need to teach Connor how to mow the lawn? Hey, that could work out really well for you! :)

Malinda said...

He totally looks like Jer in this picture. I'm pretty sure I've seen him make that face :) I hope you all are well-we need to catch up soon!

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