Mama, Hold my hand
I definitely cherish every moment when my sweet boys want to cuddle, hug, love on me in any way. They are growing up so fast. One is starting high school and the other his last year in the single digits. These moments won’t last forever. Usually my youngest wants to climb in my lap, but this time was different. He laid on the couch with his favorite, overly loved, blanket. He had just returned from his music lesson. Prior to the lesson he had a meltdown about having to go. Coming in the door after, he was happy & excited because he earned a new song to learn. He loves his music teacher and loves taking lessons. I’ve offered several times to stop them. Each time he refuses to stop because he likes playing piano. So why the meltdown? I can only guess and may never know the why. This is our daily struggle. He is home now and he is "resetting" his body for the rest of his night by wrapping in his blanket and wanting to hold my hand. This is typical for him. But when I look at his hand, I see the obvious signs of his SPD, and not just the sweet, innocent, little hand holding mine. SPD sneaks up in every moment of our day. This is one example of how.
So let’s take a closer look at that little hand. Do you see the signs of SPD? He chews his nails constantly throughout the day. Every time I look at him he has something in his mouth. If he doesn’t have anything to put in his mouth, then the nails are being chewed. This is something we’ve been working on for 4 years. Yep. Before we even knew he had SPD. I am told this is because he is seeking oral proprioceptive input. This is something his body needs to regulate itself. This proprioceptive input shows up in different ways. His happens to be a lot of oral input. While it has gotten better overall, he goes through periods where the chewing goes from almost nonexistent to so bad that his nails are bleeding and all his shirts have holes, especially in the neck.
Over the 4 years we have tried many things. I put the bad tasting nail polish on his fingers. That didn't work. I would smack his fingers away. Nope. I would say something to him every time I saw him doing it. That made it worse. Once he started OT, we learned more about it and became wiser to what his needs were and what would work. We started with chewelry. Our OT suggested it to us an alternative for him to chew besides his fingers and clothes. It is basically jewelry you wear that you can safely chew. It worked for a while, but he would chew through them so quickly. So we upgraded the level of toughness. Then those wouldn't last. We had to buy the toughest kind we could find, but started with those linked above (it was recommended by our OT to start with the least tough and work our way up through the tougher ones). But, he still chewed. We tried different types of food, including jerky, which he wouldn't eat, Twizzlers, and even candy that required him to pull and chew, like taffy. I wasn't thrilled with the candy because of the teeth issues it would cause, but it didn't last long either. Now we use these water bottles. We prefer these because the spout is really hard, so he has a harder time chewing through them, and they look like regular water bottles (for the smaller version, click here). Nobody knows he's really chewing and not drinking. Plus, it hydrates him well. I swear he drinks more water now than he ever has. We used to use these because we loved the idea of the replaceable valves and lid, but he chewed through them so fast because they are so soft that it wasn't worth it. (If yours isn't a strong chewer, those are great. You actually have to bite down to get the water valve to release the water. They are perfect for soft chewing.) We also started teaching him how to chew gum. We went through a lot of gum. He also swallowed a lot of gum. We figured the harder the gum, the better, but that wasn’t true for gum like it was for other things we had tried. He wanted soft and chewy, and yummy. Finding the yummy, and the soft, was a real challenge. This is sugar free, so I don’t feel as bad, and it comes with a variety of flavors for him to try. Once we found one he liked, grape, we just keep buying that one. We use the carton to refill it from the bag. (Teaching him to chew gum has also helped a lot with the chewing, but I'll be talking about another area this has helped with in another post--brushing his teeth. Ugh!)
Now if I could find something to keep his fingers busy so he won’t keep destroying his blanket or allowing his fingers to find their way to his mouth out of habit now. We’ve tried the water beads (worked wonderfully when he was younger) with the tools to play with them, and the therapy putty. He loves the therapy putty still, especially if I hide things in it, but he can’t walk around with putty in his hands all the time. When he is sitting on the couch watching TV, his hands will wander to his mouth or when he is falling asleep at night, he starts twirling that blanket. He has put so many holes in this blanket. He’s had it since birth and my Mom keeps repairing it. We’re to the point now that it is more repaired spots than it is blanket, but he still loves it. He loves to twirl it through his fingers, which is why the holes happen. He twirls, and twists, and picks until there are holes. He says it soothes him. I believe that is true because he will do this and fall asleep doing it at night. I see the SPD here too. I see it when his fingers are constantly in motion in ways I can't even describe here. The chewing, the picking, the twirling...constant motion. SPD sneaking into my vision.
But ultimately, I’m his biggest comfort and biggest security blanket. I’m here for as long as he needs me. I know that won’t be much longer as he, and his brother, are growing so fast. So whenever he asks me to hold his hand, I will drop everything to oblige.
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