learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Tag: sensory processing dysfunction

Gentle Giant and Troubling Behaviors

J is a big boy. He just turned 3 this past June and is already 39″ or so tall and 36lbs of boy. He seems like such a little scarecrow to me given how lean he is but when I pick him up I am quickly reminded just how solid that deceptively scrawny body of his is.

He has this natural gentleness to him that has consistently surprised me. There has only been one true instance in his whole life where he swatted at another child intentionally. It happened at Early Intervention group and the moment it happened I separated him from the moment, told him “no” and that we do not hit, and sent him back to play. I was nervous that it might be a sign of emerging aggression yet the aggression never came. The episode never repeated and though he can be as rough and tumble as children his age generally are this behavior has stayed at bay.

The gentleness disappears when it comes to himself. It would be unfaithful to the truth of our story if I did not tell the bad with the good. Within the past few months he has taken to hitting himself in the head or hitting his head off things when he is frustrated with something. The situations that bring out this behavior are nearly always within the home and seem to all be related to him being told “no” when he is already kind of tapped out or tired, but it’s hard to say whether or not he does it outside the home. I am definitely going to ask his team to keep watch for the behavior but overall… I can’t describe how it makes me feel.

I guess in a lot of ways it doesn’t matter how it makes me feel because the focus truly needs to be on finding out the root source of why he does it. I have some empathy for him when he gets frustrated. He doesn’t understand why he might be being told no, or being diverted, or being asked to get ready to transition. He seems like he is overwhelmed with things in that given moment and he has no proper output. Today, after a careful transition out of playing a game on the Yogibo with me he walked into the kitchen, knelt down on the runner and banged his head off the hard tile floor. I was so upset I just couldn’t even act. He realized quite fast that wasn’t a great plan on his part but then proceeded to keep smashing his head and face into the Yogibo til I managed to work him away from being on it and got him focused on dinner.

This is likely very convoluted but this is very difficult. I want to help him cope, to give him tools to help ease whatever is making him feel that actions like these are the only outlets, but how do I do that? I use my words. Words aren’t going to be his outlet, not yet, maybe not ever. I know the people he works with always have great suggestions but man. It breaks a mother’s heart to realize that her sweet, loving, gentle giant of a boy is having a hard time being that way with himself at so young an age. I can only wrap him up in my arms and remind him he’s okay and everything’s alright so many times. I always remind him he needs to be gentle with himself and to “play in a gentle way” (thanks Ni Hao, Kai-lan!) with his body but man do I ever feel useless.

SenseAbility Gym

Me and my little monster had the pleasure of being invited to meet some lovely moms and kids today at SenseAbility Gym in Hopedale, MA. I was nervous about going, not because of who I would meet but because I could not predict how J might behave. However, looking back, I realize I likely never should have been.

SenseAbility Gym was conceived by people who get it. They have seen their own children struggle with sensory needs that aren’t easily met in typical environments. They are parents of the runners, crashers, bangers. They have the children who need the squeeze box, or who sometimes just need a room with dim lights and a cozy bean bag chair. They have taken the best elements of some of the local gyms for kids as well as some of the better pediatric occupational therapy or physical therapy clinics and brought it all together in a fun, clean, easy to access and easy to enjoy space. It is kid friendly and parent friendly, right down to the restroom having a changing table for those of us who have children still in need of one. 

I have taken J to places like Monkey Joes or Jump on In before, both to dramatic failure. This isn’t the fault of the facilities. Each of them are fun, bright, wild and fun for most children and for most children, I’d recommend going back again and again if you can. When you have a child with autism, sensory processing dysfunction or any other similar type of obstacle it is a place like SenseAbility that can not only give your child somewhere safe to just have fun but give you, their caregiver, somewhere to meet other adults who are dealing with what you’re dealing with. 

Thank you to Alysia for the invite and to everyone who attended for making our Sunday a great one. Little bear is sleeping like a log right now, hopefully having some good dreams about the fun he had with the boys today. 

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