Cubby has been making strides in his occupational therapy sessions. What’s more, he is getting better at dealing with people outside his familiar surroundings. Better than I am at helping him to deal with people, at least. He is that exasperating mix of being touch-aversive and an adorable toddler. People are in his thrall, and he loves to flirt….until that flirting becomes physical. I don’t know why strangers are so compelled to touch children. I suppose it is like the way I can’t resist a puppy, though if I’m warned the dog might bite, I’d think twice about stroking him.
When he begins to get distressed, he initially gets squirmy, trying to back way. Yet these supposedly neurotypical masters of body language don’t pick up on this. So I’ve become more direct. I’ve tried to tell people that he doesn’t like to be touched. It doesn’t work. I’m incredulous that it doesn’t work. If, as an adult, I asked not to be touched, I’m fairly certain that would be respected. But it is almost like a challenge. They are provoked by seeing that he is fine being touched by me. I must be an overprotective mother who refuses to let others come near her precious cherub. They think, maybe he doesn’t like others touching him, but I’m sure he’d be fine with me. They continue, getting into his personal space, stroking his cheek, or rubbing his hair, right until he starts screaming. And even then, instead of shamefully admitting defeat, they ask me what is wrong with him!
He doesn’t like strangers to touch him. What is wrong with YOU?
The whole thing reminds me of the old video game, Space Invaders. It doesn’t matter what lasers he shoots, The Aliens are advancing, ever closer. My defensive bunkers aren’t offering adequate protection. When they touch him, it will be Game Over.
So now that he has a few weeks of Early Intervention OT under his belt, he is comfortable with giving a high-five. It works like my very British arm-stretched-out-for-a-handshake manoeuvre, that also keeps huggers at bay. Just enough contact to make all parties happy.
Almost everyone. Pudding really struggles with this. She is one of the Invaders. This is her Space too, and she is driven to touch everything around her. Long before her diagnosis, our ‘Wheels on the Bus song’ featured mummies saying, “Don’t touch that.” Those same strangers who find me over-protective with Cubby, must also wonder why I’m allowing my preschooler to handle everything, and everyone, she sees. Her body awareness is so poor that half the time she isn’t even aware she is touching, or leaning, or making contact. The other half of the time, it is just a compulsion. I’ve watched her run to something in the distance, so attractive to the eye that she has.to.touch.it. Touching things just makes her feel better. In a new place, the first thing she asks to do is to touch the ceiling. We think it is her way of feeling the physical boundaries, when her senses are so unreliable and overwhelmed. I’m terrified of going to houses that aren’t Pudding-proofed. There is no way I can keep her from touching (and probably breaking) interesting but delicate artifacts. Just like there is no way she can stop touching her brother.
Together, somehow, they have come up with their own thing. Yesterday I heard the two of them giggling, something that generally indicates trouble. I went down to the basement to find that she had covered him in stickers. There must have been at least 30 stickers on him. Cubby, like many toddlers, likes stickers, but he doesn’t like the sensation on his fingers. He was thrilled to have the end product on his clothes, without having to touch them. She was just as happy. I let them carry on until the stickers were all gone. I’d never thought of this solution, but it was perfect.
Bonus points, and the high score goes to my two players. Hopefully the next level comes with defensive bunkers that are in tact, and a whole new set of powerful lasers.