Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Space Invaders

with 10 comments

Space Invaders style

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 28, 2010 at 7:26 am

10 Responses

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  1. brilliant! space invaders. I love it.
    my husband (a strong lover of personal space) would flip when strangers would try to touch the kids. With our first, it was a curt “don’t touch him!”, and we slowly moved to “don’t touch him, please!” with our second and finally “his doctor told us not to have strangers touch him because he gets sick easily”. phew.
    my kids are fine wrestling with each other, but get an unfamiliar person near them, and they all stiffen up. sometimes not even a high five.
    of course, come to think of it, apples don’t fall far from the trees in this house.


    December 28, 2010 at 8:34 am

    • I never even thought of saying he gets sick easily, which is very true- he just caught his sister’s virus. I’ll try that. Why would they want an unfamiliar person to touch them?!
      The funny thing is, he didn’t have issues with my parents, who he sees on skype a lot, but only once a year in person.
      Nope, apples don’t fall far from the trees in this house either.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      December 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

      • I forgot to tell you what a huge accomplishment the “high five” is too. it’s awesome.


        December 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

  2. Why do supposedly normal people have such difficulty understanding that people are not all the same and that different things feel good to different people? Is that really such an unusual concept? I was undiagnosed as a child, but I remember my mother defending my right to share some toys and not others depending on my preference despite the open disapproval of well-meaning relatives. I am grateful that she saw me as a person with my own rights and feelings. You clearly see your own children as individuals and respect their individual needs, and I have no doubt this loving, accepting attitude creates the environment in which they are free to work out their unique and beautiful relationship with each other. You’re such a cool mom! Maybe if all these other folks had been parented in a more respectful, accepting way they’d be a little more sensitive to the individual needs of others.


    December 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

    • I think I’m just lucky Pudding had a relatively early diagnosis. Otherwise, I couldn’t figure out why she liked stroking other kids’ hair, or her lack of space awareness. Kudos to your mother for respecting your needs without the safety net of professional advice, she did a great job. I’m also with her on the toys. Pudding doesn’t share Ernie, Cubby his truck, and I don’t share my imported chocolate!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      December 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

  3. That is crazy to me that people won’t back off when you tell them to. A kid could have been abused too and have an aversion to random people touching, hugging, etc.

    Or they could just not like it. One of my kids wouldn’t let anyone but us near her while we were on evacuation. She was pretty little and dealing with some tough stuff. Kids have just as much a right to their own personal space as anyone else. I agree with Diane, kids should have the same respect as adults do.


    December 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

  4. This made me stop and think… Why is it that I love to interact with kids, and then, love to interact physically with them? You know, I think that many people just crave spontaneous, unadultered, unbiased human touch. Children [can] just love, run, hug, pat, and sit on someone’s lap. Between adults – human touch gets so complicated and double meaning-ed. I love little kids giving me hugs, and holding my hands when we walk outside, and sitting on my lap to read a book. Yes, even someone else’s kids… Its just a weird spontaneous loving, I guess.

    However, I’ve been around children that give very strong cues that they do NOT want to be touched. Why someone wouldn’qt respect that is beyond me -!-

    I’ve always been on the opposite side of things, having my son jump in un-appreciative ‘strangers’ laps, and having to apologize for his complete lack of personal boundaries. It’s embarrassing at times too.

    I think If I had to deal with this, I’d just get very very blunt. But on the other hand, it’s a beginning of your son learning to convey to people to back off – something he might have to continue doing for his whole life. It’s a valuable skill, even if it’s ear splitting 🙂


    December 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

  5. You really are a brilliant mum, your explanation is perfect, Cubby and Pudding are very lucky to have you! I love the sticker solution – both of them satisfied! Proper genius!
    Perky has always been a ‘touch’ person, but also does not like contact that isn’t on HIS terms. He, too, does not know when he is leaning on a person. He has learned to ask for hugs rather than just climb up! And I have learned to ask him for hugs. Every time. It is so much better when he can say no when he needs to!


    December 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  6. […] paersonal space invaders – Right here. […]

  7. […] space invaders children’s song Is there a song?  That would be awesome?  If not, these Space Invaders might come up with […]

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