May 14, 2012

Overly Sensitive?

If I wasn't homeschooling, I may have never figured out that our issues are not quite normal.  Not rare, not severe or debilitating...just not "normal".

I've read many books about strong-willed and spirited children - why they are this way and how best to discipline them - because I have one.  And I was one.  I've tried some of the techniques and try to be consistent, but I got to the end of my rope with the daily tantrums over little things.  VERY little things.  Was it me?  Was it him?  Both?

Many days go something like this:
 - "the paper hurts my hand"  during copywork, so I thought he just didn't want to do hand-writing and this was his stubborn way of protesting
 - "the book won't stay open!"  as I show him for the 100th time how to hold it open but he refused to touch the pages and would use knees or elbows instead
 - "I can't do this!" with full wailing and tears over simple addition that he's done many times before
 - constant movement when listening to a story, constant chattering when he should be focusing on anything else
 - protests that turn to tears, frustration that turns to screams, anger that turns into breaking things...
 - refusing to try new foods
 - wearing PJ's under clothes because it "feels good", and other odd clothing choices

Its not fun, but I've persevered.  We have had a few good days scattered around, usually when I have meetings and have to mess with the routine.  On the other hand, similar routine changes can just as easily cause huge meltdowns, and I haven't been able to figure out the difference!

Since we started homeschooling less than a year ago, I have started learning more about sensitive personalities, and how this can contribute to, or heighten, the reactions of a "typical" strong-willed person.  I have read "The Highly Sensitive Person" and "The Highly Sensitive Child" and was impressed by how spot-on they were in many ways in regards to myself and my son.  I recommend these to anyone who has a spirited child - and you know who you are! - especially if you yourself are more laid-back and can't figure out how to deal with your persistent little one. "How to Raise Your Spirited Child" is another good one.

A few months later, I heard the term "sensory defensiveness" and started researching.  Wow, I thought, this is ME!  I wasn't sure if it was him, so I broadened my research to sensory issues.  I don't think he is "defensive" but I now know that he does have some sensory processing issues and we are getting help.  Our goal is to decrease some of his sensitivities (specifically foods and noises) while learning how to cope with the inevitable frustration and anger the extra stresses bring.  I believe he has high tactile and vestibular needs, and possibly has some proprioceptive issues as well.  We are on a waiting list for an actual diagnosis at a place in Louisville (unfortunately there is nothing close to home!)

I'm learning more each day.  Currently I'm reading "The Out-of-Sync Child" and "Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Bright", as well as some blogs on the subject.  So far I have found
Therapy Fun Zone and Imagination Soup.  Does anyone else having any good ones to suggest?

From our first week of switching from paper to dry erase (notice I heart Dad at the top, LOL)
To get through the end of the school year, we switched to dry erase boards for copywork and computer games for math.  I hold the books open and help him keep his place by pointing at the line he is on...and on worse days I point at each individual word.  I would get him a weighted pencil for those times he needs extra pressure, but he only uses dry erase markers....any suggestions on what to do?  Right now I get behind him and lay my arm on his, so he feels the weight but I'm not guiding his hand and the work is his.
And now, he "hearts" mom, too!  (Here he had erased the rest of his copywork already)

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