Archives for sensory issues

Tickle My Back, Mom!

My youngest child, Beckie, has always been cuddly and affectionate. As a newborn, she quieted as soon as I picked her up and held her cheek next to mine. I thought she recognized my voice, but it was the skin-to skin contact at least as much as my words to her that seemed to calm her. As she grew, I noticed that when others picked her up her little hands immediately started fingering the material of the holder’s clothing. She gently explored the feel of earrings, necklaces, scarves, and even daddy’s whiskers. At age three, I took her with me to a craft show. Knowing how she loved to touch different textures, before we went in to the show I reminded her to look with her eyes and not her hands. She looked both sad and surprised as she protested, “But Mommy, to look IS to touch.” Those were her exact words, and it confirmed that I had a very tactile learner and that I needed to allow her to touch some of the items that caught her interest. I ended up telling her that if she saw something she wanted to feel, she could ask me first and I would find out from the vendor if Beckie could touch the objects to see how they felt in her hand. As she grew older still, I heard the same request every day during our homeschool time when I was reading to the children: “Tickle my back, Mom!” If you are familiar with sensory integration (AKA sensory processing), you know that tickling can be aversive and irritating to some children. In Beckie’s case, she was sensory seeking and had lower registration for tactile input so the tickling was alerting to her. When she is just listening and not actively moving, it is hard for her to focus. Her AD/HD leads her into daydreaming and distractions. She recognized this about herself, and one strategy she found that seemed to help was to have her back tickled. The light touch was enough to help her stay alert and focus on listening to what I was reading. I became adept at one-hand holding or propping a book, depending on the size of the book, and using my other hand to trace lightly over Beckie’s back. I tried using a wooden backscratcher once, but that didn’t have the same effect for Beckie. I tried a backscratcher with metal scratchers, but that was also not acceptable to Beckie. When I became too absorbed by what I was reading or needed a drink of water and would thus cease the tickling, Beckie noticed immediately and either wiggled against me to prompt me back to task or grabbed my hand and placed it where it clearly belonged – on her back again! Sensory input can be calming or alerting, and each individual’s response to input varies. Often, as in Beckie’s case, our children show us over and over what they need and what works for them. Be observant and sensitive to individual differences, and take advantage of the strategies that work.

Homeschool Pumpkin Bread Recipe

This cold time of year reminds me of a time, many years ago, when we had an ice storm here in Ohio. Like many homeschoolers, I like to take advantage of natural events and find ways to incorporate learning into daily activities. So on this particularly icy morning, I went out into the yard and found a stick that was thickly coated in ice. I took it inside and showed it to the children, who were fascinated with seeing the stick that now looked similar to an icicle. We set it in a bowl so we could observe it and see how long it took for the ice to melt. With AD/HD children, simply waiting for ice to melt would be torturous. So we needed to do other things and periodically check in on our stick. We started a cooking activity to make pumpkin bread. I wanted the kids to be actively involved and thought it would be good if they learned some skills and practiced mixing, adding eggs, etc. When it was my son Josh’s turn to add an egg, he managed to crack it but somehow the egg ended up on the floor. Amazingly, the yolk stayed intact. After examining it, I invited Josh to poke the yellow part of the egg with his finger to see what would happen. How could I forget in that moment that my son had sensory aversion issues with such textures? He reminded me by quickly putting his hands behind his back and leaning away from the egg. Then he came up with a solution that would satisfy his curiosity about what would happen if the egg were prodded as well as protect his fingers from a slimy assault. We used the icy stick for poking the egg, then cleaned up the mess and discussed how having raw egg on the stick might somehow affect its melting time. I didn’t know about the “incidental” learning that took place that day until the next time I made pumpkin bread. I asked the kids if they remembered how to make pumpkin bread and Josh quickly piped up, listing the ingredients and how to mix them together. When he came to the part of the recipe when eggs should be added he said, “Then you get out four eggs and Mommy puts in the first one, then Beth Lee puts in the next one, then I drop one on the floor and poke it with a stick…” Clearly, this is a special family recipe that just might be passed down through the generations. Especially if there are future homeschoolers!