Hurrah for half term in Pash Towers!
Last week was a ‘catching up with reality’ week, and it got us thinking about the little strategies we have developed that make a big difference.
Some are attachment related, some sensory and some adoption – so hopefully there might be either something you can use or something you can add. We don’t know about you, but if you can make a difference with the little things, life can run just that tiny bit more smoothly. And if life is running more smoothly, we can save our time and energy for the really important stuff.
So here are some of our top tips and strategies for dealing with some of the everyday sensory triggers our children face, plus a couple of extras on managing tricky adoption related stressors!
Hair cuts – aka sensory hell!
Pip: As he has got older, the sensory challenges have grown and hair cutting is genuinely painful for Bob. The feeling of pulling on his hair is the issue.
We tried various salons but in the end the solution has been a hairdresser who comes to the house very regularly so the hair doesn’t get too long and more painful to pull. Knowing the hairdresser and vice versa means they have developed a good understanding of each other. Bob sits in front of the tv watching otherwise forbidden you tube inane opening of football cards (big treat). We can have a short break when needed. He can immediately get a shower and get rid of hair on his collar at the end.
Evie: For us it’s the other way around. It took 3 years with a VERY patient barber for Ted to have a haircut without screaming the place down. They would turn off the music, sit him facing away from other people and give him as much time as it took. He has been known to take 2 hours for a haircut when he was very small. Even a tablet or other distraction wouldn’t soothe him.
It took a further 3 years for him to not dread it. It’s only now, aged 10, that he actively tells us he needs a hair cut and enjoys the process.
Nits – on a par with haircuts
Pip: Recent outbreak at school and Bob is hosting a party for some massive lice. He won’t let us brush or comb his hair so by the time we found them, they were well settled into their new home. Again, sensory stuff is an issue – smell of chemical treatments, feeling of the lotion on his hair. We tried the ten minute stuff which was useless. I even tried creeping into his room in the dead of night to spray treatment on his sleeping head. All to no avail. In the end we showed him a freshly retrieved louse and explained its life cycle – the science he got! We then treated over the daytime not the night on a day we had loads planned. He looked a sight but forgot quickly about the hair. Combing out was the worst bit with a nit comb but the Switch Game Console was brought in to play for the duration.
Evie: I’m touching every piece of wood in the room as we’ve never had an outbreak of nits! But….we are religious about keeping Georgia’s long hair tied up. I’m keeping everything crossed that our run of luck continues!
Pip: We don’t have any issues visiting the dentist but we do have issues with teeth brushing. We tried different toothpastes and brushes. We eventually found that one of the Oral B battery operated brushes is really quite vigorous!!! Turns out that he loved that feedback on his teeth. We assumed the opposite- that the feeling of the toothbrush was the problem! He now has shiny teeth!
Evie: Ted loathes the dentist even more than brushing. We have tears and drama at every visit, but we have had a full and frank conversation with the dentist so she’s aware that it’s a sensory challenge he faces.
Dark glasses shade his eyes from the light. The dentist is super calm and reassuring. I sit on the couch and hold hands and distract.
We don’t do the tooth varnish.
Brushing….I’ve nothing to add. We’ve tried ALL the brushes, manual and powered and ALL the toothpastes, and just power through every day, and hope that one day I’ll realise that, as with other things, this issue has gradually decreased to the point it’s not really an issue any more.
Contact letters – a double edged sword
Pip: The annual letter has dropped this week. Insist that it is adult to adult as per the letterbox agreement. We received gushy letters at first. These can cause more harm than good.
Not entirely sure what “checking for appropriate content’ means to social workers but it sure isn’t the same for me. So – adult to adult, and actually it means that I feel I have a relationship with the writer.
Letters are factual and detail is scant but I try to think about what I would want to know if the situation was reversed. This year I alluded to the challenges we face with our diagnoses – after all, I think birth family should know that Bob’s start in life had consequences. I absolutely refuse to send photographs as birth family are in the region where we live and the world of social media is very small! Until now, I have just casually mentioned that there has been a letter from birth family and that they are well. This has been enough. This year, as Bob approaches 9 years old, there are more questions so I gave the opportunity to be involved with our contact letter. When it came to it, he didn’t want to know beyond me giving him a brief summary of the intended content and he went off to play. Sometimes just the open opportunity is enough.
Evie: We have a contact arrangement in place and have never received a letter from birth mother (BM). I know there are many of you for whom that would be a blessing, for us, not so much.
Ted is desperate to know that BM is alive and well. We have reassured him, but I’m not convinced he believes us. One small letter would change his world,
Pip: Last year birth parents (not together) were quite productive, shall we say! Mother gave birth to her second child since Bob, who as far as we know both still live with her. Father’s girlfriend had a baby who was taken immediately into care.
For a long time we did not mention siblings to Bob as his understanding was not developed enough we waited and one day he asked if X and Y had any other children. We chose to refer to the siblings not as brothers or sisters (because he has one of each here at home with whom he has a concrete relationship) Instead we call them ‘X’s’ children or ‘Y’s children’ as he has never met them and will have no relationship with them as a child. He has since worked out that they would be half-siblings so we have done a lot of talk around different make up of families.
Evie: Ted and Georgia are the youngest of a large sibling group. Whereas Ted misses contact with BM, for Georgia, it’s her eldest siblings that are the hole in her life. Whilst we have regular contact with two of their sisters, whom they adore, we have no contact with the eldest children (who are, in fact, adults now) and this is something that she can neither comprehend nor come to terms with. It’s heartbreaking for them and us.
I think Pip would agree that letting the kids talk about their birth family is so important. Whilst it’s obviously very difficult for us parents, for them it’s a part of who they are. I only answer the question that’s being asked, truthfully, in an age appropriate way. Oftentimes that’s enough and they’ll bimble off and process that answer until another question pops up in 3 months time.
Loud places – back in sensory hell
Pip: It has taken us a very long time to understand that loud noise is physically painful for Bob. He is terrified of balloons and we need to accept that for now. He cannot anticipate when or if they will pop so is on constant high alert. We have a pair of ear defenders at school, home and one in each of our cars. Often just their presence is enough but sometimes they are needed. It drives hubby mad but I’ve realised that they just make life easier for all of us because we can continue with activities, the stress levels are reduced and what harm will they do? I have also noticed that nobody bats an eyelid about them anyway!
Evie: What she said! Going to the cinema is now fabulous fun for Ted, and nobody even looks sideways at a kid in a headset these days!
Wristbands – just no!
Pip: Oh my, the bane of my life – every activity, club, even school lunches require the wearing of a wristband these days. Bob can’t always tolerate them and panics (odd I know). Every time we come across them we try and if Bob won’t put it on I explain its a sensory issue. Most places will let him wear the band round a belt loop, or let me wear it instead.
Evie: Not so odd! Mine can’t abide them….to a greater or lesser degree dependent on some unknown planetary alignment, moon phase, or wind direction. Somebody really needs to come up with a better (for sensory kids and their parents) alternative!
It has been a lovely week by and large. A mixture of mum and son days and holiday clubs. Spring seems to have sprung and the blossom is coming out on the trees, lambs will soon be here. Ahhh the run up to Easter – sorting mini eggs into colour groups, refusing to wear a book day costume, opening all the creme eggs in Tesco just a little bit to see if there are any white ones, refusing to sleep because it is light, playing out in school uniform because daddy didn’t remind him to change, parent’s evening and pancakes. Thank the Lord for gin!
Evie: Don’t forget SATS prep! Would you like lime or rosemary in that gin, Pip?