Bubbles and hand cream. Toffees and putty. Fluffy blankets and bubble wrap. Crunchy carrots and thick milkshake.
If only it was that simple, our lives would be full of rainbows and unicorns.
All of these things and more have been recommended to us over the last seven years as methods for encouraging self-regulation, inducing calm and helping our now, almost 10 year old daughter, to process her deeply rooted trauma and build attachments. They are recommended by a whole host of professionals. Thrive, Theraplay, Sensory Processing…you name it the therapist will suggest at least some of the above and in our case it is always blowing b****y bubbles.
Now I’m sure these things work for many people, everyone is different! But have they worked for us?
We are seven years in and things aren’t getting better, they are getting worse. I could blow bubbles until I was blue in the face and it would not help. In fact any of the above often trigger unmanageable, disregulated, over excitement, or hostile regression. The end result….a major meltdown. And as for putty and fluffy blankets, well Winnie just eats them. And I mean eat, not just nibble or chew, she digests them!
The problem is nobody seems to know what else to suggest.
So it was very refreshing to meet an Occupational Therapist (OT) last week that said: “It comes to a point when playing with putty, becomes just playing. It no longer has a therapeutic benefit. The child would just rather do that than the other things they should be doing.” In Winnie’s case ‘that’ is any type of learning!
He went on to say that our daughter needs to be in an environment where she is doing things that a 10 year old is meant to be doing and taking risks. He said she needs to be out in the woods, building fires and whittling wood (under the strict supervision of highly trained adults of course). He said: “She needs to be challenged, because she knows exactly what she is doing!”
So keeping her wrapped in fluffy blankets and blowing bubbles is not really helping her. The (not too) fluffy blanket and thick creamy hot chocolate will play their part, but after a day full of challenges. Not the SATs sort of challenge the school decided she needs, but challenges tailored to her ability and interests.
I could have hugged the OT. I didn’t of course because that would have been breaking all the rules we have established about touching strangers. But it was fantastic to hear such a different approach.
And he is now going to talk to all the other professionals that support our daughter, to develop a joined up approach!
I’m trying not to get too excited. I know there is no magic wand, but I can’t help but hope that we may finally be getting somewhere. We may be on a different path, a path that will make life slightly more manageable for everyone – our family, friends, school and of course Winnie!
So it’s over to you Mr OT. No pressure!