Friday, June 26, 2009

Repost with Video: Therapy Or Torture?

I decided to reissue this blog post regarding sensory processing disorder because I've been able to upload longer videos (2 minutes) to this blog now through YouTube. It depicts what I described in my post below. Sometimes video is just better so I thought I'd share it with you again.- Jenn 6.26.09

6.09.09 Now that summer is here, it brings on a new set of sensory challenges. One of the challenges that really breaks my heart is the water sprinkler. It could be raging hot and Spencer will almost never go near it. Meanwhile, I see kids younger than him getting wet, pouring water all over themselves and having so much fun. I know I shouldn't think like this but I can't stop being a bit envious.

Even though Spencer can sit in a bathtub and be inside a pool, he can not deal with sprinklers or showers. Albert Dungca, our occupational therapist told us to keep trying to expose him to sprinklers. He even told me to try getting him under the shower first. I made a face that said, "Please don't make me do that to him!" I knew he'd act like I was torturing him.

Today, we didn't have ABA therapy and it was raining so we couldn't go out. To alleviate the boredom, I took him into the tub and ran the water in a light flow, easy for filling up buckets. I didn't put the drain stopper to try to simulate how it would be in a park.

At first, he was a little lost and had trouble filling up his watering can but after a while, I could see that he was enjoying himself. Then I thought of Albert's advice and put on my Therapy Mom hat and turned on the shower in a light-sprinkle. He screamed of course but we kept going at it. Surprisingly, for a few minutes, he actually tried to fill a cup with the shower water and pour it into a bucket. I was really stunned.

When my kid squirms, screams, and cries, my instinct is to take him away from whatever that is bothering him. However, by gently pushing him, he started to tolerate it a little more. Wow. I wish I knew that when Logan was little. When he was just 3 years old, there was an instance where a boy sprayed his face with water (for fun) and Logan freaked and in an instant pushed the boy away. Unfortunately, they were in a jungle gym and the boy fell 6 feet to the floor. Luckily he was okay but it just goes to show you how SPD can really prevent kids from making friends.

So here's my recipe for Overcoming Water Spray Defensiveness. It is derived from Spencer's OT's advice and my experience with Logan. Hope you find a point or two useful:

1. Even in the shower, put plain clothes on him so that he learns it's okay to be wet in his clothes. Spencer is only used to being naked or wearing a swimsuit when it comes to water play.

2. Make sure he is in a good mood by doing what he likes first. I let Spencer play a little his way before I turned the shower on.

3. Be task-oriented: I made him first fill up the cup under a running faucet and then we did the same thing with the shower. Shoving him under the shower with nothing to do would have probably sent him running.

4. If he wants a towel for his face, I say, "Later," and delay as much as possible.

5. If he freaks out about having wet clothes, remove them VERY slowly and keep saying it's okay to be wet when taking them off so he can get used to having wet clothes on. (Logan used to streak the park whenever his clothes got wet and I didn't get him a change of clothes fast enough. At one point when he was younger, he wouldn't even wear wet Crocs unless I dried them with a towel. That really stressed me out.)

6. Take turns splashing each others faces in the bath, increase the amount of water as he tolerates it better.

7. After you have some success with the shower, bring the same toys from home to the sprinkler. It will help him generalize and feel more comfortable.

8. Take it easy the first time, when you got him to do what you want, end it on a good note. And keep doing it on a consistent basis.

I used a similar method with getting him into the sandbox and it's working well. If you have a tip, I'd love to hear it. I really want him to get under the sprinkler this summer.

Please note the first eight comments were in response to the post when there was no video.


Aileen said...

I think you are doing a great job in helping your children in a loving peaceful way. I know that it is hard. I have a child who used to have pretty severe SPD. I wanted to recommend the Wilbarger Brushing Technique to you. Sequentially brushing his muscles every hour and a half (with joint compressions) during the waking hours helped his brain map his body. I feel that this saved him from a life of sensory overload. It made such an amazing difference. We brushed him for about 3 years in this manner and he no longer has sensory issues. You will need an OT with specialized training to show you the technique.

Jenn said...

Aileen, you have inspired me to try this on Logan. We keep giving up because he is too resistant to brushing. I think I'll try again in the summer. I can't believe you brushed every 1.5 hours. You're so dedicated! thanks for pitching in your experience.

Caeseria said...

My son considers baths to be torture - he'll splash in puddles, he loves the hose and sprinkler, but won't take a bath for anything, OR a shower because the shower is in the bathtub and the bathtub is Bad.
Could he play with a spray bottle? Maybe give him a spray bottle outside and let him chase you around with it? And then you could spray him back, and it'd be a game. I like your Tip #7 - we have special bath toys we take to pool therapy, and one of these days we're going to try filling the tub, putting all the special toys in, and see what he does.
GREAT ideas!

Lisa said...

I am thankful for your comments and ideas. What a great site. My son's SPD is very mild but nonetheless still there and your gentle spirit and calmness inspire me to do more. I wondered though when you talked about it raining outside - how he would have reacted to going outside to "play in the rain", possibly starting with a rain coat on (provided the temp is still relatively warm). Just a thought. Thanks again!

Kim said...

I had to laugh. My son used to have problems with sprinklers, rain and showers. We finally got him over this when we were camping. Took him into an outdoor shower in a child backpack carrier. The carrier could be used as a stand up seat. We put him at the very edge, and as he got used to where he was, we scooted him closer. Took about 2 hours but he adapted. Then nature decided that we needed a rainstorm. He loved it. Now showers are his favorite way to play with water.

Carol said...

Thank you so much for your entry on water play and the sprinkler. My daughter is 3, and I feel the same way about her playing outside in the sprinkler. I also fear what will happen if she gets splashed in the face at the pool. I loved your step by step advice about putting your child in the bathtub with clothes and gradually working up to putting the shower on. When I'm feeling calm and patient, I will have to try this, and try it consistently. It breaks my heart to see her so upset about getting wet. Good luck to you and all the others out there dealing with similar issues. Thanks again for your advice.

Anonymous said...

Aileen, if you and others have a detachable shower spray, let him/her try using it themselves. It becomes a toy that they can use at their own leisure--pick up when they want to wash a certain area and put it down when they don't want to use it. MJL. grandmother


My son will turn four years old in a few weeks. We have witnessed him going from his first summer spent in the pool so much we thought he'd turn into a fish to his second summer of him only wanting to put his feet in the pool to last summer of him not wanting to go in the pool or stand under the sprinkler at all. Not long after last summer, he decided he no longer wanted to take baths and now only takes showers with an occasional bath and only if baby sis is in there with him and he's back to putting his feet in the pool and playing with the hose. We haven't gotten the sprinkler out yet but I would imagine he probably won't have much of a problem with it if we tell him it's just like taking a shower outside.

Good luck to you....I hope this gives you some hope.

Anonymous said...

I watched this b/f leaving early this am. I've been thinking about it throughout the day. What I see is a super mom who knows her kid. It would have been so easy to just let him jump out and call it at that right when the shower went on. You know him so well and were able to first encourage so he would stay and then give an activity which he turned into something else - dumping the bucket - and he wasn't bothered b/c of the activity you and he made up together. That was great. They are so lucky!! You also knew when to call it quits!

Karen Griffith Gryga said...


I love this video. It is such a great way to share your experience and insights. Great job!

You have given me food for thought too. I have shared my experiences through video but have never brought my son into it ... maybe I should.

Thank you again for sharing.