Monday, June 30, 2014

Brusha, Brusha ...

I mentioned in the last post that Beatrice Kate is a sensory seeker. It's exactly what it sounds like. She seeks out opportunities to touch, taste, smell, lay on, bump into, chew on, press against, fidget with all kinds of things in her immediate environment. Basically, her brain tells her senses to constantly seek out opportunities to explore, even if she knows it's not a good idea (i.e., chewing a Barbie shoe or plastic cutlery).

So, here's the thing that's the most interesting about Sensory Processing Disorder... just because Bea is a seeker for most (like 90%) things, she is still experiences something called "tactile defensiveness" or, in normal-people terms, "My shirt doesn't feel right today" problems. Except for her, it's usually, her shoe/socks/shorts/shirt/hairbow/wind blowing/etc. And for an SPD kiddo, it can all become a bit overwhelming. When something just does. not. feel. "right". to Beatrice Kate, it basically overrides her brain and all she can think about is how annoying the tag in the back feels, or how itchy the seam in her sock is today. This overwhelms her nervous system throughout the day and essentially, she spends the entire day in a "Fight or Flight" response mode. This is the reason we were seeing such a drastic emotional reaction from BK (i.e., MAJOR tantrums) each afternoon on preschool days and why she requires pitch black and quiet time still. It's also one of the main reasons Bea is sometimes perceived as a "shy" kid, or a lone wolf. She can't predict how her peers will touch her, or what they'll do during activities, so she chooses to not engage to avoid touching them!

One of the ways we can help Beatrice Kate cope with tactile defensiveness is through a treatment known as the "Wilbarger Brushing Protocol". Basically, every two hours (when Bea's awake) for the next two weeks, we'll be running a soft brush over Bea's skin with firm pressure. Then we do a series a joint compressions on Bea's hands/fingers/toes/leg/arms/etc. It supposedly should help BK's sensitivity to touch, and help "reset" her nervous system before it has a chance to get into the Fight or Flight mode.

In theory, it sounds awesome. In practice it looked like this:
Casey brushing Bea's arms and legs in the parking lot of the Durham Farmer's Market, and yes. She's sitting on top of the cooler. Stay Classy.

And of course, I basically have the memory of a gold fish, so I had to set up a series of ridiculous alarms on my phone, and Casey's:

Two days in and Bea is a little hesitant still about allowing us to do it. She's also quick to say "that's not enough pressure" or "too much", so I feel like we're getting good feedback from her on our technique. Maybe a little too much feedback, actually...

I'll keep you updated on how it goes. I'm hopeful that it may help in some capacity, even if it only means we can put on shoes more than .25 seconds before leaving the house, or if we only have to try on 3 outfits each morning instead of nearly every dress in the closet. It's the small things, really.