Does your child have anger management issues, perfectionism, is he/she bossy, inflexible, controlling and draw you into power struggles so that you are helpless? Does regular parenting just not work?
You may have a child or significant other who has sensory integration difficulty. What is sensory integration? Touch, proprioception/deep pressure, and the vestibular systems contribute to balance, position of body space, motor planning for biking and coordination and writing and more. If feedback from the vestibular and proprioceptive systems isn’t providing clear information, orientation in space, feet on the ground, head up, and everything is difficult, there is a constant state of unease, disorientation, poor attention, and irritability, avoidance of activities they know is going to cause them discomfort, like writing. Imagine writing with a rubber glove on. It is an exercise in frustration to have inadequate feedback from joints and skin about how you are holding the pencil and writing.
What looks like academic refusal or anxiety, is avoidance because they know it is going to cause them discomfort and failure. Who would want to do something that is going to cause constant frustration? Caring teachers, therapists and parents might get frustrated and yell or create behavior charts without realizing that those bypass what the child is feeling physically and emotionally. I love that everyone cares so much and wants to help! Maybe I can add something.
People with sensory registration deficits often experience depression and behavioral compensations to deal with the discomfort and failure they feel constantly. They develop a punishing conscience because they internalize what they can’t do as failure, inadequacy and feel inept, and then people get angry with them for being in constant search of sensory input like crashing into others to get proprioceptive input or touching things and people or always being on the go trying to give their nervous system what it needs so they can feel comfortable in their own skin. They may not respond and listen when spoken to as if in their own world which is sometimes an escape from the discomfort of not getting clear information about their body and their body in space, causing difficulty with a firm sense of reality as well as where one is in relation to things in the world. Their level of alert may also be underaroused, so that hearing and attending to being spoken to is compromised like being under water. It is possible to have difficulty registering input in one or more sensory systems while another sensory system might be hyper aroused or defensive. They become perfectionistic, bossy, draw you into power struggles because they feel so helpless and alien in a world they don’t understand. They may be mean and seem to get pleasure from seeing you squirm, trying to level the field to feel better about themselves. They may move into fantasy to rid themselves of the awful feeling of not sensing their own physical and psychic existence or look dissociated when in fact they are disoriented in space. These are distinctions that are imperative in helping people understand themselves and heal. People are often seen as defiant, oppositional, self-sabotaging when in fact they don’t know how to do what is being asked of them, how to organize and execute it. An adult who struggles with constant failure, or is very anxious for an oral exam, or does poorly on written essays may not be sabotaging or have underlying anxiety as we know it, but might have incredible difficulty organizing their writing or all they have to say. Mis-reading these people causes more helplessness and despair, depression and anger. People struggle constantly without even knowing it and each difficult task creates an opportunity for narcissistic injury, all day long, beginning at birth. Regular behavior charts alone or regular praise or just occupational therapy alone won’t work, but there are things that CAN work! Call me if you would like to know more about how to promote emotional health and regulation in your child or loved one. (914) 632-7111
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