Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Cold Weather and (mild) Sensory Issues

The weather's turned cold here, which means we're getting into long sleeves, trousers, shoes and even coats again.  Much as I love our long summers, it does have the drawback that the children completely forget what it's like to have clothing on so much of their skin.  I've often had complaints and fussiness from my son about the change of wardrobe, but my daughter, coming into her second winter, is bringing things to a new level.

I did actually have to take her to the doctor about a month ago because she'd been going into hysterics over some capri leggings I'd tried to put on her.  This was following on from occasional agitation with her nappy or sandals, and I wanted to confirm that I hadn't missed anything crazy, such as her hip displasia recurring.  Physically, she passed with flying colours, but the doctor watched her reaction to me putting the leggings on her, and diagnosed some sensory issues.

Although sensory processing disorder can be a real problem, neither the doctor nor myself felt that she has that kind of issue, so the advice was to get her accustomed to the clothing and come back if I feel it's out of hand (spoiler alert: it's not).

Shoe Issue (bless you!)

Anyway, with a bit of persistence (and protest on her part), she's comfortably wearing leggings and long sleeves.  On Monday, I finally got around to buying her a pair of shoes (as opposed to sandals).  I'd been holding back on this a bit, because she's got wide feet, which means I'm not just going to pick up a cheap pair at Target.  I want something that will fit properly (and that isn't pink.... seriously, why do we have so much pink on girls' shoes?  It's not a neutral colour!  I want something that can go with everything!).

So we went to Stride-rite, and she was in heaven because she adores shoes.  She wanted the Spiderman ones, and I was tempted because she does have a lot of red and blue outfits, but then I saw the price tag Spiderman commands and moved to more standard fare instead.  A non-pink pair of wide-fitting shoes with a butterfly motif (she likes butterflies!) was located, we donned socks, she tried them on and everything was absolutely fine.  Sale!

Then the next time I put them on her, about an hour later, she took one step and had a meltdown, desperately trying to pull them off her feet.

I know they fit perfectly.  I know they're well-made.  I know she can walk comfortably in them.  I think that the actual problem might be the toe-seam in her socks, but I'm not sure if I can avoid that.  At any rate, I can't afford to buy a bunch of different shoes to find a pair that works (though I might have to look into some different socks).

So, it's time to be cruel to be kind, and de-sensitise her.  I have some tactile sensitivity myself, and I've chosen that option before too.  Ultimately, she's going to need to wear shoes, and there's no easy way forward for that.

Operation Shoe-Acclimatisation Begins

We started yesterday, at T J Maxx.  I put her in the car barefoot, and put her shoes and socks (and coat) on only once we arrived.  She started shrieking immediately, so I carried her into the store then set her down, and let her go into full on tantrum mode.

The best way for getting my daughter out of a tantrum is to let somebody else deal with it.  She will be so horrified that she'll immediately gain control of herself so she can rush to me.  When I'm on my own, that's not an option.  In those instances, my policy is to crouch down beside her and offer a hug, but she has to get up to receive it, and I'm not waiting around for it.

Yesterday, my conciliatory offer resulted in her screaming the place down.  I gritted my teeth, stood up and browsed the nearby clothing ignoring her.  Eventually, she pulled herself up and came to me, and when I picked her up, she immediately put her head on my shoulder and started sucking her thumb, the surefire sign that the tantrum is over.

I carried her like that for a minute then set her down, and she happily ran all over the store for the next twenty minutes with all footwear on.  Then we got back into the car for a five minute drive to Target--and she pulled her shoes and socks off.  Sure enough, she melted down the moment I tried to put them back on.

I experimented with a different tack which was to sit her in the trolley (cart for Americans) and tell her that she had to wear her shoes if she wanted to get down and walk.  I spent ten minutes trying to do my shopping while stopping my screaming toddler from hauling herself out of the trolley.  Then I wrestled her into the shoes and repeated what had worked in T J Maxx.  Again, once she'd had her tantrum and calmed down, she wandered about in her shoes quite happily.

We went to the library that afternoon... lather, rinse, repeat....  It's going to be a rough couple of weeks.

Onwards and Upwards

That said, I'm already feeling more confident.  Today although getting shoes on was just as much of a nightmare, once she was settled with them, she did not stop to take them off.  With her sandals, it had become very common for her to sit down after fifteen minutes or so and pull them off, and she couldn't last a car journey with them.  Instead, I had to tell her to take her shoes off when she climbed on the sofa, and later on, when she went for a bath.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Unfortunately, I'm still not sure how long this tunnel is.  I just know it's going to involve at least two tantrums a day and stressed out Mum and big brother (big brother can get very upset by her tantrums, but he was a hero this afternoon and blew raspberries on her tummy while I put her shoes on).

One thing I might do is buy a cheap pair of fleece-lined crocs knock-offs for when we're just popping out to hang up the washing, or if she wants to go out on the deck.  I'm not a big fan of crocs, but that style of shoe is meant to be good for kids with sensory issues, and she'll be able to put them on herself without having to worry about socks.  They can function as slippers too... if I'm really lucky, perhaps her slipper-hating brother will want some of his own.

So just the latest in the expected line of parenting hurdles.  If nothing else, I finally have stories of public tantrum embarrassment to proudly share with other parents.  My son never went in for them, and I've always felt somewhat sheltered, as a consequence.  Not any more!


  1. Wow, I'm grateful for this post for two reasons. One, having an idea of what to do in a public meltdown situation. I am very impressed that you held strong. I'd have run out of the store in shame. And two, Bun Bun's been hating wearing shirts after a summer of being able to take them off, and while I understood she didn't like it, I sort of hadn't thought about why. (Not that I'm saying she has a sensory issue, just helps me have more empathy.) I hope the tunnel turns out to be shockingly short!

    1. Trying to hold/carry my daughter during a tantrum is a far more wretched experience than standing nearby and ignoring her! And I suppose these days, if I only have one child crying, I consider it no big deal--what makes me want to sink through the floor in shame is having to chase after one of my children.

      Poor Bun Bun! She'll get used to it. My daughter was much better today. I still had to wrestle her, kicking and screaming, into the shoes, but once she's in them, she was distracted out of her tantrum really quickly. It's still pretty depressing having to deal with it, but at least she's making obvious progress.