Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Try this Tuesday: Deep pressure

I'm opening this one up for suggestions / input.

My boys like deep pressure and muscular resistance, Bearhug and Little Bitty in particular. Especially Bearhug. To be more accurate, Bearhug not only likes deep pressure, sometimes it's a necessity in the same sense that oxygen and water are needs.

A recent example:

Bearhug and I were sitting on the couch together. I had told him a few minutes before that it was almost time for bed, and that it was time to settle down (he and Cuddlebug had been running around in circles and screeching loudly). Cuddlebug had gone upstairs to get ready for bed, while Bearhug joined me on the couch for a few minutes of tv before bed.

After a few minutes of silence, he told me, "Mama, my brain is angry." He sounded perfectly calm and not angry at all, but I know better than be misled by his tone of voice. If he says he's angry, he feels angry. However, enough time had passed that I didn't immediately know why he was upset.

"Why are you angry?"

"My brain is filled with anger. There's no room for anything else."

"Maybe you should think of something that makes you happy, and let that push out the angry."

"I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because if I get rid of the angry, my brain will be empty."

"Couldn't you fill it up with happy?"

"No, that won't work."


I tried again a few times, rewording my suggestion and giving him ideas of some things he likes that might help him focus on something "happy" and forget about the "angry." Each time I got the same response. Then he told me I was making him more angry, so I decided to back off for a few minutes.

Then I had a thought. "Are you upset because I told you it was almost bedtime?"

"Not just that."

"Is it because I told you guys it was time to settle down?"

"Yes. I don't want to settle down."

"Sorry, honey, but it's time to settle down for bedtime."


I backed off again. After a few minutes, he jumped up, laid face-down on the couch and said, "put all da pillows on me, Mama."

I stacked the pillows from the couch on top of his back and legs.

"Put da other pillows on me, too."

So I started piling up the couch cushions on top of the pillows, knowing he was trying to get some deep pressure and that unlike his younger years, one cushion was no longer enough.

With about 4 feet of pillows and cushions on top of him, he asked me, "Is that all dem?" It was, but it still wasn't enough.

So I gently leaned onto the top of the cushions to add a little more pressure, being careful not to press too hard. Then I stood back up. He was quiet, and seemed a little more relaxed.

After a few moments, he slowly pushed himself up, relishing the resistance from the stack of pillows as he did. He gave me one of his signature oxygen-defying bearhugs (hence the nickname) and then trotted off to bed, clearly no longer plagued by an anger-filled brain.

As I put the cushions and pillows back in place on the couch, I felt a mixture of gratitude for his ability to instinctively figure out what he needs when his system is "off" and a little worry about the increasing levels of resistance and pressure that he seems to need at times.

I have to say, it's gotten better in that he can express what he's feeling now. When he was younger, I finally figured out that he was finding ways to get into trouble on purpose so I'd put him in time out. He and Cuddlebug never stayed in time out without me having to sit them on my lap and hold them there, which gave Bearhug the perfect opportunity to spend his time-out trying to get off of my lap to get "resistance." If I didn't try to hold him on my lap (trying to redirect and avoid the wrestling match), he'd keep escalating his misbehavior until I did. Thankfully now he can find less confrontational methods and can ask me directly if he needs help.

So that's my question - any suggestions on how to help him get the resistance and pressure he needs sometimes? I'm fine with doing some "pillow" therapy or "Bearhug sandwiches" to help, but I worry that he could get hurt with some of his other methods like crashing into things as he gets bigger. Maybe some exercises like push-ups or something?

Same question with Bitty although obviously he's not as big yet (and thankfully he's good with tight-squeeze hugs and no longer feels a need to head-butt me all the time!).

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Anonymous said...

I thought of pushups or some sort of exercise, since he's getting older. Maybe laying on his back and pushing something up so he gets the pressure on most of his body and also resistance through his arms? Just a thought. You know him best to what he can handle in a way not to get hurt.

They sell weighted blankets and vest and things. They're pricey, which is why we just use a bedspread. We have an unusually heavy bedspread that I fold into quarters and that seems to be enough for Daniel...but he is smaller than Bearhug.

I also worry about the crashing into things. Daniel is getting bigger and I fear his crash pad and beanbag aren't going to be enough for him much longer. I'm considering getting padding (like what they have in gyms and at therapy) for the walls and corners of his room so that he will have a safe place to crash. He's constantly jumping and banging into things in there. = /

If I think of anything else I'll let you know. I hope you find some answers!

K on July 28, 2009 at 10:14 AM said...

That was so interesitng - its awesome that he knows what he needs
The rug helps - you and DH are holding two ends of a sheet and kid is inside and you swing him from side to side
ANother thing that R likes is a tight hammock
Its funny I was just about to write a post on this

Patty O. on July 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM said...

My son also needs deep pressure--it totally relaxes him. Also, I read an article by Temple Grandin (who has autism) where she describes this machine thing she invented that gives her deep pressure. I thought it was interesting.

Anyway, being in the pool really helps my son. All the pressure of the water is so good for him. Since you can't always go to the pool, we sometimes try wheel barro races. We also tried gymnastic class, which I think really would have helped had Danny not had major proprioceptive issues that scared him too much. We also sometimes have him push around a laundry basket (or something else heavy) filled with clothes. Sometimes we will fill a big pitcher with water and he will drag that around to water the garden. And bike riding really helps Danny. All the resistance on his legs helps him calm down.

Oh, and a trampoline can help a lot.

If you come up with anything that really helps, could you post it, because I could use more help in this area too!

My Three Sons on July 28, 2009 at 7:10 PM said...

When Carson is at Occupational Therapy, he has a velcro vest he puts on. Sometimes it helps him and sometimes he fights it.

Also, we always do some swings to help with his deep pressure as well.

Izzy 'N Emmy on July 28, 2009 at 11:31 PM said...

I think that is a wonderful thing he did. I am so in awe of how well he handled that, verbally stating what was wrong and then finding his outlet. Even as a stranger, I am so proud of him. *hugs*

UPrinting on July 29, 2009 at 3:17 AM said...

The hugs do sound wonderful, and I'm sure you'll never get tired of giving that to them :)
Exercise sounds good too. Maybe you could get him a giant stress ball, or a kiddie hand exercise grip.

Anonymous said...

All good suggestions! As winter approaches, (and swim until then) consider compression garments - search for a brand called Benik, but there are others, TheraTogs is another.

I've read several posts about children getting into boxes for comfort. Inexpensive, but if his needs are regular, perhaps you can find something more permanent - like the storage ottomans I often see advertised. (Or make your own upholstered 'box').

You will be linked into my next post (again). ;)

Anonymous said...

An OT I work with (I teach) suggested we get Lycra or spandex at the fabric store. When we wrap with it, it gives more pressure. If wrapped like a burrito, he could press against the wrap. My kiddos ask for it. Also, you can make pockets in a blanket, and put dry corn or pea gravel "bean bags" in the pockets to make the blanket heavier.

lonestar on August 1, 2009 at 8:40 PM said...

Thanks so much for the suggestions! Some are things we've tried but many are things we hadn't thought of, very helpful :). I'll let you know how it goes...


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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