I’ve been working with a mom of an adorable, 2-year-old, whom she adopted as a newborn. They read, play on the floor, and participate in social and educational programming. His language skills are excellent. He hits her as well, for no apparent reason.
I’ve been working with a mom of an adorable, 2-year-old, whom she adopted as a newborn. They read, play on the floor, and participate in social and educational programming. His language skills are excellent. Adults are drawn to him, and he can engage in detailed conversation. He is inquisitive, thoughtful and kind. So, why did she come to me? She can’t take him to library story time or her Mommy and Me group, because he constantly hits other children — hard! He hits her as well, for no apparent reason. Out of the blue, he just hits.
When your child is misbehaving, it’s very important to take a close look and find out why. I asked if he: becomes anxious or has a temper tantrum in loud, crowded places; seems overly sensitive or startles with loud noises (sirens, a loud TV, yelling, an alarm clock or barking dog); is uncomfortable having his hair washed or combed; is uncomfortable with tags, socks, clothing seams or shoes; likes to be hugged hard, or not touched at all; is very late or exceptionally early with potty training; is sensitive to water or food temperature, with preference to cool; refuses to eat certain foods due to texture; has a high tolerance for pain; bites himself or bangs his head.
Some children have a high or very low tolerance or sensitivity to things they hear, see, taste or smell. Their inability to filter or process sensations may result in behavior that seems aggressive or out of control. Joey’s mom answered “yes” to many of my questions, which led me to believe that her son was hitting not out of anger, but for sensory input. A diagnosis of sensory processing disorder is under question by some insurance carriers and some medical professionals. However, if you have raised a child who suffers from SPD, you know it’s real. My middle child, now 28 and working on Wall Street, exhibited a dangerously high tolerance for pain, an intolerance for sock and clothing seams, as well as an intolerance for certain food textures. He was extremely sensitive to noise and smells, which often made him gag. He was rough-and-tumble, always crashing and playing hard. Over the years, I compiled a list of activities that provide sensory input and help children self-regulate. These activities can satiate their need to seek pressure, which can eliminate the need for hitting.
You can help by providing activities with sensory input throughout each day:
Treasure hunt: Fill a dishpan with rice or beans. Gather 20 like items, (20 crayons, 20 pennies, etc.) and place each in its own ziplock bag to be ready at all times. Create a counting board with 20 spaces and invite your child to dig deep, which provides a calming tactile sensation. Tell him to find the 20 crayons and place each one on his counting board. When he reaches the last square he will know he has found them all.
• Water play: Fill a dishpan with water, measuring cups, and spoons for your child to fill and dump. Offer straws for blowing.
• Blow bubbles: Keep a small bottle of bubbles in your bag at all times.
• Drum time: Pound palms and drum fingers on the nearest table.
• Plop time: Gather pillows into a pile, then run and plop into the pile. Walk away, then run and plop again.
• Zoo time: Gallop like a horse, hop like a frog or bunny, or walk on all fours like a puppy.
• Pounding: Use a mini trampoline or run up and down the stairs several times.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Find additional parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.