“Come in here Nick!” I yell still lying in bed with my eyes shut, “What is wrong?” I immediately begin having pseudo dreams about having to take him to the doctor and finding out that there is something horribly wrong with his foot.
But that isn’t what happened.
He comes hobbling in – hopping clear across the house with one foot in the air.
Nick climbs in bed, and places the bottom of his foot within an inch of my face. I squint to see – it is early and I don’t have my glasses on, not to mention it is still pretty dark in the room.
I can’t see anything. Maybe a small red non-descript area, but that’s it.
“Show your dad,” I say, “he is in the shower.”
I hear Jeff and Nick in the bathroom and Jeff is insisting that Nick sit still – and Nick is insisting that it hurts.
“You have to sit still.”
Finally, they are done. I hear Jeff tell Nick to try and walk on his foot, and Nick walks to me with tears in his eyes, climbs in my bed and Jeff says to me, “It was a splinter – but it was HUGE like this!” while holding his hands about a foot apart, grinning a wide and sarcastic smile.
And it woke Nick up at 5am and forced him to hobble through the house in pain.
That my friends is Tactile Defensiveness.
How do I know? Aside from the over-reaction?
Well, for Nick, it shows itself in virtually everything he does –
Let’s go with other examples from my darling and under-talked about middle son:
1. Nick refused to get himself some peanut butter from the jar yesterday because it was nearly empty and the peanut butter would get on his hands – and he can’t handle the sticky feeling. So I had to brave the sticky peanut butter jar of doom myself.
2. He won’t eat virtually ANY textures besides crunchy (crackers, pretzels, chips) and creamy (peanut butter, yogurt) – and this takes the cake so to speak (ironically, he will eat cake – but usually just the frosting) on things he does that drive me nuts.
3. He can’t eat food at the wrong temperature: He won’t eat cold peanut butter, even slightly warm milk, chicken nuggets that are too hot or too cold, etc. This is the biggest challenge that I face in getting him to try new foods – he prefers room temperature and what in THE WORLD is actually best when eaten at room temp? Aside from red wine…
4. He had an accident (forced to pee his pants from laughing so hard) and then refused to touch his own clothes to take them off. When I got him to do it (hey, it wasn’t my pee; I wasn’t touching it!) he began to scream and yell while running naked through the house that the pee ‘hurt’ him.
5. Nick also refuses most nights to wash his hair – so unless he has been in chlorine (hot tub) or sweating a lot (football) he doesn’t have to do it every night. Our rule is that he has to wash the ‘stinky parts’ (feet, butt, penis, pits) and that he can do his hair the next night. But still, he hates it and tries to manipulated himself out of having to do it -- which I hate to say he is pretty good at.
6. Won’t get in the shower unless the water is JUST RIGHT. He spends literally probably 3 FULL minutes standing at the edge of the shower adjusting the temperature before he gets in. That is enough to drive this impatient-mom over the edge.
7. Won’t wear socks. This is new. He hates the way socks feel, so often he sneaks out of the house without them – which is fine (seamless socks like these from Soft Clothing work better than anything else), except for if he loses the insert in his shoes (you know, that thing on the bottom that comes out every time you take them off especially if you have nasty sweaty feet because you aren’t wearing socks – yeah, that thing) then he can’t wear his shoes because it feels ‘weird’ to have only one – or none.
8. Hates loud noises – hates them. He actually has since he was really little, but specifically unpredictable loud noises like fire alarms or smoke detectors (like the one in my kitchen, which went off once and he has never forgiven me for it – when I cook anything he thinks will smoke he opens all of the windows in the house). This is a big one for Nick.
Now there are a million other ways in which Tactile Defensiveness appears in kids like Nick who otherwise don’t have any challenges – Nick doesn’t have Sensory Processing Disorder, but rather appears ‘quirky’ or ‘picky’. The difference? Nick's sensory issues don’t impact his social or academic life – he functions wonderfully but is vocal about his preferences at home. And, since his brothers are both given accommodations to make them function best, Nick doesn’t see why he would be any different.
And neither do I!
How are your children sensory-defensive?
Photo: Nick and Matt playing in the water table out back this spring -- Nick is a GREAT brother!