Parent testimony of 4 year-old after 7 sessions of occupational therapy:
We have a chalkboard in my son’s bedroom and we have chalk markers, so it requires fine motor skills. Before my son would grab it with his entire fist, really hard, to the point of sometimes the plastic would crack under the pressure. He likes to color, but he hated it because he was always stressed out, frustrated, or his hand would physically hurt because he was so aggressive with it. He would get so frustrated trying to do smaller lines and letters. The other night, he just calmly, with proper holding and light pressure, started drawing very detailed people, without a meltdown. We were so impressed. Without the stress of not not being able to complete it, without the frustration of not being able to do it. I was almost in happy tears. I have worked on fine motor skills at home with him for months, trying to hold pens, pencils, crayons — using appropriate pressure, small movements, and he has struggled. The more he struggled, the more frustrated he got. But with the development of this new skill, this made him happy. Coloring was fun, it wasn’t as stressful.
At school, they started telling me that during fine motor activities, he would be so frustrated, he would get so tense and shake when he wasn’t able to do it. He would just lose it and couldn’t focus on anything else. He had to sometimes be removed from the class of just sit on his chair, so now he’s upset, he’s not getting the instructions that he needs, and he’s isolated from other students which just adds to the frustration. Now, if he can’t do something in class, he’ll sit there for a second, he’ll take his deep breaths, and he’ll raise his hand and say “Can you please help me?”. So, rather than hyperfocusing, getting frustrated, and snowballing, he’s now able to recognize when he needs a little help. He was able to take that pause which completely resets the whole situation. That is huge for my son because normally for my son, it is action to reaction. But now he recognizes when to take the 5 seconds and get the help he needs. Or now he’s learning the skills where he doesn’t even need the help!
My son likes light pressure but he doesn’t like tight clothing or itchy fabrics. Before it would be my son throwing a fit and not being in the pool because he would refuse to wear his lifejacket. I would have no idea why, because he didn’t have the tools to recognize why he was upset. He was extremely uncomfortable in his own skin and he didn’t have the tools to fix it. The other day he said “Mom, I’m a little upset. My lifejacket. I hate it.” When asked why, he said, “It’s driving me crazy. My skin is on fire.” So we could problem solve together to make his lifejacket feel better against his skin.
What was really hard for me in the beginning was that my child was extremely academically intelligent. He doesn’t have to hear something more than twice before he not only remembers it, he understands it. Going to a pediatrician, saying my child is unhappy at 2-3 years old, they responded “Well he can say almost 400 words… He’s fine.” But it’s so much more than just that academic piece, so now I have a bright child and a happy child. I have a child who can do things for himself or can ask for the help that he needs – without a sensory meltdown. The fact that I can brush his hair now is huge. So for me, it is well worth it.