The first time that my wife mentioned brushing our child – and not referring to trying to make some order out of the mop that’s usually crowning his head – I have to admit that I thought she’d lost it somewhere.
The Monster had been going to private speech and occupational therapy for about two or three weeks when the OT suggested that it might be helpful to adopt a brushing protocol as part of his sensory diet. His therapy at the Therapy Spot is after school and after his ride home on the bus, so he’s already had quite the full day at that point and is riled up. As an attempt to try to get more out of the speech portion, the OT had been integrating her treatment with the speech portion, giving him additional stimulus to try to help him relax and focus.
So we thought about it for a week or so, and then the wife ended up coming home with the surgical brush that one uses for administering the Wilbarger Protocol. For those who don’t know what this is – it’s a sensory diet tool that involves use of a surgical brush and joint compressions that seems to help children regulate sensory issues. At least where it comes to the Monster – who is sensory seeking rather than sensory adverse – it’s a positive sensory experience that seems to quiet down some of his stimming and self-distracting behaviors. We’re not as consistent about doing it as we ought to be, since the protocol recommends starting at 90-120 minute intervals, but that’s something we can work on.
I myself don’t tend to do the compressions, if only because I wasn’t taught how to do it – I can follow the instruction sheet well enough for the brushing portion of the protocol and that seems to be what he looks forward to most. And I have to admit that it’s interesting to watch how he reacts when he’s offered a brushing – that he comes over and sits down and quiets down nicely to allow me to do it to him. He clearly enjoys it, and it seems to calm him down quite a bit for a little while afterwards. His focus is getting better as well, but that’s something I’m noticing in general as long as we’re not trying to push him to do something he absolutely dislikes. (We might have to try it immediately after school next year, before homework, to see if it helps with his focus there.)
I do have to admit that it still feels awkward sometimes, actually saying that I’m “brushing my kid”, as if he were some kind of horse or housepet. But as long as it works, that’s what matters, right?