Back-to-school planning continues at our house this week. Yesterday was, gasp, haircuts. Peter HATES getting his haircut. Jacob, however, can’t get in the chair fast enough, anxious to be finished and collect his sucker. I know Peter’s anxiety has to do with his sensory issues, but I still can't grasp just how irritating something as simple as a haircut must be for him.
When Peter was a toddler, I sometimes cut his hair while he was asleep-- ditto for trimming finger and toe nails. He did years of sensory therapy from birth to about age four. We played with dry rice, silly putty, shaving cream, and all other variety of gooey/textured things you can possibly imagine (note previous blog about finger painting with pudding). The therapy definitely helped. He is, after all, able to sit in front of a plate of food without turning away and gagging, and he doesn't totally freak out anymore when his hands get sticky. There are definitely lingering issues though. I know he hates to get any food on his face, hence the wet washcloth always next to his plate for meals. Loud noises, like sirens, appear to be actually painful for him. And, like I said, he despises having the hair fall on his face and neck while getting a haircut. He is also deathly afraid of snakes, crabs, geese, and bees. Why, I have no idea because he has never been stung, bitten, or pinched by any of the above. I do recall a goose once hissing at him around the age of 3. But, he's almost eleven now!
I admit that I often loose my patience with Peter's strange behaviors. An excursion intended for carefree family fun often becomes a frustrating and disappointing outing. We recently spent a day at the zoo, and I forgot just how much Peter feared geese until we had to walk by a gaggle of them looking for free handouts. I chaperoned a school field trip where he was so afraid of snakes and bees that he refused to go on a nature hike with his class. We've taken boat excursions where Peter went hysterical when they've pulled up crab traps. When snakes are brought into school for "Science Alive", Peter hides under the teacher's desk. He refuses to eat outside on our deck because of a potential bee encounter and on and on it goes. For me the real question is, "Will it ever end?"
Peter's fear of needles and what he calls "the white room" (the operating room) are things I can understand. Some of these other problems I only grasp in a very limited way. Things like loud noises and his dislike of haircuts I get a little more than his inability to walk on the beach for fear of a sand crab. The reality, however, is that these issues are frustrating and disappointing. They make me sad. I can't fix things for him, and I see how much fun he misses out on as a result of these phobias.
When our other son is afraid of something, we help him work through it rationally. That approach has no affect on Peter as his fears come from somewhere much deeper. Places so deep that only he will ever understand them. As we grow and learn together, I just hope to be a source of comfort and security when he needs it.