I thought M had woken up in a cheery mood today and I was all set for a peaceful day.
Hah! She suddenly turned into Little Miss Horrible, and by the time her breakfast was served she was in tears and had been screaming at everything (OK mostly me).
With a huge list of tasks to achieve and 3 teenagers still to rouse from slumber I did not need a screaming and crying 7 year old., and I was at a loss to know what had happened to derail her seemingly good mood. After another hour of seriously trying behaviour I managed to encourage her to get dressed and I suggested hesitantly that she might like to take her Barbies back out into the garden for another “jacuzzi” like she did yesterday.
Well folks, it worked! It actually flipping worked. I filled a smallish bowl with water and hefted said jacuzzi onto the lawn. M ensconced herself comfortably and starting drowning, I mean playing with, her dolls. The good mood came back and even after we had to finally stop for lunch, it remained. What the heck was that all about?
I think I solved it – both parts. Firstly, she had got up in a good mood, I was right about that. It was only after she realised that hubby had gone back to work that the change hit her. He has been home for 2 weeks, and she does love her daddy, so him suddenly going away was bound to upset her. Neither of us thought to make her a visual chart for his time off, so she could count off the days till he returned to the office. We live and learn. Nest time he has time off we will know better.
And the return of the good mood? Well that was sort of lucky, but I think somewhere in the darkest recesses of my brain was a little voice reminding me about the water. M is drawn to water, and especially cold water. For months we were finding her sneaking into the bathrooms to pour massive basins of ice cold water into which she would plunge her hands, for hours if we would have let her. Sometimes she put plastic toys in as well, but mostly she would just run the water over and over her hands. It became a real problem when her poor wee hands started to crack. She needed to stop doing this as she was in pain, but whatever we tried was to no avail. She didn’t do this at nursery, only at home.
I am sure the medical professionals thought I was nuts. The GP gave me some cream to try and soothe her skin, but soon as I’d turn round she’d taken to sneaking off upstairs to fill the basin there. It used to really upset my eldest dragging a sobbing M away yet again from a basin of frozen water, her sleeves sodden and her hands raw.
In the end my friend L, who works with children with autism, told me she thought it could be the toddler/child equivalent of cutting herself – a numbing type of self-harm that blotted out the other pain she couldn’t express. This is when we started to wonder if our quirky wee girl might actually be autistic. We had been asking for a referral regarding possible ADHD but had not considered autism as she was so different from her older brother (yes I know we fell into that trap, stupid).
Turns out we were right. The strain of being at nursery every morning was what was causing our poor lassie to hurt herself by freezing her tiny hands as often as she could. It makes a lot more sense now with the benefit of a few more years and a lot more experience. Water has always been, since birth, the most calming tool M has. If she has had a bad day I offer her a bath to soak in, and it always helps. So giving her a bowl of cold water to legitimately stick her hands into for as long as she wanted was the best thing I could have done.
Every day I wake up fairly confident that I know how to manage my little girl’s needs, sensory or otherwise, and every night I lie down thinking about how far I still have to go before I truly understand her. I only hope that she knows that I am trying, I really am. I want her world to be safe, and calm, and happy.