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sensory issues & controlling behaviour is this normal or should I seek help? (moved from development/behaviour thread)

(16 Posts)
hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 17:40:20

Feeling confused about my dd's behaviour and wondering whether to speak to our GP but don't want to be seen as making a fuss if these things are "normal".

Hard to put it in a nutshell but she has sensory issues about clothes and will not wear anything with applique or buttons that she can feel. Trousers must be elasticated only, no zips as she hates the feel of them. Refuses to wear tights as they are "uncomfortable", so finding clothes is challenging. She prefers to wear her old clothes that are too small for her eg tracksuit bottoms swinging 5 inches above her ankles! Also hates to change clothes, likes to keep her socks on for days and tells me she has changed her underwear, but hasn't, and it is often stained when it reaches the washing basket. When I have tried to talk sensitively as possible about personal hygiene she gets angry and storms off.

Cleaning teeth - nightmare, she hates the taste of all toothpastes, and will not clean them unless I nag, then makes a big deal about it. Also can/will not stand still at the sink to get ready for bed, has to be swinging about on one leg, flicking light pull etc

Has food issues - refuses dairy, can't stand butter, so sandwiches consist of dry white bread with a slice of ham. Not a great deal of variety, says she doesn't like most of what I cook, even though we have made a menu together of least-unacceptable meals (I am a decent cook btw!). I have a whole other thread on this, as she is currently underweight, possibly due to eating habits, or possibly genetics, since I am size 6 and weigh 7 and a half stone no matter how much chocolate, cake or takeaway I eat. Was sent home from school today at lunch (has happened a number of times before) saying she feels sick because of the food.

Can be quite controlling - a friend's mum said that she had noticed how much dd controls play when they are together. At home if things don't go her way she gets v angry (I don't pander to this, so put up with much anger directed at me when she can't have/do what she wants). Being moved down the reward chart has little effect, she just gets angrier!

Strange responses to events sometimes eg seemingly neutral when pets die. See v little sadness, mostly anger, and takes things v personally eg when there's a tangle when I brush her hair she says I have hurt her deliberately. Likewise, extreme rection to being brushed passed, says "ow, that hurt!" v loudly to only the lightest touch. I can't tell whether she genuinely feels some touch as pain or if she's putting it on to make some sort of point.

With homework, has meltdowns. Asks for help, and when I try to breakdown what she needs to do or explain, gets v worked up, tearful and angry at me til she's in such a state she can't do it.

Dad is v similar - controlling & vindictive towards people who don't agree with him, and divorce 4 years ago was acrimonious, and still is, with regular allegations from him to social services that dd is at risk. She is not, and SS go away happy every time they investigate. This is purely an attempt to have her removed from me and continuing punishment for me leaving him.

Sorry this is so long, there are so many factors involved! There are unusual (ASD type) behaviours on both sides of the family, plus the stuff she witnessed during the marriage and his ongoing manipulation of her, so she may have emotional issues, but the sensory things make me wonder about ASD.

Just wondering what to do next - whether this behaviour is normal (doesn't feel it), or because she is used to getting her own way with him and feels it is her right to dictate life and throw a strop when things don't go her way.

BTW raised concerns at parent's eve, but school not noticed anything. She is v quiet there and always well behaved.

Sputnik Wed 07-Nov-12 21:04:32

You say this doesn't feel normal. On that basis I think you should go with your gut instinct and take it further.

nostoppingme Wed 07-Nov-12 21:49:59

How old is your daughter? A friend of mine, her daughter was recently diagnosed with aspgergers, school never noticed anything even though mum brought it up in parent meetings. Mum regrets not taking action sooner and felt misled by the school. As soon as school had finished for the day, her daughter was having melt downs a la galore (difficult behaviour and so on).
See your GP asap.

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 23:11:07

Thanks. Have booked an appt with the dr (who we have already been to for the eating/weight issues as she is on 1st centile, prompting her dad to wage another campaign against me reporting me to social services with claims that I am starving/neglecting her, when the truth is I am desperate for her to eat more variety and keep her weight up).

She is 9 btw. I had previously thought the behaviour directed at me (and not evident at school) was due to divorce - untrue things her dad said about me to her which have made her angry with me, and in the past violent, and his controlling abusive behaviour towards me that she copied while we were still living with him.

Now thinking it runs deeper than that and at the very least she could do with some counselling to try and counterract some of that damage, but seriously thinking there are ASD/sensory issues contributing as well. Will put all of that to the GP and hope they take it seriously.

hodgehegs Fri 09-Nov-12 13:01:04

Tangle teezer now added to christmas list!

She was sent home at breaktime again this morning saying she feels sick. She had mentioned to my BF last night that she was worried about Big Maths today as it is quickfire questions with a time limit and she gets less done than many of the other kids. Also has still not done her news recount homework. She asked her teacher for extra help yesterday and reported back to me that the teacher had read it through with her. DD was unimpressed by this, saying she needs help with doing the work, not reading!

hodgehegs Fri 09-Nov-12 13:01:40

oops, posted this on the wrong thread!

Ineedalife Fri 09-Nov-12 15:23:30

Hi hodge, I am glad you came to join us, this pboard has loads of people with children with sensory issues so hopefully some others will come along to support you.

My Dd3 masks her difficulties at school and can become very anxious due to nobody knowing that she has any difficulties. She has on many occassions been physically sick due to anxiety about something at school.

Your first paragraph struck a chord with me on your other thread, my Dd3 has had many issues around clothes although she is currently making progress in as much as she is able to wear trousers with buttons on so long as she doesnt have to undo them.

Dd3 never stops moving but is not hyperactive more restless and sensory seeking.

Have you read any books by Tony Attwood? I have The Complete Guide to Aspergers, they had it at my library. I am not saying your Dd has Aspergers but you might see if her behaviour fits the profile. Either that or there are some online questionairres which might give you more of a clue.

I think I recommended keeping a diary on your other thread, doing that really helped me to get the proffs to take notice of my concerns.

I was 99% certain my Dd3 had Aspergers but it took 3.5 years to get a diagnosis because her old school wouldnt support me.

Oh and tangle teasers are good on wet hair but dont help me at all with Dd3's very thick tangly hair when it is dry.

Good lucksmile

LizT123 Fri 09-Nov-12 22:44:19

Hi Hodgehegs, my ds is dyspraxic and has sensory integration disorders, which showed by his inability to tolerate particular clothing, hates showers - can't cope with the water sensation on his body, but loves baths - refuses to eat lots of food as he has trouble coping with different textures and different temperatures. He was 3 before he would eat any ice cream as it is too cold. He would not take his socks off as his feet were hyper sensitive and we had to desensitise his feet by using different textured materials on them - feathers, cloth, textured cardboard etc, just to get him used to the sensation. He would not walk on sand until he was 4... and we lived right by the beach! He also had problems coping with noise as he could not easily distinguish sounds - I gather his brain would go into overdrive and he heard everything at the same intensity. He also hated crowds and being surrounded by people.
This was finally diagnosed when he was about 7 when a very sensible educational psychologist I spoke to suggested that he might have these issues on reviewing all of his pre-statement reports. She suggested we had him assessed by an OT specialising in this and we found one in Bristol who carried out an assessment and was startled at the results she found. She said had never seen a child with so many sensory issues. Time has changed matters though (and deliberate attempts to get DS's body to cope with sensory matters) and although there are still considerable food issues, generally the majority of his problems have diminished.
Your DS sounds as if she does have sensory integration disorders and I would ask your doctor/paediatrician to ask for a referral to an OT who can assess these things.
My DS was also on the very small side - at one stage he was below all the usual scales for weight and height but now at 13 he is in the 25th centile (but he's just had a growth spurt!). He used to eat enough to keep a sparrow happy and was very thin, and I had to explain to friends not to worry if he refused most food as this was quite normal for him.
The reaction to being touched sounds awfully familiar. She may feel much more than other children when being touched. My DS also complains that people push him (when just passing him) and often over-reacts to any injury, however small. I understand that his body sends him excessive messages about touch which tells his brain he is being hurt when he is not. My DS cannot also identify where he is being touched. Try touching her arm in a place hidden from her sight and ask her to touch the same point where you have touched. Most kids without sensory problems will match the spot, even though they cannot see where they are touching. My DS would be miles out - probably get within about 3 inches of a touch on the lower arm.
OTs can assist with working with sensory disorders but you may have a fight on your hands to find someone who can deal with this and to get help. It took us a few years to get to the stage of actually getting some support for DS.
Good luck!

hodgehegs Tue 13-Nov-12 17:51:44

Had an awful 24 hours with dd, just want to post it on here partly so I can get it down in writing before I forget and for feedback incase there's something I'm doing wrong, or could do differently...

Last night dd wanted to have a bath without me in the room (happening more often these days, which is fine by me). Came out riding on toy dog about 2 mins later and smirking. said "You might not think I've had a bath because I'm very dry, but I did, I just dried myself off very well" I felt her hairline, arms and back and they were bone dry with a couple of damp patches here and there. I also noticed she had some paint on her leg which didn't look like it had been near water.

When I pointed the paint out and suggested she go back and try again as she wasn't completely clean, she got very angry and shouted "You don't believe me, you think I'm lying!", then stamped her feet, slammed the door and got back in the bath, alternating between muttering and shouting things like "I hate you! It's not fair!".

She was so rude to me that I banned her from the computer today and she lost her bedtime story.

Earlier this evening she asked to help cook dinner, which I agreed to. She then tried to get round her computer ban by saying I had only banned her from her favourite game, and therefore she could still use the computer for other things. I said that I had meant no computer at all. She started "It's not fair!" again. I explained, calmly, to her that when she said "I hate you" that was very hurtful to my feelings and rude, which is why she was not allowed to use the computer.

She then became very aggitated and started shouting that I was hurting her feelings by saying that, and I upset her like I had upset her yesterday. I reiterated that I hadn't been rude to her, I had just asked her to go back and make sure she was clean, since she had paint on her leg.

Cue full on foot stamping to her room. "I hate being here!", slammed her door, shattering her hanging ornaments, followed by banging and crashing noises and more shouting.

I went downstairs to start dinner and 2 mins later she came into the kitchen like nothing had happened and asked if I was making dinner. When I said yes, she again got angry and demanded to know why I hadn't told her. I said that, because of all her shouting and slamming doors I no longer wanted her helping me in the kitchen.

You can probably tell what happened next ... she shouted "It's not fair!", "I've had enough of this!" stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door, stamped up the stairs to her room etc

She absolutely refuses to apologise for anything she has said or done after an incident like this. If threatened with a sanction such as loss of computer or pudding she will sometimes do so through gritted teeth, utterly insincerely, and refusing to look at me, but usually she just argues back that she has done nothing wrong and I have upset her (by expecting to be treated with a little respect).

I feel at such a loss. What am I doing wrong? How could I have handled this better?

As I am writing, she has just come into the room (she can't see the screen), again like nothing ever happened, sweetly asking for some paper and card. I just don't get it, I am still feeling shocked from the earlier outburst!

hodgehegs Tue 13-Nov-12 18:06:41

btw thank you Liz and Ineedalife, sorry for not answering your posts first, I just needed to get that one out!

I can see the diary would be a very good idea, I'll copy and paste my above problem later so I have it on record before it gets jumbled in my mind.

I haven't read Tony Attwood yet, I just got "The Sensitive Child" to read. His name is familiar though, I may have had one of his books when married to my ex because his behaviour seemed a bit very ADD to me, so I bought a workbook to try and help.

When dd told me last night that having her hair brushed and cleaning her teeth were painful, I asked her to clarify whether they really did hurt or she just didn't like them, she insisted that both were actually painful experiences.

I am reminded of when she started pre-school. We were generally an hour late every day because I was so shattered from being up half the night with her and then having to hold her down on the sofa with one had and try to dress her with the other while she wriggled and screamed at me. I thought she just didn't want to wear clothes, I hadn't thought that were actually uncomfortable or painful for her. Pre-school were utterly unsympathetic, the manager took me aside and gave me a telling off, saying I had to get her in on time as it wasn't acceptable to be so late. Left me in tears.

Oh no, she's just trapped the cat in her room and enforced a cuddle ie squeeze against his will, and is now shouting at him to "get out this instant" as he has responded in the predictable manner.

hodgehegs Tue 13-Nov-12 18:09:00

oops. "one had" means "one hand", and I missed out a "they" when talking about the clothes, but I'm sure you get my meaning.

porridgelover Tue 13-Nov-12 18:35:58

Hodge...on this page there is a sensory processing disorder checklist. It might be interesting to look at your DD's tactile issues.
If she does have sensory processing issues then it's possible that those things do actually cause her distress. Can you tolerate the noise of fingernails on a blackboard? If you are one of those people who hate that noise, then you can imagine how the sensation of changing clothes is to her.

I am going through the process of recognising that my DD1 is probably on the autistic spectrum and she also has lots of meltdowns re homework or after school.

I found How to Talk brilliant with the awful behaviours of my DD. It helps me turn around those awful rows that descend into a complete breakdown.
I find that I have to re-read it often so that I stay on top of it!

The other thing that could help is understanding Theory of Mind. I found it helpful to understand that my (confirmed diagnosis) DS is 'mind-blind', that he has no concept of the impact of his actions on me and fails to understand non-verbal information.

WilsonFrickett Tue 13-Nov-12 18:52:01

I don't have a lot of experience of sensory disorders but I'm sure I've read somewhere (prob on here) that it can help to assume these things really are causing her pain/ distress as a starting point because it helps you stay in control of your own responses and emotions. She's not doing it to hurt you, she's doing it because she's hurt.

Also practically everything I've read about girls on the spectrum would match with your experiences of 'doing ok at school, complete meltdown at home'.

I think you're right to get a referral and it never hurts to start reading up on these things and start putting strategies in place as if you had been dx'd.

Finally, it sounds like you are handling the tantrums really well! Keep posting - lots of support and help on here.

hodgehegs Tue 13-Nov-12 23:49:42

Thanks porridgelover & wilsonfrickett

Yes, I will have to assume she is not exaggerating for now, even though it seems strange. I am fine with fingernails on blackboards, but hate the feeling of cotton wool being pulled apart,it makes my skin crawl, so who am I to say what is a strange response?

We had new hand-dryers put in at school today - they are so noisy and powerful it is distracting all the kids. Nightmare. Today I watched the little boy I work with trying to dry his hands whilst covering his ears with his shoulders! My dd would have refused to be in the room. Luckily she goes to a different school.

She asked for painkillers at bed time today, when still wide awake an hour after being put to bed (this is normal). She does suffer from joint pains - runs in my family - but she wasn't telling the truth, I could see her facing away from me and trying to cover the fact that she was smirking under the blanket. I'm not sure what that's all about, perhaps she was hoping it would help her sleep.

Some things on the sensory checklist are true, but many are not. I don't think she is at the extreme end of that spectrum, but definitely some things apply.

I kind of hope she does have mindblindness because that would indicate she doesn't know how hurtful her words are. She doesn't seem to have any empathy, it's all about her - how she is angry when things don't go exactly as she wants, and it may explain how she can switch into and out of a tantrum so quickly.

I bought the "how to talk..." book in the summer, but am finding it a bit hard to apply. She was very interested in it and kept in her bed for ages, looking at the cartoons. She said she wanted me to be like that, but they seem to say that when children are angry and you encourage them to talk they will sort out their problems themselves, but when she is angry it is generally with me and because she can't have whatever it is she wants when she wants it, so we only get as far as "it's all your fault!". I must read it some more. Too much to read and take in right now, and somewhere I need to fit some sleep in myself!

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 14-Nov-12 07:23:50

"BTW raised concerns at parent's eve, but school not noticed anything. She is v quiet there and always well behaved".

Not at all surprised to read that school have not noticed anything as they more often than not do not. They are simply not trained or skilled enough to spot quiet and complaint children with ANY additional needs let alone someone with sensory issues and possibly also on the ASD spectrum.

Having meltdowns at home after being at school all day is another indicator of her additional needs there not being met.

You are your child's best - and only - advocate. I would ask the GP to refer you to a developmental paediatrician and take it from there. You have concerns and this needs to be acted on for your sake as well as your DDs.

hodgehegs Thu 15-Nov-12 16:13:30

We are being referred to a paediatrician now to discuss everything from the joint pains, to the sensory issues, so will be interesting to hear what they think.

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