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Do you avoid the things they are scared of or make them face their fears?

(21 Posts)
lingle Thu 10-Sep-09 09:17:45

DS2 (4.0) continues to blossom and is a happy chap. His fear of change is generally confined to things affecting his own body - new types of clothing, haircuts, etc and we are making steady progress on these areas.

He has some increasingly specific fears however:

1. public toilets (because of the handdriers). He screams with real fear if I take him into one and begs to be taken out. Yet my MIL says she "made" him wee in a public loo when she was looking after him, despite that someone was using the hand-drier. This is obviously inconvenient and marks him as different. He poos in one potty (bright red!)which is fine by me - he'll poo in a toilet when he's ready.

2. hairdryers - he's ok with mine - stays well away but laughs - but wouldn't come into my hairdressers, say. And is starting to refuse to go swimming because there is a hairdrier in the changing room.

3. Vacuum cleaners. He runs out of the house when the cleaning lady comes in with her vacuum cleaner, despite the fact it has a big smiley face. he will pluck up courage to watch it from behind a glass door sometimes.

4. Blenders, coffee makers, etc. Not too bad, but they put him off doing things he would like to do like going into his best friend's house if the mum may be using it.

I've no doubt that these are sensory in origin (over sensitive to some types of sound whilst formerly undersensitive to speech). But surely the original sensory preferences interact with psychological experience? And it's also to do with imagination - he's imaginative enough to think these things are going to hurt/eat him but not mature enough to understand the difference between a machine and an animal (he's scared of dogs but absolutely fine once he sees they are on a lead).

What would you do? Take him into public loos despite the screaming in the hope he'll learn they are safe? And risk him getting even more scared and not wanting to go to places? Or let him carry his potty/wee against bushes indefinitely and risk him building up public toilets as unknown scary places in his mind?

We usually overcome fears with humour and physical games - and also with explanations as he gets more verbal - ("dogs don't eat boys - they eat dog food") but I don't know if anyone has a toy handdrier!

Alternatively, could we all get together and form a pressure group to ban handdriers?

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Thu 10-Sep-09 09:22:52

my DD is not really scared of very much, but she WAS very scared of the raincover on her buggy.

I did decide to face this head on, well, I HAD to one day as it was very very heavy rain and I put it on and sang to her and gave her a cup of milk.

She gradually has got used to it and now doesn't mind.

So, in this instance it DID work to just confront her fears.

My DD is very very easygoing and not at all scared of change though, so maybe that made it easier for me.

I would still lean towards confronting fears if at all possible though as life would be much easier for him in long run if he could cope with such situations.

r3dh3d Thu 10-Sep-09 09:31:17

I think - and don't have this problem at all - I'd try earplugs/defenders. Though maybe you've done this? See if you can dissociate the sensory problem from the object. Is he OK with the hoover when it's turned off? If you can get him OK with that, then try turned on with earplugs. Etc. He sounds fairly bright so I think might "get" the explanation that it's the noise that's scary, not the thing, and you can turn the noise off.

I'm not sure about the loos, it all depends on the extent of the fear and whether that's something he can "tough out" in front of someone like MIL that he knows less well iyswim. I think I'd ask her not to force him while you were looking for another solution. DD2 (NT, 3) had a loo-handdryer fear, but I worked out that was based on it blowing in her face. Once I started lifting her up to them, so that problem went, she became OK over a period of a few months. Which is why I'm thinking if you can remove the scary noise from the experience maybe he'll come round. Maybe not. It all depends on how obsessy he is.

TheDMshouldbeRivened Thu 10-Sep-09 09:52:22

I gradually exposed ds1 to things. He was frightenend of dogs, toilets, outside, noise...the list was endless. But we couldn't live in a quiet bubble inside so I 'made' him go out.
dd's fears over noise are down to her brain damage so I'm not sure we can do anything about that.

troutpout Thu 10-Sep-09 09:54:46

I think they get better as they get older with this one Lingle.
It's something you continually have to work on though.
Ds is 12...and between us we managed to cut his hand nails the other day for the first time without him getting in a state.
<<sigh>>
It was a major high moment for me grin
We talk about them a lot (we have gone through all of your ds's fears and many more over the years) . He has come out the other side of them all.
BUT..he still has many others he has yet to master.
Social stories about the fears have helped.
Sometimes we push things...sometimes we don't.Sometimes he works a way through it himself. He used to be absolutely wild eyed and petrified of the urinals at school...somehow he managed it...and he did it by himself (shool were useless). I am very very proud of his ability to bring himself through these things.I'm not sure i would be able to do the same in the face of things that petrified me so much.

HairyMaclary Thu 10-Sep-09 09:58:06

Regarding the public toilets - could you get a RADAR key that gives you access to the disabled toilets, then you can control whether the hand dryer is on or not. DS1 (4.6) with CP is fairly sensitive to noises like these but is getting braver as he gets older. I can reassure him that we won't turn to 'blower' on and all is well. If we use the normal public toilets now he jumps a bit if the blower goes on but provided we don't turn it on or get too close then he's fine.

amberflower Thu 10-Sep-09 10:36:27

lingle your DS sounds very like mine re the noises! At just over 5, I can agree with troutpout - the fears are gradually lessening with age - and we have generally gone with the flow and not forced things and it seems to be working.

DS for example will now tolerate the hoover going on - we bought him his own miniature Dyson which he loves - where even a few months ago he would go and hide (or request that all hoovering is done 'once I've gone to bed'). Currently he will not go outside whilst the lawn is being mowed but enjoys watching from the window and has plucked up the courage to open the window during breaks in mowing whilst I'm emptying the bucket and ask how it's going - even two or three months ago he would not have been able to do that.

So I would recommend going fairly softly softly and kind of going with it. Re the public toilets - if at all possible try and find one that only has paper or roller towels and tell him that this is a nice quiet toilet with no dryers - that might at least help towards conquering the initial fear if he starts to have some experiences where there are no drier noises to scare him. Then maybe you can build up from there.

It does take time though. I have noticed recently that DS has started saying things like 'I've got used to such and such now haven't I mummy' - almost as if he has realised that the fear was irrational - and that is definitely an age thing.

Barmymummy Thu 10-Sep-09 11:45:00

Reading about hand driers has made me remember the other day at MacDonalds. Just wanted to share as it was very funny.

DS was always very wary of hand driers too but as of late he has been sooo much better that he even wants to wash his hands so he can use the drier! Anwyay, this MacDonalds has recently been refurbished and it had a new DYSON hand blaster thingy shock

Me & DS washed our hands, turned on the drier and OMG it was soooooooooooo loud that we both jumped, looked at each other with shocked faces and turned round and legged it out the bathroom!! It was soooo funny! When we got outside we were both laughing so hard and DS was saying "that was soooo loud and scary mummy and YOU were scared too!"

If you had told me DS would say that a year ago I would never have believed you. smile

brokenspacebar Thu 10-Sep-09 12:40:08

ds is 5, we are persevering, when needs must, I just try and be gentle, warn him if I suspect he might have to put up with a hand drier, that I am going to hoover etc.

He lies on the sofa, hands over ears when I hoover - but won't leave the room, which he is free to do.

Recently he played with a toy hair drier for ages, loved "drying" my hair - it did make a very gentle hair drier noise!(will but one for the house if I see one, though it was girly pink)

Marne Thu 10-Sep-09 12:55:58

It depends ,if its something they will need to encounter on a daily basis then yes i would try and gradually get them used to it, dd1 had a fear of laddies so we had to work at getting her over her fear.

Both dd's dislike the hoover, dd1 leaves the room and dd2 covers her ears.

Dd1 is starting to get used to hand driers but dd2 wont go near them.

lingle Thu 10-Sep-09 13:25:52

Thanks for those helpful replies. I'm confident that we'll get there in the end. I'll err on the gentle side I think.

I think I won't allow him any "new" things to avoid though

mysonben Thu 10-Sep-09 13:56:52

Yes my ds is the same, anything with a loud motorized sound (or DD's cries) and he will either cover his ears, run awy or start to cry.
Up to a couple of months ago he was like this with the flush from the loo as well.
So while we were in the bathroom like me putting a face on and ds hovering around, i'd chat to him , try to get his attention on something, then casually i'd put a cotton bud in toilet and flush.
I'm glad to say he's finally got used to it, and will rarely cry or cover his ears now.

Same thing with hoover, i'd turn the dial down to a low setting when i'd get towards him and increased it bit by bit, now as long as i tell him beforehand "mummy is going to hoover" he 's fine.

Gentle desensitization (not sure if i've spelled it ok) is the key i think.
May not work for everyone but so far we've had results. smile

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Thu 10-Sep-09 14:04:14

Does he have anything he finds comforting?

With DD it is drinking a cup of milk and that really did help when exposing her to the thing she feared, then eventually she did not need the milk to soothe her.

luckylady74 Thu 10-Sep-09 14:18:19

Ds1 is 7 now and he's calmed down about hand dryers-still nervous of new ones, but can be persuaded.
In the mean time I suggest making your own 'out of order' sign and bluetacking it on the dryer whilst you're in the loo-worked for us. I also use disabled loos so it's just us.I also let him wee in bushes/down drains if necessary. ds1 had to poo in a potty in the footwell of my car on a few occasions when he was little (carrier bag liner to be put indog poo bin), but it wasn't forever.
If it's stopping him going swimming that's probably the point where I'd insist he went,but minimised his exposure to it- trunks on under clothes when you go, one of you gets out 1st if 2 adults go so they're ready to dress him and get out. Snack whilst he's getting dressed.
I think it is sensory,but in time ds1 will drop one thing and start up with another.
Gentle is right imo, but you can't avoid real life and if there's other siblings it's not fair either.

lingle Thu 10-Sep-09 19:28:27

pmsl at the blue-tacked "Out of Order" sign.

That's just got to be done!

iwearflairs Sat 12-Sep-09 23:06:08

lingle, my DS was afraid of all these things. He is now 5 and a half and finds most of them now bearable at least, but it definitely wasn't like that when he was younger.

He is almost fine with vacuum cleaners, can handle hair dryers as long as it is not on highest speed, (quite likes feeling the warm air) and actually doesn't notice a lot of noises now that would have bothered him before. Hand driers were a big no-no and like you I wanted to launch a campaign against them at the time. He still absolutely cannot tolerate lawnmowers or leaf blowers and so is always reluctant to go to the park.

We got him some ear-defenders for things for going on motor boats and such like and I am glad we did because it made him feel safer and cut out most of the noise. We were also fairly soft on about making him go to public loos because I never knew if it was pain as well as fear. We usually go into the disabled loo if possible because no one can turn on a hand-drier there.

I think on the whole is he is growing out of it. He has also learned to cover his ears with his hands and walk quickly past if he wants to.

We did persist with him in the swimming pool to get him happier about getting water on his face. Now he can go under water and will lie in the bath and get all his hair wet which makes hairwashing so much easier. It was worth persisting and we said to him that he could be in control of it, which helped.

lingle Sun 13-Sep-09 09:20:22

thanks smile.

ouryve Sun 13-Sep-09 23:13:25

It depends how important it is.

DS1 had to tough it out with the public changing mat phobia he had - he wasn't going to get to stay in a soggy nappy a minute longer than he had to. Amazingly, he soon learnt to stay dry out and about, even if 3 years after reaching that milestone he is still in nappies.

DS2, however, need never have to watch another episode of Razzledazzle if he still can't hack it.

LeonieSoSleepy Mon 14-Sep-09 08:21:31

Message withdrawn

lingle Mon 14-Sep-09 09:12:38

lol at razzledazzle.

encouraging to hear all these outgrowing stories.

cyberseraphim Mon 14-Sep-09 10:41:46

Yes - We were advised at time of dx to 'mildly force' (Prof's first language not English) DS1 to do anything that he would need to do to cope in life. He has outgrown many fears that he had when younger. The most bizarre thing happened this weekend though - He has decided that he loves having his hair washed (last remaining fear) and was shouting 'rinse hair rinse hair' with great excitement. This is following the general pattern that fears become obsessions.

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