Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Magic hands

This post is another autism help. But the funny thing about autism helps is that they help so many neurotypical people as well as autistics.

I learned this trick from an occupational therapist out in Baltimore. Sadly, I can't remember her name. I only met her a few times. But I owe her this one!

When Lady gets frustrated or has to sit for long periods of time, I take her hand and start to massage her cuticles very lightly. I apply light pressure to the fingernail, mostly. I do that to each finger very slowly.  Sometimes I lightly pull at the fingernail and draw my hand up and away from her hand and then flick my hand like I'm setting something free or flicking something away.  I pretend with her that this pulls out the negative feelings from her fingers. All those frustrations get pulled out of her fingernails and her head and sent on their way up to the sky.

She doesn't like her thumbs to have the pressure. Don't know why, but I can be flexible. We don't do thumbs. I also will sometimes rub her fingers and palm very gently, or tap my fingernails on her palm. She calms down within seconds.

I've tried this on many children, both neurotypical as well as special needs. It works on all of them. Just on Sunday, a little 4 year old boy sitting behind me in church was pulling my hair, trying to get my attention. He was bored. Don't blame him. It's church. I taught him last year in his Sunday school class, so I knew him well. I finally grabbed his hand when he pulled my hair again. He tried to yank away, but I held on with a smile, and began massaging his fingernails. Talk about melting! Within two fingers-time, his head was resting on my chair-back and his hand was dangling in front of my face, completely cooperative. He calmed down almost instantly. When I finished, he was giggling because my finger-tapping on his palm tickled. I let go of his hand and went back to listening. Within seconds, he was gently shaking his hand in front of my face. Wanting more?

I did this same thing with a boy in Lady's class on Friday. He is neurotypical, just as the 4 year old I just told you about. He was having a rough morning and had already been sent away from carpet to put his head on his desk. (That means he's pushed it too far.) He usually is a very cooperative boy, so this surprised me. I sat down next to him and whispered, "So, you're having a rough morning?" He didn't look at me but his eyes were wet and red. I said, "Can I show you something I do when I'm frustrated?" He nodded, so I took his hand and began pulling out the bad feelings. 5 minutes later, not kidding!, he was smiling at me and laughing when I flicked away the feelings to the sky. 5 minutes more and he was participating in the group discussion from his desk, completely engaged with the teacher.

I tell you, it's magic. Try it sometime. The child probably won't trust you at first. They will think they are getting in trouble. But when they realize you are only there to listen and rub their hands, emotions change pretty quickly.  It's amazing.