I Don't Want To Be Hugged!!! Issues With The Sense Of Touch!
If there was one area that was an absolute heartbreaker for the parents of autistic children, surely this is it - the fact that an autistic child often will not even allow his parents to hug him, and will often, violently fight attempts by the parent to show affection to and/or comfort their child.
Prior to taking Zachary off casein and gluten, when he awoke at night, it seemed there was nothing I could do to hold and comfort him. He fought me constantly ... and at times, the harder I tried to hold him, the harder he fought.
I did believe diet was definitely a factor for many of these children and that the natural opiate (drug) effect of casein and gluten may indeed produce in these children hallucinations that were so vivid, so real, that the child perceived the "someone" trying to hold on to him may actually be an "extension" of that hallucination as opposed to a loving parent, causing great stress as the parent tried helplessly to hold his child in an attempt to comfort him. It was a well known fact that "drug trips" were not all "good trips" and hence, there was reason to believe that this may be one issue at play when it came to sensitivity to touch in the autistic child.
Since digestive enzymes helped to break down casein and gluten, perhaps this explained why Zachary's overall issues with touch had improved since I put him on these non-prescription supplements. I truly believed that by performing a digestive function the autistic child was unable to properly perform on his own, these enzymes helped reduce the natural opiate effect of casein and gluten as well as helping to reduce the negative impacts of highly phenolic foods that also appeared to be a problem for many of these children.
Although Zachary was on a casein and gluten free diet, I was certain he was exposed to hidden sources, especially of gluten and as such, I had great comfort in knowing these hidden sources (like soaps, etc.) were addressed by his enzyme supplements. For more on enzymes, see my section on: First Steps For Parents! What Can Be Done To Actually Help These Children?
Additional information, as it related specifically to Zachary was available on my website, http://www.autismhelpforyou.com, under More on Zachary's Diet and the Journal of Zachary's Progress. On my website, I also provided a link on “things I would have done differently – if only I had known what I knew today”.
These links - available on my website - More On Zachary’s Diet, The Journal of Zachary’s Progress, Things I Would Have Done Differently, along with the Parent Nuggetsã and the account of what I believed to be a very, very negative reaction to Cod Liver Oil (I suspect it contained mercury or other heavy metals), were all links that provided extremely valuable information for parents of the autistic, and as such, I strongly encouraged all parents to read this additional, truly eye-opening information on my website.
I strongly encouraged all parents to discuss with their children’s doctors the possibility of a casein and gluten free diet and one low in phenols as well as enzyme therapy for their children. For Zachary, these interventions had made a significant difference. Although Zachary had made a great deal of progress on the casein and gluten free diet alone, I did believe his vision, auditory, and sensory issues as they related to touch were all significantly improved since I added enzymes to his diet in February of 2002.
As with so much in autism, however, I was of the opinion that “something else” was also at play in issues related to touch and the autistic child.
I say this because even with a casein and gluten free diet and enzymes, there were still issues with the sense of touch for many children, including Zachary. These "other issues" were also related to the autistic child's inability to properly process "the whole" without first understanding "the parts" that made up that "whole".
In my opinion, if a child had difficulty perceiving, understanding and integrating the parts to the whole, then the act of placing your hands on him or arms around him, by definition introduced a new "part" to his body... one he was unable to understand and cope with... one he was unable to separate in terms of "what belonged to him" verses "what belonged to you"... because once these "parts" touched and your hand or arm or hand was on him, you, the parent, became "part of his whole"... something he may be unable to deal with and process properly – another issue related to the “self”.
So, what was the answer to this issue? It may be, again, as simple as the use of labels and explanations as to how the parts fit into the whole. For example, what I did with Zachary was I labeled “my hand” for him… as I had done so many times with my “finger counting” and “fraction” exercises. Before placing my hand on Zachary, I held it in the air, showed him the “parts to my hand” (the finger counting) and labeled it as "mommy's hand". Then, I slowly kept saying: "mommy's hand... as I gently placed it on him and said: "mommy's hand on Zachary". Labeling "my hand" verses "his hand" and clearly emphasizing the distinction as "my hand" was placed on him, in my view, helped tremendously with issues of touch in terms of helping Zachary define "what belonged to whom". I encourage all parents whose children had such issues to attempt this very, very slowly in order to give the autistic child time to familiarize himself with "each person's hand parts" as they were joined through touch.
The idea was to try to label absolutely everything for the child... your hand, your fingers, his hand, his fingers, etc.... as you joined the two. It may also help to count out fingers as you do this. I showed Zachary the concept of "my hand" a long time ago... I would count: 1 finger (as I held up one finger), 2 fingers (as I held up two fingers) and so on... all the way to 5 fingers. Once at 5 fingers, I would say: 5 fingers = 1 hand and then, I would wiggle all the fingers on my hand. To help with pointing, try counting the fingers as 1 finger = 1/5 of a hand, 2 fingers = 2/5 of a hand, 3 fingers = 3/5th of a hand, 4 fingers = 4/5th of a hand, 5 fingers = 5/5th of a hand... and ending with 5/5th = 1 hand. Before doing the fingers as fractions, try to get something similar to what I used in my "fraction" exercises to help the child understand the concept of the part verses the whole.
In my opinion, once the child could see "parts" or "fractions" as entities in and of themselves, I suspected this would greatly help with many, many issues related to the sense of touch... and I prayed it would help many parents to finally be able to hold their little ones... and to finally move up to that all precious label of "hugging". :o)
Clearly defining the hand as an entity in and of itself, the pencil as an entity in and of itself, clothes as entities in and of themselves, etc., should help with issues of touch. I also encouraged parents to look at my sections on Fractions and on Using Pencils for more on how to define the hand in terms of "parts to the whole".
I found I had to give Zachary time to familiarize himself with anything new in life... everything from clothing to pencils to new foods. In my opinion, this "familiarization process" he always went through was simply his way of trying to make sense of new "parts" in his world... yet another coping mechanism used by the autistic child. This familiarization process was necessary because if a child had difficulty perceiving the parts to the whole, then the act of placing anything on the child himself, be that clothing, a pencil in his hand, etc., by definition, introduced a new "part" to his body... one he was unable to understand and cope with... one he was unable to separate in terms of "what belonged to him" verses "what was a separate entity" in and of itself... because once these "parts" (the pencil and the hand, the body and the clothes, etc.) touched the autistic child, they became part of the "whole" – a part of him - that needed to be understood. Unless the "parts" were well defined, the autistic child would experience frustration and distress as a result of his inability to properly perceive and cope with the parts that made up the whole.