As we approach the arrival of Fall, I looked in Jack’s closet to assess his winter clothes. There I saw it – last year’s Super Why! costume that Jack refused to wear.
I was so excited to buy that costume last year. Jack was well in the midst of his current fixation with Super Why! and letters, so I was more than happy to provide a costume that might pique his interest. Halloween is a difficult enough holiday for our kids, and maybe something as motivating as Super Why! would be the key to him enjoying the night.
It wasn’t to be. Jack screamed when he felt the material. He flailed and melted down, which made putting the costume on him next to impossible. Even the feel of it on his foot was enough to set him off. Reluctantly, I put the costume away for the year and bought him a pair of skeleton pajamas that would not be so offensive to his senses.
The obsession with Super Why! is far from over in our house. We’ve been going strong on Super Why! for over a year. Since the costume was slightly too large for Jack last year, I shelved it in hopes that this year would be better. We tried the costume a couple of days ago with the same effect as last year – screaming, screaming, and more screaming.
Far from ready to give up on a costume that I knew would be very motivating, I approached the situation in a new way. Like Dr. Psych has said to do, I approached the situation like a sensory detective. What was it about this situation that sent Jack’s anxiety sky-high with a costume that should have delighted him?
Brian noted that Jack seemed upset when the Velcro was opened. The Velcro on his costume is loud – very loud – so I decided that it might be better to open the Velcro closures in another room where he couldn’t hear it.
We also knew that Jack couldn’t stand the feel of the cheap Nylon material of the costume. Unfortunately, there is little I could do about that. They don’t make a 100% cotton version of it, and I’m not so great with a sewing machine yet.
But…I could block his skin from touching the fabric. I could keep his socks on so that he couldn’t feel the Nylon with his feet. I could keep something thin and soft – like his pajamas – on him so that he couldn’t feel the Nylon against his skin. I would also just ditch the idea of him wearing the mask.
I set about my grand experiment on Monday morning, which was a school holiday, and it worked. Did you hear that?!? IT WORKED! We went from a child who screamed when it first touched his foot to this…
And if he looks wary of the situation, we soon got this…
And the tentative smile you see above later morphed into this…
And the ultimate feeling of satisfaction in the battle of Jack versus the costume…Jack won!
The take-home lesson from this exercise is that Jack didn’t conquer his sensory issues. We didn’t conquer his sensory issues. They were still there, raging on, but we found a way to make it work. We adapted the situation and took into account his sensory needs and only by doing so did we find a way to help Jack enjoy his costume.
It showed us yet again that there will be no winners if we fight his sensory needs. We must work with them and consider how he experiences the world. I can’t expect him to always adapt to the world; I must adapt the world to him.
So, fists up in the air, Jack! You should feel great! I’m pumping my fists right along with you.