Monday, May 3, 2010

Box o' Tricks

So, after reading that book, Stay Out of My Hair, I found myself suddenly motivated and excited to try a different approach with Annabelle and her hair-pulling. Having come to the conclusion that for her, the habit is composed of two elements - tactile and self-soothing - it seems like the best approach to take at this point is to attempt to redirect the behavior by giving her other things to get those needs met. This is clearly going to be a path of trial and error; the stuffed lambs I gave her a couple weeks ago didn't work out. For whatever reason, they just weren't interesting enough to her and she didn't develop any kind of attachment to them.

I went on a little shopping adventure this weekend, specifically looking for things for Annabelle's hands. The main element I was looking for was tactile. I wanted a variety of objects with interesting feels and textures - things that will hold her interest and keep her hands busy during times when she's likely to mess with her hair. Here's what I came up with (it was actually kind of fun!) -

  • Silly putty
  • Chenille stems
  • Pom-poms
  • Feathers
  • A plastic lei
  • A Kooshie ball
  • Pink scrubber gloves
  • Beads and string
And a pretty box to put it all in (well, not all of it, just a few things at a time):

Before I presented the box to her, I sat down and had a little talk with her. I told her that she's not in trouble, that I'm not mad, but that I wanted to talk to her about her hair-pulling. I told her that no matter what, Daddy and I love her very, very much, and that she's a beautiful little girl no matter what her hair looks like. I told her that I understand that it's very hard for her to not play with her hair, and that's okay, but if she'd like to try and work on not doing it, I'd like to try to help. And if not, that's okay, too.

(All the while, hoping it didn't sound like a rehearsed speech; I mean, I meant everything I said, but I was trying very hard to say the right things, or at least to not say the wrong things.)

She was game. And she was very excited about the box of stuff. I wanted to give her a variety of things so she won't become bored with any of it. I didn't give her the box outright; I'm keeping control of it because I don't want to see it become one more thing to be scattered all over the house like all the other toys and things. My thinking is that this is Annabelle's Special Box of Stuff. Which, of course means that the other kids got pissed off that Annabelle got some new things and they didn't.

I told her she can have one thing at a time (and not when she's running around playing, but when she's got downtime, which is when she pulls). At first, she went through every object in the box very quickly; about every five minutes she was coming to me wanting to put whatever she had back in the box so she could try something new. Which was tiring, but I stuck with it. The Silly Putty was a big hit, but it ended up smooshed into the carpet, so that's history (no big surprise there; it was worth a shot, though). She seems to have settled on the Kooshie Ball, which is in the likeness of a pig and she has named it Oinkie. And I have to say, it is really fun to squeeze and play with.

So, we'll see where this takes us. The book made a very important point, and that is that praise and rewards should be given for using alternative strategies, not for not pulling hair. So I'm trying really hard not to focus on her hair.

Stay tuned.


Cate said...

that's very cool.

hey, I get catalogs from this place:

which has a whole section on sensory stuff. If you're looking for further ideas, they might have some.

(I think I recycled the last one I got, otherwise I'd send it to you)

diane rene said...

sounds like a good idea, Lisa! let me know how it works :)

does annabelle pull at school? falyse doesn't seem to, so obviously she is busy enough throughout the day to not need it. I just have no idea how I will keep her time that structured at home.