Saturday, August 07, 2010

Let's do the twist!

Jennica is a "twister."  And I don't mean tornado.  She is a hair twister.

The hair-twisting started at age 3 or 4.  For awhile, we obsessed that it was a "stim."  I still wonder at times, but our occupational therapist and neurologist have both observed and stated that she is NOT stimming by twisting.  Okay??

At age four, she twisted so hard for a time that she ended up with a bald spot.  When Mike took a photo of the back of her head one night and showed her, she was appalled.  So she stopped twisting to the degree that she was yanking hair out.  But the twisting didn't stop.

And then last year, for a few months, the twisting ceased for no discernible reason.  But it came back. 

She twists with her left hand.  She twists with her right hand.  Sometimes, she twists with both hands at once until she has little "devil horns" sticking up on both sides of her head.  For a child that already struggles with handwriting skills, trying to write and twist at the same time definitely doesn't help. 

We're going through another phase right now where we're trying to discourage the twisting.  So progress.  Sigh.

I guess from an objective standpoint, there are worse nervous/anxious habits than hair-twisting.  Any suggestions from parents out there on how to overcome this? 


Martianne said...

No suggestions, but it made me recognize my own (former) tendency. I used to not only twist my hair a lot, but kind of suck on it, too. I am not sure when I stopped. I think college. By, I did.

Good luck!

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Lucas's Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder

KDL said...

My daughter did/does this, too. She started twisting her hair as soon as it was long enough to twist (18 months or so), with the most intense period being from age 2 to 4. She still does it every once in a while and it always signals to me that she is feeling anxious/overwhelmed about something. I noticed one day that I play with my hair, too, when I'm trying to figure something out, but I usually just run my fingers through, or maybe make a ponytail, then let it fall out...I don't know if that is a milder version of the same thing. My daughter used to twist her hair up so much, all over her head that it was like dreadlocks and often I would spend 30 minutes in the morning combing it out. I think the thing that made her stop (mostly) was that one day she decided to cut her hair by herself. In order to "rescue" her hair the stylist had to give her a very short pixie cut. It was quite simply too short to twist. Drastic measure, I know, and not one I would have taken but for how hideous her hair looked. It has taken a year for her hair to grow back to a length that can do a ponytail without looking silly. Along the way she learned not to cut her hair, and that she doesn't like short hair, so I've told her that she can grow it as long as she wants as long as she takes care of it. That means if I call her on the twisting she knows that's not taking care of her hair, and it means combing it herself and not arguing about washing it. It is a powerful motivator on many levels - but again not something I would've considered short of necessity.

BTW - I don't know if it's related, but she also used to pull other people's hair a lot, and hard, as a way to get attention (yeah - not fun!). She has also (thankfully) moved beyond that, too.