Hand Obsession

Ohhhh Man!  He is driving me nuts!  He is driving me crazy!  He is driving me bonkers!

How can this

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totally adorable child possibly be driving me over the edge you ask?

It is his obsession with my HANDS.  Sounds a little strange doesn’t it?

Where did it come from?  I don’t know.  When did it start?  I cannot remember distinctly, but I know it’s been going on for months, and months, and months.  Many months.  I know it was happening at the end of the school year in the spring because we wrote it into his Functional Behavior Assessment.

It may have started back in January when he began calling his awesome preschool teacher the “big hand teacher” and was resisting hand over hand help.  It has progressed into something much bigger.  It has become a persistent, preoccupation with my hands.  It seems obsessive to me.

He is always conscious of where my hands are, what they are doing, if they are cold, if they are holding something, if they are in my pockets, if I am writing, if I am wearing something like gloves (to clean), or mittens, etc.  He wants me to position them certain ways when I’m resting one hand on the counter while I use the other to stir sauce, brush my teeth, or comb my hair.  Also, he calls them “white hands.”  Which sounds like he understands color in terms of race, but he doesn’t, we’ve never discussed ethnicity with him.  And he says it very drawn out “wwhhhyyyyiiiiiiitttteee  haaaaaaands” so I know he is not referring to the fact that I happen to be a Caucasian woman.  He also calls me a “wwhhyyyyiiiiiiitttteee Mooooooommiiieeee” so I think it has more to do with the way the words sound as he says them, and possibly to be annoying.  He says other things in that drawn out way.  Like when he calls me a “doooooogggggiiiieeee.”  Nice.

So, not only is he overly conscious of where my hands are and what they are doing, he is always touching them, squeezing them, or putting my hand on his neck and then ramming his pointy little chin down on the back of my bony, skinny hand, which I have to say is slightly painful.  Finally, the one thing that annoys me the most, he puts his mouth on the back of my hand, sometimes slobbering on it, sometimes rubbing his lips back and forth over the skin.  It happens whenever my hands are in reach of his mouth, which is quite frequently given that he never leaves my side when we are in the house (unless he is watching a show or in the bath tub, sigh…).

Earlier in the year I thought this was really becoming an obsession, something he wasn’t totally in control over, and I was slightly worried about it.  Now, I really think he is doing it for the attention.  For the negative reaction I eventually give him (yanking my hand away, sighing loudly, making my mad Mommy face, etc.) which makes him smile that evil, adorable, devilish smile and laugh at me!  I am frustrated.  This hand obsession is really bothering me and he knows it.  He even said to me yesterday “I’m driving Mommy bonkers!!” when I ripped my hand out of his grasp after he slobbered on it.  Then he said “I’m obsessed with Mommy’s hands.”  Sigh.  He’s totally doing it for the attention.  Which I cannot understand because this kid gets all of my attention!  If he’s home, he’s with me!  There are times when I have to answer the phone, read his communication book, or type a quick email and then it is 10 times worse, he’s grabbing at my hands and trying to get his mouth on them.  Sigh.

We’ve tried time-out, taking desserts away, taking other preferred activities away, yelling, as well as talking calmly about it NOT putting his mouth on my hand.  I tried really hard to ignore it and redirect, and only lasted a few hours.  I guess I just wasn’t strong enough and IT’S ANNOYING! Yesterday I even threatened to start giving him a piece of broccoli every time he started in on my hands.  He said “NO!” but I never did get out the dreaded broccoli.  This morning I tried to ignore him while he contorted his body to get his mouth on the back of my hand while I helped him get dressed.  He wasn’t too successful at getting what he wanted and so he reached over and jammed his finger up my nose…it took every ounce of my strength not to completely freak-out on him.  I have to be honest and admit that I YELLED at him to “STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” then I stomped down that stairs and he started to cry.  He knows he is bothering me with the hand stuff and he definitely knows that it is NOT okay to ram your finger up someones nose.

I am just at a loss as to what to do?

Any advice before I put my head through the wall in frustration?

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8 thoughts on “Hand Obsession

  1. Perhaps a bit of tabasco on the back of your hands might be a not so sweet surprise for him!

    Oh, and be glad the obsession is not with your butt!

    Love ya!

  2. I would suggest doing a social story about not grabbing other people’s hands and not putting his mouth on other people’s hands. Perhaps a visual reference that it is not okay to do these things will stick in his mind better. Nigel is very visual, so we did a ton of social stories when he was younger to try to help with his behavior. In the social stories, I always would give Nigel an alternative for the problem behavior. For instance, (in your case) instead of putting his mouth on someone’s hand, he can request something else to put in his mouth. Hope that helps!

  3. Wow. This would drive me bonkers too. I don’t know that I would’ve survived as long as you have.

    Tanya’s suggestion made me remember Jonathan about Roc’s age, maybe younger. He would lick everything. It would make me sick to see him lick the ordering counter at McDonalds or the sweater display at J.C. Penny’s or the windows at Wal-mart.

    The O.T. suggested Jonathan had a hypo-sensitivity in his mouth region and looking for sensory input. Since Jonathan liked spicy and crunchy foods, we made sure he got spicy and crunchy at every meal. We also started carrying around pretzels and crackers. When he licked something we’d give him these things.

    After a month of always having spicy and crunchy available to him, he stopped. However, even six years later, if we don’t serve something spicy and crunchy at the meal, he’s not satisfied that he’s “eaten.”

    Also, I’ve seen chew fidgets through O.T. catalogs. They are on necklaces so the kids can have them available at all times.

    Just an idea…not necessarily what is going on with Roc.

  4. Building off what Tanya said, maybe you could make a “bracelet” that has a visual reminder that it’s not okay to lick your hand, and has the alternative instead. Like maybe that he can kiss your hand, but not lick it.

    You know how preschool teachers wear the pecs visuals on a key ring at their waist, you could wear one of those on your wrist(s), with just the one or two visuals you need.

    We’ve had a lot of problems with Charlotte biting and it seems that the most effective thing has been the social story with the alternatives provided. I don’t have a visual reminder for her, just the story is hung up on the fridge where she sees it often.

    I could see you saying, “No licking, just kissing” and maybe that will break him of it.

    Good luck. I can imagine how frustrating this is!

  5. Ah, perseverations and obsessions/compulsions. gotta love them 🙂

    I have no advice, but would just like to offer my empathy! My daughter has a totally annoying (to me at least) habit of banging on everything constantly all day long, so it seems like someone is constantly knocking on your door… non-stop… all day. it drives me bonkers. It’s been going on for over 10 years! so, im in no position to give advice 🙂

    But, i know you’ll find a way to change this behavior into something positive through redirection, differential response of other or more appropriate behavior or just going berzerk. 🙂 He just needs a substitute obsession – one that drives you less crazy.

    ok, and he’s like so stinkin’ cute btw!! 🙂

  6. Oh, my. I couldn’t stand it either. Foster has oral sensitivities, and usually has something – pencil, toy, hands, whatever – in his mouth. We try to give his mouth “heavy work” to calm down the behavior. We have him slurp thick foods – pudding, applesauce – through a straw.

    The thing is, I don’t see this as sensory thing, so much as a behavior thing. And for that I really have no answer. You’re handling it much better than I would.

  7. Hand weights?

    I agree with Pixie. This seems like a behavior thing and not as much a sensory thing. The only thing I can think of is a token system and some grand, highly motivating reward if he doesn’t do it.

    I know it must be so annoying! Hang in there!

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