Tomorrow J and I are off to Butlins at Bognor Regis on the West Sussex coast. This is hardly the Seychelles but for J it will be heaven. J and I are going alone as his Dad has to work during next week so cannot join us. This means that I will have to develop the proverbial "eyes in the back of my head" with J whose senses will be overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds and sensations.
My main anxiety is other children. J loves being with other children and enjoys actively trying to make friends. However, because J is fairly sensitive to touch it means that he can sometimes be "over the top" during play. On occasions this has meant that other children have found him rough - even though he has not meant to be. J struggles with waiting his turn although he is starting to develop more awareness of this. However, it still remains a problem at times - when Lara (our OT) observed him in school she noticed an occasion in the school playground where J pushed his way past another child to get onto the climbing frame first. Not surprisingly that child retaliated by pushing J off the climbing frame - cue tears and a need for reassurance. What Lara felt though was that J had been completely unaware of what he had done and was therefore unable to comprehend the actions of the other child.
Likewise today I took J to an indoor soft play warehouse. With his need for movement and some obvious pent up energy I thought a blast around the play equipment would be helpful. Off we went and at 9.30am were the first customers of the day. Some minutes later a family arrived with two children - one of whom was having a birthday party at the venue. Over the next 30 minutes many more children arrived and J was in heaven with lots of prospective playmates.
Several times I heard the birthday girl begin crying having been pushed past, knocked over etc etc. Although I did not see J actually do any of these things due to the difficulty of seeing through the gaps in various equipment I am quite aware that at times he simply does not realise that he's pushing past, pushing, being rough etc, so I began to keep an observant eye on proceedings - as did the birthday girl's Mum. A few moments later J came down the big slide and was approached by the birthday girl's Mum. Now birthday girl's Mum was perfectly nice to J and just said "I hope you're not making my little girl cry because it's her birthday today and we have to be nice to people on their birthday". J denied that he had made her cry and then ran off to another bit of equipment. I felt uneasy and started watching even more closely but J stayed away from the birthday girl after this. However, some 20 minutes later I heard birthday girl dissolve into tears again - now J was nowhere near her at this point and she pointed out another little boy as having upset her. Nevertheless within moments J was by my side and saying "I'm scared and I want to go home". I asked J why he was scared but he couldn't say - later when we were in the car he said that he was "frightened because the little girl was crying" and "I thought I had hurt her".
Such is the effect his SPD has on him that he evidently feels that even if he's not aware of it - sometimes he upsets people. I feel sad about this as he is such a friendly little boy who loves other children - I worry that this open friendly approach to other children will be lost along with self esteem.
So - understandably I am nervous about the holiday but excited too. J will have such fun - and some one to one time with his Mum who loves him the most in the world. I plan on taking him swimming every day as he loves being in the water and also to the fitness sessions - there is even football coaching if he wants to do this.
More than anything else though I am looking forward to just cuddling up with him at night. We took a late booking and the room we have only has a double bed - just big enough for J and me, some popcorn and the portable DVD player.
When we return there will be Lara's report and then probably some private individual OT sessions along with some techniques we can put into practice at home. All these things will - I hope - help J as he goes into the next school year.