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Friday, August 31, 2012

Double OCD

At our house, when there is an issue involving one person who has OCD or anxiety, and the issue is directly related to these diagnoses, that person wins. Say Jonah feels too anxious to sleep and needs the closet light on, then the light goes on and Aidan (who shares a room with Jonah) has to deal with it. When one boy with OCD has to sit in a particular chair in the family room, the brother who is not obsessing about chairs will usually move. When Ella has to line up all her puzzle pieces in a certain order, the brother who is doing puzzles with her has to wait until she is done. We try to respect each other and our individual needs. We try to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, realizing that we are each different and we each have our own particular (quirky) ways of doing things.

There have been times when two of the kids have OCD about doing the same thing but in different ways. This has proved to be very interesting to work through. Usually the kid with the strongest opinion (quirk) about something wins his way of doing it. What do you do when two kids are equally adamant that they do something different ways?

The other day, Ella and Aidan were in the PT gym at the Therapy Tree, our amazing clinic that serves all our needs as a family, and individually. The gym is enormous, with every kind of swing, ball, climbing structure, trampoline, toy you can imagine. It’s an SPD kid’s dream come true. So my two kids were having a joint OT/PT session, and were on the trampoline together. There is a wall hanging next to the trampoline that has Velcro figures attached to it. There are four rows of four figures, all from Disney movies.

Aidan and Ella played with their therapist, making a game out of throwing the figures onto the trampoline and jumping around them. When it was time to clean up, Aidan started to arrange the figures in each row based on what movie they were from. The first row was “Toy Story”, the second row “The Lion King”, etc. It ended up that in one case there were five figures from one movie, and three from another. Aidan was upset because he rigidly wanted all the figures from each movie in their own row. So, using his creativity, he hung two figures by their tails on one Velcro dot, leaving the last Velcro dot empty. This way he accomplished his goal of having all the movie characters from each movie together.

Ella was beside herself with agitation. She wanted all the Velcro dots filled, she didn’t care about the fact that each figure was a character from a particular movie. She insisted, in her rigid way, that each figure go on its own Velcro dot. World War III ensued between my two children, each being unable to be flexible about how the figures were put away.

I let the kids try to work the issue out on their own for a few minutes, but every time Ella put a figure on each dot, Aidan would hang the two figures from the same movie back on one dot. I decided to intervene, but wasn’t sure what to do or whose OCD to give in to. My creative solution was to let Aidan put the toys away the way he wanted, then ask him to run across the room to hold the door open for us (it’s a heavy door, so I knew it would take him a minute). Then I secretly let Ella take the toys off and put them away the way she wanted. Aidan was happy because he got his way AND got to open a door- a big deal at our house- and Ella was happy because she got her way too. Whew. Crisis averted. It’s interesting when things like this happen and I have to figure out ways to meet everyone’s needs or make everyone happy. Sometimes you have to think outside the box.