We were those parents who struggled nightly with trying to get our daughter to sleep. Facing the tantrums, the tears, the heart wrenching sobbing and the ear splitting screams. We faced the ever depresssing ebb and flow of emotions from anger to frustration to just total exhaustion.
As a parent I submitted to the specialists and did everything that they told me to do….religiously
No computers, TV, games console, phone, or any other electronic device
I went on sleep courses where I felt like a failure as the rules never seemed to apply to my daughter. It became frustrating and to be honest I stopped going as nothing was making any difference. Our daughter was stressed out and so was I.
Late one night while my daughter was still trying to go to sleep I was googling for help and advice. Firstly what strikes me is that a lot of the research and information available is based on studies in America. While speaking to parents over the years sleep problems are a significant issue here in Britain so why are the specialists here not better able to help us. Why are we given medication and told to get on with it? Why are we told to attend courses to teach us what we are already doing? When will doctors accept that for some children sleep is a real medical issue and not parents making up symptoms in the hopes of a quick cure to make our lives better??
While researching one sleep deprived, weary night I came across mentions of massage. This is something that I had never considered before but having come out the other side of relationship problems, feeling insecure but determined with the thought of doing something for myself appealing I booked onto an Indian Head massage course.
The course took 3 months to complete and with my daughters permission I used her as a case study. Well wow from the very first massage move my daughter was a little less tense, a little less stressed and that night along with her medication she went to bed and actually slept. Well like you I thought it was a fluke but as the course progressed and my skills became more fluent and skilled we noticed a big diffrence in bedtimes.
Don’t get me wrong massage is not a cure, sometimes it will work but others it won’t. The biggest thing for me is that it encourages the bond between me and my daughter. It’s time that we can spend together, relaxing. Massage also helps to relax me which in turn has a positive effect on my daughter. You see if I am angry and stressed she bounces off that, once I calm down I have noticed she does too.
How can I use massage at home….
Massage does not mean that you have to go and train. A massage could be a back rub, twirling hair at bedtime, it’s about positive touch. For those who would like a bit more structure then I recommend story massage. You can learn 10 simple massage moves that you can use with any song, story, rhyme and can be used anytime anywhere not just at bedtime. We use storey massage all the time from camping to the doctors. Massage can help reduce tension and stress, can help to calm and refocus and with the story massage you can have fun with your children creating massage stories and….
Best of all mums and dads your children can share a massage with you!!!
If you would like to find out more or just wants chat please do contact me
Story Massage…… a wonderful massage therapy based activity that can be shared by the whole family. Wether we are singing songs, nursery rhymes or just telling stories for the last two years Story massage has given my children so much joy for the spoken language as well as becoming the staple relaxation method used in our house.
Story massage was created by its founders Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper since 2007 to promote activities using positive touch within the home, school and wider field. These two amazing ladies run a training course which is where I first learnt how to blend 10 simple massage moves with stories. Story massage is used within some schools curriculum, care homes, respite, therapy session’s and by parents all over the world. Being such an adaptive skill set to have it can be used in any language and is especially wonderful to use with special needs and disabilities.
Two daughters who have a mild sensorineural hearing loss and as such the positive touch used in story massage and the contact means that they are able to hear and feel the story.
Another of my other daughters has a hearing loss and ADHD and I find that the end of the day s a great way of using story massage to wind down and aide with calming ready for sleep.
I also have a daughter with no hearing impairments or disabilities who is just a teenager and she loves to make up stories and show her skill’s.
There is no age limit, no discrimination just respect, relaxation and fun. A great activity that can be shared by all.
For me story massage has enable my children to not only learn to positively interact with each other but to also aide their speech and language skills, phonic’s, writing and story telling skills, their concentration, the ability to relax and focus, being able to learn about the environment around them and it is a skill that they will go on to use with their own children one day in the very distant future…..
I also find story massage is great to use as a rainy day activity, while waiting in queues, car journeys, talking about new and exciting subjects and at bedtime there is nothing like settling down to bed with a soothing massage to my off key tones of Lavenders blue, twinkle twinkle and other favourites.
With stories in mind there are some days when my daughter is a little more restless than usual and needs idea’s for a new and interesting story. We have the wonderful book from storymassage.co.uk which has nursery rhymes and stories with something for everyone and the massage moves are there for you which is a fantastic book to take out and about with you. Our’s travelled to Scotland last year where we enjoyed story massage camping style.
So always on the look out for innovative idea’s that I can use I was approached by a wonderful lady at Ignite Imagination’s . This lovely lady create’s wooden story cubes. I was sent a lovely bundle of 6 cubes, hand decorated with a picture on all 6 sides. Well my daughters love them!!!
they came in a handy drawstring bag
3cm cubed perfect for slipping in your handbag and don’t take up to much room
you are able to choose which themed cubes you would like
they are colourful and robust
provide endless material for fun stories
We have fairy tale characters, clothes, food and then three cubes with various object’s on them such as a ballon, car, shield, chair.
When I took them out of the bag my daughters aged 7 and 10 were there within minutes finding pen and paper, rolling the cubes and coming up with lovely stories to share. Here’s a story they made up using the cubes….
A unicorn imagined an egg (circle)
But she magicked a fried egg instead (drums)
Then she magicked some trouser’s and top (wave)
And decided to go pick some flowers ( sprinkle)
When it got dark, she magicked a light (fan)
And sat down to eat her egg ( calm)
Eliza Age 7
Using story massage as a daytime activity with the cubes has been great fun and something that I hope to share with other parent’s and children when sharing Story massage with them.
Sitting here listening to the steady beat of the raindrops outside I am transported to a place of quiet and relaxation and harmony. Hang on a minute its the half term holidays!!!!! whats going on even when my other three children are outside playing my daughter with ADD is always about hanging on my every word, movement, talking non stop, being bored wether she is medicated or not as she does not cope well with the change in routine that is the school holidays.
Panic stations creep in maybe she has gone outside without me knowing or maybe she is downstairs with the scissors for art and omg I left her unsupervised ARGH
Heart in mouth I literally leg it downstairs and then stop dead. When will I learn….its nothing bad. You see 30 minutes ago I came upstairs while she was starting another one of her art projects. Art is her passion she loves to draw and make and show. Biased mummy that I am I even have some of her pictures on the wall framed. So amongst the turbulent feelings that split second of realisation has caused I realise I left my daughter to do arts and crafts and as far as I know she is still there. Of course this does not stop the panic… having a child who is impulsive means hardly a minute goes by without me worrying what she is going to do next and even though she is nearly 11 that has not changed, factor in the memory, concentration and emotional factors of ADHD/ADD its hard to grasp this alien concept that means she can stay focussed and in one place for more than 5 minutes.
Whats this I hear you say….shes’s sitting still, concentrating, focused on one thing instead a myriad of different tasks in a matter of minutes. Maybe the ADD / ADHD is not there? Maybe its a misdiagnosis well no its actually something that is real and quite amazing and known by some as an ADHD super power…. Its called Hyperfocus…
“Hyper focus is the experience of deep and intense concentration in some people with ADHD. ADHD is not necessarily a deficit of attention, but rather a problem with regulating one’s attention span to desired tasks. So, while mundane tasks may be difficult to focus on, others may be completely absorbing”
I can see why this symptom of ADHD could be misinterpreted. Heck I didnt even know it existed until I started a course in ADHD awareness. I was never told by the ADHD nurse about Hyper focus. I spent moments grappling with my decision to medicate and attend appointment’s when this symptom popped up, was I wrong was she in fact fine and not have a neurodevelopment disorder?? I thought she was just being stubborn. Talk about learning something new everyday and giving your self a heart attack. There is no way I would have put Hyper focus as part of the ADHD.
What does Hyper focus mean for my daughter and us?
Firstly hyper focus affects us all. This peculiar symptom of ADHD can cause arguments and stress within the family. My daughter is so focussed on the task at hand that sometimes its a real struggle to get her to move onto something else. In the case of art work this is fine I don’t mind her doing art for as long as she likes as she is expressing herself and learning from the environment but its when the hyper focus gets stuck on things like the maths games on the laptop. Again you would not necessarily think that would be an issue but when she is so focussed on finishing first one level then the next and so on and so on it is very difficult to try and get her to relinquish the laptop so that she can do reading which is just as important for her to do as it builds her knowledge of language and aides her language skills. Plus she becomes completely shut of from the world around her and as the definition says very absorbed, yes she is quiet but she also can’t answer questions and can become angry and frustrated if the laptop is taken away as it is every evening at least an hour if not more before bed.
Hyper focus can be viewed by some as an amazing ability and it is when its in the right context and its something that empowers my daughter. The amazing confidence and love that she has for the art that she does is an amazing thing. There are times that I love to sit and watch the magic take hold of her. Watching a picture emerge and seeing the focus and dedication she gives the project to make it the best she can is amazing. But for those of us around a child or adult who has it its also frustrating, annoying, upsetting, it winds up siblings, it quite frankly winds me up sometimes. Nasty arguments that can start as a result of someone trying to join in with my daughter are not for the faint hearted. Its almost like she is startled out of a trance and that invokes all sorts of feelings to bubble up due to the interruption, her concentration is broken and it can feel like hell on earth.
So Super power or not?
I think that it is a super power if it can be directed in a positive way but as with everything there will be days when the super power strikes and its the villain not the hero who has come out to play and to be honest i am not sure how I really feel about that…..
When it comes to therapies in my mind the best ones are the Holistic ones. In situations where your child’s disability is not deemed significant enough for therapies through the health care system or if alternative treatment options are not offered or available Holistic massage is an avenue I would recommend. Massage is a fabulous therapy suitable for nearly all. Massage therapies are about healing the body and the mind using positive touch to receive tension and relax allowing the body to heal itself.
They have not only helped my children in ways explained below but they have also given me a purpose, something to concentrate on and a way to contribute to other parents and children living with disabilities.
As a parent trying to do the best for my children is always at the top of my list. I am their protector, their teacher as well as their mother. For me having disabled children has had a profound effect on who I have grown to become. Before the disabilities I worked full time, I then had children and went back to work part time. Work fitted around children until it came to the point where work no longer fitted around the myriad of hospital appointments. After finding Holistic therapies I decided to train in Holistic Massage with the main purpose being to aide mine and other children and their families .
As a parent I had never really considered the benefits of massage before, I used to have reflexology on my feet whilst pregnant but that was as far as my knowledge went although I was always intrigued as to how a therapist could tell I had a bad back from my feet and I always found it relaxing and felt better in myself afterwards. Massage has long been documented as having a profound positive effect on the mind and body as far back as 3000 years especially in the East.
So when I felt lost in a world of confusion and loneliness I began researching how best to help my child diagnosed with ADD while trying to understand what the diagnosis meant for my daughter. One answer that kept coming back was Holistic therapies and how the benefits of massage could really help with some of the symptoms. As a parent and a Therapist I have found the main benefits of Holistic and Indian head massage for a child with ADD are:
calming, aides deeper relaxed breathing
relaxes stiff, tired, tense muscles
There are lots more benefits for massage but for a child with ADD these are the most important benefits that they can receive from Holistic massage. My daughter has had regular holistic massage now for two years and while it is by no means a cure it has helped her considerably in times where nothing else has worked. Massage relaxes and calm’s which when you are on the go all the time and your mind struggles to switch off can be a god send. By relaxing and being able to settle her mind my daughter finds that her concentration unmedicated can improve as well as her overall wellbeing. I have found that my daughter can hold a lot of tension in her shoulders which leads to back and neck pain and headaches. Since having regular massage these symptoms have almost disappeared. Don’t get me wrong there are some days where massage just does not work or it can take an hour just to get her to sit still long enough but once she does the benefits far outweigh the negatives. My daughter is never forced to have a massage it is her choice and one that even as a parent I ask her permission. As a therapist I am client led which means I follow their lead.
Massage should never been seen as something to be forced into but as a choice that the child can make for themselves. This chance to make a choice themselves empowers them and can lead to increased confidence.
Another great therapy that we have found works well is Story Massage. This is where we put 10 easy and simple massage moves to her favourite songs and stories and the effects are positively fab!!! This type of Massage therapy is one the whole family can get involved with and can have a positive effect on family relationships especially the relationship between siblings which can be charged and strained at best. It gets the whole family having fun while using positive touch to bond. Something which can be difficult in todays society. Story massage also gives my daughter a voice, a way to channel her feelings and it enables her to tell me stories she has made up or how she is feeling as she is talking while giving me a massage……yes mums can have a story massage too!!!!
There are some days when I feel at my worst and I don’t understand why my daughter has ADD, or why she suffers with anxiety or even why my children were born with a hearing loss so how can I expect my other children to understand?
I have talked previously about the often turbulent and volatile relationship between siblings when one has ADD but after a week now of daily tip tapping, swearing and screaming I feel like I am at my wits end. My ADD daughter is the third of four children. All girls!! I will not say it’s an easy task raising girls but I try to do my best. What I mostly struggle with is the relationship my daughter has with her sisters. Some days I blame myself and find it hard to come to terms with the idea that my children have difficulties and other days I manage to brush myself down and get on with parenting but my other daughters find it hard to process their sisters behaviour and they can not understand why (L) is the way she is.
I make excuses like she can’t help it
I try and ignore the behaviour which mostly just fuels further arguments with my eldest daughters
I find myself shouting and screaming at the wrong child
I blame all bad behaviour on her disability when sometimes it isn’t
I cry and get angry which then upsets all my children
It’s on these darker days that the behaviour and symptoms of ADD become more apparent especially before the medication starts to work. For two hours before school there is arguing,shouting, screaming, objects flying and general put your hands over your ears din. Some mornings I do not even want to get out of bed. With three children trying to get ready for school and one who is being disruptive, its mayhem and can resemble a battle field…..Yes girls can fight like cats and dogs and its not a pretty sight!!!
I feel so emotionally shattered by the time my children walk into school other parents must wonder what a miserable women I am!
The older the kids get, the harder it’s becoming to be a mum. Its harder to contain arguments, disagreements and fighting especially when two of your daughters are the same height as you…There is also no negotiating with a child who neither understands, remembers or processes what you say. My ADD daughter finds it increasingly difficult to navigate the sibling situation. She is either going of the deep end at them, annoying them or being mean to them or she gets upset because they don’t want to play with her. I can’t blame them (L) may have forgotten that book she threw at them this morning or the slap she gave them but my other three do not forget and they don’t seem to forgive either. Some days I do all I can to limit the stress caused by them.
I have to split them up, give them different directions!! I often feel like I am waving my arms around like an Orchestra Conductor.
The guilt sets in about how my other children are coping with having a sister with difficulties/disabilities. On the outside they seem to cope well but the signs are there like yelling at me that its not fair. Life isn’t fair its hard work as there is no rule book, guide book or instruction manual. Some top tips I have learnt along the way
Give all of your children at least 15 minutes in an evening by themselves either talk about their day or do some reading. I have found this makes them feel important its not easy as you may get interrupted but persevere.
cooking….I try to involve the older ones in cooking for everyone. It gets them out of the firing line for a while and makes them feel involved.
always hug and kiss your children anytime anywhere. Make sure they know even if they have been naughty that you love them
sleep overs / days out…for the siblings of a child with ADD/ADHD family life can be hard for them. If at all possible arrange a day out or a sleepover for them with friends or family. It will give them time out and an escape especially if its been a stressful week.
Find an activity that everyone can enjoy. We use Story Massage a lot in our house for almost every situation. Story massage promotes relaxation, fun, concentration and it can also calm and bring everybody together.
Go for a walk. I find even just going around the block can clear the air and relieve some excess energy.
Phew now I have written it down I may go have a cry and then brush myself down do some breathing and release the Stress and tension.Even on a bad day I never hate my children or myself and neither should you. Feel free to get in touch with me
Ha Ha I love this heading I think its well apt for how I feel massage has helped me with coping with the day to day life, drama and ups and downs of raising a nearly 10 year old with ADD and hearing loss. Hope you enjoy reading as always any comments, feedback very welcome, at the end of the day I am just a mum like you x
Touch…. What is meant by touch?
The media portray touch as sensational headlines made to sell newspapers and get you watching the news. It’s deemed inappropriate, something we should never do, something we should get in trouble for. It’s almost a taboo subject. My six year old daughter came home yesterday and told me that the teachers are no longer allowed to apply suncream? my first thought was thats just stupid…. but this is how our society is going.
The thing is human beings need touch. We are a very touch sensitive race. We find comfort and warmth, love and support in touch. We communicate with touch, we express our feelings through touch. We bond through touch… How could this be wrong? The sad answer is in lots of ways. There are so many bad things in the world that for many of us we are unsure what is right or wrong which is making it all the more harder for us parents. Any child needs to feel love and a connection with another human how can that ever be deemed wrong? My children who have hearing loss have already lost the full use of that sense making touch, sight and smell all the more important for them. What happens if touch becomes taboo…. we will no longer be able to hug our own children, tend to their cuts or help them through the power of touch. How will massage therapists like myself use massage to aide and help those if touch is no longer allowed? Its all very scary and confusing as a parent but here is my take on how positive touch could help you and your children x
As an Indian head massage therapist one of the first things I learnt was the history of Indian head massage. Families, barbers ect in India use massage in everyday daily lives. The whole family gets involved from grandparents and the elderly to new babies, toddlers and everyone in between. As well as the massage benefits touch is an important part of family bonding, promoting respect and spending time together.
For us as a family this is where massage now plays a huge part. There is now a lot of research out there on the internet about the benefits of massage for ADHD / ADD and similar conditions. It was due to this research that I decided to train in Indian head massage and story massage. I could go into great detail and post excerpts from these studies but instead as a mother not a research specialist and having hands on experience of everyday living with a child I decided some weeks ago to write what I know.
My main use of massage is at bedtime. My daughter has a drug called liquid melatonin which for her at the minute is the only medication that allows her to have a modicum of sleep. Trust me we have tried and sort medication as a last resort. Before she was medicated we were up until the early hours with a very awake child. Taking it in turns almost in shift patterns, trying to keep the noise down and just simply trying to be a family. Eventually though our other children were starting to suffer the effects of sleeplessness due to their sister. Tempers were becoming frayed, the house was a tense environment and became a home that no one wanted to come back too. Nothing could and still doesn’t sometimes now get her to sleep.
I use to become frustrated and angry because I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t just go to sleep like her sisters. Part of me in a way still feels that I really don’t understand what is going on. We are in the middle of trying to get more information from the specialists but as with anything it’s a long drawn out process. So for now we have to do our best. we medicate her. I as a mother give my child medicine that makes her sleepy even if she doesn’t want to be sleepy. When I say its bedtime it really is bedtime for her. There is no happy medium, its not a joke and its not the easiest thing to do. Watching your child succumb to the effects of drugs is never an easy thing to watch. It does not make me feel good inside to measure out the medication….I am not secretly inside doing a victory dance because tonight I know she will get at least 6 hours sleep. The reality is so much harder to bare.
So bedtime is the main area where we struggle. We have a checklist that we have to methodically stick to :
There’s no electrical devices of any sort an hour before bed. This is to try and help the melatonin produced in the brain do its job.
15, 10,5 minute warnings – this count down ensures the least amount of possible arguing. Our daughter can not be rushed so this helps her to keep track of the time.
medication and snack
Upstairs, wash, dress, teeth
Into bed – check all teddies, blankets are there
read a story
5 – 10 minute massage – in bed where she then does not have to be disturbed.
Maybe 7 – 8 times out of 10 massage is the key to getting our daughter to relax just enough to help the medication do its job. But massage is not a cure. It’s not a fail safe! It’s not a miracle cure. So why do we do it? Because even when you can’t see results massage has helped in some way, it allows our daughter to interact and to feel safe and happy. Its almost like when you swaddle a baby and they feel calmer and content. Its the same with our daughter and massage. We now use massage in so many aspects of her life its almost become a comfort blanket. If she is feeling anxious 5 minutes of massage can make her feel a little better and thats the best that I as a mother can hope for. Its what we do….We find ways of helping our children and making them happy. I feel great achievement if our daughter can manage to sit still for 10 minutes and relax with a massage. I also feel that as her care giver it has strengthened our bond. My voice through story massage can quite often bring her back to herself. A simple story can help her calm herself but also help her with language and counting and just making sense of the world around her.
Back to massage…..
Generally we do 15 minutes of massage every night. I use story massage which is a great way to interact with your child while keeping them engaged. Blending stories, songs or nursery rhymes with simple,gentle, relaxing massage moves promotes relaxation. The massage eases tense muscles and calms the mind while at the same time strengthening the bond between myself and my daughter. Story massage is a great way to end the day. It’s soothing and can be done while my daughter is laid in bed. Twinkle twinkle little star up her arm is her favourite at the minute.
This massage is especially important after a particularly stressful episode. Massage and my voice is sometimes the only way I can get through to my daughter. It can calm her, get her to refocus on the here and now and also get her attention away from whatever caused the problem in the first place.
The way I see it is when I was pregnant I spoke to my bump. I imagine lots of other mothers did this too. Once my daughter was born having failed the new born hearing screening after two years she was diagnosed with hearing loss. Although it took two years for her to get her hearing aids the close contact and endless talking to her ensured we had a strong bond. So she knew my voice. Once the symptoms of ADD started to present themselves aged 2.5 years I figured that on some level she knows my voice and that I am a safe zone. A part of her brain can recognise that I am not a threat and even though her body language is saying one thing generally I am able to calm her down by talking and singing. This can be really hard when she is shouting and swearing at me but I have to persevere. If I can’t look after my own child who else is going to?
Part of this also means that she feels she can take all her anger and frustration out on me as well but that’s for another time.
So when using story massage in a stressful situation it can help to calm and refocus my daughter as she can hear and recognise my voice. Also by telling a story or singing a song there is no room for me to shout or get angry. Have you tried to tell a story while your angry? I have….. By the end I was laughing and so was my husband because it just sounded funny.
Story massage is simple. There is no right or wrong way. It’s all about sharing positive touch with your children. Promoting respect at the same time as being creative and fun. For those with Autism, Anxieties learning disabilities or who just don’t like to be touched all can join in and enjoy the benefits of story massage. You see story massage could be used to promote touch resulting in self confidence. It gives children the chance to be a part of the massage. They can write their own stories, they can join in with siblings or they can share a massage with mum or dad. My own children have endless fun writing their own stories and one of my daughters loves to give massages. She picked up the massage moves easily, as did my 6 year old. Visit http://www.storymassage.co.uk
Indian head massage is reserved for once a week. Concentrating on the upper back, shoulders, neck scalp and face Indian head massage is gentle and a seated massage. The treatment usually lasts 30 minutes. My children all love having a massage. The benefits are lovely.
If you want to find out more then please get in touch. I currently offer sessions in Norfolk to parents, care givers or anyone who wants to learn. To find out more http://www.marshamholistictherapy.co.uk