I can’t count how many times Olivia asks that question. She asks it of me, of Tom and even of Alyssa, in hopes that someone, anyone will tickle her.
Before my weekend in Phoenix, I thought maybe Olivia was looking for an excuse to sit on my or Tim’s lap and just be near us.
After my weekend in Phoenix, I realize that when she asks us to tickle her, Olivia is actually asking for sensory input. She’s feeling a need and the only way she knows to ask for it to be fulfilled is to ask us to tickle her. She wants to sit next to (or on) someone, feeling their warmth, their strength, and she wants, or needs us to touch her, to tickle or scratch or even brush her skin. She’s asking for tactile sensory interaction without using those words.
I figured that out during one of the amazing sessions I attended a couple of weeks ago. Barbara C. was awesome as she explained that kids with sensory issues sometimes need more input than others in order to figure out their place in the space around them.
Sounds weird, huh? But sometimes, kids (and even adults) can feel lost in the space around them. Sensory input grounds them, makes them more aware of their bodies and how they fit into space.
This weekend when Olivia asked me to tickle her, I did. I sat with her and I let her lay across my lap. I tickled her back and her neck and her tummy. I tickled her feet and knees as she squealed and laughed. Part of this interaction, I know, was just her wanting to be near me, both of us concentrating on the other in that moment, but the other part was her need for sensory input and I was glad to give her that.
Later, I explained to Tom and Alyssa what I’d learned, how this helped Olivia get through her day. They both nodded like I was crazy but then watched Olivia calmly go about her business after a bout of tickling.
I’m so grateful for the session because I think it makes me a better mom. It helps me provide what Olivia needs when she asks for things like this. It also helps me understand that when she finds a quiet corner into which she can huddle, she’s looking to eliminate sensory stimulation. I can help her calm her senses when I know that’s what she needs.
All this to say, sometimes, when Mom goes away, she comes home with some awesome tools to make life better for everyone in the family.