Hugs & Kisses, XOXO

I love puppets, always have.  There is just something magical about fabric that is created into a doll or figure of a person or creature that is moved by strings attached to its limbs, or by a hand inserted in its cloth body.  Some of my most favorite puppets are the famously, world-renown Muppets® that were characters on best-loved TV shows from my childhood.
The magic of puppets is in our special talent as humans to use imagination to disconnect the reality of what we know & see, that a person is manipulating the doll with their hand and using their voice to speak for the puppet, and replace that notion with the AWE of fantasy & creativity that allows the doll to become alive, to be an individual as real as you or I.  Our imagination becomes a bridge between fantasy & reality and allows us to suspend the disbelief long enough to overlook the implausibility of the narrative.
Children are very good at doing just this.  Their innocence & lack of understanding of how the world works allows them to not be too critical of “flaws” of a non-realistic nature in characters or storylines.  This lets them receive maximum fulfillment from the imaginary interaction, as it is essential for the enjoyment of fiction to be able to achieve this state of mind.  As adults we tend to suppress this ability and lose this level of enjoyment, if we don’t relax our rigid standards of reality, to take a break & allow our imaginations free every once in a while.
Unfortunately, many children on the autism spectrum are not as developed at doing pretend play as well as neuro-typical children can.  Imaginary play seems to draw a lot of our social skills, and obviously, that is where the greatest challenge for Autistics dwells.  Many therapies deal with teaching, or encouraging pretend play skills for those with autism.  The imagination is there, it just needs help to be brought out and to be cultivated.

Why am I sharing this?  Because of a milestone.  Because of how a puppet & imagination helped my toddler to connect and to grow.  Because he overcame an obstacle that had trapped him physically/mentally with the help from some fleece material shaped like a doll, and stuck on a hand.   It is an awesome accomplishment. I am proud of him for reaching it, and I gotta shout it!

Life can be very challenging (if it weren’t I think it would be quite boring).  We all have obstacles in our paths, but we can overcome them.  I see life’s challenges as learning tools.  They can push us to grow & stretch ourselves, and though we may not always physically beat them while we are here on earth, we can “overcome” them with the correct focus/mindset. We CAN learn from everything, even our limitations, as long as we have the right foundation.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  -Bible, Matthew 7:25

With every obstacle we push through or every challenge we take on, we become stronger and more prepared for the next one. Being afraid to try is the only failure, not the falling down (as long as we get back up).  A very, good quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, reminds me how we should approach things that seem too hard to accomplish:

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”  “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.“

So…I share because seeing each other’s accomplishments should encourage us with our own.   It should spur us on. Helps us to not give-up or give in to defeat.  Remember, the storms in life aren’t always about you.  Sometimes it’s to teach you/prepare you for the future, so you can walk alongside another that is dealing with that trauma in their life.

I don’t know how you personally feel about physical touch, whether you’re reserved with it or whether you consider yourself a touchy-feely person, but for  parents that have a child that either can’t or won’t accept or give physical affection, it is heartbreaking for them to experience this.   Think about never getting cuddles from your child, rarely to never getting a bedtime kiss, a good-bye hug, or a tender touch…this is reality for many parents of children that are sensitive to touch.   There are several disorders that have features of touch sensitivity, including Autism, but there’s also a label for just this alone: Sensory Integration Disorder or more commonly referred to as Tactile Defensiveness or Touch Sensitivity.   Depending on the severity of sensitivity, some people learn how work past the painful or unpleasant touch experiences with therapy, while others it remains with them, intensely bothering them, their whole life.  For some, their tactile sensory system is not functioning properly. These people experience pain or distress from touch sensations that other people find non-threatening or even pleasant.  It is saddening to me that anyone experiences this, especially because so much personal bonding is done through touch.

The kiddo has always struggled with hugs & kisses. He is sensitive to certain types of touch, and even as a baby only wanted to be held a certain way.  His oral sensitivity is still a work in progress, but he’s making strides learning to work past the uneasy feeling.  What I want to tell you about is hugs.  Hugs, Uściski, Umarmung, Klem fra, Hibukim, Barrog; however you say it = Love.
Micah had never been a hugger.  It was difficult to impossible to give him a hug, with one exception, and that being when he was physically hurt or sick.   He would accept cuddles during this time without resistance.  All other times and the reaction would likely be: pulling away, pushing, maybe curling-in of his shoulders or stiffening of his body to indicate that he did not like, nor welcome a hug.   I was  fortunate enough to be graced with a hug here and there, but he favors me, so I was allowed leniency with his rules for touch.   Now, we tried to encourage hugs from him.   We would always ask for hugs, but most of the time it would be infatic “No.”

About a month ago, we had break time during a therapy session & I had picked up my Ernie® doll puppet and began to play with Micah.  He laughed & giggled at my silly voice (I sounded nothing like the real Ernie’s voice, btw.) and played with the puppet like it was a real being, and not just mom with a doll on her hand.   This interaction in itself was awesome because like I mentioned, imaginary play doesn’t come easy for the kiddo.  He is learning to develop this area in baby steps, and everyday we see growth.   At one point I realized that he was following the instructions that puppet Ernie was saying, and I thought I’d try and see how much he’d comply with, so as Ernie, I asked Micah to give the puppet a hug.   Without hesitation he reached out, opened his arms wide, and hugged Ernie soooo tight that the puppet almost came off my hand!  I was so happy I almost cried. My insides were definitely smiling.  I’m pretty sure I had been holding my breath waiting to see how he would react.  This caught me totally off-guard.  I glanced over at the astonished-looking therapist, who gave me the try-it-again look.  Was it a fluke?  Would Micah be open to more hugs?   We would only know by asking, so one more time as the Ernie puppet I asked Micah for a hug….and he complied.  🙂 My heart melted out of gladness. Had Micah reached a breakthrough?  Would he continue down this path or revert back??   After several more requests from puppet Ernie, I tried a big leap…as Ernie, I asked my child to give me (Mom) a hug.  He………………………..did it!
Not reluctantly either.  A full-on HUG!
I was elated!    That, folks, makes a good day.
I wish I had a video camera on for this moment.  The hubby would love to see this. It’s one of those moments were you wish you could freeze time and save it forever.
We celebrated his accomplishment with praise, but inside I indulged myself with a celebration for me too. I love hugs; been waiting for this for a while. I hugged the Ernie puppet myself and whisper a “Thank you” prayer to God.
We used the puppet for a few more tasks and the day moves on. I know this wasn’t Micah’s first accomplishment, nor will it be his last, but it’s my favorite so far.
Since then, Micah will give hugs on request & occasionally on his own. He doesn’t stiffen-up like he used to when receiving a hug either.  His hugs can be a little awkward/shallow, as it will take time for him to get fully comfortable with this touch, but sometimes you get a Big, Bear Hug…. and nothing is better than that!     🙂     🙂    🙂

What about you?  Are you facing any challenges in life right now?  What have you overcome?

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. – Martin Luther King Jr

One Response to "Hugs & Kisses, XOXO"

  • That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you (and Micah). Also, that AIW quote is one of my favorites 🙂

    1 Aimee said this (April 14, 2012 at 5:59 am)

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