Monday, November 5, 2012

Using Unproven Therapies

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The subject of using unproven therapies has come up at our home. Sensi has had some toileting regression this past month. Both with constipation and with soiling her pants. I talked with her Theraplay therapist about options. We can't use Mozart for Modulation as we have done in the past, since she is supposed to refrain from listening therapies after AIT.  We decided to try a two week brushing/joint compression trial.
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I have looked and I have found no proven studies that brushing works. When it was suggested by her Occupational Therapist (OT) the first time, way back almost a year ago, I just ignored the suggestion. I figured we had other things to spend our time on, rather than trying to fit another therapeutic program in our schedule. Sensi's tutor and I have talked at length about unproven therapies and how many people still try them anyway. AIT and brushing are both unproven, but when I look at the idea behind the therapies they both made sense for Sensi at the time.

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I chose to try brushing since our choices are limited by the previous AIT and the trial is limited.  I figure it can't hurt and if it does help it is worth the time. I also know that there are very strict guidelines on using a brushing protocol for sensory defensiveness. We are not following those guidelines. We are doing what works for Sensi and our family. This entails twice daily brushing her body with a soft brush and then following that with joint compressions. I have both the deluxe brush and the cheap "nail" brush that is found at discount and dollar stores. Sensi has shown no preference for one over the other, but I do give her a choice of brushes before we start. That choice makes her more open to being brushed. I talked with her OT in school and they said that in the course of the school day the staff could fit in a daily brushing session too.
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The aim is to make Sensi more aware of her body so that she pays attention to the need to go and uses the bathroom promptly when this occurs. She has had a history of ignoring her body's needs to void and has been a variable eater. She has no set pattern to her toileting, like some other children. It has been very difficult to toilet train her mostly due to this inattention to her insides. This sensation of your internal organs and awareness of them is called interoception. Apparently, she has a lack in this area and we are trying to help her be more aware. 
We are a week into the two week trial, and I can say that there have been days that I missed a brushing session here and there. That being said, I have seen an improvement in her toileting. I will let you know if there are any huge breakthroughs. Although as you all may know, many of the gains our children make are small and slow. It is when you look back over a month or a year that you see the real progress being made.


Jessica Davich U of Wisc. Stout studies:
An Examination of Brushing Program for a Child with Sensory Sensitivity
A Comparison of Interventions for Children with Tactile Defensiveness



  1. Interesting post, my friend. As you may know, Toots also has a lot of problems with his interception as well. I have never found a successful tool for this issue and we have just stumbled along with my afternoon and evening prompts and the class prompts during the school day. We do have our share of last minute bathroom runs but I never even thought of connecting brushing and joint compression with toileting! I have not done much with the brushing and joint compression. Instead, I have tried to make him more aware through using lotion on his arms, legs, tummy and back (his skin is dry as well).

    I'm glad to hear you are thinking there may be some slow progress on this route. I hope you provide an update that is positive soon!

  2. We have done plenty of stumbling ourselves. I am hoping that this works out to be beneficial. The brushing and joint compression lasts only about 5 minutes two times a day, so it is easy to work in. It's the remembering that is the problem with me. I have a slimy aversion so I am not so big on lotion rubs, but I guess if that does the trick I'll do that too.

  3. This is really interesting Lori and I hope it works for you. We had years of troubles with this too, some still ongoing.