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Self Stimulation

See also: Simply Self-Controlled Special Needs Children - Fall 1996 NATHHAN NEWS

              Boys Touching Their Bodies

A Letter from a family:

    I don't even know how to ask this. I'd like some help in dealing with the problem of masturbating. I'm not comfortable with following the psychologist's advice to "don't tell him not to do it, tell him where to do it." I don't feel this is in keeping with Bible principles yet don't know how to stop it. He understands enough to know to hide and do this. I don't believe this is the way to go either. Any resources you can guide me to. Thank you.

(Editorís note: A lot depends on Ryan's mental age. A really young child can be helped by working on simple self control such as come , sit, stay and then working on more challenging things like self-stim..

The truth is, obedience is a self control issue along with a heart issue. It isn't that he cannot control himself (he can in front of you) it's just that he is deciding to disobey. (By being sneaky.)

If we cannot trust our children alone, they should not be alone. Dad should be sleeping in his room with him or a cot in the bed next to mom and dad in their room if it is a night issue. Mom should find activities or at least have him in sight constantly until he can be trusted not to be selfish in his activities. (Masturbation is a form of selfishness and gratification). It really is no different than head banging, hand flapping, or other self stim. It may also be a form of doing something because it feels different or good, not even a sexually thought-out action. It can lead to that however.

You are very right. This is an important issue that we cannot ignore. As our young men get older (regardless if they are developmentally delayed) this issue be comes socially very important. Self control and obedience should begin with smaller issues not jumping into something as large and hiding and masturbating.)

Teachingtony@yahoo

Dear Zeal and Any Parents With Sensory Challenges: My 11-year-old child has spinal damage (Spina Bifida) and Developmental Delay. He has many sensory DIFFERENCES...Limited sensation in his legs and hyperacute hearing to name two. In the course of learning about my child's needs, I have come across some resources which have helped me to understand his problems, and more! When he was little, he chewed incessantly, to the point where plastic toys and dolls had no hands. It was more than teething (I've raised 5 previous children, so I know the drill!). seven years passed before we discovered what a terrible aggravation was going on in his dental development. We repented of all the scolding we had done, thinking he was just being destructive. He also still hits his head with his hand ...now we know that this is due to headaches. Should people with headaches be accused of bad behavior? Of course not, but he could not explain his trouble to us then. My message here to parents is to LOOK FOR THE SOURCE of your child's problem before you accept simplistic cover-up solutions. It may be very hard to discover, especially when the child cannot describe his feelings adequately, but please, be relentless...seek a physical source first. Since my child has characteristics of Autism, I read a lot in that area, and thus came across a book that really 'turned on a light' for me. It is "The Ultimate Stranger", by Carl Delacato, EdD. His explanations of sensory-isms hit the issue right on the head (pardon the pun). A huge factor involved is the rate of development of the human nervous system. Now I understand that, for a typical, normal child , the nervous system is not fully developed for 12 years...that is, the coating of myelin on the nerves, which acts to insulate electrical impulses is laid down over 12 years . That is why infants exhibit the startle reflex, then gradually it subsides...the nerves are gradually insulated with myelin. For a child/person with nerve damage, it can take much longer than 12 years...in the case of accidental electrocution, for example, it is reversed. There are other books, too, that address the subject, biographies of children who have overcome autism, and now can describe what they experienced as autistic children...these really open our eyes to the cause/effect relationship, even if one doesn't have a formal diagnosis of autism.

Zeal, and All Parents, here is a principle that we all need to be aware of: Whenever you remove something from a person's life, it should be replaced with something of equal or better quality!!! If you are going on a diet, and giving up chocolate cake, you would be wise to have some apples handy to replace the cake:) In the case of masturbation, Look For A Physical Cause First translates to , perhaps, checking for a yeast infection or irritation due to detergent or fabric softener. If the cause is boredom, offer more interesting things to do. If the need is sensory stimulation, try different things. Here are some that work for us: In church, my son will get restless in his wheelchair...I reach behind him and slowly scratch his back. When we pray at mealtime, we hold hands, and if I feel his arm start to jiggle, I stroke his arm till the prayer is finished. Around the house, when I pass by, I will gently scrub his head with my fingers...like a shampoo, or if his feet are bare, I might tickle his feet. You can make up your own distracters, but for the long haul, be relentless in seeking the cause. One factor which ALL people need, and you can never go wrong with is to give him love and acceptance. If you accuse him unfairly of wrongdoing now, you might have to repent later...take it from one who's been there! Meantime, you are doing an important job, and YOU are the best person for that job! Love and Hugs, Sharon.