I was visiting with a mother while waiting at a social skills group. This mother started to describe some behaviors of her daughter to me and was wondering how to stop it. When the children came out of their group, I watched what she meant about her daughter. From mothers perspective, the little girl has no sense of boundaries or what is fitting and proper.
Her mother introduced her to me, and I noticed several things right off the bat. 1) She was very high-strung, but not in a physically, stimming way - more just mentally. She had a hard time getting focused on one thing. It was as though the answers didn't come fast enough and she didn't want to wait for the answers because there was so much to learn, not one moment could be spent in silence, just waiting for an answer. 2) Her "hyperactivity" is more a distraction than anything. There are a lot of things going on in her life that are really hard for her to deal with right now, and as long as she is distracted, she doesn't have to feel those things. 3) While her mother seemed calm on the outside, her insides were all tense and tied up in knots. There were so many things that her mother was stressed or upset about. This little girl, if this were the only thing she was picking up on, would have had a very hard time staying still. 4) The games she was playing, trying to "pick pocket" a man, was so much more than a game. She was looking for the connection that happened the first couple of times she played that game with dad. She was hoping for the love and the interaction that came the first time. Possibly dad has been more busy than usual...but whatever the reason, even if nothing had changed in the home, her level of need changed. And it was not being filled. This is not mom and dad's fault. We often have experience which causes us to need more or less of something.
Needing love is very much like food. You need a regular amount of it, interspersed throughout the day. Usually the regular amount is enough. However, there are occasional "growth spurts" where more food is required. There are times of "sickness" where less food is required. It all depends on the phase the heart is in. For example, I may have just been in an extremely high energy environment. If you are calm and soothing, I may need extra time and love from you. If you are high strung, I may need much less attention from you. It all depends on my temperament and your temperament and the situation we have just been in and the situation we are going into.
But. Back to the touching. All four of the above things play a role in her hand reaching out into others' "personal space." If I were in a place where I knew no one reading this would know the family I am writing about, I would tell all. But there is much that is private and is not my business to share. So I will only say this. The major problem with her need to reach out and touch will be blamed on sensory issues by the OT. It will most likely be blamed on her curiosity and a good sign of her intellectual growth by the pediatrician. The family psychologist, if there is one, will probably say that she is just wanting to continue the game dad started because she enjoyed it and it was fun. But all of those answers are from the outside looking in. They are all based on the idea that some THING is the reason for the actions - with exception of the psychologist - they don't even consider the idea that the physical may be emotionally based. And all of them make it seem much more simple and less adult-like reasoning.
When I was a child, while my grasp of the language was minimal, my intellect was not. If I understood the actual words, I could easily follow a very complicated train of thought or emotional quandary. How do I explain this? While my grasp of actual words was very low, my ability to understand very complicated emotional situations was incredibly high. Now, most would say it was not because my verbal usage was not even equal to my peers, so my answers to problems sounded very simple. But the simplicity was profoundly true. With each situation, almost always, the answer was that true, unadulterated, unconditional love was all that was needed. Now most would say that I am just giving a cure-all that is very child-like. That is not the truth. If you dig down, underneath all of the layers of pretense and emotional exchanging, there is a need that remains unfilled - the need for true, unconditional, unadulterated love.
This little girl was seeking the same feeling of connection with her father. She thought that repeating the same actions would get the same result. All that needs to happen is more interaction with emotional connection with dad and an explanation of how to ask for love when she wants it. She watches everyone around her express their need for love in strange ways. No one just outright asks for love. Everyone plays games to get what they need instead of being direct and simple saying, "I've had a great day. Nothing in particular is wrong. But for some reason I really need a hug right now. Will you please give me a hug?" She learns what she observes - at home, at school, at therapy, with friends in their homes.
I think maybe my next post will address intellect and understanding and proper communication with your child. This seems to be a core issue for most families. Anyhow. She needs love. Lots of it. And it looks like emotional connection, which means your heart has to be open and available to her.