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Autism: Thumb Sucking

26 Mar

I learned to tell left from right by the colour of my thumbs. Since I sucked my thumb until I was eight years old, my left thumb was always so much paler than my right, so I would hold them up next to each other, and could tell direction that way.

My parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all tried very hard to break me of the habit, but it was a hard thing to do. My mom said even the bitter apple stuff she put on my thumb didn’t deter me, as I would suck it off, and ask for more.

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It was my comfort during hard times, and if I am honest (which is the point of this blog) I would have to say that this is still a temptation that I fight. During those moments – and I seem to have a lot of them – my left hand is always by my mouth, with the thumb tucked in, as I learned long ago that such things were “for babies.”

But still there are those harder than hard moments – like when my kids were taken – where I start again, and have to fight the habit again.

What does it do for me now, this thumb sucking? I am not sure. It is the child in me that wants it, and during those moments, I really am still a little child – five years old… seven at best – and am not ready to give it up.

I think the biggest effects of my thumb sucking were the fact that my upper teeth were pushed so far out of place, and I had to have braces. Expensive, I realize that, but likely I would have had to have them anyway – and I needed to suck my thumb.

Perhaps it is a “baby” thing to do, but even older children need some way to comfort themselves – and I had a lot of reason to need that comfort. True it brought about ridicule – from my family, from the other children, from people on the streets, and in the stores – but lots of things I did brought about teasing, and I needed that.

When we had our children, my middle girl also had a very hard time with this habit, and we were told that it needed to be broken. Besides, we had no coverage, and couldn’t afford braces. So true to my Aspie nature, I became compulsive in stopping her each and every time that she put her thumb in her mouth (I didn’t put anything on her hands, but just gently pulled her hand away and said, “no sucking.”)

And though it worked, when they were moved, and I remembered the strength and purpose of that activity, I regretted doing battle over this habit. After all, her life had been really hard, too – and what were a few crooked teeth compared to the comfort she got from the action. If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn’t make such a big deal over this.

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