Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Charla's Hair

Before I get into her hair, I thought I'd mention something cute she said today.

Gregory is usually my builder, but Charla pulled out some stacking toys and was determined to stack them as high as she could. When I asked her what the tower was for she matter-of-factly told me, "I'm making a tower to Arizona!"

I don't exactly follow her logic, but I thought it was so cute!

Some may wonder why I keep Charla's hair so short. While I do think she pulls off the "pixie" look very well, it's not that way entirely by choice.

Ever since before Charla turned 1, her busy little fingers have fiddled with her hair. For a long time she just twirled it, but it would twist and often end up coming out. Before she was 2 I gave her the first haircut (click to see YouTube video I made of it) in an attempt to dissuade her, theorizing that if it was too short to wrap around her fingers, she'd give up.

It seemed to help, so she's never had pigtails since, because she would get a haircut whenever it got long enough to wrap around her fingers.

When we moved from Arizona to Ohio last May, it got noticeably worse. Fred was also gone for most of the remainder of the year. Instead of just twirling her hair, she started tugging on it, pulling out several strands at a time. At that point she still would focus on one area of her head, usually just above her ears, so the rest of her hair managed to cover it up alright.

(October 2008, at the Cincinnati Zoo... see the otter?)

My brilliant idea proved useless in January this year when we got her hair cut like usual. It backfired. Since she couldn't get a grip on her hair, she started just pulling it out all over the left side of her head.

We figure she favors the left side simply because she's right-handed and is constantly pulling, even when she's busy coloring, eating, etc.

(current picture)

When we got back from Germany, her hair (or lack thereof) was the worst yet. So we got in to see one of the pediatricians on base, who then gave us a referral to Dayton Children's hospital. I had attempted this while Fred was at training last year, but the pediatrician I saw on base then didn't take me seriously, and kept insisting she'll just grow out of it (which is still highly likely).

One of our main concerns, besides her facing ricidule in the future if this persists, is that we'd learned about a disorder called Trichotollomania (click to find out more). It is often associated with OCD, but is treated differently. We were determined to see a professional who could at least evaluate her and give us an idea of what was going on with our little princess, especially if it was Trich.

That finally happened yesterday.

Dr. DeWitt is a child psychologist. She mostly talked with us while Charla played with toys in the room. We met with her for about an hour. She listened to Charla's history, taking notes, and asking questions. We told her we were concerned that Charla's hair pulling, her persistent reliance on her pacifier, and the extreme temper tantrums she throws, may all be connected somehow.

In the end she assessed that it is more likely that Charla's hair pulling has evolved from a habit that has gotten out of hand, than that she has a dissorder triggering the perceived need to pull at her hair. She said that many children they've helped through this simply needed something else to keep their hands busy, like squeezing a stress ball, fiddling with beads on a string, etc.

She said they only get concerned about pacifier use if it alters the child's ability to speak, which Charla has no problem with. She received testing a few months ago which determined her speech was exactly as it should be for her age. There was no indicator that her pacifier use has caused any speech problems.

She also was pleased to hear that our daughter is so stubborn, explaining that they like to see that in young children, because it often indicates that they will have a stronger self esteem and resistance to peer pressure as they get older (we can only hope!!).

She pointed out that even though Charla was in an unfamiliar environment with a stranger (Dr. DeWitt), she hadn't observed our daughter touch her hair once during the visit. She felt this indicated that a situation that would typically make children anxious didn't have that affect on her, or that if it did, she didn't manifest it by pulling on her hair.

Instead, Dr. DeWitt feels it's more likely that Charla has busy fingers that need to be doing something, and so the most convenient thing is to run her fingers through her hair, tugging on it.

She asked us to watch Charla closely, looking for triggers or times of day that the hair pulling is worse. She recommended we let Charla pick out some hats and/or bandanas, and she left it up to us whether we insist Charla wear them all the time, or just when we see her messing with her hair. She said there was no harm in explaining to Charla that we are trying to help her allow her hair to grow back in, but obviously not to call negative attention to it.

We all agreed that medication isn't even a consideration at this point, and probably won't be, seeing how young Charla is. The doctor also thinks we should hold off on breaking the pacifier habit until this is resolved, since both wouldl be a lot for Charla to deal with, especially throwing a new sibling into the mix.

We'll meet with Dr. DeWitt in 2 weeks again, and consistently after, until we feel it is under control.

SO, it's going to be a challenge, but our little Charla is totally worth it! We've also been assured by many people, like my uncle who is a prestigious pediatrician in Cincinnati, that the vast majority of children with this habit, simply grow out of it.


Jeremy and Trish Olsen said...

i had no idea she had been pulling her hair out that badley. wow. maybe the bandana or hats will help her out. and hopefully liek the doctor said she will simply just grow out of it :)

The Baker Family said...

It sounds like you have a really good pediatrician. Thanks for sharing that with us. I've wondered that but just thought her hair didn't grow fast like my sister liz's. I was watching the super nanny one time and she had a great idea as to how to get kids to let go of their pacifiers. SHe had the little boy in the show round up all that paci's and then they told him the paci fairy was going to take the paci's and give them to another little baby who needed them because they were a big boy now. so she had the little boy pack up all the paci's in a box and they walked it out to the front and put it on the porch for the paci fary and then the next day in it's place was some big boy toys from the paci fary for the little boy in place of the paci's. It seemed to work with him so maybe you can give it a try. Just a suggestion.

Shawna said...

I'm glad that you finally got some answers. I understand your struggle... I have 2 thumbsuckers who are pushing their teeth out. Good luck to both of us!

Whitehorn Family said...

What a busy time for you, a new baby on the way, figuring things out with Charla (which you guys are doing a great job it seems, and a busy calling.
I loved being primary chorister but it takes a lot out of you at the end of the day and I wasn't pregnant. and have lots of ideas for primary choristers if you haven't happened upon those yet. I love your cute hair cut too by the way, its a great length for you.

Charity Brown said...

Hopefully she'll enjoy all the cute hats and bandanas she'll be able to wear! :) I'm glad you were able to have such a successful appointment!

natalieandderyk said...

I hope she does "grow out of it". In the mean time best of luck. Either way, she makes a cute princess. :-)

Ashley and Spencer Bunn said...

that is so crazy hope everything turns out ok