SPD'S, SI, Sensory Processing Disorder, all the same thing really. Just a variety of terms. They come packaged in many different ways, for example, there is Hyper-sensitive (my Michael) & Hypo-sensitive (Everett). I guess God knows I like a variety. Today I would like to share some of the characteristics of this disorder. I will start with Hyper-sensitive. Again, I am not a doctor, specialist, teacher...just a mom. A mom that has exerted an incredible amount of energy in the quest of "What in the world is wrong with my kid?".
Over the last four years, Michael has several received many possible diagnosis's. Nobody was willing to commit to one. For many good reasons. For one, he was just three when I started to get concerned, and to the credit of the many professionals out there, most of them are very very careful when it came to putting a Big diagnosis on a child. Why? Mainly, as I now know, such young kids can change and change fast. What looks like ADHD at age three can be whole different monkey by age five. Kids are amazing, how they change, and while I was quite anxious in my quest to figure out my children, I am grateful for the many individuals that were careful, methodical, and slow to paint my child with a big label. In the end, we landed on SPD. Sensory Processing Disorder.
As I stated earlier, the clinical behavior, set of symptoms, is diverse and unique to each child. For my Michael it looked like this: Somewhere around age three is when I started to be a little concerned. Both my kids had SO much energy. People said, as they should, "they're boys!. I got that, but here was one difference. While I get the fundamental difference between boy/girls, what I was picking up on was a more erratic type of energy. Michael was never calm. I mean never calm. He never sat. Never. He would not sit for a book, puzzle, and toys were never played with as intended. He would attempt something, but quickly abandon it if he was the least bit frustrated. Okay, still only two, I get it, and really there is a lot of wisdom to that.
Age three. Time for preschool. I was a wreck. By age three, Michael was still unable to sit for any period of time, (I had still yet been unable to get thru one book). So he did not know any of his letters or numbers yet. No big deal, that's what preschool is for right? Usually. Preschool was unfortunately not Michael's finest hour. His teacher, "give him time", barely looked at me by the end of the year. Michael had made no improvement. He had no interest sitting at circle time, learning letters or numbers, and any form of behavior mgmt fell on deaf ears. He wasn't a "bad child", but an out of control one. He ran when he wanted, talked out of turn, blatantly ignored the teachers rules, and often took control of the classroom with his antics. I would try to talk to him, but his impulse control was minimal, his ability to self control was non-existent, and there seemed not to be any one thing that motivated him to change. "He is a bright child, the director said, don't worry", (she was actually right). At this time, however, I was starting to be concerned about ADHD. However, for various reasons, he did not really fit the bill. "give him time" his teachers suggested, so I did. Kindergarten would perhaps be a whole different experience.
With the summer ahead of us, I figured we had plenty of time for growth and maturity. Well, that did not go as planned either. My mother radar was sensing dread, not excitement that first day of school. Unfortunately, my gut was right. After two weeks of a very ambitious half day kindergarten curriculum, my Michael completely fell apart. Unraveled. From the minute of getting off the bus, the stress of having to sit still all afternoon, listen to books (I still had not accomplished one cover to cover read book), having to learn to read and write, Michael was a wreck. When he would come home, excuse my expression, all Hell broke lose. He would scream at me, punch, kick, hurt his brother, refuse to comply with any house rules ranging from sitting at the dinner table, picking up toys, jumping on furniture...while most of his peers were experiencing growth/maturity milestones, Michael was about at age 2. I was unable to reach him with words or actions. When trying to talk to him about a problem, he would put his hands over his ears, refuse to look at me, tune me out, and shut down. He became mouthy, stubborn, and at times vindictive. He no longer awakened in a chipper mood. Quite frankly, I didn't know what to expect when he awakened the next morning.
As time went by, I noticed other alarming traits. Clothing was becoming a bigger issue. While he never loved button down shirts, long sleeve shirts, shirts that were too big/too small (by his standards), his wardrobe choices were becoming very limited. He had about thirty shirts in which to choose from and yet there were only about four he would wear. Dressing became an ordeal. He cried. He cried a lot. As soon as I said it was time to dress, I could see the anxiety written all over his face. He now hated socks. The seams bothered him greatly and were capable of unraveling him and set the stage for a "not so great day". Tags on shirts I quickly cut off. He cinched his belt so tightly because he could not stand feeling his jeans shift against his skin. He had a permanent bruise across his belly button for two years. He tied his shoes so tight, they looked like it hurt. Ugh. Strings drove him crazy on any article of clothing.
He hated water. He hated water in the form of baths or showers. He screamed when we would wash is hair, I mean bloody murder. And that reminds me,any time he hurt himself, even in the smallest way, he would scream like it was just killing him.
His nails? (fingers & toes) he became obsessed with cutting them very very short. I had to hide the clippers because he would cut them himself when I was not looking, and often too short. I believe this was due his "over feeling" the sensations when his nails came in contact with something.
He hated loud places like movie theaters... places that provided lots of stimuli caused him to become too wound up or he would completely shut down. He would go to a spot, look down, and refuse to look up, or talk. I had no remedy for this except time had proven to me that I just had to give him his space until he could come out of it.
He began to look like an ODD child. He was moody, snarky, non-compliant, aggressive to the point of hurting others. When I tried to send him to his room for a time-out, he would kick the door until I thought it was going to fall off the hinges. There was a time or two he even put holes in his walls. I will never for get the time that he ripped half of the wall paper off his walls. He was miserable, and so was I. It broke my heart, this child of mine.
That year was the year to get serious. The writing was on the wall. My child was not going to grow out of this, and no amount of behavior mgmt/consequence/talking to him was going to change him. So I went to the professionals, the best I could find, and eventually enrolled him in a program that was called "Tuesdays Child", in Chicago IL.Tuesday's Child Its a program that integrates classes for parents along with a play based program in which their psychologist can evaluate your child. Several weeks later, the results were in....Michael was dealing with Sensory Issues, believed to be the culprit behind all this crazy behavior. Sensory Issues? Say what?!!! What is that??? Not having any knowledge about what they were talking about, I took a deep breath, decided to trust them, bought the suggested book, The Out of Sync child, by Carol Stock Kranowitz, and read it. "HOLY CATS!" This book was my child. My husband's response, "you think every book is your child", okay I'll give him that one, but in this case, I had a feeling that this time I might be right.
So off we went to SI therapy. Michael's therapist was excellent. She was very intuitive, and handled Michael brilliantly. When he emerged from his first session, Cathy, his therapist said, "he did great". I looked down at Michael, I noticed he had his ever too tight belt in his hand. His laces, which were usually tightened up like ice skates, were now very loose. "He didn't like it", she smiled, "but he did it". Michael looked like he wanted to spit tacks....She smiled, let me be the bad guy. He's gonna be okay. As we stomped out the door, Michael announced "I am never going here again!".
This began Micheal's re-entry into the world in a more "sensory integrated way of being". It took about 6 month, Luckily, as rough at it seemed, Michael was on the mild end of the spectrum, so he responded well and I can report today that He is doing really really well. Therapy ended at the beginning of summer. He went the whole season with no dressing, washing, gym shoe/belt issues. I don't think I saw one major tantrum all summer, and defiantly no door kicking or hole making. His demeanor, he now wakes up happier, more content, consistent. Regulating his emotions has included small, baby steps, but I see progress.
The start of 1st grade has gone better then ever expected. Now don't get me wrong. Some days are many times just great, others, little bit hectic. However, the hectic days are farther between. Michael still has some growth to do in regards to impulse control, snarky moments, and some aggression, the start of 1st grade has brought some stress to his inborn temperament. But I am thrilled. All in all, he his on his way to being the well adjusted child that a mom hopes for.
A word of caution. Please don't read this and think you have it all figured out if you can relate. My advise, be wise, take your time, find professionals that you can trust and then trust your gut. Always trust your gut. And know, what I did not know, three years ago, things are going to be alright. Goodnight, QAnnie
I tried to teach my child with books,
He only gave me dirty looks
I tried to teach my child with words
They passed him by often unheard
Desparingly I turned aside
How do I teach this child I cried
Into my hand he put the key........
Come he said and play with me.