Crash! Bump! Bang! Sam runs by the computer desk and down the hall with our Golden Retriever hot on his heals. He doesn't quite make the corner to the livingroom, bouncing off the wall, but he's unhurt, giggling. He launches himself onto the sofa, doing a headstand on the cushions, then rolls onto the carpeted floor before popping up and starting the whole "obstacle course" again.
Oh, and did I mention that he's wearing only loose-fitting PJ shorts? It's 64 degrees inside our house tonight. Being just a little bit overheated makes his "skin feel itchy", so off goes his clothing and, most importantly, his socks. I think one went behind the sectional on his way by.
Only 4 circuits completed before he's feeling relaxed and "regulated" again. He's back to sitting happily and relaxed on the livingroom floor, building with his Magnetix. The dog settles down beside me and falls asleep. Running with Sam is tiring work.
It wasn't always this...calm.
Sam was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder just before he turned 4. This Dad and I knew something was a little "off" about him long before the diagnosis. I always thought it was ADHD as he was ALWAYS in perpetual motion, but ADHD just didn't fit his behaviors. When he wanted to focus on something, like his Matchbox cars, he could. And Autism never really explained everything either. I've never heard of an Autistic kid wanting constant cuddles, have you?
Toddlerhood was a rough road for all of us as his behaviors became difficult to manage, frustrating and life-limiting. Sam had unbelievably severe meltdowns. Having dinner at a restaurant or enjoying a magic show at the library became impossible experiences for us. Sam would pinch, pull hair, knock his head into us or walls, roll on the floor, kick chairs, and yell before our dinner order was even taken or the magician stepped on stage. Loud noises - motorcycles, kitchen timers, flushing toilets - would send him fleeing in panic. He reacted to bright sunshine or the sun reflecting off snow with wails of torturing pain. When my oldest son said sadly one day, "We can't do anything because of Sam!" I knew we had to get some help. But what kind of help? And for what?
When a friend with an Autistic daughter mentioned that Sam's behaviors sounded "sensory", I went into research mode...and found the missing piece of our puzzle! It turned out that Sam had sensory-seeking vestibular and proprioceptive behaviors, auditory defensiveness, bilateral coordination dysfunction, fine motor skill delays, visual tracking and convergence challenges, and mild tactile defensiveness. It all added up to a a little boy dealing with a confusing, exhausting and scary world!
He started Occupational Therapy (OT) and developmental preschool 2 months after his diagnosis. What a terrible (and disappointing) experience! I knew within a few weeks Sam was not getting the therapy he needed. When I was GRANTED PERMISSION to see FINALLY his OT, it was nothing like I had read about! (FYI, you should NEVER EVER have ANY problems observing your kid in OT.) Sam had his "individualized OT" with 4 other kids and OTs! And worse yet - ALL those OTs barely interacted with the kids unless it was to chastise them! How could any of this be beneficial? We (im)patiently waited until June, the end of the school year, and pulled Sam from both OT and preschool. I had my hands full with an extremely anxious, overwhelmed, unhappy, and angry little boy. I spent the summer dealing with intense meltdowns and defiant behavior, wondering what our next step would be.
But! then we found Ms. H at another pediatric center in late August who reevaluated Sam. And in October Sam started OT and Listening Therapy (LT) with Ms. E. What a life saver! She's THE best OT for Sam (and I)! After 2 years of OT and LT, Sam made incredible progress, and I learned so much about helping him at home and out-and-about. He was much better able to handle what the world bombarded him with! It wasn't easy on either of us, but a more confident boy and Mama emerged over time. And in June 2011 he was discharged from OT.
My hope is to share Sam's story with others so that they can find inspiration, information and giggles in raising a child with neurological challenges. I wouldn't change my little buddy for anything...even if he IS wearing down a track through the livingroom carpet. :wink:
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in , processing and responding to sensory information about the environment and from within the own body (visual, auditory, tactile, olfaction, gustatory, vestibular, and proprioception) (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_disorder). Difficulty perceiving or interpreting sensory data taken in through sight, sound, touch, movement, or taste, this disorder can have severe consequences in many aspects of learning, behavior, self-regulation and daily functioning (smartkidswithld.org/ld-basics/definitions).