Sensory. Processing. Disorder.
Three words I had never heard put together in my entire life until 2015. A year and a half later, they are three words that I’m more than ever acutely familiar.
My 4 and a half year old son has sensory processing disorder, and I never knew it until a year and a half ago.
Let me start by giving you the basics of my son: his name is Reece, my pregnancy with him was perfectly healthy despite the sciatic nerve pain he gave me and my delivery with him was very fast, but fine. The only thing we ever went to the pediatrician for was ear infections and those seemed to quiet down after he was about 10 months old. By every account, he was a healthy and happy little boy!
The first time I ever noticed something strange was when he was at the age of two and we attended a relative’s high school football game. He covered his ears and hunkered down like the noise really bothered him. It was strange because he had never done this before. This happened a few times, but I was not concerned about it. Truth be told, I didn’t know that I should be. His speech had also been a bit of a concern, but again, not so much that I felt like he needed it checked out. His sister also had a speech delay and one day, it all clicked and she never stopped talking! I assumed it would be the same for him.
It wasn’t. And it wasn’t until it was pointed out to me by his kind teachers at Mother’s Day Out that maybe he should have his hearing checked.
Thus, began our roller coaster with SPD.
Sensory Processing refers to the way the nervous system receives signals from the senses and turns them into the appropriate responses. SPD exists when the signals are not detected or are not turned into the appropriate response. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act on the information sent, which basically can make life really, really frustrating.
After an extremely difficult attempt at the hairdresser followed by an an epic meltdown by Reece that left me sweating and crying in my car, I knew something wasn’t right. How he reacted to things that most three-year-olds wouldn’t give two shakes about was concerning.
Laying in bed at night, I would add up all of the different things that he was having troubles with:
- he hated any kind of doctor, especially the ear doctor;
- he hated getting his hair cut, which had never been a problem before;
- his speech was still slow-coming and I felt like he was never listening (like every other child in the world)
Thanks to Google, I searched for “How to give a haircut to a kid who hates to get his haircut” and after some searching and reading, a fellow mom explained how her son had SPD and haircuts were non-existent for him. I googled SPD and had an ‘aha moment.’
There are many symptoms associated with SPD, but after reading them, it seemed like a no-brainer that this was what Reece was having trouble with. Symptoms include:
- extreme response to or fear of sudden, high-pitched, loud noises (check);
- doesn’t understand personal space even when same-age peers understand it (check);
- very fidgety and unable to sit still (check);
- difficulty with fine motor tasks (check);
- speech delay (check);
- transitioning (check).
The list goes on and on and on. In fact, if I had continued to read the symptoms, I could have diagnosed every member of my family and half of my friends! After everything I read, it seemed that occupational therapy was the best form of treatment. I immediately got him in to be evaluated and we are wrapping up our first year at a local therapy center.
Here’s what we have learned about him:
- Transitioning from one activity to another was always hard for Reece, but as he has gotten older, it has gotten better. We have learned ways to help him, especially by giving him plenty of advance warnings. “We are going to leave in 15 minutes!” “Only five more minutes left, buddy!” This is something that has really seemed to help him!
- His speech is 110 percent better. Other than a few moments where he has too much to say and just rambles, almost everything he says is clear. We are now just working on having more conversational speech with him. He does see a speech therapist once a week, so this is something we will always be working on.
- Fine motor skills have improved tremendously; so much so that he has mastered his occupational therapy goals. I can tell you that I was honestly not concerned about his use of scissors or drawing a circle, but despite my proficiency in google, I am not the therapist!
- Temper tantrums are few and far between, when they used to seem constant.
- Noises are still an issue, but we fight through them. We have a pair of headphones we take with us to the movies, football games, any place that might be too loud and he can choose to wear them if he wants. We don’t stop doing things because of this. That will never help him.
We have learned a lot as a family over the last year and a half. We are dealing with issues we never thought we would deal with. However, it makes me happy to look back at where we were then versus where we are now. He has made huge strides as have all of us in terms of how to deal with any issues that arise.
Personally, I have learned that I’m a bit more of a fighter than I thought I was. I never stopped fighting for this kid, until we got the help we needed. I will always have a million questions to ask people about him all the time, and I will continue to badger and ask them.
Because that’s what mom’s do. We never stop fighting for what is best for our kids. We never stop learning. And we never, ever stop loving.