Finding Out My Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder
Help My Child
When my son was born he was perfect. 10 little toes and fingers a head full of blond hair and healthy. As time passed the more I tried to love him the more he seemed to hate it. Any type of caressing seemed to make him cry. I began to feel as though my child didn’t like me. As a new mother I was devastated. I did the only thing I knew how: I continued to love him.
My son was very independent from the beginning of life. He was determined not to lets us know his gender until birth and we had to force him out via C-section. I never thought anything was “wrong” with him and treated just like any other child. As time went on though I began to realize he wasn’t quite wired for the world we lived in.
We would go to the park and he would love the swings and slides but hate the grass and sand. At just a few months shy of 1 he would have a fit if you tried to put his bare feet on the grass. He would curl his legs up as high as he could to avoid it. Trips to the beach resulted in a screaming child as the ocean waves crashed against the beach. Trips to movie resulted in a screaming child fleeing from the theater and what I thought would be a fun exciting trip to the Rain Forest Café ® ended dramatically with my child rocking under the table holding his ears. We had a musical scale sound test on our computer that would send our son into a fit of horror as if something was going to reach out and harm him. We adjusted our life but still didn’t put all this together. I supposed had everything occurred at once it would have sent us a clearer message.
Daycare began to see some issues with our son’s behavior and we tried things like a non-gluten diet to see if that would help him. He wasn’t mean or disobedient he would just get wound up really easily. We never even had the terrible twos. Now we have had the terrible 5s and 6s.
When our son started preschool I was approached by his teacher. She said she saw some signs of autism in him. Nothing drastic just the way he played and interacted with the other kids. She had an autistic son and worked with children from many years. Fearful of his education hurting I began to seek help.
I looked all over the internet. Family members suggested that our son was just a kid and to basically let him grow out of it. Additionally our son had not been in a structured school environment where he had to do homework or take tests so the full extent of the problem was not seen. The biggest issue at the time was he would have potty accidents in his pants and we assumed that this was just a maturity issue. So I backed off.
When our son began kindergarten that fall I approached his teacher to let her know that we had been advised by his preschool that our son had exhibited some behaviors that might affect his education. His kindergarten teacher also had a son with autism and she assured me she knew how to handle him but that it was more of an issue that our son was only 5 and that kindergarten was for 6 and up. This is a whole other topic which I might write about later.
After meeting with the kindergarten teacher I felt that our son was in the right class and the right person after all his preschool teacher was so loving and patient that surely this new teacher would be that same. I mean who teaches kindergarten and is mean?
I most definitely blame my son’s first kindergarten teacher for the years that followed. Nothing my son did was right in her eyes. I think she was trying to push us to take him out of school since he was only 5 and she was adamant that only 6 year olds should start kindergarten.
She rode our son about everything. His handwriting, coloring, and even a cough he developed. She would send him to the office every day! Even the office staff couldn’t understand her behavior.
I medicated my son with cough syrup and allergy meds. He has always had a running nose so I was already giving him allergy meds. Nothing made it better.
I will leave the discussion of this poor excuse for a teacher for a later time.
Homework became a source of anxiety for my son. He would cry and complain that if it wasn’t perfect it was wrong. I thought this was just my son’s way of thinking since he has always displayed a desire to be perfect. I told him not to be silly and that everyone makes mistakes that is how we learn.
I remember so clearly a page where he was to color and circle the item in the middle. He circled all of them correctly and colored one wrong by mistake. He definitely knew what the middle meant and even told me the second he colored it wrong. He panicked. I said it is OK I will write a little note for the teacher about what happened and she will understand. That Friday when we got the work back sure enough she marked it with a big red X, it was wrong. I was dumbfounded.
At this point the anxiety was getting worse with my son and I decided to seek help from a psychologist. I could see that this anxiety was causing problems. Additionally the kindergartener teacher was telling me about the way my son would bother other kids to get a reaction. And that my son wouldn’t acknowledge boundaries. She also told me that she saw signs of autism him my son too.
At the time my family was still not on board and I think the varied opinions affected the outcome of the appointment with the psychologist. Everything I said our son did my husband said he felt was related to his maturity (he was still only 4). We left the appointment and as far as the psychologist was concerned there was nothing “wrong” with my son.
School was getting worse for my son and I decided that it was best to have him removed from his teacher’s classroom and placed into a different class. My husband agreed that this teacher was mean and cruel.
Before that could happen we made the decision to move our family from California to Colorado. Everyone said to move while they are young it won’t be so hard. Well they were wrong.
Within the first week of his new school my son was hiding under desks and freaking out about everything. You couldn’t correct anything without him overreacting. I met with his new teacher (who was a world different than the first one) and discussed what she was seeing. It was difficult to process why my son would be misbehaving in school when neither my husband nor I did. I guess we assumed that our children would possess the drive that we did.
My son began seeing the school’s psychologist and it was finally suggested that my son might have Asperger’s or ADHD. I have never been one to label or rush to drugs from treatment.
The school tried different approaches to keep our son calm and in focus but they struggled. They were limited without a proper diagnosis and the school is not allowed to make diagnoses. So I took my son the pediatrician for help. He told me that the school should be the place to get help. I was confused and felt like I was getting the run around. I explained what the school told me and he wrote a request for the school to preform testing for an Individual Education Plan or IEP. This at least allowed the school to conduct more testing on my son to see where he was lacking in education and if need be allowed for additional support.
The IEP came back with all tests in normal range. There were some behavioral issues that we had been dealing with but according to the school my son was learning at the appropriate level. Again I was at a loss. If something didn’t happen soon to help my son then his education would suffer. How is a kid who spends most of his day under a desk actually learning?
I began taking my son to a psychologist outside of school looking for additional help. By this time my son was starting first grade and things were only getting worse.
He began to run away from things he viewed as problems. He was fleeing the classroom and once let the campus altogether. I was getting pressure from the school about “doing” something. As if I was ignoring the problem. I had been at every meeting and was following every lead I had.
During a session at the psychologist she recommended a couple of places that specialize in children’s disorders and I made an appoint as soon as possible.
After filling our lots of paperwork and getting reports from the school we had two appointments before receiving any feedback.
My son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and as a result he also had Disruptive behavioral disorder.
A diagnosis didn’t mean medication or an instant cure it meant a lot of work and structure but it also meant that my son would start to sit through class.
We began a program to help my son regulate his body. Through sensory regulation the disruptive behavior would lessen.
We still have out bursts and sometimes I think my son acts more like a 2 year old than a 7 year old but it is getting better. He no longer runs away and will work through a problem even if he is frustrated. He is learning to live in the environment he is in.
The best advice I can give anyone who is dealing with a child who seems to overreact to everything is to be calm, any inflection in your voice will instantly translated into criticism in your child, be clear about the rules and what is expected, explain where you are going and why, if old enough give a check list at the stores so they can see the progression of the day. Do not suddenly change your plans. Let you child know what is going on at all times. Remember that Sensory processing disorder means you child cannot shut out the world, they feel and hear everything and thus they get over loaded. Your child will seek to control what they can and this will display as misbehaving. Your child will do things when they want to so be ready to wait. Get your shoes or take a bath will happen just not on your schedule. I often tell my son 5 or more times to take a bath before he will finally get into it and then getting him out is just as hard. Offer rewards for doing things when asked and make a chart or list of things that have to been done and put that list in order! I have found my son to be very literal and as long as things are clear he does really well. If your child is a picky eater do not make dinner a battle. My son will not eat potatoes fired mashed or otherwise and after years of fighting over dinner I have finally stopped. Offer them what you know they will eat but give them variety in that choice. Pizza every night isn’t OK and you still need to offer new foods. My son loves green beans and creamed spinach who knew!
The journey to finding help for my son wasn't always easy, as we had to contend with a dismissive psychologist, a mean teacher and outsiders telling me my child is just stubborn and all he needs is a good spanking. Do not stop asking questions and seeking help. Your child is more important than the views of people who have no idea what you are going through.
All text and images are copyright 2013 sjaguilar