I’m sorry I haven’t posted much in the last six months, but honestly I just haven’t had much motivation to post. We continue to work on reading, spelling, math, arts and crafts, music, geography, science and so many other enriching activities but all of this has been clouded by something else we’ve been dealing with — Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD.
The SPD Foundation states that “[s]ensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.” Basically, SPD is a disorder that exists in individuals whose sensory signals don’t get organized in a way that produces an appropriate response.
I was reviewing my notes from this summer when I first decided to meet with WJ’s pediatrician to see if she thought an evaluation was in order. At the time, I was thinking he might have ADHD. Here are some observations I jotted down to discuss with his doctor:
- can’t sit still/always moving
- has a hard time focusing, especially when it’s a group activity (e.g., he’s never been able to complete circle time at school)
- clumsy – always bumping into people/objects
- puts everything in mouth
- easily overstimulated
- gets “out of control” where it’s impossible to communicate with him at all
- seems like he can’t control his body
- often puts whole body on floor in inappropriate situations (grocery store, restaurants, etc.)
- touches others to excess
- doesn’t seem to understand personal space
- doesn’t like loud noises (e.g., we can’t use the hand dryer in a bathroom)
- doesn’t like his hair being washed
- won’t wear socks
- often doesn’t understand what we’re saying unless he can see the mouth of the person speaking
Some of these things seem like typical preschool behavior and, quite frankly, I’ve known he’s had some odd behaviors since he was 1 year old and spent most of his time on the floor pushing trains back and forth during music class. But I’ve always had the attitude that we all have our idosyncracies and that unless his behavior was negatively impacting his ability to function, then it wasn’t really an issue. Well, fast forward a few years and a few “discussions” with his preschool teacher and I realized that it was time to get a professional opinion.
Our lives have been greatly impacted by WJ’s SPD diagnosis. With weekly visits to his pediatric occupational therapist, weekly visits to a social support group for preschoolers (designed to help him learn proper social behavior), and incorporating visual schedules and many more sensory-motor activities into our curriculum, we’ve had a bit of adjustment in our schedule. WJ really likes all of his new activities. Here he is happily playing with some homemade slime.
SPD can be frustrating for parents since it’s not yet a widely accepted diagnosis in the medical community and health insurance companies don’t want to pay for therapies recommended to treat SPD. This means treatment for SPD can start to get very expensive.
Fortunately, there are some researchers that are looking at brain differences in kids with SPD. A study at the University of California, San Francisco, has recently shown that kids with SPD actually have measurable brain differences. Juliana Bunim writes that “[k]ids with isolated SPD showed less connectivity in the basic perception and integration tracts of the brain that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing” (click here to read an article summarizing the study).
We continue to adjust our lives to accommodate this new development and are feeling confident that with continued treatment WJ will be able to successfully transition to kindergarten.
If you’d like more information on Sensory Processing Disorder, here are two great resources:
(this post contains affiliate links, for more information click here)