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Apr 29 2014

My Sensory Sensitive Son is Having a Growth Spurt–and It’s Not Easy

By at 1:16 pm

boy-sensory-issues

So my son is going through a growth spurt right now. One way I can tell is that he is eating more food than I eat sometimes. The other way I can tell is that he is totally not in control of his body.

Here’s the thing. J is wonderful. He is often polite (his recent thing is to thank my wife and I for dinner when he likes it). He is very funny (“I’m just being silly Daddy”). He is extremely verbal (particularly with anything relating to trucks, but also with rhyming words). But he also has a bit of SPD, which leads him to being out of control.

SPD, or Sensory Processing Disorder, is a condition in which any of the various sensory systems can be either over or under developed leading children to have inappropriate reactions to a variety of situations. Some kids may be averse to sounds or smells. Others may have trouble with light touches. J has difficulty with what they call “vestibular tracking” (i.e. combining balance and visual stimulants), and he seeks out deep pressure. Often the need for deep pressure leads to “disorganized” behavior and actions that, frankly, we don’t want to happen (i.e. pushing, laying on other people, occasionally biting).

Now I know that there are those out there who don’t believe that SPD is a real thing. I’ve read the comments, and there are those who think that SPD is a made-up thing and that kids who get that label are either a) “just being kids” or b) in need of strict parenting. And yes, there are times when J is just being a standard 3-year-old kid. But to those out there who say that SPD is made up, you’re wrong. Just plain wrong.

How do I know that? If you’ve interacted with a sensory kid; I mean if you’ve ever really interacted with a sensory kid, you know that when you satisfy their particular sensory needs, the behaviors can change in a snap. I’m not talking about medicine either. We have no interest in treating the SPD with any kind of medicine. J can be all over the place, totally disorganized, totally wild, and when it’s sensory-seeking behavior, if we give him the deep-pressure input that he needs (particularly in the form of the odd, but strangely-effective joint compressions, brushing, or pushing on his forehead…don’t ask why…), he transforms instantaneously. He breathes a deep sigh of relief, calms down, and will do anything necessary from playing nicely with others to sitting and reading a long chapter book with me.

And for a while, we had it mostly under control. Yeah, he would have the occasional “floppy” day, but we had scaled back on the brushings and compressions, and he was doing great. Until the last few weeks and this current growth spurt. Sensory issues are, in many ways, wiring issues between the nervous system and the brain. So when he started acting out of control, on top of eating enough food to feed a medium sized island nation, we wondered if it was a growth spurt. And if you know SPD, that makes a lot of sense. His body is growing, which would lead to additional sensations and J’s body just doesn’t really know how to handle it.

So we’re going back to the brushing and compressions. We’re doing more of the deep-pressure input, and we’re remember some of the strategies we learned from Early Intervention. And it helps. It helps him regain control, and it also helps me understand that this is just part of who he is. And once the growth spurt is over, we’ll be able to get him back on track and in control.

Sensory issues are not given enough attention, and it’s really unfortunate. I know that there are some people who would see my son flopping around or being out of control and think that he is ADHD, or maybe that he’s just being naughty. He’s not. He just has a different set of sensory needs than most people have. I don’t always know what he needs, but when those needs are met, I’m amazed at what he’s capable of doing.

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