Too Much Sense

We have too much sense in our house.  And I am not talking about common sense, although I like to believe we have a fair amount of that as well.  I am talking about the five seven senses that all seem to be so prevalent (or nonexistent depending on the day or the kid) in our home.  We live in a home chock full of SPD, or Sensory Processing Disorder.

This all started about 5 years ago.  My husband and I walked into our home with a wee little baby who would change our life as we knew it.  That first night home was so hard, and when I really sit back and think about things, was our first time learning to adapt our environment to help B overcome his difficulty processing his senses.

I had decided, during my pregnancy, that I would breastfeed B.  I had learned a few things in preparation of bringing B home about breastfeeding, including the cardinal rule that you could not offer the child a pacifier during those first weeks.  It seemed to be very important, so I didn’t buy any pacifiers, so I would not be tempted.  However, I was gifted a pack and that rule about not introducing the pacifier was thrown out the window the very first night at about 2:00 a.m.

B needed to suck.  He was borderline obsessed with sucking.  In fact, we were finally able to convince him, just a few days shy of his third birthday to get rid of his beloved nuk.  His obsession with sucking didn’t end with just putting a nuk in his mouth though.  It also had to be the right brand of nuk , be not too old and be the correct temperature.  He would carry around three or four of them at a time and swap them out, because he didn’t like when they got too warm.  He never attached himself to a blanket, stuffed animal or any other comfort object, just his nuk was good for him.

Along with learning early on that B needed to suck, we also learned that he needed touch in order to sleep at night.  I don’t know how many times we got him to sleep that first night only to lay him down in his bassinet and have him promptly wake up screaming.  At about 4:00 a.m. we finally laid B down between us and all drifted off to sleep snuggled up in the same bed.  We have now been bed sharing for 5 years.  B is finally in his own bed, but A is also a touchy kid, so now he sleeps right next to me at night.

Speaking of touching, oh the touching…  If I am at home, it is almost certain that some kid is touching me.   B has always been a snuggler.  He needs, several times throughout each day, for E or I to just sit down and hold him tight.  He will tell anyone who will listen how glorious my soft skin is and knows the perfect place in the crook of my neck where his head fits just right and his cheek can cuddle up to my soft skin.  A is a toucher, but not a snuggler.  He wants to have a hand on someone or to be held all. the. time.  Even on the rare occasion that he wants to play on his own, he will come up every couple of minutes to crash into my legs and hang out at my side for a few minutes.

Then there is the crashing.  My boys seem to need a lot of input to stimulate their proprioceptive sense.  It is a rare occasion that someone walks up to me and taps me on the hand to get my attention.  I have to be ready at all times to be barreled into.  Taking care of these kids requires you to be sure footed.  Wrestling, pillow fights, pillow nests, weighted blankets, heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, banging, stomping…  It seems there is never a dull, quiet moment for these two.

Another funny thing, I am learning about SPD is that we can be both under responsive and hyper responsive to the same sense.  For instance, both of the boys will go into meltdown mode if the TV chanel is changed to “snow” and is loud, but not five minutes later they will be talking in a voice only appropriate for the outdoors and crashing toys into each other.  It seemed so odd to me at first that they could be on both ends of the spectrum, but it seems to hold true and I am learning to adapt our environment to account for this.

I am getting better at reading the signs that my boys need more input.  I know now, that when A starts shaking his head back and forth like a crazy person, I need to take him outside to swing so he gets the vestibular input he needs.  When B starts barreling through the house, creating a path of destruction, I know it is time to get outside and pull a wagon full of dirt or push A in his stroller.  When A starts grinding his teeth, I try to find  a way to get him some oral input (although this is difficult, given his aversion to having things in his mouth).   When B starts showing signs of tactile defensiveness, I know I need to just take out the ugly, albeit comfortable,  sweatpants and let him go sockless.

I am finding (without the help of OT yet, the wait lists are ridiculous) that lessening the effects of SPD is so much about paying attention to cues and adapting your environment accordingly.  I am hoping, that once we start some OT, we will be able to test and incorporate even more things into our day that will help make my boys lives a little easier.

My life is forever changed by this, I am hoping I can help my boys to learn to cope and adapt so their lives will be forever changed, for the better, as well.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. akbutler
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 13:14:10

    are we living the same life? seriously?
    SPD is a huge component of my son’s ASD diagnosis (I think it’s the driving factor personally) and our lives have been turned upside down because of it. In my opinion, it’s the most complicated part of the diagnosis, because triggers can change so quickly and it’s so hard for outsiders to distinguish this from just “badly behaved kids”. It’s taken us almost 2 years to get a handle on what’s going on, and even then we’re mystified.
    Two suggestions, and take them as non-expert opinion. One – stay on those waitlists for an OT, and even overpay for a private in home eval. yes, it’s costly (I won’t kid you about that) but ask around thru EI or someone for names of private OTs who specialized in sensory integration. Sometimes the EI OTs will even come out on their own if you pay them 🙂 Having someone come into our home made all the difference. We weren’t at some clinic where my son was out of the arena where his triggers were. (my post http://trydefyinggravity.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/ray-of-light/ talks about our visit with a private OT)
    Secondly, check out http://www.hartleysboys.com/p/sensory-accommodation-suggestions_23.html. Her site has many suggestions for great sensory input activities that you can start with at home based on sensory seeker/avoider or both.
    And starting tomorrow, she’s going to be featuring 30 stories of families dealing with SPD and how they’ve started to attack the disorder. Check it out each day for a different story. At the very least you’ll know that you’re not alone with this.
    You are doing amazing things just by recognizing the SPD and not dismissing it. Way to go!
    Alysia

    Reply

  2. autismisnot
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 15:56:36

    Thanks, Alysia!!!

    I think we are living the same life, only mine is minus a neuro-typical older brother and a dog. I agree with you when you say that the SPD really seems to drive the ASD diagnosis. For us, it seems to be a BIG part of all of B’s struggles. Thank you so much for the suggestions. I just printed out several copies of Hartley’s sensory accommodations suggestions worksheet and will be keeping them in my 3-ring binder of goodness.

    It is so nice to know we are not alone in this SPD world. I look forward to reading the stories on Hartley’s blog this month.

    Reply

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