Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sensory Processing Disorder

When Matthew was little we said he was colicky. From the day he was born, he SCREAMED 24-7, and continued for the first 4 1/2 m of his life.

When he settled a bit, I did some reading and decided that Matthew was a spirited child.

When he was a bit older, I did some more reading and decided he was a spirited toddler.

When he was even older, I read a book called Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and cried when I read the case studies, this was my child.

Then we started Matthew in preschool. He had a lot of issues and needed a full time aid to keep him from running out of the building and working with him to get him involved. The first day, after 5 min of observation, the coordinator asked me if he had Sensory Processing Disorder. It was the first I had heard of it.

Looking back it made sense. To name a few, loud sounds would send Matthew screaming and crying from a room, often taking cover under his crib or behind the rocking chair in his room. He still covers his ears when Happy Birthday is sung. He never liked to finger paint. Ever. Would not touch his fingers to it.

I don't think Matthew has full blown Sensory Processing Disorder, but he definitely tests on the high side of normal and it sure explains a lot. Thankfully, he was able to work with an O/T once a week all last year to help him out. It did wonders for him.

Which takes me to this morning.

Matthew was dressed and we were going to head out the door for school when he went to the bathroom, yet again. I followed him and he was washing his hands, again.

"Mommy, my hands stink and I can't get rid of the smell." Wash, wash, wash.

He leaned over for more soap.

"MOMMY! It's my shirt! It stinks!"

I smell it, nothing and I tell him that.

"MOMMY! You don't know but it STINKS!!!!!" Meltdown eminent in 5...4...3...2...

"Let's change your shirt." Meltdown on hold...

New shirt still stinks according to my sensory child. We decided that maybe some of Daddy's cologne will help. It manages to fool him for a few minutes until we are getting boots and jackets on.

"Mommy! Now my mitts stink! And my jacket!"

I push them out the door, the icy cold air stops his complaint for the moment.

Now we are in the van driving.

"Mommy! Now my hat stinks!" Off comes the hat. "And my mitts!" Off come the mitts.

"Matthew, it is really cold, you need those on."

Meltdown commences. Screaming, tears, kicking feet, flailing of the arms. Then a split second of silence before I hear at the top of his lungs "MOMMY!!!! THE AIR STINKS!!!" Followed by retching sounds. Gosh, I thought he was going to make himself throw up at the thought of the smell.

All of a sudden my brain kicked in and I remembered the words of a friend (Thanks Lisa) 'Gum works well for sensory kids'

I pass Matthew a piece of gum. He chews. He settles.

He was calm by the time I pulled into the parking lot. He ran into class and started his day like nothing had ever happened.

Until the next time...

Now you have an understanding as to why I am worried about a full leg cast for 6 weeks.


Jenn M said...

wow. that must be hard and trying on patience.. you inspire me every day.

Jennifer said...


Anonymous said...

Hey Joann, I'm not sure if I ever told you I was an OT or not? :) I swear we are destined to meet! Funny thing, is I really wish I was a PT or an orthotist so I could better deal with this clubfoot stuff! I'm going back to the orthotist tomorrow to ask her to make some modifications to the new AFO...let's hope she doesn't hate me for that! :) Jamie

TMI Tara said...

I can definitely see why you're worried. Hopefully someone will give you some tips on what to do when signs of a meltdown come.... Good luck!

Sue said...

Oh my goodness! Yes, a 6-week cast could bring on a whole round of something for Matthew. Wow -- I don't know if I'd be as quick on my feet with the gum thing! Good job!

It's so interesting that you mention this -- within the past few months, this condition has popped up on my radar SO many times. I'd never heard of it before, and now suddenly my nephew has it, another nephew has something like this, a friend's child ... it's all over the place!

I often wondered if my son (6) had something like this, especially when he was younger. But after reading of Matthew's reactions to things, I'd say probably not (or else very mild). He has a thing -- still -- with textures. Food (he could never eat raw carrots without throwing up, although he's better now); clothing -- he could never wear those thermal/waffle-weave shirts or anything "scratchy." And to this day he doesn't like to wear anything with collars. I just considered him to be picky.

I do hope he'll be calm during this next phase. Invest in truckloads of gum for those 6 weeks! :)

Urbane Ones said...

Gosh...I So know what this is like...

Yes, I buy bulk packages of mint gum at just seems a strong enough sensory distraction to make them forget stinky food/hands/ HAD to know that it was going to be the air soon...;)