and my heart sank and soared at the same time

Someone suggested (again) that I look into Sensory Processing Disorders to see if M could benefit from occupational therapy. I had read about them at one point, but not in-depth, and I certainly didn’t get into many types that exist. Then, yesterday, I read the introduction to The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz, and tears came to my eyes. Those kids in music class running around, “not listening”, and disrupting the other “good” kids? That’s M in music class, exactly. It’s embarrassing, it makes me feel like a failure, it makes me worry about my child, and it makes her feel like a failure. It makes other people ask “is she ADHD?” or compare her to every problem child they ever knew. But know that she’s not a problem child. I know that when she gets enough stimulation, she is fun, charming, intelligent, and as cooperative as any two-year-old can be.

I recognize M in almost every description of sensory-seeking sensory processing disorder I read. I’m not a doctor, or a specialist, but I am a parent who has noticed that my child is “different”, extremely “energetic” to the point of being disruptive, in constant motion, and “rough”. In addition, the following descriptions fit her like a glove:

-Always jumping, or seeks out jumping activities
-Constantly kicks her feet against something, including me at night
-Wants to be spun in a circle, hung upside down, pushed very high on the swing, and -never indicates that she’s had enough
-Wants to ride amusement park rides over and over, loves when the car stops suddenly, or we go over a big bump
-Constantly jumps off of very high ledges for the thrill of it
-Always wants to rough house or engage in rough play
-When she hugs other children they complain that it is “too much”, too tight, too long, and too rough, often knocking the other child over
-She seeks hugs and affection from total strangers
-She chews on things constantly, like shirts, and likes to suck on oddly shaped items or items with a strong taste (like pennies, or playdough), often bites people’s clothes when she hugs us, or even our hair
-Wants to watch TV or use screens constantly, enjoys flashing or bright lights
-Likes loud sounds, frequently requests “fireworks”
-Seeks out messy play for long durations, “rummages” nonpurposefully constantly through drawers and bins, dumps things out, even things she wanted to drink (then upset because it “spilled”)
-Throws everything, even something she really wants (bottle of milk at bedtime)
-Unable to settle down for sleep without a day completely full of events and activities
-Prefers spicy foods (Indian food for example), or foods with a strong bitter flavor (coffee)
-overstuffs her mouth to the point where either she or I have to remove some of it for her to swallow
-prefers crunchy foods, like apple, celery, carrot sticks
-“Frequently falls on the floor intentionally” OMG she does this all the time, makes me crazy
-banging her head against the wall, not painfully, but repetitively (she did this even as a baby), hitting herself, pulling her own hair
-makes frequent noise or sounds just to make them, often very loud (like shrieking as loud as possible over and over)
-needing to touch or hold something in BOTH hands at the same time, not just one hand, or if you play “this little piggy” on one foot, you must do it on the other

The list just goes on, and on, and on. It’s like I’ve stumbled into some kind of psychological niche that is labeled with M’s name. No wonder she is so physical at night with me when she’s not tired, and I’m making her lie still in a dark room. She is craving stimulation and has no idea how to get it. No wonder the rocking helps. No wonder she begs me to put the TV on when it’s quiet at home. No wonder she banged her head against things for fun as a baby. No wonder she jumps off high playground equipment or walls or ledges like some kind of professional stunt double. No wonder, no wonder, no wonder.

The best news is? There are plenty of knowledgeable and awesome occupational therapists in our area who can help with this. It’s not something that they will try to medicate her for, but it is something that has been studied and looked at and has proven treatments.

Obviously, there are other things that could be going on, considering her early traumas. But if the therapists and physician agree with that she fits with this, or that it may be a component of what’s going on… we may soon be using a treatment plan and my daughter might get the input she so desperately needs!

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

21 thoughts on “and my heart sank and soared at the same time”

  1. Once again I recognize my little granddaughter in your writing. Many of those symptoms or signs fit for her as well. Loud noises are something she can’t stand, such as commercial toilets flushing, hand driers, vacuums, blenders. She also does much better without background stimulus such as the TV being on in the room. She finds music soothing. Any kind of music really. The best thing we have ever done is start giving her Melatonin at bedtime. Three and a half hour bedtime ordeals are gone. It has truthfully saved our marriage.

    The jumping and spinning are absolutely a party of her uniqueness as is her love for foods other toddlers would never eat. She loves spicy cheese, peppers, raw onion and to our delight super supreme pizza with olives. No plain cheese pizza for this kid!

    Her episodes of Self harm is what really forced me to get serious with tracking down a behavioral therapist. I will never forget when she woke up and the was blood everywhere pillowcases her face hands arms. As I cleaned her up I found the site of injury and she admitted to biting her lip repeatedly until she bled. She also used her fingernail to pick her lip raw. We attempted to use reasoning with her but continued to find her bleeding from whatever site she decided to pick. Sometimes it was her finger tips sometimes it was her lips or a sound she already had such as a mosquito bite. I Hate the use of food or candy as behavior rewards but I was desperate so I bought a bag of DumDum lollipops and told her she could have one for every she didn’t harm herself. It took a while but it eventually worked. Now some afternoons she will come to me and say I didn’t hurt myself can I have a lollipop? Now I know she was thinking about harming herself but was able to hold off. Big triumph! I’m so proud of her.

    I hope you notice worth M an ability to be still that will come with age. Finally at four my LO can sit and color an entire picture workout flitting to another activity. We have found she enjoys small manipulatives such as legos, K’nex or tiny fairy dolls and the tiny things that come with them. Luckily putting things in her mouth was never a problem.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us through this blog. It has been enormously helpful to me. I’m rooting for you and your little M.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve landed on an explanation that both identifies what M may be struggling with and has therapies proven to help her. It makes me want to cry to think of little ones who struggle to function in a “typical” way through no fault of their own. I hope you find that both you and M are happier and healthier when you can implement the recommended therapy for SPD.

  2. We started my 2-year-old on 2 days of Occupational Therapy and 2 Days of Speech therapy. We also had a Physical Therapy evaluation…by accident, it was supposed to be Speech but the doctor wrote it wrong. I am grateful that he did, as they had to put my son in orthopedics due to flat foot. We are waiting on the Physical as the other two are already so much for us. I work full-time, husband part. The reason I am telling you this is that the Occupational Therapy is working. It was not at first, he would come home so overloaded and have melt downs at night. Now he is learning different techniques to cope with how he is feeling. It is not perfect but it gives me some hope. I have seen a lot of growth in a short time. When he scratches or hits, we take his hand and give it a light squeeze and say “squish”. That is just one of the techniques that works with him. All kids are different, and my son will be 3 next month, but I am grateful for the help. Hugs to you and your children.

  3. I’ve got 2 sensory kids and I just want you to know that it gets better. The kids learn coping skills first but they truly can integrate their sensory issues and mature out of a lot of it. When language comes, that helps a lot too. My 5 year old hit her absolute worst point at age 2 and I was in shambles, honestly believing she would never function as an adult. I was thinking about her dropping out of school, going to jail, etc! Guess what….she “typical” now, after full EI services. Being tired and crappy food can set her off, but with a firm schedule, she functions so well, her teachers and friends never believe she had/has sensory issues. It gets better with maturity and OT!

    Things you can do immediately to help M:
    –Mini trampoline for getting out energy at home. If this is too expensive, just get a basic indoor mini tramp.
    –Yoga ball, small, or peanut shape. Make her sit on it when coloring, reading, eating at the table.
    –A hammock swing, indoor or outdoor. IKEA has one that hangs from the ceiling. Otherwise just put her in a blanket and swing her back and forth.
    –Weighted blankets. Look on etsy or ask a sewing friend. They have pockets sewn in filled with beads to add 5-10 lbs weight to calm her in bed.
    –Put a backpack on her and fill it with 5 lbs of whatever, dried beans, rice, etc.
    –Stop expecting her to sit still or “behave” for the time being. Let go of expectations and just meet her where she’s at, and give her time.
    –Get her physically worn out but don’t allow her to get over tired or miss naps or bedtimes.
    –Sacrifice “fun” that interrupts her schedule. Zoos, parties, whatever. It’s just not productive or beneficial if she’s melting down. You have plenty of time when she’s 3,4,5 for fun activities, she’ll be fine. I regret forcing a ton of culture and experiences at age 2 when clearly my kid just couldn’t handle it.

    It DOES get better, I promise!

    1. I follow you in IG…I just tagged you in my photo of my daughter, who made her own hammock and she uses it to calm all the time. So does my 19 mo. old boy (also sensory seeking).

  4. I feel like a lot of these things are typical for this age. My son and lots of kids I have worked with do some of these behaviors. I can see how so many of them and constantly would be a concern. I saw your post about the doctor. Keep trying. Get another EI evaluation too.

    1. A lot are typical… The problem is that it got so extreme I turn down play dates, don’t attend groups, and fear taking her places because she is so rough or mean to the other kids. The rates against me at night and other times I felt like we’re extreme and could indicate an actual problem

      1. I agree that from what I have read here, M has had some extreme behaviors. If she was exposed to drugs or alcohol, those could be factors in her behavior. It’s impressive you have made such big changes in how you are handling things as well as taking a look at her diet. I think you are doing great!

      2. You’re welcome. We have had an easier week since he spent all weekend running around at Wheatland. Yesterday, I babysat a friend’s kid for the first time and she is just 17 days younger than Wallace. For once, my kid was the stronger personality with another kid his age, but he did pretty well considering neither of them had naps. I’m hoping the break from constant testing behavior will help me handle it better when it starts again.

  5. A sensory bin might also be fun and help her. Just get a tub and fill it with something that has an interesting feel for her to play with, such as water beads, sand, rice, or anything else. You can find ideas if you search on the internet. Rotating what is in the sensory bin every couple of days can help keep her from getting bored, and you can have it outside if she is too messy with it.

  6. My boy is autistic and has many sensory seeking behaviours. He has greatly benefitted from OT as well. If you are looking for any info let me know. I work in the OT department at the hospital. 🙂

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