A Parent’s Perspective: Understanding your Childs Needs

SPD doesn’t quit.

SPD stands for Sensory Processing Disorder.

And that is one of the disorders that our beautiful Elizabeth has.

Quick SPD lesson:

Our nervous systems take in input from our senses all the time. From smelling something to feeling something to hearing something and on and on.

Sensory input is around us always.

The thing with SPD is that instead of taking in the sensory input and turning it into the appropriate behavioral/motor response, it does something else.

Example: If you were crossing a street and then heard a car horn honk at you, you would hear the horn, process it is alerting you to a danger and you would move quickly to get out of the way and out of danger.

That is the appropriate behavioral/motor response.

But with SPD that is not the case. 

Sounds should not make one cry or grass should not feel so bad that they can’t walk on it.

In some cases of SPD this is what happens.   

And in other SPD cases, the individual craves sensory input and may spin like a top to get the input their neurological system craves.

There are many variations of SPD but the one I know most about is the one Elizabeth has.  It is where EVERYTHING felt wrong or bad to her system. 

And her motor/behavioral response was to avoid all things and cry.

Cry and cry.

Everyday, almost all day for the first 2.5 years of her life.

*For more on her story, please find my book listed on the Talktools website titled: I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey

But the fact is she has made wonderful gains in her life and can do so much but when stressed signs of her SPD really resurface.

And it really is hard to watch her struggle when her system is stressed.

But we know what to do to help her calm her system back down because we learned this so early in her therapies. We learned about her sensory diet.

The things you do for your child to help them calm down or reorganize themselves will be different from the next person and so on.  And those things all comprise a Sensory Diet.

The things on a sensory diet can include swinging or lifting heavy objects.-To calm their system and give some nice deep muscle input

It can include a dark room or calm colored lights. -They calm their systems visually.

It can include weighted vests or blankets. -Again, nice deep pressure is calming

It can include items to chew such as Chewies.  -Because something I learned early on is that chewing is very organizing to their neurological system.

If I am being honest here, I think I fell back on this one a lot because of the fact that it was easy to hand Elizabeth something to chew on as we drove somewhere or in church than to get home to do the bigger, more involved parts of her sensory diet. Which we would do later in the day.

The chewies were and are a nice, easy and portable way to help her body and system calm down.

I did give her gum to chew but sometimes she just swallowed it or if she was young, it was simply out of the question.  And sometimes the gum just was not challenging enough to chew to give her the input she needed. 

So honestly, for those who are working with a child with SPD, my biggest and strongest advice is to learn just what should be on your child’s sensory diet. We got our initial one from an occupational therapist. But as time went on, Elizabeth’s needs changed, so the diet changed as well.

And that leads me to the second biggest and strongest advice: learn all you can about your child and their needs and how they work. Because if you do, you will be able to help adjust that diet because you will know THEIR signs of overload or stress and the thing that work for THEM.

We adjust as needed for Elizabeth now and she helps us by verbalizing her need for a break or quiet time or even quiet music.  

I other words, it is all about the understanding of your child and the ability to adjust things for them.

In fact, the information I learned from Elizabeth helped us help our neurotypical son, Michael. 

Because he is a chewer.

Always has been.

In elementary school, he would chew his shirt, pen caps and the top of his sport water bottles.

So, we started giving him Chewies to use after school when he was watching TV.  And it helped him a lot.  Easy to hand him, easy for him to use.

Because the thing is we all have some sensory issues (yes, you the reader who cannot wear a wool sweater because if bothers you too much or you, the reader who has to have their socks pulled up just right) 

And it is important to learn ways to manage those sensory needs. 

For the record, Elizabeth is in a bit of an overload as I write this because we are headed on vacation tomorrow and she is flying on an airplane (her second time in life) She is feeling stressed and is a bit spicy (short tempered) which we recognize as stressed.  So as soon as I am done here, I will ask her what she needs, and I bet it is her relaxing music.

Knowledge is power.

See you next month.

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