Jamie has always been an extremely ‘hyperactive’ child. At only a few months old I knew I was in for an undoubtedly rough time.
When he was approaching the two year old mark, there were expectations of the dreaded “terrible twos” . Waiting for those moments, it never happened. There were uncontrollable outbursts of energy, but never tantrums and all of the undeniably terrifying moments that you await when dealing with a toddler.
When reaching 3 years old, it hit me! Hard. Jamie had realised that he was able to take full control of me. I had never felt so vulnerable. He knew no boundaries and testing my patience was becoming habitual. Running away from me and throwing tantrums were the norm. I had difficultly comprehending the idea that I was unable to control my 3 year old child. I doubted my skills and authority as his Mother. I would become angry and reprimanded him for everything he was doing ‘wrong’.
It was very hard to determine the difference between the typical mischievous behaviour of a “boy” and that of a child with an intense overdrive. I started researching and comparing his behavioural characteristics and came to realise that he was unable to help himself cope with the activity transpiring in his innocent little mind.
I would take Jamie to a party, and he would get extremely anxious upon arrival, clinging on to me, grinding his teeth or sucking/biting on his thumb in hope of finding a self –soothing method that worked for him, he would only jump on the jumping castle if there were no other kids jumping. He would be visually and audibly stimulated and find it difficult to process what he had seen and heard through-out his day. Resulting in a karate-kicking, bungee-jumping (off the couch), dinosaur-dragon-roaring monster (it’s possible) most nights just before bed time. Any particular sound, smell or sight would awaken his senses. It would take us no less than an hour to get him to sleep. After many nights of fighting I became extremely tired of the struggle, I realised that he was not in full control of his reactions, and I had to find a way to help him.
Upon intensive research, my Mom found some information on something called Sensory processing disorder (SPD) also previously referred to as Sensory Integration (SI) . Every characteristic described Jamie. Luckily for us, we caught it relatively soon and I began further research to gain some knowledge on how to assist him. I took him to an occupational therapist at Polka Spot Early Intervention Centre earlier this year and have received an incredible amount of support and knowledge in regard to the condition. I am currently in the process of practicing routines and methods to guide him and make our lives easier. So far I have seen a remarkable difference in his behaviour.
In the interim, I would like to share some information with you in hope that it will give you some peace of mind that you have not done something wrong, nor have you eaten something of poor quality while pregnant that may have harmed your child and caused him/her to be this way (yes, we as moms ask ourselves these questions at times). Sadly, this condition is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. There may not be a cure, however, there are many ways to guide and help you and, more importantly, support and assist your child to cope with it.
What is SPD?
Sensory Processing Disorder refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioural responses. In order to successfully complete an activity (whether it be riding a bike or reading a book) it requires the co-ordination and processing abilities of your senses. It is a condition that occurs when sensory signals are unable to process into appropriate responses. A child with SPD will find it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing everyday tasks if not treated correctly.
SPD can affect children in one sense on its own – for example, touch, sight, or movement – or in multiple senses.
There are two different types of Sensory disorders;
This suggests that a child will over-respond to stimulation such as the feeling of clothing (for example, doesn’t like to get dressed), physical contact, light, sound, food (fussy with food textures) or any other sensory input that will be unbearable.
This suggests that a child will show little or no reaction to stimulation such as pain, extreme hot or cold.
One study suggests that 1 in 20 children’s daily lives are affected by SPD. Another research study suggests that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children with SPD, these difficulties can be chronic, and they disrupt everyday life. SPD is most commonly diagnosed in children, but adults without treatment can also experience symptoms and be affected.
If SPD is not treated, this may result in them reaching their adulthood with the inability to appropriately interpret sensory messages. Subsequently this may result in difficulties performing routines and activities and in severe cases; they may experience depression and social isolation. If you are in any way uncertain of your child’s behaviour, I encourage you to consider meeting with a professional Occupational Therapist, you could save your child’s social abilities. It is important to educate yourself about the difference between the possible diagnoses of your child’s behaviour and treat them accordingly.