Please note: This is a LONG post, sorry!
I love this girl so much! She is my jam. She’s growing up so fast and I can’t believe that she’s going to be 4 in a couple months. Seems like just yesterday I was a sleep deprived, nervous, new mom trying to figure out how to take care of this fragile little baby. She is my first born, an amazing experiment in parenting of sorts. And so far I think we’re doing ok. No major screw-ups yet. We’re saving up for her teenage years, ha!
I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while now, trying to figure out what to say, how to say it since we’re in the midst of understanding and navigating our way through an uncharted chapter in Violet’s life right now. Some of you may or may not know that she has recently been diagnosed with something called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). If you’ve never heard of this before, you’re in good company. This is completely new territory to Collin and me and we’re still learning more about it everyday. There is alot of information out there but I’m going to try to whittle it down into the basics.
SPD is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, both fine and gross, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other issues. SPD is most commonly diagnosed in children but there are adults that suffer as well. Some kids are overly sensitive and over-respond to sensations like, smells, loud noises, light, wind, clothing(i.e. tags, fabrics, types of clothing), food(i.e. textures and smells). Violet fits into this category. Some kids under-respond to sensations and instead of being hyper-sensitive, are on a kind of overdrive and seek out sensory experiences inappropriately. Similar to ADHD or Autism, SPD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and is relatively new and there is unfortunately not enough research being done so the exact cause is not known. However the causes of SPD are suspected to be both genetic and environmental.
I think that we have always known that Violet was a little “different” from kids her age. She has always been a nervous/anxious child, slow to adapt to changes in her surroundings or routine, overly cautious, very picky eater, and slow to make friends. Our pediatrician had been asking us to consider having her evaluated by a developmental pediatrician for a delay in her fine motor skills. We put it off for months thinking that she would catch up in preschool and that there wasn’t much cause for concern. But as the weeks and months passed we began to feel like she was getting worse instead of better. She was refusing to play at the playground or even go outside at all. She could barely even hold a crayon, let alone color or draw with it. She was restricting herself nutritionally so much that I was concerned she wasn’t getting enough to eat. Pants, socks, tags, strong smells, wind, rain, cold, snow, and dogs were almost unbearable. She spent almost every waking minute living in her own imaginary world, uninterested in interacting with us or friends who had come over to play.
So we decided to take her to a developmental pediatrician to see what he said. The conclusion was that she is behind in her fine motor skills and struggles with sensory perception. He recommended that she be seen by an Occupational Therapist(OT) to work with her on her sensory issues as well as improve her fine motor skills. So we have been taking her to an OT in our neighborhood once a week for the past 6 weeks or so and although it is a slow moving process, we have definitely seen some improvements.
For example she is holding and coloring with crayons and not getting frustrated, this is huge! She’s actually enjoying herself
What’s most interesting to me about her improvement with her hands is that the OT has not been working with her at all on handwriting or drawing. She has been strictly focused on working through her sensory processing problems. She says that her over-sensitivity is causing her to be behind in her fine motor skills and that once we have fully addresses the SPD that her hands will improve on her own. I have been very skeptical of this theory but as you can see from the photo, there is definitely something it.
She is a little more willing to try new things like riding a trike, even if it’s hard. However she is still convinced that she can’t do things most of the time, but we’re working on changing that perception daily.
She loves, loves , loves her little dance class! Her teachers are so kind and patient with her (she’s the one in the pink leotard and gray tights, ha!)
We have lots of exercises and deep-pressure protocol therapies that I work on at home daily to help with her SPD. It’s a lot. And somedays when she doesn’t want me to work with her it seems like too much. But we have seen a difference and that give me the motivation to keep going.
There are a few good resources to look at if you’re reading this and think it sounds like your child, someone you know, or you’re just plain curious
This book has been great:
These websites have also been very helpful:
3. Our Occupational Therapist, Loren Shlaes also recently published an article on PediaStaff.com about addressing SPD from and OT’s point of view.
Now that we have a name for what is going on with Violet it seems like things are finally making sense and now we can move forward with a plan to help her succeed in life. I spent a lot of time doubting and comparing her to other kids and wondering whether or not there was a “problem” with her. And she is different then other kids and that’s ok because she’s also Violet, our sweet, happy girl and we are so proud of her and feel privileged to be her parents. She is constantly teaching me how to be more patient and understanding as we work together everyday. I hope that by sharing a little bit about our experience with a child with SPD that it might help someone else out there who is maybe searching for answers themselves about their own child or someone they love. I’m going to try to make a bigger effort to write more posts about her progress as we continue to attend OT sessions. Please feel free to comment to post questions if you have any. And give yourself a pat on the back for reading through this hugely long post, yikes!