Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sensory Processing Disorder

The one thing that struck me the most at the conference last weekend was the sensory issues that arise with kids from hard places. I think on some level, we all have some sensory issues with certain things. But statistically, 18 out of 20 of these children have some sort of sensory disorder. This is due to the fact, that a lot of them were not touched, held enough or exposed to sensory play.


SPD can be caused by a stessful pregnancy, difficult birth, prematurity, early hospitalization, abuse, neglect or trauma. Hmmm... I could check of a few of those with my littles.

When Lilah first came home and we would lay her down for a nap, she would push off any blankets and push away any stuffies. She wanted nothing touching her. Her self-comforting tool was to rub her (or our) eyebrow. For the first year and a half, she would scream when we washed her hair or brushed her teeth. Then Zoe came home, and it was like a lightbulb went off in Lilah's head, when she realized that Zoe didn't mind these things at all, she didn't scream like she was being tortured, maybe it was okay after all... I don't see any tactile sensory issues with Lilah at this point. The one thing though, that Dr. Purvis did say, was that some children are hyperaware of chaos and noise. Noise doesn't seem to upset Lilah, but she is definitely hyperaware to what is being said around her. We can be all the way across the house and she will hear what is being said, stop whatever she is doing and listen. Often, as soon as someone will speak, she automatically assumes they are talking to her or about her. If I ask one of the other kids to do something, Lilah will panic somewhat, jump down from where she is and do that job... she is listening, but not catching everything, just assuming everything said refers to her. I don't know what to make of this and will bring it up with the psychologist on our next visit.

Now Zoe... SPD children can often be mistaken as kids who misbehave. If they are given some control, they can handle their situation. Zoe will often lose control when in a situation she doesn't like. If someone comes to our door, she will start running up and down the hallway, showing off, laughing hysterically. We thought this was attention seeking, I am now thinking it is more of her going into panic mode. If we are in a large group of people, same thing. She starts to flip out. Most of the time it looks like she is having fun, but I can tell that it runs much deeper than that.

When a baby is in utero, the motion of the mother is constantly rocking and swaying them, which causes the vestibular fluid in their ear to swish around and remain liquid. (Remember here, I am not a professional, I am just repeating what I heard!). When a baby is born and in their parents arms, that parent automatically rocks and sways with that baby, again causing the vestibular fluid to move. When a baby is not held or rocked, that vestibular fluid can become thick. This can cause a child to then become unstable and uncoordinated.


Again, when we got Zoe, at the age of 3 1/2, she could not walk in a straight line. She would stagger like a little drunk. She could not do stairs. She would fall down a lot. She still falls down a lot and has a lot of trouble with balance.

Sensory play and sensory bins can be beneficial to all children. These bins seem to now be in every preschool and kindergarten room! I made my littles a rice bin with dinosaurs and they are loving it... me not so much. I am a little tired of sweeping rice! But really, what does it hurt? If it helps them, how can I say no? I also bought tins of shaving cream for them to play with in the bathtub. The girls come out smelling all masculine. But once again, they love squishing this foam between their little fingers. I let them play with their big tub of play dough, which always causes a huge mess as well. I really need to get over my OCD tendencies.

It has been suggested that I buy a weighted blanket to help them sleep. Not sure if I will invest in this or not, they seem to sleep as well as any of my other children do.   Although, last night when I checked on Lilah, she was upside down, laying as straight as a board on the very edge of her bed.

Zoe often uses a weighted pet at school when they have carpet time, to help her sit still and keep her hands to herself. The thing I love about our school, is that there are all sorts of tools used for the children, so that no one child ever feels different. The teacher has open conversations with the kids about how every one is different and learns differently.

I also bought Zoe a fidget bracelet. It looks like a simple child's bracelet, but it gives her something to play with, instead of poking and bugging the children around her.


One last thing I learned from the conference:

Children with trauma can react in three different ways. When I was reading these out to Abby, she laughed and said I just got the whole gammet!

Fight response - this child gets frustrated, explosive, aggressive and acts out. (Zoe)

Flight response - this child is easily distractible, clowns around, easily bored and has escaping behaviour. (Silas)

Freeze response - this child is whiny, tearful, clingy, fearful, reluctant to try new things, withdrawing and say's I can't. (Lilah)

The good thing is that the type of therapy that I am learning about and doing with all three of my littles, works for all of these different responses.   I was also glad to see that what I am learning with our psychologist here, is completely inline with what Dr. Purvis uses with her kids.

They all need touch, activity, sensory play, compassion, laughter, structure, discipline and most of all... LOVE.


Marie said...

Love this post. I wish I could put my girls into one of these categories. They seem to have a bit of each, with one more dominant. Interesting that a difficult labor can cause this...explains one of homegrown kids to a T!
I find the part about rocking fascinating...will be making more of a conscious effort to rock my kids more.

Patrick and Christina said...

I have one with equally distributed fight responses (Samuel... It's either one or the other) and two with a freeze response (Kevin...hard birth and Sydney). So glad you put to words what we parents see. I have ordered some Dr. Purvis reading.

Somewhere along my own journey (pilates for an injured back that seemed to function in a disconnected way) I discovered that both rocking (to move the inner ear and thyroid gland) and connecting the base of the neck by shoulders and the sacrum through massage are powerful healers. We touch on both area's when we hold and coddle newborns and it seems that no matter the age we respond to this type of touch and connection.

Funny, I always rock my littles and stroke their backs and this has been a powerful trust builder for us...glad to know I am on the right track. I have been accused of "ruining" my kids by offering this to my toddlers.

Can't wait to read more indepth about all you've mentioned. Thanks so much for sharing.

Jessica said...

Micah has severe Sensory Processing Disorder. He cannot handle loud and busy places, as he has gotten older, we have learned to try and avoid these situations, althought, not always possible. We have some amazing friends who have ordered Micah a vest that fills with air to compress and snuggle him. Which he loves. One suggestion about the rice, you can make a smaller version, in a cloth bag with a thick plastic window. smaller toys, the kids can take it along, squish it around and find the little toys inside. We have found that sometimes a big piece of gum can help calm anxieties(hubba bubba) or a chewing on something such as a tougher gummie or beef jerkey. We often give Micah deep pressure squishes and rubs. Especially around his upper torso and his feet.

Paige said...

A couple of years ago my mom made those little rice bags as I spy bags for the kids and they loves them.

We now have a bucket of gum on our counter and the littles can have some anytime they ask.

Under amour for kids to wear under their clothes is suppose to work well too.

Jessica said...

Micah wore a spandex suit under his clothing for two years, it actually helped him toilet train as well.

the meaklims said...

I love learning through you!


Monica said...

Great post, Paige!

Ren too staggered like a little drunk and fell all the time when we brought him home. After hours and hours at the playground every day we finally saw improvements. I also questioned for various reasons if he had some sort of sensory processing disorder but as time went by, I didn't think so after all. At one point, we did have him tested at school by the OT and the results were negative as I thought they would be. Anyway, just wanted to share that it is good to be aware of these different issues that may present in our kiddos - and your post will help spread the word.

The Drinkwaters said...

Great post, and I think you did an awesome job explaining SP. We too deal with sensory issues, that we see interlinked with anxiety. K. Purvis has many great videos you can download and watch with your spouse. I find this is easier than handing my husband a book! ;)