Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let Me See If I Can Explain This...

Okay, so I am going to attempt to explain Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in hopes that people will better understand our Cole.  We haven't told anyone about our life with SPD other than close friends and family.  You start thinking about the labels, be treated differently, etc. and we didn't want any of that for Cole.  But, ignoring it doesn't mean it isn't there so hopefully I can explain this in a way that makes some kind of sense! 

Copying from the SPD Foundation's website, Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. 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, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

Also, there are actually 7 senses, not just the 5 that we all learn.  I have borrowed from a SPD mother's blog her discription of these senses...

Sight -- Your eyes help you see

Hearing -- Your ears help you hear sound

Touch -- Your skin and fingers help you feel things around you

Taste -- Your tongue and mouth help you determine taste and texture

Smell -- Your nose helps you smell which is closely connected to your taste system

Vestibular -- located in your inner ear, it is the basis for balance and understanding where your body is in relation to its surroundings

Proprioception -- located in the muscles and joints and controls how much pressures is used (pushing and pulling)
Now just imagine that these senses don't work correctly!  You smell everything, even things that no one else smells and it is STRONG.  You hear everything to the point that you just have to cover your hears.  Even the light's buzzing are distracting.  You can't go up and down stairs because you feel like you are falling.  Not every SPD child struggles with all of these areas and some children struggle more than others.  And, a child may struggle in one area for a while, learn how to self-regulate for that area and then struggle with another area.  For example, we have done Occupational Therapy with Cole.  He did amazing by the way and has since been discharged!!!  He doesn't mind messy play anymore and is able to get his hands dirty and sticky and cope.  But now smells and clothing seem to bother him more than they used to.  When I say smells, like I said earlier, he smells everything, even things that no one else smells and to him they smell awful.  Like to the point where they make him gag.  Clothing actually hurts to wear.  We aren't struggling with this one too bad yet but it I am afraid it is heading in that direction. 

And, you can't talk about SPD without addressing the "meltdown" issue.  Sometimes when these children are over-stimulated or are just having an "off" day they can meltdown.  This isn't the normal tantrum that most people think of.  The kids truly can't help it.  It is a "flight or fight" reaction and if you have never seen one, just trust me, it is ugly.  While the parent may realize what is going on with the child, from the outside it just looks like the child is out of control.  We have gotten many looks in public places because of meltdowns.  Lot's of well-meaning friends and family say to just punish the behavior or tell him to get over.  Oh for it to be that easy! 

There is no "cure", only teaching how to cope. 

This certainly isn't what we had envisioned for our Cole but it makes his victories that much sweeter!  The first time he jumped off a curb without holding on was amazing.  The first time he walked in the yard barefoot without flipping was amazing.  He can sit in a swing without his feet touching the ground and we are so proud.  He played soccer this past fall and he ran with the group and kicked the ball.  AMAZING!!!  He is so very smart and I am excited for him because I know that God is going to use him in big ways.  And there is such relief in knowing that God knew what Cole (and all of us, for that matter) would struggle with even before he was born.  There are no mistakes.  And God knows what this journey holds for us. We are so so so blessed!

Okay, so that is a little explanation of SPD and while we can only tell you how it has affected our life, I hope that this offers a little better understanding!

Be Blessed,

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