The random meltdowns of crying was enough to drive anyone up the wall. The frustration and OCD tendencies left me dizzy trying to figure out why in the world I could not make my child happy. A practically invisible piece of dirt on his hands would send him into tears, wanting to wash his hands over and over again. He wanted his sunglasses on in the stores even if the lights were not that intense. When I took his socks off at night to apply essential oils and change his socks, he acted as if his life was being threatened…when all I had done was take one pair of socks off, rubbed on some oils, and put the other pair of socks back on. Two minutes. Max. And it sent him into a desperate, heartbreaking meltdown. What I didn’t know was that my precious boy had sensory processing disorder.
I had been told for so long it would get better. And now I was being told it was because we had just made a huge change in his life. We had just moved to Alaska, and yes, that was obviously a huge change. I was so confused, discouraged, and overwhelmed. I was doing my best for my child, but my best wasn’t good enough. Ever felt that way before? I’m going to guess most parents have.
Asking for Help
A friend of mine who has been so faithful to walk a path with me had been asking me to get him evaluated for occupational therapy for months. She kept telling me he had symptoms of sensory processing disorder. And I steadily chose to resist. I could do this. We could take care of our son by ourselves. And then one day it happened. A seemingly not-so-big event that rocked me and made me realize I could NOT do this. He asked me to draw a helicopter for him. So I tried. He asked me to change some elements of it. So I tried again. Over and over and over again. He cried harder and harder and got more and more frustrated. It went on for over 45minutes. I should have distracted him with something else but I did not. And then it dawned on me. I could not fix this.
So I made some calls and I did what my friend had been asking me to do. I got an evaluation. I braved going out into our new Alaskan community, and found a therapist. While the therapist observed and evaluated Jed, I completed paperwork and surveys. I checked box after box saying that he had tendencies that were symptoms of sensory processing disorder. And then the therapist came out and told me that he had sensory processing disorder. I felt both relief and guilt. Relief that we had answers and could get help. Guilt that I had waited so long to get those answers and help.
It’s Okay, Mama
Mama, it’s okay. If you’ve been there, it’s okay. If you are wondering if you need help and haven’t reached out, it’s okay. But go do it. God did not put us in this world to figure everything out by ourselves. He gave us community – people to surround us and support us (and in turn, we do the same for others). That community changed our lives. By people telling us to reach out for help, and then getting that help, our lives changed.
I want to be careful how much of my childrens’ stories I tell because it is their story. But I want to share enough that it is helpful to other people. There are so many symptoms for sensory processing disorder, and different areas in which they can manifest themselves. It effects between 5-16% of children. I’m no expert so I hope you will read more information from the STAR Institute to help give you knowledge so you can identify the symptoms yourself. I can tell you that if you have a child who cannot regulate their emotions, seems bothered on a consistent basis by something minor (such as a speck of dirt on their hands), avoids new things, hides from lights, and cannot handle loud sounds, then some further research should be done. Even if you aren’t sure, go get an evaluation. Many therapy clinics do a free evaluation. It’s worth it.
The Hope and Realities of Today
Today, Jed is doing much better coping with symptoms of sensory processing disorder. It’s been over a year now since we began occupational therapy. He also is in physical therapy to correct some gait issues and strengthen some muscles that are weak (this is partially due to his sensory disorder causing him to avoid some things). And to top it all off, he is also in speech therapy. His younger sister, Jules, is also in occupational therapy and physical therapy. This does not mean that our path is easy and that everything is better now. We still have some really hard days. They still have several therapy appointments every week. We still have a long road of healing, learning, and coping to do. But it is so much better.
If I could explain the way these three therapies have helped my children, I would. But to be honest, I cannot. It is indescribable. I can tell you though that they are happier. The meltdowns are less frequent. The speech has improved. The shy boy that would sit by himself in a corner and rarely say a word is now a happy little chatterbox and the one who fills my house with songs. The girl that would scream for two hours straight is learning to control her emotions and communicate effectively. It is worth it. Every overwhelming schedule that our family has handled to get them to their therapy appointments – so worth it.
You Can Do It
The path may be hard. It may even seem daunting. But in the end, get some help and you’ll see the improvements. The community of therapists are there for you, and you will find as you look around that you are not alone. There are hundreds of moms and dads walking that same path…the same path of sensory processing disorder.