Welcome to a day in the life of me and my SPD kid. Some days are manageable, and some days are so off-the-chart bonkers that it really tests my faith in my ability to be a good parent. Today was definitely one of those days. I have to keep reminding myself that she (as of yet) has no real control over or true awareness of what’s going on neurologically in her body. It’s just firing on all pistons and she’s along for the ride, whether she wants to be or not.
A clue that something was amiss today presented itself at brunch. My daughter is generally high energy, but today, it was impossible for her to sit still and focus on anything. I look around at other tables, where kids her age and younger are peacefully eating their food and feel a pang of envy. Mine is squirming, getting up, crawling around in the booth and under the table, standing next to the table, running to the bathroom and even rotating her body clockwise at the hips – in short, doing everything BUT sitting down, eating her food. She was demonstrating an obvious need for vestibular movement. Why? Who knows. She wasn’t quite being disruptive enough for us to make the decision to go home, but brunch was less than enjoyable.
Later, my husband and I decided to take a 6 mile walk around the Candler Park/Druid Hills area near our house. Our daughter accompanies us in the jog stroller and we will usually stop at a nearby park for her to play and get her energy out. I suspect we didn’t give her enough time to go on the swings and really engage in that vestibular movement she was seeking. (As an infant, she needed a lot of movement – rocking, walking, etc -if she was fussy or needed to go to asleep.) I thought the movement of the jogging stroller would help, but instead, she argued, whined and fidgeted for most of the (very long) walk.
The rest of the day went much the same way. She did finally exhaust herself enough to go to bed a bit earlier than usual, a huge relief to me. I understand my daughter has sensory processing issues. Unfortunately, I do not have a deep well of patience, especially when I’m already feeling overwhelmed by daily life. I have my own sensory issues, and there’s too much noise or agitated energy coming at me, I just want to run for the hills. If I can’t escape and reset my levels, I’m liable to snap at whoever happens to be nearby. My husband saw that I was having a really bad day, and surprised me with flowers later.
Recently, I did begin adding back in some “sensory diet” exercises with her at night, because she’s been having difficulty falling asleep. She walks very high on her toes, so we started doing stretches for her calves/Achilles tendon, as well as gentle but firm compressions on her limbs, feet and hands. She used to fight me when I did them before (at the recommendation of the physical therapist we were working with at the time) but now she actually seems to enjoy them. And just as important, she settles down for bed without a 2 hour nightly battle.
My husband suggested we sign her up for a gymnastics/tumbling class on Saturdays, so that she has something structured to do with her energy. I do wonder if it will help or only overload her system further. I think she’ll like the activity, because she is a rough and tumble little kid and enjoys bounce houses, foam-sword fighting with her daddy, running and kicking the soccer ball around. I just worry that she’ll be so wound up after she gets home that the rest of the day will be more than I can reasonably handle.
I think sometimes my husband and I are in a bit of denial that this is something we’ll have to continue to work through with our daughter. We keep holding on to hope that “it gets better at 3” or “it gets better at 4”, only to realize that the issues have little to do with “normal” child development (in those areas, she is generally doing fine and on schedule) and more with how she is wired.
One of the things I’m struggling with is figuring out what to do about her thumb-sucking and attachment to “blankie.” Remember Linus from the Peanuts gang? That’s my daughter. “Blankie” must go everywhere with her. I’ve seen people give my daughter odd looks because she will sit there with her blanket and thumb jammed in her mouth. She’s tall for her age, and could be mistaken for a 5 year old, so no doubt there’s some silent judgment accompanying the looks. However, it is often the only way she can self-regulate her sensory input. It calms and soothes her when she’s tired or agitated. Her preschool teachers have been good about allowing her to keep “blankie” with her when she wants it, but I don’t know how things are going to be when she enters Pre-K in the fall. I will basically have to keep her from bringing it with her to school and I know it’s going to be painful.
All I can do is take this journey day by day. It’s so frustrating at times, and the work required is draining beyond normal parenting work. I know that people who do not know about SPD see her in public and think, “That kid is hyper and her parents can’t control her” but they don’t know what it’s like – or how hard it is to reorient a child with sensory issues. Many of the strategies suggested in regular parenting books and websites simply don’t work. It’s not a lack of effort, trust me. It’s like standing on one side of a wall, trying to speak a language to a person on the other side who can’t understand what you’re saying. And you’re both peering over that wall, wishing you could finally connect in a meaningful way.
(Photo credit: LisaW123 on Flickr)