We had to make our adoption blog private, so for now I am going to use this blog to post a few things. (by the way if you want an invite to the private blog leave me a comment)
My son Dmitrii has Sensory Processing Disorder. This is something many people know nothing about. So, I thought I would share a little bit about it.
I had never even heard of SPD until I came across a post on one of the adoption groups I am a member of. A woman was talking about certain behaviors her daughter had and that they were because of her SPD. Well, the behaviors were the exact things I had been seeing with Dmitrii and suddenly there was an explanation for things that had been a mystery to me up until that point.
I am not going to try to explain the technical details of SPD. I wouldn’t do it justice I am sure. Please check out the SPD Foundation for that. What I am going to do instead is describe some of the sensory issues that Dmitrii has and how they affect his day to day living.
- When he is off the ground he feels complete terror. This is an irrational fear of falling. Even if he is safely in our arms he is afraid he will fall unless he is held very close. We can not lift him up above our heads like many people do when playing with their toddler. It terrifies him. He can not sit in a swing at the park because it terrifies him. (this is not from the motion of the swing but the simple fact of being a few feet off the ground)
- Certain clothing bothers him to wear. If his pants legs ride up on him it bothers him and he will completely obsess on it until the problem is fixed. He actually will scream and cry while pulling at his pants leg trying to fix it. Nothing will distract him from the fact that the pants leg is up and as soon as it is fixed he goes about whatever he was doing as though nothing happened. The same thing will happen if long sleeves ride up his arm. It is almost impossible for him to wear a mid length sleeve shirt without him obsessing over the sleeves.
- He seeks or avoids oral sensation. I know it sounds crazy but he both seeks and avoids oral sensory input. He will lick his hand to get the sensation on his tongue. He avoids things like tooth-brushing. The hand licking has caused him to get impetigo. The tooth-brushing thing is hard on both of us. I literally have to hold him down to brush his teeth while he cries and fights the whole time. I hate doing it but I don’t want his teeth to rot, so I have to.
- Over sensitive to auditory input. This simply means that he hates loud noises or excess background noise. I have a photo of us at dinner in a restaurant in which Dmitrii has a dvd player in front of him that people always comment on. They think he is spoiled because we do that. In truth, it is a necessity in almost any crowded place. It helps him to block out the background noise. Otherwise he would be holding his ears and growling. Places with too much background noise are overstimulating for him and he doesn’t know how to handle it.
- Certain touches bother him. A light touch or tickle might feel kind of funny for most of us, but for Dmitrii they are beyond annoying. This kind of touch really bothers him. There are many ways we play with our toddlers that involve light touch or tickling and this is one way I simply can not play with my son. This little piggy? Nope, can’t do it. He hates for his toes to be touched. He does respond well to deep pressure touches. This means I get to have really great big bear hugs, so that’s a plus. One example of light vs deep touch comes when washing his hair. If I use a small cup to pour water on his head to rinse he screams and fights me. However if I use a small bucket and dump it on his head all at once his response is much less severe. He still does not really like it, but the deeper pressure of more water being poured on his head at once is less bothersome.
- He can not stand to be leaned backwards. This leads me to more on hair washing. I can NOT tip him back to rinse his hair. Tipping back will send him in to a total freakout. Not a good thing to have in a bathtub. I learned this lesson quickly when we went from rinsing, to him nearly drowning himself in a twisting motion that flipped him face first in the water in an attempt to get out of the leaned back position. I also learned that if I am holding him I need to squat down to pick something up because if I lean down it tips him back and again we have freak out.
There are a few other sensory issues that he has that affect his day to day life, but I think the list above gives you a good picture. There are times that we will be in public and he will have what looks to everyone around us like a temper tantrum. It isn’t. It is my son reacting to some sensory input that his brain just can not process in the correct way. We get stares and looks and whispers. I know strangers often think my son is a spoiled brat. They are so very wrong. My son is a good, sweet boy with a disorder that is beyond his control. Something to think of the next time you see a child having a “temper tantrum” in public.