Category Archives: Sensory Processing Disorder

Braces + Aspie = ?

Eleven years ago he popped out two cute little front teeth. Then he popped out another two. Oh, he was the cutest little thing on the planet! At least, this mother can say that and be completely telling the truth, according to a mother’s prerogative. Back in the naïve days of parenting a first-born, we didn’t think about those two little teeth turning into a whole mouth that needed some serious adjustments. We just adored our little guy with cutesy-wootsy, itsy-bitsy teefers.

I had seen my friends’ and relatives’ kids all lose their cute little baby teeth and enter the “awkward” stage. Not saying they weren’t just the cutest little awkward kids ever, but still, the stage where the teeth are bigger than their faces, awaiting the adult head was an obvious stage to look forward to. Ahem. J-man hit that stage early because his big ol’ teeth came in earlier than his peers. He lost his first teeth just after he turned five.

Fast forward a few years and those teeth and his upper jaw moved forward noticeably and we knew we were in for a dental bill that we couldn’t afford to ignore. We started saving early. Now we are paying those dues and will be doing so for a spell.

Today was the day. It was the day he had looked forward to, in a dread sort of way, for a long time. We had prepped him with pictures, videos, a prep appointment…you name it. We were being proactive, but not in a crazy, in-his-face sort of way. We were very balanced about it, knowing his proclivity towards anxiety.

He has matured and grown so much emotionally that I didn’t really see the semi-trailer full of Anxious before it hit. We were having a normal day yesterday when we mentioned that tomorrow would be braces day. Enter tears of frightful proportions that we have not seen in a good long while. Whoa! This did not bode well. He asked his 1000 questions, I answered as best I could. I prayed, asked my Mom and Dad to pray and asked them to ask their prayer chain to pray. Can’t have too much prayer, I say.

This morning we get up to the usual 1000 more questions and my 873 answers. I secretly place an Ativan in my purse…for him, not me, though I eyeballed the dosage to see if it would be strong enough for an anxious mother. Just kidding…I also placed a stress ball and some natural homeopathic stress meds. I was so ready. Bring. IT. ON!

The Orthodontist office is the cleanest I’ve ever been in. Of course, it’s the only Ortho office I’ve been in. They make you take off your shoes outside the door and give you “sterilized DAWGS” to wear. I like it.

We entered and waited. J-man was noticeably amped up but doing really well. He hadn’t cried for at least an hour! A lady that we had not yet met called us in. J-man thrives when life is predictable so throwing in a new (but not new to the office) gal into his life messed with him right from the get-go. She was nice but definitely had the air of “don’t mess with me”. Right away he got super nervous, shaking and defiant looking. I know he’s not really defiant but really over-the-top freaked out, but she interpreted his mood as defiance and tried to lay down the law. It spooked him even more.

Eventually, we got him convinced to lay down, but he was still super freaked. He was shaking all over. After a very noisy half of an hour, the Ortho Dr. came in and said we should probably shut it down for today but that we’d have to wait for another 2 months and then try again. I really didn’t want to do this again. Not the anxiety, not the panic…none of it. I got down in front of J-man and had the best pep talk in a long while. I talked to him of how I didn’t care what he looked like. I knew he was an amazing kid whether he had the same teeth or whether they were fixed. I told him that God shone in his life no matter what too. I reminded him that HE had wanted his teeth changed. I told him that he would be healthier for it too. I let him think that he had some control over whether he got braces or not. I’d like to think I wasn’t fibbing…Little by little he calmed. I remembered to pray. As he lay back down, I laid my hand on his ankle and started praying for him. I wondered why in the world it had taken me so long! Immediately, he started to calm. The rest of it was done in less time than all the talking took. He was almost relaxed as they finished up. It only took over three times as long, as it usually takes, but we got ‘er done!

I was so proud of how he worked through the incredible amounts of internal distress to get through a very undesirable circumstance. The sensory aspects of getting braces is  unbelievable when you are a person with an extra sensitive system. His head area is his most crazy-making part of him. I am bursting with mama pride!

I realize that God is the real reason that we got through this seemingly innocuous procedure. I raise my hands in praise to the King of Creation. He made our child who he is. I am excited to see him progress and become the man he was created to be. Even these “simple” circumstances, that are monumental tasks for our boy, are ones that shape who he is becoming. God is doing a good work in our son.

Braces + Aspie = One proud and thankful Mom. There were moments we could have left the office minus the braces, but we left with braces and boy intact.

YIPEE!!

Now to figure out the high-tech tooth-brush. Why can’t they make that simple?

Life without the Personal Space Bubble

Bent over the white paper of his assignment booklet he grasps his pencil as if his life depended on it. Furrowed brow, mouth hanging open he concentrates on the words he writes, erasing the occasional misspelled word. At school, one of the major issues he faced was with focusing in the classroom setting. At home, he concentrates like a champ in our structured times.

Then, there are the unstructured times. Following me every step of my day is a boy who has no real sense of boundaries and social graces when he is just looking for a friend. During the school day that friend would be, no one else but….me. I am his teacher in those teacher moments, I am his buddy in those non-school moments and I am his mother all those times and the times in between. Being the only child in our Home School of One is a lonely gig, when he’s used to children being everywhere, whether he’s at school or at home. This whole transition of being at home alone all day has been an “interesting” experiment for us both.

I like personal space and boundaries. If there were personal space bubbles that could bounce people out of my personal space when they get too close, I would buy a lifetime’s supply of them. I, without being aware of it, gave up my bubble for the closeness of two children who don’t seem to care that I need a buffer zone. My other two children love affection but they don’t follow me around the house the way the other two do. My oldest and youngest (the ones with challenges) follow me around closer than a shadow. I have to watch that I don’t turn around too fast or I may swing my arm and elbow into them. If I don’t look as I turn, I may trip over them or full-on body check them. Backing up can be tricky, depending on how many are standing in my personal space behind me without me knowing.

personal space
personal space (Photo credit: frankh)

Hugging, touching and wrestling with my children are activities which I look forward to. I love to have them close…for a time. Then, I like them to step back into their personal bubbles and have some time to themselves. Or, at the very least, follow me from a  two foot radius around me.

You can find me snuggling any number of children on my lap or beside me during the day. I’ll play with my girls’ hair or rub another child’s back if they are sitting near me. I don’t mind them being close at all, most of the time.

There was a time last week when I was shopping and I was trying to compare prices and products. It’s one of those situations where I may have to change my direction with my body unpredictably as I move back and forth from product to product or aisle to aisle. I became aware of J-man’s penchant for shadowing me in situations like this. I would tell him “Please, just stay by the cart” but there would be something he HAD to tell me that required him coming inches in front of me while I was trying to read a box and he could not wait for one more second to tell me his important news, such as “Mom, did you see that guy over there? He was wearing a green shirt.” Important stuff here. Glad you told me son. Now, I have to reread the box’s tiny list of ingredients so I can find if any offensive artificial coloring is in it. At which point he is desperate to talk to me about a thing that happened last week when one of his siblings said something or other to him. Speaking to me right in the face is how he makes sure I am paying attention. Not a bad strategy, though it gets rather tiresome for me when he has something to say every 10 seconds.

It started to drive me a bit batty. Especially since he’s been shadowing me at home too. I didn’t notice it when he was in school. But now that he’s home all day, it seems that I need a personal space bubble for me so that he can figure out that he just can’t come up behind me and start talking. It could give his poor momma a heart attack!

I miss my little personal time, as limited as it was. Oh did I ever have any? Really?

He’s not the only one that pops that imaginary bubble of personal space. My little gal does it too.  “Mom, UP!” My five-yr-old cries. Yes, she’s five. Yes, she still requires a lot of Momma’s time and a bucketfull of cuddles everyday.  My sweet child is as big as an 8 yr old giant. Snuggling includes sitting down with her, and not carrying her around like you can do with a small 5 yr old. She also has no awareness of personal boundaries and has been known to hug and kiss her friends at school. Yee haw!  Teachers probably wonder at what I do to make these kids so free of personal space rules.

Since homeschooling J-man I have come to value “me” time. Value? Heck, if I could grab some I would pay a pretty penny for it.

I’m not sure if any other momma’s to special needs kids feel the same way but I need a Personal Space Bubble. If anyone is selling, I’ll buy.

A bubble.
A bubble. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting rid of Artificial Dye

The Food Coloring
The Food Coloring (Photo credit: Matthew Bland)

Yes, it’s the mother of all that is cruel in a child’s life…to take away artificial colorings. Afterall, aren’t those shiny red candies the BEST ones? Isn’t that too-red-for-words juice at the potluck table the only thing that will quench thirst? Even if I did bring a natural juice that tastes BETTER.

Yes, I am a cruel heartless mother who has taken her kids off of dyes. The damage has been done, and my little Aspie thinks it’s the end of the world. He thinks that red dye makes food tastier. Mmm hmmm….

It just may be the end of the world, because the word artificial is on every food label there could be! I haven’t even uttered a word about taking all artificial everything out of our diets yet, but it’s coming. Oh yes, the days is coming.

But let’s deal with the really bad food dyes, shall we? A plethora of research has been done (google it if you want, I don’t have the chutzpah to do it tonight and link it) to show how these food dyes have infiltrated our diets and a ton of foods you would never think would be littered with them, are.

What they cause are behavior issues, to start. This is what I deal with in my family. This is what I will talk about. Artificial food coloring have also been linked to cancer among other things. But behaviors are what I’m talking about.

In our family, we have one Aspie. Aspie children have behaviors that are a little more bizarre than the usual kid on the street. They may say things out of the blue that don’t really have relevance. He may concentrate on a particular subject for YEARS. He may cry after a frustrating go at something. He may be afraid to use the phone because it puts him in an awkward social situation that he can’t predict or script. Sensory issues bring out ticks, uttering that doesn’t make sense or doggie noises. Anxiety is a trigger for a lot of everything.

As he grows older and more mature these behaviors are becoming less and less pronounced overall unless, and I say unless as a foreshadowing…we have food dyes. Yes, I said it. I’ve noticed the difference myself. From a calm, caring, focused (for him), easy to redirect child, comes a hyper, bounce around the house, and impossible to redirect child. He’s bouncy bouncy bouncy. And while this would seem healthy as an exercise, it’s not particularly helpful when trying to complete schoolwork at home. He starts talking NONSTOP. This is a child who is conversational (one-sided, mind you) to a fault. He loves to talk, but after consuming dyes, he is a run-on sentence. Run-on sentences said at a speed no one could track is exhausting to the listener. All this said while bouncing.

We know how to partay! ahem.

then there is my second oldest who, bless her beautiful heart, reacts to Red 40 by becoming  ruthless assassin. She is smart as a whip and beautiful to boot, but infused with that deadly chemical anyone who looks at her the wrong way gets a full throttle beating, if you know what I mean. The claws come out. It gets ugly, fast. This is a recent (last wee and this week) observation as we had Valentines (can we say red and pink candy galore?), then she snuck a red candy yesterday and I figured it out only after a rash of karate moves to unsuspecting victims. Oh, perhaps they had it coming to them at some point, but that was not the case here. I totally called it and she confessed. I had no idea at the time of the exasperated conversation, that I was right, but knew she was eyeballing a candy from her sister’s stash that had RED 40 written all over it’s pretty red flower face. And she had taken that candy despite my earlier “NO!” to her.

So then,  the youngest two. I have just kept them away because we are staying away from it as a family. I am trying to have a healthier menu overall. My third child, has had some behavioral issues in the past, but is coming around nicely. I need to track his behavior when he’s been around the dastardly chemical enhancer. So far, the oldest two have kept me busy when something has been ingested so I’ll have to pay more attention to the younger two.

It is when they have functions at school, church or at friend’s houses that I can’t control what they eat. My one son (ironically, the one that doesn’t seem prone to behavioral outbursts at the time) kept himself from eating any of the food/candy that had dye in it on Valentines, in his class. So proud of him! He may be self-regulating himself that way and that is terrific!

How to keep them away from it for those times when I’m not with them, though. OY!

Any ideas on this from experienced parents?

More Early Years – The Third Arrives!!

Droopy draw's.
Droopy draw’s. (Photo credit: This Year’s Love)

Diapers need to be changed, bottles need to be washed and filled, ready for the next round of hunger. Books need to be read. Snuggles usually go with these readings, and giggles will likely erupt. A preschooler is tucked into an empty arm, and a toddler is wandering aimlessly with a bottle attached to her pink rosebuds lips. Her diaper droops behind her as she toddles past, her bare arms and chest display her lack of caring over clothes. Baby screeches from the perch in the high chair  and reading time is interrupted. Everyone shifts to move out-of-the-way for me to rescue the lonely and unhappy child. Then everyone piles in again and all is right in the world, as we all crane our heads and bodies (somehow God gives us elasto-arms to reach around the brood AND hold the book)  to see the pages of the book I am reading before bedtime. Inevitably a little pushing and shoving interrupt the story-telling a few more times before our story is over.

Everyone races to find something else to do and not put their cute little pj’s on their cute little selves. So, mommy and daddy chase kids to the rooms to put sleeves onto writhing limbs and legs into elusive leg holes.

**sigh of relief**

Bedtime is done… but is it really?  From the recesses of one crib there arises a sounds so loud, so shrill that ears start to bleed and the hearts of the parents start to bleed as well. After night after night of continuous crying… what is it? Is our little one feeling lonely and abandoned for the night? Are they hungry? You try to think of some reason you can think of to comfort him and make the noise stop…Are they sick? What could it be? Dread fills our hearts as we hear him ramp up to begin the nightly 2 hour ritual we’ve come to hate. Two hours of intense crying. We’ve tried everything, so we attempt to let him settle himself. It is humanly impossible to just sit there and let him scream without picking him up, but this night, we do.

These were the early days when our Third Child, Ninja, came along.He was the cutest little blue-eyed blonde we’d ever seen. Even early, his eyes sparkled with a sunny personality. He struggled so, with his health, in the beginning and the fussy nights were a part of it.We held him many evenings, but there were times no comfort could be given and none would to be received. It was almost like he needed to unwind for the day’s activities and settle himself.

We didn’t realize, until later, that he was dealing with a severe case of Sensory Processing Disorder, like our firstborn, but not exactly the same. It affected how he reacted to things throughout his babyhood. When things were good, they were really, really good. When things were bad they were really, really bad.

He developed right on target with most everything except in the area of hearing. His severe gastric reflux irritated the chronic fluid in his ears and so he was not hearing well and not developing speech. We had tubes put in twice and then he could HEAR! Previously, I had taught him some sign language, not knowing if the hearing loss was permanent. It was fun to delve into a little of that language, as I have relatives who are deaf and it gave me a real appreciation for what they deal with and how their language is incredible!

So baby number three (or was it four?) came home. As a foster child, his case looked very much like it would lead to adoption. Then it didn’t, then it did, then it didn’t. It was confusing. All along we hoped this sensitive little man would become our son. And he did!

We learned much more about sensory processing in a whole different way with him. His temperament was so different from J-man’s. They they reacted to overstimulation in completely different ways. It was my mom that pointed out that they were both very sensitive but Ninja was explosive, whereas J-man shut down in a storm of tears.

This  meant we had to figure out what the dickens was going on when everyone was escalating. Whew!  Those early years were intense. They were intense in so many ways.

We were feeling blessed that God had brought another little one to live in our family. He came suddenly one morning, 16 hours after birth and was the easiest transition ever. We didn’t have time to get worked up as we had only 3 hours to prepare for his arrival (or pick up as it was). He felt like family right away.

God is good!

Who set the speed limit?

Sometimes a mom just has to blog. I am going to start my story today, but by no means will it end with this post.

I have four amazing blessings that are called children. Sometimes they are human, sometimes they act like aliens. I’m ok with that.

Most days.

The story starts eleven short years ago. We were waiting to be matched with a birth family as we hoped to adopt to become parents. We had been through an incredibly deep rollercoaster ride in our attempts to have children. This January will mark eleven years since we we matched with a lovely young couple who were expecting a baby and looking to place this miracle with a family. We were that family.

Excitement and wonder do not even come close to describing the joy we felt upon seeing this small baby become our son. He was the one who was meant to be in our lives all along. We had been waiting for him.

As his babyhood turned into toddlerhood, we watched him grow and change. He was amazing! He may have been slower in his progress developmentally, but it wasn’t anywhere close to concerning for us. He said his first words at 10 months and we were thrilled with how smart he was.

Being our firstborn, we didn’t really know what to expect, but seeing other children his age, especially a good friend’s son, go through the milestones quite a bit sooner than he started making me wonder.

I had to teach him how to roll, sit, crawl, walk (with a lot of encouragement), feed himself and more. This does not seem unusual if you hear it like that. Don’t we all encourage and teach our children how to do these things? Why did other children accomplish these milestones without much encouragement at all? We needed to show him which leg needed to come out first when getting out of the stroller. The task seemed to confuse him.

Even still, I thought he may be a little behind, but then, he was still on the “normal” range, according to the nurses in the “know”. That is, until a nurse asked if I’d taken him to a Speech Pathologist. I looked at her sideways and said “No. He’s been talking since he was 10 months.” I didn’t see what she saw. A few months later, I would find out what she had been hinting at.

Our daughter was born when he was two years old. She sped through the developmental milestones, making me realize that babies do indeed learn many skills just by trying things out. Try things out, she did! She was a child that didn’t let the grass grow under her feet, as the saying goes.

I started seeing other behaviors in our son that concerned me. He was crying often. He didn’t cry all that much as a baby as I would run to soothe him. He was happy to be soothed by me and I was able to give him all my attention. I was happy to do all the things he found difficult. I know now that by doing those things for him, I delayed his development even more. But what did I know? At that point, I didn’t know I would need to push him to try new things. I would need to let him fall and fail.

His speech, by three, was noticeably clear and he could repeat anything we said. His pronounciation was stellar. What I started noticing was that he was repeating everything we said and not coming up with a two-sided conversation. He mimicked like a champ but that’s where his skills ended.

I asked some questions on an adoption forum that I had been a part of for a while. A wise and experienced mom mentioned that I should look into Sensory Processing Disorder (or Sensory Integration Disorder, at the time). I had heard of it before and made my way to the Occupational Therapist. She assessed him and told me he definitely was on the severe spectrum. We started therapy and noticed improvements.

By this time, I knew I needed extra help. I had been trying to potty train him for a couple of years and was having no luck. Again, with him being my first child, I didn’t know what to expect and all I knew was what I read or had heard from others. No one had dealt with what I was dealing with.

We got him into a special preschool and the knowledge the teacher shared with me was enlightening. The support I received in that time of our lives was beyond helpful. I was directed to resources and therapy that I didn’t know existed.

By life’s circumstances and my son’s needs, we were travelling down a road that I had not realized we’d turned onto. Life’s direction was about to get very scenic and I had no clue where we were!