The Sensory Phenomenon
It is a Saturday morning and I am trying to find things to do with Silas other than watch television. I go over all of the things we have already done and am left with few options since he is quite young. (At the time he was around 6 months) Then it hits me, let’s finger paint! I set up construction paper taped down, a cloth underneath to protect the floor from the sure mess that is about to happen, and bring out the paints. I change Silas and bring him over. He cautiously eyes the set up laid out before him. I of course, am excited to be witnessing the first paint art project.
As I poured the paint onto the paper Silas watches me intensely. I can tell he isn’t quite sure what to think yet. I take his hand, since he doesn’t do it on his own, and dip just the tips of his fingers in the paint. At first he is okay with it and rubs his hand on the paper. He seems to be happy and is trying to figure this stuff out. Once he actually looks at his hand though…he freaks out. Silas is clearly upset with the paint that is on his hand. When I say upset what I mean is he is crying inconsolably, face is red, and he is going into full meltdown mode. Baffled by the events that just happened, I quickly removed him from the situation and cleaned him up. At the time I did not understand what had occurred.
This was my first indication, though I did not know it at the time, that Silas has Sensory Processing Disorder. The meltdowns happened many more times and in many different situations. I actually did not know what was wrong with Silas for a very long time. Once I finally got him diagnosed I found out what everything meant.
Sensory Processing Disorder, or sometimes called sensory integration, is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Basically, there is a neurological traffic jam going on that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. This makes it hard to process and act upon information received through the senses. Countless everyday activities and tasks become quite challenging. For Silas, these sensory processing difficulties have disrupted his everyday life.
You may be thinking to yourself…I still don’t quite get what exactly this sensory processing disorder is. Well, to better explain it I have taken a portion of the text from a well-regarded/known website.
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the “floppy babies” who worry new parents and the kids who get called “klutz” and “spaz” on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed – and inappropriately medicated – for ADHD.
Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.
These “sensational adults” may have difficulty performing routines and activities involved in work, close relationships, and recreation. Because adults with SPD have struggled for most of their lives, they may also experience depression, underachievement, social isolation, and/or other secondary effects.
Sadly, misdiagnosis is common because many health care professionals are not trained to recognize sensory issues. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is dedicated to researching these issues, educating the public and professionals about their symptoms and treatment, and advocating for those who live with Sensory Processing Disorder and sensory challenges associated with other conditions.
Now, as for Silas…all of the items just mentioned apply to him. He is affected in multiple senses which makes so many different situations difficult for him. He will not wear certain textures, eat certain foods, listen to certain decibels, react to certain lighting, touch certain textures, tell or show me when he is hurt, and until recently he was a major klutz. The whole idea of this disorder was hard for us to grasp at first. I am still learning new things every day.
For a while we were taking him to Occupational Therapy but since his therapist was a major pushover we stopped going. I am looking to get him into a different therapist’s program but until then I keep researching and reading. Hoping to find ways to help him improve. I can’t wait for the day when we can actually make finger paintings, play with playdough, get dirty in the mud, eat any food I present, and actually communicate. He has definitely come a long way thus far but it is a struggle every day. In our house we celebrate the small things. We live life by the moments that make it up. Yes, everyday there is a routine we follow but Silas is a character and keeps us on our toes. I look forward to the many adventures ahead and hope that me journaling our adventure helps people, even slightly, understand.
This last picture was my latest attempt at getting him to paint during a therapy session. He plays in the paint for a second then immediately wipes it on his shirt. This is progress though. He’s touching the paint.