by Sam

Well, if you talked to my husband you would think SPD is a fuss about nothing, a way to turn a high spirited child into a 'labeled problem child'. He's a true skeptic, thinks this is all quackery and doesn't have much time for dialogue. However, as a mum I have been aware that my son is 'different' from most of his peers.

Archie is now 5 and up until now I haven't thought there was anything majorly wrong with him but was constantly challenged by his behaviour.

As a baby, the only things I look back at and wonder if there were early signs are things like, crying himself to sleep a lot, waking up from naps inconsolable and miserable for about 1 hour afterwards unless he was given a cookie. He shied away from physical contact, was never a 'cuddly child' and didn't like kisses - wiped them off! He had a couple of seizures when he was 3 due to viruses but we didn't take much notice of this as there were only 2 of them in 5 years.

Now he is 5, thankfully he's much more affectionate, loves kisses and cuddles and constantly tells me he loves me. But where I see signs of SPD are: he loves spinning indefinitely and doesn't become dizzy. He crashes and bangs about, never missing a chance to give something or someone a kick or a punch if passing (including on one occasion a random shopper passing by our shopping cart!). He regularly charges at me like a bull to a matador and smashes into my pelvis (and my husband too). Every time I arrange a playdate/parkdate I venture out with trepidation that there will be an incident and that as much as he loves his friends invariably he ends up taking out his frustration on them with punches (which could be normal for a 5.5yr old but I'm beginning to have my doubts). He has an issue with extremely sweaty and clammy hands and feet (especially when excited due to playing computer games) which I believe is a dysfunction of his parasympathetic nervous system (which affects his being able to open door handles, jars, snack packets, hang on to monkey bars etc). He prefers to wear jogging trousers with long sleeve tops at all times (even at the height of summer) or nothing at all. He doesn't like trying new foods (I suspect it's to do with the texture although he hasn't communicated that to us). He struggles to master common activities and gets angry and frustrated when he tries (cannot pump a swing, could not ride a tricycle), although he mastered a bike very early on due to us starting him on a scoot bike when he was 18 months old.

He loves being barefoot. He loves getting messy and wet and his favourite activities are running in and out of waves, riding his bike, fast (and ploughing into the odd pedestrian who gets in his way!), jumping all over the sofas, bouncing on a mattress/exercise ball, building intricate lego models (he has an incredible imagination), climbing, jumping from heights, being daring, running fast. He's addicted to the TV and computer games but we have recently limited this activity as it appears to make him more aggressive, more hyper and less able to deal with frustrations at attempting to do things.

We have him in Karate at the moment and he is thriving - it takes him a while to master new sequences but I feel that it is doing him the world of good. He struggles with his attention span while waiting his turn at times but I'm sure this is normal for this age.

During a period at pre-school, the teachers all had good things to say about Archie but there were times that they had to split he and his best friend up due to his 'rambunctiousness'. If I was waiting with him in the reception area, he would be the one jumping up on the benches and launching himself off of them, much to my embarrassment.

Where I have been struggling is I KNOW Archie is not being naughty or malicious, I have sensed for a long time that he is just not in control of his body and can't help his actions. He exhausts me with his endless energy. I struggle with how to discipline him - if this is not his fault, he needs extra empathy, compassion and patience which I find hard when he testing me to my limits. Also, I believe it is important to still be strict and discipline him like any other child who steps out of line to help him learn what is and what isn't appropriate behaviour.

As he is very smart, appears to have no unusual 'symptoms', seems to be just another high spirited normal 5 year old, most people would probably say there is nothing wrong with him but having been around him 24/7 the last 5 years, I sense that if he is to be successful then these extra sensory needs need to be addressed before they cause real problems.

When I did some research on SPD it felt like a light bulb had gone on and finally I understood why my son was struggling and why we were so frustrated with his behaviour at times. I don't want my son to have a label but I do want the best for our son and want him to be as amazing as I know he can be.

I have contacted an Occupational Therapist and she is booked to evaluate Archie this weekend. We shall see how things go but finally I'm optimistic about the future and learning new ways to help Archie reach his full potential and to lessen the likelihood of him being misunderstood.

If after Occupational Therapy, we see improvements then it will just confirm for me that this a real condition, my son has it, and there are real positive steps that can be taken to help children and their parents to enjoy life more and not to struggle so much. Surely any skeptic would want this?

I believe SPD is real and my hope is that it is recognized sooner rather than later and people become more understanding and empathetic to the children and the parents of these children. Child rearing is difficult enough, without SPD thrown into the mix.

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