Can school make SPD worse for my child?
(El Paso, Texas)
My 7 year old daughter seems to have more problems with SPD during the school year than when home. She was diagnosed about 1 year ago and received OT and PT for about 3 months weekly (proprioceptive, vestibular, & low muscle tone, were the areas of concern). We made huge progress in a short amount of time. We then moved this past summer and all her difficulties (fits, muscle tone, frustration, etc) went away.
We stopped OT during the summer b/c of the move, however her confidence increased and she was like a different child. She made huge progress in handwriting and even went from hating swimming to swimming laps independently. We are guessing we were providing the therapy by the swimming, and other activities that we did without consciously knowing it. We anticipated the move being a hurdle but actually was a blessing until school started.
The first month was fine. Then things fell apart. She stopped eating (began oral defensiveness problems which she never had; eating tiny bites, fear of choking, etc.), homework became a 2 hour battle, and it seemed she would hold it together at school and immediately after getting buckled in the car she would release her emotions.
We initially struggled finding an OT, but have finally found a very good OT and worked through many of her difficulties but find during long vacations (Thanksgiving, Christmas); she's a different child. We see NO signs of her sensory issues when she is home for long breaks from school. Which leads me to think there are triggers at school. Unfortunately the school is not that knowledgeable on this and her teacher thinks I am crazy when I tell her about the homework struggles and that she is in therapy. She is supportive and listens she just "doesn't see any of this at school". Her teacher reports no problems, she is excelling in all areas and basically she is doing great.
The environment has me concerned as her class has behavior problems, the teacher is a yeller, and she has not made any friends. She is extremely quite, shy, small for her age, and soft spoken. She tells me that she doesn't like recess because she has no one to play with (we have role played and discussed ways to make friends, etc). She eats alone and doesn't socially interact with peers. I've tried to talk to the school and they basically say "kids will learn it on there own"- not
helpful. She has always been shy and soft spoken, I just worry about the environment.
We have neighbors who she plays with and provide other social interactions for her. The school is largely Hispanic and many of the parents do not speak English, furthering my difficulty in helping her socially. In all honesty I struggle with finding someone to have over (language is a huge barrier) and she can't think of anyone at school she wants to have over. On the other hand when I pick her up kids make a point to say good bye and when they see her they come up and are friendly to her. I kind of get the impression they don't know how to respond to her. They like her, she is just very quite. Her teacher tells me kids this age like to play alone - I disagree as she is telling me she has no one to play with.
She also has very serious food allergies that I think cause some anxiety for her in the lunchroom. She never says she doesn't want to go to school, she likes her teacher, she is just having social issues and I fear hidden anxiety. I am assuming anxiety can bring out the sensory challenges.
We are in the southwest, not known for education. This private school is our best option, the public schools are not very good and very large which would not be good for her given the social aspect. I really don't feel home school would benefit her as I am tryng to help her adjust socially to new experiences (even though it is killing me to watch).
Am I right in this thought process? Her OT agrees with me on the school situation as it being the best option at this time.
Her OT is very curious about the school environment and the triggers at school. The OT is very surprised to find vacations are so vastly different than school weeks. When I describe the changes she seems very surprised. She is doing some research on behavior therapists to see if any do blind observations in the classrooms?? Any thoughts?
So my questions... I've read so much about routine and structure can a school environment make her SPD surface so drastically?
Any avenues I should be looking at?
Thank you for this wonderful avenue for parents to communicate with others - the website is great.
Check out the article: Can School Make SPD worse?.